Round Table Discussion

The Old Testament Foundations of Cultural Conservatism

The Hebrew Scriptures of ancient Israel (a.k.a. the Old Testament) are frequently quarried for proof-texts—pretexts, really—for leftist politics. In prophetic calls for justice, liberal Christianity and liberal Judaism claim ample support to legitimize big-government intervention into every area of life, and "Justice, justice pursue" is broadly interpreted as a divine endorsement of the platform of the Democratic Party. But the use of Scripture by the left to claim that God concurs with government solutions to the crisis du jour does not intimidate those of us on the right who value Scripture as well.

The difference lies in the context in which Scripture is invoked. Leftward-leaning exegesis finds verses that say what the exegete wants to hear; ripped out of cultural context, any verse can mean whatever you want to make of it. But divine revelation, taken whole and in context, shapes a culture of remarkably conservative qualities: continuity, tradition, and respect for received truth, for example. Indeed, it is no accident that those who value Scripture as God's Word, not just good advice, derive from it the lesson that the new should be measured by the standard of the true, and truth derives from principle, reason, and the logic of history.

The social order that Scripture seeks to construct out of ancient Israel builds upon ancient foundations: the very creation of the world. The law...

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