Davenant/Refo500 Conference on Hooker and Zanchi in Ottawa


We are excited to announce a conference this October 20-22 in Ottawa, Canada, co-sponsored by the Davenant Trust, Refo500, and the Richard Hooker Society. Hosted by First Baptist Church Ottawa, this conference, in addition to plenary lectures and short academic papers, will include an Ivison lecture open to the public, and a panel discussion on “The Relevance of Reformation Research to Christian Ministry in the 21st Century.” The theme of the conference will be “Girolamo Zanchi, Richard Hooker, and the Rise of Reformed Scholasticism.”

For many decades (if not centuries) it was fashionable to claim that the magisterial Reformation was a thoroughly anti-scholastic affair in every sense of the word, eschewing dense philosophical prolegomena for clear and direct biblical teaching, rejecting as confused and benighted the precise and elaborate theological distinctions of the medieval Schoolmen, and rejecting the long legacy of Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics and ethics for voluntarism and Stoicism. Against this putatively anti-scholastic backdrop, some figures, such as Richard Hooker (1553/4-1600), stood out in sharp relief as strangely sui generis, while others that did not fit the narrative, such as Peter Martyr Vermigli (1498-1562) and his protegé, Girolamo Zanchi (1516-90), were quietly nudged off the stage.

Thanks to the ground-breaking work of Richard Muller, Willem J. van Asselt and many others in recent decades, the foundations of this narrative have been thoroughly undermined, although the implications of this sea-change still have yet to be felt outside of specialists on Reformed orthodoxy. Figures such as Vermigli and Zanchi remain under-investigated, while Hooker continues to be interpreted most often against a specifically English and proto-Anglican backdrop.

In this conference, we hope to shed fresh light on Richard Hooker within the broader context of early Reformed scholasticism, while also highlighting the life and work of the great Italian and later Heidelberg reformer Girolamo Zanchi, whose quincentenary falls this year, and that of other relatively neglected figures in early Reformed scholasticism (c. 1550-1610). Plenary lectures will be given by Professor W.J. Torrance Kirby, who will deliver the Ivison Lecture on Thursday, October 20th, and also by Professor A.S. McGrade and Dr. W. Bradford Littlejohn.

Call for Papers

The organizers welcome short paper (30-minute) proposals on topics related to the conference theme and time period. Suggested lines of inquiry include (but are not limited to):

  • To what extent does Richard Hooker’s theology display the influence of the Florentine Reformer and Oxford professor Peter Martyr Vermigli?
  • Is it accurate to call Girolamo Zanchi’s theology, as Patrick Donnelly did four decades ago, a kind of “Calvinist Thomism”?
  • To what extent were late 16th-century Reformed dogmaticians Thomistic vs. nominalist/voluntarist in their assumptions?
  • What networks of friendship, travel, and correspondence can help shed light on the thought-world of early Reformed scholasticism?
  • How significant was Zanchi’s role in formulating a Reformed response to the Formula of Concord, and how should we evaluate his De Religione Christiana Fides as a potential Reformed confession?
  • How might renewed attention to the ethical and political theories of early Reformed scholastics reshape our understanding of early Protestant ethics?
  • How were scholastic methods and sources deployed in late 16th-century Reformed formulations of Christology against the Lutherans?
  • Which aspects of Richard Hooker’s theology, long considered distinctively “Anglican,” have parallels in the work of his early Reformed scholastic contemporaries?
  • How many points of contact were there between theological trends within early Reformed scholasticism and Roman Catholic theology at the same time?
  • What resources for contemporary ecumenical dialogue or theological renewal can be mined from Hooker and early Reformed scholastic theologians?

To submit a short paper proposal, please send your 200-300 word abstract to Scott Kindred-Barnes (scott.kindred.barnes@utoronto.ca) by June 15, 2016.

Conference Accommodations

A block of rooms has been reserved for conference attendees at the Lord Elgin Hotel, a landmark hotel right across the street from the conference venue. Rooms may be reserved via the following link: https://bookings.ihotelier.com/bookings.jsp?groupID=1556776&hotelID=12200 or by calling 1-800-267-4298 or 613-235-3333 to make your reservation.

When making a reservation by computer or by phone, scholars are asked to reference: “First Baptist-Richard Hooker Society.” Note that both the hotel and First Baptist have an elevator and are fully accessible. Conference attendance is free, with a suggested donation of $60 (or $30 for students) to help defray our costs. To register for conference attendance, please email Scott Kindred-Barnes (scott.kindred.barnes@utoronto.ca) by August 15, 2016.