Exchange Program with Amsterdam's Free University is Boosting Christian Scholarship

Fuller alum Matthew Kaemingk (PhD '13) was the first student to succesfully go through the program

Dr. Matthew Kaemingk defends his dissertion in Amsterdam
Matthew Kaemingk defending his dissertation before a panel of scholars at the Virjie Universiteit of Amsterdam.

On September 9, 2013, Matthew Kaemingk successfully defended his Ph.D. dissertation, titled "Mecca and Amsterdam: Christian Ethics Between Islam and Liberalism," at the Vrije Universiteit (VU) of Amsterdam. A few months earlier he had defended essentially the same dissertation at Fuller Seminary, and was awarded the Ph.D. degree at Fuller's June commencement. At Fuller, Matthew's primary mentor was former President and Professor Richard Mouw, with the VU's Professor George Harinck as second mentor. At the Vrije Universiteit, Mouw and Harinck's roles were reversed.

Dr. Kaemingk is the first product of a newly established relationship between Fuller's Center for Advanced Theological Studies and the Theology Faculty at the VU. The arrangement allows a student to receive two doctorates for the same dissertation project.

The Dutch school, known in English as the Free University, was established in the 19th century by Abraham Kuyper, the well-known theologian and public statesman (he also served in the Dutch Parliament, including a term as prime minister). Kuyper, along with his younger colleague Herman Bavinck, pioneered the movement known today as "neo-Calvinism," which sets forth a perspective, associated with the idea of "sphere sovereignty," that seeks to spell out the patterns of Christ's rule over all areas of societal and cultural engagement.

The cooperative program between Fuller and the VU focuses specifically on research programs in neo-Calvinist thought: Kaemingk's dissertation looks at Kuyper's ideas about religious pluralism as it applies to contemporary issues relating to the role of Islam in Dutch society. His project was reported on by Dutch media, and he has been invited to lead discussions, based on his research, with members of the Dutch Parliament. Several other Fuller students in Fuller's Ph.D. program are enrolled in this arrangement, with two of them presently spending the 2013-2014 academic year in the Netherlands.Dr. Mouw and Matthew Kaemingk

Professor Harinck, a historian of Dutch and American religious movements, described the importance of this cooperative program for his university in this way: "To the VU, the partnership with Fuller Seminary is important for its academic quality. International contacts not only help to learn about new ideas and viewpoints, but also to maintain the highest standards of learning, and in this case also support the reflection on Christian higher education. The partnership is also important for its research program. Fuller offers high quality research of the neo-Calvinist tradition the VU stems from, and the cooperation of the two institutions nurtures and promotes research in this field, raising the quality of our research."

Harinck's assessment was echoed by Dr. Mouw, who conducted the initial arrangements on behalf of Fuller for the formal cooperation. "The VU is a great university that originated in Abraham Kuyper's vision. As he described it in his address at the VU's founding in 1880: 'There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, 'This is mine! This belongs to me!'" noted Mouw. "Fuller's cooperative program with the VU can only strengthen each of our missions in promoting solid Christian scholarship."