A Summary of the Church Authority Convivium in Washington DC

Western Christians find themselves forced to navigate many different quandaries in the modern world. This assertion is not generally considered to be controversial. Controversy quickly ensues, however, when Christians attempt to more finely identify and address these challenges. In recent times, one frequently discussed item has related to a presumed “crisis of authority” afflicting (especially) the American church. What is this crisis? And does a renewed emphasis on the authority of the institutional church help us navigate through it?

Mr. Grotius Goes to Washington

A funny thing happened a couple weeks ago in Washington, D.C. On a Friday night not far from the city’s most boozy blocks near Adam’s Morgan, a dozen or so Protestant and Roman Catholic scholars, practitioners, and aspiring practitioner-scholars gathered to discuss a great text and its relevance to the political and intellectual life of the West. The text was The Laws of War and Peace, the magnum opus of Dutch Reformed thinker Hugo Grotius, who is often credited as the father of international law.

What Was the Meeting?

We gathered to conduct an experiment, of sorts. Our goal was to explore whether thoughtful Christians involved someway in religion, public service, or the intersection thereof could hold court on a foundational work of political significance and come away enriched intellectually, with deeper insight into the nature of the secular order in which we serve and inhabit. Rubbing shoulders were folks in academia, think tanks, journals, and current and former military members.

Discussion on Hugo Grotius at Walter Russell Mead’s home.

The night opened with Peter Escalante of New St. Andrews College, who presented remarks based on preassigned readings and guided us to the focal questions of Grotius’s work. In any Socratic dialogue, the purpose is to chip away at the rough impressions of a text to unearth the foundational concerns, problems, and intellectual moves of the author. We proceeded that night at a jackhammer’s pace. It’s a pleasure to behold intelligent men and women from diverse backgrounds and viewpoints united in purpose and passion for drilling to the root of a subject.

The Result

What unfolded was a dazzling display of erudition on the nature of law, sovereignty, international relations, general and special revelation, modernity, Christendom, Protestant and Romanist political theologies, espionage, and just war tradition, punctuated with humor and breaks for hors d’oeuvre andbiblical beverages. Welcome to conversation about Christian tradition and great books.

This sort of evening might be dismissed as a typical “drink and think” soiree engaged in by rarefied social circles in Coastal or university towns. If it was about seeing and being seen, networking, or performing intellectual pantomime, you’d be right. Except it wasn’t. That Friday was what people intend when they valorize the “life of the mind.” Our Federal City needs more of this: sober-minded, public spirited men and women who wear lightly their professional status and analyze complex moral problems together.

If law is to be guided by right reason, and state power exercised in the light of wisdom, ongoing conversation by those involved in the worlds of thought and action must be joined. Nights such as this, sponsored by organizations dedicated to retrieving the past for the sake of orienting us to our present difficulties, must happen more often. Thanks to the Davenant Institute, Philos Project, and the Institute for Religion and Democracy, mature Christian deliberation in Washington, D.C. took a couple steps forward.


Written by Nathan Hitchen

Nathan Hitchen is a member of Equal Rights Institute’s Board of Directors. He completed his M.A. at the Johns Hopkins Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. Prior to Johns Hopkins, Nathan participated in the John Jay Institute fellowship, a program in theology and political philosophy, and then worked at a number of domestic and foreign policy think tanks in Washington, D.C. After graduate school, Nathan worked for the Corporate Executive Board and currently is an analyst. He and his wife and daughter live in Virginia.


Protestant Wisdom Summer Program 2017

From June 6th through 17th this year, seven students gathered from four countries to participate in Davenant’s first ever Intensive Protestant Wisdom Summer Program (a shortened version of last year’s Five-Week Program).


Taught by Dr. Alastair Roberts, a leading evangelical blogger and writer from the United Kingdom, this program sought to help train Christian undergraduates, grad students, and seminarians in Christian wisdom so that they can be equipped to lead as servant heroes within the church and their local communities. By all accounts, it was a great success. Read more…

The Davenant Trust Comes to DC: Announcing a Regional Convivium on National Security

We are very pleased to announce that we will be holding our Third Mid-Atlantic Regional Convivium Irenicum, and our first ever in Washington, DC, examining the theme, “Christian Love and National Interest: A Protestant Ethic of National Security.” The event will be held on April 21-22 at Redeeming Grace Church of Fairfax, VA, and will be co-sponsored by Patrick Henry College and Providence Magazine.

How do we exercise our Christian duty to show love to enemies while also exercising our Christian duty to protect our neighbors and countrymen from them? Can we have open arms and strong borders? To what extent should we be see ourselves as patriotic citizens of a nation-state vs. members of the worldwide family of Christ, with obligations that might run counter to national interest? This event seeks to connect the idea of national security to Christian ethics, bringing together local scholars and theologians, pastors and interested laypeople, and those who serve (or are considering service) in the military, intelligence and law enforcement professions. Our hope is that attendees and participants walk away with a new—or a renewed—vision for how the historical Protestant ethical tradition speaks to the often-conflicting loyalties of Christian citizenship.

To address these important questions, we will be bringing in speakers including Dr. Mark Thiessen Nation of Eastern Mennonite University, Dr. David Shedd of Patrick Henry College, Drs. Marc LiVecche and Keith Pavlischek of Providence magazine, Dr. Bradford Littlejohn of the Davenant Trust, and Mr. Andrew Fulford of McGill University, and author of our recent Davenant publication, Jesus and Pacifism.

For full details, and to register, click here.

New Events Announced for New York and Chicago

The Davenant Trust is pleased to announce two upcoming events in major cities.

September 23:

How (Not) to Have a Foot in Both Kingdoms: Protestant Models for Christian Citizenship

A conversation with Dr. W. Bradford Littlejohn (The Davenant Trust), Dr. Vincent Bacote (Wheaton College) and Dr. Matthew Tuininga (Calvin Theological Seminary)

Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL

Christians in an increasingly post-Christian America are apt to be conflicted and confused about their role in their nation’s public life. Should we seek our identity as citizens of Christ’s kingdom alone, accepting the role of strangers and pilgrims? Should we seek to transform our culture and communities to bring them under the lordship of Christ? Or something in between? Using the recent revival of the historic Protestant language of “two kingdoms” as a focal point of the conversation, our panelists will explore these and related questions. Dr. Littlejohn will present the pros and cons of Reformational political theology as a model for today, drawing on his forthcoming book, The Promise and Peril of Christian Liberty: Richard Hooker, the Puritans, and Protestant Political Theology. Drs. Bacote and Tuininga will respond and engage, developing insights from their own recent books, Political Discipleship and Calvin’s Political Theology and the Public Engagement of the Church: Christ’s Two Kingdoms.

Details and registration


October 14-15:

Christian Citizenship in Post-Christian America

Join us on Broadway this October for a conversation on Christian citizenship at The King’s College in New York City, part of the Davenant Trust’s 2nd Mid-Atlantic Regional Convivium, a gathering of ecclesially-minded scholars, academically-minded pastors, and theologically-concerned professionals.

The King’s College (56 Broadway, New York, NY)

Andrew Fuller Conference: The Diversity of Dissent

We are pleased to announce that The Davenant Trust is co-sponsoring the upcoming Andrew Fuller Conference at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The theme of the conference is “The Diversity of Dissent: A Quatercentennial Appreciation of Richard Baxter, John Owen, and William Kiffen.”

Speakers for the event include Davenant Trust Board of Advisors member Herman Selderhuis as well as Michael Haykin, Crawford Gribben, Russell Fuller, Larry Kreitzer, and David Sytsma. You can learn more about the conference by visiting the official website for the event.

We are particularly pleased to be sponsoring a conference on this theme because of its overlap with our own Convivium Irenicum event this past summer and our ongoing interest in the boundaries of and diversity within the reformed tradition.