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The Catholic Church: A History | [The Great Courses]

The Catholic Church: A History

How did the Catholic Church become one of the most influential institutions in the world-a force capable of moving armies, inspiring saints, and shaping the lives of a billion members? Explore these and other questions as you follow the development of this important institution in 36 informative, fascinating lectures. With Professor Cook by your side, you'll step into the world of the early church, witness the spread of Christendom, and learn about the origins of fundamental church institutions.
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Publisher's Summary

How did the Catholic Church become one of the most influential institutions in the world - a force capable of moving armies, inspiring saints, and shaping the lives of a billion members?

Explore these and other questions as you follow the development of this important institution in 36 informative, fascinating lectures. With Professor Cook by your side, you'll step into the world of the early church, witness the spread of Christendom, and learn about the origins of fundamental church institutions.

Your journey begins in the early years of the church, when Jesus's disciples developed the first communities of faith. You'll get a chance to delve into crucial ancient church documents and gain an intriguing glimpse into the lives of these early believers. From there, you'll trace the development and spread of this nascent religion throughout the world, covering crucial developments including the conversion of the Roman Empire to Catholicism, the schism between the Roman faith and the Greek Orthodox Church, and the Reformation.

As you delve into this fascinating saga, you'll quickly see that the Catholic Church actually takes many forms. You'll trace the many variations of worship and belief that evolved as Christianity spread all over the Mediterranean, and you'll witness how Catholic practice and faith have been transformed by the cultures and peoples it has touched. Professor Cook brings an unparalleled intellectual rigor to his presentation, balanced by a deep appreciation of the church's legacy and impact. Join him on this epic journey through Catholic history, and experience how this small gathering of faithful became one of the most powerful forces on the world stage - the "one holy catholic and apostolic Church."

Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.

©2009 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2009 The Great Courses

What Members Say

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  •  
    P. Johnson 01-21-14
    P. Johnson 01-21-14
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    "Thorough history presented in a compelling manner"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Catholic Church: A History to be better than the print version?

    As a college level course, the material presented is both thorough and interesting. I am on my second listening of the course because there is just such a wealth of information provided.


    What other book might you compare The Catholic Church: A History to and why?

    I love Father Robert Barron's Catholicism series and this course was a great addition to the material Father Barron presented. Obviously this course is a history while Barron's is not intended to be. Professor Cook was able to explain a lot of the "why" behind the evolution of the church while Father Barron continually showed its beauty. For those who really want to know about the Catholic church, this is a great asset.


    Have you listened to any of Professor William R. Cook’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I have watched and listened to Professor Cook's course on The Great Cathedrals. He is a compelling and enthusiastic lecturer who presents material in a straight forward manner. I thought this course was quite good as an audiobook, while the course on cathedrals obviously needed the visual information. I plan on purchasing other courses by Dr. Cook.


    Any additional comments?

    One need not be Catholic to enjoy this thorough history. Professor Cook knows his material and presents it in an enthusiastic and compelling manner.

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Fox Fairy Utah 03-20-14
    Fox Fairy Utah 03-20-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Great listen, really loved the professor"
    Where does The Catholic Church: A History rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    In the lecture category its in the top 5


    What other book might you compare The Catholic Church: A History to and why?

    This is the first theological history I've listened to, but the other great courses options are the most similar


    Have you listened to any of Professor William R. Cook’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I have not but he was really great


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    There were many instances that I was just really impressed or inspired.


    Any additional comments?

    I'm not Catholic (I'm actually a Mormon) and just wanted to learn more about the Catholic church to help me better understand European history but the lecture was very easy to follow, I don't think I ever felt lost or confused and not only do I have a clearer picture of European history, I also have a greater appreciation of the similarities between our two religions and I feel motivated to listen to lectures on other religions.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 04-03-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Bravo"

    I learned so much from this one. I enjoyed it as well. I, as a Catholic, understand much more about our traditions now. Thank you.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mikkel Aarhus V, Denmark 10-04-13
    Mikkel Aarhus V, Denmark 10-04-13 Member Since 2014
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    "Rambling at the sentence and structural level"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    Most of my time listening to this book was not well spent, since there is a lack of overall structure to the lectures. Little stories and tidbits of information were pointed out to be important without ever being given a context as to why they were important.

    For example, an entire lecture is devoted to the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church and it is continually pointed out by Professor Cook that it is very important for catholics to think of them. But only at the end a context is sketched out as to why, and yet it makes very little sense. In another of the late lectures the consequences of Vatican II are adressed, but again they are merely labeled important and the listener is left hanging.I feel that a lot of this wasted time is due to the fact that Professor Cook is clearly speaking to people like himself rather than to the average listener. That is to say, he is speaking to an American Catholic who knows quite a bit about the religious institution he belongs to and can himself provide the context. More about this below.

    Thus, this lecture series seems more like a commentary on the history of the Catholic Church rather than an overview, which disappointed me quite a lot.However, there were a couple of interesting little pieces of information that sparked my curiosity and the parts of Church history that I already knew a good deal about and could provide my own context for were fairly well brushed up.


    What didn’t you like about Professor William R. Cook’s performance?

    There are two parts to Professor Cook's performance that I'd like to comment on: one is his use of dynamic voice and the other is his use of perspective in language.

    Professor Cook clearly attempts to provide dynamism at the sentence level of his lecturing by putting the emphasis on different words throughout the sentence, making pauses and in general avoiding the monotone droning that cliché associates with lecturing. In this he succeeds, but unfortunately he does so at the cost of understanding. It is apparently randomised which words the professor chooses to put extra emphasis on, which often confuses the meaning. One could argue that this should keep the listener on his or her toes - but then it is at best a cheap trick.

    What it does produce - at least in this listener - is a weariness of the rambling nature of Professor Cook's lecturing style. Coupled with the very clear perspectivism that I mention above - that of an American Catholic with a more than average involvement in his faith - the lectures were at times so idiosyncratic that I tuned out. There is only so many times one can endure alienation by the constant use of the pronoun "we" to indicate both speaker and audience as members of the Catholic faith.

    I have nothing against a clear and internal perspective in lectures about institutions - but these lectures were presented as being for the general public, and it seems that Professor Cook is not really aware of the alienation he creates with his language.

    To clarify: I am not offended, but it did put me off many times during the listening.

    It is also worth mntioning that Professor Cook's voice is very "wet-sounding", although I adjusted to this very quickly. I would, however, recommend that you hear a sample before buying simply to check out this aspect.


    Could you see The Catholic Church: A History being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    I could not see a TV series based on this. There is too little narratuve structure, since the lectures bascally just detail a series of things that happen and are underlined as important without ever giving the proper context.


    Any additional comments?

    I listened all the way through, which may be weird when seen in concert with my comments above. I kept hoping for a betterment when the series got to the time I knew little of in Church history (Dark Ages and post-renaissance) but alas it was not forthcoming.

    As mentioned, enough little tidbits of weird information was spread throughout to keep me at it, but in the end I cannot possibly recommend this lecture series.

    10 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    mzlizzie 06-24-15
    mzlizzie 06-24-15 Member Since 2012
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    "Strengthens my Catholic Faith"

    I am Catholic and this book was very enlightening, making me more firm in my belief in the Catholic Church. I especially liked his point about how quick people are to criticize the Church or leave the Church because of a pedophile priest but don't think about the fact that they are also leaving Mother Teresa, St Francis and all those like them. He also clearly explains how the Church is present for each age and that it is truly holy, catholic and apostolic.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    hugh oconnor 06-11-15 Member Since 2015
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    "I didn't know that!"


    A lot of good learning here for someone who has been in the boat pulling my oar for 75 years.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dean Madere 03-18-15
    Dean Madere 03-18-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Awesome!"

    Great information and great presenter. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would recommend it to all Catholics and Christians.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 11-12-14
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    "Well researched; Well presented"
    What made the experience of listening to The Catholic Church: A History the most enjoyable?

    The clearly structured presentation of a complex topic kept the listener focused on what happened (past), what happens now or at this stage (present), and what will follow (future). Professor Cook knows how to present a difficult topic. He also has the obvious enthusiasm to share what he enjoys doing.


    What did you like best about this story?

    We live this story, so how can we not love it.


    What about Professor William R. Cook’s performance did you like?

    The unquenchable enthusiasm of a researcher/professor/expert-in-his-field.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    It made me take deep breaths at numerous intervals, plus countless "AHA! moments."


    Any additional comments?

    Every Christian should listen to this Audible Great Books course. Anyone interested in Christianity or even critical of Christianity should hear the unvarnished truth from the mouth of an expert.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Automatic Jack Toronto 09-27-14
    Automatic Jack Toronto 09-27-14 Member Since 2015
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    "Educational and interesting without being boring!"
    What made the experience of listening to The Catholic Church: A History the most enjoyable?

    Professor Cook's narration and presentation of the course is the best part of this experience. He takes the dry historical facts that I'd never be able to make it through in textbook or Wikipedia form and constructs a really interesting and compelling series of lectures by adding asides, reflections, and making sure to fully flesh out the context of events.


    What did you like best about this story?

    So. Much. Education. I now know so much more about Church history than I ever thought I would be able to fit in my head.


    What about Professor William R. Cook’s performance did you like?

    He's a fantastic lecturer. I've been to university, and I can tell you horror stories about professors who stand at the lectern and deliver aural valium, ensuring you absorb next to nothing of the content. Professor Cook's delivery is upbeat and excited, as though he's eager to share these facts and stories with us, and that really keeps you focused and learning.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Not really, since it's a series of lectures and each has a topic and logical start/stop points. It's much easier to digest this way since listening to 20+ hours straight is... impractical. ;)


    Any additional comments?

    Fantastic lecture series for anyone interested in the Catholic Church or even simply the history of the western world in general, since the two were so intertwined.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard Giardino 09-21-14
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    "A Pleasure"
    Would you listen to The Catholic Church: A History again? Why?

    Yes. I enjoy history in general and Catholic history is of great interest to me.


    What does Professor William R. Cook bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    He is funny when appropriate and moves quickly through the subject matter. The lecture rarely gets bogged down or slow.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No, it is very long and breaks are definitely necessary.


    Any additional comments?

    Very worthwhile lecture.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Joe
    6/9/15
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    "Comprehensive and informative"

    I really enjoyed this product but professor cook's insistence on saying that Saint John paul ii apologised for the crusades in the last few lectures bugged me a little, he apologised to God on the 2000 year of the church for anything members of the church might have done wrong in her history he didn't specifically mention any event person or crime in particular, at least that was my understanding of it. Having said that I recommend this lecture course it covers everything but I'd read some other stuff on the crusades

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mark
    4/13/15
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    "Who needs God when we've got the Pope"

    This started off quite fine. In the centuries where the Roman Catholic Church was 'the church' and there are no grounds for bias or inter-denominational dispute Prof Cook presents a perfectly acceptable history. However from the reformation period onwards the wheels start to fall off, and dramtically so. The author's bias becomes more and more obvious. His attitude to the whole of protestant history seems to be 'yes we might have had a few issues but nothing much and we would have sorted it'. As he moves into recent years it really becomes quite absurd. Pope and the Nazi's, no problem, Sexism and homophobia, no comment, sex abuse scandal, move along nothing to see here. His penultimate lecture on John Paul II is the most extra-ordinary thing I have listened to in quite some time, and has absolutely no place whatsoever in a supposedly accademic serties of lectures. He makes the man sound like the fourth person of the trinity.

    Prof Cook, you want to spout this sort of thing, get ordained and deliver it from the pulpit. It is not acceptible in a supposedly objective lecture course. I was so fed up that even though I finished that I still almost asked for my money back.

    I like the Great Courses. Philip Carey, for example, is a beast, his Luther curse is superb, and UNBIASED. But unless you are two weeks away from entering a seminary I advise you to stay clear of this one.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Ed Kingsley
    1/10/15
    Overall
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    "Biased history"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    This was apologetics as much as than history. The professor's own faith created a bias that was both unwelcome and illuminating. I understand better how the catholic church self edits its own history and identity from the extraordinarily tendentious narrative that I experienced in this course. It was also full of interesting information and has left me wanting to read further.


    Would you be willing to try another book from The Great Courses? Why or why not?

    Yes absolutely. Leaving aside my criticisms of this particular course I have been listening to a number of titles around the themes of church and ancient history and found them to be a superb opportunity to access in depth information about subjects rarely presented to the public


    Did The Catholic Church: A History inspire you to do anything?

    Yes. It prompted me to turn to a lecture series on Socrates Plato and Aristotle whose input into church history and teaching was something Professor Cook explained well.


    Any additional comments?

    I listened to these lectures having finished a couple of audible titles concerning early church history, late antiquity and the early middle ages. This was a natural progression. I recommend some prior knowledge of church history before listening to this.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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