Are the labels liberal and conservative helpful in biblical studies?

The editor of America magazine has banned the use of the labels liberal and conservative for theological reasons. In the comments section many complain that these labels do in fact describe the factions in contemporary Catholicism. Avoiding these terms won’t make the divisions go away (or so it is argued).

These comments miss the point. The words liberal and conservative are not neutral descriptors. When used by Americans they presuppose and reinforce the binaries of American politics. The point is not that it’s better to be moderate or irenic. The point is more fundamental: it turns out that the liberal/conservative binary is not helpful for describing everything under the sun!

I wonder if it would be a good idea to avoid using these labels in biblical studies as well. I remember Mark Goodacre pointing out in his PhD seminar on the Synoptic Gospels that Q-skepticism was not an inherently “liberal” or “conservative” position. For instance, if there is a literary relationship between Luke and Matthew it raises additional questions about the historicity of the birth narratives. And so on. Labeling scholarly hypotheses conservative or liberal clarifies nothing and runs the risk of obscuring the more important question of whether a good argument has been made.