Three reasons you can’t be a Marxist and a Christian

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On ABC’s episode of Q&A this week, feminist columnist Van Badham boldly declared that she is both a ‘Marxist’ and a ‘Christian.’ Whilst many applauded, I sense that deep down a large percentage of viewers were rightly questioning this oxymoronic admission. One of those people was Jordan Peterson.

Reflecting on his participation on the Q&A panel in his 12 Rules for Life seminar the next night, Jordan Peterson highlighted the impossibility of being both a Christian and a Marxist due to the inherently contradictory claims of each worldview. While I believe Peterson is right, I am convicted that we must look at this issue from a Biblical perspective.

With the rise of identity politics, the quest for ‘social justice’, and the never-ending fight for equality, the Biblical emphasis on responsibilities has been exchanged with a preoccupation with individual rights. Though it is rare to find someone who strictly adheres to orthodox Marxism, the subtle ramifications of Marxist ideology are ubiquitous. Feminism, critical race theory, socialism, animal-rights activism, and theories of gender conflict are all predicated upon a Marxist framework.

While it’s impossible to adequately deal with each of these frameworks in depth in a piece like this, I want to highlight that they are all the product of Marxist ideology and thus are a threat to the Gospel. Here are three reasons why Biblically-minded Christians cannot embrace Marxism, and why we must consider Marxism as ‘another gospel’ (Galatians 1:8).

1. Marxism Rejects Man’s Total Depravity

Incorrect diagnoses always lead to incorrect prognoses. For this reason, the integrity of any worldview rests on how accurate its diagnosis of man’s problem is.

Marxism insists that man is not inherently corrupt. Like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Marx argued that people become selfish and narcissistic as a result of social structures and hierarchies, particularly in capitalist societies. Man is born pure but is ‘alienated’ from his own nature through exploitation and a constant pressure placed upon him to accumulate and consume material things. Marx’s optimistic view of human nature is manifest in his vision to see the world restored into a communist utopia — a world where individuals give according to their ability and take only according to their need; a world purged of material inequality and any hierarchical structures.

Biblically speaking, we know that no degree of material redistribution will solve man’s greatest need, which is not increased wealth and decreased wealth inequality. Man’s greatest need is that he would be reconciled with the holy God who made him. Man’s sin does not originate with structural oppression, but the lusts of his own heart — man has made himself God — the arbiter of right and wrong — and in doing so, has brought suffering, death, destruction, and damnation upon himself. Marxism rejects the Biblical doctrine of total depravity — that man’s greatest problem is that he is a sinner who does not seek God, and cannot, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit (Jeremiah 17:9; Psalm 51:5; Rom. 3:10-12). Marxism cannot solve man’s greatest problem, because it doesn’t even accurately diagnose it.

2. Marxism Replaces Sin with Class Oppression

According to the Bible, the fundamental problem with man is that he is sinful (Rom. 3:23). From Genesis to Revelation, we see all suffering and evil in the world as a direct consequence of the sin of man, and the reality that we live in a broken world perverted by sin. Whilst we often cannot make direct links between particular forms of suffering and particular sins, the Bible is clear that before sin entered the world, we lived in harmony with God, with one another, and with the creation (Gen. 1-3). Sin has corrupted everything.

Conversely, Marxism purports that all suffering and evil is fundamentally the result of exploitation — the acquisition, accumulation, and misappropriation of material possessions by the bourgeoisie. This exploitation occurs between the rich and the poor — the bourgeoisie (the owners of capital) and the working class (proletariat). Marx argued that all of history (past, present and future) can be understood as a series of class struggles between these two groups. As Marx wrote, “The history of all past society has consisted in the development of class antagonisms, antagonisms that assumed different forms at different epochs” (The Communist Manifesto). This view of history generates a victim-mentality, where individuals see themselves as members of either the proletariat or the bourgeoisie. Those who identify with the proletariat are oppressed, while those who are in the bourgeoisie are the oppressors.

For this reason, Marx espoused that the cause of all society’s problems can be reduced to the exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie, who are constantly seeking to accumulate capital and power. This exploitation pervades every hierarchical structure or institution, whether it be the church, the family, the workplace, animal-human relations, or gendered relations. This lens, or set of presuppositions, is called ‘historical dialectical materialism,’ and its importance cannot be understated as Marxists see all social relations through it.

Unlike Marx, Christians cannot attribute the suffering and evils of this world as purely caused by structural oppression, as we must acknowledge the spiritual dimension behind all worldly evils — that all men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. While Marxism argues that class oppression is man’s greatest problem, Christianity teaches that man is a sinner before a Holy God. By constantly blaming the ‘oppressors’ for all social ills, Marx effectively denied the responsibility that every man has before the God of the universe for his sin.

3. Salvation is found in a Communist Utopia, not Jesus

Since Marxism misdiagnoses man’s problem as horizontal (between humans), its prognosis is unsurprisingly horizontal as well. By abolishing exploitation through class-struggles, and ultimately a bloody workers’ revolution, a communist utopia can be established where greed, inequality, and private property are abolished. Once this utopia is achieved, man will be freed from his enslavement to the upper-classes of society and liberated to live as a selfless being. The ethos of this utopia was summed up by Marx as being a place where people upheld the doctrine of “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need.” Marxist eschatology centres on the establishment of a classless, stateless society where equality is upheld among all citizens.

Again, Biblically-minded Christians understand that man’s fundamental problem is his vertical relationship with God, and the fact that he stands condemned before God because of his sin (Rom. 1:32; 2 Cor. 5:10). As Ephesians 2:8-9 clearly says, “It is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is a gift from God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” Salvation cannot be found in realising and overcoming the structural and societal barriers to economic emancipation and a communist utopia — salvation can only be found in Jesus Christ. Jesus explicitly told us that His “kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36), and therefore we cannot put our hope in a worldly utopia. Ironically, the rich young man of Mark 10 had the same problem as Marx: his hope was only in this life, and he was seeking to find fulfilment in material things. Just like a purely capitalistic view of the world, Marxism offers salvation in material assets, rather than in being reconciled with God through Jesus Christ.

A Biblical understanding of eschatology leads us to see that this world is passing away in its present form and will ultimately be destroyed (1 John 2:17; Revelation 21). We also know that the final judgment of God is imminent, and our greatest concern ought to be whether we know and love God (Rev. 21). Marxism offers a both profoundly different soteriology and eschatology to Christianity. To embrace Marxism is to diminish the sinful condition of man, leading to a false-prognosis, resulting in a perverted understanding of the Gospel.

Marxism denies central biblical teachings concerning the nature of man and sin, and therefore offers the false hope of an earthly utopia. It stands at odds with God’s teaching of who we are, who He is, and what His plan for humanity is, and it teaches a different method of salvation to that offered through Jesus Christ — for these reasons, Marxism is another gospel (Gal. 1:8). While Jordan Peterson certainly is not a Christian, his reflections on the incompatibility of Biblical Christianity and Marxism cannot not be ignored, lest we end up compromising the Gospel and devaluing the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Marxism vs. Christianity

MarxismChristianity
Human NatureFundamentally righteous.Sinful, wicked, and incapable of seeking God (Eph. 2:1-9)
Man’s Fundamental ProblemExploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie.Sin (Rebellion against God) (Rom. 3:23)
Hope for the future (Salvation)Worker’s revolution and the establishment of a communist utopia.Destruction of the material universe, judgment of all those who haven’t put their faith in Jesus Christ, then eternal life with God in heaven (Rev. 21-22)
View of Jesus Christ“Religion is the opium of the masses”Jesus is fully man and fully God. He is the Lamb of God, the one who saves us from our sins, and is fully worthy of our worship (John 1; 10)
View of HistoryHistory can be explained as a series of class conflicts between the rich and the poor.Spanning back to Adam and Eve, the history can be characterised by man’s rebellion against God and the effects of his sin are ubiquitous (Gen. 3Rom. 5)

God has been actively involved in man’s affairs since He created him, and through His grace, has saved some men despite their wickedness (Eph. 2:8-9)

Undergirding PhilosophyDialectical, Historical MaterialismChristian Theism

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