Why the Apostle Paul Punched Right


So in order to talk about what I really want to talk about here, I must first address where our terminology of “right” and “left” came from. In common parlance, the terms are generally descriptive and helpful, in that it does communicate truth to say that Joe Biden is to the left of Ted Cruz. That’s all good. But this metric is, at the end of the day, just a metaphor. And like all metaphors, it can be pressed too far. A metaphor has got to know its limitations. The Nazis are generally thought to be right wing, but they were socialists. Nationalist socialists, but still socialists.

The metaphor originally arose from the seating in the French legislature after their misbegotten Revolution. The fire-eaters sat on the left side of the chamber, and the more moderate representatives—men like Lafayette—sat on the right side of the chamber. Some were hot to go to the Abyss immediately, and others wanted to take it slow, but they were all revolutionaries. The reality of this structure has seeped into our American political scene, where the course is set out for us by the left, and the right resolves that their task is to make old Fidel, behind the wheel there, drive 35 mph, which he generally doesn’t want to do.

A genuine conservative, on the other hand, wants to go in another direction entirely. But if a different direction is ever seriously proposed, there is what experienced Beltway analysts like to call a “freak out.”

Because the revolutionaries want to drive us off a cliff, I do like it better when the red state right wingers are behind the wheel. This is because we are all careening toward a cliff, and so naturally I prefer 35 mph. Here in the back seat, we conservatives are thereby given a little more time to get the zip ties off our wrists.

But we should never forget that this explains why our right wingers acquiesce so readily—indeed, I think a better word might be promptly—when the left gets all of us to a particular milestone of theirs. Think women in combat—how long was it before Fox News began celebrating those brave men and women who serve “in harm’s way”? Think same-sex mirage—how hard was it for Daily Wire to hire Dave Rubin? Think fiscal probity—how difficult was it for Trump to persuade Republicans to start surfing the big ones? I refer of course to the Mavericks of red ink. Almost all of our political debates are about speed, when they really ought to be about direction.

That said, I do prefer 35. Do I support 35? Not a bit of it. But I do prefer it.

First Century Right Wingers

Now having acknowledged the limitations of a linear metric that simply runs from left to right, let’s go ahead and apply it to the cauldron that was first century Judean politics. The Sadducees were theological liberals, left wing, and in a cozy spot with Rome. The Pharisees were right wing, very conservative. Paul says that they were the strictest sect of his religion (Acts 26:5). The Herodians were collaborators, pragmatists all. The Zealots were political extremists, what we might call the far right. And Jesus called His followers from all over the spectrum, including Paul the Pharisee (Acts 23:6), Levi the tax collecting government contract employee (Mark 2:14), and Simon the Zealot (Luke 6:15). And as the church began to flourish and grow, a number of the Pharisees were converted, and their conversion to Christ did not make them any less zealous for the law (Acts 21:20). Some of them went up to Antioch without authorization (Acts 15:24), and began telling Gentiles that they couldn’t be saved unless they were circumcised (Acts 15:1). They said they had to become Jewish to become Christian. This caused immediate conflict, naturally, and the first moment of this conflict happened when Paul punched right. Not only that, but he did this by hitting a fellow apostle, Peter.

“But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?”

Galatians 2:11–14 (KJV)

Now this was the same Paul who taught the Roman church not to get all worked up about debatable matters. One man eats meat and another one eats only vegetables. Big deal (Rom. 14:1-4). One man celebrates Christmas like a Covenanter, which is to say, not very enthusiastically, while another man has enough Christmas lights on his house to create a field that charges all his neighbors’ electronic devices. Again, big deal (Rom. 14:5). Cool your baby jets, the apostle says. Save your fire for something really important—like when someone messes with the place cards at the Antioch fellowship dinner.

Now I can imagine why some people would say wut?

Paul reacted this way because not all errors are equal. Some tumors are malignant and others are benign. Some errors are true errors—the weaker brother eats only vegetables—but we are supposed to accommodate them. That is a wart, not skin cancer. Now it is true that by the time the last day arrives every blemish will have been removed from the bride, but it was still a wart, not skin cancer. Other times the doctor takes one look at your blood work and tells you to get in your car and drive to the hospital ipso pronto. Not all errors are the same.

The great problems besetting us today are problems that are coming from (we commonly call) the left. That is what is killing us. That is where the existential threat lies. But it does not follow that there are no deadly ailments that manifest on the right. No, there are some bad growths over there, some of which resemble nothing so much as a diseased custard. And the fact that they are largely a reaction to, or rather an overreaction to, the varied power grabs of the left does not signify. We still have to deal with them. And as we deal with them, we need to distinguish between the trivial errors and the crucial errors. And if we are dealing with a crucial and deadly error, we have to address it—even if we are accused of “punching right.”

Doing this is quite distinct from the behavior of a David French or a Russell Moore who consistently punch right as a way of signaling to the left their desire to be part of the controlled opposition—the kennel-fed opposition. They will occasionally growl at the left, sure, provided they are allowed to growl in The New York Times.

This approach basically cedes moral authority to the left, allowing them to determine whether our opposition to their knavish tricks is winsome, or wise, or white-supremacist. Hint: it is always white supremacist. The other approach, the one I advocate, wants to keep our forces in fighting trim, and that means we must police our own ranks by the standards of Scripture. Not by the bromides of the left, but by the standards of Scripture. The Canaanites didn’t care about Achan’s behavior, but God sure did.

So again, we have to make distinctions between issues of primary importance, and issues of secondary or tertiary importance. Some of the dumb stuff that goes on over here on the right can be cute, or even endearing. I have done a number of talk radio interviews over the years, and thus have been privileged to sit through any number of commercial breaks, in which time I have learned what the troops are listening to. If I were to e.g. this, there are some who get worked up about fluoride in the water supply, and try as I might, I cannot get worked up about people who are worked up about fluoride in the water supply. God bless them all.

But there are other errors on the right that are gangrenous, and we really need to care about them. A lot.

For Instance, Take Five . . .

Here would be a small sampling of the sorts of things that sometimes fly in our ranks that shouldn’t sometimes fly in our ranks. And even if you don’t agree with my assessments here, this at least can have the benefit of explaining my behavior to you. You will then know why I am not going after the chelation therapy guys when I am willing to punch right on other issues.

So let me briefly list five of the larger ones:

Black-pilled Nietzscheans: disillusioned by the disintegration of the secular liberal consensus, and by the consistent lameness of the tepid “conservative” responses to it all, they want a strong man, an Übermensch to rise up—an American Bismarck. Yeah, like that wouldn’t go south on us right away.

Ideological libertarianism: as I have often argued, I am entirely with the libertarians when it comes to the manufacture and distribution of widgets. But their reduction of all liberty issues to the individual instead of to the family is a fatal mistake. Kuyper knew far better.

“The dual ordinance—the institution of marriage, and birth from a mother—is therefore the foundation on which antirevolutionary politics stands first.”

Abraham Kuyper, Our Program, p. 144

Jew-malice: of all the dead ends, of all the cul-de-sacs, of all the dry holes, of all the fruitless trees, of all the clouds without rain, of all the foam on all the waves on all the oceans, of all the gin joints . . .

And before you sit down to your keyboard to write a fiery retort, look at what I actually wrote there. I set out my trap in plain sight. And I am telling you about it beforehand.

Little-man-misogyny: a biblical approach to life between the sexes is determined by the teaching of the Bible, and not by whatever might make the feminists angry. There is far more to being biblical than making feminists angry. That would be a low-bar biblicism indeed. And the fact that the feminists accuse everybody of misogyny doesn’t mean that the real thing is non-existent. Thus, it is necessary for faithful Christians to be accused of misogyny by the left, and it is equally necessary for the accusation to be false. Men must honor women.

Full preterism: One error that is directly tagged as gangrenous by Scripture is the teaching of Hymenaeus and Philetus (2 Tim. 2:17). And while it is a theological error, because it relates to history, it will necessarily spread to the realm of politics. This is because gangrene spreads. It always spreads.

But in addition to all of that, please let it be known that I love you all.

The post Why the Apostle Paul Punched Right appeared first on Blog & Mablog.






Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: