Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Beyond Liberal and Conservative

I am officially a senior. I have one more year as an undergraduate and I will hopefully be on my way to graduate studies. I came into this school 3 years ago pretty uneducated about the Bible (perhaps as much as a typical zealous sunday school attender) . However, something that has really changed is the way I look at things. I've stopped placing theologians and Biblical historians into categories of "good and evil" and "safe to read/keep up the guard". My goal from the get-go has been to teach at a state school in order to help revive Evangelical scholarship in the main square. Now, I'm more about the truth. Not that the two are mutually exclusive (although some might argue that), but my mind's allegiance isn't with's with Truth.

One of my main pet-peeves is when I hear people try to distinguish theologians as either "liberal" or "conservative". For one, those terms are extremely relative. I'm sure to some Bob Jones graduates, I'm the most liberal thing they've ever seen. To some Harvard Div graduates, I may be some crazy fundamentalist Bible thumper. I think ideas need to assessed without placing neat labels on them from the get-go. Read Bultmann without thinking, "Uh oh, this guy's a dirty liberal." Read Maurice Robinson's case for Byzantine priority without thinking, "Geez, crazy conservative." I'm not against all labels (that would be ridiculous). But labels such as "conservative" and "liberal" are too broad and too relative to do any kind of good.


Mike said...

Josh, I love you for writing this post.

Alan Knox said...


Great post! It's easy to dismiss someone and their arguments based on a label. If we don't label someone, then we have to actually deal with their arguments. It took me much longer to learn this lesson. I'm excited that you've already learned it.


Brandon W. said...

I agree with you, but sometimes you just have to label someone as a crazy fundamentalist b/c that's what they are, although most people you'll read are interested in progressing the scholarly discussion, and no matter what side they are on, their thoughts are relevant and worth considering.

Josh McManaway said...

But that's what I mean, "a crazy fundamentalist" to you might be something entirely different to me. And, really, we misuse the word "fundamentalist". It should mean someone who adheres to the fundamentals of an idea, but we really use it to describe behavior. At any rate, there are some "fundamentalist" authors who may still be worth reading.

Anonymous said...

Josh, I apologize for linking to this post so many times.

You just wrote it so well.

Instead of liberal and conservative, how about "critical" and "uncritical." Those words say something about a scholars content not their theology.