Pursuing Wisdom in a Time of Crisis


By Brad Littlejohn

Dear friends,

It may be terribly clichéd by now to say that we are living through a time of crisis, but it is no less true: a crisis of public health that has quickly revealed a crisis of health in our body politic: a crisis of trust, a crisis of authority, a fraying of civic friendship and a growing conviction of injustice, a grave test for our churches and a battle over religious liberty; a crisis that is likely to reverberate in the months and years ahead as churches, businesses, and families struggle to regain their footing and our political institutions seek to regain our confidence.

And yet, as frequently as pundits have reached for the word “unprecedented,” that is a cliché that I will not echo. For if anything, the events of recent weeks and months have simply hurled us back into the reality that many of our ancestors lived every day: the threat of plague, the uncertainty of income, the restrictions (both legitimate and illegitimate) on individual freedoms and freedom of worship in the name of the public good, civil unrest, and confusion about what it was that God required when so many rights and duties seemed to be in conflict. The world that we have been living in these past months, unfamiliar though it may seem to us, has brought us closer to the world in which our forefathers in the faith served and struggled, wrote and worshipped. If the present crisis reminds us of our fragility and renders us more apt to learn from the wisdom of the past, it will be a blessing despite the suffering.

 

The world that we have been living in these past months, unfamiliar though it may seem to us, has brought us closer to the world in which our forefathers in the faith served and struggled, wrote and worshipped.

To quote C.S. Lewis’s great essay “Learning in War-Time” (modifying but two words):

 

The pandemic creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure the search would never have begun. We are mistaken when we compare pandemic with ‘normal life.’ Life has never been normal.

Faced with the much greater crisis of world war, Lewis reminded his hearers that the pursuit of truth and beauty must go on—in fact, all the more urgently so. That has been our conviction here at Davenant these past few months; while the pandemic may have prevented us from many planned summer events and programs, it provided us an opportunity to invest in new educational resources at Davenant Academy, Davenant Hall, and Breaking Ground. It reminds us that we still live very much within the confines of history, and we had better look to that history for guidance about what it means to govern prudently and live faithfully. Much of our recent work has been dedicated to such questions: examining the nature of freedom, clarifying the meaning of “social justice,” tracing the contours of religious liberty in the Protestant heritage, highlighting the centrality of prudence in the vocation of statesmanship, and remembering, with Richard Hooker, that “it is much easier to teach men by law what they should do, than to teach them how to rightly think of the law…to soundly judge laws is the weightiest thing a man can undertake.”

Above all, the present crisis has given us all occasion to reflect on the great truth of 2 Cor. 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

This is certainly a verse that summarizes our experience here at Davenant. As an organization, we have often wondered how we would have the means to move forward with the mission the Lord had put before us. Even a year ago, we were staring our weakness in the face—a significant anticipated budget deficit for the coming year—and humbly asking the Lord to provide.

He has done so in incredible ways. We have received many unanticipated gifts this year, and have been joined by many new ministry partners, faithfully giving month by month—even in the midst of this pandemic and economic downturn. We’ve seen key new people come on board, with Michael Hughes and Onsi Kamel taking charge of Davenant House and Davenant Press, respectively, Charles Carman and Kirk Summers heading up our language program, and Joe Minich joining the growing ranks of our Teaching Fellows. This month we welcome two new board members: Aaron Rothermel and George Derieg. In fact, despite the current crisis, we approach the end of this fiscal year in the strongest position we have ever been as an organization. I want to take this opportunity to thank each one of you for your prayers and encouragement.

 

As we approach the seventh anniversary of our founding, we are now poised to open an exciting new chapter in the ministry of the Davenant Institute.

As we approach the seventh anniversary of our founding, we are now poised to open an exciting new chapter in the ministry of the Davenant Institute. With students, teachers, and administrators around the country rethinking the meaning and purpose of higher education, we are increasingly convinced that we have something unique and important to offer, especially to Christian lay leaders eager for formation in Christian wisdom, and for those seeking a deeper grounding in their faith as they weigh a possible call to the ministry. After a highly successful trial run of our Davenant Hall online course program this past year (with over 180 enrollments, in sixteen different courses), we plan to expand Davenant Hall this fall into a full-blown certificate program, with 1-year and 2-year programs in the Bible, theology, philosophy, church history, languages, and more, built around a core of distinctive Davenant primers on the foundations of magisterial Protestantism.

The focus of these courses will be to offer deep dives into specific topics, in order to equip students with the intellectual virtues that will make them effective lifelong learners and the communication skills that will enable them to share wisdom with others. We will also be integrating this program with our residential discipleship at Davenant House, so that students have an opportunity to learn and be mentored together in community. Our goal is to price these courses at an incredibly affordable level: a full-time student in our 2-year program will be able to get the equivalent of a Master’s degree for less than $8,000, including room and board for residential intensives!

After a period of restful preparation, Davenant Press is also poised to kick into high gear in the coming months, with new editions (modernizations or translations) of classic texts by John Wycliffe, John Jewel, Peter Martyr Vermigli, and Richard Hooker forthcoming soon, as well as our ground-breaking edited collections Knowing God: Scripture, Reason, and Presuppositional Apologetics, and A Protestant Christendom?: Retrieving Reformational Politics.

To help us turn these plans into reality, and to be able to offer our new programs as affordably as possible, we continue to depend on your help. We know this is a hard time to be asking for financial support, but we trust that the Lord will continue to provide, as He has till now. As we end this fiscal year June 30th, we hope that you will consider making a special gift toward this work, and will continue to keep us in your prayers in the coming months.

Blessings in Christ,

 

 

 

 

Brad Littlejohn
President, The Davenant Institute