“Specialization [within academic disciplines] enhances concentration and control. It makes possible sustained, intense effort on closely defined tasks. But it also often separates us from just those people to whom we ought to be listening and who might need to listen to us. On the other side of the great divide–in popular culture–we have seen developments that also inhibited the free interchange between professional scholarship and lives of Christian laypeople. First, that radical individualism and subjectivism that has been characteristic of the modern, western world, whose influence on the academic ways of knowing we’ve already talked about in earlier lectures. That individualism and subjectivism have also been deeply embedded in the popular ethos perhaps in North America more than anywhere else on earth. So, as the evangelical scholar James Callahan has pointed out, in the 19th century America, the doctrine of perspicuity–the transparence of Scripture–became a democratized affirmation of religious equality. It was a matter of democratic ideals that anybody’s reading of the Bible was as good as anybody else’s. The Bible thus became ‘the people’s book.’ And with that came that suspicion of the expert, which might have been a healthy antidote to that professionalization and compartmentalization I just mentioned, but in practice, leads rather to something close to anarchy in popular interpretation.”
From 29:41 – 31: 09 of Lecture 4 discussed in my last post.
My own experience in the field resonates with exactly what Meeks is describing here.