How I’ve been blessed by online talks by theologians during the pandemic, by Ottawa writer Robert MacKenzie
The enforced confinement caused by public health Covid controls was not without its consolations. In my case, I was exposed to more stimulating Christian thought than I ever would have been, had life kept unfolding in the same way that it always had.
It was the huge library of recorded lectures and talks in the Regent College audio library that helped keep me sane. It provided me with untold hours of joy and intellectual stimulation. The collection features over 2,500 recordings and videos by leading evangelical leaders and scholars dating back over 30 years. Some are short chapel talks, others evening lectures and a large number are full academic courses (regentaudio.com).
Thankfully, the massive collection has been curated, in that promotional mailings are sent out weekly or during special seasons of the Christian year. Each email lists six to ten recordings on a particular theme or by a single speaker. And even better, those choices that are not free are discounted by at least half!
Several great sources
is by no means the only collection for Evangelicals of recordings and videos on theological, pastoral and biblical subjects.
has an excellent library of courses on a broad range of subjects. There is no charge for simply following the courses.
I found the 6-session, 2-hour course “Spiritual Abuse” by Gerry Breshears very helpful when our pastoral care training programme was grappling with that issue (the course is not available at the moment, although that may be temporary).
Our Daily Bread University
offers video training and education in a variety of areas and at several levels of difficulty from beginner and up. Over 30 of the courses are offered at no charge.
Although there is some overlap with Regent’s offerings (Bruce Waltke’s Proverbs courses are hosted on all three sites, for example), Our Daily Bread University and Biblical Training are structured more in an undergraduate format and generally emphasize the acquisition of basic knowledge.
The listener or viewer of Regent’s talks and courses must divide them up into bite-sized chunks themself and follow up with other resources. And, being a graduate school, the lecturers at Regent feel more at ease to present and criticize the views of other scholars and to digress from the content of their subject matter – which I like. -RM
As expected from a graduate theological college, the subjects that are covered mainly reflect the spectrum of what is offered to its students, at a level beyond that of the beginner. The aim of the speakers is to clarify and explain their subject to those who know their Bible well and are familiar with basic Christian teachings. Rarely do they dwell on the exotic aspects of the material itself. How everyday Christian spirituality connects with whatever is discussed is a welcome preoccupation of the collection.
Revelation, Proverbs and the 12
I found great value in the course presented by Paul Spilsbury on the Revelation of John, my own area of study in graduate school (catalogue #4903; given in 2019, and there’s another from 2021). He has the rare gift of being able to stand back from this complex book and outline its main themes and movements without getting bogged down in details. Bruce Waltke does the same in his lectures on Proverbs (2616; 1996 and see also 2015), another book that is difficult to master as a whole.
In the same vein, Chris Seitz revives the ancient view that the 12 Minor Prophets of the Old Testament should be considered as a single book (3813; 2008). Employing the recent “canonical” approach to Scripture, he carefully outlines the unifying thematic and theological themes of the book. That renders these often confusing and esoteric-sounding texts infinitely more digestible for us Christian who live so far removed from that era.
J.I. Packer presents a helpful overview of the letters of Timothy in one of his courses (4523; 2015). And Gordon Fee in an hour-long talk tackles the difficult issue of women in Corinth wearing head coverings. He argues for his own interpretation, but more important, outlines reasons why commonly accepted views on this passage are implausible (1717; 1987). Studying his careful method of approach is as valuable as learning his scholarly views on the issue.
Of particular worth in many of the evening lectures, which run for about 45 minutes, are the 15-30 minute question periods that follow. For example, John Walton presents an excellent survey of the Ancient Near Eastern background of Belshazzar’s feast in Daniel 5, and then responds to several pointed queries regarding how much Bible knowledge the average person needs in order to understand Scripture (5102; 2021).
Spirit and Evangelicalism
Gordon Fee’s powerful message regarding the importance of the Spirit (not just “spirit,” uncapitalized) in Scripture sets the tone for much of Regent’s focus on spirituality (2026; 1990). Eugene Peterson, translator of the Bible translation The Message, develops his own exhilarating views on biblical spirituality in his lectures on this topic (2763; 1997). Who doesn’t love experiencing Peterson’s fertile mind in action?
The first two of James Houston’s lectures in his course on spirituality and modernity are depressing when he refers to evangelicalism, but he honestly outlines some of the failings of the movement and suggests that its influence rises and falls in a cyclical pattern (2538; 1995).
Pastoral care is well-represented in the collection by, among others, Larry Crabb and Rod Wilson. Both take a community-based approach to care, rather than prioritizing counselling. Crabb outlines in lectures on postmodern concerns how his views on care changed and why (2803; 1998). Wilson delves into issues of counselling, community and congregational life in a course by that name (3614; 2006). And Roy Bell’s talk on the abiding value of 5-minute or less conversations for ministering pastoral care to others is inspiring (3335; 2004).
No doubt in step with the aging of its faculty members, the Regent Audio collection features a number of useful lectures on the issue of growing old. Recordings of a conference on the topic include talks by Maxine Hancock, James Houston (one of Regent’s founders, still active as a writer from his hospital residence at 99), Margaret Somerville and J.I. Packer (4208; 2012).
The nature of evangelical worship and congregational practice is prominent in a number of challenging talks and courses. Christine Longhurst outlines the differences between contemporary people-centred and God-centred worship, strongly advocating for the latter (4502; 2015).
Special mention must be made of Julie Canlis’s illustrated talk on the perils of online, virtual worship (3819; 2008). Although delivered a dozen years before the onset of the Covid pandemic, her warnings regarding virtual worship were instructive in our church elders’ recent discussion about how and why our congregation should return to assembling in person.
There is much more to discover in the Regent Audio library. Many of the recordings I have mentioned are by speakers who, sadly, are no longer with us. But there are also talks on issues of current concern by younger scholars. As well, the collection covers poetry and other arts.
As happens when we wander the stacks of a traditional book library and sample its holdings, we can expect serendipity to strike as we browse the Regent Audio recordings, over time if not space. What pleasure there is when we stumble across an idea that helps us to clarify our prior thinking or to launch our thoughts in new and interesting directions.
Robert K. MacKenzie attends St. Paul's Presbyterian church in Ottawa, and is a supporter of the new movement of Reformed churches, Living Stones. He has worked in financial advising and taught biblical studies and theology at two Montreal universities and a French Baptist seminary.