NOTE: The following is protected by federal copyright law and is an excerpt from the book Marxianity written by Brannon Howse and is not to be published online. The footnotes that document the content in this article are found in the book Marxianity or the eBook.
The Hegelian dialectic process is also known as a third way. Why? After the thesis and antithesis have worn each other out, a third option is provided as a solution. Where the divergent worldviews of capitalism and socialism are concerned, this third option is “communitarianism.”
Choosing the third option pleases the full-blown socialists. It allows someone to embrace socialistic economic theory without calling oneself a socialist. You can be a communitarian and sound as if you’ve arrived at a more sophisticated alternative. In fact, most of mainstream Republicans in America are communitarians. Don Eberly, who worked inside the George W. Bush White House, for instance, admitted in the Washington Post that George W. Bush was carrying out the ideas of a communitarian.
This switch and swap goes on not only in the area of economics, but also in the area of religion. People take a little bit of biblical Christianity, blend it with a touch of Islam, and end up with a strange blend called “Chrislam.” It’s based on the attractive-sounding-but-false idea that Christians and Muslims all worship the same God. The same happens with respect to Mormonism. People try to make biblical Christianity fit with Mormonism. Whatever the blend du jour, though, the end result is a ‘we-are-the-world’ mush that believes we can bring the world’s religions together and live (globalistically) as one big, happy family. But, of course, nothing could be less biblical.
Some major evangelical leaders have attempted the same assimilation of belief systems between left-wingers and the evangelical right. The approach was formalized in a document called “Come Let Us Reason Together: A Fresh Look at Shared Cultural Values Between Evangelicals and Progressives.” In fact, an organization known as The Third Way, published the paper.
The fundamental problem with attempting this type of synthesis within the church is that “progressive” is simply a euphemism for “socialist.” So, the document is actually calling for a fresh look at shared cultural values between evangelicals and socialists. But I have to ask, “What shared values?” There’s not much biblically legitimate common ground between the two.
I wrote extensively about this document several years ago in my book, Religious Trojan Horse. In summary, though, “Come Let Us Reason” was endorsed by Brian McLaren, a major leader of the emergent church. It was also endorsed by homosexual activist, Jonathan Merritt, Founder of the Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative; emergent church leader Tony Jones; Richard Mouw, former president of Fuller Theological Seminary; Richard Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline; leftist “evangelical” Tony Campolo; Marxist Jim Wallis of Sojourners; Neo-Marxist, Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action; Bob Roberts of Northwood Church. The extent of the endorsements is breathtaking.
Support for the third way within the church has become popular in other ways as well. The premise of Jim Belcher’s popular book Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional is that the emergent church and traditional evangelicals can and should find ways to merge. (You’ll recall that the emergent church started in the mid-90s and came of age ten years later. It is a social justice, socialist, politically-leftist movement of “Christians” who believe not only socialism, but also a lot of mysticism. Key emergent church figures include Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, and Rob Bell.) In his book, Belcher offers a perfect illustration of the Hegelian process as he explains how the two opposing camps cannot move forward without arriving at a meaningful compromise:
[quote] Yet, the two sides can’t get along. They’re hostile to each other. Using their writings and conferences to denounce the other side. The vast majority of people are confused by the debate. Many have read emerging authors, agreeing with their assessment of the problem and aspects of what they are proposing. But they also have read traditional authors and are drawn to parts of their vision of the church as well. The majority want to learn from both sides. This book is written for those caught in between. They are unhappy with the present state of the evangelical church. We’re not sure where to turn for an answer. They like some of what the emerging and traditional camps offer, but they are not completely at ease with either. The public conflicts make this anxiety worse. And these people don’t know who to trust or believe. What if both are off target? Is there a third option a via media? I believe there’s a third way. I will demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of both groups and move beyond them to a third way, the deep church. [end quote]
In his endorsement of the book, Neo-Marxist co-founder of the Gospel Coalition Tim Keller echoed the theme:
[quote] Jim Belcher shows that we don’t have to choose between orthodox, evangelical doctrine on the one hand and cultural engagement, creativity and commitment to social justice on the other. This is an important book. [end quote]
According to Keller, everyone will have to compromise. But in this sort of formulation, the evangelical conservative free market thinkers are usually the ones who have to give up their viewpoint in order to reach a “compromise.”
Keller’s background prepared him well for taking this sort of position. In his book The Reason for God: Belief in the Age of Skepticism, he reveals the direction his worldview took in his college years:
[quote] The history and philosophy departments were socially radicalized and were heavily influenced by the critical theory of the Frankfurt School. In 1968 this was heady stuff. The social activism was particularly attractive, and their critique of American Bourgeois society was compelling. But its philosophical underpinnings were confusing to me. I seemed to see two camps before me. And there was something radically wrong with both of them. The people most passionate about social justice were moral relativists. While the morally upright didn’t seem to care about the oppression going on all over the world. I was emotionally drawn to the former path. What young person wouldn’t be? Liberate the oppressed and sleep with who you wanted. But I kept asking the question, if morality is relative, why isn’t social justice as well? This seemed to be a blatant inconsistency in my professors and their followers. Yet, now I saw the stark contradiction in the traditional churches. How could I turn back to the kind of orthodox Christianity that supported segregation in the South and apartheid in South Africa? Christianity began to seem very unreal to me, though I was unable to discern a viable alternative way of life and thought. [end quote]
Keller appreciated the ideas of the Frankfurt School, but (admirably) wasn’t crazy about their moral relativism. He also had problems with what he calls “orthodox Christianity.” In the process, he implicates Christians in the South for slavery or bigotry, which is completely wrong. A lot of Southern Christians opposed and helped to outlaw slavery, and subsequently supported the civil rights of black Americans. Largely, I suspect, because of his stark perspective, Keller couldn’t find a way forward until he defaulted to the third way. He may not have called it that, but his actions and teachings expose his third way viewpoint for what it is. In his book Generous Justice, for example, he writes, “This emphasis in the Bible has led some, like Latin American theologian Gustavo Gutierrez, to speak of God’s preferential option for the poor.” Unfortunately for the reader, Keller is not forthright enough to offer any background about the man he’s extolling here. Gustavo Gutierrez could be considered the father of Liberation Theology, which itself is a third way mixture of Marxism and Christianity.
Others have noticed the same worldview emanating from Keller. Researcher Timothy Kaufman published an article entitled “Workers of the Church Unite: The Radical Marxist Foundation of Tim Keller’s Social Gospel,” in which he exposes Keller’s position:
[quote] There is one high profile Marxist who is particularly effective at repackaging Marxism for a Christian audience. But due to his ability to disguise his economic philosophy, he is largely falling under the radar. That Marxist is Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. It may come as a surprise to his conservative evangelical readers that Tim Keller’s recent book, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work, is simply a recapitulation of the Marxist theory of alienation, and that Keller’s solution to the problem of alienation is indistinguishable from Marx’s. It will surprise his readers to know that Keller’s theory of wages is derived from Marxism. It will surprise his readers to know that when Keller recommends modern examples of churches that implement a Christian economic ideal, he identifies churches and organizations that are thoroughly Marxist and are inspired by leftist Saul Alinsky, the author of Rules for Radicals. [end quote]
Kaufman’s observation is supported by E. S. Williams in his excellent book, The New Calvinist. Of Keller and other purveyors of the social gospel, Williams says:
[quote] [I]t is a gospel that changes the terms of salvation and that loves the world and embraces its culture. . . . Timothy Kauffman has examined Keller’s claim that God’s radical plan is that, “We are to work together to make the world a better place, to help each other and to find purpose for our lives.” And demonstrated that it does not come from biblical wisdom as Keller wants us to believe, but from a Marxist worldview. To convince his readers of God’s radical plan, Keller quotes from the writings of three Marxists—Robert Bella, Gustavo Gutierrez, and Reinhold Niebuhr without mentioning their political affiliation. In fact, Keller has superstitiously replaced the gospel of Christ with the utopia of Marx and presented it as biblical truth. The importance of Kauffman’s analysis is that it demonstrates how Marxist theology can masquerade as Christian truth. [end quote]
The “masquerade” includes making the concept of salvation Marxist-friendly. Keller’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church put out a document called “The Meaning of Shalom and Doing Justice” in which Keller claims: “The purpose of salvation is the restoration of the material world.” But is that the purpose of salvation? Of course not. This world will not be restored until the second coming of Christ. That’s when the curse of sin will be done away with and creation will be restored. We know by reading Romans 8 that all creation groans for the restoration which will come about when God establishes His kingdom. Christ will restore the earth, and it will be as it should be—without the curse of sin. At that time, He will establish His reign and will rule His millennial kingdom here on earth. Meanwhile, the purpose of salvation is not some grand environmental scheme. The purpose is to redeem and save fallen man.
Still, Keller has a lot to say about the material world. His perspective is clear in this excerpt from one of his videos:
[quote] John Stott has a great little book on this—a great little article on this—where he says, what are we supposed to do with our goods? What does the Bible say? Does the Bible say we must become poor materially? And he checks it all out and decides no, it doesn’t really tell you you have to do that. Then on the other hand does it say we can stay rich and just give away to charity. No, we can’t do that. He says, we don’t have to become poor, nor can we stay rich. We have got to get, he says, incredibly contented with what we’ve got because we have rewards in heaven. That’s why we’re not afraid to weep. That’s the reason why we’re not afraid to mourn. That’s the reason we’re not afraid to weep now. That’s the reason we’re not afraid to be empty now. We have to be extremely content with what we have and radically generous. We don’t have to actually become poor. But we’re not allowed to stay rich. [end quote]
So, Keller declares that Christians cannot be poor, nor can they stay rich, but the Bible really says nothing of the sort about Christians and wealth. Keller’s claim is merely one more example of the dialectical deception of Christianity merging with Marxism. Even if it were a biblical assertion, the logistics of implementing the idea is essentially impossible. After all, who is going to define what is “rich?” Do we (i.e., the government) set up minimum incomes as well as maximum incomes? Above that, the government just takes it? As crazy as it sounds, that’s exactly what Keller and his cronies in The Gospel Coalition think should happen. The Gospel Coalition website promotes this idea of a national minimum income for everyone when one of there writers declares:
[quote] King’s speech goes on to outline policies for a guaranteed national income and a universal housing program. Whatever one thinks about the efficacy of his policy proposals, King clearly came to see that ambitions for integration that ignored economic inequalities were self-defeating and definitively unloving…Our takeaway from King’s development is twofold. First, pursuing racial reconciliation requires confronting economic inequalities, along with the cultural realities that led to them. [emphasis mine] [end quote]
They seem to have neglected Margaret Thatcher’s glib assessment of the potential of socialism to be successful: “Socialism works until you run out of other people’s money.” Notice for some, racial reconciliation apparently must involve some type of “show me the money” scheme like mandatory minimum incomes, which could also be promoted as a form of reparations.
But does the Bible actually speak against Christians being rich? No, it does not. Notice the teaching of 1 Timothy 6:17-19:
"Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good. To be rich in good works. To be generous and ready to share. Storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed."
The Bible teaches that a person should not trust in his or her riches and that wealth should be used to do good. Scripture says wealth should be shared, but it doesn’t suggest forced confiscation. The text is clear that money is given to be a blessing to others, to provide for one’s family, to further the gospel. These are the purposes of wealth for the believer, but the scripture doesn’t say that you can’t be rich.
As revealed in another video excerpt, Keller doesn’t seem to grasp this balanced, biblical view:
[quote] And the Bible says, therefore, because poverty is an economic condition we respond to it as believers with mercy. But then secondly, because it’s a social condition we must respond to it with justice. Because there’s injustice. Because there’s exploitation. [end quote]
He claims the Bible says poverty is an economic condition whereas it often describes poverty as the consequence of sinful choices such as slothfulness, irresponsibility, ill-gotten gains, and cheating. The bottom line, though, is that God chooses who is wealthy and who is not. A lot of people suffer in poverty because of the sin of dictators in third world countries like Cuba and other places. Children in America often suffer because of the sins of their parents. Keller argues that poverty is unjust and results from exploitation—a classic Marxist characterization. While it may be that some people exploit others, the Bible admonishes the rich never to take advantage of the poor. But Tim Keller makes the Marxist assumption that if someone has wealth, it’s because he or she exploited somebody else.
The truth is, if a manager or owner of a factory is wealthy, it is not because of exploitation of the workers on the factory floor. To the contrary, the owner has provided a way for workers to make a good living. The owner likely built the business, took on risk, lived years of hand to mouth to build that business, worked long hours, and finally gained enough wealth and capital to build the factory and hire workers. But Tim Keller and many Neo-Marxists want to leave you with the idea that people who are rich are rich because they exploited the workers. And that’s nothing less than class warfare—the class warfare promoted by Karl Marx himself. It may be progressive to believe that way, but it certainly does not represent progress for the church.