Thursday, 30 October 2008

Why am I "very conservative"?

N.T. Wrong has graced the world with an extensive list of biblioblogs (104 in all). In a fit of taxonomic fervor, as he puts it, he has categorized them according to the degree of their conservativeness of liberality.

I'd love to know what that means.

The dictionary definition of conservative is as follows: disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc. Liberal, on the other hand, means favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs.

In biblical studies the former tends to be associated with those who stick to a traditional understanding of their faith and hold that the Bible is largely historically accurate. The latter refers to those who wish to "update" the faith and who do not hold that the biblical narratives happened as presented. In other words, the categories reference both theological and historical assumptions.

What are N.T. Wrong's criteria? Theological or historical? What if you're agnostic but believe the Bible is largely literal anyway? Or what if you're a committed believer but have a low view of biblical historical accuracy? Why does Jim West get labelled as "fairly conservative"? Is it because of his historical views or his theological ones? And the same would apply to me: why am I "very conservative"? Not that I care about being labelled so - I have deep respect for many "very conservatives." But in most of my exegetical posts I follow Childs in taking a fairly standard critical line. In my theology, however, I'm progressively becoming more ancient. Does that make me liberal? I am progressing, though just not in the direction that those committed to the world view of Enlightenment thought would like.

But then, given the dictionary definition above, doesn't that make N.T. Wrong conservative?


Jim said...

yes phil we do agree! it's the apocalypse!!!!

Anonymous said...

We should just pronounce the words "liberal" and "conservative" as dead. They are no longer helpful (though, I'm not sure that they were ever that helpful).

I am increasingly called a conservative by self-proclaimed liberals and a liberal by self-proclaimed conservative.

The issues surrounding the texts, the faith, and theology are much more complex than the vocabulary of "liberal" and "conservative" give them credit for.

N T Wrong said...

My classifications are an act of Unrepentant and Regimented Conservatism. Are you jealous?

Phil Sumpter said...

I'm with you there Stephen.

N.T. Wrong,

am I jealous? That's like a bunch of girls asking a queer to play kiss and chase. I don't live in your world.

Anonymous said...

Categorization is always difficult, at least if we want to take all parameters into account.

I suppose categorization is dealt with in the Philosophy of Science.

I know it's difficult in my field of linguistics. Many of my colleagues (and myself) now feel it is better to categorize language phenomena on a variety of scales, rather than according to some binary classification which has often been done in our field.

Phil Sumpter said...

Thanks Wayne. I think this especially applies when we attempt to "figure out" our colleagues, as if reality and our perceptions of it can so easily be arranged along an (implicity evolutionary) scale of ignorant to elightened. One might be forgiven for thinking that it was bigoted.

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Phil Sumpter said...