Category Archives: History

CCV

 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.”

Pride in our heroes of the War for Southern Independence has just about been shamed out of us down here in the South.  Their statues have a hard time staying upright.  But what was the significance of their struggle?  Yes, they were defending slavery (in some cases) or the South’s right to deal with the problem of slavery without Yankee interference (in others).  And slavery needed to end.  I know.  But there was more to it than that.  This is what their memory means to me.  Just call me unreconstructed.

I got to recite this on the porch of the Appomattox Courthouse a few years ago.[Cue Rebel Yell.]

APPOMATTOX

“I’d rather die a thousand deaths,” he’d said;

Well, better he should die them than his men.

Though there was nothing left for them to win,

Still at his word they would have fought and bled

(Or starved, more likely—true—but dead is dead).

 

So Lee, immaculate in his dress grays,

And Grant, unbuttoned, chewing his cigar,

Sat down together there to end the war.

And when they had agreed on every phrase,

They signed it through an inexplicable haze.

 

And Lee stepped out upon the porch that day

And drove his fist into his open hand

Three times while staring out across the land.

And then, since there was nothing more to say,

He mounted Traveler and rode away.

 

And now he’d have to face the thin gray lines.

“It’s Gen’ral Lee!”  With joy they gathered ‘round.

He tried to speak, but could not force a sound,

‘Til slowly in his face they read the signs

And silence fell beneath the somber pines.

Only those nearby could comprehend

The words, “Superior numbers . . . forced to yield . . .

Your horses you may keep to plow your fields . . .

I’ve done the best I could for you, my friends.

You’re heroes all.  Farewell.”  And so it ends:

 

The last gasp of the South that might have been,

The first breath of the South as she would be,

Beaten, bowed—but with a memory:

The independence that she could not win,

The Lost Cause, and the frailty of men.

 

The noblest soldier living could not save

Her from the long defeat or from the tears.

It would protect her for a hundred years

From half the vulgar lies with which men pave

The primrose paths that lead but to the grave.

 

For Lee stepped out upon the porch that day

And drove his fist into his open hand

Three times while staring out across the land.

And then, since there was nothing more to say,

He mounted Traveler and rode away.

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

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THANKSGIVING

turkey1

With Christmas Carols and Christmas decorations taking over the stores when Halloween is barely past, and Black Friday looming right after it, Thanksgiving is a holiday that has a hard time maintaining its position in American life.  And what that position is can be hard to determine, beyond an excuse to consume obscene amounts of Turkey and doze through a football game under the influence of all the Tryptophan flooding one’s system.  I will probably consume a little more Turkey than is ideal for my diet and  watch some football myself.  But I hope I don’t forget what the Pilgrims were thankful for: not prosperity but survival, and a survival which meant a chance to have a new life in which they could worship God according to Scripture as they understood it, without interference from prying magistrate or prelate.  I hope I don’t forget that they thought such freedom something worth risking their survival over.  And I hope I will not be the only one pondering the question whether they might have been right about that after all.

Pilgrims2

Thanksgiving is a time to remember our Forefathers and what they struggled for.  It is also a time to ponder the virtues of thankfulness in itself.  I remember once at a picnic a rather gaudy, elaborately articulated, and heraldically colored bug flew by and landed on one of us.  We spent a few minutes oohing and ahing over its surreal beauty, and then my friend David Stott Gordon made a profound observation on the moment.  “It must be rather depressing to be an atheist,” he mused, “because they don’t have anyone to thank.”

turkey2

We are made to give thanks and praise for the thousand little wonders that the world constantly showers upon us.  Think about that football game: When a receiver makes a particularly acrobatic, even balletic catch as the consummation of the incredible timing between him and the quarterback, combining power and grace in the way that only American football allows for, some response is required of us.  We don’t just raise a Spockian eyebrow; we pump our fist and shout if it was for our side, and exclaim that it was a great play even if it wasn’t.  The enjoyment of the moment is not complete without the expression of praise.  And if all such wonders are merely chance occurrences due only to the random motion of atoms and ultimately mean nothing–if indeed there is no One to thank–then our enjoyment of the world must of necessity be truncated and incomplete at best.  The holiday can serve as a reminder of the virtue of receptiveness to the blessings with which life showers us, as blessings–as gifts from the hand of God.  The thing we should be thankful for most of all is the fact that as Christians, as people who know the Creator as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we have some One to thank.

Pilgrims1

Thanks be to God.

For more of Dr. Williams’ writing, go to the Lantern Hollow estore and order his books, Stars Through the Clouds, Reflections from Plato’s Cave, and Inklings of Reality.

https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.

Also, check out his newest work from Square Halo Books: Deeper Magic: The theological Framework behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis!

Book-CSLTheology-Cover

THANKSGIVING

turkey1

With Christmas Carols and Christmas decorations taking over the stores when Halloween is barely past, and Black Friday looming right after it, Thanksgiving is a holiday that has a hard time maintaining its position in American life.  And what that position is can be hard to determine, beyond an excuse to consume obscene amounts of Turkey and doze through a football game under the influence of all the Tryptophan flooding one’s system.  I will probably consume a little more Turkey than is ideal for my diet and  watch some football myself.  But I hope I don’t forget what the Pilgrims were thankful for: not prosperity but survival, and a survival which meant a chance to have a new life in which they could worship God according to Scripture as they understood it, without interference from prying magistrate or prelate.  I hope I don’t forget that they thought such freedom something worth risking their survival over.  And I hope I will not be the only one pondering the question whether they might have been right about that after all.

Pilgrims2

Thanksgiving is a time to remember our Forefathers and what they struggled for.  It is also a time to ponder the virtues of thankfulness in itself.  I remember once at a picnic a rather gaudy, elaborately articulated, and heraldically colored bug flew by and landed on one of us.  We spent a few minutes oohing and ahing over its surreal beauty, and then my friend David Stott Gordon made a profound observation on the moment.  “It must be rather depressing to be an atheist,” he mused, “because they don’t have anyone to thank.”

turkey2

We are made to give thanks and praise for the thousand little wonders that the world constantly showers upon us.  Think about that football game: When a receiver makes a particularly acrobatic, even balletic catch as the consummation of the incredible timing between him and the quarterback, combining power and grace in the way that only American football allows for, some response is required of us.  We don’t just raise a Spockian eybrow; we pump our fist and shout if it was for our side, and exclaim that it was a great play even if it wasn’t.  The enjoyment of the moment is not complete without the expression of praise.  And if all such wonders are merely chance occurrences due only to the random motion of atoms and ultimately mean nothing–if indeed there is no One to thank–then our enjoyment of the world must of necessity be truncated and incomplete at best.  The holiday can serve as a reminder of the virtue of receptiveness to the blessings with which life showers us, as blessings–as gifts from the hand of God.  The thing we should be thankful for most of all is the fact that as Christians, as people who know the Creator as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we have some One to thank.

Pilgrims1

Thanks be to God.

For more of Dr. Williams’ writing, go to the Lantern Hollow estore and order his books, Stars Through the Clouds, Reflections from Plato’s Cave, and Inklings of Reality.

https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.

A book that fights back against the encroaching darkness.

A book that fights back against the encroaching darkness.

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.

THANKSGIVING

turkey1

With Christmas Carols and Christmas decorations taking over the stores when Halloween is barely past, and Black Friday looming right after it, Thanksgiving is a holiday that has a hard time maintaining its position in American life.  And what that position is can be hard to determine, beyond an excuse to consume obscene amounts of Turkey and doze through a football game under the influence of all the Tryptophan flooding one’s system.  I will probably consume a little more Turkey than is ideal for my diet and  watch some football myself.  But I hope I don’t forget what the Pilgrims were thankful for: not prosperity but survival, and a survival which meant a chance to have a new life in which they could worship God according to Scripture as they understood it, without interference from prying magistrate or prelate.  I hope I don’t forget that they thought such freedom something worth risking their survival over.  And I hope I will not be the only one pondering the question whether they might have been right about that after all.

Pilgrims2

Thanksgiving is a time to remember our Forefathers and what they struggled for.  It is also a time to ponder the virtues of thankfulness in itself.  I remember once at a picnic a rather gaudy, elaborately articulated, and heraldically colored bug flew by and landed on one of us.  We spent a few minutes oohing and ahing over its surreal beauty, and then my friend David Stott Gordon made a profound observation on the moment.  “It must be rather depressing to be an atheist,” he mused, “because they don’t have anyone to thank.”

turkey2

We are made to give thanks and praise for the thousand little wonders that the world constantly showers upon us.  Think about that football game: When a receiver makes a particularly acrobatic, even balletic catch as the consummation of the incredible timing between him and the quarterback, combining power and grace in the way that only American football allows for, some response is required of us.  We don’t just raise a Spockian eybrow; we pump our fist and shout if it was for our side, and exclaim that it was a great play even if it wasn’t.  The enjoyment of the moment is not complete without the expression of praise.  And if all such wonders are merely chance occurrences due only to the random motion of atoms and ultimately mean nothing–if indeed there is no One to thank–then our enjoyment of the world must of necessity be truncated and incomplete at best.  The holiday can serve as a reminder of the virtue of receptiveness to the blessings with which life showers us, as blessings–as gifts from the hand of God.  The thing we should be thankful for most of all is the fact that as Christians, as people who know the Creator as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we have some One to thank.

Pilgrims1

Thanks be to God.

For more of Dr. Williams’ writing, go to the Lantern Hollow estore and order his books, Stars Through the Clouds, Reflections from Plato’s Cave, and Inklings of Reality.

https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.