28 September 2008

Theological left? Theological right?

Yet another blogger has written about the "theological left" without explaining what it means. Bruce Alderman at it seems to me...: agenda-driven or christ-driven? quotes McIlWeb: Christology, Not Just Sex:
That said, in all honesty, it is my opinion that in recent years it has more often than not been the theological Left which has forgotten these truths. Many on the theological Left (not all) seem to be more agenda-driven than mission-driven, doctrine-driven, Scripture-driven, or Christ-driven. I believe the reason for this has to do with a failure to craft a Christology which is faithful to the authoritative truth of revealed Scripture and the Great Tradition of the Church, favoring other models with foundations that are less sure.

This time round I tried looking up "theological left" on Google, and the first page of hits told me that if I subscribed to their site they would tell me what it was about. I didn't bother to read further. I just wish that those who use such terms would say what they mean by them. As I said when A conservative blog for peace first drew my attention to the , which it claimed was able to measure where people are on a left right theological spectrum, it doesn't tell you which end of the spectrum is which. Which side of the petrol gauge points to "full" or "empty"? Is it left, right, or the excluded middle?

Any suggestions for determining where hamburgers fall on a left-right spectrum?

How about:

1) Does the hamburger have cheese in it?

2) Does it have a gherkin?

3) Does it have raw or cooked onions?

Once you have answered those questions, you will know by this infallible test whether the hamburger is on the culinary left or the culinary right. This I know because the Tmatt-trio tells me so.


Crushed said...

Are you familar with liberation theology?

I think that's definably theological left.

Steve Hayes said...


I know of liberation theology, and have even written some. There are quite a lot of varieties of liberation theology, so it's hard top generalise, but most have to do with advocating politically left solutions to problems in the world.

At a very rough guess I would tend to assume that "theological left" referred to people like the Anabaptists, but I somehow don't think that people who use the term have that in mind, and they never say what they do have in mind.

Sue said...

I tried Googling the phrase, and this post came up as the second entry!

I saw Tim online and asked him, since he's currently studying theology. He said he thinks that theologically left is Americanese for theologically liberal, and theologically right is thus theologically conservative. But of course the usage gets muddled, since the political terms in the USA don't mean the same as they do elsewhere... but in essence 'theologically right' seems to mean traditional, in whatever tradition one comes from, and 'theologically left' is more to do with questioning the status quo. I'm sure the whole emerging church movement around the world would be considered theologically left, but then so might some charismatic Catholics who sing modern choruses.

And I'm pretty sure Jesus was theologically left ;)

Theresa Coleman said...

Theological left!
Theological right!
Theological nerds!
Go Fight! Fight! Fight!

(couldn't resist)

Steve Hayes said...


I suppose if one takes the left as implying popular sovereignty, the theological left would be Independent, Congregationalist, Anabaptist, Quaker, while the theological right would be Tridentine Roman Catholic, up to, but not including, Vatican II. The Orthodox wouldn't feature, as they'd be off the scale -- at both ends!

Reverend Mommy,

Your comment moved me to look up Tweedledum and Tweedledee, but they both seemed to have their name on the left of their collars, which probably puts them on the thological left.

Daniel Clark said...

Very often "theological left" is used not in a political sense but merely in a theological sense among protestant evangelicals.

The term was popularised ( I do not know if he coined it) by Millard Erickson, who basically used it as a shorthand for those theologians (e.g. Stanley Grenz) whom he did not like because they were not orthodox (not using orthodox in the sense that you would Steve!) enough for him, but who he couldn't call "liberal" because they rejected many of the basic presuppositions of liberalism

Anonymous said...


BruceA said...

My guess is that theological left refers to those who advocate politically liberal positions but justify them with theological language — analogous to religious right. I could be wrong; I've never seen or heard anyone state it explicitly.


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