Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Liberal/Conservative is VERY Relative

A few theological extremists (see discussion here and here) have laid down a few "key" indicators of what they think indicates that your seminary is liberal. They include:

1. Does your seminary train women for ministry?
2. What do they teach on creation?
3. Did Matthew or Mark write first?
4. Who wrote the Pentateuch?

Well these guys are obviously fundamentalists.  Billy Graham was a liberal to those types back in the day.  It's a reminder that what constitutes "liberal" or "conservative" all depends on who is talking. They're relative terms. A person is conservative if they resist change from whatever the "norm" is--which depends on what the starting point is. Bill O'Reilly is a flaming liberal next to the 1950s Strom Thurman.

Frankly, Jesus and Paul were flaming liberals in their day. Jesus was a liberal when you put him next to the Pharisees and Paul was liberal put next to Peter and the Jerusalem church. I'm a flaming conservative put next to J. D. Crossan and a liberal put next to these Baptists.

So the label in itself carries no substance whatsoever and is a tool of berating others without necessarily saying anything at all.  "Liberal" is either a merit badge or a denunciation depending on who's talking. I hope Adolph Hitler and the KKK think I'm a flamin' liberal.

As for his four points, if training women ministers makes my seminary liberal then I'm going to go with God's a liberal. My seminary has no official position on the other three.  I personally support Markan priority but would not force any student to adopt it.  I try to be evenhanded in my presentation of the Pentateuch issue because I know it is sensitive. And my university has no official position on how God created the world other than to affirm that God created the world.

The point of faith-filled education is not to indoctrinate but to bring faith into dialog with evidence and the flow of the discussion in humility. Education may not change your positions but hopefully frees you to take the positions you do with greater awareness of the evidence and options.

I mourn an American Christianity that talks a lot about truth but what it means by "truth" is a dogged refusal to change its thinking, no matter what it's thinking was to start with. That's not a commitment to truth. That's a commitment to ignorance.


Martin LaBar said...

"The point of faith-filled education is not to indoctrinate but to bring faith into dialog with evidence and the flow of the discussion in humility."

It's so easy to forget all, or part of that.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Christians tend to want to confirm what they have been taught and have believed for years. This is a traditionalist approach to truth and it depends on "confirmation bias". Truth is a presuppositionalist approach to evidence.

"Confirmation bias" isn't deterred or changed on evidence, or an open-ness to cultural adaptation and change, so much a particular belief system.

Fundamentalism was a movement against what was considered liberal in that day. Fundamentalism doesn't change, as that is the "evidence" of truth claims. It is tautological, not developmental.

And yet, humans do develop in their understanding and commitments. Fundamentalists would not approve of development, in the real sense.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

In a political sense, a liberal would want us to dissolve distinctions and boundaries that are appropriate to maintain our own viability (individually or nationally). These are laws that form a Nation, or appropriate respect from another's individuality. Individuals can commit to a collective, but are not a collective. "Humanity" is useful to sabatoge an individual's right to his own life, for the sake of "the good", as determined by a collective.
A conservative, on the other hand, would understand that laws are created to affirm the values a society holds. Ours affirms both life and liberty, as a matter of personal choice and right.