In his book Adventures of Ideas, Alfred North Whitehead criticizes “liberal clergy and laymen” of the 18th and 19th centuries for rejecting systematic theology. The problem with the old theology wasn’t its intellectual or systematic character, Whitehead says, but its insistence on “dogmatic finality.” Metaphysics–or systematic, rational thought about the universe rooted in our deepest intuitions–is necessary to keep religion from veering off into emotionalism and superstition.
The task of Theology is to show how the World is founded on something beyond mere transient fact, and how it issues in something beyond the perishing of occasions. The temporal World is the stage of finite accomplishment. We ask of Theology to express that element in perishing lives which is undying by reason of its expression of perfections proper to our finite natures. In this way we shall understand how life includes a mode of satisfaction deeper than joy or sorrow. (p. 221)