What do You Say When Someone Says You’re on the Wrong Side of History?

If you’re like me then you’ve probably been accosted and told off by more than a few liberals in your day. I, as a general rule, try to be polite and courteous… but I’m human. I make mistakes. I have bad days and sometimes I get caught by a hater or a troll on one of those “bad days” and I say the wrong thing in the wrong way… to those people I want to apologize. I don’t mean to respond out of a spirit of frustration but out of a spirit of edification. I have always wanted Eagle Rising to be a place where people can come to learn why conservatives believe what we believe in a winsome and compassionate manner. That doesn’t mean that I will sugarcoat my message or that I’ll back down from a fight… but it does mean that at the end of the day the manner in which we win the argument is as important as winning the argument.

To that end I wanted to share a wonderful video from the Gospel Coalition which speaks to this idea that opponents of gay marriage are “On the Wrong Side of History.” It’s a common argument I’ve heard in the media and in messages from gay marriage proponents – this idea that Christians and conservatives are like the segregationists and racists of the Civil Rights era because we are on the “wrong side of history.” But the argument just doesn’t resonate with me because I understand history. Throughout the whole of human history on our planet there have been many times when people were on the “wrong side” during an event only to be on the “right side” years later… history is not static and we may be judged far more kindly by history than liberals today believe.


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Below is a slightly edited transcript from the Gospel Coalition:

Don Carson: The question itself presupposes a certain view of history, an inevitability of certain social trends that are going that way no matter what we do and you don’t want to be on the losing side—that’s what is meant by it.

But if you look at history another way, that is, space and time are going to unravel as the Lord Christ, the Lord of history, brings all things to pass—you bet I want to be on the right side of history! It’s going to come to a glorious end in a new heaven and a new earth, the beginning of all things, resurrection existence. And so I want to be on the same side of history as Jesus is. So there’s a sense in which you have to go sort of offensive on it.

Having said that, then there are some other things that need to be said. When certain trajectories begin to play out in history, sometimes they’ve been really frightfully wrong. Some scientific things—the study of the shape of the human head in order to determine who is retarded or not—I mean, that was universal science at the beginning of the 20th century. Or certain views of racism and Nazi genocide; that was all part of science and you don’t want to be on the wrong side of history—that was the argument that came out of the Marxists and came out of the Nazis. It’s very faddish; it’s very temporary.

At the end of the day, Jesus still remains King. If I look at the right side of history on that question on a longer haul, they’re increasingly in the dustbin of history even though at a certain time that sort of argument would have looked very powerful. Now it looks slightly silly.

So one has to return to Scripture, confess Jesus as Lord, understand where history is going from a Christian faith perspective. And then after that, then I’m happy to start talking about suffering for Christ against the history that’s overseen by Satan himself, who’s the ruler of this dark age in some derivative fashion. And in that sense, I don’t want to succumb to the trends of history at all. I want to fight them.


Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 11.42.21 PMTim Keller: Sounds like if you’re the pastor and your Christian member comes to you, I really do think that one of the things you said there, where you say to the Christian, “I want you not to be discouraged, since Jesus Christ is coming again, the only way to be on the right side of history is to belong to him. And I want you to realize that we Christians are on the right side of history.” That would be a really good pastoral help, I think, to the discouraged Christian who feels like “Maybe we’re really out of step.”

I think the other stuff, though, would be good fodder to give him to talk to his friend about. Well, what about this pastor [pointing to Piper]? What would you say about this?


John Piper: It would depend on whether he would tolerate my insisting on definitions or not. Because I would want to say, “What do you mean?” before I answer him. But if that’s the direction he meant, I thought of two historical, logical responses, and a couple of biblical responses.

The first ones are “History is a flow and history changes, and so to be on the side of history today might be being on this side, against history, tomorrow. And so we’ll wait and we’ll see where it’s going.” And the second thing I’d say is, “History is happening, so happenings can’t dictate what ought to happen. It’s a logical confusion to say that what is tells what ought to be.” And so I would say, “So that’s what you’re saying? You want me to determine what I ought to do by whatis? Which group of is-ness is going to determine [it]?” Those would be two. 

But biblically I’d go exactly the two directions you went, Don. When Christ is the final, complete, dominant, visible, manifest Lord of history, I want to be on that side. But short of that, Second Thessalonians 2, a man of lawlessness rises up, he’s sweeping away millions in deceit at the end of the age. And I want to be on the wrong side of that history, that historical moment. I don’t know how long that will last. But it crops up. There are many antichrists who come up along the way. They take swathes of history under their control and, man, do I want to be on the wrongside of those seasons of history. So I’m getting my “ought”—where I want and ought to be—not from the flow, but from the interpreter of the flow, called the Bible.


Tim Keller: Here’s my little conversational strategy. If someone says to me, “You don’t want to be on the wrong side of history, do you?” I usually say, “Is there anything right now happening in history—is there any historical trend right now going on that you don’t like?” And almost always, the person says, “Well, yeah.” And I say, “Well then, aren’t you on the wrong side of history? And why should I not stand against some historical trend.” And that usually ends it.

And especially if I’m talking in New York, to most people I say, “Don’t you see rising inequality? Isn’t it possibly true that only after World War II was there not that but in general that capitalism brings about rising inequality?” Most people in New York would say, “Absolutely.” I say, “Aren’t you on the wrong side of history if you vote for a Democrat?” Generally speaking, they say, “I see your point.” 


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