In the final weeks of a seminary class, the professor began to do something that drove me crazy. He had a lot of material to cover, and in order to save time on complex topics the professor began to just say, “The conservative position is …, OK.

The school that I was attending was on the conservative end of the spectrum on many theological positions, so his statement was code for “the right position.” It worked for most of the class. Most heads in the room nodded in agreement.

It did not work for me. I did not care that it was the “conservative” position. I wanted to know what was true.

I was not against having a “conservative” position (If so, I would have attended a different school!), nor was I interested in having a “liberal” position. I was not in school to signing off on the company line, or adopt the party platform, or buy all the products with a certain label.

My goal was to encounter what was real and good. While labels are quick and easy, they do to answer the deeper questions: What is true? What is real? What is good? A label just can not go there.

At best, a label simply tells you what tribe currently holds the position. However, labels often mean different things in different circles. For example, this same professor was considered “conservative” by some scholars, but he was under attack in other circles for being too “liberal.” Labels are often meaningless.

At others times, the labels are just plain wrong. I pastor friend recently told me that the more he understands the Bible and teaches what it says, the more he is labeled “unbiblical.”

I see labeling increasing in both church and culture. People place simple labels on complex ideas, people, or movements. We use a label to quickly embrace or reject something without doing the hard work thinking and discerning its real validity or value.

We simply nod or shake our head at the label, and we miss discovering what is true, what is real and what is good.