Download PDF Transcript

Marc Roby: We are continuing our break from studying theology to look at some current topics of great importance from a Christian perspective. We finished our background on Marxism and neo-Marxist ideologies last time. Dr. Spencer, what do you want to examine today?

Dr. Spencer: I want to take a look at capitalism and, along the way, contrast it with socialism. But in order to explain why we, as Christians, should be concerned about this topic at all, and since the economic system of a country is a part of the form of government, I first want to remember a couple of things we have said about governments and the relationship Christians have to them.

In 1 Timothy 2:1-4 the apostle Paul wrote that “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”[1]

Marc Roby: That passage does a good job of illustrating what we have said before is the main purpose for which God ordained earthly governments; namely, to safeguard personal liberty. In other words, our ability to, as Paul wrote, “live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

Dr. Spencer: And the purpose for our being able to do that is to shine the light of God’s gospel into this dark world so that people will be saved. As Paul wrote, God “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” And that happens as a result of the witness of Christians. When we began this special series, in Session 161, I noted that God gives us our purpose, place and priorities in life. Our purpose is to glorify God.

Marc Roby: Which mirrors God’s own purpose. We have noted a number of times that his purpose in creation is the manifestation of his own glory.

Dr. Spencer: And we glorify God by doing the work he has given us to do; first and foremost, the work of sharing the gospel. In doing that we must know our place. Which means, first, that we are creatures and, second, that we are under authority.

Marc Roby: And we have noted several times that there are three God-given spheres of authority: the family, the church and the state.

Dr. Spencer: And we, as Christians, have different roles and responsibilities in each of these spheres, and our roles change over the course of our lifetime as well. And in all of our roles, God sets the priorities. We are his adopted children. We read in Philippians 3:20 that “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ”. We are, first and foremost, citizens of heaven. God alone is the ultimate King and we owe him our absolute unquestioning obedience. All earthly authorities are delegated authorities and have limited spheres of authority and limited scope of authority.

And one of the things that falls within the scope of authority of civil government is the economy. So with all that review in mind, I want to discuss capitalism. As Christians, we must evaluate any economic system by how well it supports God’s priorities for his creatures.

Marc Roby: Very well. Perhaps it would be good to start with a clear definition of what we mean by capitalism. According to Webster’s dictionary, capitalism is “an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.”[2]

Dr. Spencer: That’s a good definition. And we see right away that it is a system that is, at the very least, consistent with Christian principles. It affirms two important biblical principles. First, the right to private property. The definition speaks about private ownership of property, either individually or collectively through a corporation.

Marc Roby: And, as we noted before, the Bible consistently assumes and confirms the right to personal property. For example, by giving us the eighth commandment, “You shall not steal.”[3]

Dr. Spencer: Right. We aren’t to steal the property of others, but as Christians we are also required to remember that God owns everything, we are really just stewards. We will talk about the implications of that in our next session. Secondly, the definition affirms human responsibility in making private decisions about what to invest in, about what to buy, and we could add that making free decisions about what we as individuals do for a living is also included. The right to make personal choices for which we can be justly held accountable is, again, a fundamental biblical principle.

Marc Roby: Yes, I recall that we quoted Deuteronomy 30:19 before, where, after going over God’s commands and his blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience, Moses told the people, “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live”.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, we quoted that verse in Session 165. If we disobey, we can be subject to punishment at times in any of the three spheres of authority, the home, church or state. But ultimately, as Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:10, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” There are many sins for which none of these three earthly spheres of authority can hold us accountable. But God is able to judge “the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” as we learn from Hebrews 4:12. He can hold us accountable for example, for unkind and selfish thoughts and attitudes, for ungratefulness, greed and jealousy.

Marc Roby: All of which are things earthly authorities can only infer from outward words and actions.

Dr. Spencer: That’s true. Now remember that Marx viewed the possession of personal property as the fundamental problem plaguing mankind. But that is simply wrong. Property itself isn’t the problem, sin is the problem. It is the fact that human beings are sometimes greedy, jealous, covetous and cruel, to name just a few sins. People are willing to steal and kill to gain the property of others. People are willing to take advantage of others in all sorts of ways. They cheat with dishonest scales for example.

Marc Roby: Which is something the Bible speaks against in many places. For example, we read in Deuteronomy 25:15 “You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”

Dr. Spencer: Yes. God will not be pleased if a merchant has one weight to use when buying something and another weight to use when selling.

Marc Roby: Like the proverbial butcher’s thumb on the scale!

Dr. Spencer: That’s true. So, the problem with capitalism is sin, not the right to own private property. And as we saw in Session 167, sin shows up in socialist systems as well. In that case it often shows up in bribery and other types of corruption, which people use to get ahead.

Marc Roby: Well, people are always tempted to do what is best for them individually.

Dr. Spencer: They are. And if you build a system that only works when everyone is completely selfless and dedicated to working their hardest for the benefit of others, even if they get nothing in return, you are building a system that is bound to fail. You are ignoring human sin. Humans do sometimes act in selfless and generous ways, but they will not always do so.

One of the reasons that capitalism has been so successful is the incentives that it establishes. When a business or individual does what is best for the business, that is also in general what is best for the overall economy, which means it is best for the prosperity of society as a whole. Let me give just one short example.

Marc Roby: Please do.

Dr. Spencer: This is taken from Thomas Sowell’s excellent book Basic Economics. He tells of a delegation of American farmers who visited the old Soviet Union. He wrote, “They were appalled at the way various agricultural produce was shipped, carelessly packed and with spoiled fruit or vegetables left to spread the spoilage to other fruits and vegetables … American farmers had no experience with such gross carelessness and waste, which would have caused somebody to lose much money needlessly in the United States, and perhaps go bankrupt.”[4]

Marc Roby: It sounds like they needed someone to monitor what was going on.

Dr. Spencer: Well, Sowell considers that and points out that monitoring is not free, it wastes resources. In addition, the monitors would have incentive to accept bribes, so you introduce more corruption. In the end, having the farmer in charge of packing his own produce makes a much better system. His own self interest is to see that his fruit handled properly in order to maximize his own profit, but this also maximizes his output and the efficiency of the whole system, so everyone benefits.

Marc Roby: There is always the possibility of the farming going out of business though.

Dr. Spencer: Oh, that’s true. The prospect of failure, either partial loss or completely going out of business, is an important part of a capitalist system. If you have the freedom to succeed, you also necessarily have the freedom to fail. And, as a result, there will be people who need help. Their failure may or may not have been their own fault. But a capitalist society will always need some safety net.

But socialism can’t prevent crop failures due to floods, droughts, storms or whatever either. The real question we need to consider is, “Which system provides the greatest overall economic output and provides individuals with incentives to do what is right?” And the answer is that capitalism wins hands down. At each step along the line from production to purchase, the individual business has an incentive to do the job as well as possible and as efficiently as possible. The net result is much higher overall output and employment.

Marc Roby: That’s a valid point. And that explains why, for example, Communist China abandoned true socialism many years ago.

Dr. Spencer: And Sowell uses that example, among others. Mao died in 1976 and China moved away from socialism soon after that. Sowell notes that “the subsequent freeing up of prices in the marketplace led to an astonishing economic growth rate of 9 percent per year between 1978 and 1995.”[5] And he also notes that “In China, the number of people living on a dollar a day or less fell from 374 million – one third of the country’s population in 1990 – to 128 million by 2004, now just 10 percent of a growing population.”[6]

Marc Roby: That is astonishing.

Dr. Spencer: It truly is. And he gives many more examples in his book of countries like India, Ghana and the Ivory Coast, where creating or doing away with free markets have produced dramatic results; always in favor of free markets.

In addition to the lack of proper incentives, there is another very serious problem with socialism, and one of the many reasons it simply doesn’t work; we don’t all want the same things. We each buy different kinds of food, clothing, cars, houses and so on.

Marc Roby: I can’t imagine anything that could be more obvious. All you have to do is look around to see the vast differences in what people want to buy.

Dr. Spencer: And yet, in a socialist economy, choice is often done away with in the interests of efficiency. There may be only one kind of bread available. Or only one kind of TV, or car, or whatever. Because the state decides what is needed, not a free market. And history has taught us very clearly that the state often gets it wrong. In fact, given the complexity of a large economy in terms of the sheer number of items produced and all of the resources that go into producing them, it is simply beyond reason to think that central planning can work. Allowing supply and demand and free-market pricing to work solves the problem without central planning. Sowell again uses the old Soviet Union as an example and quotes from some Soviet economists to make his point. But I’ll let interested listeners check the reference for that.[7]

And there is a second aspect of this same problem. Not only can central planners not determine how much of each commodity will be needed, but central planning of the economy removes individual choice in lifestyle. We don’t all value the same things. Let me illustrate that with one of my former graduate students.

Marc Roby: Alright. Please do.

Dr. Spencer: I had many graduate students who were extremely driven and competitive. They were very driven to do research that would be highly regarded and valued, finish their PhD degrees and then go to work for companies that were well known for their high-pressure, long hours, but concomitant high pay. These students liked the technical challenge, the prestige and, yes, being able to drive a really nice car and so on. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. But I had others who made different choices. One in particular, who was very good and could certainly have taken the route I just described had he wanted to, chose not to go on for a PhD, but instead to graduate with a Masters degree and go to work in a manufacturing firm where he worked 8 to 5 Monday through Friday and even punched a time clock. His job was not nearly as technically demanding, he wasn’t going to a bunch of publish papers and become well known, and it didn’t pay nearly as much. But he didn’t want to work 60- to 70-hour work weeks. He wanted to have his evenings and weekends free to pursue other activities and to live in a place he thought was nice to live. His choice was just as valid as the others, but different. That kind of freedom is not available in socialist countries with planned economies.

Marc Roby: Yes, I see your point. But what about all of the evils people often associate with capitalism? For example, the income gap. Some people make a great deal more money than others do, and some of them make way more money than any one person could possibly need.

Dr. Spencer: Well, that is certainly true. And before I address this issue directly, let me note that the Bible often speaks about the poor and commands us to be generous and to help those who are in need. God will hold the rich accountable for how they use their wealth. They may think the money is theirs because they worked hard to develop their knowledge and skills and then worked hard to use them and earn the money, but the reality is that God gave them their skills and opportunities. Now, it’s commendable if they did work hard and made good use of them, but ultimately, their riches come from God.

Marc Roby: As one of many examples we could quote, Proverbs 21:13 says that “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.”

Dr. Spencer: Yes, that’s a good verse. And, as you said, there are many more.

There is no doubt that we should help those who are poor. But there is also an issue of personal responsibility here. In Paul’s second letter to the church in Thessalonica he wrote, in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, that “when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’” The poor should be helped locally, not by a distant federal government who has no idea why they are poor. They should be helped with education, medical care, food, shelter and other needs, but always with an eye to getting them to be self-sufficient. And capitalism has proven itself time and time again to be the very best system for creating an economy where a person can improve him or herself by working hard.

Marc Roby: But not everyone has the ability or opportunity to be a PhD student in Electrical Engineering. So, going back to your example, not everyone has the choice your students had.

Dr. Spencer: Well, that is absolutely true. And not every one of those PhD students had the ability or opportunity to start his own company and become exceptionally wealthy either. But we have to ask, “Is there something inherently wrong with that?” I never had the ability to play professional sports or to be a professional musician either, so is it wrong that others do have that ability and make much more money than I ever did? And is there somebody who’s at fault?

There is a fundamental issue here. Call it ingratitude, or jealousy, or whatever, but if I am not happy with my lot in life, even after allowing for the ways in which I may have failed to properly make use of the abilities and opportunities I have been given, then I am, ultimately, unhappy with God. God decides what gifts and opportunities to give to each individual person. In Acts 17:26 the apostle Paul was speaking to the Athenians and said that God “made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.”

Marc Roby: I see your point. We can’t all be the best no matter what system we have. People are not all equal in ability or how hard they work.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right, capitalism is not the problem. In fact, as we noted in Session 164, and as Sowell makes very clear in the book I quoted from earlier, capitalism has been the most successful economic system in history for bringing prosperity and freedom to the greatest number of people.

But free markets are competitive places and that competition is precisely the mechanism that makes them work so well. If I have a company, I can’t sell my products or services for more than people are willing to pay. And if I look for a job, I can’t sell my services as an employee for more than my abilities and experience will justify. An employer won’t stay in business very long if he pays me more than my labor is worth, nor will he stay in business very long if pays people too little, he won’t be able to find employees. In both cases, the selling of a product and the selling of labor, a free market says that the price will be set by supply and demand.

Marc Roby: In other words, any time there is a supply of some commodity that is larger than the demand, the price will drop. And, conversely, whenever the supply is less than the demand, that price will go up.

Dr. Spencer: Exactly. And that feedback loop works extremely well to regulate the markets; both for goods and for labor. Whenever governments try to control these things the net result is virtually always a poorer economy, which means that everyone suffers.

Marc Roby: Of course, in this kind of competitive system, there will always be winners and losers.

Dr. Spencer: But when someone “wins” in capitalism we all get a better product or service for a lower price or in some other way society as a whole gains.

Marc Roby: Yes, that’s an important point.

Dr. Spencer: And, in addition, the “losers” aren’t punished or required to stay down. And those who start at the bottom don’t have to stay there. If, for example, I am only capable of menial labor, then there are a lot of people who can do the same work, so the supply is large and for any given demand the wages I can get will be lower. But I always have the opportunity to work hard, learn, gain experience and move up to a higher-paying job. It requires that I have the right attitude and depends on my effort. The employer is not my enemy. He isn’t trying to oppress me and get rich off of my labor, he’s also governed by supply and demand. If he pays too much, then his products will be too expensive, he won’t sell many of them, and he will go out of business and I will lose my job altogether. Sowell points out that the real minimum wage is always zero.

Marc Roby: That’s an interesting and obviously true way to look at it. But, of course, there have been situations where employers have taken advantage of employees.

Dr. Spencer: Well, of course there have. People are sinners. And so some degree of government regulation is not necessarily wrong; but it must be done very carefully and sparingly.

Marc Roby: Now I want to get back to the income gap. Isn’t that a real problem?

Dr. Spencer: Well, let me give a three-part answer to that. First, in Session 164 I gave an example of how a company can do very well and the owner, employees and customers all benefit even though the owner may benefit proportionally more. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with that and, in fact, it provides an incentive for people to pursue excellence, from which we all benefit. And their motivation doesn’t have to be pure greed, it can simply be wanting to do something very well and the money is then, as a friend of mine once put it, like the grade you receive in a class. The more you make, the better you did. Now that may not be the most noble motivation in the world, but it isn’t inherently sinful either.

Marc Roby: Alright, what is the second part of your answer?

Dr. Spencer: When people talk about the income gap, the implication always is that the poor are worse off than they used to be. But in Session 166 I gave a number of statistics to show that simply isn’t the case. There are still truly poor people in this country and in other free-market nations as well of course, but capitalism has done far more to alleviate real poverty than any other economic system in history. You have to be careful how you define poverty. In general, the “poor” today are better off in many ways than the middle class was 60 years ago, and they are certainly better off than the average person was 150 years ago.

Marc Roby: Very well. What is the third part to your answer?

Dr. Spencer: That it is easy to tell a lie using statistics. All you have to do is use the wrong statistic. Sowell points this out in his book. He notes that “it is a widely publicized fact that census data show the percentage of the national income going to those in the bottom 20 percent bracket has been declining over the years, while the percentage going to those in the top 20 percent has been increasing”[8]. But you cannot conclude from that data that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer!

Marc Roby: Now, why is that conclusion invalid?

Dr. Spencer: Because people don’t stay in the same brackets. A young person may start his career in the lower 20% bracket, but then move up during his career. And a person may be in a high bracket during the peak of his career and then come down. What you need to look at is what happens to specific individuals over time, and when you do that you find the exact opposite result.

Sowell writes, “A University of Michigan study found that, among working Americans who were in the bottom 20 percent in income in 1975, approximately 95 percent had risen out of that bracket by 1991 … The largest absolute amount of increase in income between 1975 and 1991 was among those people who were initially in the bottom [20 percent] in 1975 and the least absolute increase in income was among those who were initially in the top [20 percent] in 1975.”[9]

Marc Roby: That is exactly the opposite of what you usually hear.

Dr. Spencer: And it isn’t just one study. The IRS also did a study and found similar results as did another study in Canada. Sowell also noted that “Among those Americans who were in the bottom 20 percent in 1975, 98 percent had higher real incomes in 1991 – and two-thirds had higher real incomes in 1991 than the average American had back in 1975”[10]. The bottom line is that while poverty is still a real problem, the statistics you hear about it are often wrong and capitalism is not the fundamental cause of the problem.

So, to conclude for today, capitalism is the best economic system ever developed for allowing human freedom and for providing prosperity to the largest number of people. It has built-in incentives that encourage people to do what is good, rather than what is corrupt. The problems we see with it are caused by human sin, not capitalism.

Marc Roby: That has been very enlightening. I look forward to continuing our discussion about societal issues next time, for now, let me remind our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org. We would love to hear from you.

[1] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[2] Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam Comp., 1979

[3] Exodus 20:15

[4] Thomas Sowell, Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy, 5th Ed., Basic Books, 2015, pg. 400

[5] Ibid, pg. 25

[6] Ibid, pg. 6

[7] Ibid, pp 16-17

[8] Ibid, pg. 204

[9] Ibid, pg. 205

[10] Ibid, pg. 204

Play

[Download PDF Transcript]

Marc Roby: We are continuing our break from studying theology to look at some current topics of great importance from a Christian perspective. Dr. Spencer, at the end of our session last week, you said you wanted to examine how Marxist ideology has become so common in our society today.

Dr. Spencer: And I’d like to begin by quoting the first line from Joshua Muravchik’s book Heaven on Earth, from which we have quoted frequently. He grew up in a staunchly socialist home and he began his prologue, which is entitled “Changing Faiths”, by writing, “SOCIALISM WAS THE FAITH IN WHICH I WAS RAISED.”[1] (emphasis in the original)

Marc Roby: That’s a surprising statement to most people I think, and a strange way to begin talking about how Marxist ideology has become so common today. But it agrees with the quote you gave last time from Whittaker Chambers, who called communism “man’s second oldest faith. … the great alternative faith of mankind.”[2]

Dr. Spencer: Yes, Chambers made that point quite powerfully. And while this might at first blush seem like a strange way to begin talking about how Marxist ideology became so common, it actually makes a lot of sense, because if socialism is, in fact, a religion, that says a lot about how important it is to those who truly believe it. By the way, the terms socialism and communism, while there are distinctions between them in Marx’s theory, are often taken to be roughly synonymous. Chambers and Muravchik are speaking about the same ideology, which is Marxist, independent of the fact that they use different words.

Marc Roby: Alright. But whether or not we can call socialism a religion obviously depends on the definition of religion.

Dr. Spencer: Very true. And I freely admit that most people think of religion as being a belief in a supernatural being of some sort; that is clearly the most common definition. But I would argue that it is not the most useful definition. God himself told us in the first commandment, which we read in Exodus 20:3, that “You shall have no other gods before me.” [3] And he wasn’t saying that there really are other gods, in Jeremiah 10:10 we read that “the LORD is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King.” In other words, God is the only true and living God. All other so-called gods are figments of men’s imaginations. And those figments of men’s imaginations don’t necessarily have to be supernatural beings, men can give their full allegiance to atheistic ideologies as well, in which case they function as a religion for all practical purposes.

Marc Roby: OK, I’ll grant you that. And it is a relatively common expression to say that someone is “religious” about a particular activity, so the word certainly admits of a broader definition than just belief in a supernatural being.

Dr. Spencer: It absolutely does. Therefore, let’s look at the second definition given by the Merriam-Webster dictionary; it says that a religion is “a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices” [4], and the fourth definition given is “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith”.[5]

I would argue, based on these definitions, that materialism, as expressed in Marxism, is a religion. It is a worldview, a system of beliefs, which attempts to explain what is real and provides a basis for making statements about everything. And it is held to with ardor and faith.

Marc Roby: We have noted before that everyone has a worldview and that our worldview affects how we view everything. It determines which questions we deem appropriate to ask and how we evaluate and internalize every experience or thought that we encounter.

Dr. Spencer: Exactly. And every worldview says something about the existence of God as well. Materialism, of course, simply denies that there is such a being as God. For all practical purposes, that is a religion. Most materialists don’t go to some kind of special building, like a church, on a regular basis, but in every other meaningful way, it is a religion. Now most materialists, like most professing Christians, aren’t all that zealous about it, but those who are fervent believers in materialism can be very zealous indeed.

Marc Roby: As anyone who has ever had an encounter with a committed member of the campus atheist club knows! Alright, even if our listeners don’t agree with this definition, they at least know what definition you are using. So let’s go on to see the point you want to make about Marxist ideology.

Dr. Spencer: Well, as we have noted before, any worldview must try to explain where we came from, what is wrong with the world, and how we can fix what is wrong. In Christian terms, those three things are creation, fall and redemption. And as we pointed out in Session 163, Marxism essentially denies the idea of creation. Either the universe popped into existence out of nothing or it has always been here, but it was not created. The material universe, or multiverse, simply exists. With regard to the fall, Marxism views the creation of private property as the problem, rather than sin, and it views the solution, or redemption, as consisting in a progression from capitalism to socialism to communism and, finally, to the government simply withering away, because, as Marx and Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto, “Political power, properly so called, is merely the organized power of one class for oppressing another.”[6] Therefore, in their view, when all the classes have dissolved, so will organized political power. At that point mankind will supposedly have arrived at utopia; I’m tempted to say nirvana, but that would be mixing religions.

Marc Roby: Although there are some interesting parallels between the Buddhist view of nirvana and the Marxist view of utopia, they both view the individual as somehow getting lost, if you will, in a collective identity. It never ceases to amaze me how naïve it is to believe that human beings will arrive at this utopian vision without a fundamental change in character.

Dr. Spencer: It is only surprising if you understand that all men are sinners by nature, which is part of the Christian worldview. But if you start with a materialist worldview and deny the universal existence of sin, then I suppose it becomes more believable. Although I think you have to constantly ignore a mountain of evidence that daily argues against your worldview, both evidence from without and from within. But, given their materialist view of man, Marxists believe that they can create a new man by proper indoctrination. According to their view we are, after all, only automatons and we can, therefore, be re-programmed.

Marc Roby: Believing that requires more faith than I possess, and giving anyone enough power to do that is extremely dangerous.

Dr. Spencer: I agree completely. But if someone is a true believer in Marxist ideology, this materialist view of man is a foundational principle. And we certainly don’t criticize Marxists, or anyone else, for wanting to make this world a better place. Most, if not all, people desire this world to be a better place than it currently is. Therefore, if you are zealous Marxist, you are going to devote your life to trying to achieve heaven on earth. You may well think it won’t happen in your lifetime, but it is nonetheless a compelling motivation and you will dedicate your life to it. The problem is that it will never work because your worldview is wrong.

Marc Roby: Yes, that’s make good sense. And I remember from our last session that Whittaker Chambers spoke about devoting your life to a cause, he wrote that “Communists are that part of mankind which has recovered the power to live or die – to bear witness – for its faith.”[7]

Dr. Spencer: He did write that. He also wrote that “The revolutionary heart of Communism is … a simple statement of Karl Marx, further simplified for handy use: ‘Philosophers have explained the world; it is necessary to change the world.’”[8]

And given that statement, I want to read a statement made by Angela Davis in an interview that was just published last month in a special edition of Vanity Fair. She said, about her life’s work, “We do this work because we want to change the world.”[9]

Marc Roby: I don’t know if she was consciously quoting Marx, but that is perfect. But I suspect that our younger listeners in particular may not know who Angela Davis is, so perhaps it would be good to provide some background.

Dr. Spencer: I agree. And I chose that quote from her not just because it was so perfect, and timely, but also because Angela Davis will come up again soon; she is a perfect example of how and why Marxist ideology has become so prevalent in our society today.

Angela Davis retired from being a professor and the director of the Feminist Studies program at the University of California in Santa Cruz in 2008.[10] She was a member of the Communist Party in the United States until 1991 when she was expelled from the party for opposing the coup against Gorbachev.[11]

Marc Roby: Certainly, those of us who are old enough and lived in California in 1970 also remember that she was charged with murder in the Marin County courthouse shootings in 1970.

Dr. Spencer: That’s true. She purchased the shotgun that was used to kill Superior Court Judge Harold Haley, who had been taken captive along with others, and the other guns used in the case were also registered to her. In all, there were four people killed and two wounded. She was, however, acquitted of all charges due to insufficient evidence.

Independent of the fact she was acquitted though, there was more than enough evidence to make it clear in my mind that she was involved; not only did she purchase the guns, but the purpose of taking the hostages was to get other prisoners released, including Angela Davis’ lover. In addition, she fled and used aliases and disguises to elude authorities for two months.

In addition to the Marin County courthouse shoot-out, she was affiliated with the Black Panther organization, which was responsible for a number of criminal acts, including murders.

Marc Roby: It does seem strange that such a person should have landed a position as a professor at the University of California.

Dr. Spencer: Strange to say the least. She has never made any serious contribution to scholarship of any kind, she is merely famous for her work as a revolutionary, and a violent one at that. She has advocated for the abolishment of prisons and is extremely critical of our legal system, although she certainly profited from our system’s bending over backwards to be fair to the accused.

Angela Davis is also not alone, as we will see, there is a large number of former 1960’s revolutionaries who have gone on to prominent and influential positions. And as a way of transitioning to that topic, I’d like to look at another interesting comment Davis made in the interview.

Marc Roby: What’s that?

Dr. Spencer: She was commenting on the fact that the current Covid-19 pandemic and the George Floyd killing presented an unusual opportunity for the kind of riots we have seen erupt around the country – she didn’t say riots by the way, that’s my word. What she did say was that “The protests offered people an opportunity to join in this collective demand to bring about deep change, radical change. Defund the police, abolish policing as we know it now. These are the same arguments that we’ve been making for such a long time about the prison system and the whole criminal justice system. It was as if all of these decades of work by so many people, who received no credit at all, came to fruition.”[12]

Marc Roby: OK, she talks about decades of work coming to fruition and she used the plural pronoun we. What, and who, is she talking about?

Dr. Spencer: She’s talking about what has been called the long march through the institutions. And there have been a number of people involved.

Marc Roby: I suspect a number of our listeners have heard that phrase – the long march – but I doubt that many know exactly where it comes from and what it means.

Dr. Spencer: I’m sure you’re right about that. The phrase comes from a German Marxist sociologist named Rudi Dutschke.[13] To quote from Roger Kimball’s book The Long March, this phrase “signified – in the words of Herbert Marcuse – ‘working against the established institutions while working in them.’”[14] The phrase was meant to harken back to Mao Zedong’s Communist Red Army’s long march in 1934-35, but that march isn’t germane to our topic today so we aren’t going to discuss it, I just point the fact out as an example of the communist thinking and sympathies of these people.

Marc Roby: OK, so how did this idea of working against the established institutions while working in them play out?

Dr. Spencer: Well, there were a large number of leftists, including Angela Davis, who discovered that the violent tactics of the Black Panthers, the Students for a Democratic Society, the Weathermen and other groups of 1960’s revolutionaries didn’t work. They realized that they could bring about radical change to this country by taking over the educational institutions instead. They could then use that platform to indoctrinate young people into their anti-American, anti-Christian, Marxist ideologies. That is why Davis spoke about decades of work by so many people coming to fruition. And it is important to note that she was a student of Herbert Marcuse.

Marc Roby: Who was Herbert Marcuse?

Dr. Spencer: He was, like Dutschke, a German Marxist who studied the philosopher Hegel. Our listeners may remember that Marx was a disciple of Hegel as well. In any event, Marcuse was a part of what is called the Frankfurt School; a group of leftist scholars who developed and promoted a mix of Freud and Marx called critical theory. This group, which contained a lot of secular Jews, fled Nazi Germany before World War II and finally ended up at Columbia University. This idea of theirs, critical theory, is at the heart of much of what is going on in America today.

Marc Roby: OK, and what is critical theory?

Dr. Spencer: Well, in order to answer that question, we need to go back one step. We need to go back to Europe in the early part of the 20th-century. We’ve briefly mentioned the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, led by Lenin, but there were communist movements in other countries as well. In Germany and Italy however, these communist movements lost to fascism. Now, we need to remember that true Marxist communism envisions a final utopian condition where there is no need for government and so it just dissolves away. In other words, true communism is not nationalistic, it thinks of the world as a whole. Fascism, on the other hand, while still being socialist, is strongly nationalistic. Remember that the official name of the Nazi party in Germany was the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. Therefore, there was very strong antagonism between the fascists and the communists.

Marc Roby: Well, that’s all interesting history, but what does it have to do with critical theory?

Dr. Spencer: Well, there was an Italian communist by the name of Antonio Gramsci who played a very important role. He was born in 1891 in Italy. In 1913, he became an activist in the Italian Socialist Party, or PSI. Some of his writings were praised by Lenin and Gramsci eventually left the PSI to help found the Communist Party of Italy. At one point he even spent two years in Moscow. He became a member of the Italian parliament and when his party was outlawed by the fascist Mussolini, Gramsci was arrested and then sent to prison in 1928. He was released in April, 1937, only a few days before his death.[15]

Marc Roby: And how then did he become so influential?

Dr. Spencer: While he was in prison, he thought about why socialism had been unable to succeed in countries outside of Russia. Remember that we discussed Eduard Bernstein in Session 166. He had noted the failure of Marx and Engel’s ideas in England. The problem was, put simply, that capitalism was successful and a middle class developed that was comfortable and didn’t see a need for revolutionary change. But let me quote from Mike Gonzales’ book The Plot to Change America, he wrote that “Gramsci came up with a useful meta-explanation. The bourgeoisie had acculturated the working man to do his bidding, giving him ‘false consciousness.’”[16]

Marc Roby: What does that mean? What is this “false consciousness”?

Dr. Spencer: It means that the workers had accepted the “hegemonic narrative”. In other words, as Marx had already posited, Gramsci viewed all social institutions and even histories as being constructs by which the ruling class enslaves the workers. So, when workers buy into the cultural norms, they are participating in their own subjugation. Let’s look at this in terms of what has gone on in this country since the end of World War II.

Marc Roby: Alright, that would be very helpful.

Dr. Spencer: At the end of World War II and on up into the early 1960’s, when the so-called Baby Boom generation was born, the average middle-class American accepted as true certain basic principles. For example, that hard work, honesty, being on time, telling the truth, getting married before having children, avoiding substance abuse and so on, were good things. Gramsci would say, however, that these are all part of the hegemonic narrative, or script, by which the ruling class subjugated the workers.

Marc Roby: And yet, everything you just named could be backed up as being a biblical norm, which Christians are duty-bound to accept and practice.

Dr. Spencer: You’re right. And that is part of why this whole critical theory idea is irreconcilably anti-Christian. And just in case some of our listeners have been too busy just living their lives as decent, hard-working citizens and are unaware of how much things have changed in the universities and the intellectual centers of our country, let me give just one example.

Marc Roby: Please do.

Dr. Spencer: In 2017, two law professors, Amy Wax of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Larry Alexander of the University of San Diego School of Law, published an opinion piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer that caused quite a stir. It was entitled Paying the price for breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture.[17]

They noted a number of problems plaguing our society, like drug abuse, unemployment, crime, single-parent families and so on, and they said, “The causes of these phenomena are multiple and complex, but implicated in these and other maladies is the breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture.

“That culture laid out the script we all were supposed to follow: Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.”

Marc Roby: That doesn’t sound very divisive or controversial to me.

Dr. Spencer: That’s because you, like me, are of a “certain age” …

Marc Roby: OK, that’s unnecessarily cruel.

Dr. Spencer: And you are a Christian, which makes you and me part of the problem in the eyes of those on the far left. We are the oppressors who have created this hegemonic narrative, or script, as a part of our plan for oppressing others.

Marc Roby: And here I thought it was simply God’s Word regarding how we are to live lives that give him glory and lead to the most joy and peace here on earth. And that has been around, without change, for 2,000 years.

Dr. Spencer: And you are right in that view. But, and this was big eye-opener for me when I first read about this article, it generated an amazingly harsh backlash. For example, the dean of the Penn law school, Ted Ruger, published an op-ed in the student newspaper, which suggested that Professor Wax’s views were “divisive, even noxious.” And half of her law-faculty colleagues signed an open letter denouncing her piece. There was a similarly harsh response at the University of San Diego, even though it is a Catholic university. The dean of the law school, Stephen Ferruolo, put out a memo repudiating the piece.[18]

Marc Roby: That is simply incredible. One wonders what these people think good values are. Lying? Being lazy? Getting drunk?

Dr. Spencer: It does make you wonder. And Professors Wax and Alexander were careful to state that they were not claiming that things were perfect back in the 1950’s. They recognized that many problems and hypocrisy existed. They were simply making the case, which is absolutely forbidden in academic and intellectual circles today, that these biblical values are good and proper and lead to better outcomes for everyone in society.

Marc Roby: So, Gramsci decided that the culture itself was somehow oppressive and had to be changed, and that has led to the harsh reception this opinion piece received.

Dr. Spencer: Exactly. To quote Gonzales again, “The cure, Gramsci thought, was to carry out a ‘consciousness raising’ indoctrination campaign that would convince the proletariat of his having been duped by tradition, religion, the family, the education system, and all the cultural trappings of society.”[19] And that idea has led to the organized efforts we are seeing now to destroy our culture and our country. It is the result of the long march through the institutions and is part of what real believers on the far left view as a necessary revolution on the way to establishing heaven on earth.

Marc Roby: Well, I very much look forward to continuing this discussion but we are out of time, so I’d like to remind our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org. We would love to hear from you.


[1] Joshua Muravchik, Heaven on Earth, the Rise, Fall, and Afterlife of Socialism, Encounter Books, 2019, pg. xi

[2] Whittaker Chambers, Witness, Regenery History, 2014 (republication – original was 1952), pg. xxxix

[3] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[4] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/religion

[5] Ibid

[6] Great Books of the Western World, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1952, Vol. 50, pg. 429

[7] Whittaker Chambers, op. cit., pp xxxix

[8] Ibid, pg. xxxviii

[9] Ava Duvernay, Ava Duvernay Interviews Angela Davis on This Moment – and What Came Before, Vanity Fair, Special Issue, August 26, 2020 (https://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2020/08/angela-davis-and-ava-duvernay-in-conversation)

[10] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angela_Davis

[11] David Horowitz, The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, Regnery Publishing Inc., 2006, pp 115-119

[12] Duvernay, op. cit.

[13] Roger Kimball, The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America, Encounter Books, 2000, pp 14-15 (also see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudi_Dutschke)

[14] Ibid, pg. 15

[15] Mike Gonzales, The Plot to Change America, Encounter Books, 2020, pg. 123

[16] Ibid, pg. 117

[17] Amy Wax and Larry Alexander, Paying the price for breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture, Philadelphia Inquirer, August 9, 2017, available at https://www.inquirer.com/philly/opinion/commentary/paying-the-price-for-breakdown-of-the-countrys-bourgeois-culture-20170809.html

[18] See Heather Mac Donald, Higher Ed’s Latest Taboo Is ‘Bourgeois Norms’, Wall-Street Journal, September 19, 2017, available at https://www.wsj.com/articles/higher-eds-latest-taboo-is-bourgeois-norms-1505774818

[19] Gonzales, op. cit., pg. 117

Play


[Download PDF Transcript]

Marc Roby: We are continuing our break from studying theology to look at some current topics of great importance from a Christian perspective. Last week we looked at the founding of the former Soviet Union and we noted that true Marxists believe that the ends justify the means. In their view, they are working to establish heaven on earth and whatever price has to be paid is acceptable. Dr. Spencer, how would you like to proceed today?

Dr. Spencer: Well, I want to remind our listeners of our discussion in Session 165, where we pointed out that according to the Bible, the most important function of government is to protect the rights of its citizens. The Bible teaches us that human freedom and human responsibility are important. This view of government is fundamentally irreconcilable with the Marxist idea of having the government be a vehicle for creating heaven here on earth.

Marc Roby: And we have also noted that the goal of creating heaven on earth is impossible in light of the fact that men are all sinners. Heaven is not possible unless our sin is removed, and only God can do that.

Dr. Spencer: That is the key problem. Because Marxism is based on a materialist worldview, it is bound to be wrong. Unfortunately, it also brings out the very worst in human nature. Let me read a quote from Louis Fischer. He was an American journalist who lived in Russia for some time and was, initially, very much in favor of what was going on, which is why he moved there. But even though he liked the theory, he became very disillusioned with the reality. He wrote that the Communist Party and the government “both bred sycophants, cynics and cowards. In the highest rank as well as in the lowest, fear rather than thought, self-interest rather than public welfare was the father of every word and deed. Anybody who had uttered a dissenting view in the past or whose independence and originality might some day nurture unorthodoxy received a 2 A.M. visit from the secret police and soon joined the involuntary ‘builders of Socialism’ in Siberia and the Arctic wastes.”[1]

Marc Roby: That is frightening, but it also sounds like our politically correct cancel culture on steroids.

Dr. Spencer: I agree. As we saw last time, Lenin was absolutely ruthless. And he was followed by Stalin, who was just as ruthless, if not worse. And most other communist leaders have not been any better. Think of all the people who suffered or died in Mao’s China, or in Fidel’s Cuba, or now in Venezuela. And even the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini is a close cousin to communism, it is also a socialist ideology and both communism and fascism require a totalitarian state.

As we noted before, it is estimated that over one hundred million people have been murdered by socialist regimes since 1917.[2] People will do amazingly terrible things when they think they are working for a goal as wonderful as world-wide peace and affluence, in other words, heaven on earth.

Marc Roby: We are told in Proverbs 14:12 that “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” [3]

Dr. Spencer: Yes, and just in case we don’t recognize how important that statement is, it is repeated for us in Proverbs 16:25. As Christians, we need to look at what God says, not what man says. God is truth and his Word is truth. If we stand on that truth, proclaim it, and make it the basis for our own thinking, we will be doing what is best. Not just best for ourselves, but best for everyone, even non-Christians.

Marc Roby: Of course, you’re not suggesting that we put in laws that require everyone to go to church on Sunday, for example, or to join in public prayers or to read their Bible every day.

Dr. Spencer: No, of course not. Christianity never teaches that we should try and force others to live like Christians. It isn’t possible for them to do so anyway; it requires Holy Spirit power to live the Christian life. But it is perfectly proper for us, as Christians, to influence society to the best of our ability to have a government and laws that reflect the law of God. So, for example, human life is sacred because God says it is sacred, and we should push for laws that reflect that fact.

Marc Roby: And God even gives us the reason it is sacred. Capital punishment for murder was commanded by God in Genesis 9:6 where we read, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.”

Dr. Spencer: That is a very important point and provides a good illustration of why biblical thinking leads to what is best for everyone. While being deliberately cruel to animals is undoubtably wrong, you don’t put someone to death for killing an animal because animals are not made in God’s image. But men and women are. Therefore, anyone who willfully takes the life of another human being, except in very special circumstances like self-defense, has sinned tremendously against God and God himself commands that society put that person to death. And the prohibition against murder applies to all human beings, the unborn just as much as a healthy adult.

Marc Roby: You aren’t suggesting that we should have the death penalty for abortion providers are you?

Dr. Spencer: Well, not while abortion is legal, no. But we should work to make abortion illegal and, if that were to happen, then deliberately taking the life of an unborn child should be treated no differently than deliberately taking the life of anyone else. Notice that our laws already reflect this idea in some ways. In the California penal code murder is defined as “the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought.”[4] Now that section of the penal code also carves out an exception for the fetus when it is killed with the mother’s consent, but the simple fact it is worded this way reveals that everyone knows the truth; abortion is legalized murder, our society has simply decided that a mother has a right to murder her unborn child.

Marc Roby: That’s an accurate, but I’m sure controversial, way to put it. But you said this illustrates why biblical thinking leads to what is best for everyone. I doubt those who support abortion rights would agree, so what is your argument?

Dr. Spencer: When you stop considering all human life to be sacred, as we have in this country, you open a Pandora’s box and you devalue all human life. You no longer have a clear rational basis for saying murder is wrong. You allow it for unborn children, so long as the mother approves, so why not also allow it for newborns with the mother’s approval for example? Infanticide has been practiced in many cultures throughout history for various reasons and has been proposed quite seriously in this country by Peter Singer and others. He is a professor of bioethics at Princeton University. Although, to be fair, he does write that “We should put very strict conditions on permissible infanticide …”.

Marc Roby: Whoa … I’m glad to hear he at least thinks there should be limits!

Dr. Spencer: Well, his limits aren’t all that meaningful, I didn’t finish the sentence. Let me read the whole sentence, along with the one that follows it. He wrote that “We should put very strict conditions on permissible infanticide; but these restrictions should owe more to the effects of infanticide on others than to the intrinsic wrongness of killing an infant. Obviously, in most cases, to kill an infant is to inflict a terrible loss on those who love and cherish the child.”[5]

Marc Roby: Now wait a minute, a terrible loss to those who love and cherish the child? What about the child himself, or herself? That’s frightening.

Dr. Spencer: Well, I don’t want to get into his justification for this abhorrent view, I just want to use it to finish my example. In the transcript for this podcast, which is available on our website – whatdoesthewordsay.org, I cite an excellent article to read for those who are interested.[6]

But let me finish up this example. When you don’t have a clear-cut reason for the sanctity of human life, it becomes a very malleable phrase – it can mean whatever you want it to mean and you can justify abortion, infanticide and senicide, which is the killing of people who get to be too old to be useful. It is very difficult to argue against these evils without a clear-cut, independent moral position that is defensible, and the Bible gives us that position. All human beings are made in the image of God.

Marc Roby: OK, I see your point.

Dr. Spencer: So, as Christians, we must base our reasoning on the Bible, even when we are reasoning about forms of government and the laws in our nation. God is infinitely wiser and more knowledgeable than we are, and if we stick with what he says, it will be good for us, and for the society we live in.

Marc Roby: That does make sense. And so, getting back to our discussion of socialism, the goal of government should also be set by the Bible, not by man.

Dr. Spencer: And that is exactly my point. The government is not the absolute authority. Our rights as human beings are not something the government doles out, they are given to us by God. That is why our Declaration of Independence says that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. And the Declaration goes on to say, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”[7] Men create governments and grant them certain limited powers, not the other way around. We have gotten away from that idea in this country.

Marc Roby: Yes, that is obviously true. Some people act as if they think the government is some infinite reservoir of benefits.

Dr. Spencer: That’s quite true. Many people seem have the view that government should be there to provide for our needs from the cradle to the grave, and many people in government are all too happy to encourage this view because it keeps them in power and increases their power.

But you need to think carefully if you think that that sounds good, because it means that the government will have to be so large and powerful that your rights as an individual can be trampled at any moment. Our founding fathers were very concerned about this and the system of government they put in place is an amazing compromise that demonstrates great wisdom. It balances the idea of democracy, that is majority rule, with the need to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority. And significant changes to the form of that government have to be agreed to by a supermajority of the citizens.

Marc Roby: It is incredible to go back and study the founding documents and the debates that consumed people as they worked out the details.

Dr. Spencer: I agree. Now, this country is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a great country. It is currently fashionable on the left to view this country as some kind of imperial power, but that is unjustifiable given the facts. For example, this country only achieved a significant degree of global hegemony after World War II. And any fair reading of that history has to recognize three major facts about it.

Marc Roby: What are those?

Dr. Spencer: First, that we were dragged into World War II against our will. There is no doubt that there were some who wanted us to join much before the attack on Pearl Harbor, but that was certainly not the majority view. Now, it is also true that it was in our own best interests to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, but that leads to the second thing any fair history has to recognize.

Marc Roby: What is that?

Dr. Spencer: That we didn’t try to permanently stay as an occupier in the territories after we conquered them! And, by the way, I’m not ignoring our allies, we didn’t do it alone. But no rational person would argue that we were not the dominant force. And so my point stands, we were not in World War II for the purpose of extending our empire, which by definition puts the lie to the idea that this country is some horrid imperial power. Not only did we not try to permanently occupy Germany, Japan and other territories that we and our allies conquered, we spent a phenomenal amount of money to build them back up after the war so that they would have functioning economies. That has never been done by any other victorious nation to the best of my knowledge.

Marc Roby: Well, the Marshall Plan was an incredible success to say the least. Unlike the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I and made World War II almost certain given its harsh treatment of Germany, we poured enormous resources into rebuilding Europe after World War II, including Germany.

Dr. Spencer: And, to be honest, that was again in our own best interest given that Russia was much closer to those countries and would probably have taken over Europe had we simply left, but just because it was also in our interest does not negate the fact that it was a very generous act that benefitted our European allies immensely. And we did much the same in Japan.

Marc Roby: OK, what is the third major fact you said has to be recognized?

Dr. Spencer: That, as far as I am aware, the United States is the only country in the history of the world to ever gain any significant degree of hegemony without it being a part of a conscious plan to rule the world or at least a large portion of it. Nor was it done primarily for our own benefit. We were not seeking to conquer territory in order to add it to our country or to steal natural resources or subjugate people. And we weren’t primarily defending our homeland either, the continental United States was never seriously threatened. We would have been happy to stay out of the war entirely, but we chose not to.

Marc Roby: That’s a great point.

Dr. Spencer: When you put that together with the phenomenal success of our free-market based economy to improve the lives of almost all people, we have a lot we can justifiably be proud of in this country.

Marc Roby: Although we must also admit we do have things to be ashamed of as well, and we have a lot of things that can be improved upon.

Dr. Spencer: And both of those points are obviously true. We should be ashamed of having slavery up until the time of the thirteenth amendment, and we should be ashamed as a nation for the Jim Crow era that followed. But the United States is far from unique in terms of slavery.

Slavery has been a part of human history for as long as we have records. And racial discrimination has been, and still is, a common problem virtually everywhere. These are simply the result of the fact that human beings are sinners. But, as we noted in Session 161, God gives us our purpose, place and priorities. So long as we keep that in mind and seek a government that is consistent with our purpose, which is to glorify God, and our place, which is that we are finite creatures, wholly dependent on our Creator, and which seeks to implement the priorities God gives us for our lives, then we will be doing what is right and best for everyone.

Marc Roby: And socialism fails in all three of those areas. Because it is built on a materialist, atheist worldview, it completely misses the purpose of human life, in fact it rejects that there is any purpose – we are just cosmic accidents. It doesn’t even recognize that there is a God, let alone that our chief end is to glorify him. It also doesn’t see that we are mere creatures, entirely dependent on our Creator, so it gets our place wrong. It thinks we are the ultimate beings. And, finally, its priorities are wrong since it ignores God’s revelation.

Dr. Spencer: One of the most poignant things I have ever read about this was written by Whittaker Chambers.

Marc Roby: Most of our listeners will probably not know who he was, so let me provide some very brief background. Whittaker Chambers was an American writer who was a communist and worked as a spy in the Soviet underground in this country in the 1930’s. He later defected from communism and, most famously, was the primary witness in the Alger Hiss case in the late 40’s.

Dr. Spencer: And Alger Hiss was an assistant to Assistant Secretary of State Francis Sayre in the FDR administration, participated in the Yalta Conference with FDR, Winston Churchill and Stalin, and was heavily involved in drafting the charter for the United Nations. He was convicted of perjury, rather than espionage, because the statute of limitations had run out on the espionage charges. He proclaimed his innocence right up to his death in 1996 and the case is still somewhat controversial, although I think the evidence that has come out after his death makes it quite clear that he was a Soviet spy.

Marc Roby: And Whittaker Chambers wrote a very famous account of his life and the trial, called Witness.[8]

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. And the reason I bring this up is that he wrote what he called a “Foreword in the Form of a Letter to My Children” that is one of the most poignant and amazing things I’ve ever read. His burden was to explain to his children how he could ever have been involved with something as evil as the Soviet Union.

Marc Roby: And it would be good to note that he became a confessing Christian.

Dr. Spencer: In fact, let me quote from his forward, he wrote that “I date my break [with communism] from a very casual happening. I was sitting in our apartment … My daughter was in her high chair. … My eye came to rest on the delicate convolutions of her ear … The thought passed through my mind: ‘No, those ears were not created by any chance coming together of atoms in nature (the Communist view). They could have been created only by immense design.’”[9]

Marc Roby: Well, that’s the first time I’ve ever heard of God using the shape of a human ear to bring someone to faith, but it makes perfect sense!

Dr. Spencer: Yes, it does. But the thing I really wanted to read is his answer to a question he posed. And you have to remember that this forward is in the form of a letter to his children. He wrote, “I see in Communism the focus of the concentrated evil of our time. You will ask: Why, then, do men become Communists?” [10]

Marc Roby: That’s a great question, how does he answer it?

Dr. Spencer: It takes him a couple of pages, so I’m going to give excerpts from his answer. He wrote that “Communism makes some profound appeal to the human mind.” Then he goes on to say first what communism is not. He says it is not “just the writings of Marx and Lenin, … the Red Army, secret police, labor camps” and so on. He also says, “The revolutionary heart of Communism is not the theatrical appeal: ‘Workers of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to gain.’ It is a simple statement of Karl Marx, further simplified for handy use: ‘Philosophers have explained the world; it is necessary to change the world.’”[11]

Marc Roby: You’ve spoken several times about the Marxist idea of needing to create a new man.

Dr. Spencer: And that’s the idea. But now let me finish by reading the really critical part of his answer. He wrote, “The tie that binds [communists] … in defiance of religion, morality, truth, law, honor … even unto death, is a simple conviction: It is necessary to change the world. … Communists are that part of mankind which has recovered the power to live or die – to bear witness – for its faith. And it is a simple, rational faith that inspires men to live or die for it. It is not new. It is, in fact, man’s second oldest faith. Its promise was whispered in the first days of the Creation under the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil: ‘Ye shall be as gods.’ It is the great alternative faith of mankind. … It is the vision of man’s mind displacing God as the creative intelligence of the world.”[12]

Marc Roby: Wow, that is powerful. And he was quoting from Genesis 3 of course, when Satan tempted Eve to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in spite of the fact God had warned Adam and Eve that they would die if they ate from it. Satan contradicted God and said, as we read in Verses 4 and 5, “You will not surely die, For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Dr. Spencer: That is the key to why all forms of Marxism – socialism, communism, fascism – or whatever, are absolutely incompatible with biblical Christianity. They are based on materialism, a rejection of God. They come from Satan, the father of lies. Chambers hit the nail on the head, the origin of Marxism was in the garden when Satan called God a liar and told man that he could be like God.

Marc Roby: That is a profound realization. Where do we go from here?

Dr. Spencer: We will soon begin to look at other modern manifestations Marxist ideology, things like the Black Lives Matter organization. But we first need to see how it is that Marxist ideology has become so common in our society today.

Marc Roby: I look forward to that discussion, and this is a great place to finish for today, so I’d like to remind our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org. We will do our best to answer.

[1] Louis Fischer, from The God That Failed, six studies in communism, Hamish Hamilton, 1950, pg. 214

[2] Joshua Muravchik, Heaven on Earth, the Rise, Fall, and Afterlife of Socialism, Encounter Books, 2019, pg. 359

[3] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[4] See Section 187 of the California Penal Code

[5] Peter Singer, Practical Ethics, 3rd Ed., Cambridge University Press, 2011, pg. 154

[6] Scott Klusendorf, Peter Singer’s Bold Defense of Infanticide, Christian Research

Journal, Vol. 23, No. 3, available at equip.org/article/peter-singers-bold-defense-of-infanticide/

[7] From a transcript of the Declaration of Independence, available at https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript

[8] Whittaker Chambers, Witness, Regenery History, 2014 (republication – original was 1952)

[9] Ibid, pg. xlv

[10] Ibid, pg. xxxvii

[11] Ibid, pg. xxxviii

[12] Ibid, pp xxxviii-xxxix

Play