Friday, February 12, 2010

The Socialist Temptation V: Socialism as a Christian Heresy

Jesus Christ did what Israel failed to do. He lived the perfect life of obedience to God's law in both its letter and its spirit. He was the light of the world whereas Israel had failed to be a light to the nations. He embodied the fullness of human life and therefore to be in his is to be alive eternally. He gave his life as a ransom for many and through his propitiatory sacrifice we sinners have access to a holy God and to life abundant. We are set free to be ourselves by his death and we have a share in his resurrection life through his spirit.

Jesus said to Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world. Many from the Social Gospel movement, Liberation Theology and the Evangelical Left do not believe him. They argue that if this creation is to be redeemed than the beginnings of the a redemption must already be apparent before our very eyes and there must be a direct continuity between our project of social justice and God's kingdom. But as St. Augustine recognized, we live in the in-between period between the Ascension and the Second Coming and although we are citizens of the City of God we journey through the City of Man and live in an eschatological tension between our present recognition of Christ's Lordship and Christ's future return when that Lordship will be recognized universally.

This eschatological tension pervades the New Testament, perhaps no more poignantly than in the Upper Room Discourses of John's Gospel, but perhaps no more spectacularly than the apocalyptic imagery of the Revelation of St. John. Yet Paul too knew this tension and he taught his followers to wait eagerly for the appearing of the Son of God.

Socialism represents the collapse of this eschatological tension and the attempt of men to lay hands on the future and drag it back into the present by force. It is the denial of the need to wait on God and the impatience of modern, technological man who believes he is sovereign over nature despite the fact that every death reveals nature's victory over human pretension.

Socialism also represents the denial of the Christian doctrine of original sin and the affirmation of technological reason as a sufficient means of salvation from material want. Socialism believes in the end of history through the attainment of a final state of therapeutic stasis in which man accepts the loss of freedom in exchange for security and the satisfaction of material needs - and in which he no longer views the loss of freedom as a real loss.

This is the Brave New World of recreational drugs, free sex, materialism and perfect comfort. It is a world in which there is no fear of death, no need for struggle, no hate and no love. It is a world beyond the human - all created and managed in the name of "humanity," which becomes a word without meaning.

Socialism denies eschatology, or rather immanentizes it, and denies sin, or rather redefines it as freedom. Socialism is a parody of Christianity - a heresy in which the Faith is distorted just enough so as to turn it into the opposite of itself.

To view socialism as benign is to be muddle-headed. To view it as a solution is perverse. To take it to seriously is to worship an idol. To oppose it is the only thing a believing Christian can do in a world that longs for salvation without God.

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