CHRIST AND THE NATIONS
A PROTESTANT THEOLOGY OF STATECRAFT
Tenth Annual Convivium Irenicum
May 31st-June 3rd, 2023
Join us at our Davenant House study center in the beautiful mountains of western SC for three days of rich conversation, fellowship, friendship, and learning. Our plenary speaker will be Dr. Eric Gregory is Professor of Religion at Princeton University.
Conference proceedings will run from 6:00 PM Wed 5/31 till 9:00 PM Friday 6/2, but most guests stay through Saturday morning. Meals and accommodations will be provided at our the properties within the grounds of Davenant House.
Building Bonds of Fellowship
Our annual Convivium Irenicum gathering serves as a microcosm of the Davenant Institute’s mission, and, for many of our attendees, as the capstone to each academic year. For three days we do much more than present and listen to papers—we eat together, drink together, worship together, discuss abstruse philosophical questions, hard pastoral challenges, and our favorite new movies together as we walk through the woods or recline on the porch. We bring together not merely scholars and grad students, but pastors and other church leaders, and even businessmen and public servants. Together, we explore what it means to retrieve the wisdom of our Protestant and catholic past for the sake of our church and nation today.
Protestant political theology today stands at a crossroads, especially in America. For much of the twentieth century, an increasingly vacuous mainline Protestantism transformed into an engine of secular liberalism, using its immense influence in American public life to hollow out the public square and banish faith to the recesses of the heart and the margins of private life. With its largely individualist, proceduralist, and globalist agenda, it left behind much traditional Protestant teaching concerning the role of the nations in God’s purposes and as the contexts for sustaining a vision of the common good.
As mainline liberalism collapsed into secular post-Protestantism, the empty public square has rapidly been filled with new quasi-religious impulse increasingly at war with the very idea of national identity, or the boundaries and limits upon which not only the nation-state, but any traditional vision of statecraft depends. Reactions to this state of affairs have ranged from a resurgent Roman Catholicism with a vision of a statecraft subordinated to the guidance of a universal church, to crude forms of nationalism privileging particular ethnic identities. In the midst of this chaos, the door is wide open for a blast of Christian wisdom from the past, in the form of a magisterial Protestant vision of statecraft.
In the decades spanning and following the Protestant Reformation, Protestant theologians and statesmen began to map out the foundations of an international order made up of independent national Christian states. In the process, they hammered out concepts indispensable to politics as we know it, but increasingly neglected or taken for granted: sovereignty, neutrality, international law, religious toleration, and more. They also thought deeply about the Christian vocation in politics, refining traditional Christian principles on the just use of force, the distinction between political and moral compromise, and the nature of civic virtue. As we seek to chart a path forward today in a morally-fragmented and globally-interconnected world, we urgently need to draw upon this historic wisdom to think responsibly about the relationships between the state and the market, between national, global, and local, and between public good and private conscience.
Dr. Eric Gregory is Professor of Religion at Princeton University, where he has taught since 2001. A world-renowned scholar in Christian ethics and political theology, Dr. Gregory is the author of Politics and the Order of Love: An Augustinian Ethic of Democratic Citizenship, along with numerous articles and book chapters in religious and philosophical ethics, theology, political theory, law and religion, and the role of religion in public life. Dr. Gregory has long served as a key Reformed voice in the leadership ranks of the Society of Christian Ethics and also currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Religious Ethics.
Dr. Gregory will be joined by other scholars and educators from the Davenant network to wrestle with these important questions.
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Please note that in order to maintain the convivial atmosphere of the event, attendance at the National Convivium is limited to 45. We regret that this event is now full. You may use this registration form to join the waiting list, as some additional slots may open up.