The year of our Lord 2020 is underway, and it has already yielded fruit disproportionate to the days gone by at the Davenant House. On Friday, January 3rd and Saturday, January 4th, we hosted the annual Carolinas Regional Convivium. The topic was Literature in the Service of Christian Wisdom.
We live in an age when the most urgent question is the most fundamental question of all: “Who am I?” “Who are we?” The question of identity has been forced to the forefront, and our political and religious lives are reeling.
Three years ago, we at Davenant were blessed by the Lord with the opportunity to purchase a beautiful small retreat center property in the Blue Ridge Mountains of upstate SC, which we dubbed Davenant House. We enthusiastically sketched out a vision for a study center dedicated to the renewal of Protestant wisdom, offering residential courses, study retreats, and serving as a hub for building networks and ministry in the region. Unfortunately, the path forward for this work proved far rockier and more winding than we had anticipated, and we had all but abandoned this vision when the Lord brought Michael Hughes and his family across our path last summer. Over this winter, He opened many doors for bringing the Hugheses on, beginning in Summer 2019, as full-time directors of Davenant House, ready to realize the initial ambitious vision for the property, engage in active student ministry throughout the Western Carolinas, and raise funds for the further development of the property. It is with greatest excitement and joy that we introduce them to you today.
Brent King reflects on an engaging weekend of fellowship and learning at Davenant House.
John Davenant, as Lady Margaret Professor of Theology at Cambridge, gave a lecture in the 1610’s defending the thesis that: “Thus, marrying in the Sacerdotal Order is lawful, and the decree for its prohibition in the Church of Rome is unlawful, anti-Christian, and plainly diabolical.” In this post, I want to highlight some of the more pertinent parts of Davenant’s lecture as they relate to the present problems facing the Roman Catholic Church.
A few years Alan Jacobs posted an old syllabus for a class at the University of Michigan taught by the great English poet W. H. Auden.
It required 6,000 pages of reading… in one semester. Titled “Fate and the Individual in European Literature,” Auden’s course required students to read the entire Divine Comedy, Horace’s Odes, Augustine’s Confessions, four Shakespeare plays, the Pensees, Blake’s Narrative of Heaven and Hell, Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Melville’s Moby Dick, and selections from Kierkegaard, Baudelaire, Ibsen, Rimbaud, Henry Adams, Rilke, and Kafka.
At the time, many laughed at the list and ruefully shook their head at the crazy standards that once prevailed in American higher ed. But then this year three scholars at the University of Oklahoma decided to do something different: They essentially taught Auden’s course.
Our first ever Carolinas Regional Convivium Irenicum is scheduled for January 5th and 6th, 2018. D. Blair Smith, Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology at RTS Charlotte, will provide the plenary lecture with a working topic of the Fatherhood of God in Pro-Nicene Theology. In addition to the plenary lecture, we are accepting paper submissions from individuals who wish to do so (email Brittain Brewer). Please note: this event is athematic, so we encourage you to write on a topic of your choice as it relates to the Davenant Institute’s mission.
Attendants should begin arriving around 5:30pm, Jan. 5th, at the Davenant House for a light dinner. The convivium will commence that evening and go through 5:30 the following evening. We will end as close to schedule as possible in order that people may get back home for worship on Sunday.
Some attendants have graciously offered to provide food for all meals and prepare it during the events. Others will be assigned for at least one set-up/clean-up shift.
With Protestantism celebrating her 500th birthday this year, what should be a celebration has become for many instead an occasion for worried introspection. How much life does she really have left in her? Has Protestantism run its course? Does it really have the resources to cope with the challenges that modernity—and now postmodernity—are throwing at the church? After all, aren’t the individualism and secularism that we see all around us the product of the Reformation itself, with its determination to empower individual conscience and to roll back the reach of church authority? Many have made this argument.
And certainly a look around at the landscape of American evangelicalism in particular does not inspire much confidence. The “scandal of the evangelical mind” that Mark Noll wrote about 25 years ago is still there, despite real improvement: we are still reflexively anti-intellectual, much better at marketing than scholarship, and afflicted by a seemingly unshakeable addiction to personality cults and movements more interested in advancing their own brand than in asking and answering hard questions. Read more…
Davenant House is growing into a home for a renewal of Christian wisdom.
For all the good that has come of “Christian worldview” discipleship in recent decades, too often it has relied on polemic generalizations, caricatures, and easy answers. Wisdom, on the other hand, is possession of the principles of reality in the mind, illuminated by the Spirit-filled heart, and for the sake of the knowledge of God and glorifying Him.
Wisdom, unlike worldview, cannot be downloaded from a server or acquired from a video course. It requires a retrieval of the lost art of conversation and the cultivation of intellectually rich friendship. This is the vision for Davenant House. (Learn more about Davenant House.)
“The Church, now as always, needs open discussion of important, intellectual issues, as well as active collaboration and fellowship among Christians in advancing the mission of the Church,” says 2016 Davenant House guest Angie Tang, “and the Davenant House is a good effort towards that direction.”
Davenant House is not just a place to learn the right answers or the right ideas. It’s a place for reflection, for questioning, for conversation, for prayer—a place to connect with God, neighbor, and nature and be renewed for a life of faithful witness and service. Angie explains: “While the program engaged my mind in important and worthy study material, it did so in an atmosphere that was heavily influenced by fellowship with one another and interaction with nature. It allowed me to grow intellectually, but (perhaps more importantly) personally and relationally as well.”
Jonathan Kuo, another 2016 guest, says: “The Davenant House has all the ingredients for a stimulating period of intellectual and spiritual growth: excellent books, stirring conversations, homemade meals, stunning nature vistas, and a commitment to pursue wisdom together through communal work, reasoning, and recreation.”
Wisdom isn’t a set of talking points whose representatives have to be constantly reprogrammed. Rather, it makes free men and women capable of prudence and virtuous practice who can lead as servant heroes. Christian wisdom is a gathering of truth in love of God, so as to embody and radiate it to the world. “I’ve never experienced such a unified curricula,” observes Jonathan, “where each week—drawing on Aristotle, Aquinas, Calvin, and post-Reformation theologians—built upon the last and the selected texts incrementally brought us closer to the real, enduring, and solid principles of life in God’s world.”
We offer summer programs for evangelical Protestant undergraduates, graduate students, and young adults who are aspiring to positions of leadership and seeking to deepen the intellectual foundations of their faith in order to equip them for leadership in church, academy, and society. Several weeks of the year will be reserved for the use of individual or small groups of scholars or pastors to come and have a quiet space for study and writing, making use of our theological library on-site. Outside of the summer months, Davenant House is available for churches to use for officers’ retreats, pastors’ sabbaticals, prayer retreats or study days, etc.
Learn more about upcoming events, or apply to book your own visit, at davenanttrust.org/davenant-house.