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Inaugural Banquet Address

August 18, 2023 | Colin Smothers, Institute Director

In this brief address, I want to do just a couple of things. First, (I.) I want to lay out the vision for the Kenwood Institute, namely, what are we trying to accomplish here? And then (II.) I want to preview the upcoming year.

I. Kenwood Institute Vision

Here is the mission statement of the Kenwood Institute, as written and approved by the Institute Board:

The Kenwood Institute exists to strengthen Christ’s church, a pillar and buttress of the truth, by promoting and defending the whole counsel of God’s Word in the Reformed and Baptist traditions.

Many of you will recognize the scriptural language in this statement from 1 Timothy 3:15, where Paul refers to “the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” This verse not only informs our purpose, but it also gives conceptual unity to our Kenwood Institute logo. If you look closely at the “K,” you find both a pillar and a buttress.

In 1 Timothy 3:15, Paul says that it is the church of the living God that is a  pillar and buttress of the truth, which is relatively categorical language. If we think about it for a moment, we will see that what Paul is affirming here about the church — about us, the believers who constitute Kenwood Baptist Church, and the universal church of the living God — it is quite astonishing. Here is what John Calvin says about Paul’s language:

No ordinary enhancement is derived from this appellation. Could it have been described in loftier language? Is anything more venerable, or more holy, than that everlasting truth which embraces both the glory of God and the salvation of men? Were all the praises of heathen philosophy, with which it has been adorned by its followers, collected into one heap, what is this in comparison of the dignity of this wisdom, which alone deserves to be called light and truth, and the instruction of life, and the way, and the kingdom of God? Now it is preserved on earth by the ministry of the Church alone.

To paraphrase Augustine, “All truth is God’s truth.” And what Paul teaches in this passage is that the church — God’s people throughout time and space — literally exist to support and promote the truth. Fundametnally, the church supports and buttresses the truth of God’s Word through its ministry of the Word. But I think Paul is affirming more that that here.

The very concept, the very notion of capital-“T” truth is in dire need of support today: the very fact that knowledge is real, objective, verifiable, and knowable. Why? Because God is real, objective, verifiable, and knowable. This is what the church is called to, what we are called to. And in this vision we find the mission of the Kenwood Institute: to strengthen the pillar, to shore up the buttress, to edify the church.

The reality is, everywhere we turn, Truth is under attack. We see Marxism, postmodernism, secularism, atheism, agnosticism, nihilism, totalitarianism, fascism, and a hundred other “-isms” waging a full-on assault against the Truth every day. And this is nothing short of a war against Truth’s Creator, the Triune God, and Truth’s pillar and buttress, the church.

In many ways, we find ourselves in a similar situation to the one Herman Bavinck, Dutch theologian at the turn of the 20th century, found himself in. As James Eglington notes in the introduction of The Christian Family, which we are reading together this semester as a Kenwood Institute, the French Revolution and Marxist communism were defining ideologies that Bavinck struggled against.

The overtly atheistic regime of the French Revolution was radically secular. And its ideological spread, including its emphasis on radical individualism, ironically paved the way for statist and collectivist movements like Marxist communism and socialism to take root on the European continent. With this spread, society itself was crumbling before Bavinck’s eyes. And the family was ground zero for the disintegration, torn apart by hyper-individualism on one side that was seeking to get rid of all hierarchies, and collectivism on the other side that was downplaying the unique role of fathers and mothers and looking instead to the state for relief.

Sound familiar? Even so, Bavinck gives a distinctly theological account of not only the problem, but the solution in The Christian Family:

In the modern era, as the notion of sin is slipping away, the culpability for every misery is being sought outside the person and located in the institutions, in social circumstances, in the organization of the state. All deliverance is naturally expected then from social and political reform. But conscience speaks a different language within every person who seriously examines himself and ventures to confront this moral reality. Such conscience lays the blame not on the institution of society and state, but on the person himself; you are the man!

In this recognition, this is how Bavinck proposes we fight revolutions — be they moral, political, or otherwise: not with revolution, but with Reformation:

All good, enduring reformation begins with ourselves and takes its starting point in one’s own heart and life. If family life is indeed being threatened from all sides today, then there is nothing better for each person to be doing than immediately to begin reforming within one’s own circle and begin to rebuff with facts themselves the sharp criticisms that are being registered nowadays against marriage and family. Such a reformation immediately has this in its favor, that it would lose no time and would not need to wait for anything. Anyone seeking deliverance from the state must travel the lengthy route of forming a political party, having meetings, referendums, parliamentary debates, and civil legislation, and it is still unknown whether with all that activity he will achieve any success. But reforming from within can be undertaken by each person at every moment, and be advanced without impediment.

And this is exactly our aim at the Kenwood Institute! It is nothing less than Reformation: Reformation by the Word, through the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit, for the glory of God. And this kind of Reformation begins with the heart, but it doesn’t end there. Reformation affects our circles — our families, our friends, our church — and through Reformation we change the world, but not in the world’s way. We do it according to God’s way

The Kenwood Institute exists to strengthen Christ’s church, a pillar and buttress of the truth, by promoting and defending the whole counsel of God’s Word in the Reformed and Baptist traditions.

This is why the Kenwood Institute is unashamedly biblical, which means we are unashamedly Reformed and Baptist. Steeped in God’s Word, informed by the Great Tradition, this is how we carry out our mission.

II. Institute Preview 2023–2024

To that end, let me briefly preview what we have planned for Kenwood Hall, Institute Resources, and the Kenwood Network. First at Kenwood Hall, we have chosen four Anchor Classes to form the backbone of our strengthening program, because we think this is where many around us are faltering.

The anchor classes this Fall include Biblical Theology of Genesis, taught by Dr. Jim Hamilton and Tom Sculthorpe, where students will be rooted in not only the foundational book of our biblical canon, but God’s foundational design for humanity and the world. If you get Genesis wrong, and you’re skewed right out of the gate. The other Anchor class offered this Fall is Baptist Ecclesiology, taught by me, where we will be looking at the  biblical, theological, and historical foundation for our Baptist convictions. I whole heartedly believe Baptist ecclesiology is biblical ecclesiology, and in this class we are going to be giving students tools not only to understand why we are Baptist, but to promote and defend its biblical basis.

Then next semester at Kenwood Hall, Dr. Kyle Claunch will be teaching our Reformed Theology anchor class. He is going to be filling out the Reformed plank in our vision: Why we are Protestant, the meaning and reasoning of the doctrines of grace, orthodox Trinitarianism, and more. And finally, we will be offering Biblical Theology of Romans, where we will be looking at that Mount Sinai of a book in the New Testament, which will ground our biblical convictions about the Gospel in one of the most important letters ever written. Stay tuned for the announcement of that instructor.

But that’s not all! If you can’t enroll in the classes, we hope you can make one or more of the seminars. Next month, we are hosting the Commonwealth Policy Center and our very own John Wilsey, with guest speakers Andrew Walker and Richard Nelson on the topic of Christian Nationalism. Then in October, we have the great pleasure of hosting Rosaria Butterfield on her new book, 5 Lies of Our Anti-Christian Age. Finally in November, Ryan Fullerton, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church, will be speaking to us on a Christian Critique of Critical Theory

In addition to these, we have the book reading group, where are tackling Bavinck’s The Christian Family. And then we have the Table Talks scheduled for the first and third Wednesdays of month, starting next month. If you are curious for mor information on any of these events and more, just visit and click “Kenwood Hall” for more infor mation.Also be sure to periodically check in on the Kenwood Resources page, which is where the Institue will be promoting theologically solid material for not only Kenwood members, but our ministry partners as well. This portion is still under development, so stay tuned for more exciting things to be rolled out there.

Last of all, let me say a brief word about the Kenwood Network Conference. Save the date and help us spread the word to Kenwood alums: April 5–7, 2024. I can’t think of another time when we had a weekend dedicated to a Kenwood reunion. Through this conference we are hoping to strengthen our network ties, encourage brothers and sisters in ministry, and equip all how attend with biblical resources. Current Kenwood members have an opportunity to host Kenwood alums who are coming back for the conference, so let me know if you are interested.

If you can’t tell, I am excited about the Kenwood Institute, and thrilled to be officially launching at this evening’s banquet. But this is not about me, or the Institute Board, or growing our brand. It is about you, the church, the pillar and buttress of the truth. So tonight, and in the days ahead, avail yourself of what we get to share together in fellowship and growth. We are stronger when we are together, and we are strongest when we are united in heart and mind under the Lordship of Christ.        

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