Cliff Kvidahl blogged recently about an accusation of encroaching liberalism that he encountered.
What, you might ask, prompted the accusation? Something to do with the virginal conception? Failure to use the word inerrancy? Suggesting that everyone should get free healthcare?
It turns out it was none of the usual bugbears, but merely the affirmation of Markan priority.
If you are not familiar with the term, it refers to the scholarly conclusion – held by most conservative scholars and not just liberals – that the Gospel of Mark was the first of the canonical Gospels to be written.
The criticism of liberalism was badly misguided on any account. But when one looks at the arguments used for why Mark can't have been first, they either are good arguments for why Matthew's Gospel probably was not written by the apostle Matthew, or are the kind of apologetic moves that can justify any claim one wishes, or its opposite.
But what is more striking is how the accusation illustrates an important point that ultimately undermines the accusation:
The term liberal, like the term conservative, is a term of comparison. Everyone is more liberal than someone else and more conservative than someone else, by comparison. I've heard Wheaton College denounced as a hotbed of liberalism and as ultra-conservative – by critics further along the spectrum in either direction.
Now, terms like liberal and conservative can have a certain usefulness. But by applying them in a ridiculous manner, the words become so cheapened that they not only become vague, but meaningless.
What is the most ridiculous basis for an accusation of liberalism or conservatism that you've encountered?