Senior theology and philosophy major wins prestigious prize

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Senior theology and philosophy major wins prestigious prize

Rylan Brue, a Dordt University senior studying philosophy and theology, placed second in the prestigious 2022 Wycliffe College Scripture & Theology Essay Competition at the University of Toronto.

His winning paper, titled “’Commitment than Which One Cannot Have a Greater’: Creation as Vow in Curs Deus Homo,” seeks to understand the Medieval theologian St. Anselm and his attempt to answer the question of why God took on flesh in the person of Jesus.

“The essay is a creative and interesting reading of St. Anselm’s treatise on the atonement: Cur Deus homo? (why a God-man?),” says Assistant Professor of Theology Dr. David Moser. “Drawing on recent studies of Anselm’s thought in its Benedictine monastic context, Rylan shows—I think persuasively—that God’s commitment to redeem human beings through the Incarnation is like the monastic vow an abbot undertakes to those under his care. Rylan’s claim illumines Anselm’s insistence that it was necessary for God to deal with human sin in a particularly insightful way.”

“For Anselm, the act of creation serves as a kind of monastic vow that will not see God’s good earth surrendered to corruption,” explains Brue. “Thus, this creative vow impels God to become incarnate and make satisfaction for sinful humanity. Anselm’s thought, which insists that God’s act of salvation on the cross is inseparable from God’s act of creation, is devoid of the language of covenant, but clearly draws on those biblical themes.”

Brue originally wrote the paper as an assignment for Ancient and Medieval Theology, which is taught by Moser. He was unaware of the contest until Moser encouraged him to submit his essay.

“There is an unfortunate Protestant tendency to dismiss medieval theology out of hand as shaped by unbiblical Platonic notions or, in Anselm’s case, medieval cultural infrastructure,” says Brue. “Yet even Anselm is wrestling with the Bible and trying to make sense of it for his day and age. In that light, I used the opportunity in Ancient Theology with Dr. Moser to explore Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo and understand it within Anselm’s monastic context. The result was an Anselm that showed surprising resonance with later Reformed theologians such as Herman Bavinck.”

Brue plans to enroll in the Master of Divinity program at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan this fall. He says that Dordt has provided “such a wonderful environment of curiosity to explore the many and variegated gifts of God’s good world.”

“I've been able to play hockey and sing in choir all the while reading the likes of Anselm, Wendell Berry, and Heidegger to only name a few,” he says. “Curiosity is not stifled but encouraged precisely because obedience and faithfulness do not always come easy and the world (not to mention our wayward hearts!) can be quite messy. I will always be grateful for the way my professors have exemplified a deep willingness to listen to and learn from others, both in and outside of the walls of the Church.”

Moser calls Rylan “a careful reader and writer.”

“He has an unusual level of theological perception for a student his age,” adds Moser. “I pray that he will walk closely with God and serve the Church well, wherever he is called to go.”

About Dordt University

As an institution of higher education committed to the Reformed Christian perspective, Dordt University equips students, faculty, alumni, and the broader community to work toward Christ-centered renewal in all aspects of contemporary life. Dordt, located in Sioux Center, Iowa, is a comprehensive university named to the best college lists by U.S. News and World Report, Forbes.com, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, and Princeton Review. For more information, visit dordt.edu.