Joe the Plumber and First Principles

Written by Father Bill No Comments

Tony Esolen’s final (alas!) pondering on Joe the Plumber’s interview making the rounds of the internet focuses on “first principles.”
… in that interview, [Joe the Plumber] showed that he rejected the idea that he should vote for a fatter wallet, since even if he had been persuaded that Mr. Obama’s policies would fatten his wallet (and he was not persuaded that they would), they would still amount to what he called “socialism”. That’s what he rejected, as unworthy of American love of liberty.

I think that Joe was right about that, but that’s not my point here. I’m struck first of all that anybody can still talk about first principles.

And, that got me to thinking how “first principles” is a notion that sheds some light on how and why egalitarians go careening off into the theological ozone while mere Christianity has remained more or less stable for over two millennia as far as notions about the sexes are concerned.

Esolen observes:

There are some people who cannot logically appeal to first principles. Utilitarians can’t; all they can do is whip out the happiness calculators, their political equivalent of a magic wand. Materialists can’t; they cannot even recognize the real existence of principles, except as prejudices. Others cannot appeal to first principles, because it would be political suicide for them to do so.

For egalitarians, it would be programmatic, doctrinal, and – yes – political suicide for them to appeal to first principles, for those principles in Holy Writ dissolve egalitarianism as salt dissolves slugs.

Consider, for example, how egalitarians read Genesis 2. Their conclusions exactly contradict the Apostle Paul, writing in the Spirit, who notes that woman was made from the man and for his sake, not the other way round. The man is the woman’s very reason for existing. Say such a thing (he is her reason for being) and watch an egalitarian’s knickers twist tighter than dental floss.

But in all their sputtering indignation, none will ever mention the first principle Paul sees embedded in the Genesis text – “For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.”

Another observation by Esolen:

… one of the professors at my school (and Providence College is a paragon of good health compared to most) tells his students that they are idiots for reading anything written before 1950, since none of that matters anymore. Another professor derides students for majoring in English, since there is no real knowledge you can gain from poetry.

Again, we see that egalitarianism is modernism’s running dog, exactly what you’d expect, as egalitarianism is leashed to the World. The World has been enthralled with its own navel for at least the past century in the West, and the attitude reported by Esolen is found in all quarters of modern culture, because it is … well, modern. It scorns the past because it is the past. Modernists insist that they are the people and wisdom will die with them.

So, for example, egalitarians are quite sure that the Church has misunderstood 2 Timothy 2:12ff until sometime in the mid 1970s. Egalitarians are quite sure the pervasive patriarchy of the Old and New Testaments are lamentable errors, or lamentable accomodations to errors, until the Holy Spirit remembered to tell them what He really has in mind. Egalitarians are so confident that “El Shaddai” means “God with breasts” while the LXX translators – more than 2,000 years closer to the culture and language of the Hebrew text – were quite mistaken.

There are, indeed, first principles in God’s Word (cf. Hebrews 5:12). But, these principles cannot be acknowledged by egalitarians, lest they abandon their infatuation with the world.

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