One of the long-term interests of Mere Orthodoxy has been trying to revitalize Christian discourse online in ways that move beyond the categories commonly used in conversations about world-view. Though the world-view critics are not always presenting the movement as fairly as they perhaps could, the criticisms raised by Alissa Wilkinson in this review of Saving Leonardo are still essentially correct.

Toward that end, I’m excited to announce to Mere O readers the launch of a new project I’ve been blessed to be part of—Davenant HouseDavenant House is a new Christian study center operated by the Davenant Trust located in the foothills of the Blue Mountains in upstate South Carolina. (Disclosure: I am a board member and serve as the secretary for the Davenant Trust.)

The goal of Davenant House is to be a place that looks more like L’Abri and less like a summer world-view training program. Rather than simply giving our students a world-view consisting of pre-defined categories and talking points, we want to help our students cultivate Christian wisdom through a deeper interaction with the riches of historic Christian thinking and the experience of hospitality and conversation in a shared place. (That the place happens to be located in a beautiful part of the country certainly doesn’t hurt, of course.)

As we put it on the website, “(Wisdom) 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.”

We will have two student terms this summer that are open to interested students and young adults. The first is a 10 day intensive term from May 19 to May 31. The second is a five-week term running from July 4 to August 6. You can learn more about the summer programs as well as the other offerings at Davenant House from this page on the Davenant website. (We also have a few book titles listed on that page if you’re curious about what we’ll be reading.)

If you have questions about the work, feel free to ask them in the comments below or you can reach out to me via Twitter @jake_meador.

Posted by Jake Meador

Jake Meador is the editor-in-chief of Mere Orthodoxy as well as the Vice President of the Davenant Institute. He is a 2010 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he studied English and History. He lives in Lincoln, NE with his wife Joie, their daughter Davy Joy, and sons Wendell and Austin. Jake's writing has appeared in Commonweal, Christianity Today, Fare Forward, the University Bookman, Books & Culture, First Things, National Review, Front Porch Republic, and The Run of Play. His first book, "In Search of the Common Good: Christian Fidelity in a Fractured Age," will be published summer of 2019 by InterVarsity Press.

  • Greg Herr

    Congratulations!

  • Physiocrat

    Having not been apart of this particular sphere for long it seems that the critics of the “worldview analysis” have a different conception of the importance of particular ideas – a common theme seems to be an anti-individualism that the broadly conservative worldview advocates don’t share. It is true however that many worldview analysts have a less than developed sense of aesthetics and don’t read narrative well. In addition they don’t do nuance that well.

    Davenant House though seems like a very interesting project. I’ve been go the English L’Abri only once but thoroughly enjoyed and was edified by the experience.

  • hoosier_bob

    Wilkinson’s criticisms are apposite, but I wonder whether the problem is deeper than that.

    The primary flaw with worldview thinking lies in its epistemic idealism. There’s often a fairly big disconnect between the ideals that people espouse and their actual conduct. In many cases, institutional commitments–not ideas–have far greater influence in shaping human conduct. So, in a sense, the worldview approach falls victim to the very dualism that it seeks to critique. It falls victim to it because operates on false assumptions about the way that culture is generated and transmitted. As James Davison Hunter has been telling us for thirty years, culture is primarily a social-institutional phenomenon, and is deeply embedded in power structures. Teaching people to have better values doesn’t lead them to act more ethically, unless they are part of social-institutional networks where behaving unethically has social costs.

    And because worldview thinking gives little attention to social-institutional considerations, its proponents are often blind to their own social-institutional commitments. Thus, it’s easy to sweep those commitments into one’s “Christian worldview” without being conscious of doing so. In that sense, it actually becomes an impediment to understanding the predicaments of those who operate with a very different set of social-institutional commitments than white, middle-class evangelicals. Thus, worldview thinking can too easily give theological credence to injustice towards those on society’s margins (e.g., the treatment of native Africans by Dutch Calvinists in South Africa). It also leaves evangelicals out of the corridors of power, as they fail to understand how culture operates among the cognitive elite.

    Lastly, focusing on ideas often leads worldview proponents to become lazy observers of the world around them. They fail to appreciate why cultural changes actually occur, and they fail to appreciate the potential consequences of those changes. That probably explains why three decades of evangelical political activism has accomplished so little. In fact, in some cases, that activism likely spurred the social changes it was seeking to halt. That happened because evangelicals failed to appreciate the social-institutional terrain outside of the evangelical bubble.

    I do think that the notion of “worldview” is important, but only when it’s used in a more sociological way, i.e., in a way that takes account of how social-institutional commitments–of ourselves and those around us–affect what we do and how we think. Otherwise, we’re too prone to privilege certain assumptions unwittingly and to arrive at cultural analyses that can’t account for how culture is generated and transmitted. If people like “us” are culturally predominant, this isn’t as costly. But in an increasingly pluralistic culture where white, middle-class people are no longer culturally predominant, worldview thinking can easily slide into ressentiment and tribal defensiveness.

  • hoosier_bob

    I just went to the website. The website photo depicts only white men. I think that addresses the problems I have with this kind of thing. If these kinds of venues fail to provide a place for women and minorities to be heard, then how does it keep from sliding into a knee-jerk defense of “white evangelicalism”?