Professor William R. Cook and "Great Courses" lectures

Greetings,

I was wondering if anyone is familiar with the work of Professor William R. Cook and some of the material he has produced for "The Great Courses" series of lectures?

teach12.com/greatcourses.aspx

We have a few of his classes, but looking at one today on "Lives of Great Christians" I noticed the following in the course description, and it gave me pause to consider the professor's position:

"The Crusades: Efforts to reclaim the Holy Land from the Muslims often included persecuting the Jews at home."

teach12.com/tgc/courses/course_detail.aspx?cid=6481

So, what I'm wondering is basically this: Is his perspective "orthodox", or is he a dissenter, who has either bought into, or is proposing himself, the idea from the mainstream media that the church has done a great many evils?

I'm all for a balanced approach to historical scholarship, I just don't like it when this get severely tilted to one side or the other.

You input is welcomed. Thanks in advance.

[quote="oflodnap, post:1, topic:223503"]
Greetings,

I was wondering if anyone is familiar with the work of Professor William R. Cook and some of the material he has produced for "The Great Courses" series of lectures?

teach12.com/greatcourses.aspx

We have a few of his classes, but looking at one today on "Lives of Great Christians" I noticed the following in the course description, and it gave me pause to consider the professor's position:

"The Crusades: Efforts to reclaim the Holy Land from the Muslims often included persecuting the Jews at home."

teach12.com/tgc/courses/course_detail.aspx?cid=6481

So, what I'm wondering is basically this: Is his perspective "orthodox", or is he a dissenter, who has either bought into, or is proposing himself, the idea from the mainstream media that the church has done a great many evils?

I'm all for a balanced approach to historical scholarship, I just don't like it when this get severely tilted to one side or the other.

You input is welcomed. Thanks in advance.

[/quote]

I have listened to three of his courses and have not been aware of anything not in agreement with orthodoxy.

I have not listened to this material. I did look at the link provided. I found a few disturbing points, at least points that "raised a red flag."

Base on what I can see, I would use this material as only entertainment and not for education.

The author makes two points indicating sympathy for the Lutheran faith on this website. His other titles are nominally catholic. Therefore, it appears he is catholic but rather lukewarm in the faith.

There could be an agenda lurking underneath.

I receive the catalog from this company about once per quarter. I scan it each time because the content seems so interesting. I always find the christian and catholic content to be worrisome though. The authors are not well known compared to the leading intellectuals in the Catholic faith.

In today's world, there is so much dissent and disunity in the Catholic church. Anytime I see obscure authors, I immediately become suspicious. If the same catalog or listing has material by Joan Chittister for example, I relegate the entire lot to the category of rubbish.

If you are looking for good material in audio format, podcasts from EWTN are available for free.

I have a few of Prof. Cook's courses, but haven't watched them yet. I did check him out before I bought the classes; he is convert from way back, and seems like a faithful, practicing Catholic to me. You have to be VERY careful when ordering from that company. Most of the "Christianity" courses are taught by a prostestant from Baylor University, I gave him a pass because of his controversial bible interpertations. Fr. Joseph Koterski has a couple of classes that look pretty good. He is a guest on EWTN 's Sunday Night Live, so I figured he was safe!

You can’t say “leading intellectuals in the Catholic faith” and EWTN in the same sentence. EWTN specializes in lowest common denominator Catholicism and Catholic spirituality, which is perfectly fine for a tv channel. But at the same time, if you want true intellectuals in Catholic thought, you’re going to have to go beyound Scott Hahn and the like.

oflodnap wrote

We have a few of his classes, but looking at one today on “Lives of Great Christians” I noticed the following in the course description, and it gave me pause to consider the professor’s position:

“The Crusades: Efforts to reclaim the Holy Land from the Muslims often included persecuting the Jews at home.”

I am guessing that the Course Descriptions are written by a company editor and not by the professors themselves.

I have Professor Cook’s course ‘The Cathedral’ from The Great Courses; I’ve only watched 3 / 24 half hour episodes.

The only comment that struck me awry was he stated something to the effect that a non-religious person could appreciate a Cathedral in the same way as a practicing Christian but I realize these courses are marketed to a broad audience of people with different backgrounds.

Besides that one comment, I think the course is very good; Professor Cook is an excellent lecturer and one can tell he has a lot of enthusiasm for his subject matter.

In the course, Cook mentions that he is Catholic, and the lectures include colored video footage and photographs of the exteriors of the great Cathedrals and Basilicas of Europe.

The Cathedral and Basilica interiors, if shown, so far are explained with either colored photographs or computerized digital models.

Besides seeing the beautiful Cathedral and Basilica exteriors and interiors, the course is very informative and I’ve learned some new interesting facts and history about them.

Professor Cook also stated he disagreed with History Channel TV shows and History Channel / popular Historians and writers who portray the ‘Dark Ages’ (the period in history from the Fall of Rome to the Reign of Emperor Charlemagne) as an epoch that lacks any artistic or culturally significant contributions to the history of mankind.

Professor Cook’s course lectures are not that entertaining compared to the programs on Cable’s History but they are a lot better than any of the History or H2 programs that have Christianity or religion as their topic and Professor Cook treats Christianity with respect.

I agree that the other Great Courses not featuring Professor Cook with Christianity or Christian themes as their subject matter look very similar to something the Jesus Seminar would produce.

The best time to buy the Great Courses is near the end of December when they have their big sale; I purchased ‘The Cathedral’ and another Great Course for $40 each with Free Shipping and this past December which was $30.00 off the usual $70.00 sales price offered throughout the year. :thumbsup:

bmadamsberry:

You can’t say “leading intellectuals in the Catholic faith” and EWTN in the same sentence. EWTN specializes in lowest common denominator Catholicism and Catholic spirituality, which is perfectly fine for a tv channel. But at the same time, if you want true intellectuals in Catholic thought, you’re going to have to go beyound Scott Hahn and the like.

You serious?:rolleyes:

I haven’t been able to watch EWTN that that much for the last few years but they had a lot of great and wonderful programs.

Father C. John McCloskey had programs on Catholic Literary Figures, Catholic History, and Saint Thomas Moore; Father William Rutler, who graduated from an Ivy League university, always had witty and insightful meditations and critical comments about American society; Father Charles Connor, who was a History Professor before becoming a priest (I think at Gettysburg College?), had programs on Catholic History and great Catholic saints and priests; Dr. Alice von Hildebrand and Dr. Thomas Howard had a series about the life and works of her husband, the eminent Theologian Dietrich Von Hildebrand; Notre Dame Law Professor emertius Charles Rice had a program series on Natural Law; Dale Ahlquist, President of the American Chesterton Society, had programs about the life and works of G.K. Chesterton. I could go on and on.

There was a series with Scott Hahn and Jeff Cavins, the original host of Life On The Rock, about the Bible which I found helpful since I had never read the Bible before.

if you want true intellectuals in Catholic thought, you’re going to have to go beyound Scott Hahn and the like.

I’m very interested; could you please tell us who they are and where to find their work? :slight_smile:

I didn’t say that EWTN didn’t have good programming, nor did I say that the programming they had wasn’t interesting or intellectual. What I said was “leading intellectuals in the Catholic faith.”

I would give you a list of currently alive Catholic intellectuals, but unfortunately, there aren’t many orthodox ones alive right now. There are a good number of unorthodox ones, or ones that skirt the boundaries of orthodoxy, but neither you or I would really count them as truly “Catholic” intellectuals.

There is, of course, Pope Benedict XVI. There is also George Weigel, Robert P. George, Richard John Neuhaus (died 2009).

It should also be pointed out what my definition is of leading Catholic intellectual. I first think that he or she must have a strong voice in the Church. In other words, it can’t be some person sitting in their home on a blog. Secondly, he or she must write and speak on matters of Catholicism (so, while a Catholic may be intellectual and the best in his or her field, it does not make him or her a Catholic intellectual under my definition). Thirdly, he or she must be pushing Catholicism forward in some way in regards to its thought.

Scott Hahn is smart. He commands a strong audience in the U.S. Nevertheless, it doesn’t seem that he is pushing the Church as much as he is making the Church’s teaching easier to understand for the Catholic lay person. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but it is much different than being a “Catholic intellectual” as I understand the term.

I think you were misunderstood – to me “leading Catholic intellectuals” recalls folks like Jacques Maritain, Etienne Gilson, Christopher Dawson, Josef Pieper, Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Jean Danielou – that whole school of Catholic intellectuals who dominated in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. I just don’t sense those intellectual bonifides in the EWTN crop of performers and there is a clear difference between popularizers and thinkers in my book. I love Fr. Barron but he isn’t a thinker in the way von Balthazar is and he usually explains the latter to me. I think he is very smart but the world has changed. Kudos to you for knowing the difference and searching out the academic and intellectuals of our faith.

dj

to bmadamsberry et al

Thank you for the discussion and names of Catholic intellectuals.

Re: EWTN - I have learned quite a bit from their programming over the past two years. But sometimes I don’t appreciate the cheap overly-simplistic political jabs. Largely though it is my TV channel of choice.

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