Brue finishes second in international essay competition

Isabel Pheifer—Staff Writer

Contributed Photo

Rylan Brue, a senior theology and philosophy major at Dordt University, recently placed second in the 2022 Wycliffe College Scripture and Theology Essay Competition in Toronto, Canada. 

“This competition reflects our commitment to excellence in the study of both the Bible and theology and the leading role which Wycliffe plays in revitalizing the theological interpretation of Scripture,” Wycliffe’s website said. 

The competition, open to any graduate or undergraduate student attending an institution of higher learning, accepted submissions from around the globe.

Still, David Moser, assistant professor of theology, hadn’t heard of the competition until the spring semester.

This year, when Brue submitted a class assignment, Moser  realized Brue’s paper could go further. 

“Once I learned about it, I thought Rylan’s paper had a good chance of doing well in it,” Moser said. 

Brue’s essay, entitled “‘Commitment than Which One Cannot Have a Greater’: Creation as Vow in Curs Deus Homo,” focuses on theologian Anslem of Canterbury’s discussion of God’s monastic vow to not surrender creation to corruption and decay. 

“Anselm wants to argue that it was necessary for God to become incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ. When we first look at it, we think, ‘Wait, how can God be required to do something?’ It can rub us the wrong way because we know that God is completely free,” Brue said. “But he argues in such a way that it is necessary for God to become flesh to make satisfaction for humanity’s sins.”

Brue’s argument for his essay depends on Anslem’s use and definition of necessity.

“That is sort of the way necessity works because it is only by God’s free will that he chooses to force himself to do something,’’ Brue said. “By that vow is how Anselm can use the word necessity, even if we may not like it.” 

Brue did not claim confidence in his work at the beginning of the writing process. 

“I had a lot of frustration trying to write it, and I wasn’t sure what I thought,’’ Brue said. “I haven’t really encountered the idea of creation as a vow, in Anselm particularly, so it felt like I may be going on a limb or just reading into it.” 

Brue argued his point clearly and effectively,  though, instilling confidence in Moser that the essay would perform well at both in the Wycliffe competition and in other forms. 

“Rylan is a careful researcher and writer, and I am not at all surprised that his paper did well,’’ Moser said. “It could be published as it stands now, I think.”  

Brue said he wouldn’t have had confidence in his essay if it weren’t for Moser encouraging him that “it was good work.”

The number of submissions for this contest remains unknown, but it reached participants from around the world. The winner was from the Dominican Institute in Ibadan, Nigeria whereas third place was from the University of Waterloo. 

“It was really cool to remind myself that theology doesn’t belong just to Northwest Iowa—it is a project that the whole global church is working on,” Brue said.

Brue will attend the Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan this fall and plans to enroll in the Master of Divinity program. 

“It is nice to have a little bit of external affirmation,” Brue said. “Most importantly, Dordt has equipped me with tools to think theologically, and this is a great starting point for more learning.”

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