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John Davenant

John Davenant (1572-1641), born in London, was a prominent 17th-century theologian of the Church of England.

Davenant was admitted to Queens’ College, Cambridge, in 1587. He was ordained about 1597, gained his B.D. in 1601 and his Doctor of Divinity in 1609 at which time he became Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity. He was elected President of Queens’ College in 1614.

Davenant is most noted as one of the five theologians selected by King James I to represent the Church of England at the Synod of Dort in 1618. Because of England's close political ties with Holland and the desire of the Dutch to resolve the controversial Arminian doctrinal issues, numerous theologians from throughout Europe were invited to attend that synod.

Davenant distinguished himself and the English delegation at the Synod of Dort and in 1621 was appointed by King James I to be Bishop of Salisbury, in which capacity he served until his death in 1641.

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Davenant's theology

"John Davenant was a definite and doctrinal Protestant as we see from his book A Treatise on Justification. He was clear on the biblical teaching of justification by faith alone and he had no sympathy with the views of the Roman Catholic party in England. He was also Calvinistic in his understanding of the Doctrines of Grace. It is indeed arguable that Davenant was the most influential member of the most important group (the English divines) at the Synod of Dort. At Dort the 'Five points of Arminianism' were refuted comprehensively and the Calvinistic position vindicated. The influence for good of the Synod of Dort itself and of the Reformed Confessions which were written in the light of it (Westminster Confession, Savoy Declaration and 1689 Baptist Confession) is incalculable." [1]

"Despite Davenant's important role at Dort he seems to have sympathised in part with the French theologian Moses Amyruat (1564 - 1664). Amyraut had proposed that in the scheme of Redemption the decree of divine election came subsequent to the decree to provide an atonement. This order moves away from the Calvinistic position, making the atonement (at least hypothetically) universal in nature but, through divine election, particular in application. The followers of Amyraut became known as Amyraldians. While Davenant's position on Amyraldianism gives rise to scholarly debate to this day, his great contribution to the putting forth of Calvinistic doctrine generally is without doubt." [2]


  1. John and Angela Magee, The Theology of John Davenant from Biography at Emmanuel Church Salisbury, UK.
  2. John and Angela Magee, Ibid.

Online writings


  • Jonathan D. Moore, English Hypothetical Universalism: John Preston and the Softening of Reformed Theology, Eerdmans Publishing, 2007, chapter 7.

External links