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Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

If you want a guest speaker in your church who tries at least to practice what he preaches in this villanelle, get in touch with me.  Such a thing can be arranged.

Dr. Williams Preaching What He Practices

HOMILETICS 101

Nothing less can speak to our condition,

Not prooftexts, pretexts; we must have the Word:

There is no power but in exposition.

The Text is captain of the expedition,

The Apostle’s accents are what must be heard,

For nothing less can speak to our condition.

The finger on the verse, the fair rendition,

Then, not to brandish, but to thrust, the Sword:

There is no power but in exposition.

When heralds mind the message and the mission,

Not feelings only—mind and heart are stirred,

And nothing less can speak to our condition.

Can mere opinion lead to true contrition

When bone and marrow splitting’s not incurred?

There is no power but in exposition.

Such splitting, like the atom: in that fission

The power is unleashed, the Faith conferred.

For nothing less can speak to our condition;

There is no power but in exposition.

Dr. Williams Practicing What He Preaches

Donald T. Williams, PhD

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  And look for Williams’ very latest books: Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis (Baltimore: Square Halo Books, 2016) and “An Encouraging Thought”: The Christian Worldview in the Writings of L. R. R. Tolkien (Cambridge, OH: Christian Publishing House, 2018)!

 

 

With the long vacation of summer dawning and no international trip planned for this year, I will be more free to move around the country to speak or preach for the next three months.  So I thought I would remind you of what I have to offer.

3R MINISTRIES

Renaissance:  The restoration of the life of the mind;

Reformation:  The restoration of sound doctrine;

Revival:  The restoration of vital Christian spirituality.

Donald T. Williams, PhD:  Pastor, Professor, Writer, Speaker, Apologist

Renaissance—a restoration of the life of the mind; Reformation—a restoration of sound doctrine; Revival—a restoration of vital Christian spirituality.  These are the three great movements of God we desperately need in our generation.  And our great mistake is to believe that you can have the last one without the first two.”  —  Donald T. Williams

Donald T. Williams, PhD, is one of the foremost apologists and Christian thinkers you may not have heard of.  What makes him unique?  He is a border dweller, camped out on the border between fields of theology and literature, the border between pastoral ministry and serious scholarship, and the border between this world, Narnia, and Middle Earth.

Pastor, professor, and poet, theologian, apologist, and cultural critic, Williams is R. A. Forrest Scholar at Toccoa Falls College in the hills of NE Georgia.  He also serves as Scholar in Residence for Summit Ministries and has served as a pastoral trainer for rural pastors in places like Uganda, Kenya, and India for Church Planting International. He is past president of the International Society of Christian Apologetics.  Williams is the author of eleven books, including Mere Humanity: G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, and Jr. R. R. Tolkien on the Human Condition (Nashville: Broadman, 2006), Inklings of Reality: Essays Toward a Christian Philosophy of Letters (Lynchburg: Lantern Hollow Press, 2012), Reflections From Plato’s Cave: Essays in Evangelical Philosophy (Lynchburg: Lantern Hollow Press, 2012), Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis (Baltimore: Square Halo Books, 2016), and An Encouraging Thought: The Christian Worldview in the Writings of J. R. R. Tolkien (Cambridge, OH: Christian Publishing House, 2018).  His articles appear frequently in popular magazines such as Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity and Christian Research Journal as well as various scholarly journals.  He is also one of the featured “talking heads” in the popular recent apologetics video “Mining for God” (www.miningforgod.com).

Donald T. Williams

Williams speaks frequently for churches, colleges, Christian schools, home school groups, campus ministries, and other ministries.  Popular topics include “The Theology of Tolkien’s Middle Earth,” “Why We Lost the Culture War, and How to Make a Comeback,” “Worldviews in Literature,” “The Problem of Evil,” “True Truth: Why We Need to Remember Francis Schaeffer,” and “The Validity of Lewis’s ‘Trilemma.’”  His preaching is expository, in the tradition of men like D. Marty Lloyd-Jones.

To book Dr. Williams for your church, school, or group, contact him at dtw@tfc.edu.

3R Ministries:  Renaissance; Reformation; Revival!

 Donald T. Williams, PhD

381 Talmadge Drive, Toccoa, Ga. 30577;  dtw@tfc.edu

 

CCXIX  

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

This poem is a double sonnet and an acrostic.  Read the first letter of each line from top to bottom and compare that with the verse in the title.  Trinity Fellowship was a church I planted in Toccoa, Georgia.  It had  a decade of good ministry in the 1990s before the reality that it was too radical for its sleepy little Southern town set in and it folded.  I had to try, for reasons the poem makes clear.  I have no regrets.

1 TIMOTHY 3:15

The Founding of Trinity Fellowship

University Church in Athens, Ga., was the model for Trinity Fellowship of Toccoa.

Hard the path of men who live alone:

Outcasts, Eliot’s Magi with their race

Uncomprehending, staring, blank of face;

Seeking—those who ought to be their own,

Easily the hardest, hard as stone;

Hearts that claim and mouths and hands that trace

Outwardly the elements of Grace—

Lacking life, corruption over bone.

Daring to believe the Message still,

Onward plodding, leaving Hope behind,

Forgetting hunger for the kindred mind.

Grace has not forgotten all its skill:

Onward plodding, shows us in the trip

Delights unlooked for:  founds the Fellowship.

Me preaching at Trinity Fellowship in the early days before we had a building to meet in–well, sort of. 😉

Supper of the Lamb together shared;

Useless baggage seen and laid aside;

Prayer from deepest need—the need supplied;

Preaching from the Text—the Text declared;

Odes of ancient praise renewed and aired;

Royal priesthood serving side by side,

Tasks imposed by Scripture not denied;

Old and new, the treasures are prepared;

Flock responding to the Shepherd’s fife;

Truth digested into will and heart,

Realized in acts—at least a start;

Unction of the Spirit bringing life;

Together finally, Boaz and Ruth:

House of God and pillar of the Truth.

The building in which we did not meet.

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  And look for Williams’ very latest book, Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis, from Square Halo Books!

Donald T. Williams, PhD

EULOGY: DR. ALAN DAN ORME

 

EULOGY: DR. ALAN DAN ORME

Given at his funeral, Sept. 3, 2015, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Athens, Ga.

Portrait-Orme2

We have a lot of people at University Church now (and more reading this) who did not have the privilege of knowing Dr. Orme when he was still himself.   Because knowing something about the unique person Dan was is essential to understanding the nature, history, and personality of the church he founded, I would like to give a fairly full history of his life before saying a little about my own personal memories.  I do this both to honor Dan and because I think knowing these things is very crucial at this point in the history of University Church, and may be instructive to his friends in other churches.  These are things I have picked up from being his parishioner and his friend for the last forty years.

Alan Dan Orme was not raised in a Christian home.  A mediocre student in high school, his only ambition was to work as a carpenter and build houses.  He was saved during his time as a soldier in the Korean War, and returned to the states afterward with a new sense of calling and a new love of learning as a result.  He enrolled in Columbia Bible College (now Columbia International University), where he took a BS in Biblical Education, and then proceeded to Covenant Theological Seminary (B. Div., Th.M.) and the University of Georgia (MA in Classics, PhD in History with a concentration in Patristics).  He was the most learned pastor I’ve personally known, but always wore his learning lightly.  You could see it informing everything he said if you knew how to look.

Dr. Orme in his study
Dr. Orme in his study

After seminary, Dan was ordained in the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (which later merged with the Presbyterian Church in America).  He pastored a few small churches and then served as academic dean of Carver Bible College, a school for African Americans in Atlanta.  This was at a time when “race-mixing” was still an evil epithet in the South.  Dan basically didn’t care.  He raised the academic standards there as much as he could, given the school’s budget and culture.  He came to Athens in the late sixties to work on his advanced degrees at UGA.  When he showed up in town he still had his army buzz cut.  That, and a lot else, was going to change.

Dan and a small group of his fellow Christians (I think Darwin Smith is the only one left of that original group) were concerned that there was no church in Athens at that time that was both conservative and good at reaching out to the university community.  They wanted a church that would be solidly committed to historic Christian faith without being implicated in what Mark Noll would later call “the scandal of the Evangelical mind,” and that would be specifically oriented to reaching out to the youth culture (hippies at the time) and meeting the religious needs, including the intellectual challenges, facing university students who were already believers.  University Church was the result of that vision.

University Church, Athens, Ga. -- The House the Dan (re)Built
University Church, Athens, Ga. — The House the Dan (re)Built

I did not become a member until 1976 when I moved to Athens to pursue my own doctorate after graduating from seminary, but I first met Dan while visiting a friend of mine at UGA in about 1970 when the church was in its infancy.  It was meeting in a UGA conference room in Memorial Hall.  There was no piano; music was provided by a guitar and a violin on the melody (classical hymns).  The room had a long conference table surrounded by chairs.  Dan improvised a pulpit by putting his brief case on a stack of books at the head of the conference table.  Because most of the young people in the church at that time were hippies, Dan had let his buzz cut grow out.  His hair was half way down his back; his classic goatee was already there, but black instead of the white we know now.  He had on his clerical collar and black shirt with a big, gaudy cross on hippy beads hanging down the front, and an army field jacket thrown over the whole ensemble.  Out of that bizarre looking person was coming careful exposition just like what Dan’s later congregants were used to.

Visually Dan had identified with his audience, but in the content and style of the sermon there was no effort whatsoever to be “relevant” or hip.  Dan trusted the Gospel and the truth of Scripture to be relevant just because of what they were.  There was a bit of wry humor that you would miss if you weren’t paying attention (most people were); the rest was straightforward teaching and application.  There was, though, an earnestness about it, as if the person speaking truly believed that his and our understanding and following the Scriptures was a matter of life and death.  I don’t remember the specific content of that sermon, but one impression from that day stayed with me.  The sermon was from the Epistles, so it wasn’t about Jesus directly.  But when Dan had occasion to refer to Him, there was none of the buddy-buddy shtick that was common in youth-oriented ministry at that time.  Dan’s voice changed ever so slightly.  A subtle emotional husk came into it, and he referred to the Savior as “the Lord of Glory” as if he had actually pondered the meaning of those words and fully meant them.  I turned to my friend at the end of the sermon and said, “That man knows what it is to be a pastor.”   Boy, was I right!

Portrait-Orme3

So when I came to Athens half a decade later, I already knew what church I was going to join.  Dan told me he had assumed he would pastor the church until he graduated with his doctorate and then pass it on to someone else.  He wanted to end up teaching church history in seminary.  But the call to do that never came, and Dan was faithful to his charge for over three decades until his memory loss made it impossible for him to remain effective.

We all thought Dan deserved a larger audience, but he never acted as if he thought so.  There was a basic humility about the man such as I have seldom seen in anyone so gifted.  He was the founding pastor of University Church.  He could very easily have become its little pope if he had wanted to.  But he insisted from the beginning on shared leadership because he believed it was the right thing to do.  His intellect was top notch.  He read Greek fluently.  We used to have a Greek reading group which he led, where those of us who had taken some Greek would take turns reading a verse and translating it (with Dan’s critique) to keep our skills up.  His knowledge of church history was as deep and rich as any seminary church history professor I ever met.  He focused particularly on the three periods he considered crucial:  the Patristic era, the Reformation, and the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy in early Twentieth-Century America.  But he knew the rest well too, and it was a never-ending source of illustrations for his sermons.  Yet despite his academic bent and real expertise in exegesis, theology, and history, he never used technical jargon or quoted anything just to show off.  Most learned and least pretentious—it is a rare combination.  Too rare.

Portrait-Orme6

Too rare, I say.  I was in 1976 a hot-shot seminary graduate who thought I was the most brilliant theologian since Calvin.  Dan gave me a chance to preach sometime that first year.  I quoted several theologians that nobody had ever heard of or cared about precisely because nobody had heard of them and because their names were hard to pronounce, just to show off how learned and brilliant I was.  “Stop by sometime next week,” said Dan in his inimitable upstate-NY twang.  I did.  “What did you think of the sermon,” I asked, expecting him to be properly impressed.  “Do you have any idea what a jackass you are?” was his response (I quote it precisely).  I didn’t.  He explained it to me.  And then he asked me to preach again, very soon after that.  I was, shall we say, somewhat less of a jackass that time.  It was exactly what I needed.  If I have learned anything at all about how to take intellectual gifts and use them for the actual edification of the church, I learned it from Dan Orme, who taught it to me by precept, by example, and by rebuke—and by loving patience and giving me a second chance that I frankly did not deserve.

There were other aspects to why Dan is my role model and should be yours.  He was willing to let Scripture rather than cultural expectations set the agenda for the church.  I think we start at 10:00 as much because it isn’t 11:00 as because Dan realized that the New Testament program for the church could not be realized in one hour.  But the things I want to close with are more issues of character.  Integrity, intelligence, humility, faithfulness, and tough love may not be what the church thinks it wants in a pastor, but they are what it truly needs.  I learned what little I know of these things from Dan Orme.  I’m glad some of you got to see them in him too.

Portrait-Orme7

 A member of University Church from 1976-82 and an elder from about 1979-82, Donald T. Williams returned to U.C. in 2,000 after several years of planting a church in Toccoa, Ga., where he serves as R. A. Forrest Scholar at Toccoa Falls College.

To visit the church website, go to http://www.theuniversitychurch.org.