Tuesday, February 27, 2018

--- Lectures on religion ---

There are a lot of great lectures and lecture series on religion. More than just about any subject, though, you should check out the lecturer along with the lecture. Just in a source like The Teaching Company or Academic Earth, you will run into a very wide range of orientations. For instance, in the offerings from The Teaching Company, I would consider Bart Ehrman unorthodox in his approach toward the apocrypha and pseudepigraphic texts of Christianity, but he obviously has broad expertise on the subject. Luke Timothy Johnson, on the other hand seems to have some liberal leanings but has great respect for the scriptures and I would call him orthodox. James Hall, who presents a series on the philosophy of religion for The Teaching Company makes no bones about his disbelief in a monotheistic God and the series focuses almost exclusively on arguments for and against such a being. The opencourseware from the Covenant Theological Seminary is extensive but expect a very strong Presbyterian slant.

All of this material is excellent. Just keep in mind that religious experts (and, yes, they are respected experts on their subjects) come in different flavors, and one may not be your particular flavor, but they all have things to say worth hearing.

Again, The Teaching Company products are for sale, but they tend to be worth it. Here are some of my favorites.

Introduction to the Study of Religion, presented by Charles B. Jones is a good overview of what religious studies is all about. If you want exposure to the philosophy of religion, this is a good choice.

The Life and Writings of C. S. Lewis, by Louis Markos, gives you a great amount of background information that you can use to appreciate, instead of just read, the works of C. S. Lewis.

Lost Christianities: Christian Scriptures and the Battles Over Authentication, Presented by Bart D. Ehrman. Like I said above, Bart Ehrman is one of the top names in the study of apocryphal (extra Biblical) and pseudepigraphic (spurious) Jewish and Christian writings.

Comparative Religion, presented by Charles Kimball, presents various common themes in religious thought as developed by the major world religions.

Francis of Assisi, presented by William Cook and Ronald Herzman. It's obvious that these people are passionate and consummately informed about their subject. St. Francis is right at the top of my list of favorite old dead people. If I were Catholic, my middle (consecration) name would be Francis.

Sacred Texts of the World, presented by Grant Hardy.
Introduction to Judaism, presented by Shai Cherry.
Buddhism, Presented by Malcolm David Eckel.
Islam, presented by John Esposito.
Christianity, presented by Luke Timothy Johnson.
Judaism, presented by Isaiah M. Gafni.
Hinduism, presented by Mark Muesse

If you want a tour of the five great religions of the world, I can't imagine a better introduction. These presenters are knowledgeable and engaging.

Here's another video that is well worth the purchase price.

In God's Name, directed and narrated by Gedeon Naudet and Jules Naudet, this National Geographic project explores issues of our times from the viewpoint of 12 world religious leaders. This is a fascinating film.

The opencourseware from Covenant Seminary is excellent. I haven't heard one that I didn't enjoy. The lectures are, of course, presented from a Christian perspective and the Calvinist bent of the Presbyterian church breaks through occasionally, but, for the most part, what is presented is core Christianity. Everything is there from Christian theology to the history and workings of the church. Their website is https://www.covenantseminary.edu.

I've mentioned Academic Earth before. They don't have many courses on religious topics and the ones they present tend to be on fairly narrow topics such as "Science, Medicine, and Religion" but they're great for going deeper into religious studies.

You might want to check out the Internet Archive's offerings also. For instance, Philip Harland presents a fascinating podcast on the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean (https://archive.org/details/Religions_of_the_Ancient_Mediterranean).

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