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.
Alex Mason, “The Madgeburg Confession, Homo Sacer, and the Right to Resist Tyranny”
Alex Mason is a native of Lynchburg, Virginia. After completing an undergraduate degree ingovernment from Liberty University, Alex went on to complete graduate degrees in public policy, church history, ethics, and theology from Liberty University, Southeastern Seminary, and Southern Seminary. Currently, he lives in Scotland where he is a PhD candidate in Divinity (Theological Ethics) at the University of Aberdeen. He has a beautiful, talented, and capable wife as well as two delightful and rambunctious little girls who make every day enjoyable. For more than a decade, Alex has worked in the private non-profit sector, and he’s been an university adjunct instructor since 2010. In his free time, Alex likes to visit various Scottish castles with his wife and daughters.
Many moderns assume that the Protestant Reformation dealt solely with religious and ecclesiastical concerns, but it also greatly influenced political theology and the relationship between church and state, even providing the impetus for Protestant leaders to re-examine the prevailing theology of submission to authority. Alex’s doctoral research explores a unique Christian theory of resistance to authority called the doctrine of the lesser magistrate, which was introduced in the historically important Magdeburg Confession of 1550. This doctrine teaches that when a supreme ruler has made laws deemed to be irretrievably unjust, he has abdicated his claim to legitimacy. Consequently, those magistrates with lesser authority under him may defy and resist the tyrannical magistrate and his unjust laws. For the nascent Protestant Reformation, the Magdeburg Confession became the embodiment of a theology of resistance allowing not only for a right to resist in certain circumstances, but a duty. By suffusing the ethical conception of political engagement with a thentofore atypical configuration of the freedom of individual conscience and a duty to resist injustice, the Confession offers us a usefully clarifying window into the West’s transition into modern democratic politics. To this end, Alex’s research will aim to examine the socio-political, philosophical, and theological context and content of the Confession in part through a lens crafted from the biopolitical homo sacer theory of philosopher Giorgio Agamben in order to excavate a theological/ethical understanding of resistance and its implications for faithful Christian living in post-Christian societies. In an age when the ideas of resistance and revolution are discussed with increasing frequency, Alex sincerely hopes that his project will be a blessing to the Church as it seeks to think carefully and biblically about these issues.
Tim Baylor, “Divine Justice and the Common Good in Post-Reformation Reformed Theology”
Dr. Baylor’s forthcoming book will offer an examination of John Owen’s theology of divine justice. In his Diatribe de Justitia Divina, Owen draws on the Jesuit theologian Francisco Suárez’s Disputatio De Iustitia Qua Deus to argue that the incarnation was strictly necessary in order for God to forgive sinners. His argument is that God’s perfection is so implicated in the moral order of the universe as its Governor, that if God did not resist injustice, he would be imperfect and so cease to be God. In this respect, Owen understands God’s punishment of sin as simply the active affirmation of God’s own perfection, and his glory as the common good toward which all things tend. Dr Baylor’s research will examine the extent of Owen’s dependence on the argument of Suárez, as well as Owen’s relation to other leading Protestant voices such as John Davenant and Samuel Rutherford. He will show that Owen effectively intensifies the relation between God’s perfection and the moral order of the universe, ultimately concentrating the goodness of the natural order in its active communion with God. And while this argument is intended to amplify the humanism of the Christian gospel and God’s investment in the just ordering of society, in doing so, it also raises several pressing theological questions. What does this account of divine punishment say about the nature of human sin? How does this theology of divine government shape the way that we understand the goodness of the created order? In what sense is God’s glory here regarded as the bonum universi – the common good toward which all things tend? And what room does Owen leave to those natural common goods which are the object of political society? Dr Baylor will argue that these questions ultimately lead us to the relation between the cross and the resurrection, requiring us to probe whether Owen’s theology of divine justice is sufficiently conditioned by the resurrection as the revelation of that eschatological end — that common good — toward which God governs all things.
Read about last year’s recipients, Simon Kennedy and Daniel Hyde, here.