iTunes Evangelical Conspiracy!

We’ll put off Kant once more to bring you breaking news from iTunes U, the benevolent Apple’s cornucopia of free online audio and video learning for the masses – or at least that part of the masses that owns an iPod.

Did I mention it’s FREE? So I really should not quibble, which will not, of course, stop me: iTunes U is Chaos.

Compared to iTunes itself, it’s a rural backwater. The UX is cluttered and confusing, “Noteworthy” features are random, and it’s amazingly difficult to search and navigate. Example: there is no way to get a simple listing of all the “Humanities” courses. You can search by campus, which doesn’t help anyone but Deans.

Problem is, unlike the very commercial iTunes, iTunes U has relied on the kindness of strangers to offer up courses for free. This can make great material from Oxford, MIT, Yale and Stanford – the most prolific of the Free U movement – more available to more people, more easily.


It also makes iTU super-vulnerable to stealth use by agents with an agenda. Which brings us to its courses in Religion. This week, there are no Religion courses among the Top 25, which is dominated by lectures on the Beatles, How to Write a Business Plan, How to Read Tolkien, and how to speak English.

Seekers who are dogged – or lucky – can find hundreds of Religion courses buried in the virtual campus. Four sources in particular are very aggressive in their generosity: Reformed Theological Seminary (84 titles), Dallas Theological Seminary (55), Fuller Thelogical Seminary (33), and Dr. Timothy Keller of New York City’s Church of the Redeemer (24, including podcasts).

We here at TGPDN try not to judge others. As our mother always said: “Everybody’s got their own hermeneutics, son!” (She’s an academic.)

We would just inform you, as friends, that these particular institutions are flat-out Evangelical missions. And hidden under innocuous titles such as “History of Christianity I” or “Systematic Theology I” are sessions that ridicule modern scholarship, mock those who think scripture may contain analogies, not to say contradictions, and deride a century of brilliant work in Biblical source criticism.

It’s quite often “scholarship” that – like creation “science” – seems to want to party like it’s 1899.

Reformed Theological Seminary’s “Statement of Beliefs,” for example, says: “Since the Bible is absolutely and finally authoritative as the inerrant Word of God, it is the basis for the total curriculum.”

Fuller was founded by a famous radio preacher, the Pat Robertson of the 1940’s. And Dallas requires all students and faculty to affirm their agreement with doctrines such as “the physical return of Christ” and “the authority and inerrancy of Scripture.”

So you know: Biblical inerrancy is a modern American doctrine that holds scripture to be absolutely, literally correct in all matters including math and science. Its proponents may be right, of course, but this doctrine more or less explicitly rules out all kinds of promising ideas.

And then there’s politics. We have met Redeemer’s Tim Keller. He is a very reasonable-seeming guy who wears jeans and preaches in a fatherly tone on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Yet his church bans women preachers as “unbiblical,” shames gays into “hating their sin,” and strong-arms parishioners into forking over large portions of their net worth for a massive expansion project.

We just think there needs to be a new rating category for online media in America: E for “Evangelical” … just so we know. It’s only fair and balanced, right?

What do you think?


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