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
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.
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.
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.
One need not be Catholic to enjoy this thorough history. Professor Cook knows his material and presents it in an enthusiastic and compelling manner.
In the lecture category its in the top 5
This is the first theological history I've listened to, but the other great courses options are the most similar
I have not but he was really great
There were many instances that I was just really impressed or inspired.
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.
These lectures, while they seem to cover the vital issues and periods, are somewhat non-scholarly. For example, various reforms are mentioned, but what problems the reforms attempted to remedy are merely inferred. Unfortunately, these lapses are at the heart of what divides contemporary catholics, such as priestly celibacy. Secondly, the tone adopted by the lecturer seems to be more suitable for politician attempting to persuade an audience, rather than educating it. In a word, "too preachy".
Far from it--contributions by Profs Ehrman and the lectures on the ancient religions of the Stone and Bronze ages ( I have forgotten the author's name) were exciting in both content and delivery.
I may be biased by a long life as a university lecturer, but this just does not meet the typical detached and sympathetic manner expected. The tone is one in which fundamentalist preachers seek donations.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We live this story, so how can we not love it.
The unquenchable enthusiasm of a researcher/professor/expert-in-his-field.
It made me take deep breaths at numerous intervals, plus countless "AHA! moments."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. ;)
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.
Yes. I enjoy history in general and Catholic history is of great interest to me.
He is funny when appropriate and moves quickly through the subject matter. The lecture rarely gets bogged down or slow.
No, it is very long and breaks are definitely necessary.
Very worthwhile lecture.
A very interesting overview of Catholic history. Less chronological than some other lecture series available. Dr. Cook instead follows movements and ideas and groups his lectures by them. So for instance lecture 27 looks at American Catholicism as a whole, but then he jumps back to the Age of Reason in lecture 28, examining overlapping time scales through different lenses. This can make it more difficult to follow for some. Still it's very informative.
"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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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