Heeding the Times from Harry Antonides' Desk

A Secular Program for Revolutionary Change

Liberation theology, which rose to prominence in Latin America in the 1970s, is a determined effort to make theology relevant in the midst of poverty and suffering. As its name suggests, the main theme in this branch of theology is the biblical notion of liberation, with particular emphasis on the exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt. In view of its influence both in the Protestant and in the Roman Catholic churches, it is worthwhile for us to elaborate at least the main tenents of this theology. Our discussion draws primarily on Gustavo Gutierrez's A Theology of Liberation, which is generally accepted as a representative work on liberation theology.'

  1. The following quotations from Gutierrez's book represent three key themes of liberation theology: Man fulfills himself only by transforming nature and thus entering into relationships with other men. Only in this way does he come to a full consciousness of himself as the subject of creative freedom which is realized through work (295).

  2. The class struggle is the product of demented minds only for those who do not know, or who do not wish to know, what is produced by the system ...
    ... It [recognizing the class struggle as a fact] is a will to build a socialist society, more just, free, and human, and not a society of superficial and false reconciliation and equality ...
    The class struggle is a fact and neutrality in this question is not possible (274-75).

3. The Kingdom is realized in a society of brother¬hood and justice; and, in turn, this realization opens up the promise and hope of complete communion of all men with God. The political is grafted into the eternal (232).

    [Faith] teaches us that every human act which is oriented towards the construction of a more just society has value in terms of communion with God-in terms of salvation; inversely it teaches that all injustice is a breach with him (238).

    Evident in the first quotation is the influence of the secular belief in man's self-creation through labour. The second quotation displays a Marxist concept of class and class conflict, while the third is a contemporary version of the social gospel's belief that the Kingdom of God is within man's grasp, if only man could bring about the right kind of political revolution.

    Important Elements of Truth

    Liberation theology, as presented by Gustavo Gutierrez and other representatives of this modern school of theology, is a fundamental departure from biblical religion. Its appeal and strength lie in the good intentions of its advocates, their use of the Scriptures and scriptural themes, and their focus on real injustices and sufferings and on the need for economic and political reform. Despite these positive features, however, liberation theology deserves thoroughgoing criticism. To place such criticism in proper perspective, we begin by pointing out three important elements of truth in liberation theology.

    First, like the early social gospel movement, liberation theology is a reaction to a formal Christianity in which the Christian faith becomes something unrelated to life in this world. Liberation theology rejects the belief that there are two separate worlds, one spiritual and eternal and the other physical and temporal. In such a world-view, true spirituality can only be achieved through flight from this world. This nature-grace dualism has been very influential in both the Protestant and Roman Catholic traditions.

    Over against this dualism, the Bible speaks of salvation as radical, that is, as going to the roots of our existence and affecting every dimension of our lives. Redemption is complete and all-inclusive because of God's sovereign rule over all creation. In Christ all things exist and have been reconciled to God.' In that sense salvation is not just for the "soul," but for the whole man, and so affects every aspect of human life in history. Liberation theology's emphasis on the all-inclusiveness of redemption is therefore in keeping with the teaching of the Scriptures. However, its definition of sin and redemption is not.

    Second, liberation theology is right to insist on the unity of our service to God and to our neighbour. Scripture is emphatic about this unity and thus we need not be confused about this point - even though our practice often leaves a great deal to be desired.

    The Mosaic law includes many instructions regarding the just treatment of the poor and needy. The prophets again and again call the people back to justice, to help the poor, the fatherless, the widow, the stranger. A similar theme runs through the New Testament. Jesus quotes the prophetic pronouncements of the Old Testament and warns against practising mere lip service in place of doing the will of God. At one time Christ uses the parable of the Good Samaritan to drive home the hypocrisy of practising temple worship while ignoring people in need. James is unambiguous when he writes that there can be no true faith without works.2

    The problem with liberation theology does not lie in its insistence on the unity of faith and action, of word and deed. That unity is in keeping with biblical teachings. The problem is located in the content of its faith and in its view of human action.

    Third, liberation theology correctly claims that much injustice and inequality in this world results from the selfish use of power, money and privileged position. Liberation theology is also right to insist that sin is more than personal, that sin distorts the structures of society. At this point, liberation theology is in good company, for the Bible clearly condemns oppression and injustice and calls people to oppose evil. This call has special significance for Latin American and other countries in which there is a great deal of poverty and oppression. However, in its analysis of existing injustices and in its prescription for building the just society, liberation theology has turned to an ideology that is fundamentally un-Christian and therefore mistaken - with far-reaching and harmful consequences.

    It is clear, then, that although liberation theology derives several important themes from the Bible, it is nonetheless a departure from biblical religion. The following critique of liberation theology will centre on these main themes: (1) secularization, (2) the self-creation of man, (3) a society of brotherhood and justice, (4) salvation mediated by the poor, (5) the convergence of church and world, and (6) Marxist ideology.


    An important characteristic of liberation theology, and one which it shares with theological liberalism generally, is its shift in focus from God to man. The emphasis in orthodox, biblical Christianity on worship, prayer, and the cultivation of the believer's spiritual life, is usually depicted by the proponents of liberation theology as a flight from this world and therefore as an attempt to escape social responsibility. But the Bible states clearly that man's relationship with God is of primary importance. God, who is infinite and sovereign, reaches down and establishes a covenant, or bond, with finite man. In this covenant man is called to stand in awe of, to revere, and to worship the eternal God. The life of faith is a life of trust and praise, as is so beautifully expressed in numerous psalms.

    Liberation theology acclaims the modern era as a time when mankind, through self-awareness and revolutionary action, has come of age - in contrast to the immaturity and passivity of previous generations. But such a view downplays God's gracious work of redemption throughout the ages. It implies that God's power to save and redeem has been shortchanged all these centuries. We know from both the Scriptures and history that, despite the sins and short-comings of his people, God has graciously nurtured and preserved his church throughout the centuries.

    Gutiérrez describes three phases in the history of the church. The first two-i.e., the "Christendom mentality" and the "new Christendom," as, for example, articulated by Jacques Maritain - separate the profane from the sacred. The third, liberation theology, does away with these two categories, Gutiérrez claims. However, the desired integration is not accomplished by means of Christianizing society nor by reviving biblical religion, but by moving away from religion and toward secularization.

    Secularization, explains Gutiérrez, is really "de-socialization," or, in Harvey Cox's words, "the liberation of man from religious and metaphysical tutelage, the turning of his attention away from other worlds and toward this one" (66-67). Man's self-concept has been transformed, and he now views himself as a creative subject, the agent of history responsible for his own destiny. Therefore, writes Gutiérrez, religion should be redefined in 16 relation to the profane instead of the world being defined in relation to religious phenomena. Man's new self-understanding has changed his relationship with God. Secularization offers a more complete fulfillment of the Christian life because it affirms man's lordship in the world (67). "Secularization poses a serious challenge to the Christian community," writes Gutiérrez. "In the future it will have to live and celebrate its faith in a nonreligious world, which the faith itself has helped create" (68)

    How can Gutiérrez and other proponents of theological liberalism describe secularization, a move away from a religious perception of life, as beneficial? Who would welcome the move away from the Christian religion except the enemies of the Christian faith? The following points must be kept in mind when attempting to answer these questions.

    First, Gutiérrez's view of Christianity is dominated by an all-pervasive subjectivism. This means that priority is accorded to human experience and to the beliefs and opinions derived from that experience, instead of to the given order of creation or the revealed Word of the Creator. This subjectivism makes revelation (insofar as any kind of revelation is acknowledged) subject to the recipient of revelation (a process that turns upside down the relationship between the sovereign God who speaks and the finite creature who listens). Man, not God, decides what truth is and what man's task is.

    Second, the secularization Gutiérrez advocates does more than break away from the "tutelage" of "religion" as embodied in the church. It also confirms the existence of this world "in its own right," the worldliness of the world. So man is not free merely from ecclesiastical tutelage, but also from the tutelage of the sovereign God as revealed in Scriptures and in Jesus Christ.

    In this context, Gutiérrez suggests that a deeper study of the parallel between the new theology and the views of Feuerbach, Hegel and Marx "would illuminate our theological reflection" (219). Feuerbach contrasted love with faith: faith (in God) alienates; love (for fellow man) liberates. Have we not now arrived at the end of Christianity?

    Third, secularization understood as the assertion of man's coming of age and his declaration of independence from God is destructive and contrary to biblical revelation. There is, however, a kind of "secularization" that is wholesome, namely, that development of Christian maturity in non-church forms of associations (the family, politics, education, business, etc.) by which the latter free themselves of the direct tutelage of ecclesiastical authorities. This kind of "secularization" is the outcome of Christian maturity, and for that reason represents true growth. (It happens, for example, when parents establish Christian schools apart from the direct supervision of the church or when citizens establish a Christian political party or workers a Christian labour union.) It might be preferable to call that kind of movement not "secularization" but rather, "societal differentiation."

    The Self-creation of Man

    The notion of man's self-creation is closely related to the Renaissance and Enlightenment ideas of man and human dignity. These ideas gave birth to the belief that man is no longer dependent nor incapable of overcoming the constraints of nature; man can now, through reason and the methods of science, raise himself to God-like heights of power and freedom.

    Gutiérrez links salvation with the expectation that man is capable of creating a new society, free from alienation and misery, through his own action. He writes: "By working, transforming the world, breaking out of servitude, building a just society, and assuming his destiny in history, man forges himself." This process of self-creation is at the same time perceived to have a redemptive quality, what Gutiérrez calls salvific. "To work, to transform this world, is to become a man and build the human community; it is also to save" (159).

    The self-creation of liberation theology is very different from what the Scriptures teach about salvation and the new man. According to the Scrip¬tures, salvation consists of reconciliation between God and man, that is, the restoration of man's rightful place in creation. But this can occur only by means of God's grace. The Bible shows man to be totally incapable of overcoming his sinful condition. Only through Christ's work of atonement and man's total reliance on that redemption is it possible for sinners to become God's forgiven children.3 Nowhere do the Scriptures lend any credence to the notion that man is in any way able to contribute to his own salvation. It is entirely a free gift of God's grace. Gutiérrez's writing shows no biblical understanding of the radical and fundamentally destructive character of sin and of the radical nature of salvation.

    The Bible does indeed speak about the "new man" and does call all people to live new lives of obedience and love toward their neighbours. Through God's grace and the work of his Spirit in the hearts of believers, this new life is possible. Obedient works and deeds of mercy are the result of God's sovereign work of salvation; they are never the means to salvation. Liberation theology rightly holds that we must love our fellow man and strive for justice in society. But by completely severing from its biblical context the reality of man's salvation through the redeeming work of Christ, this theology has done no more than present us with another man-centred and man-made scheme for building a better world. Such a scheme will always end in failure and disillusionment because it is based on an underestimation of the power of sin and an overestimation of man's abilities. Instead of accepting salvation as a free gift of God in Christ, salvation is understood as the result of man's moral strivings. In other words, salvation is not by grace but by human works. This is a denial of the heart of biblical religion and leaves man, despite all his lofty intentions, with a shrunken understanding of salvation and therefore of Christ's work of redemption.

    A Society of Brotherhood and Justice

    Gutiérrez agrees with Edward Schillebeeckx, the well-known Dutch Roman Catholic theologian, that by making the world a better place we will be able to discover what the Kingdom of God means (13). Gutiérrez places development, especially in Latin America, in the context of a world in which the enrichment of a few has led to great poverty for many. Development, he writes, is now being understood not in terms of economic development, but as a total social process (24). The commitment to a new and just society presupposes confidence in the future. According to Gutiérrez, the emphasis on the principle of hope, as developed by Ernst Bloch, plays an important role here. Bloch views hope as active hope which subverts the existing order. Hope is a "daydream" projected into the future. When that daydream as the "yet not-conscious" becomes a conscious act, "it assumes a concrete utopic function, mobilizing human action in history." Hope is thus the key to human existence oriented toward the future, because it transforms the present. It is what presents us with "the possibilities of potential being" and "allows us to plan history in revolutionary terms" (216).

    "The Kingdom," writes Gutiérrez, "is realized in a society of brotherhood and justice; and, in turn, this realization opens up the promise and hope of complete communion of all men with God. The political is grafted into the eternal" (232). He also sees a direct link between work, or the transformation of nature, and entering into relationships with other men. In connection with the repudiation of poverty, Gutiérrez makes the point that man is a sacrament of God. To oppress the poor is to offend God. "We meet God in our encounter with men; what is done for others is done for the Lord" (295).

    Gutiérrez's emphasis on the transformation of society is related to his revolutionary ideas about the modern era and the politicization of life. He claims that the political sphere is universal and that human reason has become political reason (47). Thus socialism is presented as the solution to inequality and oppression (90, 109-12). Socialism must be seen as more than simply overcoming dependence. It means, writes Gutiérrez, "the becoming of mankind as a process of the emancipation of man in history." This emancipation, or the building up of a new man, must be undertaken by the people themselves. They must become aware of their own situation ("conscientization") and of their power to transform society (91). According to Gutierrez, the signs of the times must be read politically; this insight has created the awareness that the political arena is conflictual. Through participation in the class struggle, the new classless society will be established (136, 276).

    Gutiérrez's understanding of the Kingdom is ambiguous. The historic teaching of the Roman Catholic church would have him maintain the essential difference between earthly progress and Christ's Kingdom. (The 1971 papal encyclical Gaudium et spes stated: "It is clear that the per-fection of the social state is of an order completely different from that of the growth of the Kingdom of God, and they cannot be identified.") At the same time, Gutiérrez is drawn toward equating the two because of his reliance on contemporary socialist ideology, and particularly because of his understanding of human freedom and of history. Thus on the one hand, Gutiérrez writes that "the Kingdom must not be confused with the establishment of a just society" (231) and on the other, quotes Schillebeeckx's observation that the discovery of the meaning of the Kingdom of God depends on "making the world a better place" (13). Elsewhere, Gutiérrez identifies the struggle for a just world with the coming of the Kingdom of God (168). This identification, however, does not depend on faith in the Christ who atoned for sinful mankind and thus reconciled God and man, but on the equation of salvation with man's struggle for the just society itself. According to Gutiérrez, "all struggle against exploitation and alienation ... is a salvific work" (176-77). By ignoring the centrality of Christ's work of redemption, liberation theology has adopted a secularized understanding of the Kingdom of God.

    Gutiérrez's view of the Kingdom of God is hampered by ambiguity in his understanding of salvation. Alongside of his emphasis on man's initiative and "assuming conscious responsibility for his own destiny," and on "a man who makes himself throughout his life and throughout history" (36), Gutiérrez also claims that salvation is a gift (x, 206). He wants to square the mystery of God's sovereignty with human freedom. "Without liberating historical events, there would be no growth of the Kingdom. But the process of liberation will not have conquered the very roots of oppression and the exploitation of man by man without the coming of the Kingdom, which is above all a gift" (177). As Dale Vree points out, such a statement truncates man's autonomy and compromises God's omnipotence. States Vree: "For Gutiérrez, salvation is obviously contingent on man's prior action. Gutiérrez wants to affirm that the coming Kingdom is above all a gift, but one must conclude from what he has said that the coming Kingdom (which he described as the `complete encounter with the Lord,' which will `mark an end to history'- p.168) is first and foremost a product of human action. Enter Pelaguis! Enter Thomas Muntzer and a whole host of heretical chiliasts whom Friedrich Engels correctly identified as forerunners of Marxism."4

    Gutiérrez links the concept of the coming just society to the notion of universal salvation. The idea of universal salvation, he claims, "leads to the question of the intensity of the presence of the Lord and therefore of the religious significance of man's action in history. One looks then to this world, and now sees in the world beyond not the `true life,' but rather the transformation and fulfillment of the present life" (emphasis added, 152). This approach to salvation, explains Gutiérrez, is an attempt to deal with the fact that the nonbeliever is not interested in other-worldly salvation.

    In the same context, Gutiérrez refutes the idea that there are two histories, one sacred and one profane, and asserts that there is only one human destiny. Christ's redemptive work embraces all the dimensions of existence and brings them to their fullness. "The historical destiny of humanity must be placed definitively in the salvific horizon" (153). This theme is further developed in light of the relationship between creation and salvation, which is in turn linked to the liberating experience of Israel's exodus. God reveals himself as a God who saves in history. Therefore the Bible presents creation as part of the salvific process, and not just as a stage prior to salvation, argues Gutiérrez. It is through the exodus from Egypt that social praxis is "de-sa¬cralized" and thus becomes the work of man. The building of the temporal city becomes part of "a saving process which embraces the whole of man and all human history" (160)

    Thus salvation, in Gutiérrez's view, is extended to all people. Furthermore, the radical separation between the historical present and the era that will follow the end of history is obscured, if not eliminated. However, there is absolutely no biblical basis for such interpretations. Gutiérrez correctly insists that the coming of the Kingdom of God relates directly to justice in this world. However, it will arrive not through human effort, as he implies, but only through God's sovereign intervention. At the end of history God will establish a new heaven and a new earth, will then wipe away every tear, and will bring about the complete victory over sin and evil. The peaceable kingdom of Isaiah 65 must be understood in the light of Revelation 21, which contains the promise that God will make all things new.

    Salvation Mediated by the Poor

    Gutiérrez assigns a redemptive, mediating role to the poor and oppressed, which is consistent with his belief that we meet God in our encounter with men, especially the disfigured and the alienated. In support of his assertions, Gutiérrez refers to the prophecy of the coming Messiah in Isaiah 53. The salvation of humanity passes through the poor and oppressed, he writes; "They are the bearers of the meaning of history and `inherit the Kingdom' (James 2:5)" (203). Furthermore, claims Gutiérrez, "the future of history belongs to the poor and exploited. True liberation will be the work of the oppressed themselves; in them, the Lord saves history" (208). The only way people can know and reach God is to work for justice (272).

    It is indeed true that God calls us to do justice to the poor and the needy, but Gutiérrez turns this task into the criterion for salvation. By insisting that our relationship to others is the key to salvation, and by further proclaiming a certain category of people to be the channel of salvation in history, the scriptural teaching that salvation comes through Christ's mediating work is completely bypassed and subverted. In John 14:6 we read that Jesus said: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." The entire Bible, both the Old Testament prophecy about the coming Messiah and the New Testament account of the fulfillment of that prophecy, teaches plainly the uniqueness of Christ's work of redemption. In Acts 4:10-12 we are told that salvation comes through Jesus Christ of Nazareth. In 1 Corinthians 2:2, Paul writes, "I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified," and in Galatians 1:8-9 commands that anyone, even an angel from heaven, who preaches another gospel should "be eternally condemned!" Salvation is possible only through Christ's redeeming work and God's grace. To deny that is to deny the heart of biblical revelation.5 Any other gospel, despite good intentions and a professed love for the poor, is a false religion.

    Behind liberation theology's denial of scriptural religion lies an altered view of sin. In orthodox Christianity, sin is rebellion against God and disobedience to his Word. In liberation theology, sin is understood to be selfishness, which is rooted in societal structures and which can be overcome only by changing these structures, in particular by replacing a capitalist society with a socialist one. This totally inadequate understanding of sin leads to an equally inadequate view of redemption. Especially at a time when ecumenicity and dialogue are often used to relativize the claims of the Scriptures, those who truly love the Lord and are committed to the faith of the Scriptures must without hesitation remain faithful to what they teach about the meaning of the cross of Christ.

    The Convergence of Church and World

    It is wrong, Gutiérred argues, to separate nature and grace because such a separation invariably leads to world flight. He seems to believe that all men will be saved, for he asserts that "the universality of the salvific will of God, clearly enunciated by Paul in his letter to Timothy, has been established" (150). To remove any doubt about his position, Gutiérred even goes so far as to suggest that the separation between Christians and non-Christians has disappeared. "Man is saved if he opens himself to God and to others, even if he is not clearly aware that he is doing so. This is valid for Christians and non-Christians alike - for all people" (151).

    Gutiérred derives his concept of universal salvation from the this-worldly nature of salvation. Furthermore, universal salvation, as understood by Gutiérred, implies that the boundary between church and world is eliminated. "The Church must cease considering itself as the exclusive place of salvation and orient itself towards a new and radical service of people" (256).

    The task of the church must be expanded, guided by the awareness of the "comprehensiveness of the political sphere" (251), writes Gutiérred. That's why a radical revision of the church is necessary, based on the conviction that the work of salvation gives to "the historical becoming of mankind, its profound unity and its deepest meaning" (255). Gutiérred refers here to the church as a sacrament and a sign of the salvation of the world. "The Church must be the visible sign of the presence of the Lord within the aspiration for liberation and the struggle for a more human and just society" (262). To be sure, Gutiérred also writes that the saving action of God in humanity is accomplished through the death and resurrection of Christ, and, as we have seen, he refers to salvation as a gift of God. But these statements are overwhelmed by the proclamations about the primacy of human action in history and about the possibilities for human self creation.

    A charitable interpretation of Gutiérred would say that he is inconsistent and unclear. He is, in-deed, pulled in two directions, but the weight of his argument tends toward a break with the biblical revelation about the church. This break is evident in his identification of the church, not with the believing community of Christ confessors, but with the new community of believers in a coming utopia, the perfect society to be established through human effort and will (232-39). To locate, as does Gutiérred, the love of God in the "historical becoming of mankind" (268) is a surrender to Hegelian and Marxist theories which fundamentally deny scriptural revelation. The Scriptures teach that the church is the community of those who accept Christ as their Lord and Redeemer, and they clearly display the antithesis between the world - understood as those who do not know Christ - and the church.7 Liberation theology proclaims a different gospel - one in which salvation can be achieved through works. Rejecting that interpretation of salvation does not in any way minimize the biblical teachings about serving and loving the neighbour. But such acts of loving service are acts of obedience to God and the result of God's grace working in people's lives; they are not a means to salvation.

    Marxist Ideology

    Liberation theology is an attempt to merge Christianity with Marxism. This presents serious problems since Marxism is atheistic, proclaims the class struggle, and leads to disastrous consequences wherever its prescriptions are put into practice. Gutiérred and other liberation theologians attempt to overcome these problems by using the dialectical method and by speaking about Marxist praxis in utopian terms.

    According to Gutiérred, Marxism's emphasis on praxis and the transformation of the world has had a major influence on theology. lie approvingly quotes Sartre's statement that "Marxism, as the formal framework of all contemporary philosophical thought, cannot be superseded" (9). He writes that close contact with those who see historical developments from a Marxist viewpoint has led Christianity to a revitalization of its eschatological values, "which stress not only the provisional nature of historical accomplishments, but above all their openness towards the total communion of all men with God" (137). He believes that the human aspiration for liberation holds the possibility for enjoying a truly human existence in which history is seen as a conquest. This conquest, aided by the emergence of science and the scientific method, has led to a new image of the world and of man himself (127-28).

    Gutiérred discusses the importance of Hegel's view of history, and claims that his philosophy is, to a great extent, a reflection on the French Revolution. He writes:

    This historical event had vast repercussions, for it proclaimed the right of every man to partici-pate in the direction of the society to which he belongs. For Hegel man is aware of himself "only by being acknowledged or `recognized"' by another consciousness. But this being recognized by another presupposes an initial conflict, "a life-and-death struggle," because it is "solely by risking life that freedom is obtained."

    … Through the dialectical process man constructs himself and attains a real awareness of his own being; he liberates himself in the acquisition of genuine freedom which through work transforms the world and educates man ... Thus man gradually takes hold of the reins of his own destiny. He looks ahead and turns towards a society in which he will be free of all alienation and servitude. This focus will in¬itiate a new dimension in philosophy: social criticism (28-29).

    Gutiérred believes that Marx deepened and renewed this line of thought by constructing a scientific understanding of historical reality and by creating the necessary categories for that understanding. Marx's contribution paves the way, writes Gutiérred, "from the capitalistic mode of produc¬tion to the socialistic mode, that is to say, to one oriented towards a society in which man can begin to live freely and humanly. He will have controlled nature, created the conditions for a socialized pro-duction of wealth, done away with private acquisiion of excessive wealth, and established socialism" (30).

    Gutiérred tries very hard to link the thoroughly non-biblical and even atheistic ideas of Marx and other leading modern thinkers to the biblical theme of salvation in Christ. His attempt relies on the dialectical method, by which two opposites are blended into a new synthesis at a higher stage of development. But this philosophical (and speculative) approach is completely foreign to the clear teachings of Scripture which admonish us to make every thought obedient to Christ 8

    According to Gutiérred, the only way to have a "true encounter" with God is by expressing love for man himself (202). Presumably, then, Marxists and Christians find common ground in their shared love for mankind. Dale Vree points out the incongruity of Gutiérred's theology in which Marxists (because they do God's work of political liberation) are better "Christians" than some Christians (because they refuse to espouse the revolutionary socialism he proclaims).

    Marxists would do well to bear in mind that the good padre, despite his frequent genuflections at the altar of scientific socialism, is no scientific socialist himself. He has his own - utopian -reasons for blessing Marxism. For him, "uto¬pian thought" is the basis of scientific knowledge; indeed, it is the source of political action and a "driving force of history" (pp. 232-24). Marxists will perhaps not be surprised that behind this socialist priest there lurks a visionary dreamer. Neither perhaps will more orthodox Catholics (not to mention Protestants and Jews) be surprised that one who places Marxists at the head of God's Elect is nothing but a fanciful utopian.9

    The so-called Christian-Marxist merger can be accomplished only if Christians surrender completely to an alien, fundamentally non-Christian ideology.

    Aside from the atheism of Marxism (which Gutiérred tries to make palatable by adding his notion of liberation), the principle of the class struggle should cause Christians to reject Marxism. After all, is not the Scripture's call to love all men in direct opposition to the Marxist concept of class conflict? Is the one not clearly motivated by love and the other prompted by hatred? And can those two ever be reconciled?

    Furthermore, how can church unity be reconciled with class struggle? Gutiérred replies that the class struggle is an inescapable fact and that it is impossible to remain neutral in this matter. Indeed, he says, to deny the class struggle is to put oneself on the side of the "dominant sectors" (274-75). Such a statement not only condemns as an "oppressor" anyone who disagrees with Gutiérred's formulation, it also precludes any discussion of the matter.

    There is no biblical support for Gutiérred's assertions. The Scriptures condemn injustice and oppression, but they do not divide mankind along economic lines. Rather than being based on scrip¬tural teachings, the class struggle springs from a thoroughly atheistic ideology and is inspired by hatred and envy. Gutiérred is therefore forced to look to a source other than the Bible to support the concept of the class struggle. The dialectics of Marxism provide him with the necessary rationalization. He reasons that the class struggle (also defined as "a will to build a socialist society") is a way to liberate both the oppressor and the oppressed. Gutiérred writes: "Universal love is that which in solidarity with the oppressed seeks also to liberate the oppressors from their own power, from their ambition, and from their selfishness ... In the con¬text of class struggle today, to love one's enemies presupposes recognizing and accepting that one has class enemies and that it is necessary to combat them ... In dialectical thinking, reconciliation is the overcoming of conflict. The communion of paschal joy passes through confrontation and the cross" (275-76).

    In the same context, Gutiérred agrees with Al¬thusser's view that the church must be converted to the service of the class struggle and that the myth I of the unity of the church must disappear (277).

    In liberation theology, any trace of biblical teaching regarding the church has completely dis-appeared. Anyone who accepts the class struggle as it is explained via the dialectical method has lost all sensitivity to what the Bible teaches. Liberation theology denies the antithesis between believers and nonbelievers and reintroduces this antithesis at the socio-economic level.

    The Embarrassing Praxis

    A major problem facing the advocates of Marxist ideology is the dreadful record of all Marxist re-gimes. Gutiérred, and all who attempt to reconstruct Christianity along socialist lines, try to avoid any discussion of the actual practice of Marxist regimes and to focus instead on visions of a future utopia. He is indebted to Ernst Bloch's views of the "utopic function" of hope, which mobilizes human action in revolutionary ways (216). The outcome, they hope, will be a society of brotherhood and justice - "a classless society without owners and dispossessed, without oppressors and oppressed" (276). This vision is a radically secularized version of the biblical Kingdom of God; it is a utopian daydream -utopian here understood in the traditional sense of being a product of imagination and wishful thinking.

    Marxists and liberation theologians are incon¬sistent in their emphasis on "praxis." On the one hand, they claim that praxis is of central importance, but on the other hand, they ignore the actual practice of all Marxist regimes. It is simply astounding to hear Gutiérred refer to the Russian social revolution as an important milestone which wrested political decisions from the elite (46). According to Gutiérred, the Cuban revolution is a catalyst of change that serves - with certain qualifications - as "a dividing point for the recent political history of Latin America ... Moreover, it is becoming more obvious that the revolutionary process ought to embrace the whole continent" (89).

    Such an interpretation ignores the fact that Cuba, under the Soviet-backed regime of Fidel Castro, has become an oppressive and totalitarian one-party state. The fact that so many people can close their eyes to this reality indicates the powerful sway wielded by an ideology that proclaims liberation and justice. Yet countless people who have escaped from Cuba have told horror stories about the actual praxis of oppression and injustice. 10

    Let us consider just one such witness. Armando Valladares is a forty-six-year-old Christian who has spent twenty-two years as a political prisoner in Cuba. He initially supported the revolution, but soon found himself out of favour with Castro when he objected to the totalitarianism of the new regime. He was imprisoned and brutally treated. Particularly painful for Valladares was the support Cuban authorities received from Christians in the West. Said Valladares:

    During those years, with the purpose of forcing us to abandon our religious beliefs and to de-moralize us, the Cuban communist indoctrinators repeatedly used the statements of support for Castro's revolution made by some representatives of American Christian churches. Everytime that a pamphlet was published in the United States, everytime a clergyman would write an article in support of Fidel Castro's dictatorship, a translation would reach us and that was worse for the Christian political prisoners than the beatings or the hunger. While we waited for the solidarity embrace from our brothers in Christ, incomprehensively [sic] to us, those who were embraced were our tormentors. 12

    Insofar as liberation theology contributes to this distortion of reality, it must be recognized as a dangerous and shameful illusion that accomplishes the very opposite it purports to do. In this regard it should be remembered that what is believed and said in the West still has an impact on some totalitarian regimes. Valladares writes:

    It is irrefutable proof that a worldwide campaign of public opinion can make a totalitarian regime release its political prisoners. I say that because communism is the political system that fears truth the most. It is a system built on lies. Only the constant, unyielding pressure of people in all parts of the world will save the lives of men who defend the values we hold so dear in our Western civilization .12

    Michael Novak, a Roman Catholic social philosopher, also points out that although Marxism has been discredited as an intellectual theory, it still wields enormous power as an instrument of international mobilization.

    Novak writes:
    Marxism has become embodied. It works like a stencil applied to every grievance in human affairs. Wherever there is resentment, wherever there is injustice, wherever there is inequality, wherever there are expectations met too slowly, the Marxist stencil channels frustration and aggression ... The fault lies never in the victims, only in their oppressors. Too late does the victim realize that those who think of themselves as victims decline responsibility for their own condition and surrender their liberty to the absolute state.

    ... As a unifying spiritual force, Marxism is dead. As a mobilizing stencil for grievances - as a center for international training, funding, and logistical support - it continues to live as a "totalitarian political movement."13

    In view of the dismal failure of Marxist regimes everywhere, it is surely one of the great contra-dictions of our time that some Christians should turn to Marxism and consider it an ally in the struggle against injustice and oppression.

    Development and Underdevelopment

    Economic development is a complex historical phenomenon that requires, within a given culture, insight, expertise and a certain level of cultural and technological maturity. It cannot be imposed from the outside. A set of internal conditions, particularly attitudes and social-cultural arrangements conducive to change, are necessary for economic development to occur.

    Adherents of liberation theology have their own theories about how development occurs and the reasons for its absence in certain countries. Their diagnosis is simple: underdevelopment in the Third World is the direct result of domination by the developed West. The reason poverty exists, writes Gutiérred, is "because some people are victims of others" (293). The underdevelopment of the poor countries is the historical by-product of the development and the expansion of the capitalist countries (84). "The dynamics of world economics leads simultaneously to the creation of greater wealth for the few and greater poverty for the many" (24-25). Not surprisingly, Gutiérred believes that the views of Rosa Luxemburg, Lenin and Bukharin on imperialism and colonialism provide important insights into the functioning of the world economy (86). To understand the relationship between op¬pressed countries and dominant peoples, writes Gutiérred, one must place it "within the framework of the worldwide class struggle" (87). There are two major problems with this analysis; one is exegetical and the other is historical.

    With regard to the exegetical problem, Gutiérred's theology fails to consider a number of biblical directives. The Bible condemns immoral methods of acquiring riches as well as the selfish use of them. There are many well-known Scripture passages that leave no doubt about God's will for our economic lives. See, for example, the prophets Amos and Isaiah, the Mosaic law, and certain New Testament passages such as James 5:1-6. Think in this regard also of Jesus' parable, recorded in Luke 12:13-21, about the rich fool who delighted in his wealth but lost his life.

    Gutiérrez and others are right to insist that the Bible demands a just and responsible use of wealth and resources. They are also justified in their condemnation of existing conditions in Latin America, insofar as these are the result of injustice and oppression, and in their call for economic and political reforms. However, an essentially non-Christian ideology provides the basis for their analysis of what is wrong, and their prescription of how the wrong must be righted.

    While the Bible clearly condemns the immoral acquisition and use of wealth, it does not condemn wealth as such. On the contrary, riches are often depicted as the fruit of obedience and as signs of God's grace in the lives of his people. Scripture also draws a direct connection between diligence and prosperity and between sloth and poverty. Think, for example, of the promises God gave to Israel before they entered the promised land.14 In fact, God promises to give not only sufficiency but even abundance. Some of the Lord's special people were rich, including Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Job, too, was a very wealthy man, and was described as "the greatest man among all the people of the East."15 This description referred, though not ex-clusively, to possessions. And we read that after Job was tested and restored, "the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before."16

    It is wrong to assume that the Bible depicts riches as the outcome of injustice and unjust structures per se. For example, consider these statements from Proverbs: "The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, and he adds no trouble to it,"1v and "Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth,"18

    To be sure, the same writer teaches that to be righteous is to have regard for the poor,19 and that those who trust in riches and disregard the poor are disobedient and will come to grief.20 The Scriptures clearly teach that riches and wealth are relative goods and must therefore never become ends in themselves. The author of Proverbs advises: "Do not wear yourself out to get rich: have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle."21 And also: "Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death."22 The relative value of riches is also clearly expressed in the prayer of Agur in which he asks to be given neither poverty nor riches.23

    A clear theme emerges from these Bible passages: riches pursued for their own sake lead to destruction, but God can choose to bless his people with wealth and to reward care and diligence with prosperity.

    Although brief, this consideration of just a few texts should alert us to the fact that liberation theology's view of riches, namely, that they are always the cause of poverty elsewhere, is not in keeping with biblical teachings. And nowhere does the Bible lend any credence to the assumption that the outcome of the class struggle will be a socialist society which, according to Gutiérrez will lead to the classless society "without owners and dispossessed, without oppressors and oppressed" (276). The juxtaposition of "owners" and "oppressors," though applicable in some historical situations, does not hold as an absolute principle. And the assumption that ownership and wealth necessarily produce oppression and injustice will surely block economic development, to the detriment of the poor.

    Furthermore, there is no historical evidence to support the "rule" that development in the rich countries always occurs at the expense of the poor countries. Although it is undeniable that injustices have been perpetrated by the wealthy and powerful against the impoverished, particularly in Latin America, this is not the situation everywhere. Western democratic and so-called developed countries do not display this kind of internal division between two opposing classes, despite the fact that they have not overcome all injustices -and probably never will. But one should be reluctant to apply the class conflict principle even to the situation in Latin America. To do so is to accept the Marxist premise that the industrialized nations are imperialistic and that development of the "centre" occurs at the expense of the "periphery."

    Those who wish to understand the Latin American situation must realize that significant variations exist in levels of economic, political and cultural development. Some countries are much poorer than others. For example, in 1981 the per capita gross national product of Honduras was $600 while that of Panama was $1,910.24 Uruguay, which in late 1984 showed promising signs of changing from a military dictatorship to democratic, civilian rule, is at a quite different level of cultural and political development than Venezuela and Argentina. There are vast differences between Nicaragua and Costa Rica.25 It may at times be useful to speak of the Latin American countries as a group, but this certainly cannot be done in all cases. Use of the "centre-periphery" notion of development obscures significant differences and thus creates a false picture.

    According to Gutiérrez capitalist countries are stunting development in Latin America, and this can be resolved only in the framework of "the world-wide class struggle." However, the reasons for poverty and underdevelopment are much more complex than what Gutiérrez would have us believe. Important factors in development include climate, resources and geography as well as attitudes, skills, customs, religious beliefs and cultural patterns.26 In many countries, change (and development invariably means change) meets heavy resistance from religious beliefs and traditions. For example, adherents of animistic religions usually oppose any interference with "nature." Such beliefs prevent the introduction of new technologies and new methods of creating wealth.

    Many Third World countries are also plagued with the internal obstacles of government corrup-tion and nepotism, which play a substantial role in preventing economic and cultural development.27 Insofar as the West has introduced new attitudes conducive to development and respect for human life (think of the British attempt to stamp out the burning of widows in India), the Western influence has been beneficial. Blaming the "capitalist" world economy for all the wrongs in the Third World may help to excuse the mismanagement and even corruption that afflict many developing countries, but it will not help to formulate or implement the urgently needed reforms.

    Michael Novak points out that the facts of investment and development in Latin America do not support the claims of liberation theology. More economic and technical development could have taken place in Latin America, writes Novak, had there been more intelligent and inventive use of God's creation.28

    Novak cites historical, economic and demographic data to disprove the theory that Latin American poverty is the result of Western affluence. For three centuries now the Roman Catholic church has wielded enormous influence in Latin America. In 1969, the Catholic bishops of Peru stated: "Like other nations in the Third World, we are the victims of systems that exploit our natural resources, control our political decisions, and impose on us the cultural domination of their values and consumer civilization. "29 However, Novak reminds us that the Roman Catholic church, especially after the Counter Reformation, has propagated hostility toward trade, commerce and industry and thus bears at least part of the responsibility for the present situation.

    Novak also takes issue with the view that multi-national corporations have made inordinate profits at the expense of the Latin American people. These profit figures have been presented improperly, he argues, and when seen in their historical context, are not extravagant.30° Novak argues that the dependency theory of liberation theology leads to incorrect conclusions. It ignores the fact that we live in an interdependent world in which each nation is in some ways dependent upon other nations. It also assumes that progress and riches in one place must be subtracted from what is available in another place - a zero-sum society. However, modern economics is dynamic, is able to produce new wealth, and therefore creates the possibility for improvements everywhere. It is misleading, Novak insists, to emphasize class conflict rather than mutual advantage.31

    According to figures Novak provides, Latin American wages have grown in real terms at an average of two per cent per year since World War II. From 1945 to 1975, Latin America experienced an average annual growth rate of 5.2 per cent. Despite rapid population growth - from 140 million in 1945 to 324 million in 1975 - Latin America's per capita income has grown substantially, and stood at $1,000 in 1976. Vast improvements have also been made in the areas of education and health,32 Gary W. Wynia reports that the average annual growth rate in Latin America's gross domestic product was 6.7 in the period 1961-70; 6.6 in 1971-75; and 5.2 in 1978-80 -which is a very significant rate of growth.33 Such figures disprove the theory that the poor countries are becoming poorer.

    Although the overall trends indicate substantial improvement, it is obvious that the fruits of economic growth are not reaching everyone. Many still experience dire poverty, and there are substantial economic differences within and between countries. The political situation in many Latin American countries is marked by corruption and instability, which is in turn detrimental to a healthy economy. What can be done to improve these conditions?

    The liberation theologians recommend the socialist route, emphasizing economic independence and self-determination. They are critical of multinational corporations. Novak rejects their proposed solutions, and argues that the three strongest institutions in Latin America - the clergy, the military and the landholding class - can be held in check only by the growth of a new middle class based in commerce and industry.34

    The main condition for economic health in Latin America, Novak believes, is the adoption of the ideals of democratic capitalism. This involves fostering the development of a variety of institutions, such as churches, businesses, a military respectful of legitimacy, and political leaders who can avoid the extremes of hierarchy and anarchy. "In this respect," writes Novak, "liberation theologians have yet to show intellectual mastery of the institutional requirements of a free political economy. Choosing the utopian road, they seem to imitate the Grand Inquisitor, who out of pity for the people promised bread, not liberty. " 35

    Novak insists that liberation theologians should develop insights into the specific nature of econo¬mic life and economic problems. He warns against the formation of a new alliance between church and state, this time on the Left. Theologians who wish to comment on economic development, says Novak, must understand the requirements of such develop¬ment, and not simply echo the ideology of socialism. According to Novak, many theologians

    seem trapped in pre-capitalist modes of thought. Few understand the laws of development, growth, and production. Many swiftly reduce all morality to the morality of distribution.

    They demand jobs without comprehending how jobs are created. They demand the distribution of the world's goods without insight into how the store of the world's goods may be expanded. They desire ends without critical knowledge about means. They claim to be leaders without having mastered the techniques of human progress. Their ignorance deprives them of authority. Their good intentions would be more easily honored if supported by evidence of diligent intelligence in economics.36

    Western Guilt

    Those who have swallowed the view of colonial¬ism and imperialism Lenin propounded in his 1916 tract, "Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism," are much occupied with Western guilt. They tend to describe the West's relationship with the rest of the world in terms of systemic oppression and injustice. The late Prime Minister and President of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, declared:

    All the imperialists, without exception, evolved the means, their colonial policies, to satisfy the ends, the exploitation of the subject territories, for the aggrandizement of the metropolitan countries. They were all rapacious; they all subserved the needs of the subject lands to their own demands; they all circumscribed human rights and liberties; they all repressed and de. spoiled, degraded and oppressed.37

    It should be remembered that Nkrumah's rule is almost universally held responsible for Ghana's sad descent from relative prosperity to abject poverty.

    Many spokesmen from developing countries have made the United Nations their forum, where they speak with unmitigated contempt and hatred about the West. Senator Daniel P. Moynihan, formerly an American representative to the UN, described the situation this way: "The United Nations has become a place where the democracies find themselves under a constant, unremitting, ideological and political attack designed to advance the interests of the totalitarians. " 38 The Third World spokesmen demand that the West share its resources with the Third World, and many of them wish to see the West diminished, if not destroyed. In the Reith lectures of 1979, Ali Mazrui, an African-born and Western-educated professor of political science, expressed it this way:

    The decline of Western civilization mightwell be at hand. It is in the interest of humanity that such a decline should take place, allowing the different segments of the human race to enjoy a more equitable share not only of resources of the planet but also of the capacity to control the march of history.39

    P.T. Bauer, emeritus professor of economics at the London School of Economics, presents a formidable case against such a blanket condemnation of the West and against the charge that it is solely or even mostly responsible for the poverty in the rest of the world.40 Bauer thoroughly analyzes the development that has taken place in Third World countries, and on that basis demonstrates that the West does not deserve the maligning it currently receives from many Third World leaders. Far from having caused the poverty of the Third World, Bauer argues, contact with the West is what has most benefited the Third World in terms of material progress. The poorest and most backward people are those who have had little or no contact with the West. Bauer's extensive writings on this topic constitute a convincing argument against those who wish to lay a burden of guilt on the West. It is patronizing, he points out, to view the Third World as a "uniform stagnant mass devoid of distinctive character."41 Such a stereotype denies identity, character, personality and responsibility to the societies and individuals of the Third World.

    According to Bauer, Westerners display a curious mixture of guilt and condescension when they tolerate or even support the inhuman policies of many Third World governments. The brutalities of such governments are often excused by saying that they are simply following the example set by the West. Bauer warns that the idea of Western guilt is unfounded and constitutes a singularly inappropriate basis for aid.

    Foreign aid also assists the politicization of life, that is, the tendency to make everything a matter of politics; and the politicization of life provokes and exacerbates political tension, which again arouses hostility to the market, especially in multiracial societies. Many recipi-ent governments engaged in wholesale sociali¬zation have expelled ethnic minorities and other economically productive but politically ineffective groups. Altogether, official aid is, in practice, an important anti-market force 42

    James Burnham, author of Suicide of the West, maintains that guilt and the feeling of guilt are facts of the human situation.43 Christianity resolves the problem of guilt because God himself has provided a way to achieve forgiveness and reconciliation. Modern liberalism is secular and many of its adherents have broken with Christianity. What are unbelievers going to do about the guilt which they nevertheless experience? Burnham believes that liberalism permits the translation of this guilt into principles that are egalitarian, anti-discriminatory, democratist, peace-seeking and liberal - that is, those principles generally compatible with socialism. Within this perspective, Burnham interprets liberal reformist principles as projections of the liberal sense of guilt. For example, if I have enough to eat and enjoy a comfortable life, I feel guilty (or at least I should feel guilty) because others go hungry and do not have the privileges I enjoy.

    Burnham explains that the liberal's guilt feeling forces him to try to do something about every social problem and to cure every social evil, even though his understanding of the problem may be limited. His feelings of guilt and moral vulnerability also nudge the liberal toward a disdain and contempt for Western civilization and for his own country.44

    In his book, Political Pilgrims, Paul Hollander examines the tendency of twentieth century Western intellectuals to be dissatisfied with their own society and to support uncritically such totalitarian regimes as the Soviet Union, China and Cuba. According to Hollander, the process of secularization has played a major role in alienating intellectuals from their own society. After discarding traditional values, including traditional religious beliefs, many intellectuals went in search of a new "home." When the belief in life after death was discarded, salvation in the here-and-now became all important. With its promise to usher in a new order of equality and peace, socialism provided the religious comfort and assurance sought by the intellectuals. Peter Clecak, an American social historian, observed: "Socialism embodies a wish to return to a condition of wholeness that existed, or was assumed to exist . . before the Fall, before the plunge into history. Though ultimately psychological and aesthetic in its concern with order, harmony and unity, the socialist dream was made visible most powerfully in theological terms, primarily through Judeo-Christian imagery. "45

    Christians seem especially prone to feeling guilty about the suffering in the world. Ronald J. Sider, a well-known Christian author, has vigorously promoted this feeling in his writings and speeches. "It would be wrong to suggest that 210 million Americans bear sole responsibility for all the hunger and injustice in today's world. All the rich, developed countries are directly involved. "46 Intones Sider, "We are participants in a system that dooms even more people to agony and death than the slave system did."47

    At the Fifth Assembly of the World Council of Churches, held in Nairobi in November, 1975, keynote speaker Robert McAfee Brown explained to his audience that what he symbolized might make many of them feel uneasy or even angry:

    I am white in a world that is unjustly dominated by whites, speaking in a black country to an Assembly predominantly non-white. I am a male in a world that is male-dominated in ways that have been destructive for many, if not most, women. I am a member of a relatively affluent class in a world that is overwhelmingly poor and that is manipulated by a small affluent minority. And lastly I am a citizen of the UnitedStates of America in a world where both small and large nations are struggling to become free from the political, economic and military domination of the United States of America.

    . . I love my country, and I am deeply ashamed of it. I am ashamed of it particularly for what it has done, and continues to do, to so many of your countries ... If you are from Latin America, you may have friends and family who are starving because American businesses exploit them economically, or you may have friends and family who are political prisoners being tortured by techniques that your police learned from our police.'48

    This type of confession may help to sooth McAfee Brown's conscience, but it does little to aid us in our understanding of the causes of and cures for injustice in the world. In fact, this kind of analysis further demoralizes and weakens the Western democracies and thus strengthens the truly oppressive regimes of our time - an outcome that hurts the very people McAfee Brown wishes to help.

    A Gnostic Heresy

    James Hitchcock, an American Catholic theologian, has pointed to similarities between the Gnostics, a heretical sect that was especially prominent in the second century A.D., and the contemporary believers in a political and secular utopia: 49

    The Gnostics believed that the universe is divided into the realms of light and darkness, or spirit and flesh, and that human nature is caught in the struggle between these two opposing kingdoms. The chief task of human existence is to find a way to extricate one's true self from this struggle. The key to escaping worldly existence is a special, mysterious knowledge (Greek "gnosis") available only to the initiates of Gnostic discipline. At the core of Gnosticism was therefore the conviction that the world was an evil place, the domain of the god of darkness, who could not have been the good Father of whom Jesus testified. Consequently, the Gnostics found existence to be meaningless, and stressed the symbolic rather than the literal significance of religious teaching.

    According to Hitchcock, the modern "renewal" movement in the church and in society displays characteristics similar to Gnosticism which undermine the church's historic teachings. Because of the importance it places on symbolism and subjectivity, writes Hitchcock, modem Gnosticism has rejected the historical doctrines of Christianity, including the Incarnation and the resurrection of Christ. For example, it is no longer important whether the biblical account of the resurrection is accurate. What matters is the "encounter" with the risen Christ.50 Hitchcock summarizes what such a development means for religion: "The rejection of an historical faith in favor of an eternal present is at the root of religious enthusiasm for a very important reason - the rejection of history turns religion into a wholly subjective phenomenon which exists largely at the will of the individual."51

    Hitchcock agrees with the political philosopher, Eric Voegelin, that Gnosticism is a perennial Christian heresy which is manifested in attempts to create an earthly paradise.52 Social justice, Hitchcock believes, is an essential part of Christian teaching and conduct, yet when it is treated as an absolute or in a utopian manner, justice and charity soon become equated with "certain quasi-totalitarian political experiments. "53 Hitchcock suggests that the distortion of social justice among Christians lies in the cultic character it often dons, that is, the nearly totalitarian utopianism with which it is invested. He lists the following characteristics of modern Gnostics, or as he labels them, "the new enthusiasts": excessive piety, schism, charismatic authority, ultrasupernaturalism, global pessimism, anti-intel-lectualism, theocracy, millennarianism, mysticism, antinomianism, lust for martyrdom, invisible church, desire for results, and experimentalism. 54

    Although this comparison between modem Catholic (and Protestant) leftists and the early Gnostic sects may seem far-fetched, Voegelin and Hitchcock made some valid points. Voegelin detected the following affinities between the ancient Gnostic heresy and modern utopian movements: a dualistic concept of the world, saving knowledge entrusted to an elite, the meaninglessness of ordinary existence, a quasi-anarchic concept of society (later often becoming totalitarian), and the promise of total deliverance from corrupt bondage. These doctrines, politicized, have come to expression especially in the great totalitarian move¬ments of the twentieth century, communism and fascism.55

    The original Gnostic heresy focused on the spiritual. Under the impact of the forces of secularism, the present manifestations of Gnosticism are different. Hitchcock writes: "Perhaps most important is the widespread belief that religion, in order to be valid, must prove its social usefulness. Certain very basic religious concepts, like that of worship, are now under a cloud because they do not appear to have measurable effect on the world. The principal purpose of human society is more and more understood as that of remaking the world, and whatever does not fit this purpose is ruthlessly cast aside."56

    Voegelin draws attention to the central characteristic of modernity, that is, the belief that God is dead and that man is god, and claims that it has immanentized the meaning of existence.57 He describes the paradoxical significance of this development:

    The more fervently all human energies are thrown into the great enterprise of salvation through world-immanent action, the farther the human beings who engage in this enterprise move away from the life of the spirit. And since the life of the spirit is the source of order in man and society, the very success of a Gnostic civilization is the cause of its decline.

    A civilization can, indeed, advance and decline at the same time-but not forever. There is a limit toward which this ambiguous process moves; the limit is reached when an activist sect which represents the Gnostic truth organizes the civilization into an empire under its rule. Totalitarianism, defined as the existential rule of Gnostic activists, is the end form of progressive civilization.58

    Another critic of contemporary secularized Christianity is Jacques Ellul, the French social philosopher who has written extensively about the impact of technology and secularism on the modern world. In Betrayal of the West, Ellul argues that the Left, like the Right, has surrendered to the drive for domination and possession, which he labels "eros." When the gospel' of the poor is preached today, the purpose is to rouse the poor to rebellion, violence and hatred. That is the way of eros. Of theologians who proclaim the gospel of the "horizontal relationship," Ellul writes: "It is nothing but a monstrous show of human pride to extend the humiliation that God deliberately accepted and experienced in Jesus, to all suffering, unfortunate, humiliated, and exploited human beings."59

    According to Ellul, "the Left is `interested' in the category of the poor only to the extent that the poor render service to the great plan and can be made part of it." Ellul believes that "the Left, like capitalism, identifies freedom with its own dictatorship" and that it "embodies all the conformisms. " 60 Who really loves man? Is it not he who meets all man's needs? Therefore the raising of the standard of living is everything, and the rest is only words.61

    Despite all its evils, Ellul is convinced that the history of the West is not one of unrelieved criminality. Yet, he writes, the West no longer believes in itself and Europe is "marching with giant steps to its end . . The Left has triumphantly joined the Right in this race toward death, while Christianity celebrates its marriage with Marxism and proceeds to slay the old, impotent flesh that was once the glory of the world."62

    Liberation theology is a modem phenomenon in the sense that it seeks to bridge the chasm between Christianity and secularism. But in another sense it stands in a long tradition of attempts to achieve self-redemption by means of erasing the differences between God and man (immanence). That attempt will always end in failure because it defies the God-ordained nature of reality. Over against the dialectical theories of Marxism and the age-old attempt to forge new theories of self-redemption, we must uphold the scriptural message that salvation is by grace alone. This does not mean that we should turn our faces away from the world nor that we should be indifferent to suffering and exploitation. On the contrary, it is precisely when we take our stand on the basis of the Scriptures and its message of the coming Kingdom, which will be established by the sovereign intervention of God, that we have hope for this world and that we are able to live in it day by day doing what our hands find to do.


    1. See, e.g., Col. 1 and Matt. 28:18-20.
    2. See James 1:22-27 and 2:14-26.
    3. See, e.g., the following Bible passages: Rom. 3; 4; 5; 8:1-3; 10:8-13; and Eph. 1:5-10.
    4. Quade, Pope and Revolution, 43.
    5. See e.g., Gal 2:15-21 and John 15:1-7.
    6. See e.g., John 10:27-30; Rom. 8:28-30; and Eph. 1:3-14.
    7. See, e.g., John 1:10-11;10:26;1 John 2:15-29; and 4:1-6.
    8. See 2 Cor. 10:5. For a profound critique of atheism in modern thought, especially of Des-carte's notion of the rational self (cogita), see Fabro, God in Exile. See also Miceli, Gods of Atheism.
    9. Quade, Pope and Revolution, 44-45.
    10. For a critical evaluation of Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution, see Franqui, Family Portrait With Fidel
    11. Valladares, "Remarks and Poems," 17.
    12. Valladares, "Inside Cuba's jails." 13.
    13. Novak, Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, 195. See also Wesson, Why Marxism?
    14. Deut. 28. 56
    15. Job 1:3.
    16. Job 42:10.
    17. Prov. 10:22.
    18. Prov. 10:4. See also Prov. 3:1-2; 14:23-24; and 28:35.
    19. As in Prov. 3:28; 11:25; 17:5; 19:17; 28:27a; 29:7a; and 31:20.
    20. As in Prov. 11:28; 22:16; 28:8, 20, 22, 27b; and 31:7.
    21. Prov. 23:4-5.
    22. Prov.11:4.
    23. Prov. 30:7-9.
    24. World Bank, World Development Report, 1983, 148-49.
    25. For a helpful comparison of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, see Harrison, "Nicaraguan An¬guish," 29-50.
    26. See Sowell, Economics and Politics of Race.
    27. See, e.g., Lamb, The Africans; and Maier, "Kingdom of Death." For an excellent ex¬position of the internal barriers to democracy and development in non-Western societies, see Kedourie, "Development Delusion."
    28. Novak, Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, 300.
    29. Quoted in ibid., 279.
    30. Ibid., 281-82. See also Griffiths, Morality and the Marketplace.
    31. Novak, Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, 299¬307.
    32. Ibid., 308-10.
    33. Wynia, "Roots."
    34. Novak, Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, 313.
    35. Ibid., 314.
    36. Ibid., 336.
    37. Quoted in Bauer, "Western Guilt," 31.
    38. Quoted in Finn, "War of Ideas," 41.
    39. Quoted in Bauer, "Ali Mazrui," 69.
    40. See these writings of P.T. Bauer: Economic Delusion; Dissent on Development; Reality or Rhetoric; and "Western Guilt." Also see Sowell, Economics and Politics of Race.
    41. Bauer, "Western Guilt," 37.
    42. Bauer in Brunner, First World and the Third World, 183.
    43. Burnham, Suicide of the West.
    44. "Guilt of the Liberal," Chap. 10 in ibid. See also "The Great Liberal Death Wish" in Mug-geridge, Things Past, 220-38.
    45. Quoted in Hollander, Political Pilgrims, 418. 46. Sider, "Mischief by Statute," 16.
    47. Ibid., 19.
    48. McAfee Brown, "Who Is This Jesus Christ," 11-12.
    49. Hitchcock, New Enthusiasts
    50. Ibid., 97.
    51. Ibid., 155.
    52. See Voegelin, New Science of Politics.
    53. Hitchcock, NewEnthusiasts, 111.
    54. Ibid., 112-21.
    55. Ibid., 121.
    56. Ibid., 143.
    57. Voegelin, New Science, 124.
    58. Ibid., 131-32.
    59. Ellul, Betrayal of the West, 80.
    60. Ibid., 126-29.
    61. Ibid., 180.
    62. Ibid., 194-95.

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