Carolinas Convivium Recap

Davenant held its second Carolinas Regional Convivium on January 4th and 5th. Brent King, who was in attendance, wrote up this summary of the event.

As a first time attendee at one of The Davenant Institute’s Regional Conviviums, I had high hopes for the weekend. My expectations were not only met but also succeeded. The weekend was replete with Christian fellowship, encouragement, the making of friends and connections thought-provoking discussions, and conviviality amongst brothers and sisters in the faith. One of the aspects of The Davenant Institute that I really appreciate is the irenic nature of the events and discussions.

While many commonalities amongst attendees of the Convivium concerning doctrine and understanding of the faith could easily be enumerated, the plurality of perspectives and differences in understandings regarding various questions relevant to the faith kept the discussions lively and immune from stagnation. Moreover, the variety in papers and presentations evoked many opportunities for fruitful dialogue on topics spanning a wide spectrum. Also, we were renewed in focus toward Christ as Rev. Craig Beaton led us in times of Scripture reading and prayer between sessions.

On Friday evening Dan Kemp’s paper and presentation titled “The Bible, Verification, and The First Principles of Reason” pertained to the Scriptures, epistemology, and circular arguments. One of the primary components of Kemp’s thesis is that Scripture exemplifies testings of revelation; however, they do not include broadly circular arguments (circular arguments that contain several premises). Thus, these types of arguments are problematic because they do not make the conclusion more credible through the use of reason. In turn, Kemp urged us to consider the possibility of more than one first principle of knowledge, typically deemed to be reason. This presentation sparked conversation on the nature of revelation, the efficiency of different types of arguments, and presuppositionalism. What made Kemp’s paper interesting to me is the fact that he interacts with the presuppositional school of Cornelius Van Til and John Frame from the vantage point of analytical philosophy.

On Saturday we began with hearing Dr. Jeremy Larson’s presentation “The Path to Wisdom in Milton’s Paradise Lost” exemplified a wise and adept reading of Book 8 of John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Dr. Larson not only referenced a wide range of scholars concerning this section of Milton’s epic but also showed the influence of Plato on the structure of this section. According to Dr. Larson, Book 8 is structured much like a Platonic dialogue, which then shows the developmental nature of wisdom by dramatizing it. My impression of Dr. Larson and his paper is of a learned literary scholar whose affinity for Milton and his popular epic has manifested in a fruitful addition to The Davenant Institute’s emphasis on wisdom via his presentation at the convivium. I left Dr. Larson’s lecture with both a desire to re-read Milton and to assess my own growth in wisdom.

Thomas Haviland-Pabst’s paper “He Will Baptize… With The Holy Spirit and Fire”: Some Thoughts on A Third Article Ecclesiology In Conversation With Sarah Coakley, Robert Jenson and John Owen”  brought into conversation three highly different theological thinkers–all of whom are listed in the title. The primary thrust of this conversation is a “Third Article Ecclesiology” in which the rightful place of the Spirit in ecclesiology in our thinking is addressed and advocated for. Haviland Pabst rightly concluded that the Spirit’s role in ecclesiology is deep and deserving of rightful attention in discussions regarding the church. To this conclusion, I simply could not agree more.

In my own paper and presentation, “The Humanities, Christian Readers, and The Academic Climate,” I attempted to address some of the academic fashions that have been dominant in humanistic scholarship for the past several decades–for example, the typical notion that we as humans are simply products of our time and culture. My aim was to make the case that we as Christians can maturely read and gain wisdom from the books of the past because there is objective good not dependent upon human subjectivity, there are universal aspects of human beings, and texts can be studied in ways that do not resign either them or us as humans solely to be prisoners of context.

Finally, Mark Olivero’s paper “John Wyclif: An Audacious Exemplar of Christian Wisdom in Politics, Philosophy, and Pastoral Care” provided due attention to a figure who has often been deemed an important precursor to the Reformation. Olivero reminded us at the convivium that John Wyclif is worthy of attention and respect for more reasons than his popular translation of the Bible into English. As an example, before his presentation, I did not know the keen insight Wyclif had concerning the metaphysical polarities of Realism and Nominalism and the dangers of giving in to the now typical way of making particularities the measure of reality. Much like I left Dr. Larson’s lecture with a desire to plumb more deeply the depths of Milton, I left Olivero’s with the same desire concerning John Wyclif.

Indeed, I profited much from the Convivium. And the good news is that events like these at The Davenant House will continue and hopefully increase. Michael and Lynette Hughes and their family will soon be becoming full-time residents at the house. I think this is a great opportunity to keep The Davenant House around as a resource for events. Personally, I am excited to meet and build a relationship with them in hopes of keeping the momentum engendered by events like these. Conclusively, I am excited about the future of both the house and The Davenant Institute as a whole.

Brent King is a graduate of North Greenville University and teaches High School Literature at Shannon Forest Christian School in Greenville, South Carolina.