With Protestantism celebrating her 500th birthday this year, what should be a celebration has become for many instead an occasion for worried introspection. How much life does she really have left in her? Has Protestantism run its course? Does it really have the resources to cope with the challenges that modernity—and now postmodernity—are throwing at the church? After all, aren’t the individualism and secularism that we see all around us the product of the Reformation itself, with its determination to empower individual conscience and to roll back the reach of church authority? Many have made this argument.
And certainly a look around at the landscape of American evangelicalism in particular does not inspire much confidence. The “scandal of the evangelical mind” that Mark Noll wrote about 25 years ago is still there, despite real improvement: we are still reflexively anti-intellectual, much better at marketing than scholarship, and afflicted by a seemingly unshakeable addiction to personality cults and movements more interested in advancing their own brand than in asking and answering hard questions.
This is the crisis of confidence that Davenant House seeks to address. Does Protestantism have the resources to face the challenges of the 21st century? Part of our answer to this question, as you’ll see if you look at our reading list, is to argue that Protestantism is a lot more Catholic than often supposed. The Reformers by and large shared the broadly Thomistic and Aristotelian metaphysics, philosophy of nature, and ethical theory as their Catholic counterparts. And this shared heritage, which is a big emphasis of our summer program at Davenant House, is worth recovering and defending today. Of course the Reformers also encouraged intellectual and political freedom and did not think that such freedom necessarily entailed relativism.
And this is another huge part of what Davenant House seeks to offer: a place to ask hard questions without expecting easy answers. A place to wrestle with what it means to be a disciple of Christ today, and how to cultivate a sense of belonging to a Church that often seems so fragmented. A place to recover the lost art of conversation—of hashing out important differences respectfully yet earnestly.
Davenant House is also a place for quiet reflection, a place to grow closer to God and grow in understanding of His Word through worship, study, and conversation with other believers. The physical property at Davenant House, we believe, is a key part of the experience. This is a place to experience the beauty of nature and the biodiversity of the southern Appalachians. There are woodland trails for students to enjoy and maintain, and the vegetable garden for them to tend together.
Come and join us this summer at Davenant House—a place to grow.