This bit from Aaron Armstrong’s review of my new book is worth considering more:

After reading this book, one thing is abundantly clear: Anderson is a uniter. He finally brings “progressives” and “conservatives” together—but it’s not to hold hands and sing “Kumbuyah.” Instead, he recognizes that both are guilty of the same thing: simplistically approaching questions.

This is an astute observation , one that I really appreciate.  I make no secret of my generally conservative outlook on the world.  If anything, “mere orthodoxy” is itself an effort to make such an outlook more plausible and attractive.

Yet more often than not, the conservative stance toward “dialogue” and “questioning” has been one of skepticism, if not downright hostility.  There’s some good reason for that:  even though they have made much of “questioning,” theological progressives haven’t been any better at it.  Take maybe the most significant manifestation of the mode in recent years, Rob Bell’s Love Wins:  as a book, it seems only interested in lobbing questions out there without sticking around for any answers.  You know, kind of like this guy.  (That’s not a compliment.)

But the way to get people to avoid questioning badly is to point toward a more excellent way of doing it.  Conservatives have generally been eager to provide lengthy answers to the questions progressives have been asking, but didactics and exposition are not inquiry–and on that score, conservatives I think can be said to be found wanting.


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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.


  1. “Conservatives have generally been eager to provide lengthy answers to the questions progressives have been asking.” I’m not sure I agree with this. I think conservatives have been eager to answer questions that they think progressives ought to be asking instead of the questions that progressives are asking.


    1. Gary, do you have a particular example in mind?


      1. No, not really, but what I had in mind was Haidt’s research on the different modes of moral reasoning between liberals and conservatives, e.g., what he discussed in his 2008 TED talk.


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