Communism and the Historic Christian Faith
by Dr. Allan A. MacRae, President
Faith Theological Seminary
We shall consider the topic "Communism and the Historic Christian Faith" under six heads.
1. The only real solution for the world's economic and social ills is to be found in the Historic Christian Faith.
Christianity came into a world which was filled with oppression and cruelty. Great masses of people were held as slaves, often brutally beaten, and sometimes killed, simply at the whim of their owners. The Roman emperors ruled in arbitrary fashion over all the nations which they had conquered, often brutally oppressing and torturing, not only members of the conquered nations, but also citizens of Rome as well. Moral conditions were bad, and the social organization was full of injustice. In this situation, the Christian Church began to preach the Gospel of individual salvation through Christ, while paying no direct attention to social problems or even to seemingly great moral issues, outside of the church itself. It is amazing to look through the New Testament epistles and see the lack of any attack on political oppression, social injustice, or even slavery itself. Yet the effect of the preaching of the Gospel was to humanize the heart of the slave-holder, to Christianize the attitude of the slave, and to cause both, if they had accepted Christ as Saviour, to look upon one another as brothers, and in time to see the folly of the institution of slavery. At last the imperial throne itself was affected, and the whole fabric of government was changed, as converted individuals sought to apply truly Christian principles to their personal relationships. The Historic Christian Faith was the dynamite which struck at the very root of the corrupt practices, and wicked organization of the Roman world. No social planning the world has ever seen has accomplished anything like as much for the betterment of humanity as the changed character brought about by the preaching of the Gospel.
I wish that every one of you might read the book by Dr. J. W. Bready entitled, England Before And After Wesley. This book graphically depicts the desperate conditions to which English social life had fallen at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Wesley came preaching salvation through Christ, and urging people of all classes to accept Jesus as Saviour and Lord. None of his effort was directed toward reform of the social order. Yet, the result of his preaching, as Bready so vividly proves, was that England took the greatest step forward in the improvement of social conditions that has ever occurred in its history.
When men are willing and anxious to present the message of personal salvation through Christ, and when this presentation is not forcibly prevented, these are the effects which come. Look at the progress which was made in the countries of northern Europe since the Reformation, and contrast the comparative backwardness of the countries of southern Europe, their poverty and their degradation. The reason for the difference is clear. During these centuries, most of the countries of northern Europe have allowed freedom to preach the Gospel, and multitudes in these nations have come to know Christ as Saviour. The resulting improvement in character has shown itself in betterment of every phase of life. At the time of the Reformation, Spain and Italy were economically and politically ahead of the northern countries. When the work of Martin Luther reached those lands, thousands of people began to show interest in the Gospel. Then the cruel and clever Inquisition pitilessly searched out the men who believed in salvation through faith alone, destroyed them and burned their books, and in the southern half of Europe for nearly three centuries it was practically impossible for anyone to hear the Gospel. The northern countries went ahead, and the southern ones sank into comparative degradation and poverty. Today it is these countries, where the Gospel was so long forbidden, which are most open to the entrance of communism. The best antidote to communism is the preaching of the Historic Christian Faith.
In recent years the World Council of Churches, through its affiliate, the International Missionary Council, and through the activities of its various national councils, such as the "National Council of Churches" in the United States of America, has been seeking to keep Bible-believing missionaries out of mission lands, and to get control of the radio, of the chaplaincy, and of the pulpits of our great denominations. It is hard to think of anything that could do more to further the cause of communism than this attempt to decrease the opportunity to preach the Word of God.
This leads us naturally to our second point:
2. In recent years, many of those who should have been preaching the Historic Christian Faith have, instead, been doing their utmost to forward another religion, one which actually has little to distinguish it from the economic and social tenets of the communism which is now in control of Russia and its satellites.
About forty years ago, when modernism began to enter with force into many of our American colleges and theological seminaries, people who were seeking to be trained for Christian leadership found their faith in the Bible destroyed. Many of them no longer believed that it was important that the world should be brought to know of the personal salvation available through Jesus Christ, and of the necessity of receiving Him as Saviour of our souls and Lord of our lives. They no longer considered the Bible to be the infallible Word of God. This loss of faith created a vacuum in their lives. They were preachers and teachers, and they needed something about which they could become enthusiastic. Gradually the gap was filled with another religion, the goal of which, as I shall point out, is very close to that of present day communism.
This religion came to be called the "social gospel." It should be clearly pointed out that the Christian Church has always stood for amelioration of the suffering of this world. Philanthropic interest in those less fortunate than ourselves is common to all true Christians. It can safely be said that a far greater amount of true betterment of social conditions has come from the results of Christianity than from any other source. This "social gospel," however, was not simply a matter of suggesting that we do everything that we can to help others. It developed into a plan for complete reorganization of social life.
What the adherents of the social gospel advanced was, apparently, a very simple plan. It amounted merely to this. If anyone possesses more than his fellows do, take it away from him and give it to others. Establish a situation in which no human being has opportunity on account of what he owns, to direct the activities of others, but in which all will be ordered and organized in such a way that each will receive what he needs, and that all will work together for the common good.
This sounds, at first, like a very beautiful theory. Unfortunately, however, it is a theory which does not recognize the weaknesses of human nature. It is quite impractical. It has been tried by small colonies many times, through the centuries, and has usually resulted in utter failure. Cooperation among human beings is most desirable, and there are many ways of securing it. But the idea that all society should be reorganized into a socialistic or communistic organization, with the economic activities of all subordinated to a general master plan, is one which finds no warrant in the Bible, and which does not work out in practical experience.
The propulsion for this plan inevitably comes to be based upon an unthinking hate. Here is a man who owns something: therefore, he is an oppressor. Here is a man who is in a position of authority: therefore, he is an exploiter.
Now, of course, it is true that there are often men in positions of authority who are exploiters or oppressors. This is a matter of human nature. Reverse the situation and the man who is now exploited will often prove himself to be an even worse oppressor.
A minister has told me of his experience with this new gospel, as a student in one of the oldest and best known of American theological seminaries, about forty years ago. He said that the professor of Old Testament was constantly talking about social reform and social change, until the students got very tired of it and asked him if he couldn't give them some lessons on the Bible. The professor said, "All right, we will study the Book of Exodus." He began with the first chapter of Exodus, but it wasn't very long before he was comparing the Israelites in Egypt to "the oppressed working classes of today," comparing Moses to a labor leader, and saying that the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian oppression was typical of deliverance from the whole capitalistic system.
Many students were indoctrinated with this teaching. Churches desiring men who would preach to them the Gospel of salvation through Christ, often found themselves saddled with ministers who were propagandizing them to work and struggle for the complete change of our social system.
Our third point is this:
3. This other religion is powerless to accomplish its avowed purpose. In fact, its actual result is great harm, rather than good.
Preachers of the social gospel in this country often pointed with great interest to the experiment in Russia. While occasionally disassociating themselves from some of its aspects, they were constantly praising it as a forward step in the direction of their aim. The Soviet government has had nearly thirty-five years of absolute domination in Russia, and during this time has been free to use every instrument it might desire to forward its aim of introducing the universal socialistic society to which it is ideologically devoted. What is the result? Today the standard of living of the average Russian is far lower than that of the people of western Europe, to say nothing of those of the United States. The difference between the standard of living of the top bureaucrats and that of the rank and file of the working class, is actually greater than that between almost any two classes in any nation of western Europe, or America. In Germany, which is now divided into a section devoted to Russian communism and another in which western ideas are supreme, the standard of living of the two parts simply bears no comparison. People are constantly fleeing from the eastern zone to the western zone, and this movement is not only one from tyranny to freedom, but is also affected by the desire to enjoy the material benefits of a system so different from the socialist Utopia.
Here we see the results of the social gospel. Experience demonstrates that it is impotent to accomplish what it claims to be able to do. Why is this? It is because socialism, at its best, is simply a plan for a distribution of what is already being produced. It has in it no dynamic which can increase production, and thus advance a nation economically and industrially.
During the Middle Ages, the great bulk of the population of Europe was sunk in deepest poverty, compelled to work long hours for very meager rations. There just was not enough produced to go around. A small class of knights, whose armor made it possible for one of them to overcome any twenty of the common people, lived in comparative luxury-luxury, however, which would seem poor indeed, compared to the standard of living of the average person of western Europe today. Had the leaders of the World Council of Churches been active at that time, they would have said, "What is necessary is to take what the knights have and divide it up among the peasants, so that all will have an equal amount, and then with a socialistic system of distribution, there will be justice for all." The trouble is that to take what the knights bad and divide it up among the rest of the people at that time would have raised the standard of living of the mass of the people hardly one percent. The only result would be to sink the knights to an equal level with the others.
At least once a century during the Middle Ages, in almost every country of Europe, there was a great uprising of the peasants against the tyranny of the knights. These peasant uprisings were put down with terrible slaughter. They were a cry of protest against the want in which the people lived. Yet, to have divided up the property of the knights would not materially have helped any of them.
Today all of the western world has a higher standard of living than anyone had during the Middle Ages. The reason is not a system of planned distribution or socialistic organization. It is because a few people of ability and energy found opportunity to improve methods of production. They themselves made wealth out of it, but the standard of living of the whole area was raised. By the process of industrialization, and the freeing of individual enterprise in modern times, groups here and there were able to produce more. While they themselves profited greatly, the increased production accrued to the benefit of all. The amount of goods available was constantly being increased, and competition made different groups bid against one another. Thus, the results were distributed more and more widely. It is free enterprise which has raised the world's standard of living.
The word "capitalism" is often used synonymously with "free enterprise." It is unfortunate that this is the case. The true emphasis of the word is not on the fact that control of economic activities is in the hands of one who has money, over against one who does not have money. In any economic system, control over activities cannot be evenly distributed. Some individuals must have control and direction over the work of others. The stress in capitalism is on the fact that it is a flexible system, rather than a fixed one. The word came into being in contrast to the systems of the Middle Ages, in which control rested in a man's hands because be happened to be born into a certain family, or inherited landed estates, or was a favorite of someone. Under a system of semi-socialism, the power to direct the economic activities of others is in the hands of those who have been elected for that purpose. Political acumen is what determines direction of economic activities. This does not lead to a successful -economy. Under a true capitalistic system, the power to control economic activities comes into the hands of men who have proved themselves to have ability to earn, to produce, to accumulate, and thus have moved forward in the hurly-burly of competition. In this way the men able to increase production are in the positions where their abilities can be utilized, and everyone benefits, It has often been said in America that it is three generations from shirt-sleeves to shirt-sleeves. Very frequently in our country a man has elevated himself from the mass through bard toil and careful thinking, has accumulated money, and has succeeded in using it in such a way as to increase production and benefit the whole nation. A son, well-trained under a capable father, was able to go forward and make a real contribution to the nation. His sons, however, devoted themselves to enjoying the money that they had, instead of trying to develop what latent abilities they might have inherited, and soon lost what they bad and thus the money was redistributed. Capitalism is a fluid system in which the men who have ability in industry and accomplishment rise to the top through competition, rather than through being selected by some politician, as in the Soviet regime, or through being born into a particular family, as in so many sections of the world.
Under a system of free enterprise, it is not generally what a man has inherited, but what be is able to earn that gives him power. The United States of America has been largely free from the artificial shackling of hereditary power or established systems. Enterprise has been freer than anywhere else in the world. As a result, this nation has become the most powerful nation in the world today. It was not the war that made the United States powerful. Actually it poured more resources into the war than Germany, Russia, and Great Britain put together. The war weakened, rather than strengthened, America. It simply made apparent the great amount of strength that bad been latent here. This strength had been developed as a result of the system of free enterprise, which stimulated the abilities of our people and caused that those of industrial and economic ability and leadership should come to the front, not simply because somebody liked them and appointed them or because they were able to persuade somebody to vote for them, but because they proved their abilities in the hurly-burly of competition and activity.
The failure of the socialistic principle has frequently been demonstrated in the history of Soviet Russia. Thus, in the '20s it was necessary to introduce the socalled "New Economic Policy," by which a large measure of free enterprise was permitted in Moscow marketing. By this temporary return to free enterprise, the economy was pulled out of the morass into which it had fallen.
Another interesting instance occurred about 1930, when Stalin desired to secure more gold to use in purchasing machinery and goods from western nations. The best experts were sent out, equipped with modern devices, to hunt for gold in the wastes of Siberia. Comparatively little was accomplished, and only a small fraction of the desired gold was found. It was decided that in order to do it, a type of activity must be encouraged, which they had attempted to suppress. Word was given out that men would be permitted freely to go and prospect for gold, and would be well paid for what they found, even being allowed to spend their money at special stores, where they could buy western goods that were not available to citizens of Soviet Russia, aside from the bureaucrats themselves. Large numbers of prospectors went out and endured privations, hunting for gold, and great amounts of gold were discovered. The principle of free enterprise, in Russia as well as in America, is the principle which results in increase of production, and, consequently, in having more to distribute. Also, free enterprise when unhampered, results in competition for sales among companies, leads inevitably to better distribution, and raises the standard of living for all, as it has done in this country.
The free enterprise system is the ben that laid the golden egg. Modernists and World Council leaders desire to kill the hen and take the gold that is in it and divide it up, so that all will have an equal amount. If they do so, not only will the prospects of future advance be killed, but our nations will, inevitably, sink back to an economic standard much inferior to that which we now enjoy.
4. Communism necessarily leads to cruelty and brutality.
Not only does socialism inevitably lower living standards instead of raising them; a communistic system by its very nature brings great harm to most of its people.
No one can know much of what has happened in Russia in recent years, without seeing the tyranny, the brutality, and the cruelty which is there. Under the Soviet system, anyone who dissents in the slightest degree soon finds himself subjected to brutal torture and imprisonment. Time fails to describe the brutalities and injustices which are so common under the cruel tyranny of the Soviet regime. Anyone who has a question about these matters has only to read such books as Eugene Lyons, Assignment To Utopia, Victor Kravchenko, I Chose Freedom, or Elinor Lipper, Eleven Years In Soviet Prison Camps. The evidence is clear, and is available to anyone who will look at it. Never in the history of the world, including the worst tyrannies the world has ever seen, has there been a more brutal system of constant interference with the liberty and life of the ordinary man. It is a brutality which enters into every little detail of life, and insists, not merely that people must not actively oppose the regime, but that every part of their thinking must be held steadily in line with the desires of the masters of the Kremlin.
At this point a spokesman of the World Council of Churches would say: "Is it not unfortunate that these great innovators, these men who are seeking for social justice, should have allowed tyranny and brutality to enter into their system?" However, a little reflection will show that the brutality is not something incidental, but is a necessary result of the attempt to introduce the system which the social gospelers and the communists desire. Theoretically, communism is based upon the Marxist slogan, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." A very little reflection will show us a great difficulty with this slogan. Who is to decide how much I should be able to produce for the state? Who is to decide how much I need? In the nature of things, this cannot be decided by a democratic process. It cannot be decided by each individual declaring how little work he should be made to do and how much he should receive. Some other method is necessary. In the system of free enterprise, it is decided on a basis of competition. It must be freely admitted that there are inevitable inequalities. Yet, if those who have ability to produce are given incentive and opportunity to do so, the distribution system constantly improves itself, and the standard of living of all is sporadically but continuously rising. Under the communistic system, the decision on these matters must be made by someone. The result inevitably is tyranny. A group of bureaucrats must soon control the destinies of all the people. Naturally people are not going to be satisfied -with the decisions of the bureaucrats. The only way that a communistic system can continue is by constant spying, arrests, concentration camps, and brutality. What we have in Russia is not simply the result of the wickedness of certain godless men, but is an inevitable feature of the system itself.
Without this forceful and tyrannical control, the system would be upset very quickly by the rising dissatisfaction of those who wanted more than they were allotted, and who felt that they were asked to do more work than they desired. Nearly everyone would be dissatisfied, except the few bureaucrats in charge, and the system would soon disappear into chaos.
Here an explanation of a vital point is in order. There is much discussion of communism ideology, as if the vital matter in facing Russian communism was the Marxian theories of economics and sociology. In actual fact, this whole question is more of a banner and a means of gaining recruits in other countries, than something that is vital to the system itself. Marx originated the ideology to which the communists give lip-service, but the actual basic center of the movement was originated by Lenin, rather than by Marx. Lenin was a great student of the science of power. He worked out principles of how an individual or a group of individuals could control great masses of others. In January 1918 a great Russian parliament, elected by free suffrage of the whole people, met together for its first meeting. When its members came together for their second meeting, they were met at the door by troops which Lenin had sent to drive them away. And never again was a freely elected parliament of the Russian people allowed to meet.
Lenin's brilliant mind worked out a clever system of complete control from the top down by means of espionage, brain washings, recurrent purgings of the party, and frequent examination of the record of a man s whole life, to be sure that be is politically reliable. Most ingenious systems of torture were devised to find what is in a man's heart. A wonderful system of power was developed. By means of this system of power, a little group representing scarcely more than one percent of the Russian people, and itself absolutely controlled by a very small group of leaders, holds complete domination over many millions, in such
It is dismaying to have to notice our fifth point:
5. The proponents of this other religion have control of the leadership of the World Council of Churches.
Before the unprovoked aggression of North Korea had aroused such strong anti-communist feeling in this country, modernist leaders frequently made statements praising various aspects of the Russian system. An instance in point is a note which I happened to see in a Methodist Sunday School magazine, a few years ago.
It read something like this: "Russia made a suggestion in the United Nations that all the nations should disarm. Nothing was done about it. Russia has again made the suggestion that all the nations disarm.
Nothing has been done about it. Surely it is time that the western nations did something about carrying out this excellent Russian suggestion."
How could anyone write such a note, if he was familiar with the conquests of the Russians, with the well-known fact that the Russian army was even then still mobilized to a far greater degree than that of any other country in the world, and that a bristling Iron Curtain had been established around the Russian conquests? He must have been very naive!
Recently congressional investigators have been examining the names which appear on the letterheads of communist front organizations. It is amazing how frequently the names of prominent leaders of the National Council of Churches have appeared in these lists. They may try to explain it away as they choose, but the evidence is overwhelming. Whether willfully or ignorantly, many of them have been only too glad to give their names to be used by agencies acting as fronts for Moscow.
A book has recently been published by Harper Brothers, entitled The Christian Hope and the Task of the Church. This book consists of surveys prepared by commissions of the World Council to give material for the actions which should be taken at Evanston. As one looks through this book, be finds many statements which ridicule the idea that individual salvation is important, and say that this is a selfish attitude. Especially in the last section, there are many vague phrases about Christ, but nothing positive about Jesus having died as a vicarious sacrifice that men might be saved through simple faith in Him. Instead, there is constant discussion of what the churches must do to improve the social conditions of the world. In the course of any book written since the Korean War, it is quite natural to find some opposition to communism expressed. Here it is expressed, however, mostly in the form of a few little wrist-slaps on communism as it is today, while the main thrust of the book is support of a dynamic which is very close to the dynamic of the communist leaders.
If further proof were needed of the fact that this religion is actually still the dominant one in the minds and hearts of many of the leaders of the World Council, an immediate answer would be found in their insistence on bringing to this country men from behind the Iron Curtain to be prominent spokesmen at their gathering in Evanston. No one, of course, would object to giving men from behind the Iron Curtain a chance to express their own ideas-fully and freely. We would be only too glad to hear free expressions of the opinions of thinking people. But anyone who knows the tyrannical system of communism realizes that the men who come to any conference as delegates from behind the Iron Curtain come with their families kept as hostages. Such men are well aware that if they say anything which is not thoroughly in line with the desires of their oppressors, they themselves will go to prison on their return, and their families will be cruelly tortured. These men come not as free agents, but as prisoners of the Kremlin, under compulsion to say exactly what is desired. They are like the victims of the purge trials in Russia, who, with fixed eyes and a glassy stare, confessed the most terrible crimes, hoping against hope that their families might Dot be subjected to the cruel torture which they knew would otherwise await them. Some speakers may be of this type; others may be men whom the communists have forced upon the church as bishops and leaders, in order to utilize this opportunity of speaking for communism. To give these men the sounding board of the World Council for this propaganda is inconceivable, unless some of the leaders of the World Council are themselves in sympathy with the purpose of the Kremlin.
6. In this situation which may lie ahead of us, the Historic Christian Faith offers the only hope.
The more we look at communism the more we thank God for the Historic Christian Faith. Contrast the heartlessness of communism with the kindliness of Christianity. Contrast the interest. of communism only in the state and in the mass with the love of Christ for the individual. Contrast the attitude of communism, ready ruthlessly to plunge millions of people into blood and misery for the sake of its ideological purposes, with the kindly shepherding care of true Christianity. Surely the contrast is really between two religions, one of them Satan-inspired, the other taught by the Creator of the universe.
We have observed the rise of communism and its great increase of power. We have noted its hostility to the preaching of the Gospel in the lands under its sway. We have seen its terrible threat of unprecedented misery for the entire world. if it were not for the Christian faith we might well despair.
But we look at the Bible, and almost immediately we find reason for hope. Some of the statements in the Book of Revelation, such as of a third of the inhabitants of the world being destroyed in one hour, seemed fantastic and unbelievable a few years ago. Today, with nuclear weapons, they are no longer impossible. The expressions of some of the parts of the Book of Revelation may well be a picture of communist attack and communist aggression ahead for us. We cannot say for sure whether that is what is pictured in these parts of the great book of the Apostle John or not. This we can say, that Revelation, like the rest of the Bible, plainly teaches that God is on the throne. Satan could not move an inch unless God permitted. Communism cannot destroy one soul or wreck the life of one man, except as God permits. God is controlling all things. Though it may be hard to understand them now, we know that His purposes are best. We know that He makes all things to work together for good to those who love Him. Turmoil and torture, pain and possible death, may lie ahead of us, if our nations allow the communist menace to grow to the point where it can unleash irresistible terror upon us. It is only in Christ that we can have confidence and hope.
The Christian knows that God has a plan, and that His plan is going to work. He knows that when man has done his worst, God will step in and put things to right. He knows that our Lord Jesus Christ will descend from heaven with a shout, at a time which has not been revealed to us.
The Historic Christian Faith offers the best promise of alleviating those conditions which promote communism. It offers the hope of eternal life to those enslaved by communism, if only the force that holds them in bondage might be destroyed, so that it would again be possible for us to send missionaries who would be permitted freely to preach the Gospel in the lands behind the Iron Curtain. If the political leaders of the free nations, through fear or treachery, fail at their task, and communism gains such strength that its armies become able to sweep everything before them, we can still have hope in Christ and know that His purpose is best. In this terrible situation which may lie ahead of us, the Historic Christian Faith offers the only hope.