Official Blog of the Bishop of Durham

On Conservative and Liberal Biblioblogs

Posted by NT Wrong on October 30, 2008

Dang, but my assignment of all bibliobloggers into five categories along the conservative-liberal spectrum has caused some discussion. A few have mildly objected to their labelling (which goes to show that we bibliobloggers are a critical lot), while, for some others, the reaction has been more one of amusement. Hopefully the list, which has reached 110 [129] bibliobloggers [and counting…], will also be useful to many of you in locating blogs you are interested in. I read many of the discussions concerning the list, and was open to changing the classifications whenever anybody particularly objected or offered half a reason for doing so. I admit that some of my classifications were off the mark, so if you want me to make further changes, I probably won’t object.

I should clarify what I meant by the five categories. I’ll do so with respect to biblical inspiration, doctrine, and typical reading material.

    1. Very conservative: You probably hold to the doctrine of inerrancy, or some version close to it. You can name a number of heresies offhand. And you have DA Carson, FF Bruce, or an Apollos Commentary in your bookshelf.
    2. Fairly conservative: The Bible is ‘The Word of God’ in some sense. You have spent time wondering whether ’emergent’ or ’emerging’ better describes yourself. You have an NT Wright or James Dunn book in your bookshelf.
    3. Conservative liberal: You really like the Jesus Seminar, and believe that what Jesus was really on about was people loving each other rather than condemning people. You have books by Marcus Borg and John Spong on your bookshelf.
    4. Liberal: You esteem the Bible for the work it is. You spend a lot of time working out ways to read the Bible which can liberate it for different readers. You have a book on queer readings of the Bible on your bookshelf.
    5. Very Liberal: You approach biblical books like any other books, taking the good stuff with the bad shit. You often stop and wonder why you bother with a field riddled with so many apologists. You have Foucault, Said, and Philip Pullman on your bookshelf.

Yeah, yeah – labels are bad, inadequate, and obfuscatory, too. But you know that a part of you was reaching out to the Father and saying, yeah daddy, give me some comfort in all this chaos! And don’t give me that ‘I’m an individual’ BS. You are what you are mostly because of society’s pre-existing labels.

… incidentally, the reason I compiled what John Lyons labelled “an inspired burst of pedantic and nerdish endeavour” will be revealed on Nov 1. Keep watching this Bat Channel.

40 Responses to “On Conservative and Liberal Biblioblogs”

  1. john shuck said

    I for one am quite pleased to have this. As a fan of bibliobloggers, a resource to figure out the players and their interests is helpful as I engage in my stalking.

  2. ntwrong said

    Thank you, John.

  3. Mike said

    shoot, I have books from all five of those categories on my shelf…

    Forget Nov 1st. The past 24 hours have been incredibly entertaining for me seeing everyone’s reactions.

  4. Jay said

    For the record, by your definitions, I’d say I fall more into the “conservative liberal” conception . . . but who’s labeling? 🙂

  5. ntwrong said

    Oh… okay, I’ll change you, just because I’m a soft touch. But don’t you go getting any more liberal and woolly on me, because I’m not going to change you again.

  6. Ah, I did wonder! But I would definetly be in the fairly conservative mould, not very conservative. It was a bold step trying to categorise like that!

  7. John Lyons said

    I really feel you should quote me in full, lest someone actually think I was criticising you when I used the label (okay, got me!) “pedantic and nerdish endeavour”.

    “In an inspired burst of pedantic and nerdish endeavour”

    Besides, as an academic, “pedantic and nerdish” is what I usually try to do best and am supposed to admire most in my colleagues.

    Damn, I’m sad sometimes 🙂

  8. John Lyons said

    In response to Mike, perhaps you should have been clearer about the books on the shelf bit and said, e.g. if you have a book on queer readings on your shelf (and didn’t buy it just to enhance your lifetime’s work as an apologist) you are a liberal.

    Just a thought.

    It is one of the great injustices of my (horribly sheltered) life that I have spent most money on books I have bought to trash – sorry, to critically interact with in a negative fashion. When I retire, I am going to burn every one of them and only read nice things from that point onwards!

    Damn, I am sad most of the time 🙂

  9. ntwrong said

    Chris – Yeah, can’t think why I put you in ‘very conservative’ at all. It’s wrong even at first glance.

  10. ntwrong said

    John – relax, it’s the internet. If anybody labelled you as criticising, it would just reflect their own limitations.

    As for me, when I read it I laughed out loud.

    …ok, I changed the words (because meaning doesn’t just depend on the reader).

  11. I consider myself a living refutation of the usefulness of such categories. But I’m happy with my label, if not its definition.

  12. Your Grace, Right Reverend Bishop Wrong! Thanks for this post, which helps me understand your outrageously binary classification system much better. I can certainly see, based on this, why I am classified as “very conservative” — not that this comes as any surprise to me, since I’ve long relished being, at once, both a theological “conservative” and a radical political leftist.

    Mike, as I understand His Grace, the relation of the authors mentioned with the respective classifications has more to do with the level of sympathy to them than with simple possession of their works. It is known, for instance, that I own works by Marcus Borg, but then I think that this miserable man should never have been born.

    It might stomp John a little, however, to learn that my interest in queer theory and criticism is very genuine, and that I have even done (of my own will!) graduate research on the subject; whereas, at the same time, I’m admittedly a “very conservative” biblioblogger. Also, works by both Foucault and Said line my bookshelves (or, more accurately at the moment, are placed in dignified piles all over my apartment) and I hold them in the greatest estimation — in fact, when Said died in 2003, I read a paper on Orientalism at a memorial symposium at my university. (Also, I read a paper on Derrida’s kairology at a similar symposium in 2004, after Derrida’s death.)

  13. Peter M. Head said

    I’m more worried that you classified us (ETC) as ‘General’ rather than ‘specialised’!

  14. Well, you got me right!

  15. With those in mind, I’m definitely none of the above! 🙂


  16. Hmmm… Fascinating categories. Let’s see… I have Crossan, Wright, Borg, LT Johnson, Dunn, Von Rad, Brueggeman, Martyn, and Byrne on my shelves. Guess I am with Chris. You should have a #6 for “Hot Mess”. Jim West would agree that’s where I belong I am sure 😉

  17. levi said

    i’m sad that i don’t qualify for the list. i was just having a discussing with my wife on whether people see me as conservative or liberal. 😦

  18. I think you got my bookshelf quite right, but I also think perhaps those in your “very liberal” category might perfer the label “postmodern” (or, more likely, may regard all labelling as an attempt by a phallocentric approach to scholarship to control and manipulate).

  19. jimgetz said

    OK, I’m definitely a Liberal.

  20. Hmm. I do have lots of Carson and Bruce on my shelves, but also much of Wright. And I do have some Dunn MP3. On the other hand, no Apollos volumes.

    Obviously I’m confused. Is there a category for that yet?

  21. James C said

    Excellent stuff Wrong. I’d like to endorse what you say by emphasising that I am NOT an individual.

  22. John Lyons said

    I’d like to endorse what James C says by emphasising that I also am NOT an individual.

  23. Doug said

    And, as I’ve said elsewhere, I’m fucking proud to be fairly conservative. Oops, did I use a liberal swearword?

  24. sean said

    I think I’m “Fairly Conservative” rather than “Very”. I sold all my Carson commentaries, and I’m definitely within the “emergent” conversation. Tom Wright is my hero…


  25. ntwrong said

    Sean – you are just sooooooooo ‘Fairly Conservative’. What was I thinking?

  26. Mike said

    “In response to Mike, perhaps you should have been clearer about the books on the shelf bit and said, e.g. if you have a book on queer readings on your shelf (and didn’t buy it just to enhance your lifetime’s work as an apologist) you are a liberal.”

    Just so you know, John, you will find very little apologetic work on my blog. I’m a linguist not a theologian. And I could care less about apologetics. My interests are morphology and syntax and semantics and pragmatics, not proving the Bible’s historicity or unhistoricity

  27. steph said

    It is now well into the afternoon of November 1st here and I’m waiting … 🙂

    And Doug Chaplin is definitely liberal. Otherwise you’ve been too lenient on the conservatives by making them less conservative. 🙂

  28. I’m very conservative. None of this namby pamby in-between stuff.

    Thank you for the list and all the work that obviously went into it.

  29. I was more interested in the rationale behind the subject categories. I do cover Early Judaica, particularly lately, but probably most of my coverage is of Orthodox/Patristic-related subjects.

    The liberal-conservative spectrum is interesting. I suppose it’s helpful in some circles. It’ll be interesting to see what you’re cooking up!

  30. I should add that the bloggers of Better Bibles Blog also cannot be lumped together on your criterion of inerrancy. Not all of the BBB bloggers are inerrantists, and those who might say that they are may not be so in the sense that you would imagine “very conservative” people would.

  31. roland said

    Dear Bishop, I am utterly incensed! I don’t want to hang out with snivelling liberals. Will you hear my confession?

  32. If anyone is interested in understanding the limitations of these categories, I recommend checking out Paul Minear’s profound work on the Bible and the historian.

  33. John Lyons said

    “Just so you know, John, you will find very little apologetic work on my blog. I’m a linguist not a theologian. And I could care less about apologetics. My interests are morphology and syntax and semantics and pragmatics, not proving the Bible’s historicity or unhistoricity.”

    Good point, Mike, though I now wonder why NT thought you Very conservative. Perhaps NT should move more towards advocacy of a book’s contents rather than mere possession being the important thing. Of course, these definitions are hardly secure, whatever qualifications we put on them.

    One thing, though, I am liberal and so is my institution because quite frankly neither of us care if these labels are attached or not. I take Pat McCulloch’s concerns seriously because I know people who have lost jobs because of labels. But for me, this is just good clean fun. Mostly 🙂

  34. ntwrong said

    Roland – ‘snivelling liberals’ is Category 3 (‘Conservative Liberal’).

    ‘Very Liberals’, by contrast, are regularly found to be utterly post-humanist in a very non-liberal fashion.

    ok, ok … on reflection, there may be limitations in the binary range of classifications.

  35. ntwrong said

    Phil Sumpter – Only a ‘Fairly Conservative’ person would make such an objection.

  36. Mike said

    I think I’m “very conservative” in NT’s categories because I’ve written on hermeneutics, philosophy of language, and interpretation a generally present a conservative view of scripture following a authorial intent hermeneutic (reasoning behind that follows Knapp and Michael’s “Against Theory,” not to mention most linguistic theorists as well). And with that said, I think Foucault’s work on French prisons is absolutely brilliant.

    He also might have noticed on my “about” page that I said I went to Moody Bible Institute for my undergrad (but then what does that even mean when so did Bart Ehrman?).

    His assumptions are reasonable, whether they’re accurate or not today, I don’t know. I definitely prefer what Mike Heiser has written to the Chicago Statement.

  37. ntwrong said

    Mike – yeah, I noticed the hermeneutics. My initial approach was to simply read the first (most recent) three pages of posts on a blog, taking note of links and the things down the side. When I’ve revisited the classification, it’s usually been over the very/fairly conservative divide, so I’ve first searched for topics on inerrancy, inspiration, bible interp, etc. I tend to think that those who make a point of saying they don’t follow the Chicago Statement on inerrancy usually follow something akin to it. But, if ‘very conservative’ doesn’t sit well with you, let me know.

    BTW – I quite agree with Knapp and Michaels’ basic distinction between the ontological status of the text and the epistemological project of establishing it.

  38. roland said

    Dear Bishop, after a good night’s sleep and your generous clarification, I am happy to be with the the very liberals. First drinks are on me.

  39. Mike said

    NT: Nah – You’ve put enough effort into this already. Go buy yourself a beer instead (unless Roland is nearby enough to do it for you).

  40. ntwrong said

    Thanks, Mike, I appreciate it.

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