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Christianity in the Twenty-First CenturyReflections on the Challenges Ahead$
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Robert Wuthnow

Print publication date: 1995

Print ISBN-13: 9780195096514

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195096514.001.0001

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Living the Question

Living the Question

(p.203) 15 Living the Question
Christianity in the Twenty-First Century

Robert Wuthnow

Oxford University Press

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

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