Chapter

Living the Question

Robert Wuthnow

in Christianity in the Twenty-First Century

Published in print June 1995 | ISBN: 9780195096514
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199853380 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195096514.003.0016
Living the Question

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During the 20th century, the United States undertook one of the most expansive programs of higher education ever witnessed. In the next century, whether such expansion continues or not, the college-educated person will make a major difference in shaping the future. So will the professoriate and those who administer the nation's colleges and universities. Their effect on American religion will be considerable. But what will this effect be? Is it possible to combine a deep personal commitment to the Christian faith with the life of the mind? Or is critical thought simply incompatible with Christian orthodoxy? As the 20th century began, conservative Christianity appeared to be already at war with the prevailing values of an enlightened society. In 1938, noted sociologist Robert Merton published an influential book in which he examined the connection between Puritanism and the rise of science in 17th-century England. We might say that Christianity sacralizes—makes sacred—the intellectual life. It gives the questions we struggle with in our work and in our lives a larger significance.

Keywords: United States; higher education; religion; faith; critical thought; Christian orthodoxy; Christianity; Robert Merton; Puritanism; intellectual life

Chapter.  4479 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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