Here’s what we’ve been up to.
The Davenant Institute has been hard at work these past six months. Here’s the rundown of what we’ve done towards our goal of resourcing Christians with wisdom from the past, for the life of the church today.
We are pleased to announce the publication of the third installment in our Davenant Guides series, Natural Law: A Brief Introduction and Biblical Defense. Davenant Guides seek to offer short and accessible introductions to key issues of current debate in theology and ethics, drawing on a magisterial Protestant perspective and defending its contemporary relevance today.
In this volume, David Haines and Andrew Fulford, Canadian Reformed scholars, collaborate to explain the philosophical foundations of natural law, clear up common misunderstandings about the term, and demonstrate the robust biblical basis for natural law reasoning. In doing so, they help bring clarity to recent debates about how Protestants can understand the role of reason, the moral knowledge and ability of unbelievers, and how Christians can engage the public square.
The book has received warm praise from leading Christian philosophers. J.P. Moreland of Talbot School of Theology writes:
“Natural Law: A Brief Introduction and Biblical Defense could not have come at a better time. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to see that the increasing secularization of Western culture has lead to ethical, theological and behavioral chaos and relativism. Christians must speak clearly and convincingly about the messy issues of our day, but they, especially Protestants, are ill-prepared to engage the world of ideas without citing the Bible. Among other things, this implies that Christians should be laboring for a theocracy, but this is not what is needed and the state must have some sort of guidance to carry out its mission of punishing wrongdoing in Romans 13 without the scriptures. The existence, nature and knowability of natural moral law is what meets these needs.
Fulford and Haines have provided an outstanding work that must get a wide readership if Christians are to re-engage the public square thoughtfully and appropriately. They follow a carefully developed order of presentation in this book. Before giving what may be the best recent biblical defense of natural law theory, they rightly are concerned to make very clear exactly what natural law is. Refreshingly, they ground natural law in solid metaphysical treatments of God’s relation to the natural law and in the metaphysics of the creation within which natural law makes sense. This is followed by unpacking the claim that natural moral law is knowable by human beings. Given this treasure-trove of background, the biblical defense of natural moral law is clarified. I am excited about this book! And I thank God for Fulford and Haines who took great effort and much time to serve the church with this resource.”
We are pleased to announce that The Davenant Institute has just concluded a contract with Truman State University Press to take full possession of the Peter Martyr Library. Effective Jan. 1, 2018, TSUP will transfer all rights, electronic files, and hard copies of the ten volumes of the Peter Martyr Library (including its accompanying Peter Martyr Reader) to Davenant, and Davenant will assume responsibility for their continued distribution as well as the publication of the final volume, Vermigli’s Commentary on Genesis, edited by John Patrick Donnelly, S.J. As part of this extraordinary gift, Davenant will gain possession of over 1,000 copies of the published volumes of the series, which we plan to make available to scholars, students, and libraries at significantly reduced prices beginning early next year. We will also be able to make widely available digital editions of these volumes, reissue them in inexpensive paperback editions, and excerpt from them for anthologies.
Although largely unknown today outside the circle of Reformation scholars, Peter Martyr Vermigli was a true giant of the 16th-century Reformation, a man who left an indelible influence on the churches of Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and England where he spent his pilgrim life, and who through his writings left an even wider legacy. Standing as he does at the intersection of humanism and scholasticism, with a profound concern for Biblical exegesis and the renewal of preaching, but also for linguistic study, educational revival, Christian philosophy, ethics, and political thought, Vermigli sums up the broad and bold mission of the Davenant Institute to renew Christian wisdom through resourcement.
Over the past couple years, we have sought opportunities for closer involvement with Vermigli scholarship, adopting the Peter Martyr Society in early 2016 and beginning a collaborative project to re-translate Vermigli’s Common Places earlier this year. We are thus immensely excited at the opportunity that this acquisition offers us to begin enabling the writings of this great Reformer to finally reach the wide audience they deserve.
Profs. Torrance Kirby and Gary Jenkins, the President and Secretary of the Peter Martyr Society and longtime contributors to the Peter Martyr Library project, had this to say about the acquisition:
“This transfer has been the culmination of efforts by several parties for the future of the Peter Martyr Library and the Society. It grew out of a mutual concern by both the Davenant Trust and the Peter Martyr Society that an established center devoted to the vital importance the Reformation, its thought and heritage, should be found to help nurture the scholarship of Vermigli and insure his rightful place in the continuing historical and theological pursuits of our own day. Placed now fully in the hands of those who not only care about such pursuits as part of an academic life, but value them as proper and virtuous ends in themselves, this can only harbinger good things for research and publishing in all things Vermigiliana. We are happy indeed.”
Stay tuned early in the new year for opportunities to purchase heavily discounted copies of the PML volumes, and for other developments on the Vermigli front.
On October 31st, The Davenant Institute published Reformation Theology: A Reader of Primary Sources with Introductions. Edited by Bradford Littlejohn and Jonathan Roberts, this work reflects the clarion call of the Protestant Reformers, “Ad fontes!—Back to the sources!” for our own generation. Just as they recognized that renewal of the church in their era depended upon a clearer understanding of the church’s past through the writings of its greatest early theologians, so renewal of the church in our era depends on grasping anew what the Reformation was all about, why it happened, and why it still matters. The best way to achieve that, we believe, is through reading the primary sources.
Surprisingly, no good resource exists in English to this end, providing a broad and deep primary source anthology of Reformation theology. Our volume aims to fill that gap for pastors, teachers, undergraduates, seminarians, and theologically-concerned laypeople. Formatted with readability above all in mind, the volume contains 32 texts averaging 20 pages or so in length, with lively historical introductions to contextualize each one. The texts chosen include not just the writings that set the stage for the Reformation, and treatises by the leading Protestant Reformers, but also those by their Roman Catholic critics, and snapshots from the Radical Reformation as well.
This volume is the fruit of a co-venture with Roman Roads Media.
Reformation Theology: A Reader of Primary Sources with Introductions
Edited by Bradford Littlejohn and Jonathan Roberts.
Few episodes in Western history have so shaped our world as the Protestant Reformation and the counter-Reformations which accompanied it. The Reformation tore the seamless garment of Western Christendom in two, pitting king and pope, laity and clergy, Protestant and Catholic against one another. But it was also a firestorm tearing through an old, stagnant, and dying forest, sowing the seeds for a burst of new and newly diverse life.
To understand why the Reformation unfolded as it did, we must understand the ideas that were so forcefully articulated, opposed, and debated by Protestants and Catholics. For Protestant or Catholic believers in our own forgetful age, the need to understand these disputed doctrines, and the logic and coherence that linked them together, is all the more imperative. This is what this volume seeks to offer for the first time: a primary source reader focused squarely on the theological questions that drove the Reformation.
Beginning with the first rumblings of conflict in the late medieval period and continuing until the solidification of Protestant confessions in the early 17th century, this collection of thirty-two texts brings the modern reader face-to-face with the key men whose convictions helped shape the course of history. Concise historical introductions accompanying each text bring these writings to life by recounting the stories and conflicts that gave birth to these texts, and highlighting the enduring themes that we can glean from them.
KEY TOPICS INCLUDE
The doctrine of the church, and its relation to the state; the doctrine of the eucharist, and transubstantiation in particular; the doctrine of justification sola fide and the place of works; the meaning of the Protestant commitment to sola Scriptura; and others.
KEY AUTHORS INCLUDE
Marsilius of Padua, John Wycliffe, Erasmus of Rotterdam, Martin Luther, Thomas More, John Calvin, The Council of Trent, Thomas Cranmer, Richard Hooker, Robert Belllarmine, and many more.
The following letter from the President, Brad Littlejohn, was sent out to all Davenant subscribers on October 31, Reformation Day
CELEBRATING IS NOT ENOUGH
There are few enough historical anniversaries that seem to merit even passing recognition in our forgetful age, so we can be grateful for the crescendo of Reformation 500 commemorations throughout the Western world that today is reaching its highest pitch. And while some may sit on the sidelines lamenting the Reformation’s flawed heroes and ambiguous results, these ought rather to remind us of those hard-won Reformation truths, sola gratia (by grace alone) and soli deo gloria (to God alone be the glory).
The Reformation, we contend, is still well-worth celebrating. In it, the two-edged sword of God’s Word was unsheathed again to cut away the cloaks of confusion and the bonds of oppression under which God’s people labored. Through it, a new era was opened in the life of the church, transforming the Western world and renewing many fields of inquiry.
So celebrate we must, and boldly. But if that’s all we do—belt out a chorus of A Mighty Fortress, have a bonfire, knock back a pint of doppelbock, and get on with our lives—the Reformation 500 commemoration will have been in vain. So let’s get busy.
Remembering is not enough, but it’s not a bad place to start. Few Protestants today understand the basics of their history, and the rotten fruits are not hard to see. Cheap sentimentality and nonjudgmentalism, unwilling to draw the most basic doctrinal or ethical lines, dominate our churches, and those who crave more substance totter uncertainly toward Rome and the East. We must recover the depth and breadth of our heritage, and that is at the heart of Davenant’s mission. To this end, we really cannot tell you how excited we are to announce at long last the publication of Reformation Theology: A Reader of Primary Sources with Introductions. (http://www.davenantinstitute.org/reformation-theology) Thirty-two texts spanning three centuries are brought together, with lively historical introductions, to give the modern reader a sense of what the Reformation was all about, and why it still matters.
We remember our heritage to learn from its mistakes, be inspired by its examples, and retrieve its principles—all so that we can equip today’s pastors, laypeople and Christian leaders for faithful witness and reasoned discourse. This means distilling the fruits of evangelical scholarship into forms easy to understand, share, and apply. The Davenant Institute has been hard at work over the past year publishing a growing library of resources that do just that—and we have a lot more on the way. At the beginning of next year, in partnership with BibleMesh, leaders in online theological education, we plan to launch Davenant Hall: A Virtual Theological Study Center, to keep the candle of the Reformation burning bright.
What is all this for? Just because we like history or find it a convenient stick with which to beat theological opponents? No! A quick glance around at the confusion in our churches and the chaos in our commonwealth is enough to show that we are in urgent need of fresh reformation. This will require retrieving the principles that animated our forefathers’ Reformation, but also creatively re-applying them to contemporary challenges. And this cannot be done by books alone, but requires friendships. Too often we think of Luther as a lone ranger who had a “Eureka!” moment poring over the text of Romans and then took Germany by storm. Hardly. His hard-won insights and harder-won reformation were the fruit of a devoted circle of extraordinary friends, and everywhere the Reformation went it was sustained by intimate friendships of dedicated scholars and pastors. It is such a circle of friendships that we aim to rekindle today with an
ever-growing number of convivial events across the country. Next spring, we hope to see you in Portland, Oregon; in Greenville, SC; in Lincoln, NE; in Minneapolis, MN; in Washington, DC; in Denver, CO; and in Moscow, ID. Stay tuned for details.
ARE YOU IN?
We invite you to celebrate the Reformation with us today, but also to do much more than celebrate. We hope you will join our mission of remembering, resourcing, and reforming to carry the legacy of the Reformers into a sixth century. Please consider making a donation for fresh reformation today. And pay close attention to these emails in coming weeks, as we will be outlining concrete things that you can do (financial and non-financial) to help us in our project.
But for now, go ahead and knock back that pint of doppelbock.
We are pleased to announce the recipients of this year’s Davenant Fellowships.
As part of our ongoing commitment to help equip and support emerging scholars committed to renewing the life of the church through their research, we sponsor a scholarship competition each year, the Davenant Fellowship, with two $2,500 awards going to exemplary doctoral or post-doctoral researchers in Protestant theology and ethics. Candidates are evaluated not merely on their academic promise and the value of their research projects, but on their Christian testimony and commitment both to the life of the local churches to which they belong and to the building up of the church universal. We were extremely impressed with the quality of the applications we received, and are very excited to announce the worthy recipients today. Read about Alex Mason and Tim Baylor as well as a description of their projects below. Read more…
This is a report on Teaching Fellow Colin Chan Redemer’s debut event for the Davenant Institute in San Luis Obispo.
I worshiped God last week in San Louis Obispo with a small group of leaders from the University of the Pacific Intervarsity chapter. If you looked in on us it wouldn’t have looked like worship; our instruments were books, paper, a whiteboard, and pens. The sheet music was mostly the letter of Ephesians. But we worshiped. We had met to look deeply into three questions, to help them get ready for the next season of ministry on their campus. What is the relationship between Justice and Evangelism? What is distinctive about the Christian understanding of Justice? What is the role of the life of the mind in the life of a Christian? They had chosen the questions, I chose the music. Read more…
The Davenant Trust has changed its name to The Davenant Institute.
On June 1, the Board of Directors authorized The Davenant Trust to change its name to the Davenant Institute beginning in the 2017-18 fiscal year. After a couple false starts due to gremlins in the interwebs, the change took effect today and will soon be reflected not only here on our website, but on our Kindful donation portal, our Facebook page, and our Youtube channel. In a statement today, Brad Littlejohn, Director of the Institute, said,
“As Davenant has grown and developed as an organization, so has our clarity about our mission and vision, and the avenues of ministry the Lord has called us to. Our new name, The Davenant Institute, better reflects our commitment to re-invigorating the legacy of the Reformation by providing training and resources, and building networks, that bridge the gap between the church and academy. Rather than waiting for promising project proposals to come along, we are proactively seeking out needs that the Lord has equipped us to address, and creating tools and opportunities to help today’s Protestants grow in wisdom and serve their communities.”
We look forward to announcing very soon some of the new projects and initiatives that we will be undertaking this fall under our new name. Read our full mission and vision statement here, and please consider donating to support our endeavors.
We are pleased to announce the most recent changes to our Board of Directors, Susannah Black and Ian Clary are joining us, and as Chairman, Scott Pryor will be succeeding Steven Wedgeworth. Read about them below. Read more…
On June 1 of this year, The Davenant Institute hired Colin Chan Redemer, a Lecturer at St. Mary’s College of California, as our first Teaching Fellow. He will be responsible for helping establish a Christian study center under Davenant’s oversight at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA, as well as speaking and writing on our behalf in the Bay Area. Mr. Redemer has worked for several years for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and this year chose to switch to The Davenant Institute. In this essay, he explains why.
There is a narrowing effect in the religious circles of America today. The loudest voices call for religious organizations to grab an oar and pull harder with the political and cultural Right, or to get a megaphone and march with the political and cultural Left. I’ve seen this first hand in church and parachurch alike. In the middle of such times where the din of secular voices rises to cacophony and where many Christian voices merely shout at one another, it is important for some Christian voice to shout louder yet, and the things they shout must be distinctive, refreshing, and, most importantly, Christian.
That might sound needlessly cheeky, but Christian voices ought to be working harder to ignore much of the incessant hue and cry demanding statements and positions on the latest news. We have news, thank you very much, and it is good. For Christians to represent that good news, publicly, we need to first cultivate private space to meditate, dig deeply, and learn about the wisdom of the ages that is contained inside the Christian tradition. This tradition has many branches and in the United States none is more august than Protestantism which has spurred many great awakenings on our soil. But the cultural threshing that has happened in America has arguably hit Protestantism harder than anything else. The traditional central denominations are becoming ever marginal, or splitting into predictable left and right categories. Leading theologians are catching Roman fever and departing for Catholicism often in hope of finding there something true and lasting; a dogma that can stand up to modernity. Still more are abandoning the label evangelical altogether merely because they are led to feel that it is a tainted faith; they’ve never been trained to consider (let alone value) truth. Those who remain in the center often decide to abandon their ties to traditional Protestantism in favor of whatever engaging church model promises to draw people back to pews (or to what used to be pews). Those who long for more head off to seminaries where they learn counselling and salesmanship but scarcely anything of the history, language, and teaching of the faith. A faith which can not reproduce will die. Or if not die it must fight! The church in America must wrestle with Mammon worship, the cult of self-identity, and the quandaries of sexual ethics; but how to face this hydra of challenges? I’ve long sensed that the way out of our conundrum will amount to some great metanoia, or turning around. After all if we discover we’ve been traveling down the wrong road the most sensible thing to do is to walk straight back until we can gather our bearings.
The Davenant Institute aims to do just that. By heroically carving out spaces, real spaces, for real conversations to happen between academics, pastors, and most importantly lay people they exist as a distinctive ark on which many will be saved. By courageously ignoring the astringency of the news cycle in favor of challenging both Christians and the broader American audience to consider afresh the claims of Protestant Christianity, they refreshingly stand out as a hill from which one can shine a light to any who might be watching. But most importantly, they are interested in that most bewitching of things: mere Christianity. The words send a chill down my spine. That anyone would dream the dream again, the old dream, of the Gospel being preached here on the fair land and in the desolate wilderness, and that the faith would be made intelligible, and defensible, once again to young and old alike. It fills me with hope. Deeper study of the Christian tradition and proclamation of the truth of the Gospel aren’t just the way out of a particular conundrum regarding politics or culture. These things are the hope of the world.
And that hope is why I am thrilled to join the Davenant Institute.