Lives of Great Christians

Course No. 6481
Professor William R. Cook, Ph.D.
State University of New York, Geneseo
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Course No. 6481
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Course Overview

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The followers of Jesus, who came to be called Christians, have practiced and preached their beliefs for centuries. Their actions and achievements, their abilities and energies, have changed the course of history and the nature of belief. Many are well known, but many more are obscure or even nameless. The Lives of Great Christians will introduce you to some of Christianity's luminaries. You will know once you meet them why they are great, and you will be interested and inspired by the many ways they found to live lives of faith.

You will stand spellbound in the crowd, listening to Bernardino and Augustine preach and teach. You will visit the solitary cells and see the visions of Bernard, Clare, and Catherine. You will witness the negotiations as Gregory VII and Leo IX reform the Church. You will hear the verdict of heresy against John Hus and Martin Luther. You will cross the Egyptian desert to seek the wisdom of Antony, and you will keep company with saints, missionaries, and martyrs. And as you do, you will learn what Christians believe, how that belief has shaped world history, and what these stewards of faith can tell us today.

Christianity is more than doctrine or theology, and even more than prayer. For many it is the daily effort to live one's faith in every time and place. The Lives of Great Christians introduces you to those who have done so over the centuries and shows the many paths they found. You will learn about real lives that exemplify Christian faith in action:

  • Bernard brought 30 friends and relatives along to enter the monastery with him.
  • Clare ran away to follow Francis and created a new form of spiritual community for women.
  • Antony lived alone in the desert for 87 years, reading the Book of Nature and communing with God in solitude.
  • Maximilian Kolbe took the place of a family man condemned to death in Auschwitz.
  • The monks of Athos live as hermits as well as in communities, dedicating themselves to a life and place largely unchanged since the 10th century.

If you are a student of history, you will understand more about Christianity's role in it. Christianity didn't just change believers; it defined all of Europe, eastern as well as western, and set many of the world's nations on a course still apparent today. Your appreciation of these eminent Christians' lives will rise with illuminating examples of Christianity's role in world history and culture, as well as intellectual and political contexts:

  • The Crusades: Efforts to reclaim the Holy Land from the Muslims often included persecuting the Jews at home.
  • The Plague Years: Recurrent epidemics decimated populations and caused political and economic instability and labor shortages. Many blamed Church corruption and saw the plagues as God's punishment.
  • The Church of England: When Henry VIII divorced the pope so he could divorce Catherine of Aragon, he set the stage for centuries of continuous dissent.
  • The Reformation: When the Church cracked down on dissidents, Brother Martin Luther took his stand.

If you are curious about the future of Christianity, you will find out how dynamic it has always been—and still is. Christianity has never been a monolithic and unchallenged set of practices and beliefs but a community with a long history of growth and change that continues today. From that community have come inspirational leaders such as Mother Teresa, who called loneliness the greatest problem of our time. She acted on her belief that no one, no matter how poor or sick, should die alone, and won the Nobel Peace Prize. And Gustavo Gutiérrez, the founder of Liberation Theology, declared that the Church's highest duty was to the poor, a belief that has changed the nature of Christian ministry in Latin America and beyond.

Luminaries of Christianity

The Lives of Great Christians is a wide-ranging chronological survey. Dr. Cook, a vigorous and articulate lecturer, defines Christians as followers of Jesus, and considers especially the lives of those who have sought the virtues of humility, faith, and charity. How does a Christian life combine action, thought, prayer, and contemplation? How are Christian lives different in different times, places, and situations? "What does it mean to be a great Christian?" Dr. Cook asks. "There are an awful lot of answers, and some of them may surprise you."

The course ranges across 21 centuries, five continents, and several denominations. Dr. Cook, a medieval historian with a special interest in the history of Christianity, calls on his scholarly knowledge and also on personal experience to introduce us to those he calls "superstars of faith."

We learn about real human beings with real difficulties and imperfections—Paul the impatient, Augustine the lusty, Catherine the stubborn, Martin Luther the intolerant—who have achieved spiritual distinction. Many, like Augustine, Bernard, Francis, and Clare, have changed the nature of Christianity itself. They spring to life against a backdrop of Church history, culture, and politics.

We come away with a vivid sense of the world these believers lived in—how they were part of their time, as well as how they transcended their times. When Clare ran away to follow Francis rather than marrying, for example, her family lost a chance to make an economic alliance. And when Bernard preached against persecuting the Jews during the Crusades, he stood against prevailing opinion. As we follow Christianity's institutional and political development we come to understand the continuing role of reformers: Bernard, John Hus, Martin Luther, and John Wesley, churchmen themselves who followed their faith and found themselves bitterly at odds with other churchmen.

Human, Imperfect—and Faithful

This course will give you a clearer understanding of how Christianity has developed and changed. You will see Christianity in action, whether the action is Antony the hermit moving deeper and deeper into the desert as seekers and askers overrun him, or Benedict working out his rules for monastic life.

Dr. Cook starts by sharing his perspective: "I'm a Christian. I'm a Catholic. I'm an active Catholic." Eloquent, knowledgeable, amusing, and warm, he calls on his broad understanding of history and culture and on his personal and spiritual experience to examine "people whose lives are eloquent testimonies to the struggle … to live an authentic Christian life."

Dr. Cook shows us human beings with imperfections and inadequacies: Bernardino hunted witches and hounded homosexuals; Bernard preached death to Muslims in the Second Crusade; Martin Luther urged the persecution of the Jews; and Thomas More wrote fierce attacks on Luther. Nevertheless, they put aside their selfishness and resistance as best they could to follow Jesus, sometimes in harmony with the Church but sometimes despite it.

How Have We Loved?

"How did I make judgments in putting together a course about who the great Christians are?" asks Dr. Cook. "To me, the 17th-century German Lutheran Johann Arndt said it best: When we stand before Christ the judge, Christ is not going to ask us what we know. He is going to ask us how we have loved."

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24 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    Introduction—What Makes a Great Christian?
    This lecture discusses the difficulties for Christians in ascertaining how to follow Jesus today. Scripture in translation may not accurately convey Jesus' words and thoughts, and without that guidance, it's hard for them to find their own paths. x
  • 2
    Paul and the First Christian Missionaries
    The apostles were the first missionaries; Paul was the greatest. This lecture traces Paul's travels throughout the world and gives us a sense of the man who was possessive of "his" converts, tireless in spreading the Gospel, impatient with delays, and eloquent in writing and preaching. x
  • 3
    The Early Martyrs
    This lecture examines the reasons why Christians have often died for their faith, and introduces us to the martyrs. Among them are Polycarp, Stephen, and Felicity and Perpetua, who were persecuted before Constantine's conversion, which made Christianity the faith of the Roman Empire. x
  • 4
    St. Antony, the First Monk
    Some early Christians lived communally, and some were hermits. Antony, who withdrew to the desert alone at 18 and died at 105, was the first monk. This lecture looks at his life, his discipline, and his insights about the value of solitude, labor, stability, and prayer for those who would follow Jesus. x
  • 5
    The Desert Fathers and Mothers
    Monasteries began in Egypt. Desert monks like Pachomius, Basil, and Evagrius left records of their wisdom; some monks were women. Their writings are full of tough-minded wisdom gained in the struggle against themselves. x
  • 6
    Augustine
    Augustine is one of the most important Christian writers. His life, and especially his conversion, infuse his writing. This lecture shows us who Augustine was and how he found faith. x
  • 7
    St. Patrick and the Conversion of Ireland
    Patrick, born in Britain and raised a Christian, was abducted by the Irish as a teenager and enslaved. He escaped and returned to spread the Gospel. He brought the gift of faith to his captors and made Ireland a Christian stronghold. x
  • 8
    St. Benedict and His Rule
    Monasticism spread throughout the West, but monks' lives were various and disorganized until Benedict, who began as a hermit, transformed monastic life with what is now called The Rule of St. Benedict, written about 530. It combined strictness and flexibility, as well as wisdom, and became the universal guide for Western monks. x
  • 9
    Leo IX, Gregory VII, and Church Reform
    By the mid-11th century, the papacy and other ecclesiastical institutions had become secular and corrupt. By asserting papal authority over local churches, prohibiting the lay choice of bishops and abbots, and at least on occasion asserting general papal overlordship of the world, the great reform popes of the 11th century, most importantly Leo IX and Gregory VII, sought the general reform of the Church. But papal reform also caused the split between the eastern and western branches of Christianity. x
  • 10
    Bernard of Clairvaux and Monastic Reform
    Because monasteries had become wealthy by owning land, monastic life was also intertwined with secular values by the mid-11th century. Then came the great reformer Bernard, the monk, mystic, and leader who founded a Cistercian monastery at Clairvaux and ultimately made the Cistercians the first real religious order with cen¬tralized authority and a common practice. x
  • 11
    Francis of Assisi
    Francis came from a wealthy merchant family but chose a life of poverty, giving away all he had, including his clothes, and standing naked at the square in Assisi. His call was not only to poverty but to rebuild the Church. This lecture shows Francis's character—the joy he took in poverty—and his humility and faith, the virtues on which he founded the Franciscan order. x
  • 12
    Clare of Assisi
    Clare, who was born into the aristocracy, ran away from home to follow Francis; he supported her effort to found a Franciscan community for women. As men joined Francis, women joined Clare. They lived out the values of the Franciscans but did so as women, living in a cloistered community of poverty and faith. x
  • 13
    Catherine of Siena
    Catherine, one of only three female Doctors of the Church, was extraordinary in being active in Siena at a time when women didn't go into the streets alone. She nursed the sick and became a counselor to all kinds of people, including a condemned criminal, a prostitute, and the pope, whom she advised boldly and directly to return to Rome—advice he took. x
  • 14
    Bernardino of Siena
    Bernardino is considered one of the most influential Christian preachers and a noted Franciscan reformer. He preached sermons that interpreted Christian principles for the rising merchant class. x
  • 15
    John Hus and the Hussites
    At the end of the 14th century, a moral reform movement began in Prague. Reformers preached in Czech throughout German-dominated Bohemia, calling for a return to God and frequent communion. When John Hus, who questioned papal authority, became their leader, he was excommunicated. He appealed, and was marched out and burned at the stake. The Hussites were eventually forced back into orthodoxy; however, their reforms survived only in the Moravian Brethren, who later influenced John Wesley. x
  • 16
    Thomas More
    More was born into privilege, highly educated, cosmopolitan, politically well connected, and apparently quite worldly. But he was a man of strong and humble faith. When he refused to recognize Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn, Henry executed him. x
  • 17
    Martin Luther
    Luther was a prolific and insightful commentator on scripture, an Augustinian friar, and a teacher at the University of Wittenberg. Certainly he was the first Protestant and the father of the Reformation, but he was also a man of extreme faith burdened by his failings, and a man of courage who proclaimed the truths of Christianity as he understood them. x
  • 18
    John Wesley and the Origins of Methodism
    When John and Charles Wesley were at Oxford, they founded the Holy Club in response to what they considered Anglicanism's empty formalism. They wanted to study scripture methodically, not just go to services or superficially believe. Their club, and their approach, eventually grew into a new denomination, which drew from the Moravians' ideas on faith and love. x
  • 19
    The Monks of Mount Athos
    For 1,000 years, Orthodox hermits and communities have lived on Mt. Athos in Greece. Today they live as they always have, in a place outside time, with no electricity, roads, or women. What do these men, in this remote and protected enclave, have to tell us about Orthodoxy and about contemporary Christian practice? Dr. Cook recounts what he's learned on his own visits to a place most people can never go. x
  • 20
    Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Maximilian Kolbe
    Modern Christians, too, still die for their faith. The Nazis jailed Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor, and transported Max­i­milian Kolbe, a Polish Franciscan, to Auschwitz. This lecture recounts these 20th-century Christians' lives and deaths at the hands of the state they opposed. x
  • 21
    Damien of Molokai and Teresa of Calcutta
    A central call of Christian life is to care for "the least." Father Damien and Mother Teresa are two great Christians who answered that call. Damien's mission was to help Hawaii's lepers, and Mother Teresa's was to help India's poor. x
  • 22
    From Slavery to Martin Luther King
    Africans brought to America as slaves were baptized and instructed in Christianity. But the faith of African American slaves stressed freedom and justice. This faith, evident in slave spirituals, persisted in black churches, and gave rise to the civil rights movement. This lecture shows why social justice was a deeply rooted religious goal in Martin Luther King's life and work. x
  • 23
    Gustavo Gutierrez and Liberation Theology
    Christianity today flourishes in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia, the Philippines, and South Korea. Poverty is a great concern; Peruvian theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez believes that pastors must minister first to the poor because the poor need them more. This lecture introduces us to Gutiérrez's liberation theology and to its implications for Christian practice. x
  • 24
    Defining the Christian Life
    Now, with much more background, we can revisit the question of what makes a great Christian and decide what our superstars have in common. The answer is simple but profound: the greatest Christians love most greatly. x

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Your professor

William R. Cook

About Your Professor

William R. Cook, Ph.D.
State University of New York, Geneseo
Dr. William R. Cook is the Distinguished Teaching Professor of History at the State University of New York at Geneseo, where he has taught since 1970. He earned his bachelor's degree cum laude from Wabash College and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa there. He was then awarded Woodrow Wilson and Herbert Lehman fellowships to study medieval history at Cornell University, where he earned his Ph.D. Professor Cook teaches courses...
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Reviews

Lives of Great Christians is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 73.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from New Insights I have bought several audio courses for my husband and I to listen to while traveling. New insights into the lives of these saints has provided great conversation and understating.
Date published: 2018-05-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very Interesting I have enjoyed these lectures and recommend them to anyone looking for a good overview of the history of the Church tols through the lives of Christian leaders. There is just one point that jarred with me. On some occasions, Professor Cook used "England" when he was referring to Britain. For example, he talked about John Wesley's travels in England; John travelled extensively in England and Wales, making over 50 separate visits to Wales and also travelling to Scotland and Ireland. Likewise he refers ti St Patrick returning home to England. Scholars place his home along the West Coast of Britain, which could have been in Wales, England or Scotland.
Date published: 2018-04-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from IT IS A VERY INSIGHTFUL HISTORY OF OUR FAITH.I RECOMMEND THIS GREAT HISTORY TO ANYONE OF THE FAITH.
Date published: 2017-11-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting Overview I'm partially thru this and after the first 3 CD's while listening in the car, I have to recommend this as a course that tends to capture my interest so that my mind doesn't wander as much. I enjoyed the little stores, the reasons for choosing them.
Date published: 2017-11-11
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Decent content, annoying professor I waded through two disks of this course before giving up. The information provided was OK, there were no inaccuracies, but the professor's delivery and garish shirts and ties made it hard to watch. I have bought many courses from TGC in the past, and have never had this experience before.
Date published: 2017-09-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Succinct biographical sketch Succinct biographical thumbnail sketches of the Great Christians.
Date published: 2017-09-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great lectures This course made me rethink my religious position and I'm glad I did.
Date published: 2017-07-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Accurate title This set captures key elements of the lives of these great Christians and sheds light on the world they lived in. I am only part way through these lectures and am impressed.
Date published: 2017-06-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from It's wonderful to be a more knowledgable person! I appreciated this course very much. The professor was clear, informed and dramatic . I gained insight and a broader understanding of not only the Great Christians but of the ages in which they lived. I had read about some of the subjects in this course but the lecture cleared up misconceptions and added so many details! One thing I like about The Great Course is the ability to go back and watch them again and again and to back up the video so the professors repeat something I may have missed or wanted to ponder further. I enjoyed this course and am looking forward to more of Professor Cook's lectures.
Date published: 2017-03-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful introduction! After listening to the lectures of this course, I find myself ready to dig deeper into the lives of several of the great Christians and Christian movements. The professor was engaging and challenging giving just enough to peek the interest.
Date published: 2017-03-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting, but lacking in diversity Prof. William Cook is one of my top TGC profs. He is energetic, and well-versed in his chosen topics. He is also a devout Roman Catholic, which I have learned from listening to many of his previous courses. Unfortunately, his background tips the scale in this study of “Great Christians.” Out of 24 lectures, only a handful deal with men or women from the Protestant tradition. Admittedly, a lot of Christian history took place before Luther’s 95 theses were posted in 1517. But a few of the earlier lectures in this set could easily have been omitted to make room for people like John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Hudson Taylor or even William Booth. One other criticism is that the Prof skirted over key facts that might cloud the picture of his choices: 1) He barely mentions that Thomas More carried out active persecution of British Protestants, particularly William Tyndale, who in retrospect did more for the English church than More did; or 2) Gustavo Guterrez – it takes Cook almost 25 minutes to mention that Gutierrez is a Marxist, which many people would consider the PRIMARY thing to focus on in a study of his life. Perhaps this topic would have been better done in two parts: pre- and post-Reformation. Despite my criticism, as a Protestant I did find this course enlightening when it came to figures from Roman Catholic history. And as always, Dr. Cook is passionate about his topic and makes the listener think. . (Speaking of listening: I got the audio version and never felt that I was missing anything. I would recommend it.)
Date published: 2016-11-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Lives of Great Christians I like everything about this course including the lecturer. But he is far too loud.
Date published: 2016-09-14
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Great summary of great Christrians As usual Pro Cook provides a great, energetic, objective, and professional view of great Christrians, we might not normally pay much attention to. Getting a bit dated given recent events over the last 10 years. This course is not available in streaming video, greatly diminishing its usefulness in todays digital environment, hence the low overall score.
Date published: 2016-09-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Throughly enjoyable The title of the course caught my eye and piqued my intrest. I wacted to see who made the list, and why. The criteria to be considered, and to be honest, to see if I agreed. While I am not a Catholic, I admire the fact that the professor said from the very beginning that he was, and yet I felt as if he was very balanced to his selection of subjects. I also throughly enjoyed his teaching style. It was more of a one sided discussion, then a fact laced lecture. Then there were his bits of commentary on the subjects strong characteristics. The best description I can come with is a 3 or 4 minute mini sermon. They were very thought provoking, and induced self reflection. All in all, I expected some of the names on the list, others I had never heard of. I have listened to this twice on a previous purchases, and just reordered it since I had lent it out and it was never returned.
Date published: 2016-08-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Dr. Cook I think I have bought almost every course he has done for The Teaching Company and I have always found his lectures interesting and captivating. His enthusiasm, and expertise keep me entertained and interested...not a small task with my gnat-sized attention span!
Date published: 2016-08-14
Rated 3 out of 5 by from It's an Ok Course The Lives of Great Christians is an okay course (fair disclaimer: I have gone through more than half, but not all, of the CDs, but The Teaching Company keeps bugging me for reviews!). I have listened to another course by this professor (Augustine's Confessions, co-taught by another instructor). He is solid and engaging for the most part. I think the overall treatment is balanced. For example, with Bernardino, he details his noteworthy contributions but also talks about his visceral railings against homosexuals and his anti-Semitism. The most engaging ones for me so far have been the lectures on St. Patrick and Bernard of Clairvaux. He does a good job of presenting these unique characters in a way where you understand their impact. I think there is a leaning towards the monastics (which he acknowledges that he leans towards the Middle Ages based on his professional studies, and this seems to be a time when monastic figures take center historical stage): Catherine of Siena, Clare of Assisi, etc. There seem to be missing more of the evangelistic pioneers of Christianity (William Carey, Hudson Taylor, David Brainerd, Adoniram Judson), preachers (Billy Graham, Billy Sunday, Spurgeon) and key theologians like John Calvin, Aquinas, and GK Chesterton. Like other Christianity courses in the Great Courses, it tends to love the distant, mystical, and remote - the Ivory Tower favorites - and eschew the immanent, nearer personalities. The course material is delivered in a competent style. As I compare lectures to Wikipedia articles, it looks a whole lot like them, suggesting maybe the depth of insight is not all that strong (of course, what can you do in a 30-minute lecture?). I guess it just rarely finds the alternate path and comes off a bit conventional.
Date published: 2016-08-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Tiresome due to prior knowledge This series of 24 lectures got tiresome when I finished sentences because of prior knowledge. He covers 2000 years with a good summary of significant players, especially seven from the Early Middle Ages. It earns a recommended purchase for pulling so much ‘hidden history’ summarized into a single set of lectures. I love Cook's style but this series was probably too introductory for me with a Seminary level education.
Date published: 2016-03-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good course We really like this course. We listen to these courses as we travel, so we usually buy the audio edition. This course has some Roman Catholic overtones, but there is so much to learn. Of course, all the early Christians were Roman Catholic, since Protestantism didn't start until the 1600's. We are using the series in our Ladie's Bible Study, and finding new information about known Great Christians, and learning about some we never heard of. The last lecture, the summation is brilliant!
Date published: 2016-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent I have a long commute each day and this lecture series made it enjoyable. To begin with, the selection of individuals it covers is outstanding, beginning with the Apostle Paul and ending with a priest who still lives in Latin America. Each of these people has a fascinating and inspiring story. Professor Cook does a brilliant job of telling those stories, and drawing from them lessons we can all use today. I am listening through the lectures a second time because the content and delivery are so good.
Date published: 2015-12-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course I lead an adult Sunday school class in a mainstream protestant denomination. We used this course as our study for the 24 weeks of lectures. The class members range from very conservative to very liberal in their theology and understanding of Christianity. All were very enthusiastic about the course and were sad to see it end. The lecturer has the amazing ability to hold the class's attention throughout the 30 minutes of each lecture. He is engaging, entertaining and knowledgeable. All of us in the class are very pleased to have viewed this course.
Date published: 2015-11-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lives of great Christians I listened to Bill Cook's course on the History of the Catholic Church and I thought it was absolutely great. As a result, I have met Bill in person several times and I consider him a friend. He is a very energetic guy and has a lot to offer. This course is a good companion to his History of the Catholic Church course, although not all of the great Christians he discusses were Catholic. In fact, one of them was burned at the stake by the Church! Nevertheless, talking about these individuals allows you to place them in the time line of Christianity, as individuals living their lives at the time that events were happening both in the Church and in history. How did they try to live as Christians while all of 'that stuff' was going on in the world? These great Christians, heroes of the faith, if you will, affected that history, changed that history, by the way they chose to live their lives, effects that continue on down to our own times. Some affected the rest of the Christian world more than others and some affected the world outside the Church more than others. But all were trying to live lives in response to the truth of Christianity, as they understood it. That makes what they did (and didn't do) interesting and, sometimes, startling, even if you don't agree with what they did or how they did it.
Date published: 2015-04-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting and Informative Obviously, a 24 lecture course can only cram so many people from 20 centuries of Christian history. The professor admits to the difficulty in selecting people and there is some emphasis given to medieval times (this is the professor's specialty and roughly half of Christian history is from this time). Many of these individuals warrant full courses on their own, so this course can be seen as a gateway or intro to others (and TGC does have courses on Paul, Augustine and others). I didn't find much to quibble with: Calling Paul's trips to Arabia and Spain failures is a bit too much of conjecture based on a lack of info (if Paul indeed went to Spain). And his famous speech in Athens certainly was a success in showing how Truth subverts and replaces pagan thought. A great course for religious, historical or Christian studies.
Date published: 2014-03-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Solid Effort I think this course largely delivers on its rather simple premise - i.e., to offer a series of biographical sketches about some of "Christianity's luminaries" and explain why they are considered "great Christians." That said, I thought the biography was more effectively conveyed than the explanation of "greatness." Prof. Cook is an energetic, passionate lecturer and obviously has a deep knowledge of the subject matter given his background as a Catholic scholar, but his shouting speaking style can be distracting and at times wearying. All in all, however, I am glad that I purchased the course and would recommend it to a friend. I listened to the audio version and thought that it was entirely satisfactory.
Date published: 2014-03-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Inspiring and Insightful Having completed numerous courses on religion and Christianity in particular I was interested in this course to learn more about practitioners of Christianity. Professor Cook offers an engaging thumbnail sketch of a broad array of people whose lives bear testimony to the power of Faith. The Professor is transparent enough at the commencement of the course to confirm that he is a Catholic and so this may inform his selection. That having been said his choice of figures was intriguing and balanced although there is only 1 lecture representing Orthodox Christianity. It also contained some figures with whom I was either totally unfamiliar or only very scantily so. This included the monks from Mount Athos(representing the Orthodox Tradition within Christianity)which was deeply fascinating. The same can be said for St Damien of Molokai whose life in Hawaii among a leper community is truly moving. The inclusion of John Hus was an especially intriguing choice in that he was branded a heretic and was burned at the stake. His influence on later reformers(including the founders of Methodism) however was profound. Hearing the story of more familiar figures ranging from St Anthony and Maximilian Kolbe to St Augustine and Mother Theresa was also inspirational. This is a wonderful compliment to the other courses covering the history or theology of Christianity The course allowed me to glimpse how the Christian Faith has helped people to live lives of sacrifice in the service of their fellow human beings. I was inspired and moved by these stories and have committed to learning more about many of the figures covered in the course.
Date published: 2014-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Francis of Assisi I throughly enjoyed this coarse on St Francis of Assisi. I thought I knew St Francis But I guess not With the election of our POPE FRANCIS I thought learning more of Francis would be great - Professor Cook and Pro Herzman did a wonderful presentation THANK YOU SO MUCH
Date published: 2013-04-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Great Christians for Christians? Was this course enjoyable? Yes. It consisted of 22 short stories, like the "biography" channel on television, that went over a single Christian or group of Christians. (The first and last lecture do not fit this format.) Here's what good about this: you can tune into any of the lectures and not be lost. There is no over-arching narrative. This is not one of the Great Courses where you need to be paying rapt attention in order to glean value and content. With any course of this title, you will have those choices where you disagree and those with which you agree. No exception here. I would not have chosen Bernardino, for instance, when Zwingli and Aquinas are left out. This has a very heavy slant towards the western (Latin) tradition, and that was fine. I would have appreciated a few Orthodox, Coptics, or other Christians in the mix. There is no exploration of "other" types of Christians that could possibly be devisive, such as a representative from either the LDS church or a Jehovah's Witness, for example. The course was enjoyable because I was able to learn about individual Christians as themselves, as opposed to parts of a Christian history, per se. I kept listening and wondering, "what exactly is the point of this course?" I felt like I was missing a "thesis statement" or something similiar to that. You'll get that, finally, in lecture 24. Professor Cook is a good presenter. No mumbling. Clear and cogent presentation. I have some other courses of his, so no problem in this regard. If you are a Christian, you should enjoy this course. If you are not, you might want to think twice before committing to this one.
Date published: 2012-12-22
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointing course I have over 140 Teaching Company courses, including many on religion, so I love this company in general. But this course was a disappointment. I assumed this course would teach the history of great Christians, and that I would learn much about the lives of great Christians, as the name of the course implies. Unfortunately, I felt I was listening to a very long sermon. Devout Christians will probably enjoy this course, but I was hoping to learn something from a historical perspective. Although I did learn some history, I was disappointed in the overall content of the course. The course belongs more in the setting of Bible classes through a church than it does in an academic setting.
Date published: 2012-11-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Compelling & highly informative Happy to recommend this fine course. Those chosen as "Great Christians" cover a solid representative selection, with which no one could objectively find fault. The lectures are animated and very interesting, in effect bringing alive the men and women, detailing significant events in their lives. The lecture on the widely-acclaimed St. Francis of Assisi was especially enjoyable, brilliantly condensed down to a half hour. Dr Cook uses a very vernacular speaking style which works well, incorporating plenty of popular expressions, e.g. happy camper, seat of the pants, all bets are off. Unfortunately he tends to SHOUT which is quite unpleasant, absolutely unnecessary; his style at times reminded me of an evangelical preacher. I would propose that Great Courses assign a qualified, diplomatic staffer to be present in studio to advise lecturers regarding any particular or peculiar bad habits they have. The professor certainly distinguishes himself by wearing bright ties (bowties too) and shirts. One combination of fluorescent yellow & fluorescent green was a real eye-shocker and great fun! This is an important, compelling course for anyone wishing to learn about those persons who took their Christianity most seriously.
Date published: 2012-09-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good, not fantastic. Overall I really enjoyed the course. Some of the lectures were really great (St. Francis, Martin Luther, Augustine. Most of the lectures were good. The lectures where he is covering a group of people or a broad time frame are not as good. I am a Christian, not a Catholic. Professor Cook is Catholic and addresses the topic from his perspective; but not in a way of conversion, it's more that you can tell this is personal to him as a Catholic Christian. I enjoyed getting a broader view of Christianity in general and the lives of these people specifically.
Date published: 2012-04-14
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Odd course, unusual professor Many 5 star ratings for this course. I just can't agree. Dr Cook has the mien of an evangelical preacher, from the bible belt. This is deceiving; he actually is a Catholic scholar. While he is passionate about his subject, and is impossible to not like: many of his lectures just don't quite come together at the end. Often he ends abruptly and seems to lose his point. In a sense it is a shame that the overall quality of the Great Courses is so high, that 3 stars seem like a failing grade. This is, ( in my opinion) not up to the level of many courses in this series. Generally would not recommend. The exception would of course be those with special and enthusiastic interest.
Date published: 2012-04-02
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