Not left and right: a matrix

28 Mar

One joke, made a few times during the panel discussion of January’s Preserving the Truth conference, had to do with the seating arrangement of the speakers on the platform. As I recall, Dave Doran noted that Mark Minnick was the far left extreme, and that Doran himself was to the right of Minnick. Off mic, Kevin Bauder and I took comfort in our position at the far right side of the platform. At least, it was the speakers’ right; from the audience’s perspective, we represented the left-most extreme.


It did occur to me at the time (although I didn’t add this to the discussion) that it would have been an interesting exercise to take a laundry list of issues, and for each of them, have the speakers get up and rearrange themselves from right to left. So, for instance, on the music question, Kevin, Scott Aniol, and I were suitably placed to the far right. But on translations, Kevin and I would likely not be seated so close to one another. And on willingness to share a platform with Dever, we could rearrange again. And then on Calvinism. And then on views of sanctification. And so on.

The simple point of this is that any attempt to sort out issues of separatism using a linear scale will not work; if we wanted to graph it, we’d have to do some kind of multidimensional matrix. I’m not enough of a math/graphics guy to pursue this, but we certainly can’t just put everybody as points along one line, and put brackets around certain of the points. We can’t even do a two-dimensional grid, or graph points in three-dimensional space, etc.; there are simply too many variables.


Posted by on March 28, 2011 in Fundamentalism


2 responses to “Not left and right: a matrix

  1. Scott Cline

    March 28, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Agreed! I’ve thought as much many times.

    We tend to lump issues, but broader exposure quickly dismantles such assumptions.
    Homeschooling and courtship, for instance, are popularly associated with KJVOnlyism and a kind of musical strictness (I won’t call it true conservatism); but, in reality, the most influential (and thoughtful) homeschooling and courtship movements are among those far to the left on things like music.
    Or again, cultural and aesthetic conservatism is popularly (and often really) associated with extremely high standards for ecclesial cooperation; but, there are some very thoughtful cultural and aesthetic conservatives with relatively lower expectations for ecclesial cooperation.

    As you say, there is no practical way to chart it all: we are talking about different charts.

    Arguments for why this or that thing ought (or ought not) to correlate with this or that other thing would be very interesting!

  2. Don Johnson

    March 28, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    Interesting thoughts, Mike, but I would suggest that Fundamentalist separatism is concerned with a smaller matrix of issues than one might expect. Typically, we have not made issues of soteriological systems a matter of separation, for example. One could, but then one would be out-separating the Fundamentalist. The same would be true of the guy who separates over every issue … they are beyond Fundamentalism. One of my on-line friends would qualify for this label, and would eschew Fundamentalism because of it. I think you probably know who I mean.

    Also, when it comes to the cultural issues, I don’t think it has been the cultural spectrum that has made Fundamentalist separatism operative, rather it is the worldliness/godliness spectrum. (Admittedly not a perfectly defined spectrum.) But it is the association of cultural expressions with worldliness (‘I know worldliness when I see it’) that brings the Fundamentalist to consider separation. If we are just talking high culture vs. low culture, Fundamentalism hasn’t typically made that a major concern of separatism.


    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

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