There is no sugar-coating it. 2020 has been a time of judgment, a time of laying bare, a time of reaping what we have sown, a season of testing that has thrown into sharp relief the ugly fault-lines at the heart of our politics and churchmanship. If there is anything that has become painfully apparent this year, it is the failure of the American church to train up a people characterized by wisdom—a people who know how to navigate uncertainty with calm confidence and to remain nimble on their feet when the ground seems to be suddenly shifting underneath them.
Lacking wisdom, we retreat into echo chambers. All of us, these past few months, have instinctively herded together for safety with those whose agreement can offer us some rock to cling to amidst the whirlwind of uncertainty surrounding us. And then, when we venture back out into the wider world—into our churches or workplaces—we find that 6 feet of social distance is the least of our problems: some of us don’t even seem to be inhabiting the same country.
This social fragmentation is the inevitable harvest of a long era of intellectual fragmentation. With all our talk of “worldviews” and “narratives,” Christians have been complicit in the postmodern reduction of the intellectual life to a choose-your-own-adventure story. And even where we have held the line on the objectivity of knowledge, we are discovering in 2020 that knowledge is not enough.
Here in 2020, we have unprecedented knowledge at our fingertips, but no way to piece it together. We have so many experts to listen to, but no way to know whom to trust. The modern academy has excelled in forming scholars with ever more fine-grained “areas of expertise,” but has scarcely any idea how to form men and women capable of grasping the world whole, or capable of admitting the limits of our knowledge.
Today, more than ever, Davenant’s mission to renew Christian wisdom in the contemporary church has taken on a fierce urgency.
Our mission is to reverse the intellectual fragmentation of the modern church and society by delving deep into the riches of the church’s past, retrieving an era in which the now fragmented shards of theological, moral, and scientific knowledge still made up a coherent whole.
Our mission is to reverse our slide into echo chambers in which “every man does what is right in his own eyes” by regaining a bit of historical perspective, by recovering the gift of authority in an age obsessed with autonomy, and by remembering that beyond our bunkers lies a stubborn common reality that doesn’t care what stories we tell about it.
Our mission is to reverse the sharp polarization of our moral, political, and theological discourse by reminding ourselves that it’s OK to live with uncertainty: that not every problem has be solved with a proof-text, and that not every question can be settled by a Christian-worldview answer-machine.
Our mission is to rebuild the broken bonds of trust on which our common quest for Christian wisdom depends, to create communities of conversation drawn from diverse denominational backgrounds and dedicated to pursuing truth together, however painful the pursuit may be.
Our hope is that even in these fragmented times, the army of friends that Davenant has assembled over these past years can lay a foundation upon which our churches can build in the years to come, providing a fresh moral compass for a disoriented society.
Despite the many obstacles that 2020 has thrown at us, the Davenant Institute has remained hard at work the last twelve months, and we are calling on you today to help us redouble our efforts.We are recruiting and training a growing cadre of Teaching Fellows who can stand in the gap between the church and academy, deploying the neglected wisdom of the church’s past to meet the challenges of the present.
We are building our Davenant Hall courses into a full-blown degree program to form church leaders and Christian educators in the heritage of classical Protestantism.
We are expanding our Davenant House study center into a haven for reflection, mentoring, and formation in Christian wisdom—a resource for college students, seminarians, and pastors.
We are using the Davenant Press to translate and disseminate the riches of our “reformed catholic” tradition so that Christian teachers and scholars recognize its enduring relevance to the questions confronting us.
In the coming year, we plan to launch new podcast and video initiatives to make some of these resources available in more popular and accessible forms.
To achieve these goals, we continue to depend on your help. We know this is a hard time to be asking for financial support, but we trust that the Lord will continue to provide, as He has till now. As we end come to the end of this topsy-turvy year, we hope that you will consider making a special gift toward this work and keep us in your prayers in the year ahead.
Blessings in Christ,
Brad Littlejohn, President