Is Progressive Theology Elitist?

Kevin Daugherty raises important questions for progressive Christians in “Is Progressive Theology Elitist?” Here is my initial response.

Yes, your worries are warranted. I have heard the argument before that the only path to God is through intellectualism. It was called seminary. Though I do not intend to give up my brain and my ability to reason through things, I am equally (more?) committed to the experience of God that is inexplicable.

In my previous career as an educator, intellectualism manifest in focusing on academics with children to the exclusion of their emotions, social skills, and physicality. The absurdity of this approach is that hungry children or sad children do not focus well on academics.

But God creates us as whole human beings with brains, bodies, emotions, and spirituality. The intellectualism thatunderpins much of progressive Christianity reflects a disdain for the Holy Spirit and the mystery. This approach is as neglectful of the whole Imago Dei as what you term “anti-intellectual” faith. We need to embrace our whole humanity: physical, cognitive, social-emotional, and spiritual. Too much of progressive and mainline Christianity has spent generations seeking to reason to God. In the process we have — as you imply — separated ourselves from the “least of these.”

Though some of my more conservative Christian kindred frustrate me at times, I know that I need them. We are one body. I also know that arguably Jesus and certainly Paul were more concerned about love and pragmatics than systematic theology. To the extent that our theology separates us from anyone, I tend to think it has failed.

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