The Church and False Ideologies
Scripture teaches that the Church is “the pillar and ground of the truth.” It is her task to uphold divinely revealed truth among men. Thus the Church is not to lurk amid the shadows, holding the truth merely for her own comfort. Rather, she must defend and propagate the truth. The Christian Church proclaims a message which is radically different from all other ideologies and all other religions. The basic antithesis is between Christianity and all false religions, including humanism which is a deification of man. The most aggressive of modern non-Christian ideologies are Humanism, Communism and the religion of Islam. Christianity must relate its witness to these powerful movements.
Humanistic philosophy is atheistic to the core. Its basic presuppositions are human autonomy, the idea that man is sovereign and can determine his own future; the sufficiency of reason, the belief that, given enough time, man can correctly interpret his history and environment, and come to a true understanding of reality by the use of his own unaided reason; and the ultimacy of chance, the rejection of divine Providence. In modern times humanism has usually been wedded to an evolutionary philosophy which sees man as an intelligent animal. Ironically, in seeking to exalt man, humanism has in fact shorn him of his true dignity and glory as God’s image-bearer.
In terms of ethics, humanism has no standard to which it can appeal, consequently it has produced a floating morality, every man doing that which is right in his own eyes. The result has been a grave moral collapse in every area of human life – the family, the school, the market place and parliament. Humanism is the consistent application of revolutionary ideas introduced by Satan in the garden of Eden, when man was invited to pit his reason against divine revelation, behave as if he were master of his destiny and so become “as gods.”
Much of modern Western society is permeated by humanistic ideas which are often subtly expressed in books, plays, television and radio programmes, popular family magazines and the like. So subtle and persistent is this indoctrination, that Christians can, if not on their guard, unwittingly imbibe certain humanistic ideas. They must, therefore, deliberately seek to be moulded by the Word and Spirit of God and not by the spirit of this age.
Communism is a political and economic system based on humanistic ideas. It is thoroughly atheistic. Marx declared, “I hate all gods.” Its brand of materialism is known as ‘economic determinism,’ which asserts that man can think and act only according to his economic environment. He is seen to be depraved because of an evil economic environment, said to have been created by capitalism. On this view he can be regenerated only by cleansing the entire social order.
Communism, therefore, proposes to end the age-old struggle between the exploiting and the exploited, the ruling and the oppressed, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, and so usher in a golden age of actual Communism in which the economic law, in the words of Marx, would be, “From each according to his ability, and to each according to his need.” Then all evil, regarded as the fruit of class struggle, would, it is said, disappear; art and culture would flourish and universal happiness would reign. To this vision of an earthly paradise millions of men have dedicated their lives.
While Communism, viewed as an economic system, has patently failed, its basic philosophy frequently appeals to the man in the street and to the intellectual. The poor are attracted by the promises of Communism and the intellectuals are often fascinated by the thought of transforming the human race by scientific methods. Communism has proved to be the root-stock of Liberation Theology which thrives in areas where the poor are ruthlessly exploited and where there is no social justice. While Liberation Theology is right in condemning such injustice and in championing the cause of the oppressed, its fatal weakness is seen in its failure to recognize the real nature of both sin and redemption.
Communism, in whatever guise it manifests itself, has no hope or gospel worthy of the name. In its long, arduous march to a promised land mankind is simply expendable material, with no hope beyond the grave. If the golden age of Communism could be achieved, it would be enjoyed by the people of that era only for their life-time.
That is the best that Communism can offer the world, whereas the Christian doctrine of Redemption teaches that through the love of God, all in Christ benefit, no matter when they lived or died, and that not merely for a few decades of time.
In condemning Communism, the Church must be equally and vigorously opposed to a Christless capitalism which is just as humanistic at heart as the Communism it professes to abhor, and which by its denial of social justice to the masses in the past, prepared the ground for the emergence of Communism.
Islam is the youngest of the world religions. The name ISLAM means ‘submission’. Moslems or Muslims are ‘those who have submitted,’ that is , those who accept Islam. Islam is a religion of militant monotheism (belief in one god) which borrowed from Jewish and Christian sources and which in large areas of Africa rapidly replaced polytheistic paganism. Islam, then, is to be seen as a reaction to a crude polytheism with its worship of moon and stars and many gods and goddesses. As a boy of twelve years, Mohammed came in contact with Jewish and Christian beliefs. This led him to question many of the ancient Arabian beliefs and customs. Later in life he claimed to have seen visions of the angel Gabriel and thus came to the conviction that he had been called to be a prophet of Allah, the Arabic word for ‘God’.
The religion of Islam spread partly by conquest and partly by persuasion, and in less than a century it had reached India and beyond. In recent decades it has spread rapidly in Europe and parts of China. As a religious system of monotheism, Islam rejects the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. It places Moses and Jesus in a class with Mohammed who is seen as the last and greatest of the prophets. While giving the Jewish and Christian Scriptures some standing, Islam claims for the Koran a position of absolute and unique authority. It is said to be an exact copy of an original in heaven.
In the religion of Islam salvation is obtained by human works. This tends to promote a spirit of pride and self-righteousness, so that there is stubborn resistance to the Christian Gospel of redemption from sin. The religion of the broken heart is repugnant to Islam.
While Islam demands liberty of expression in lands where it is in a minority, it is totally intolerant of any other religion in lands where it is in the majority. This constitutes its very real threat to lands that have known the Gospel and which still enjoy civil and religious liberty.
Faced with the challenge of false ideologies and religions, it is imperative that the Chuch stresses the uniqueness of Christianity, the only religion that teaches salvation by grace alone and the only religion that proclaims a Saviour. Apart from the risen, reigning Christ, Christianity could not exist: it does not consist in a mere set of ideals and principles, but in a relationship to Christ as Redeemer and King. It is equally important to counter all false systems with a positive presentation of the Gospel, always remembering that the Spirit of God alone can deliver from the bondage of error and enable men and women to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.