“Who, we are obliged to ask, looks with respect any longer to the professional man of knowledge: whether scientist or scholar?”
Twilight of Authority — pg. 110
Nisbet goes on to explain why this is so. This is so because the putative “wise men” for so many generations have disappointed and let us down. People have gotten wise to the con that the professional men of knowledge pulled for so long. For a couple generations, now these men have been all hat and no cattle.
In my environs, I see this most commonly among the clergy. The clergy was once accepted as the professional men of knowledge par excellent. This is rightfully no longer the case among and for those who are not simpletons or groupies.
The clergy has shown themselves too often to be vacuous hacks whose expertise is more akin to the kind of expertise one finds in those who have made a career of building McDonald and other fast food franchises.
Clergy as “Professional men of knowledge?” That is almost as incongruent and ridiculous as the idea of Psychologists as being “Healthcare providers for the mind,” or “Friends of the Court” as being “Friends of the family.”
And so, we must each, on our own, go to the well of knowledge, and labor to be our own “Professional men of knowledge,” because it is unlikely (though not impossible) that we are going to find Professional men of knowledge in this culture. We must become a culture of autodidacts, eschewing the popular outlets of knowledge such as University, and Pulpit.
Now, don’t mistake this commentary as the kind of anti-intellectualism found among what was known as the Fundamentalist movement that arose in response to the Liberalism of the early 20th century. If anything this is a plea for a return to a Biblically centered and grounded intellectualism. Everywhere we turn it seems as if Nisbet’s professional man of knowledge has been educated into imbecility. We are asked to believe the most outlandish contradictions and to embrace the most preposterous suppositions. In the Reformed Church alone we are presented with just ridiculous systems to believe in such as the New Perspective on Paul, Radical Two Kingdom “Theology,” “Reformed Catholicism,” “Federal Visionism,” and “Liberation ‘Theology,'” not to mention the usual Pietism that has infected the Reformed Church for so long.
The Professional man of knowledge, may well still exist, just as the Bornean orangutan or the Black-footed ferret exists but all and each is nigh unto extinction. If you find a live professional man of knowledge still in his original habitat make sure you do all you can to protect him from predators. If you can’t find one, it is to the library you must go for only there does the professional man of knowledge still exist.