Interview: Joe Minich on his Upcoming Residential Course, “Reading the Bible and the World”

This summer, Davenant will offer Protestant Wisdom Foundations I: Reading the Bible and the World for the third year. Students have flown in from around the world—the UK, France, Canada, Mexico—for this one-of-a-kind residential course at the Davenant House, our retreat center in the Blue Ridge Mountains. To help give prospective students a better sense for what this class looks like and what they can expect, Joe Minich answered some questions about the course.

What about this class are you most excited about?
This course teaches students to seek a unified understanding of things–the whole of reality, you might say, relative to the whole of one’s self. Nature, Scripture, history, and life itself are all part of some singular truth and world. It is this unity that the philosophical gaze seeks to retrace and live in light of, and I love walking with students as they contemplate this unified reality and begin to see the world in a coherent way.

What types of conversations have you had in the past in these classes that you found particularly illuminating or fruitful?
When philosophy is conceived of as a way of life (as it is at The Davenant Institute), it is fascinating to note how students are able to think about all their lives and vocations philosophically. In our Wisdom Foundations courses, the life of the mother is as crucial a vantage point for grappling with the unity of things as any other vocation. And to think of the unified grasp of things that philosophy seeks as so immediately plugged back into the world helps students immediately imagine practical implications of the content, whether personal, ecclesiastical, or cultural.

Why do you think a class like this is important given the current cultural climate?
You could say that wisdom is calibration. We live in a fast-paced and complicated world where we are all required to act against the backdrop of imperfect knowledge and certainty. By cultivating wisdom, we begin to be aware of the many dials and factors that allow us to form true and just judgments, so that we can deploy them with enhanced prudential instinct. By cultivating this type of awareness and attention, we can learn to think philosophically while avoiding the prison of over-analysis. What is remarkable about this program is the manner in which it is both very big picture-oriented, but also in a way that is immediately seen (not just claimed) by the students to be relevant to contemporary civilization.

What have students told you they most appreciate about this class?
Different students respond to different things. Many walk away with a significantly expanded imagination, but perhaps the most ecumenical comment concerns the good vibes. The ethos of this class is fun and explorative, but also serious and reverent.

What is one author you assigned for this class, and why did you pick them? What do they contribute to this topic and what can students look forward to discovering in it?
I always have fun teaching Emonet. His method of teaching metaphysics through conversations with the poets is an excellent pedagogical way to get those “first metaphysical traces” deep in the student’s brain.

Texts read:
Pierre-Marie Emonet, God Seen in the Mirror of the World, The Dearest Freshness Deep Down Things
John Hilber, Old Testament Cosmology and Divine Accommodation
Richard Hooker, The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity in Modern English
C.S. Lewis, The Discarded Image
Alastair Roberts, Echoes of Exodus
Al Wolters, Creation Regained

Core to Davenant’s philosophy is the belief that God reveals himself to us through what many of our fathers in the faith would have called his “two books”: Scripture and nature. It is only by carefully attending to these two books that we can hope to grow in wisdom. We are called to become good readers of both these books, requiring attention, humility, and perseverance. As we undertake this high calling, we listen closely to the words of Scripture; we learn from the wisdom of the church as she has interpreted Scripture throughout the centuries; and we learn to discern the patterns of God’s revelation that can be seen in the world.

Consider joining us for this two-week residential course this summer as we read, listen to lectures, and are led in discussion by Joe Minich and Dr. Alastair Roberts. Students will walk away with a better understanding of how to think and act in the modern world according to their vocation, while staying rooted in the wisdom of the past.