Twentieth-century man is a pawn in a colossal struggle for the human soul

More than any other modern ideology, atheistic Communism is responsible for an all-out assault on the Christian faith. Communist tyrants have forcibly imposed their godless ideology upon multitudes of men and seek consciously to build a civilization upon the rejection of theism and the acceptance of dialectical materialism.

To neutralize and capture the modern mind, the Communists rely upon scientism. The modern man knows science, it is stressed, and whoever truly knows science—so the propaganda runs—cannot believe in the supernatural (least of all, presumably, in miraculous Christianity). The net effect of this propaganda upon young Soviet minds is electrifying. In the universities they are schooled in dialectical materialism and injected with the dogma that economic determinism is the hinge of history.

The Red philosophy gains power as young intellectuals are impressed by the practical achievements of science and then exposed to the Communist world-view. Marxists are not “born” such, nor when they are “reborn” do they remain such; but they are predictably manufactured. The unswerving submission of mind and spirit to certain controlling ideas severs men from their metaphysical roots (from “the old rags of Christianity” and any interest in “religious” experience) until they think and act differently from other men. The problems of human nature that have vexed the great thinkers of the world in all ages—such as the soul, original sin, guilt, immortality—are smothered by this reductionist technique. The Marxist-Leninist ideational system simply ignores them.

Because of its pragmatic and anti-theoretical temper, the Anglo-Saxon world tends to view Communism as an activistic program of political-economic adjustment, and thereby underrates the fundamental importance of Communist theory. For the grip of Communism on young intellectuals lies in its emphatic insistence on unity of theory and practice; the avalanche of social revolution depends upon the conviction that even the most trivial tasks have world-historical consequences. This failure to take seriously the undergirding rationale of Communism has been partly encouraged by the pragmatic tendency of American Protestantism to shun metaphysics and to neglect a reasoned view of faith. In this respect, as in others, the Church has conformed to the popular mood, rather than transformed it.

R. N. Carew Hunt notes the penalties of this prevalent dedication to deed alongside disinterest in doctrine. “As a study of theory is normally uncongenial to our national temperament, it is commonly argued that the present Russian rulers are hard-headed realists who believe in nothing, that they are simply engaged in ‘power politics’.… In this event we need only be concerned with their practice, and we may regard their theories as no more important than ex post facto rationalizations. Yet there is no doubt that Communists do believe that they are applying to political situations a theory which they fervently accept and which they hold to be scientific” (The Theory and Practice of Communism, New York: Macmillan, 1954, p. v). Communism is “a Weltanschauung based upon a closely articulated body of doctrine—philosophic, economic, political and social—which claims alone to provide the scientific explanation of the world” (ibid., p. 7).

There are many vulnerable chinks in the Communist intellectual armor, but they are hardly evident to a contender who is unaware that twentieth-century man is a pawn in a colossal struggle for the human mind and soul.

One telling thrust at Communist dogma may be struck squarely against the cliché that science disproves the supernatural. The fact that Communists overwork this dogma of itself betrays its inner weakness; such emphatic repetition tends to secure its acceptance despite a lack of logic. The bias against the supernatural, without which the Marxist theory of the relativity of truth and morals could not survive, is rationalized by a subtle but illicit appeal to science. The way this rationalization victimizes even the scientific mentality is evident in the naïve comment of Soviet cosmonaut Gherman Stepanovich Titov: “In my travels around the earth I saw no God or angels.” If Titov spent any of his time or energy in outer space maintaining a lookout, he was surely engaged—as the American cosmonaut Colonel John Glenn implied—in trying to strain the whole of reality through the wrong sieve. “The God I pray to,” said Glenn, “is not so small that I expected to see him in space.”

The Christian believer has nothing to fear from science, although scientism has a great deal to fear from the searching scrutiny of objective criticism. With Charles Malik, former president of the United Nations General Assembly, the man of faith can remain firm in assurance that not economic determinism but “Jesus Christ is the hinge of history” (cf. “A Civilization at Bay,” CHRISTIANITY TODAY, Nov. 24, 1961, p. 4).

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A popular Chinese fable tells of a woman so lazy she would do nothing to help herself, so that her husband had to care for her in everything. The time came when he had to make a long journey. Fearing that she might suffer in his absence, he made a huge flat piece of bread, several feet in diameter, and cut a hole in the center. Then he placed the bread over his wife’s head, resting it on her shoulders. When the man returned home, he found that his wife had died of starvation. She had eaten the bread directly in front of her mouth but had been too lazy to turn her head for more.

The fables that originate in Marxist lands these days have found a lodging in the empty hearts of multitudes of men. It would be the most shameful death imaginable for civilization in our times if, having escaped the fable of Communism, we should die in the myth that man can live—even for a day—on bread alone.

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