Are You on the Right or the Left?
“The heart of the wise is to his right side; the heart of the fool is to his left side.”
Long before groups and parties began using the terms “right and left” to indicate someone’s political ideology (this began during the French Revolution, where the supporters of the King and Religion stood at his right side and the Revolutionaries were on the left), Solomon was writing these words. And while some might be tempted to state that Solomon was being prophetic here, to suggest he is speaking of politics here would be reading modern ideas into the ancient text (called “eisegesis” and something to avoid).
Instead, the Rabbis tended to see this as a kind of allegory (no offense to left-handed people) based on the idea that most people are more proficient with their right hand than with their left hand. And so, the person whose heart (read heart as referring to the personality and mind of a person) was in their right hand was seen as proficient in using said thing — thoughtful, reasonable, and not rash. Whereas the one whose heart was in his left hand was not so proficient and was thus, unthoughtful, unreasoning, and rash in the choices they would make.
And so, the wise person is one who does not act without thought and reason. Further, when he does so, he uses it well, with prudence and restraint. In contrast, the fool, who says in his heart that there is no God (Psalm 53:1), uses his reason awkwardly and clumsily as would someone were he or she to be asked to write with their off-hand.
The sad thing, in many circles (including the church), the good use of reason is no longer cherished. Debates, which were once meant as a means of exchanging and refining ideas, have become battlegrounds where the loudest voice wins the day — something closer to sophism than it is to a wise discourse. The basic rules of logic are cast to the wind and people simply pontificate about their preference rather than to speak sobermindedly about the question at hand. Averroise’ “Double Truths” seem to have won the day in the west.
Christianity, or at least what often passes as Christianity, largely has fallen into this trap as well. Instead of building theologies on sober reasoning from the scripture, people have embraced a kind of spirituality that is driven by experience. How it “feels” tends to be the test of truth rather than whether something is consistent with the Word of God. And thus, now we not only have numerous branches that would fall under the umbrella of orthodox Christian theology, but there are countless groups that present themselves as Christian, but who champion numerous heretical positions built on the imagination of men. The “tares” are growing up amongst the wheat, and boy it sure seems like there are a lot of them.