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The Accommodation of Protestant Christianity with the Enlightenment: An Old Drama Still Being Enacted

The Accommodation of Protestant Christianity with the Enlightenment: An Old Drama Still Being Enacted

Chapter:
(p.1) Chapter 1 The Accommodation of Protestant Christianity with the Enlightenment: An Old Drama Still Being Enacted
Source:
After Cloven Tongues of Fire
Author(s):
David A. Hollinger
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691158426.003.0001

This chapter discusses the engagement of Protestant Christianity with the Enlightenment in the United States—an engagement that most often took the form of “accommodation.” The bulk of the men and women in control of American institutions—educational, political, and social—have sought to retain the cultural capital of the Reformation while diversifying their investments in a variety of opportunities and challenges, many of which came to them under the sign of the Enlightenment. Two processes have driven the accommodation, growing increasingly interconnected over time. The first is “cognitive demystification,” or the critical assessment of truth claims in light of scientific knowledge. The second process, “demographic diversification,” involves intimate contact with people of different backgrounds who display contrasting opinions and assumptions and thereby stimulate doubt that the ways of one's own tribe are indeed authorized by divine authority and viable, if not imperative, for other tribes, too.

Keywords:   Protestantism, liberal Protestants, Protestant Christianity, Enlightenment, accommodation, Reformation, cognitive demystification, demographic diversification

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