Category Archives: Witnesses

For Your Summer Listening Pleasure (in 2023)…..

As we head into the summer of 2023, I wanted to list out some of best video/audio that I have dabbled in so far this year. Most of these talks and videos I have only started, only wanting come back to them later. It seems like everybody has a podcast or YouTube channel theses days, but I mainly want to highlight some of the best stuff out there…. and there is some really good stuff!

So far in 2023, we have lost a number of Christian leaders who have had a worldwide impact. The most recent being Tim Keller. This reflective article by Collin Hansen about Tim Keller at Christianity Today is one of the best remembrances of Tim Keller. But I would also recommend Russell Moore’s survey of Tim Keller’s contribution to evangelicalism in the YouTube video/podcast below, highlighting Keller’s gentle yet firm approach to evangelism, and especially Keller’s Christ-honoring posture when faced by critics on the theological left and the theological right. As Molly Worthen (see below) writes in her article in The Atlantic, more progressive leaning Christians rejected Keller’s view of marriage as being only between a man and a woman, as well as his view that the Bible does not permit women to serve as elders in a local church, while more conservative leaning Christians rejected Keller’s “third way” approach to cultural disintegration as “compromising” with the world, calling for a more aggressive stance against secularism in the political sphere, as opposed to Keller’s more irenic, conversational approach.

These deaths fall on the heals of a few notable deaths in late 2022, including Gordon Fee and E. P. Sanders. Gordon Fee was one of the most well-regarded evangelical New Testament scholars of that last quarter century, a curious mix of a keen intellect that produced some of the most outstanding commentaries of various New Testament books that thousands of pastors weekly consult for their sermons, and controversially having a strongly charismatic, Pentecostal background, with egalitarian convictions regarding women in ministry. Here is an 8-minute interview with Dr. Fee a few years before he died:

Yet Fee’s great impact was eclipsed by E. P Sanders, who was widely regarded as the most influential New Testament scholar in the last quarter of the 20th century. Most conservative evangelical Christians have never heard of E. P. Sanders, as he tended to move around in more progressive circles, but his impact on how all scholars, theologically conservative and progressive, think about the New Testament is undeniable. Just as the German Rudolph Bultmann towered above everyone else in the mid-20th century, so did the American E.P. Sanders since the 1970s, following his landmark work Paul and Palestinian Judaism. E.P. Sanders, who in the late 1970s or early 1980s was once a visiting professor at the College of William and Mary, where I work on staff, will forever be connected with the so-called “New Perspective on Paul,” which has revolutionized New Testament understandings of the Apostle Paul. While the “New Perspective on Paul” is widely misunderstood, and even outright rejected by some, serious scholarship today can not afford to ignore the ideas articulated by E.P. Sanders. Sanders scholarship has permeated just about every study of Paul, notably through the popular New Testament British evangelical scholar, N.T. Wright.

The death of Jack Hayford, the well-known Pentecostal preacher and leader of the Foursquare Church, started off the year 2023. Hayford built bridges between Pentecostals and non-Pentecostals, a major force in the Promise Keepers men’s ministry in the 1990s, and wrote the popular worship song, “Majesty.” In college, I served as worship leader at a Foursquare Church, using a number of Hayford’s songs.

Then there is the death of George Verwer. After committing his life to Christ at a Billy Graham crusade in 1953 at Madison Square Garden, New York City, Verwer went onto being not only an evangelist himself, but one of the most outspoken promoters of global missions. Known for wearing his jacket with a map of the world printed on it, whenever he spoke at churches, Verwer founded Operation Mobilization, one of the most innovative and radical missionary agencies started in the 1960s, and going strong today. Here is a 5-minute video about George Verwer:

I have noted the death of Old Testament scholar Michael S. Heiser earlier this year, perhaps my favorite Old Testament teacher around. My upcoming blog post series this summer on “head coverings” is really inspired a lot by listening to and reading his teachings.

Yet I was also struck by the death of Atlanta Baptist pastor Charles Stanley. My first encounter with Charles Stanley’s ministry some 25 years ago was unfortunately not very positive (sorry Charles Stanley fans, but that is the truth). I had never heard of Charles Stanley before, and I was taken aback when one of Charles Stanley’s fans got really annoyed in one of my church history classes that I was teaching at my church. This woman rebuked me in front of the whole class, and sent me a stack of Charles Stanley tapes the next week, hoping that by listening to them they would straighten me out. She had somehow gotten the odd impression that I believed that the study of church history was more important than studying the Bible. The teaching on the tapes was actually pretty good. But I was still so bothered as to why this woman in my class felt that I needed to listen to Stanley, that I became pretty suspicious of him. Fast forward to about ten years later, I gained a more favorable appreciation of Charles Stanley when I went to hear him preach at the First Baptist Church of Atlanta.

After his recent death, I learned more about Charles Stanley’s life story, learning that he had a very difficult childhood, growing up for time with a single mom, and then enduring abuse from a step-father. I had no idea that his early life was so difficult, and how his relationship with Christ got him through very troubling times. His life story is worth listening to:

After the death of Queen Elizabeth, we now have a new King of England. Charles III was recently coronated as King of the United Kingdom. The ever delightful, contrarian, and indeed quirky atheist historian David Starkey remarks that the UK coronation ceremony is deeply rooted in Christian ritual. Starkey has a couple of videos that tell the history about the coronation down through the centuries, if you like that kind of stuff:

Probably some of the best listens I have had so far this year come from the Rest is History podcast. Everyone has probably heard about Dan Brown’s blockbuster novel, The Da Vinci Code, which became a Ron Howard movie starring Tom Hanks in 2006. In 2023, we stand at the 20th anniversary of when The Da Vinci Code was first written and took the world by storm. Brown’s book popularized a conspiracy theory that began in certain academic circles in the late 1970s, suggesting that Jesus Christ never went to the Cross, contrary to what you hear week after week in most church services across the globe. Instead, Jesus and Mary Magdalene got married, scuttled off to the other side of the Roman Empire, and their progeny had been living in Southern France for centuries, much to the consternation of the Roman Catholic Church who wanted to supposedly suppress the “truth.” If you could possibly pinpoint a date where “fake news” really began to take off in the 21st century, this might be the best candidate.

The Rest is History podcast creators, historians Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook, tell the story behind The Da Vinci Code, in Episode 301. But the tale is actually much bigger and more interesting than the narrative which filled Dan Brown’s pockets with a lot of money.

The story goes back to the Mystery of the Cathars, the mysterious group of heretics in the 12th to 14th century Southern France. In Episode 302, Holland and Sandbrook tell the background story of how the Cathars originated, and the controversy among historians still today who are trying to figure out what really happened, and how this heretical group might or might not be connected back to the Gnostic Christian heresy of the 2nd century. It is a mystery about mysteries, as spellbinding as any Agatha Christie novel.

The tragedy of the Cathars led to the Bloodiest Crusade in the Christian history, told in Episode 303, where Christians were pitted against other supposedly heretical Christians, the beginnings of the infamous Inquisition, which later became such a controversial part of Roman Catholic Church history. The surprise ending, best listened to those three episodes played back to back, will tell you a lot about why the current culture wars we are living through during the 2020s is so crazy….. and think this is all began with The DaVinci Code.

YouTube apologist Gavin Ortlund has some absolutely fantastic content that I need to listen to over again, just because it so rich. Ortlund has an interview with author Christopher Watkin, about his book Biblical Critical Theory, which is probably one of the most talked about books in the past year in evangelical circles.  Watkin offers a biblical critique of the so-called “critical race theory.” I already have too many books on my “to be read” list, but this interview with Watkins sure entices my interest:

The Pints with Aquinas channel has great debate featuring Gavin Ortlund defending the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura with Roman Catholic apologist Trent Horn criticizing sola scriptura. This is an excellent example of how charitable debates should be held with believers who strongly disagree with one another.

Baptist preacher and YouTuber Matt Whitman has an informative video interviewing Ligonier Ministries’ Dr. Stephen Nichols about “What Was the Great Schism and Why Did It Happen?,” talking about when Western and Eastern Christianity parted ways with one another about 1,000 years ago:

Christianity is growing globally, where about 1/3 of the world’s population profess to be Christian, which is great news. But the story is not so rosy in the United States. According to the latest Pew research, by 2070 the number of professing Christians in America will drop to less than half of the country’s population. Professing Christians make up 64% of the population currently, but by 2070, according to current trends, this percentage will drop to around 46%. Christianity is on a decline in America, with more and more deconstructing and deconverting, just in case you never heard about this. Some of this decline is really about younger people getting disillusioned with large denominational institutions, like the Southern Baptists. But the shift away from Christianity in general is hard to ignore. In the last 30 years alone, 40 million Americans have “de-churched” making this one of the largest sociological shifts in American history. A Gospel Coalition podcast gives us a discussion with Ryan Burge, a political scientist, to talk about who are leaving evangelical churches and why:

Along those same lines about “deconstruction,” Lutheran YouTuber Dr. Jordan B. Cooper, host of the Just and Sinner podcast, has a talk about Jacques Derrida, one of the foundational thinkers of postmodernism. Derrida popularized the terminology of “deconstruction”:

A lot of great documentaries/films are showing up on YouTube now, that once belonged behind a paywall. One of them is Fragments of Truth, where New Testament scholar Dr. Craig Evan’s talks about the discoveries of the New Testament documents we have found over the past few centuries which bolster our confidence in the historical reliability of the Christian faith. This gives Christians good answers to those who have read Bart Ehrman’s New York Times bestseller Misquoting Jesus:

A book by Collin Hansen is out now discussing the life and thought of the late Timothy Keller: His Spiritual and Intellectual Formation, interviewed by Gavin Ortlund:

Next before last, there is the remarkable conversion story of historian Molly Worthen. Dr. Worthen wrote an historian analysis of the “crisis of authority” within American evangelicalism, a subject of a Veracity blog post from 2014. Since then, and particularly over the past year, Molly Worthen has moved from a position of skepticism about Christianity that she had held for decades to become a follower of Christ.  A most inspiring story, showing that even really, really smart people can have their lives transformed by the love of Jesus Christ!

…and FINALLY….. something a little fun, in honor of the late Tim Keller. How about “Carpool Karaoke with Tim Keller!”

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R.I.P. – Tim Keller

It grieves me to know that Tim Keller, former pastor of Redeemer Church in New York City, died today, at age 72, after a three year struggle with pancreatic cancer.

I never knew Tim Keller personally, but I have friends who knew him when he pastored a small P.C.A. church in Hopewell, Virginia, less than an hour’s drive from where I grew up and still live. In those days, the 1970s, Hopewell was going through a rough time. As a kid I would love to swim in the James River, but then the ecological disaster of the toxic Kepone leak at the Allied Chemical plant shut down the river, and much of nearby economy with it.

Tim Keller, former pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, in New York City, and co-founder of the Gospel Coalition.

Tim Keller made a lot of mistakes as a young pastor, in an economically depressed town. But in those years he cultivated a love for reading which would set him on a path of being one of most influential evangelical intellectual Christian leaders in the first quarter of the 21st century. Years before, when Keller was in college at Bucknell University, he met the Lord through the ministry of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. After leaving Hopewell, to go teach at Westminster Theological Seminary, Tim Keller and his wife Kathy eventually surprised everyone to go plant a church in the heart of urban New York City, where Redeemer Presbyterian Church eventually became one of the fastest growing churches in New York City in the 1990s and early 2000s.

My small group read his 2009 book, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, which convinced me that Tim Keller was the new “C.S. Lewis” for the early 21st century. He had co-founded The Gospel Coalition, an alliance of churches and church leaders committed to a renewed vision for evangelism and church unity, with a broadly Reformed theological orientation. My wife and I both agree that The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities with the Wisdom of God, written together by Tim and Kathy Keller is the best book on having a Christian marriage in print today.

Alas, being a prominent Christian leader is bound to bring out the critics, from within the church. When Keller published his 2010 book Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just, his critics accused him of being “woke”, a closet-Marxist in Christian clothing. Perhaps the criticism is due to the fact that Keller proposed a winsome approach to winning the culture over to Christ, whereas other Christians were becoming convinced that a more combative approach was needed in the face of more opposition to Gospel values. While I do reject the “woke” movement, I will take the more winsome approach over the combative approach any day of the week.

In my mind, Tim Keller’s voice represented perhaps the best intellectual and spiritual mind that evangelical Christianity has had to offer to our 21st century world, a heart for spiritual renewal within the church and a passion to reach a lost world with the Gospel. He will be sorely missed.

R.I.P. – Professor David L. Holmes

I am pausing a moment before I publish a long book review tonight to acknowledge the death of a dear friend of my late parents, Professor David L. Holmes. Professor Holmes taught for many years in the religion department at the College of William &Mary, where I work on staff as an Information Technology specialist.  Professor Holmes and my father, George Alan Morledge, had a mutual interest in colonial churches in Virginia. They taught classes together at William & Mary, my dad being the historical architect and Professor Holmes being the church historian. As a middle-school kid, I survived several long car rides across Tidewater Virginia to visit colonial churches that would become subject matter for those Holmes-Morledge classes.

Before Professor Holmes retired from William & Mary nearly a decade ago, he and I had some spirited conversations about Christian faith. Professor Holmes grew up in an historically orthodox Christian home, but he moved theologically away in a more progressive Christian trajectory. I, on the other hand, went in the opposite direction, raised in a liberal mainline church to becoming more conservative evangelically minded. We disagreed on certain theological matters, but Professor Holmes was always gracious and kind, and his warmness was felt by the many students, including conservative evangelical believers, who enjoyed his classes.

He had once visited All Souls Church in London, England, the home parish of John Stott, perhaps one of the most influential evangelical spokespersons of the 20th century, and one of my theological heroes. Stott was not there preaching that Sunday, and unfortunately, Professor Holmes was not impressed with Stott’s stand-in replacement regarding the sermon, as the Professor recalls in a 2003 article for Anglican and Episcopal History, “Where the Trumpet Gives No Uncertain Sound.” In the Professor’s estimation to me personally, he lamented that in the sermon’s “understanding of the Bible, it sounded like something out of a far distant era.” While Professor Holmes loved the singing, the liturgical atmosphere, and friendly congregants, he could not intellectually affirm the message that he heard that day. Not having heard the sermon myself, I might definitely agree with Professor Holmes on certain points. But in the end, it may come down to the difference that I have more confidence in the overall intellectual integrity of the classic, historic, orthodox message of Christianity than Professor Holmes had.

Peggy Agouris, provost at William and Mary, wrote a wonderful remembrance of David L. Holmes’ life and service at William & Mary, and I am including portions of this remembrance below. Rest In Peace, Professor Holmes. May he be received well in Christ’s Eternal Kingdom.

David L. Holmes study of The Faith of the Founding Fathers is an excellent survey of the theological attitudes of America’s colonial era leaders.

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Remembering Waco 30 Years Later: Why the Tragedy of David Koresh Could Have Been Avoided

The Branch Davidians for days had been repeatedly asking for word processing supplies. When the supplies finally arrived the night of April 18, 1993, David Koresh got back to work writing his manuscript, in an agreement to end the crisis. Less than 24 hours later, a horrific tragedy was played out on national television….

Back when I was doing youth ministry in early March, 1993, I was setting up one night to lead a discussion with some parents. In the home we were meeting, a story had flashed up on the evening news, and all of us had stopped to learn about what was going on in Waco, Texas. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) had a few days earlier led a raid against the Mount Carmel Center, the home of David Koresh and the Branch Davidians. All of the television networks described the group as an extremist religious cult.

One parent leaned over to me, perhaps in incredulous jest, and asked something to the effect of, “So, what keeps this youth group [that I was leading] from becoming something like these crazy people in Texas?”

Well, I was just as bewildered about this news report as this parent was. For a total of 51 days, the drama between Branch Davidians and the federal government (the ATF and the FBI) kept many Americans glued to their TV sets each night, wondering how this bizarre story might unfold. At the end of the siege, on April 19, 1993, federal forces tried to flush out the Branch Davidians using tear gas, but the plan went out of control.  A fire erupted, killing 76 Branch Davidians, including 28 children.

Was this simply a story of looney anti-government activists bent on attacking the United States? Or was there more to the story?


Flames erupt from the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas after a raid led by federal officials, on April 19, 1993.


Why the Tragedy at Waco, Texas Could Have Been Avoided

The popular story had been that this Branch Davidians group, led by a charismatic leader, David Koresh, a 33-year old guitar player turned wild-eyed preacher, had been stockpiling weapons to be used against the United States. The initial raid in February, 1993, had resulted in the deaths of not only a few Branch Davidians, but several federal agents as well. David Koresh had raped several married women, and also a few teenagers, fathering a number of children, and holding them as hostages. Government agencies felt compelled to step in to seize Koresh’s weapons and release the vulnerable from under his manipulative control.

What had always bothered me about this narrative was that of those who survived the final, fiery destruction of the Waco compound, very few renounced their allegiance to David Koresh and his teachings. In fact, the raids by the government only confirmed the prophetic insights that Koresh had shared with his followers.

Even thirty years later, some now hope for and pray for David Koresh’ resurrection. Other Branch Davidian survivors find other ways to remember David Koresh in positive ways.

How could that be? Could they not see that David Koresh was a nut case?

It just did not add up. A more careful look at the evidence has been needed. As it turns out, the story is far more interesting and complex than the traditional, government-sanctioned narrative. It had to do with how David Koresh read his Bible, and in particular, how he interpreted the Book of Revelation, and how other Branch Davidians became convinced by his teachings.

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Cambridge House Public Lecture: Flannery O’Connor and the Christ-Haunted South

The Southern writer Flannery O’Connor wrote: “While the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted. The Southerner, who isn’t convinced of it, is very much afraid that he may have been formed in the image and likeness of God.”

On Thursday, April 13th, at 6:30pm, at the Wren Chapel, on the campus of William and Mary, the Cambridge House at the College of William and Mary will sponsor its first public lecture, a talk given by Dr. Christina Bieber Lake, professor of English, at Wheaton College entitled “Ghosts Can Be Fierce and Instructive: Flannery O’Connor and the Christ-Haunted South.

Flannery O’Connor is widely regarded as one of America’s greatest fiction writers of the 20th century. O’Connor, who died at age 39 after a long, debilitating battle with lupus, was not simply a master of her literary craft, she was a devout Roman Catholic, living in the predominantly Protestant Deep South, in Georgia. For you diehard Protestants, do not let Flannery O’Connor’s confessional loyalty dissuade you. O’Connor wrote dark yet funny stories about Southerners, where she was able to communicate a subtle Christian theological vision of what it means to be human, in a way that still fascinates secular critics decades later. Her short-stories, such as the 1955 gothic tale “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” have become classics of American literature.

Dr. Lake specializes in the area of Flannery O’Connor scholarship. A brief reception at the Wren Chapel will follow her lecture. All members of the William and Mary community, students, faculty, staff, and friends and neighbors of the College are welcome to attend, to find out what the work of the Cambridge House is all about.

Bishop Robert Barron offers a brief video introducing people to Flannery O’Connor. Remember, the lecture is the Thursday after (Western) Easter. In the meantime, have a great Holy Week, and take some time this week to recall the momentous events in the last week of Jesus before his Crucifixion.

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