Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Marxism & Postmillennialism

MARXISM & POSTMILLENNIALISM

David Q. Santos

Calvin wrote of man’s innate awareness of God.[1] The Bible teaches that God provided in the creation a utopian world (Gen. 2) that was lost through one man’s sin (Rom. 5:12). The Bible also teaches that God will restore the creation (Rom 8:21-23) and bring into existence a perfect society, a kingdom on earth (Rev. 11:15). In that kingdom Jesus Christ will rule and reign from His throne (Rev. 3:21) with a rod of iron (Ps. 2:9; Rev 19:15). Both before the time of Christ’s ministry and since His ascension from earth to Heaven (Acts 1:9-11) men have tried to bring in this kingdom by their own power. By observation, one could suggest that along with man’s innate awareness of God comes a desire for His utopian kingdom. Mankind has tried to replace God with things such as intellectual endeavors, passions, even good deeds. In like fashion man has designed multiple governmental schemes to replace God’s true plan for mankind.

Within Christendom this manner of thinking is commonly called dominion theology and is best seen in postmillennial eschatology. It is the view that by action the church can do enough good in the world and force the kingdom of God to begin. This type of philosophy is certainly not found only in Christian theology. Many humanistic approaches to government and ethics have been made to “bring in the kingdom,” a utopian nirvana without a god.

The trouble with all of these systems of ethics and government is that they all fail to meet the problem of mankind. These systems all see the world through the lenses of a man-centered reality. A system called Marxism (which was really presented by Plato’s Republic) sought to deal with this problem. Marxism is “the political and economic theories of Karl Marx (1818–83) and Friedrich Engels (1820–95), later developed to form the basis for the theory and practice of communism. [2] Marxism is an “atheistic form of postmillennialism, as are other humanistic utopias.”[3] Its premise is to remove all class distinctions with the presumed conclusion of a perfect society. The Communist Manifesto states that all existing society is the “history of class struggles.”[4]

Marxism contains the presupposition that only economics influence history. Harold J. Ockenga, in his article on Gustavus Adolphus (Swedish ruler who militarily came to the aid of the reformers) points out that the “Marxian maxim is that only the struggle for bread, or the philosophy of economic determinism, controls history. Factors like religious faith, personal magnetism, military genius and statesmanship, to say nothing of romance, directly influence the events of history.”[5] Marx then sees all struggles of history as only a struggle of existence with two classes; the oppressed and the oppressors or the bourgeoisie. Ockenga stated that “Marx made the struggle for a living the determining factor in political, legal and religious institutions. He considered the self-interest of people led them to look primarily after their own welfare when left free, and that this economic self-interest expressing itself in relation to production and exchange was the stuff out of which history was made.”[6] As found in other sytems of government and ethics self-interest causes the problems. Ockenga explains,

This interpretation of history supported the Marxian theory of “class struggle,” which prophesied struggles between different economic classes of society until all men became producers and then society would be emancipated, in his words, “from all exploitation, oppression, class-distinction and class struggle.”

The underlying causes of a community’s, a state’s or a nation’s development and decline may be sought in the field of their economic conditions. In the words of the Communist Manifesto, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle.”[7]
Therefore, for Marxism, the concluding answer to class struggle is to remove all classes. This is accomplished by three means. These means are, “(1) the abolition of private property, (2) the abolition of classes (including any and all family relations), and (3) the abolition of religion.”[8] Marxism was presented as a governmental system by which all could be better. Many considered it a system of hope. In this author’s view Marx et al were not very good students of history. It can be demonstrated that Marxism emphasizes many of the characteristics that led other governments and societies to fall. For example, in 1788 Edward Gibbon wrote about the five points that brought ancient Rome to its knees; several of which are highlighted in Marxism. He described Rome’s fall as coming from

1. The undermining of the dignity and sanctity of the home, which is the basis for human society

2. Higher and higher taxes; the spending of public money for free bread and circuses for the populace.

3. The mad craze for pleasure;

4. The building of great armaments when the real enemy was within-the decay of individual responsibility.

5. The decay of religion; faith fading into mere form, losing touch with life, losing power to guide the people.[9]
The parallel elements that caused the fall of Rome (and other societies) with Marxism should be exceedingly obvious. Destruction of family, removal of religion, and higher taxes make an elixir that will doom any culture. Upon historical and political examination the reality of Marxism rears its ugly head. The utopia of a society in commune has always morphed into a culture of tyranny with tyrants lording over the people. Phillip Johnson describes Marxism as, “a liberation myth that has become a new justification for ordering people not to think for themselves.”[10]

A government where the workers of the world could unite; giving what they had and taking according to their need was not instituted. Instead, a new platform for dictators was designed perfectly with built in controls of the people as their right to exist apart from the state was no longer intact. There was no right to property which John Locke argued is an essential component to ethics.

A much overlooked impact of Marxism is how it affected Christian theology. Millard Erickson stated it by writing that, “Marxism as the world’s hope for a better future, has had great impact on various Christian theologians. They have felt challenged to set forth an alternative, superior basis for hope.”[11] One must ask how this came about. With such an anti-Biblical worldview how does Marxism infiltrate the church? Like all other beliefs, “Marxism [and liberation theology] needs to be subjected to the light of biblical authority.”[12]

The infiltration took place primarily through the single word “hope.” Marxism presents itself as a system of hope. This theme rang true to some in the Christian community. “A theology developed by Jürgen Moltmann. Influenced by Marxism, Moltmann taught a theology of revolution and social change by the church’s confronting society’s injustices. Liberation theology has its roots in Moltmann’s theology.”[13] Hamilton, in an article on the “social gospel” describes Marxism writing,

Because of the anti-religious element found in it Marxian socialism has tended to drive Christian people in general away from such a position and to make them recoil. It is noteworthy, however, that in recent years some thinkers within Christendom have been recognizing how the ethical principles for which Marxian socialism—at least Marx personally—was struggling are in essence compatible with Christian ideals. A recent student of the relationship between the ideas of Marx and those of Christian thought points out: “Marx recognized that in form of statement the criteria of justice, equality, the brotherhood of man and the primacy of human values over such standards as that of efficiency in production sound like Christian ideals. But the difference, he maintained, between him and Christian advocates of the same principles was that he expected to put them into practice, whereas Christians were content to leave them in an uncontaminated, transcendental sphere.” This same researcher takes four men as representative of the Christian thinkers who have sought to evaluate the work of Marx—Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, John Macmurray and Nicolas Berdyaev, and comes to the conclusion that all four may differ in their acceptance, rejection or modification of the social and economic elements in Marx’ thought depending upon their own sociological premises, but that they agree his ethical ideas are close to (if not identical with) the ideals of Christian ethics and that Marxism cannot be considered apart from its theological implications.[14]
Hamilton recognizes that some theologians are willing to accept some of the premises or “ethical principals” of socialism. Harold Hagar takes a much harder, and more Biblical approach to this topic. He sees the modern social-gospel for what it really is; false doctrine. He wrote,

Among the worst of the testings that can come to a child of God are those borne on the winds of false doctrine in the forms of pseudo-Christianity so rapidly sweeping across our nation today. On every hand there are numerous cults and isms with attractive programs, and enticing promises to lure the Christian away from his faith. Modernism also is making headway like an army of termites among our churches, and the appeal to disparage doctrinal discernment and denominational distinctions and be united in Christ is heard on every hand. But the worst enemy of all is Marxism, in the form of a modern social-gospel projected on religious grounds, so subtle in its propaganda that many people are unaware of its danger and progress.[15]
William Newell brings this work back full circle. Whether it is Marxism or Postmillennialism, the kingdom of God will not be brought in by man’s will. He wrote,

The end of governmental things is at hand. Kings lost their majesty to democracy; aristocracy lost its dignity to socialism, finally to communism. This all comes, of course, to tyranny under a dictator, like Napoleon on the ruins of the French Revolution, Stalin succeeding Marxism. The absolute outcome will be the rule of Antichrist over all Christendom. Witness Revelation, chapters 13 and 17. Everywhere is uncertainty and fear—no security, these days. Our Lord Himself will end this condition of things by His own appearing and His kingdom.

Men know they should have a king. In desperate emergencies they rush for one, as the Romans for Cincinnatus when the enemy threatened their gates. Men boast of “government of the people, by the people, for the people” as a great slogan; but God will bring a sudden end to such impiety. How would this sound in heaven: “government of the angels, by the angels, for the angels”? Where is God, His throne and His glory in such a program? How would it do for a family with children to conduct a children’s convention during the absence of the parents, and to form a constitution with bylaws that they would thereafter obey no commands which a majority vote of the children did not approve?[16]

All men know that they are responsible to something beyond themselves. Mankind longs to have the creation restored and the world to be ruled by the true king Jesus Christ. Yet the rebelliousness of the human heart rejects the moral and ethical standards of God. Therefore they set themselves up as gods and develop man-centered governments. But in the end, every tongue will confess and every knee will bow to Jesus Christ as Lord.

Maranatha!


Work Cited

Blue, J. Ronald, Major Flaws in Liberation Theology, Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 147 (Dallas Theological Seminary, 1990; 2002).

Cone, Christopher, PhD, ThD, Life Beyond the Sun: An Introduction to Worldview & Philosophy Through the Lens of Ecclesiastes, (Fort Worth, Tyndale Seminary Press, 2009).

Enns, Paul P., The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1997).

Erickson, Millard J., Christian Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1998).

Geisler, Norman, A Premillennial View of Law and Government, Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 142 (Dallas Theological Seminary, 1985; 2002).

Hagar, Harry, “The Amazing Power of Unbelief in the World Today,” Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 110 (Dallas Theological Seminary, 1953; 2002).

Hamilton, Alan H., “The Social Gospel Part 2,” Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 108 (Dallas Theological Seminary, 1951; 2002).

Johnson, Phillip E., “Separating Materialist Philosophy from Science,” Bible and Spade (1997) Volume 10 (Associates for Biblical Research, 1997; 2003).

Marx, Karl, Friedrich Engels, Gareth Stedman Jones, The Communist Manifesto, (Marxist.org), http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch01.htm  , Chapter 1, accessed 12/23/2009

Monroe, Kenneth M., “Biblical Philosophy of History,” Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 91 (Dallas Theological Seminary, 1934; 2002).

Newell, Williams R., “The End of All Things is at Hand,” Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 109 (Dallas Theological Seminary, 1952; 2002).

Ockenga, Harold J., “The Reformation and Gustavus Adolphus,” Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 104 (Dallas Theological Seminary, 1947; 2002).

Soanes, Catherine and Angus Stevenson, Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

Wallace, Roy, PhD, ThD, Studies from Revelation, (Shreveport LA, LinWel, 2002).
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[1] Christopher Cone, PhD, ThD, Life Beyond the Sun: An Introduction to Worldview & Philosophy Through the Lens of Ecclesiastes, (Fort Worth, Tyndale Seminary Press, 2009), 417
[2] Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).
[3] Norman Geisler, A Premillennial View of Law and Government, Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 142 (Dallas Theological Seminary, 1985; 2002), 255.
[4] Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Gareth Stedman Jones, The Communist Manifesto, (Marxist.org), http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch01.htm , Chapter 1, accessed 12/23/2009
[5] Harold J. Ockenga, “The Reformation and Gustavus Adolphus,” Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 104 (Dallas Theological Seminary, 1947; 2002), 472.
[6] Kenneth M. Monroe, “Biblical Philosophy of History,” Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 91 (Dallas Theological Seminary, 1934; 2002), 321.
[7] Monroe, 321.
[8] Cone, 252.
[9] Roy Wallace, PhD, ThD, Studies from Revelation, (Shreveport LA, LinWel, 2002), 151-152.
[10] Phillip E. Johnson, “Separating Materialist Philosophy from Science,” Bible and Spade (1997) Volume 10 (Associates for Biblical Research, 1997; 2003), 34.
[11] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1998), 1158.
[12] J. Ronald Blue, Major Flaws in Liberation Theology, Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 147 (Dallas Theological Seminary, 1990; 2002), 102.
[13] Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1997), 626.
[14] Alan H. Hamilton, “The Social Gospel Part 2,” Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 108 (Dallas Theological Seminary, 1951; 2002), 92–93.
[15] Harry Hagar, “The Amazing Power of Unbelief in the World Today,” Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 110 (Dallas Theological Seminary, 1953; 2002), 170.
[16] Williams R. Newell, “The End of All Things is at Hand,” Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 109 (Dallas Theological Seminary, 1952; 2002

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