I had an interesting experience this morning that I would like to share with you. It came from the conjunction of two online articles I read back-to-back, and I believe it serves as a great illustration of the different approaches of conservatives and liberals.
Before I share the illustration, I want to attempt to shed a little baggage. I know that I cannot use the words "conservative" and "liberal" without conveying a certain amount of implied moral criticism. But that is not my purpose in this post. My purpose is not primarily to evaluate but to classify. Accurate classification is helpful for proper evaluation.
As I skimmed quickly through my blog reader, I first read this post "Differences and Universals in Music across Cultures" by Scott Aniol. Next, I read this post, "Fomenting a Missional Revolution" by Steve Davis. The first is an example of arguing like a conservative and the second exemplifies arguing like a liberal.
Please note what I am not saying. I am not claiming that Scott is a conservative and that Steve is a liberal. I am not claiming that Scott is right in his arguments and that Steve is wrong in his arguments. One can argue like a conservative and be wrong, or one can argue like a liberal and be correct, in any given argument. Discerning this would require a further evaluation which I do not intend to do right now. My observation has solely to do with the way they went about arguing for their positions.
In a conservative mindset, transcendent order is always present, even if unseen. The conservative mindset thinks that "change may not be salutary reform: hasty innovation may be a devouring conflagration, rather than a torch of progress. Society must alter, for prudent change is the means of social preservation; but a statesman must take Providence into his calculations, and a statesman's chief virtue...is prudence" (Russell Kirk). Conforming to the transcendent order is the path of wisdom. In a liberal mindset, freedom is the fundamental good and the ultimate norm, with freedom being the option or ability to do as one wishes. Thus, tradition is not seen as a source of wisdom but as an impediment to progress. The change that must take place for the better is self-evident by simply looking at the imminent order. The liberal mindset assumes that man has the ability to get better by altering his education or environment and that it is (usually irrational) attachments to the past which inhibit men from making the obvious choices for improvement needed today.
If you have a moment, read the articles I referenced and tell me what you think. These articles seem to me to be clear examples of opposing ways of thinking and arguing - the former conservative, the latter liberal.
Who is right? That's an argument for another day, but I think we ought at least to be clear on how these men are arguing their positions.