The NEW RENAISSANCE PROJECT
We are thrilled to announce the launch of The New Renaissance Project which aims to foster a surge of intellectual and creative energy in our time. We believe that our society's attitudes and assumptions need to be reset, as cultural energy levels have been low, and polarization has deepened. We aspire to equip the Church to engage intelligently, creatively, winsomely, and humbly with our society again, and to offer it a better song to sing.
We plan to achieve this by fostering a new Renaissance of Christian scholarship, mentoring a new generation of Christian academics in every discipline, and making Wycliffe a center for the arts. Our goal is to build on the appointment of NT Wright as our Senior Research Fellow and to make Wycliffe a crucible of the highest quality Christian thinking. We believe that truth and beauty need and nourish each other, and that Christian artists have a vital role to play in communicating the sanity and humanity of the Christian vision to our contemporaries.
Culture wars within the West have revealed – and deepened – a huge political and ethical division within our society. Social media have encouraged a brutality of discourse that leads to mental health issues for the individual, and a ghettoization of news gathering and opinion forming that further polarises our society
Our cultural expression has frequently been characterised by a banality that does not elevate the human spirit.
People are increasingly realising that the loss of Truth as a universal category does not free us – it leaves us vulnerable to being exploited by political leaders and social influencers who feel unconstrained by issues of veracity or morality. People are increasingly realising that relativism is not their friend – it is not the friend of liberalism, science, justice, journalism nor aesthetics. People are increasingly realising that relativism doesn’t help us hold together as a society – it deepens our fragmentation. However, people are afraid to return to a concept of absolute morality for fear that it will be imposed on them by force.
The Church should have something to contribute on this, because it follows Jesus Christ, someone who did not impose his agenda on others by force. But the Church has ceased to be the place most people turn for wisdom on the major issues and developments of the day. It has ceased to be the place where many people go to mark their significant life events. And its own language, art and music have largely failed to capture the minds and imaginations of our generation. It has tended to talk to itself rather than engage with the thought and culture of the society it claims to want to serve, with the result that it is regarded as largely irrelevant by that society.
Wycliffe aspires to equip the Church to engage intelligently, creatively, winsomely, humbly with our society again, and to offer it a better song to sing. We look forward to embarking on this exciting journey with you!
In 7th century Northumberland and Hispania, in 8th and 9th century Westphalia, in 12th century Western Europe, and seminally in 15th and 16th century Italy, a surge of intellectual and creative energy reshaped how people thought, and left individuals and societies with conceptual possibilities that had not been available to them before. So great were the new possibilities that the metaphor of rebirth came to be used of these periods of history.
Wycliffe is committing itself to fostering another such surge in our time, because it believes that the cultural energy levels of our generation need to be galvanised, and that our society’s attitudes and assumptions need to be reset.
We will foster a new Renaissance of Christian scholarship …
By the quality of our research
We want to build on the appointment of NT Wright as our Senior Research Fellow, and Andrew Newell and Andrew Cowan as our Junior Research Fellows to make Wycliffe a crucible of the highest quality Christian thinking, so that Christian scholarship is again respected and turned to for wisdom on the issues of the day.
By mentoring a new generation of Christian academics in every discipline
Bearing in mind the impact that Christian academics in non-theological subjects, such as C.S. Lewis and Dorothy Sayers were able to have in their day, we want to help young scholars so to think through their research in the light of their faith (and vice versa) as to enable them to be fine thinkers, inspiring teachers, good servants of their students and colleagues, and articulate Christian witnesses in their own fields and faculties.
By making Wycliffe a center for the arts
We believe that truth and beauty need and nourish each other. We believe that scholarship and art go hand in hand today as much as they did in the fifteenth century. We sense that lockdown impressed on people their need for beauty. We believe that the arts shape what people can imagine, and that what they can imagine shapes what they can believe. And that therefore Christian artists have a vital role to play in communicating the sanity and humanity of the Christian vision to our contemporaries, and in modelling artistic expression that expands and elevates the human spirit.
You Can Play a Part
It was the patronage and support of people like Lorenzo the Magnificent that enabled the Italian Renaissance to happen. By supporting artists such as Botticelli, Michelangelo and Da Vinci, he was a significant catalyst for the extraordinary flowering of thought and culture that was the Italian Renaissance.
If our attempt to foster a New Renaissance of Christian Scholarship and Culture is to be fruitful, we will need patrons who will support today’s scholars and artists, and enable them to have the impact on our society’s thinking and values and assumptions that they are capable of having.
For more information on how you can become a patron for the New Renaissance Project, please contact Stephanie Cocke by email.
Wycliffe Hall is an Anglican School of Theology, and, as a Permanent Private Hall, is one of the 45 colleges that comprise the University of Oxford. You can visit Wycliffe Hall's main website at: www.wycliffe.ox.ac.uk