Liberal Protestants & Late Capitalism

The bone of greatest contention was not over science or the Bible but over the authority given over to secularized scientific disciplines.  While evangelicals had enthusiastically supported science and even pioneered in the release of scientific investigation from overt religious prescription — that is, in its secularization — liberals extended this quest to a point where evangelicals could not follow: the complete secularization and professionalization of the sciences and humanities.  Preaching what David Hollinger has dubbed an “intellectual gospel” that ascribed salvific significance to scientific labor and professional knowledge, liberals sanctioned a cognitive and social bifurcation of “ideals” and “facts” in which the former were assigned (with decreasing warrant) to theologians and ministers, while the latter became the bailiwick of the growing postbellum academic and professional intelligentsia.  Thus, in the still strongly religious universities that were the main stations of expert training at the beginning of the twentieth century, the secular vocations of the new professional-managerial class received their baptism at the font of liberal Protestantism.  Sanctifying the arrogation by accredited experts of technical skills and cultural authority possessed by artisans and ministers in the evangelical dispensation, the liberal Protestant covenant was a cornerstone in the corporate reconstruction of American capitalism. (10-11)

Eugene McCarraher | Christian Critics: Religion and the Impasse in Modern American Social Thought

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