In our last article we sketched briefly how during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the deformation of the Reformed churches together with the increasing influence of mysticism and modernism, and the resulting revolutionary political and economical ideas culminated in the French Revolution. We also saw haw after this revolt a general reaction set in, due to the discouraging experiences resulting from the application of these ideas, but that the fundamental principles of the Revolution did by no means die out. On the contrary, the new generation attempted gradually to adjust and reorganize the oId political and economic institutions according to the same principles that had proved to produce failure when they were so forcefully applied during the revolt.
The second generation actually became more haughty, proud and godless than their forebears, and from them came forth a great number of radical revolutionists, whose theories and practices have had a lasting influence. They were largely the cause of the continuous turmoil in Europe up to World War I, and since that time of all the international trouble we have experienced. In the principles of Marx and Engels we find the gist and germ of all the teachings of that revolutionary epoch.1 We shall now proceed to discuss these principles in greater detail.
“An Anthology of the Religiosity of Satan”
Upon reading the works of the Reformers one often finds the remark made that as soon as Jesus Christ builds his Church somewhere, Satan will build his chapel next door. Well known is Luther’s saying that Satan is the ape of God. In view of later historical developments one might extend the meaning of these remarks somewhat and say that Satan will make a temple of his former chapel as soon as he has succeeded in tearing down the Church. In fact, this has always been his practice. After Adam became the Devil’s ally, Cain, his son, placed his own virtues and materialistic “religion” upon the al tar over against the confession of Abel, who expected his redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Lamech continued the very same idea when he formulated his religion in his sang of vengeance. Even a little boy had to be killed to satisfy Lamech’s own righteousness. Evidently he did not need the blood of Golgatha. Nimrod, great-grandson of Noah, is better known as the founder of the empire of Babylon, the same power that throughout the history of the Old Testament Church was the enemy and horrible persecutor of that Church. When Israel turned its back upon the temple in Jerusalem, the service of Baal and Astarte look the place of the service of Jehovah. The deformation of the Church after the time of the Apostles resulted in the Raman Catholic temple at Anti-Christ. And well known is the religious experiment of Robespierre in the heyday of the French Revolution, which consisted of public worship of Reason as God.
This is only a small anthology of the religiosity of Satan. It shows sufficiently, we feel, how the old Liar from the beginning operates on the basis of the anti-thesis, and uses every opportunity to enact his anti-church wherever possible. It is pity so many people, large number of those the Reformed faith, do the socialistic parties, a pity that including a who confess not see how the Roman Catholics, and the World Council of Churches are working tog·ether in an attempt to establish and erect a new temple for Satan, and that now on an international basis.2 Satan, in his dual function as a plagiarius, drawing men away from God and his Word, and as plagiarist, imitating God and his work of redemption, has faithful servants in modern philosophers, and in the apostate Christianity of the present time. And the priests and politicians that follow them try their utmost to realize and practice their ideas and ideals.
This furnishes us with a clue whereby to recognize the real importance of a movement like Communism, and for a correct understanding of it. Human religious wisdom, as a substitute for true religion, although distorted, consists of the same elements as the true religion of the Scriptures. It has its own god, its own explanation of sin and evil, and its own system of doctrine of redemption. Man is confronted with sin and evil, but does not want to accept responsibility for it. Men are gaels, able to redeem themselves. These are the basic characteristics of non-Christian and semi-Christian religions and philosophies.
“What Is God?”
Satan’s deceitful prescription to Eve in paradise (Gen. 3:4, 5) still holds good as a basic “truth” for modern man. To be like God, to be God, to be one’s own law and lawgiver for the cosmos is man’s preferred ideal. In this connection Calvin remarks that the unbelievers judge of God according to their own carnal stupidity, and leave the proper paths of investigation in pursuit of speculations, which are as vain as they are curious. Their conceptions of God are formed, not according to the representations he gives of himself in the Bible, but by the inventions of their own presumptuous imaginations. They worship not the Lord, but a figment of their own imagination instead.3 This figment of their imagination they might designate as reason, as Rationalism did or as intuition as James and Bergson did, or as an egoistic animal called Man, conditioned by his social feelings and emotional stimuli, as in the modem psychology of Behaviorism, but fundamentally they all agree.
The central issue in all non-scriptural philosophy and religion will al· ways he the question: what is God? To compose a catalogue of all the answers given to this “problem”—the problem exists only for the disbeliever would be a suitable subject for a philosophical thesis, perhaps, but is not for us to do at this moment. Let it suffice to relate Calvin’s answer here, in the first place because nothing has basically changed with respect to the formulation of this problem since he wrote his Institutes, and, in the second place, because he really touched the heart of the question with his answer. Said he: “For how can the infinite essence of God be defined by the narrow capacity of the human mind, which could never yet certainly determine the nature of the body of the sun, though the daily object of our contemplation? How can the human mind, by its own efforts, penetrate into an examination of the essence of God, when it is totally ignorant of its own? Wherefore let us freely leave to God the knowledge of Himself. We should not allow ourselves to investigate God anywhere but in His Word, or to form any ideas about Him but such that are agreeable to His Word, or to speak anything concerning Him but what is derived from the same Word.”4 And he exposed the foolishness of the question very clearly as follows: “Cold and frivolous, then, are the speculations of those people who employ themselves in disquisitions on the essence of God, when it would be of far greater importance to us to become acquainted with his character, and to know what is agreeable to his nature.” On this basic question the Reformation can never be reconciled with Rome, modernism, or mysticism.
As is well-known, the Roman Catholic Church has two popes. Besides the one residing in Rome, there is the philosophical pope, called Reason, the latter being the basis of operation for the former. One of the basic elements of the Romanist religion is that men by way of their thinking arrive at the essence of things. Scriptural revelation is valuable, but only as an auxiliary element in the system; the proper order is first the human mind, and second, the Bible. The founders of Rome’s religion and philosophy have answered the question: What is God? by the very same method. The idea behind their heresy is the following: man is by virtue of his reason able to penetrate into the substance of things and objects around him. This substance they call being. Through the power of intellect, which can penetrate into the very structure of reality and clarify its ultimate significance, man takes intellectual possession of the cosmos.
Having thus established one philosophical notion, the supreme reason of the “holy fathers of the church” continues to employ some mixture of common sense, mysticism, and mathematics. For every individual can verify the fact that there are not only different kinds of beings, but also beings of various sizes. Besides that, this intellectual concept implies a kind of relative omniscience, it has a total and absolute character. The concept of being is a super-concept, because it possesses the essential character of all concepts. Since being is the most important characteristic that thought is able to attribute to the cosmos, these philosophers jump to the conclusion that there must exist a “Supreme being” from which all that exists derives its being. And at this point the Bible comes in handy, for it speaks about God. The conclusion is readily made: the most supreme being we can think of is God. Thus almighty and sovereign man establishes by way of his reason what God is.
First he turns to God’s work in the creation and maintenance of his world, and from the “knowledge” gained in this way, he rises to the knowledge of God. The essence of reality is being, thus, the essence of God is being, the difference is only in the adjective: God is Supreme Being, the cosmos is being of lower order.
Very truly Calvin denoted this conception of God a figment of the human mind. This has nothing to do with the knowledge and fear of the Lord concerning which the Bible speaks. The function of reason in this system is comparable to that of the mistress in the house, the function of the Word of God to that of her parlor-maid. That these philosophers did was nothing else than an attempt to Christianize the idols of Greece and Rome, and pagan religion in general. And this synthesis of Jerusalem and Athens is up to this time the official doctrine of the Catholic Church of Rome.
Reformation and Renaissance Reaction
Over against this system of pagan and biblical “truths” arose a severe reaction, embodied in the Reformation and the Renaissance. Reformation and modernism agree on this point: both tried to break up this unholy marriage. But they differed on what was the proper method to follow.
Calvin, as we have seen, called the Church back to the Word of God. We must come, I say, to the Word, which contains a just and lively description of God as He appears in His works, when those works are estimated, not according to our depraved judgment, but by the rule of eternal truth.6
The Renaissance, the starting-point of modernism, aimed, as the name already indicates, at a rebirth of ancient pagan culture. For this purpose it had no use for a parlor-maid, but instead it needed a midwife. And this it found in the new ideal of science. The energizing principle of this so-called new, but actually centuries old approach, was a powerful attempt to free science and philosophy from “dogmatic theology.” What is meant by the last statement may best be illustrated by the famous saying of Bacon, one of the founders of the new approach, that to found a system of natural philosophy on the first chapter of Genesis is to seek the living among the dead.7
The modernists then tried to find a different starting point, a different foundation for their philosophy and religion. On this question they were, however, divided into two great camps, since they were placed before the following dilemma: In what relation do our thoughts regarding the world about us stand to this world itself? Is our knowledge of reality around us prior to reality itself, or is reality prior to our knowledge of it? Has God created the world, or has the world existed from eternity? The first group, generally known as the idealists, followed the line of reasoning of Rome but gave it a different slant. Rome ended with a god that is the rational conclusion of the human mind. The idealists turned the argument upside down and called the human reason god. Only within this context one is able to understand the claim of rationalism, that even though the real world conflicts with the conclusions of our reason, then still our reason is right. The other group, the materialists, are of the opinion, that our knowledge is determined by the reality surrounding us. We know because first certain things exist that are knowable.
According to them this principle can easily be explained and proved. Does the world cease to exist when you close your eyes? The answer is self-evident. Now by the same token it is clear that the world existed before there were men that were able to know the world. From that priority, in the process of our acquaintance with the knowable things, they jump to the conclusion that the material world was also prior in time. Since that which is first in time, does not allow us to think of anything else prior to it, the only possible conclusion is that the material world, orin short, matter, is the first, independent, self-explanatory principle of reality. Matter is from eternity, and since man is the highest manifestation of matter, man is god.8 This, in short, is how the midwife, the new scientific approach, helped to give birth to the god called matter: The Roman Catholic parlor-maid was replaced to make room for the rejuvenated pagan idols. The supreme reason of Rome bad turned another somersault. This materialism is the fundamental dogma of Communism, and every member of the party has to swear to remain faithful to it for ever and ever. In the last analysis it is a religious principle which has filled the vacuum created by the deformation and breakdown of the church as a result of an increasing secularization since the seventeenth century.
Marx, Engels and Materialism Marx and Engels adopted and subsequently adjusted this theory of materialism as a philosophy into which their revolutionary theories could be fitted. This brand of materialism is generally known as dialectical and historical materialism. Once they had accepted this materialism, the next step to be taken was to determine the essence of matter. For this purpose Marx and Engels endowed their matter with motion. We must, according to them, conceive of matter as being loaded with force. If we examine nature, we have presented to us an endless call of interrelations and changes in which nothing is constant, whatever its nature or position, but everything is in motion, suffers change, and passes away. Marx and Engels are here in complete agreement with the old Greek philosopher, Heraclitus.
Everything is and yet is not, since everything is in a state of flux, is comprehended as undergoing constant modifications, as eternally existing and disappearing. A correct understanding of these motions and the laws governing them, however, can only be had, according to Marx and Engels, by means of the dialectical method. The term dialectic is derived from a Greek word meaning to debate or to discuss. In Greek philosophy it signified the art of discussing with a view to arriving at the “truth,” that is, the correct interpretation of the essence of something,9 by exposing the contradictions contained in the arguments of the disputants.
Hegel gave a different interpretation of: this dialectic. He argued that for rationalist reason is an abstract faculty by means of which men could decide on any question that might arise, since there are only two possibilities: things are either right or wrong, true or false. But according to Hegel the matter is not that simple. In his opinion the thesis affirms a proposition, and the antithesis, that is the thesis of the opposing· party, negated the first thesis. The synthesis embraces what is true in both the thesis and the anti-thesis, and thus brings us one step nearer to the correct interpretation of the essence of reality. Since the synthesis expresses only part of the truth, it ca n be used in a subsequent argument as a thesis, and so the process starts over again, until finally the “truth” has been firmly established.
This dialectic has been applied by Marx and Engels to their “matter in motion.” Marx takes the movements of thought to be the reflex of matter in motion as transported or transposed in the mind of man. In other words, the fact that men argue and think dialectically certifies the fact that matter in motion operates according to this dialectical principle. This dialectical materialism applied to the history of civilization results in the theory of historical materialism. Since man is the highest manifestation of matter, the history of mankind must be conceived of as the gradual development of the potentialities of matter according to the thesis-antithesis-synthesis principle.
Stalin himself gave the following expression to this principle in his pamphlet on Dialectical and Historical Materialism, the Communist catechism: “The philosophical materialism of Marx starts with the principle that the world is, by nature, material; that the myriad phenomena of the world represent various aspects of matter in motion; that the mutual relationships and reciprocal conditioning of phenomena, certified by the dialectical method, constitute the laws necessary for the evolution of matter in motion: that the world evolves according· to the laws of matter of motion and has no need or any universal spirit.” The prose is rather dull, but that is all what one can expect from a man in whom this horrible theory has become flesh and blood. A little piece of Marxist poetry may serve as an illustration and illumination of the theory:
God no longer makes The flaming ball of the sun to turn; It is for us, good sirs, To carry the sun and the moon To the Miner’s Union. No longer to Our human shame Shall we depend on heaven And its fatal signs, But shall hang electric Lamps on the canopy of heaven.10
It is according to this principle that the existing world order, politically and economically, must be destroyed and subsequently rebuilt. This pseudo-scientific fortune telling is for millions and millions the new gospel that will bring delivery from misery, and redemption from evil. It is the old song of Lamech, only the tune is different, the old ideal of the people on the plains of Shinar, only the tools are different.
1. Besides Marx and Engels the following ought to be mentioned in this connection: Louis Blanc, Fourier, Saint Simon and his followers, Robert Owen, Proudhon, and Lassale. In the brief space of a few years the works of Darwin on the theory of Evolution, August Comte on positivist politics and positivist philosophy, Ricardo on the iron-clad laws of economics, were established. and caused an important change in scientific views and methods. All these men were closely connected with the communist and socialist movements of that time. and as a result, much of the theories of communism and socialism can be traced back to their teachings. It is obviously impossible in an article like ours to deal with all of them, and for this reason we confine our discussion to the most outstanding figures among them.
2. Rome still aspires after the restoration of the old Holy Roman Empire in West Europe; concerning the ideas of the present pope, cf. Franz van Papel’s Memoirs, New York, 1953, and the recent Christmas message of the pope. These ideas coincide very well with the internationalistic motives of the different variations of the socialistic and communistic movements in Europe, as expressed in the respective party programs on the subject of a federated Europe. Cf. also the publications of the “Straszburgers,” a semi-private organization of prominent politicians in West Europe, indirectly supported by the respective governments. It is not necessary to dwell upon the well-known international political aspirations of the World Council of Churches, which agree very well with the ideas of Rome and the Communists. For reasons of self-preservation the USA furthers these explosive ideas which throughout history have caused tension and unrest in Europe, by its insistence upon the creation of the European Defense Community. The counter-part of this failure to adhere to the principle of separation of Church and State in the USA is evidenced in the government attitude towards public versus private schools based on religious convictions. It shows clearly that it is impossible to adhere to political ideas that are absolutely neutral as far as their application is concerned, that is, principles, that involve no religious implications.
3. Calvin, Institutes, Book I, chapter 6. sub. 3.
4. Calvin, Institutes, Book I, chapter· 8, sub. 11.
5. Calvin, Institutes, Book I, Chapter 2, sub. 2.
6. Calvin, Institutes, Book I chapter 6, sub. 3.
7. Cf. Modern Classical Philosophers, selections complied by Benjamin Rand, second edItion, Boston-San Francisco, p. 43.
8. This method of reason ing lies also behind the wisdom of certain scientists, who conclude from the place and the condition in which they find the tail and the skull of a monkey that mankind is at least a few billion years old. In a “scientific” opinion like that it does in fact not matter how many zeros you use. By the same token one might conclude to the actual degeneration of mankind into monkeys. In that case you can leave all the zeros out of the figures.
9. In ancient and modern philosophy truth is the agreement between the results of intellectual activity and the object of this activity, the so-called facts, or data. Within the context of these philosophies one has arrived at the “Truth” as soon as one has succeeded in straightening out the confusion that is presented to us in the world surrounding us. In other words, as one has systematically ordered these facts. In the Bible God is the Truth, that is, not the result of our intellectual speculations, but our living Savior.
10. This specimen of communistic poetry can be found in The Philosophy of Communism New York, Fordham University Press, a work that consists of a number of papers that were the subject of a discussion at a series of meetings, organized by the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas at Rome, April 1949. This study is also very helpful for the correct understanding of the Roman Catholic conception of God. Concerning the position of the Neo-Thomists on this subject, the study published by the reader of this movement, Etienne Gilson, under the title The Spirit of Mediaeval Philosophy, New York, 1940, is very interesting.