On June 1 of this year, The Davenant Institute hired Colin Chan Redemer, a Lecturer at St. Mary’s College of California, as our first Teaching Fellow. He will be responsible for helping establish a Christian study center under Davenant’s oversight at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA, as well as speaking and writing on our behalf in the Bay Area. Mr. Redemer has worked for several years for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and this year chose to switch to The Davenant Institute. In this essay, he explains why.
There is a narrowing effect in the religious circles of America today. The loudest voices call for religious organizations to grab an oar and pull harder with the political and cultural Right, or to get a megaphone and march with the political and cultural Left. I’ve seen this first hand in church and parachurch alike. In the middle of such times where the din of secular voices rises to cacophony and where many Christian voices merely shout at one another, it is important for some Christian voice to shout louder yet, and the things they shout must be distinctive, refreshing, and, most importantly, Christian.
That might sound needlessly cheeky, but Christian voices ought to be working harder to ignore much of the incessant hue and cry demanding statements and positions on the latest news. We have news, thank you very much, and it is good. For Christians to represent that good news, publicly, we need to first cultivate private space to meditate, dig deeply, and learn about the wisdom of the ages that is contained inside the Christian tradition. This tradition has many branches and in the United States none is more august than Protestantism which has spurred many great awakenings on our soil. But the cultural threshing that has happened in America has arguably hit Protestantism harder than anything else. The traditional central denominations are becoming ever marginal, or splitting into predictable left and right categories. Leading theologians are catching Roman fever and departing for Catholicism often in hope of finding there something true and lasting; a dogma that can stand up to modernity. Still more are abandoning the label evangelical altogether merely because they are led to feel that it is a tainted faith; they’ve never been trained to consider (let alone value) truth. Those who remain in the center often decide to abandon their ties to traditional Protestantism in favor of whatever engaging church model promises to draw people back to pews (or to what used to be pews). Those who long for more head off to seminaries where they learn counselling and salesmanship but scarcely anything of the history, language, and teaching of the faith. A faith which can not reproduce will die. Or if not die it must fight! The church in America must wrestle with Mammon worship, the cult of self-identity, and the quandaries of sexual ethics; but how to face this hydra of challenges? I’ve long sensed that the way out of our conundrum will amount to some great metanoia, or turning around. After all if we discover we’ve been traveling down the wrong road the most sensible thing to do is to walk straight back until we can gather our bearings.
The Davenant Institute aims to do just that. By heroically carving out spaces, real spaces, for real conversations to happen between academics, pastors, and most importantly lay people they exist as a distinctive ark on which many will be saved. By courageously ignoring the astringency of the news cycle in favor of challenging both Christians and the broader American audience to consider afresh the claims of Protestant Christianity, they refreshingly stand out as a hill from which one can shine a light to any who might be watching. But most importantly, they are interested in that most bewitching of things: mere Christianity. The words send a chill down my spine. That anyone would dream the dream again, the old dream, of the Gospel being preached here on the fair land and in the desolate wilderness, and that the faith would be made intelligible, and defensible, once again to young and old alike. It fills me with hope. Deeper study of the Christian tradition and proclamation of the truth of the Gospel aren’t just the way out of a particular conundrum regarding politics or culture. These things are the hope of the world.
And that hope is why I am thrilled to join the Davenant Institute.