Sunday, June 22, 2008

Church History - podcast review

Covenant Seminary is a theological institution of the Presbyterian Churches of America (PCA). It delivers a podcast on Church History, which covers the history from the early apostolic period until the reformation. A lot of other podcasts give strains of information on the same subject over the same period, or parts of it, but none has the history of Christianity as its main subject.

The podcast relates that Church History is sometimes called 'the third testament'; less history, more creed. Another remark made is about historiography; in modern times history science is a matter of reconstruction and the idea of being free of value and ideology is abandoned; we need not free ourselves of religious dogma. So, while we ask the question how a small and insignificant sect of Judaism, that had 'nothing going for it', could rise to become the most successful of world religions, the podcast wouldn't want to rule out the supernatural. Other podcasts have suggested that the use of Greek and the opening up to gentiles were factors, but this is hardly considered.

Here we touch on a serious problem with this podcast. I find it to be less historic and more liturgical. It starts and ends with scripture, it starts with prayer, it doesn't rule out the supernatural, it frequently doesn't even attempt to engage in worldly explanations, but rather emphasizes the spiritual quality of the history. This podcast still touches upon the major elements of the history of Christianity in the given period, but does so with a bias it doesn't even attempt to conceal. This makes it a miss for me. I feel more at ease with great productions like Stanford's 'Historical Jesus' (Thomas Sheehan), UC San Diego's MMW3 (Charles Chamberlain) and the issue of BBC's In Our Time on the Nicene Creed to name but a few.

Relevant other reviews:
World history guided by the religions,
The Nicene Creed - IOT,
Historical Jesus - Tom Sheehan, Stanford,
The genitals of Christ (2),
The genitals of Christ (1).

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Anonymous said...

I suggest you look at Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean, feed = by Professor Phil Harland. Good history without the theology.

Unknown said...

Hey thanks Dara,
I am looking into it immediately. You know what, I do not even mind the theology that much. The thing that ticks me off even more is the liturgy. I put on my earphones to 'go to school'. With this podcast, every lecture starts with prayer; it's more like going to church.
Getting theology is one thing, but in a school I expect some impartiality, some academic distance. In a Church, you are on the receiving end of one dogma among many.
I do not care if they hide the bias and feed me their version of History as if it were impartial. I always say: Hypocrisy is the reverence of sin to virtue. (I nicked that from Rochefoucauld) In this podcast, they do not even bother to go through the motions...

Between you and me: I am so eager to get a podcast about Arius and about Nestorians and such, I may even give a continued listen to see if they pay attention to these 'heretics'.