The 10 Commandments of Progressive Christianity #5: Are Questions More Important than Answers?

“Inviting questions is more valuable than supplying answers,” captures the ethos of modern liberalism. Position yourself as humble and inquisitive, merely on a journey of discovery.

Progressives are quick to condemn all sorts of behavior they see in the world around them, while insisting Bible-believing Christians are wrong when they do so. So in the debate over same-sex marriage, for example, notice that we hear very few progressives say things like, “Well, we just don’t know the answer here. We can’t be certain about what to think about it.” No, instead we get absolutism. We get certainty.  We get dogmatism. Thus, one gets the impression that the real issue is not really certainty at all.  It is what one is certain about.  Progressives have simply swapped one set of certain beliefs for another.


I continue to work my way through a series entitled “The 10 Commandments of Progressive Christianity.”  It’s an examination of 10 core tenets of progressive (or liberal) Christianity offered by Richard Rohr, but really based on the book by Philip Gulley.

Now we come to the fifth commandment and it is a genuine classic: “Inviting questions is more valuable than supplying answers.”

There is perhaps no commandment in the series that better captures the ethos of modern liberalism.  Position yourself as humble and inquisitive, merely on a journey of discovery. And position the other side as less-than-humble dispensers of dogma.  Brilliant.

Indeed, this is Gulley’s complaint about the church.  He argues the church has been “committed to propaganda” and “towing the party line” instead of the “vigorous exploration of the truth” (93).

Ok, so what shall we make of this fifth “commandment”? A few thoughts.

A Caricature of Christianity

We begin by noting (as we have in other installments), that there is an element of truth here. No doubt there are some, even many, who come from a more fundamentalist background where a quick (and rather unsatisfying) answer to questions was always in ready supply, but any serious intellectual engagement with those questions was frowned upon.

In such contexts, questions were not encouraged.  You were merely to accept the answer you were given.  No discussion allowed.

If the commandment above is designed merely to correct this particular version of Christianity, then point taken.  Such a correction is needed.

But, it would be a caricature to portray Christians (or Christianity) as a whole as anti-intellectual propaganda-dispensers.  Indeed, most Christians have pressed very hard on the Bible and asked it the toughest of questions–intellectual, historical, and personal.

And they have found that it has provided solid and compelling answers.  Why should this be the cause for ridicule?

Which Position is Intellectually Irresponsible?

I suspect that part of the issue in play is that progressives think it is intellectually irresponsible to make the kind of truth claims that Christians have historically made.  It sounds arrogant.  Even cocksure.  How could anyone know such a thing?

The better course of action, they argue, is to say, “I don’t know.”

While this approach gives off an air of humility, there are problems with it.  For one, “I don’t know” is only the right answer if in fact that there is no epistemological basis by which a person could know something.

But, what if a person does, in fact, have a basis for knowing?  If he does, then saying “I don’t know” would actually be the irresponsible thing to do.

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