On the occasion of the Opening Academic Year 2021-2022 Evangelische Theologische Faculteit Leuven, 27 september 2021

Prof. Dr. A. (Jos) de Kock


In order to be someone, more and more people seem to need to elevate themselves above other people. They do this by distancing themselves from the other person and then to discredit that other person. This is a major problem of our time.

People put themselves in the spotlight and mark others as dark; discrediting others, putting them in the dark. This occurs in a variety of ways. Racism. Persecution of religious minorities. Terrorism. Sexism. Forms of cancel culture. Violence against the most vulnerable in our communities. A denigrating attitude toward those who do not meet our standard. Inhospitality towards the foreigner, the refugee. Polarization in politics, sometimes in education.

Putting themselves in the spotlight and obscuring the other. Fortunately, this does not always lead to armed conflicts that make the news. However, on a small scale, in the daily traffic between people it does have a great impact: distinguishing yourself sharply from the other and to despise or to devalue him or her. We must not underestimate the psychological, the spiritual and the emotional effects this has on people’s lives.

Speaking of darkness and light. To the believers in Ephesus, the apostle Paul says, “you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light”.

There is nothing self-elevating about that. Followers of Christ do not light their own spotlight. God draws His followers into the light. Walking in the light, moreover, Scripture teaches, has nothing to do with discrediting others; putting them in darkness.

The other person does not have to lose himself or herself in dealing with a follower of Christ. His or her identity does not have to merge into the darkness; to disappear into the darkness. Walking in the light means embracing the other in the light of Christ.

The ETF Leuven is celebrating its 40th anniversary. For 40 years it has made a special contribution: deepening, strengthening and equipping the worldwide Protestant-evangelical movement on an academic level. This is a contribution to churches and Christian organizations in that worldwide evangelical movement and also a contribution to the field of theology and religious studies worldwide. And very specifically: a contribution to the academy and society in Flanders.

ETF Leuven does not want to do that as a light that puts others in the shade. It does so with a fundamental willingness to engage with other institutions and partners in this.

And on an existential level, ETF Leuven does its work from the confession that it can never elevate itself, but is dependent on God’s light, God’s blessing, in everything.

We also want to practice this together in our ETF community. Our ETF community wants to be a safe environment and an excellent training institute for living out unity in diversity. A training institute where no one needs to lose himself in dealing with others. A community where we can embrace each other in who we are before God, in His light.

In a time when more and more people seem to need to put themselves in the spotlight and mark others as dark, for a theological faculty like ours, rooted in Scripture, thís is more important than ever.

I wish that this festive academic year 2021-2022 will be a light, a bright year for all: colleagues, students, and institutions and individuals in our network.

We are pleased to welcome many new students again this academic year. These students join a community with a rich history of now 40 years of academic education and research. An impression of those 40 years and what ETF Leuven stands for to this day is given in our anniversary magazine distributed on this occasion tonight.

Academic education and growth are much needed for theologians who are called to lead in churches, Christian organizations, and in broader society. ETF Leuven’s pursuit of academic excellence helps one to think one step deeper, to see one step further, and to continue to critically examine one’s own position as a theologian. In this way, theology can be sustainable theology. Meaningful for our society, for science and for the development of our students.

With these opening words and with this anniversary magazine in hand, I mark with pride and with expectation the start of an extraordinary new academic year at ETF Leuven.

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