Ronald Rothenberg, PhD
My previous essay argued that starting point matters even in intellectual discussion as illustrated by the one in sixty rule of navigation—for every degree off course over sixty miles, one will be one mile off course per degree. Although the one in sixty rule is an observation from general revelation and not a biblical principle, it has some similarity to the well-known law of sowing and reaping (Gal 6:7–8). Just as in sowing and reaping where the seed planted determines the crop produced, similarly the conceptual starting point used typically determines the conclusion reached. Therefore, the general rule of starting point is not based on, but is consistent with Scripture.
Evangelicalism has failed to detect and reject the biblically inconsistent starting points of an unholy trinity of cultural ideologies: Marxism, multiculturalism, and genderism. In this manner, the nature of evangelicalism has experienced a fundamental shift so that large parts of Evangelicalism are no longer Christian. Moreover, we saw that it is appropriate to use Marxism as an umbrella term because, as Wilczynski claims in the Encyclopedic Dictionary of Marxism, Socialism and Communism, “Marxism has come to represent a wide range of doctrines and views, not only those left by Marx but also contributed to by his many followers who have supplemented or qualified Marx’s ideas.” Finally, in the preface to his Critique of Political Economy, Marx explicitly stated that the starting point for all the tenets of his thought was materialism, or the view of reality that only a material world exists. Since the Bible affirms both a material and a spiritual reality, then Marxism is fundamentally incompatible with Christianity (Gen 1:1–2; John 4:24). This essay demonstrates that Marx’s faulty starting point leads to tenets that are incompatible with Christianity. Before turning to Marx’s tenets, please consider how starting point determines destination.
In the previous essay as summarized above, we saw that the Bible and Marx have different starting points. However, does starting point really determine destination? Will these incompatible starting points really result in irreconcilable destinations/tenets? The history of thought may be divided up into three periods: premodern (recorded history–1600), modern (1600–1950), and postmodern (1950–present). Each of these three periods has a different philosophical starting point. While each starting point may be distinguished through detailed technical definition, it is sufficient for the purposes of this essay to recognize they are different.
Let us consider the example of the doctrine of the Bible as the Word of God to demonstrate the principle that starting point generally determines destination (1 Thess 2:13; 2 Tim 3:16). In the premodern period, the French Reformer John Calvin (1590–1564) claimed that “Scripture is the Word of God” (Inst. 1.8.13; 1.13.7). In modernity, the Neo-orthodox theologian, Karl Barth (1886–1968), said that the Bible “becomes the Word of God” (CD 1.1:141). In the postmodern period, Kevin J. Vanhoozer (b. 1957), theology professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, IL, asserted that we must speak of “God and Scripture” (First Theology, 30).
|“Scripture is the Word of God”
(Calvin, Inst. 1.8.13; 1.13.7)
|the Bible “becomes the Word of God”
(Barth, CD 1.1:141).
|“God and Scripture”
First Theology, 30).
In this example, there are three incompatible starting points and three irreconcilable doctrines of Scripture. Someone might object, “How do we know that the three doctrines differ because of the starting point and not some other reason?” In response, it is self-evident to theologians not only from the detailed technical arguments used by each of the three scholars (which are not included in this essay) to arrive at their conclusion, but also from the very language used—“is,” “becomes,” and “and”—that each conclusion directly follows from and reflects the particular starting point used. Only Calvin’s premodern doctrine is compatible with Scripture and historic orthodox Christianity, because his starting point alone is consistent with the Bible. Starting point generally determines destination despite the facts that people may be logically inconsistent, they make mistakes, and other factors may be involved so that conclusions made do not connect to or result from their starting point. Marx’s starting point of materialism contradicts the Bible, therefore Marxism’s tenets are incompatible with Scripture.
The following chart contrasts the starting points of Marxism and Scripture and the tenets which follow in order to demonstrate that they are incompatible:
|Christian View||Marxist View|
|Starting Point: An immaterial God created a material world (Gen 1:1–2; John 4:24).||Starting Point: All that exists is the material world, which creates the conditions in life (Critique of Political Economy, Preface; The Holy Family [HF] 6.3.d).|
|People are sinners (Rom 3:23).||People are good (HF 6.3.d).|
|Consequently, the world is viewed as consisting of two classes of people: the saved and the lost (Matt 25:31–46; Luke 19:10).||Consequently, the conditions of the material world result in warfare between two classes of people: the oppressed and the oppressors (The Communist Manifesto [CM] 2; 3.2)|
|Consequently, all wealth is from God and is obtained according to his plan by work (1 Chron 29:11-12; Prov 21:5–7).||Consequently, oppressors only gain wealth by exploiting the oppressed (CM 2).|
|Sin inherent in people and resulting from Adam’s original sin is the problem in the world (Rom 5:12–14).||Income inequality resulting from the material conditions of existence is the problem in the world (CM 3.1.b).|
|The solution to sin is forgiveness and the resulting life transformation by faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Eph 2:8–10).||The solution to income inequality is overthrowing the existing government through violent revolution (CM 1; 3.2; 4).|
|Consequently, saving individuals is the primary means of change (Rom 5:15–17), but contrary to the belief of many Christians, systemic changes are also important (Rom 13:7).||Consequently, changing the socio-political or corporate structure of society is the primary means of change (CM 2).|
|Poverty is a permanent problem that may be eased, but never solved in this life (Deut 15:11; Matt 26:11; Mark 14:7).||Income inequality is eliminated by wealth redistribution through taxation (CM 2).|
|The goals of salvation include: relationship to God (John 17:3), moral living (Rom 12:2), and blessedness/peace (Rom 4:6–9; Col 1:19–20).||The goal of Marxism is a classless society or income equality (CM 2).|
|The church should address poverty through charity involving accountability and evangelism (2 Cor 9:6–15; 2 Thess 3:10; 1 Tim 5:3–16).||The government should be the entity to redistribute wealth through taxation (CM 2).|
The tenets of Marxism and Scripture are incompatible because their starting points are irreconcilable. Therefore, logically speaking, one cannot be an evangelical Christian and a Marxist. One cannot selectively hold to one or more of the tenets of Marxism so popular in today’s culture and with intellectual consistency or honesty claim at the same time to be a Christian. Any similarities of Marxism to the Bible are superficial. We will look at some of these cosmetic similarities in a future essay.
Subsequent essays will finish the analysis of Marxism, including social justice, and address multiculturalism and genderism. They will show these ideologies to be equally anti-Christian, dependent on Marxism, and counterfeits of genuine Christian doctrine.