Taught by the very articulate (and sartorially flamboyant) Jacob Wright, this was my first encounter with MOOCs - Massive Open Online Courses. It was an interesting experience, and I'd be up for it again if something similar comes along.
- it was completely free
- it was accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world, with access to the Internet. How remarkable is that!
- there was a generous time frame to view lecture segments and complete quizzes
- any course at this level is usually under-girded with sound scholarship (and this one certainly was)
- it provided a dash of intellectual ginger, coming from a perspective I might not have otherwise encountered, providing an intriguing balance between Jewish and Christian approaches, something that must have been a bit of a shock to some of the more earnest Bible-belt students
And yes, the positives definitely outweighed the negatives. I guess my chief reservation was that Dr Wright, despite his impressive scholarship and a nuanced approach, was nonetheless articulating a fairly Pollyanna-like, exceptionalist view of the Hebrew Bible. I don't really think you come to that kind of conclusion apart from a pre-existing commitment, whether cultural or religious. But then, hey, what do I know.
One thing intrigued me about some of my fellow students; an often-expressed "yes, but" reaction to the more challenging information they were encountering. Yes, the Bible might not be quite as inerrant as I thought it was, but you really need to read this particular apologetics website to get a different (i.e. more 'correct') slant on things.
One woman even posted a link to a United Church of God booklet! Gimme a break!
It's a bit like getting a concession from your brother-in-law that his political opinion might be potentially flawed based on the hard evidence. You feel good that you carried the argument, but know beyond any shadow of doubt that he'll still vote the same old way regardless. (I hasten to add that my brother-in-law is not in mind, being an eminently reasonable, enlightened and open-minded bloke.) But for others, praise be, these sorts of experiences create a wedge, ready to - at the appropriate time - crack open their thinking to new possibilities.