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Come again? Left, right, or the excluded middle?

18 July 2007

A conservative blog for peace has just drawn my attention to the “tmatt trio”, which, as the author of the trio tells us, are as follows:

All together now — if you want to know where people who say that they are Christian believers fall on a left-to-right theological spectrum, just ask these questions:

(1) Are the biblical accounts of the resurrection of Jesus accurate? Did this event really happen?

(2) Is salvation found through Jesus Christ, alone? Was Jesus being literal when he said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6)?

(3) Is sex outside of the Sacrament of Marriage a sin?

I’ve generally respected Terry Mattingly as a fairly sensible religious columnist who has had some good things to say, but that little lot seems to have taken leave of all reason and logic.

For a start each question has at least four possible answers — Yes, No, Maybe and Don’t know.

The author of the “tmatt trio” fails to tell us which answers correspond to the left or right of the theological spectrum.

But assuming that Yes is Left and No is Right (or vice versa), that puts Maybe/Don’t know somewhere near the centre of the left-right spectrum.

And that implies that Agnosticism is at the centre, the very core of the Christian faith.

Is this hamburger left wing or right wing?

Is this hamburger left wing or right wing?

Anyone for a circumference-centred theology?

It seems to me that Americans have become so obsessed with terms like “left” and “right”, “liberal” and “conservative” and try to apply them to every conceivable (and inconceivable) thing that they have lost all ability to think.

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?

8 Comments leave one →
  1. 20 July 2007 7:23 am

    It’s ironic and sad, our obsession with conservative vs liberal labels, when you consider that it’s mostly just bickering over what slightly different social/economic vision is going to be imposed by the ruling Party upon everyone else, by an ever-increasingly powerful State.

    Also, a bit off the main topic, but I could not be at all satisfied with a one or two word reply to question no. 2- well, and no. 3 also- both would require some qualifications. Though for no. 1 I suppose a simple ‘yes’ would work for me.

  2. 20 July 2007 10:00 am


    I think I would answer with a qualified “Yes” to all three. Even the first needs some qualification, as the resurrection is not described in scripture, and even the ikon of the resurrection actually shows the descent into Hell.

    But I do agree with the hymn:

    Hell became afraid, O Almighty Saviour
    seeing the miracle of Thy resurrection from the tomb!
    The dead arose, creation with Adam beheld this and rejoiced with Thee!
    And the world, O my Saviour, praises Thee for ever.

    … even though none of it is explicitly described in scripture.

    And I’d say “Yes” to the third because I think one needs to confess even thinking about it!

    If this is a litmus test, however, and my answers would more or less be “Yes” to all three questions, and I’m a certified member of the Religious Left, I take it that a “No” answer to all three would characterise the “right”, though Mattingly doesn’t make that clear. And that still leaves the problem of the “don’t knows” and “maybes” being at the centre of the thing.

    I really think that terms like “left” and “right” are meaningless in this context, and the use of them is a sign of an unhealthy obsession with trying to politicise everything.

  3. 22 April 2010 5:47 pm

    The problem I’ve always had with #2 is that everyone assumes they know what Christ is talking about when He says “No one comes to the Father except by me.” It could be perfectly reasonable to assume He’s speaking to ontological truth (not propositional). In other words, the Incarnation makes approaching the Father possible. Not, “if you”re not a conscious follower of me you’re damned.” Perhaps a Buddhist still comes to the Father by Christ, even though he has no intellectual awareness of it. Certainly the month old child we baptize approaches the Father in Christ without such knowledge.

  4. 4 September 2016 10:17 am

    Well, #2 is poor question anyway. How do you take Jesus literally on “life”? And how do you make Jesus literally the “road” (for that’s what the Greek says)?
    No, greater than the absurdity of taking that passage literally, we see that Jesus is being metaphorical. Then we see the power of Jesus as the truth, the road, and the life.
    Painful set of questions. I am for centrist cheeseburgers.


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