Today’s approach to apologetics seems pretty clear. We have, for the past several centuries, faced the foes known as “rationalism” and “Reason” as the primary adversary. We have been told that Christianity makes no sense so we respond with Christianity as the rational response to irrationality. We are told that the matters in the Bible which seem unscientific prove that Christianity is in error so we respond that these things could only have been accomplished by an intelligent designer of the world. We were told that everything happened by chance after that “big bang” so we responded with a challenge that something does not come from nothing. In these battles against the rationalist and Reason we are either holding our own, gaining ground, or have in some cases actually won the battle (i.e. the problem of evil).
Today we face a new challenge. Let’s call it Reason’s children. Let’s start with a little trip back in to to give this some perspective. This thing called rationalism started, let’s say for simplicity 500 years ago, just to make things simple. It was the suggestion that the individual mind could solve the problems of the world. We could devise our own morality up against the morality of the all-powerful church. We could discern the nature of the universe against the dictates of both the church and the traditions of men such as Aristotle. In all of this men would become enlightened and throw off the darkness of religious ignorance. It all comes from what is inside.
The apologetic battles against the rationalist will go on for a long while, as they ought. But this rationalism has taken control of education and the sciences to such a degree that often the Christian finds no place. Even finding employment, in some disciplines, can prove difficult. Running your own business, as we have recently seen with florists and bakers, is subject to a secular guide rather than a Christian ethic.
There is a new front for apologetics and it is not often considered a venue for apologetic training. In the past it has been called the “culture war” and we dominated by the theological “postmillennial” theologian who sought to wrest control of social institutions from the secularist and put them into the hands of the Christian. The method proved to be misguided. These folks had neither the numbers nor the capacity to fulfill their mission. They were correct that taking the offensive was the best way to do apologetics (a defensive posture always loses) but they were wrong in their magisterial approach to Christianity in American (or any, for that matter) society.
This new front for the apologetic battle is even more daunting and nuanced that we might realize. Behind the powers we face is the world view we all know as Marxism. Now, I know that the first thing we want to do is call them all communists and have done with it. Or we might just back off and leave them alone — that’s politics and it has no place in the church. I believe there is another option.
Let’s first think of Marxism for what it really is — it is a world view. Its first concern is economics and its enforcement method is a strong government. The Marxist sees things like liberty and economic freedom as destructive because they do not help all equally. It is a class-based view of the world, a world in which the only class to be allowed dominance is the orthodox confessed Marxist class. Marxism is also a theological construct as it attempts to rewrite Christian theology. This is seen is Marx, Marx’ mentor, Hegel, and his understanding of the Atonement, as well as in the more recent movements of Liberation and Revolution Theologies.
Some apologetic material has been composed regarding this world view. The late Klaus Bockmuehl’s “The Challenge of Marxism, A Christian Response” is a great start here. This provides a basis for attacking the errors of Marxism. Teaching such material is today necessary though it should have been done decades ago. But alas we did not have a framework for response as we do today.
Another response to the Marxist is a clarification of Christian theology to confront the Marxist. The constructs show themselves to be thoroughly heretical. But don’t take my word for it — read Marx for yourself. That’s the best way to start.
Though some like Jim Wallis have accepted Marxism we would do well to ask our seminaries and colleges to retract their degrees. It was done with the heresies of R B Thieme and doing so with regard to Marxist heresies would prove equally valuable as the orthodoxy of our colleges and seminaries becomes more critical. Marxist countries such as Communist China force the church to acknowledge Marxism and thus sacrifice theology (truth) for statism. That is a trend here which we would do well to avoid. Think of this as an institutional apologetic.
A word of caution here. What we do not want to do is promote the Constitution as some form of Christian apologetic. It is easy to become traditionally American in the face of this threat. Let’s remember that the church will go on whether or not the United States endures. We do not want to be guilty of a different form of statism where the church serves the Constitution. It is an easy trap to fall into. Also, we do not want to promote either conservatism or libertarianism as somehow being Christian. Though the compatibilities between Christianity and these two might be acceptable, they are not part of our theology. They are social systems and that is all.
What we do have in the Bible for confronting the Marxist is first to clarify the theological errors of the Marxist. These go beyond the errors in Biblical interpretation. Marxism intends to create a better world, and in this reflects the theology of the century that birthed it. But we know that that theology failed in evangelicalism — it could not produce its end.
This postmillennialism all but disappeared after the First World War because the the nations were not willing, among other things. Marxism attempts to create a better world through enforcement. We do well to point out the inconsistency and error of this. David Berlinski in “The Devil’s Delusion” has a list of the deaths of the 20th century due to this “scientific” approach to humanity. In this light we would do well to point out, very strongly, that injustice — massive bloodshed — does not produce justice. We need to teach this clearly and strongly.
And most of all we must not forget the greatest apologetic of all. Redemption in Christ. Persuasion away from evil is one thing. Persuasion to faith is the end we seek.