Several years ago The Teaching Company sent me a flier pointing out their sale prices on some of their lecture series. Deciding that I would be OK risking $60.00 (but not $250.00), I gave a course a try. It was a mistake only in the sense that it was the beginning of a serious addiction since by now I have purchased probably 20 to 25 additional courses. I have especially enjoyed Allen Guelzo, Amy Jill Levine, Luke Timothy Johnson, Bart Ehrman, Richard Wolfson, Robert Greenberg and Robert Sapolsky.
A couple of years ago it occurred to me that maybe there would be a market for similar lectures by the best Adventist professors and that the venue for viewing these should be in a Sabbath School class for the intellectually curious. Here was the rationale:
1. Sabbath School is the only school I’m aware of where its students are expected to stay in the same grade for their entire lives. I was once told by a General Conference Sabbath School type (I think his name was Rampton) that the Quarterly was designed to be understood by someone with a sixth grade reading level. There is no criticism for having such a teaching tool, but it seems to leave a bit of a gap for members with advanced education and intellectual curiosity.
2. Teaching theology and philosophy to teenagers amounts often to casting pearls before swine. The natural audience for advanced religion courses is more likely to be students who are at least in their twenties, not teenage college students.
3. It has seemed to me that our college professors have no good channel of communication to those who should be their natural constituents—namely, those of us who are intellectually curious. If these professors had a link to their constituency and kept the latter engaged, wouldn’t that help prevent the sort of unfortunate situation that developed in Walla Walla College (and threatens elsewhere) several years ago? (In other words, what’s good for the Alden Thompsons and Fritz Guys and Rick Rices of the Church is good for us and vice versa.)
4. Conversely, there is no good channel of communication for these intellectually curious members to the fountains of all knowledge and wisdom in our denomination, our college professors.
With a touch of seed money from me, demo lectures were produced by Dave Larson, Alden Thompson, Rick Rice and Ivan Blazen. Each half hour lecture was to have been one of a longer series by each lecturer. These lectures were eventually posted to the Spectrum website as a trial balloon. The response, I gather, was indifferent but was this a good trial? Certainly it was not in the Sabbath School setting. And where were the rest of the lectures?
And so the question remains: Is there a market for video lectures by our best college professors—a la The Teaching Company—for the intellectually curious in a Sabbath School setting?
Gordon Short, MD, is a pathologist and founder of the Brevis Corporation.