C.S. Lewis on Biblical Criticism


Fern-Seed and Elephants
C.S. Lewis

Originally entitled ‘Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism’, Lewis read this essay at Westcott House, Cambridge, on 11 May 1959. Published under that title in Christian Reflections (1981), it is now in Fern-seed and Elephants (1998).

This paper arose out of a conversation I had with the Principal one night last term. A book of Alec Vidler’s happened to be lying on the table and I expressed my reaction to the sort of theology it contained. My reaction was a hasty and ignorant one, produced with the freedom the comes after dinner. One thing led to another and before we were done I was saying a good deal more than I had meant about the type of thought which, so far as I could gather, is no dominant in many theological colleges. He then said, ‘I wish you would come and say all this to my young men.’ He know of course that I was extremely ignorant of the whole thing. But I think his ideas was that you ought to know how a certain sort of theology strikes the outsider. Though I may have nothing but misunderstandings to lay before you, you ought to know that such misunderstandings exist. That sort of thing is easy to overlook inside one’s own circle. The minds you daily meet have been conditioned by the same studies and prevalent opinions as your won. That may mislead you. For of course as priests it is the outsiders you will have to cope with. You exists in the long run for no other purpose. The proper study of shepherds is sheep, not (save accidentally) other shepherds. And woe to you if you do not evangelize. I am not trying to teach my grandmother. I am a sheep, telling shepherds what only a sheep can tell them. And now I begin my bleating.

There are two sorts of outsiders: the uneducated, and those you are educated in some way but not in your own way. How you are to deal with the first class, if you hold views like Loisy’s or Schweitzer’s or Bultmann’s or Tillich’s or even Alec Vidler’s, I simply don’t know. I see – and I’m told that you see – that it would hardly do to tell them what you really believe. A theology which denies the historicity of nearly everything in the Gospels to which Christian life and affections and thought have been fastened for nearly two millennia – which either denies the miraculous altogether or, more strangely, after swallowing the camel of the Resurrection strains at such gnats as the feeding of the multitudes – if offered to the uneducated man can produce only one or other of two effects. It will make him a Roman Catholic or an atheist. What you offer him he will not recognize as Christianity. If he holds to what he calls Christianity he will leave a Church in which it is no longer taught and look for one where it is. If he agrees with your version he will no longer call himself a Christian and no longer come to church. In his crude, coarse way, he would respect you much more if you did the same. An experienced clergyman told me that the most liberal priests, faced with this problem, have recalled from its grave the late medieval conception of two truths: a picture-truth with can be preached to the people, and an esoteric truth for use among the clergy. I shouldn’t think you will enjoy this conception much once you have put in into practice. I’m sure if I had to produce picture-truths to a parishioner in great anguish or under fierce temptation, and produce them with that seriousness and fervor which his condition demanded, while knowing all the time that I didn’t exactly – only in some Pickwickian sense – believe them myself, I’d find my forehead getting read and damp and my collar getting tight. But that is your headache, not mine. You have, after all, a different sort of collar. I claim to belong to the second group of outsiders: educated, but not theologically educated. How one member of that group feels I must now try to tell you.

The undermining of the old orthodoxy has been mainly the work of divines engaged in New Testament criticism. The authority of experts in that discipline is the authority in deference to whom we are asked to give up a huge mass of beliefs shared in common by the early Church, the Fathers, the Middle Ages, the Reformers, and even the nineteenth century. I want to explain what it is that makes me skeptical about this authority. Ignorantly skeptical, as you will all too easily see. But the scepticism is the father of the ignorance. It is hard to persevere in a close study when you can work up no prima facie confidence in your teachers.

First then, whatever these men may be as Biblical critics, I distrust them as critics. They seem to me to lack literary judgement, to be imperceptive about the very quality of the texts they are reading. It sounds a strange charge to bring against men who have been steeped in those books all their lives. But that might be just the trouble. A man who has spent his youth and manhood in the minute study of New Testament texts and of other people’s studies of them, whose literary experience of those texts lacks any standard of comparison such as can only grow from a wide and deep and genial experience of literature in general, is, I should think, very likely to miss the obvious thing about them. If he tells me that something in a Gospel is legend or romance, I want to know how many legends and romances he has read, how well his palate is trained in detecting them by the flavour; not how many years he has spend on that Gospel. But I had better turn to examples.

In what is already a very old commentary I read that the fourth Gospel is regarded by one school as a ‘spiritual romance’, ‘a poem not a history’, to be judged by the same canons as Nathan’s parable, the book of Jonah, Paradise Lost ‘or, more exactly, Pilgrim’s Progress‘. After a man has said that, why need one attend to anything else he says about any book in the world? Note that he regards Pilgrim’s Progress, a story which professes to be a dream and flaunts its allegorical nature by every single proper name it uses, as the closest parallel. Note that the whole epic panoply of Milton goes for nothing. But even if we leave our the grosser absurdities and keep to Jonah, the insensitiveness is crass – Jonah, a tale with as few even pretended historical attachments as Job, grotesque in incident and surely not without a distinct, though of course edifying, vein of typically Jewish humour. Then turn to John. Read the dialogues: that with the Samaritan woman at the well, or that which follows the healing of the man born blind. Look at its pictures: Jesus (if I may use the word) doodling with his finger in the dust; the unforgettable nv vuz (13:30). I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like this. Of this text there are only two possible views. Either this is reportage – though it may no doubt contain errors – pretty close up to the facts; nearly as close as Boswell. Or else, some unknown writer in the second century, without known predecessors, or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern, novelistic, realistic narrative. If it is untrue, it must be narrative of that kind. The reader who doesn’t see this has simply not learned to read. I would recommend him to read Auerbach.

Here, from Bultmann’s Theology of the New Testament is another: ‘Observe in what unassimilated fashion the prediction of the parousia (Mark 8:38) follows upon the prediction of the passion (8:31). What can he mean? Unassimilated? Bultmann believes that predictions of the parousia are older than those of the passion. He therefore wants to believer – and no doubt does believe – that when they occur in the same passage some discrepancy or ‘unassimilation’ must be perceptible between them. But surly he foists this on the text with shocking lack of perception. Peter has confessed Jesus to be the Anointed One. That flash of glory is hardly over before the dark prophecy begins – that the Son of Man must suffer and die. Then this contrast is repeated. Peter, raised for a moment by his confession, makes his false step: the crushing rebuff ‘Get thee behind me’ follows. Then, across that momentary ruin which Peter (as so often) becomes, the voice of the Master, turning to the crowd, generalizes the moral. All his followers must take up the cross. This avoidance of suffering, this self-preservation, is not what life is really about. Then, more definitely still, the summons to martyrdom. You must stand to your tackling. If you disown Christ here and now, he will disown you later. Logically, emotionally, imaginatively, the sequence is perfect. Only a Bultmann could think otherwise.

Finally, from the same Bultmann: ‘the personality of Jesus has no importance for the kerygma either of Paul or John… Indeed, the tradition of the earliest Church did not even unconsciously preserve a picture of his personality. Every attempt to reconstruct one remains a play of subjective imagination.’

So there is no personality of our Lord presented in the New Testament. Through what strange process has this learned German gone in order to make himself blind to what all men except him see? What evidence have we that he would recognize a personality if it were there? For it is Bultmann contra mundum. If anything whatever is common to all believers, and even to many unbelievers, it is the sense that in the Gospels they have met a personality. There are characters whom we know to be historical but of whom we do not feel that we have any personal knowledge – knowledge by acquaintance; such are Alexander, Attila, or William of Orange. There are others who make no claim to historical reality but whom, none the less, we know as we know real people: Falstaff, Uncle Toby, Mr. Pickwick. But there are only three characters who, claiming the first sort of reality, also actually have the second. And surely everyone knows who they are: Plato’s Socrates, the Jesus of the Gospels, and Boswell’s Johnson. Our acquaintance with them shows itself in a dozen ways. When we look into the apocryphal gospels, we find ourselves constantly saying of this or that logion, ‘No. It’s a fine saying, but not his. That wasn’t how he talked’ – just as we do with all pseudo-Johnsoniana. We are not in the least perturbed by the contrasts within each character: the union in Socrates of silly and scabrous titters about Greek pederasty with the highest mystical fervor and the homeliest good sense; in Johnson, of profound gravity and melancholy with that love of fun and nonsense which Boswell never understood though Fanny Burney did; in Jesus of peasant shrewdness, intolerable severity, and irresistible tenderness. So strong is the flavour of the personality that, even while he says things which, on any other assumption than that of divine Incarnation in the fullest sense, would be appallingly arrogant, yet we – and many unbelievers too – accept him as his own valuation when he says ‘I am meek and lowly of heart’. Even those passages in the New Testament which superficially, and in intention, are most concerned with the divine, and least with the human nature, bring us fact to face with the personality. I am not sure that they don’t do this more than any others. ‘We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of graciousness and reality… which we have looked upon and our hands have handled. What is gained by trying to evade or dissipate this shattering immediacy of personal contact by talk about ‘that significance which the early Church found that it was impelled to attribute to the Master’? This hits us in the face. Not what they were impelled to do but what impelled them. I begin to fear that by personality Dr. Bultmann means what I should call impersonality: what you’d get in a Dictionary of National Biography article or an obituary or a Victorian Life and Letters of Yeshua Bar-Yosef in three volumes with photographs.

That then is my first bleat. These men ask me to believe they can read between the lines of the old texts; the evidence is their obvious inability to read (in any sense worth discussing) the lines themselves. They claim to see fern-seed and can’t see an elephant ten yards way in broad daylight.

Now for my second bleat. All theology of the liberal type involves at some point – and often involves throughout – the claim that the real behavior and purpose and teaching of Christ came very rapidly to be misunderstood and misrepresented by his followers, and has been recovered or exhumed only by modern scholars. Now long before I became interested in theology I had met this kind of theory elsewhere. The tradition of Jowett still dominated the study of ancient philosophy when I was reading Greats. One was brought up to believer that the real meaning of Plato had been misunderstood by Aristotle and wildly travestied by the neo-Platonists, only to be recovered by the moderns. When recovered, it turned out (most fortunately) that Plato had really all along been an English Hegelian, rather like T.H. Green. I have met it a third time in my own professional studies; every week a clever undergraduate, every quarter a dull American don, discovers for the first time what some Shakespearean play really meant. But in this third instance I am a privileged person. The revolution in thought and sentiment which has occurred in my own lifetime is so great that I belong, mentally, to Shakespeare’s world far more than to that of these recent interpreters. I see – I feel it in my bones – I know beyond argument – that most of their interpretations are merely impossible; they involve a way of looking at things which was not known in 1914, much less in the Jacobean period. This daily confirms my suspicion of the same approach to Plato or the New Testament. The idea that any man or writer should be opaque to those who lived in the same culture, spoke the same language, shared the same habitual imagery and unconscious assumptions, and yet be transparent to those who have none of these advantages, is in my opinion preposterous. There is an a priori improbability in it which almost no argument and no evidence could counterbalance.

Thirdly, I find in these theologians a constant use of the principle that the miraculous does not occur. Thus any statement put into our Lord’s mouth by the old texts, which, if he had really made it, would constitute a prediction of the future, is taken to have been put in after the occurrence which it seemed to predict. This is very sensible if we start by knowing that inspired prediction can never occur. Similarly in general, the rejection as unhistorical of all passages which narrate miracles is sensible if we start by knowing that the miraculous in general never occurs. Now I do not here want to discuss whether the miraculous is possible. I only want to point out that this is a purely philosophical question. Scholars, as scholars, speak on it with no more authority than anyone else. The canon ‘If miraculous, then unhistorical’ is one they bring to their study of the texts, not one they have learned from it. If one is speaking of authority, the united authority of all the biblical critics in the world counts here for nothing. On this they speak simply as men; men obviously influenced by, and perhaps insufficiently critical of, the spirit of the age they grew up in.

But my fourth bleat – which is also my loudest and longest – is still to come.

All this sort of criticism attempts to reconstruct the genesis of the texts it studies; what vanished documents each author used, when and where he wrote, with what purposes, under what influences – the whole Sitz im Leben of the text. This is done with immense erudition and great ingenuity. And at first sight it is very convincing. I think I should be convinced by it myself, but that I carry about with me a charm – the herb moly – against it. You must excuse me if I now speak for a while of myself. The value of what I say depends on its being first-hand evidence.

What forearms me against all these reconstructions is the fact that I have seen it all from the other end of the stick. I have watched reviewers reconstructing the genesis of my own books in just this way.

Until you come to be reviewed yourself you would never believe how little of an ordinary review is taken up by criticism in the strict sense; by evaluation, praise, or censure, of the book actually written. Most of it is taken up with imaginary histories of the process by which you wrote it. The very terms which the reviewers use in praising or dispraising often imply such a history. They praise a passage as ‘spontaneous’ and censure another as ‘labored’; that is, they think they know that you wrote the one currenete calamo and the other invita Minerva.

What the value of such reconstructions is I learned very early in my career. I had published a book of essays; and in the one into which I had put most of my heart, the one I really cared about and in which I discharged a keen enthusiasm, was on William Morris. And in almost the first review I was told that this was obviously the only one in the book in which I had felt no interest. Now don’t mistake. The critic was, I now believe, quite right in thinking it the worst essay in the book; at least everyone agreed with him. Where he was totally wrong was in his imaginary history of the causes which produces its dullness.

Well, this made me prick up my ears. Since then I have watched with some care similar imaginary histories both of my own books and of books by friends whose real history I knew. Reviewers, both friendly and hostile, will dash you off such histories with great confidence; will tell you what public events had directed the author’s mind to this or that, what other authors had influenced him, what his overall intention was, what sort of audience he principally addressed, why – and when – he did everything.

Now I must record my impression; then distinct from it, what I can say with certainty. My impression is that in the whole of my experience not one of these guesses has on any one point been right; that the method shows a record of 100 per cent failure. You would expect that by mere chance they would hit as often as the miss. But it is my impression that they do no such thing. I can’t remember a single hit. But as I have not kept a careful record my mere impression may be mistaken. What I think I can say with certainty is that they are usually wrong.

And yet they would often sound – if you didn’t know the truth – extremely convincing. Many reviewers suggested that the Ring in Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings was suggested by the atom bomb. What could be more plausible. Here is a book published when everyone was preoccupied by that sinister invention; here in the centre of the book is a weapon which is seems madness to throw away yet fatal to use. Yet in fact, the chronology of the book’s composition make the theory impossible. Only the other week a reviewer said that a fairy-tale by my friend Roger Lancelyn Green was influenced by fairy-tales of mine. Nothing could be more probable. I have an imaginary country with a beneficent lion in it; Green, one with a beneficent tiger. Green and I can be proved to read one another’s works; to be indeed in various ways closely associated. The case for an affiliation is far stronger than many which we accept as conclusive when dead authors are concerned. But it’s all untrue nevertheless. I know the genesis of that Tiger and that Lion and they are quite independent.

Now this surely ought to give us pause. The reconstruction of the history of a text, when the text is ancient, sounds very convincing. But one is after all sailing by dead reckoning; the results cannot be checked by fact. In order to decide how reliable the method is, what more could you ask for than to be shown an instance where the same method is at work and we have facts to check it by? Well, that is what I have done. And we find, that when this check is available, the results are either always, or else nearly always, wrong. The ‘assured results of modern scholarship’ as to the was in which an old book was written, are ‘assured’, we may conclude, only because the men who know the facts are dead and can’t blow the gaff. The huge essays in my own field which reconstruct the history of Piers Plowman or The Faerie Queen are most unlikely to be anything but sheer illusions.

Am I then venturing to compare every whispter who writes a review in a modern weekly with these great scholars who have devoted their whole lives to the detailed study of the New Testament? If the former are always wrong, does it follow that the later must fare no better?

There are two answers to this. First, while I respect the learning of the great Biblical critics, I am not yet persuaded that their judgement is equally to be respected. But, secondly, consider with what overwhelming advantages the mere reviewers start. They reconstruct the history of a book written by someone whose mother-tongue is the same as theirs; a contemporary, educated like themselves, living in something like the same mental and spiritual climate. They have everything to help them. The superiority in judgement and diligence which your are going to attribute to the Biblical critics will have to be almost superhuman if it is to offset the fact that they are everywhere faced with customs, language, race-characteristics, class-characteristics, a religious background, habits of composition, and basic assumptions, which no scholarship will ever enable any man now alive to know as surely and intimately and instinctively as the reviewer can know mine. And for the very same reason, remember, the Biblical critics, whatever reconstructions they devise, can never be crudely proved wrong. St. Mark is dead. When they meet St. Peter, there will be more pressing matters to discuss.

You may say, of course, that such reviewers are foolish in so far as they guess how a sort of book they never wrote themselves was written by another. They assume that you wrote a story as they would try to write a story; the fact that they would so try, explains why they have not produced any stories. But are the Biblical critics in this way much better off? Dr. Bultmann never wrote a gospel. Has the experience of his learned, specialized, and no doubt meritorious, life really given him any power of seeing into the minds of those long dead men who were caught up into what, on any view, must be regarded as the central religious experience of the whole human race? It is no incivility to say – he himself would admit – that he must in every way be divided from the evangelists by far more formidable barriers – spiritual as well as intellectual – than any that could exist between my reviewers and me.

My picture of one layman’s reaction – and I think it is not a rare one – would be incomplete without some account of the hopes he secretly cherishes and the naïve reflections with which he sometimes keeps his spirits up.

You must face the fact that he does not expect the present school of theological thought to be everlasting. He thinks, perhaps wishfully thinks, that the whole thing may blow over. I have learned in other fields of study how transitory the ‘assured results of modern scholarship’ may be, how soon the scholarship ceases to be modern. The confident treatment to which the New Testament is subjected is no longer applied to profane texts. There used to be English scholars who were prepared to cut up Henry VI between half a dozen authors and assign his share to each. We don’t do that now. When I was a boy one would have been laughed at for supposing there had been a real Homer: the disintegrators seemed to have triumphed for ever. But Homer seems to be creeping back. Even the belief of the ancient Greeks that the Mycenaeans were their ancestors and spoke Greek has been surprisingly supported. We may without disgrace believe in a historical Arthur. Everywhere, except in theology, there has been a vigorous growth of scepticism about scepticism itself. We can’t keep ourselves from muttering multa renascentur quae jam cecidere.

Nor can a man of my age ever forget how suddenly and completely the idealist philosophy of his youth fell. McTaggart, Green, Bosanquet, Bradley seemed enthroned for ever; they wen down as suddenly as the Bastille. And the interesting thing is that while I lived under that dynasty I felt various difficulties and objections which I never dared to express. They were so frightfully obvious that I felt sure they must be mere misunderstandings: the great men could not have made such very elementary mistakes as those which my objections implied. But very similar objections – though put, not doubt, far more cogently than I could have put them – were among the criticisms which finally prevailed. They would now be the stock answers to English Hegeliansim. If anyone present tonight has felt the same shy and tentative doubts about the great Biblical critics, perhaps he need not feel quite certain that they are only his stupidity. They may have a future he little dreams of.

We derive a little comfort, too, from our mathematical colleagues. When a critic reconstructs the genesis of a text he usually has to use what may be called linked hypotheses. Thus Bultmann says that Peter’s confession is ‘an Easter-story projected backward into Jesus’ life-time’. The first hypothesis is that Peter made no such confession. Then, granting that, there is a second hypothesis as to how the false story of his having done so might have grown up. Now let us suppose – what I am far from granting – that the first hypothesis has a probability of 90 per cent. Let us assume that the second hypothesis also has a probability of 90 per cent. But the two together don’t still have 90 per cent, for the second comes in only on the assumption of the first. You have not A plus B; you have a complex AB. And the mathematicians tell me that AB has only and 81 per cent probability. I’m not good enough at arithmetic to work it out, but you see that if, in a complex reconstruction, you go on thus superinducing hypothesis on hypothesis, you will in the end get a complex in which, though each hypothesis by itself has in a sense a high probability, the whole has almost none.

You must, however, not paint the picture too black. We are not fundamentalists. We think that different elements in this sort of theology have different degrees of strength. The nearer it sticks to mere textual criticism, of the old sort, Lachmann’s sort, the more we are disposed to believe in it. And of course, we agree that passages almost verbally identical cannot be independent. It is as we glide away from this into reconstructions of a subtler and more ambitious kind that our faith in the method waivers; and our faith in Christianity is proportionally corroborated. The sort of statement that arouses our deepest scepticism is the statement that something in a Gospel cannot be historical because it shows a theology or an ecclesiology too developed for so early a date. For this implies that we know, first of all, that there was any development in the matter, and secondly, how quickly it proceeded. It even implies an extraordinary homogeneity and continuity of development: implicitly denies that anyone could have greatly anticipated anyone else. This seems to involve knowing about a number of long dead people – for the early Christians were, after all, people – things of which I believe few of us could have given an accurate account if we had lived among them; all the forward and backward surge of discussion, preaching, and individual religious experience. I could not speak with similar confidence about the circle I have chiefly lived in myself. I could not describe the history even of my own thought as confidently as these men describe the history of the early Church’s mind. And I am perfectly certain no one else could. Suppose a future scholar knew I had abandoned Christianity in my teens, and that, also in my teens, I went to an atheist tutor. Would not this seem far better evidence than most of what we have about the development of Christian theology in the first two centuries? Would not he conclude that my apostasy was due to the tutor? And then reject as ‘backward projection’ any story which represented me as an atheist before I went to the tutor? Yet he would be wrong. I am sorry to have become once more autobiographical. But reflection on the extreme improbability of his own life – by historical standards – seems to me a profitable exercise for everyone. It encourages a due agnosticism.

For agnosticism is, in a sense, what I am preaching. I do not wish to reduce the sceptical elements in your minds. I am only suggesting that it need not be reserved exclusively for the New Testament and the Creeds. Try doubting something else.

Such scepticism might, I think, begin at the very beginning with the thought which underlies the whole demythology of our time. It was put long ago by Tyrrell. As man progresses he revolts against ‘earlier and inadequate expressions of the religious idea… Taken literally, and not symbolically, they do not meet his need. And as long as he demands to picture to himself distinctly the term and satisfaction of that need he is doomed to doubt, for his picturings will necessarily be drawn from the world of his present experience.’

In one way of course Tyrrell was saying nothing new. The Negative Theology of Pseudo-Dionysius had said as much, but it drew no such conclusions as Tyrrell. Perhaps this is because the older tradition found our conceptions inadequate to God whereas Tyrrell find it inadequate to ‘the religious idea’. He doesn’t say whose idea. But I am afraid he means man’s idea. We, being men, know what we think; and we find the doctrines of the Resurrection, the Ascension, and the Second Coming inadequate to our thoughts. But supposing these things were the expressions of God’s thoughts?

It might still be true that ‘taken literally and not symbolically’ they are inadequate. From which the conclusion commonly drawn is that they must be taken symbolically, not literally; that is, wholly symbolically. All the details are equally symbolical and analogical.

But surely there is a flaw here. The argument runs like this. All the details are derived from our present experience; but the reality transcends our experience: therefore all the details are wholly and equally symbolical. But suppose a dog were trying to form a conception of human life. All the details in its picture would be derived from canine experience. Therefore all that the dog imagined could, at best, be only analogically true of human life. The conclusion is false. If the dog visualized our scientific researches in terms of ratting, this would be analogical; but it thought that eating could be predicated of humans only in an analogical sense, the dog would be wrong. In fact if a dog could, per impossible, be plunged for a day into human life, it would be hardly more surprised by hitherto unimagined differences than by hitherto unsuspected similarities. A reverent dog would be shocked. A modernist dog, mistrusting the whole experience, would ask to be taken to the vet.

But the dog can’t get into human life. Consequently, though it can be sure that its best ideas of human life are full of analogy and symbol, it could never point to any one detail and say, ‘This is entirely symbolic.’ You cannot know that everything in the representation of a thing is symbolical unless you have independent access to the ting and can compare it with the representation. Dr. Tyrrell can tell that the story of the Ascension is inadequate to his religious idea, because he knows his own idea and can compare it with the story. But how if we are asking about a transcendent, objective reality to which the story is our sole access? ‘We know not – oh we know not.’ But then we must take our ignorance seriously.

Of course if ‘taken literally and not symbolically’ means ‘taken in terms of mere physics,’ then this story is not even a religious story. Motion away from the earth – which is what Ascension physically means – would not in itself be an event of spiritual significance. Therefore, you argue, the spiritual reality can have nothing but an analogical connection with the story of an ascent. For the union of God with Goad and of man with God-man can have nothing to do with space. Who told you this? What you really mean is that we can’t see how it could possibly have anything to do with it. That is a quite different proposition. When I know as I am known I shall be able to tell which parts of the story were purely symbolical and which, if any, were not; shall see how the transcendent reality either excludes and repels locality, or how unimaginably it assimilates and load it with significance. Had we not better wait?

Such are the reactions of one bleating layman to Modern Theology. It is right that you should hear them. You will not perhaps hear them very often again. Your parishioners will not often speak to you quite frankly. Once the layman was anxious to hide the fact that he believed so much less than the vicar; now he tends to hide the fact that he believes so much more. Missionary to the priests of one’s own church is an embarrassing role; though I have a horrid feeling that if such mission work is not soon undertaken the future history of the Church of England is likely to be short.

We wanted to make this somewhat hard-to-find essay easier to find. Dr. Geisler has commented on Lewis’ bibliology in Chapter 8 of his book Is Man the Measure: An Evaluation of Contemporary Humanism and in Norman Geisler and William Nix, “A Liberal-Evangelical View of Inspiration: C.S. Lewis,” in A General Introduction to the Bible, (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1986), p 176-177. Also see Donald T. Williams “Text Versus Word: C. S. Lewis’s View of Inspiration and the Inerrancy of Scripture,” in Terry L. Miethe, ed., I Am Put Here for the Defense of the Gospel: Dr. Norman L. Geisler: A Festschrift in His Honor (Pickwick, 2016).

The Misuse of J. I. Packer to Defend Mike Licona’s Denial of Inerrancy

by Norman L. Geisler

Mike Licona believes there are errors in the Bible, including the day of Jesus’ crucifixion which allegedly is listed on two different days in the Gospels (cf. Jn. 19:14 and Mark 14:12).  Strangely, Mike Licona and those who support his view have  appealed to J. I. Packer to support their view, but Packer has strongly repudiated this view and condemns Licona’s position (see below).

However, recently Packer wrote a blurb commending Licona’s new book (Why Are There Differences in the Gospels?, Oxford, 2017) which defends, among other errors, there being contradictions in the Gospels. This has occasioned some Licona supporters to claim that Packer has changed his view on the topic. In it Packer wrote a commendation of the book, declaring,

“Professor Licona’s new book is a monograph exploring some compositional techniques which the synoptic evangelists appear to have used. Clarificatory and thorough, it is an accomplished piece of work, which it is a pleasure to commend.”

However, this falls far short of an approval of Licona’s denial of inerrancy.  Indeed, it claims only that Licona’s book clearly and thoroughly (718 pages!) treats certain “compositional techniques” in the Gospels—and that it does.  However, it does not place approval on Licona’s denial of inerrancy. Further, Packer has written dozens of blurbs over the years—even for books containing views with which he disagrees.

It was my privilege to work closely with J. I. Packer, not just for a few hours, but for some ten years (1979-1989) in defining and defending the inerrancy of the Bible in the documents of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI). More recently, (Jan 2017), I updated my conversation with Packer on this topic, and he assured me he had not changed his views. “As for my specific question as to whether or not he still supported the ICBI statement on inerrancy, he said that rumors to the contrary were “categorically and absolutely false.”  He gave the same answer to my second question as to whether he had changed his view about Mike Licona’s view expressed in Packer’s letter (of  5/8/2014) which declared that Licona’s position was contrary to the  ICBI statement on inerrancy.  The statement reads:

As a framer of the ICBI statement on biblical inerrancy and once studied Greco-Roman literature at advanced level, I judge Mike Licona’s view that, because the Gospels are semi-biographical, details of their narratives may be regarded as legendary and factually erroneous, to be both academically and theologically unsound (Letter, 5/8/14).

Packer insisted that he strongly stands by both his affirmation of the ICBI statements on inerrancy and that Licona’s views were categorically contrary to it.  He described Mike’s view as “muddled” and illogical, but wished to keep up the conversation with him open in hope that his view would change his position.

Upon careful examination, Packer’s more recent book “blurb” on Licona’s book says nothing to the contrary. It is, as stated, a commendation of the comprehensive and clear treat of “certain techniques used by Gospel authors,” not an approval of everything in the book.

Even so, it is well known by scholars that these blurbs, often say some positive things about a book without going into an extensive negative critique.  Dr. Al Mohler was more careful when he noted that Licona has admirably defended the resurrection of Christ but in a way that left the door open to skepticism. Thus, “Licona has handed the enemies of the resurrection of Jesus Christ a powerful weapon” by denying or undermining the historicity of sections of the Gospels. Indeed, Bart Erhman used this very opening to deny the resurrection of Christ.  He asked how someone could not deny the resurrection of Jesus by the same logic he rejected the resurrection of Jerusalem saints (Mat. 27:52-53) in the same passage (Ehrman-Licona Dialogue on the Historicity of the New Testament, Feb. 9-May 6, 2017)?

There are only three living framers of the ICBI (J. I. Packer,  R. C, Sproul, and myself), and there is unanimous agreement among us that Licona’s view is contrary to the ICBI stand on Inerrancy.  The original framer of the ICBI statements on inerrancy, R.C. Sproul, wrote,

“As the former and only President of ICBI during its tenure and as the original framer of the Affirmations and Denials of the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, I can say categorically that Dr. Michael Licona’s views are not even remotely compatible with the unified Statement of ICBI” (Letter, May 22, 2012, emphasis added).






Seven Reasons Why Americans Should Vote for Trump in 2016

by Dr. Norman L. Geisler

September 26, 2016

Basically, there are only two realistic alternatives in the coming presidential election. Either we stay on the same liberal path we have been on for years or else we try something new. But why Trump?

A Prolegomena [Introduction] to Any Future Politics

Trump is a Flawed Candidate

A common charge against Trump is that he is a flawed candidate. But in a Two Party system, such as we have, our choices are limited. We do not have perfect candidates with whom to replace imperfect ones. In fact, there are no perfect candidates on the ticket. Jesus is not running! We have only imperfect candidates from which to choose. However, some are more imperfect than others.

“The Lesser of Two Evils”

In politics, as in life, sometimes we must choose the so-called “lesser of two evils.” So when both presidential candidates have high negatives, we must choose the one with fewer. A friend once described his dilemma to me as a choice between “a known devil and a suspected witch.” If so, then we should choose the suspected witch!

A More Excellent Way

Actually, we are never really faced with a situation where all the alternatives are evil. One alternative is always the greater good. The doctor who amputates to save the patient’s life is not doing an evil by cutting off his leg. He is doing a greater good. We never have a moral duty to do a moral evil. So our choice in the presidential race is never between two evils, but it is of which one is the better candidate, the greater good. But before we decide this, we must avoid a tempting alternative, “the cop out option.”

Staying Home Does Not Help

Not voting is a cowardly way out. It gives away our God-given responsibility to do our best, even in bad situations. Sitting it out is like the doctor deciding not to amputate to save the patient because he does not want to cut off someone’s leg. If we don’t vote, then we have no voice in the outcome. Someone else will decide for us. Indeed, if we don’t vote, then there will be one less vote for the best candidate who may lose because of our failure to participate in the election. In this case, staying home is a morally bad decision

Power Corrupts….

Our Founders believed that “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This is why they built checks and balances into our system. We have a Two Party system, States can recall votes, and citizens can impeach bad candidates. The major check is “We the People.” The candidates have terms to their offices, and we get to vote for who will serve the next term. And it is our duty to choose the best one the next time.


Some Reasons to Vote for Trump

Given the foregoing reality, there are several reasons to believe that Donald Trump is a better moral choice. . .

[To read the rest of this article, please visit “The Exchange” at http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2016/september/why-trump-is-best-candidate-for-president.html]


Copyright 2016 – Norman L. Geisler –  All rights reserved

To read other articles by Dr. Geisler on voting, politics, and conservative principles, visit http://normangeisler.com/trump

An Evaluation of Marxist Humanism (Part 2 of 2)

[Click here to open this file as a PDF for easier reading.]

An Evaluation of Marxist Humanism, Neo-Marxism, and Cultural Marxism

Part 2 of 2

by Norman L. Geisler


Christopher T. Haun


Copyright 2017 – Norman L. Geisler –  All rights reserved

This essay is an early draft of a chapter from Norm’s forthcoming book Is Man the Measure: An Evaluation of Contemporary Humanism and Transhumanism (Bastion Books: 2017). Chapter 5 of the first edition of the book was written between 1982-1983 and this was written as a postscript to that chapter.

A SPECTRE is haunting Europe — the spectre of Communism. All the Powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre. … Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution.

Marx and Engels

The Communist Manifesto


When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also it will be with this evil generation.

Jesus of Nazareth

Matthew 12:43-45



This year marks the 100-year anniversary of the time that Marx’s ‘spectre’ possessed the Bolsheviks to bring bloody revolution to Russia. That same spirit proceeded to haunt most of Asia, much of Africa, and some of the Americas. Revolutionary Marxism still holds the record for having deceived, enslaved, terrorized, imprisoned, tortured, and murdered more millions of people than any other ideology. The Leninist and Maoist interpreters of Karl Marx sacrificed over 160 million civilians on the altar of global equality. And that’s the conservative estimate. But the Marxist attempts to create their vision of heaven on a godless earth produced such unsustainable conditions that every large experiment in Marxism collapsed toward the end of the 20th century. Contrary to the popular assumption, however, Marx’s spectre was never truly exorcised from the world. Borrowing one of Jesus’ analogies, if it departed at all, it did so only to return soon after to its old haunts with seven other spirits like it. Or, to use a more modern colloquialism, Marx’s spirit never died; it just went to Hell to regroup.


The Failures of “Eastern” Implementations of Marx


It is true that the hardline forms of Marxism in the East proved to be abject failures. They failed economically and morally. Throughout the 1980s, Deng Xiaoping made the reforms in China that allowed it to become an economic giant. He encouraged the practices that were anathema to Marx, Lenin, and Mao—foreign investment, global market capitalism, and private competition. When he said, “It doesn’t matter if the cat is white or black so long as it catches the mouse,” he was implying that China would embrace more capitalistic-styled freedoms if doing so would end the starvation and deprivation fostered by the Marx-inspired policies of his predecessor, Chairman Mao.

As soon as it was clear that Gorbachev was not going to enforce the terrible Brezhnev doctrine, Poland, Hungary, and Romania sloughed off their miserable Marxist yokes without hesitation. They set up free elections in 1989. Between 1990 and 1991 a dozen other Eastern European countries did the same. The Germans tore down the nasty Berlin Wall. In 1992 the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics dissolved and Russia turned away from their Marxist-Leninist Communism. All the big experiments in socio-politico-economic Marxism had failed. The smaller experiments in Marxism also failed. Every single one of the kibbutzim of Israel became at least partially privatized by 2012.[2]

Now that we can look back at a century of empirical testing among many people groups in many nations, it is clear that the Marx-inspired systems never ultimately delivered upon their promises of equality, justice, and better conditions for “the people.” When prosperity did occasionally flow to some it was either at the expense of thousands—sometimes millions—of others or it was when Marxist constrictions were relaxed. Lenin himself was forced by circumstances to return Russia to a limited form of capitalism in 1922. He also had to accept several tons of wheat from the USA to prevent mass starvation. Lenin tightened and loosened the economic tourniquet as needed. Stalin tightened it. Khrushchev loosened it and Brezhnev tightened it. Gorbachev loosened it until it untied itself.

The Marxist penchant for moral bankruptcy was even more terrible than their penchant for economic bankruptcy. They proved more oppressive to “the people” than the yokes of oppression they had “liberated” the people from. The toll in bloodshed finds no close parallels in all of human history. The number of victims murdered and purposefully starved in the Soviet Union by its Marxist-Leninist leaders is estimated to be over sixty million. They killed ten million Ukrainians in the year 1933 alone. The Marxist victim tally in Mao’s China is over eighty million people. Cambodian Marxists sacrificed ten million victims on the altar of Utopia. Marxism in Vietnam, North Korea, and Yugoslavia has put over four million people to death. These figures do not include the hundreds of thousands put to death in the other countries that had the misfortune of becoming victims to hardline Marxist revolutions,[3] the bloodshed in the nations where revolutions were attempted but failed,[4] the hardships experienced by the countries that dabbled with Marxism for years before rejecting it, the lives of soldiers spent by the freer nations to defend against the Marxist plans for world domination, or the millions of infants aborted by Marxist policies in the last 100 years.[5]

It is difficult to find other disasters and atrocities in human history that compare with the slaughters perpetrated by Marx’s interpreters. The bubonic plague that swept through Asia, Europe, and Africa in the 14th century ended the lives of an estimated 50 million humans. Genghis Khan’s soldiers slaughtered an estimated forty million people during the expansion of the Mongol empire of the 12th century. Four centuries of ugly European Colonialism cost the world an estimated 50 million lives. World War I killed nine million and wounded twenty-three million. World War II killed twenty-five million soldiers and thirty-five million civilians. As tragic as each of these empire expansions, wars, and plagues were, they still somehow pale in comparison to the billion or so lives that were ended in connection with the spectres unleashed by Marx. The implementation of Marx’s ideas and spirit has killed more people than the bubonic plague, the imperialism of Genghis Khan, European colonialism, and both world wars combined.

In hindsight, Marx was a misguided Messiah, a perjured prophet, an inhumane humanist, a pseudo-scientist, a revolutionary religionist, and a saboteur—not a savior. Not surprisingly then there are few leaders, intellectuals, and academics today who openly admit to being disciples of Marx. The university professors who are intoxicated by Marx’s vision and who repackage Marx for their students admit that Marx must have been wrong on at least one point. They may even argue that Lenin, Mao, Stalin, etc., were not faithful interpreters and consistent implementers of true Marxism. So when we define Marxism as a rigid economic theory that only applies to the long-gone age of the Industrial Revolution, it is true in a technical sense that Marxism is dead and that there are no real Marxists today. But when we consider Marxism as a family of several other “-isms” that were inspired by and heavily influenced by Marx’s writings, Marxism arguably remains the most dominant clan of philosophies at work in the world today. In no way does the death of Dictator Fidel Castro[6] in 2016 does not then mark the end of Marx’s progeny. Many of Marx’s followers in the Western nations—many of whom gave glowing eulogies for Castro—have come to occupy positions of prominence in the fields of education, entertainment, journalism, and government in the countries that blend socialism and capitalism in various ratios. While they may speak and act more mildly than their eastern brethren did, they too are still seeking a revolution that will replace the fabric of society. And they are at war with the faith and practice of the Christian churches that refuse to modernize.



The “Western” Marxist Approaches to Revolution


Marx was the sort of impatient fellow who much preferred the idea of bloody revolutions to bloodless reforms. But when faced with the challenge of the freedom-loving nations in the industrialized West, Marx and Engels made provision for a gradual strategy of reforms that lead to revolution:


The first step in the revolution by the working class, is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class … Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property, and on the conditions of bourgeois production. … These measures will of course be different in different countries. Nevertheless in the most advanced countries the following will be pretty generally applicable. . . [7]


They realized that the despotic measures of revolution that would be effective later in the war-torn, pre-industrialized countries (Russia, China, Korea, Vietnam, Angola, Afghanistan, etc.) would not be likely to work out as well in the “most advanced countries”—the countries that had already industrialized and were enjoying the prosperity that came from it. Professor Ebenstein suggested that Marx “occasionally referred to England and the United States as two possible exceptions to the principle of social change through communist revolution and dictatorship.”[8] Here it becomes helpful to divide Marxism roughly into eastern and western interpretations. For the “advanced countries” in the West, Marx-Engels recommends ten planks for revolutionaries to use as waypoints in a gradual revolution. The steps include the abolition of property, a heavy income tax, abolition of all right of inheritance, confiscation of the property, centralization of credit in a centralized bank, centralization of the means of communication and transport, factories and instruments of production to become owned by the State, equal liability of all to labor, forced labor, and free education (indoctrination) for all children in public schools.


The Reformed Marxism of Karl Kautsky


The first gradualist approach to Marxism was developed by Karl Kautsy. Kautsky met personally with Marx and Engels more than once and was one of their most ardent followers. On some matters he diverged from them and became the leading theoretician of what would later be called “evolutionary democratic socialism.” Lenin lambasted Kautsky for his rejection of some of Marxism’s nastier features—impatient and bloody revolution, unwillingness to compromise, and the dictatorship of the industrial working class.[9] Kautsky’s socialism has since influenced or dominated the policy of the majority of nations around the world. Whereas the countries that became victims of Leninist and Maoist implementations of Marxism have been hobbling away from Marxism, the nations of Western Europe, North America, and South America have become increasingly influenced by Marxism through this “third way” that synthesizes elements of capitalism, socialism, freedom, and controls together.



The Reformed Marxism of the Fabian Society


Soon after Marx died, another western interpretation of Marxism began to flourish in England and New England. The Fabian Society named themselves after Fabius Maximus, a Roman General whom military historians recognize as the father of guerilla warfare. In the Second Punic War, General Fabius prudently refused to send his soldiers to meet the Hannibal’s superior forces on the open battlefield in direct conflict. Instead, he practiced a patient and cautious strategy of hit-and-run warfare, ambushes, constant harassment, and a war of attrition. Inspired by this form of warfare, the motto of the Fabian Socialists was,


For the right moment you must wait, as Fabius did patiently, when warring against Hannibal, though many censured his delays; but when the right moment comes you must strike hard, as Fabius did, or your waiting will be in vain, and fruitless.[10]


The historian Plutarch wrote that Fabius’ “tactics were slow, silent, and yet relentless in their steady pressure, [Hannibal’s] strength was gradually and imperceptibly undermined and drained away.”[11]

Although the Fabian Marxists remained revolutionaries in the spirit of Marx, they differed from Marx on at least three important points. First, they differed on the matter of by whom and to whom. Whereas Marx forecasted the proletariat (largely the factory workers) would and should be the class that should lead the revolt, the Fabians realized that revolution would only have a chance of success when led by a highly-educated class. George Bernard Shaw, one of the better-known Fabians, wrote,


Marx’s Kapital is not a treatise on socialism; it is a gerrymand against the bourgeoisie. It was supposed to be written for the working class, but the working man respects the bourgeoisie and wants to be a bourgeoisie. Marx never got a hold of him for a moment. It was the revolting sons of the bourgeoisie itself, like myself, that painted the flag red. The middle and upper classes are the revolutionary element in society. The proletariat is the conservative element.[12]


Shaw makes an interesting point: Neither Marx nor Engels were products of the working classes. Marx was the son of a lawyer. Engels’ father owned considerable amounts of property. Lenin came from a wealthy family. The working class rarely produces the intellectuals and poets whose pens are mighty enough to inflame hearts and unsheathe swords. Shaw was also prescient: it would be young and gullible students—boys and girls who never had to work with their hands to feed their families—who would be the most susceptible to believing revolutionary propaganda.

While the Fabians further developed the idea of a gradual revolution they added a dimension of deep deceptiveness to it. Whereas Marx and Engels stated that Communists are very transparent about what they want to take, who they want to take it from, and how they plan to take it,[13] the Fabian Marxists, knowing all too well that Marx was wrong about the revolutions happening naturally as if by scientific law, knew the revolutions had to be forced to occur artificially. They also knew that their agents of change could not succeed if they were honest and transparent about their ends and means. The Fabian strategy for the Western nations was, as the name Fabius implies, quite fabian—gradual, cautious, guerilla, covert, sneaky, unconventional, deceptive, indirect, and asymmetrical.

The Fabians would focus on university professors and students rather than factory workers. They would indoctrinate their agents of change through schooling and scholarship. In the words of one of its founders, the Fabian Society was “founded in 1884 as an educational and propagandist centre. . . It furnishes lecturers in considerable number to all meetings where Socialism, in any guise whatsoever, can possibly be introduced. . .”[14] As of 1885 their motto was, “EDUCATE, AGITATE, ORGANIZE.”[15] By starting with an intellectual revolution in the minds of academics the revolution would naturally bleed into all other arenas of public policy and public opinion. Unable at first to infiltrate the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, the Fabians established the London School of Economics. They would also create the Labor Party in the United Kingdom, publish journals, and established beachheads in several influential American universities. Meanwhile some of its foremost members also continued to spread propaganda in favor of the Marxist-Leninist State in the 1930s.[16]




Reformed Marxism in the Humanist Manifestos


There are strong echoes of Kautskian-Fabian variants of Marxism in the manifestos and declarations produced by humanists. The pendulum tends to shift more towards the communist side of the Marxist spectrum in the early manifestos and then as the economic failure of communism becomes more undeniable, the later manifestos seek to balance their socialism with a little capitalism.

John Dewey, the co-author of the first Humanist Manifesto and reformer of the American public school system, was a member of several Marxist front organizations. He was also one of the leaders of the American branch of the Fabian Society. The fourteenth affirmation of his Humanist Manifesto I (1933) is unabashedly Marxist. It has nothing but condemnation for the “acquisitive and profit-motivated society.” Its insistence on the need for “radical change” and its hope of establishing a “socialized and cooperative economic order” that would forcibly distribute “the means of life” equitably are all hallmarks of economic Marxism. Western intellectuals still had the luxury of imagining that Marxism might work out well.

By the end of the twentieth century, however, the leading secular humanists in the West could see the need to steer away from the inhumane means and tragic ends of the Soviet Union, China, and the Warsaw Pact countries. They toned the Marxist jargon down in subsequent manifestos and redrew their vision of controlling all people as something that could somehow coexist with liberty for all people. Writing in 1999, Paul Kurtz, the framer of Humanist Manifesto II, explained:


Humanist Manifesto II was released in 1973 to deal with the issues that had emerged on the world scene since [1933]: the rise of fascism and its defeat in the Second World War, the growth in influence and power of Marxism-Leninism and Maoism, the Cold War … Many Marxist humanists in Eastern Europe had attacked totalitarian statism and welcomed a defense of democracy and human rights. Humanist Manifesto II no longer defended a planned economy, but left the question open to alternative economic systems. Thus, it was endorsed by both liberals and economic libertarians, who defended a free market, as well as by social democrats and democratic socialists, who believed that the government should have a substantial role to play in a welfare society. It sought to democratize economic systems and test them by whether or not they increased economic well-being for all individuals and groups.[17]


Kurtz then shows their Marxist stripes when he advocates the forcible redistribution of wealth through an irresistible global government:


We recommend an international system of taxation in order to assist the underdeveloped sectors of the human family and to fulfill social needs not fulfilled by market forces. We would begin with a tax levied on the Gross National Product (GNP) of all nations, the proceeds to be used for economic and social assistance and development. This would not be a voluntary contribution but an actual tax. … Extreme disparities between the affluent and the underdeveloped sectors of the planet can be overcome by encouraging self-help, but also by harnessing the wealth of the world to provide capital, technical aid, and educational assistance for economic and social development.[18]


The third humanist manifesto, titled Humanism and Its Aspirations, was adopted in 2003 by the American Humanist Association and supersedes the first two manifestos. It attempts to put some distance between itself and the classic economic Marxism. The Marxist jargon (“cooperatively,” “interdependence,” “global community,” “minimize the inequities,” “just distribution of resources”) was toned down such that Marxists would have no problem recognizing it and kind-hearted non-Marxists might also find its phrasing attractive. The Amsterdam Declaration of 1952, which was updated in 2002 and adopted by the World Humanist Congress, somewhat vaguely tries to recommend a balance between personal liberty and social responsibility. The Secular Humanist Declaration (1980) similarly seems to recommend a synthesis of Marxism and Capitalism where it says:


a free society should also encourage some measure of economic freedom, subject only to such restrictions as are necessary in the public interest. This means that individuals and groups should be able to compete in the marketplace, organize free trade unions, and carry on their occupations and careers without undue interference by centralized political control.[19]




The Cultural Marxism of Antonio Gramsci


By perceiving one of its greatest obstacles to adoption and devising strategies to overcome it, Antonio Gramsci may be the greatest interpreter of Marx. A member of the Italian Socialist Party in 1913 and founder of the Italian Communist Party in 1921, Gramsci fled to Lenin’s Soviet Socialist Republic under threat of the rise of Italian Fascism. Experiencing life in Russia made it obvious to him that the revolution Marx had predicted still hadn’t occurred naturally. Life there also made it clear to him that their “workers’ paradise” was maintained by propaganda, lies, secret police, and fear.

While he never became disillusioned with Marx’s vision of revolution of the workers followed by the rise of a utopia from the ashes, he became disillusioned with all the artificial attempts to create the revolution in Russia, China, and elsewhere. Afraid of the insanity and cruelty Stalin had a reputation for, Gramsci returned to Italy to take his chances among the less frightening Fascists. During nine years in an Italian prison he managed to cobble together nine volumes of writings that could help achieve a Marxist world. Roman Catholic historian Malachi Martin summarizes:


Gramsci—intellectually a product of the Roman Catholic society of Italy—was far more advanced than either Hegel or Marx in his understanding of Christian metaphysics in general, of Thomism in particular, and of the richness of the Roman Catholic heritage.  … What was essential, insisted Gramsci, was to Marxise the inner man. Only when that was done could you successfully dangle the utopia of the “Workers’ Paradise” before his eyes, to be accepted in a peaceful and humanly agreeable manner, without revolution or violence or bloodshed. … What Marx and Lenin had got wrong, Gramsci said, was the part about an immediate proletarian revolution. His Italian socialist brothers could see as well as he did that, in a country such as Italy—and in Spain or France or Belgium or Austria or Latin America, for that matter—the national tradition of all the classes was virtually consubstantial with Roman Catholicism. The idea of proletarian revolution in such a climate was impractical at best, and could be counterproductive at worst. … Gramsci had a better way. A subtler blueprint for Marxist victory. … Use Lenin’s geopolitical structure not to conquer streets and cities, argued Gramsci. Use it to conquer the mind of civil society. Use it to acquire a Marxist hegemony over the minds of the populations that must be won. … they must join in whatever liberating causes might come to the fore. . . Marxist must join with women, with the poor, with those who find certain civil laws oppressive. … they must enter into every civil, cultural, and political activity in every nation, patiently leavening them as thoroughly as yeast leavens bread. If there was any true superstructure that had to be eliminated, it was the Christianity that had created and still pervaded Western Culture in all its forms, activities, and expressions. … Marxist action must be unitary against what he saw to be the failing remnant of Christianity. And by a unitary attack, Gramsci meant that Marxists must change the residually Christian mind. He needed to alter that mind—to turn it into its opposite in all its details—so that it would become not merely a non-Christian mind but an anti-Christian mind. … everything must be done in the name of man’s dignity and rights, and in the name of his autonomy and freedom from outside constraint. From the claims and constraints of Christianity, above all else. Accomplish that, said Gramsci, and you will have established a true and freely adopted hegemony over the … thinking of every formerly Christian country. Do that, he promised, and in essence you will have Marxized the West. The final step—the Marxization of the politics of life itself—will then follow.[20]


Other Marxists were saying similar things. Christian Rakovsky, a leader in Trotsky’s blend of global Marxism, for example, reportedly said:


Communism cannot be the victor if it will not have suppressed the still living Christianity. … In reality Christianity is our only real enemy, since all the political and economic phenomena in the bourgeois States are only its consequences. Christianity, controlling the individual, is capable of annulling the revolutionary projection of the neutral Soviet or atheistic State by choking it and, as we see it in Russia, things have reached the point of the creation of that spiritual nihilism which is dominant in the ruling masses, which have, nevertheless, remained Christian: this obstacle has not yet been removed during twenty years of Marxism.[21]



The Cultural Marxism of the Frankfurt School


In the 1930s, a group of professors at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Frankfurt in Germany (“the Frankfurt School” for short) developed their own unique strains of Western Marxism. While they preferred to call their theory “the critical theory of society” their work has become more commonly known as “Cultural Marxism.”

They were keenly aware of the fact that the German workers did not revolt as Marx had predicted. But the fact that Marxism had failed its first and biggest test wasn’t enough to make them abandon Marx. They remained Marxist at the core and sought to salvage Marx’s vision for the dissolution of the evil “capitalist” systems that dominated Europe and the United States and plagued the world. Max Horkheimer defined their critical theory of society as (1) “a theory dominated at every turn by a concern for reasonable conditions of life,” (2) a theory which condemns existing social institutions and practices as “inhuman,” and (3) a theory which contemplates the need for “alteration of society as a whole.”[22] In harmony with Marx, the Frankfurt School theorists taught that everything in Western society is so evil that every facet of it needs to be ruthlessly criticized, weakened, and destroyed.

The rise of Nazi movement in Germany forced these professors to flee their German homeland. The National Socialists were competing with Marxist Socialists and the Frankfurt theorists were definitely recognizable as Marxists. They were also all Jewish. So in 1935 they fled Germany and made Columbia University of New York their base of operations.[23] They did not flee to Stalin’s Moscow because they were critical of his dystopian implementation of Marx. They enjoyed the safety, liberty, opportunities, wealth, and honor the United States offered them during World War II. After WWII ended, some of the Frankfurt Professors returned to Germany. But others stayed to indoctrinate university students with their ideas about cultural revolution and criticism. The USA had emerged from WWII as the most powerful nation in history. In taking Germany’s place, they inherited the ire of those who target and harass the powerful.

Although sympathetic to Marx’s war on inequality among socio-economic classes, these “cultural Marxists” instead focused on other cultural areas where people groups encounter inequality. They saw power inequalities in the clash of cultures (particularly where traditional “Western culture” dominated non-western cultures), of races (European races having dominated non-European races), or religions (where peoples practicing various forms of Christianity have subjugated and oppressed people of other religions), of family (parents often dominate their children and adults oppress the youth), of gender (men often dominate women), and sexual orientation (heterosexual communities oppress people in LGBTIQ[24] categories). Why didn’t the workers of Europe unite and revolt as Marx had predicted? This was one of the main problems these Neo-Marxist theorists were also trying to solve. Perhaps Marx had been right about most everything but had underestimated the grip that the European cultural heritage (chiefly from the Greek, Roman, Celtic, Germanic, Roman Catholic, and Protestant Reformation influences) had upon the hearts and minds. If these cultural barriers to Marxism could be eroded away, the revolution could proceed.

The chief weapon in their ideological arsenal was criticism.  The Frankfurt School made it academically fashionable to subject every old truth claim to “new criticism” or “critical theory.” Quite in harmony with Marx, every established authority and every established belief must be questioned, challenged, critiqued, doubted, ridiculed, marginalized, weakened, subverted, destroyed, and replaced. Beginning with criticism Marx’s spectre can proceed to liberate all the peoples of the world from the oppression of Classical civilization and Judeo-Christian culture.

Herbert Marcuse was one of the most influential and best known theorists of the Frankfurt School. He taught his brand of cultural Marxism into the 1970s at Columbia University, Harvard, Brandeis, and the University of California, San Diego. He is now widely regarded as the father of the New Left movement, the most influential “radical philosopher” of the 1960s, and a major inspiration for the Hippie Movement, the student movement, and the civil rights movement. Rather than fomenting discontent among the working class he focused on turning the youth against their heritages and the civilization they were born into. While critiquing both capitalism and communism, he recommended a “cultural revolution in the sense that the protest is directed toward the whole cultural establishment, including the morality of the existing society.”[25] He also called for:


radical change, revolution in and against a highly developed, technically advanced industrial society.  This historic novelty demands a reexamination of one our most cherished concepts. . . . First, the notion of the seizure of power. Here [in the United States], the old model [of Marxist revolution] wouldn’t do anymore. That, for example, in a country like the United States, under the leadership of a centralized and authoritarian party, large masses concentrate on Washington, occupy the Pentagon, and set up a new government. Seems to be a slightly too unrealistic and utopian picture. We will see that what we have to envisage is a type of diffuse and dispersed disintegration of the system.[26]


Like their Fabian forbearers, Cultural Marxists infiltrate and undermine the western cultures from the inside—from the universities in particular. In harmony with Marx’s dictum that, “Communism abolishes eternal truth, it abolishes all religion, and all morality,”[27] Frankfurt professors Marcuse and Reich commissioned their disciples to destroy Western concepts of morality. This is also reminiscent of the threat made by Communist Willi Munzenberg: “We will make the West so corrupt that it stinks.” Gramsci challenged his students to take the revolution into every educational institution and into newspapers, magazines, radio, film, television, journalism, and other forms of mass media. Gramsci and Lukacs encouraged the destruction of the traditional family unit, the basic building block of every tribe and civilization. Lukacs encouraged criticism of literature. Adorno and Shoenberg even sought to try to overturn western ideals for music. The Frankfurt Neo-Marxists also encouraged their students to take over the government gradually from the inside. When trying to understand how American culture began to change so radically after 1950, one must consider cultural Marxism as a major catalyst.



The Revolutionary Means and Ends of Saul Alinsky


Western Marxists sometimes lost patience with the slow pace of “progress.” During the 1960s, several revolutionaries in the “New Left” movement began to drift away from the gradual strains of Marxism and towards the more overtly violent (Maoist) end of the Marxist spectrum. Some leftist radicals began calling for armed conflict with police in city streets to create “liberated zones.” Others organized riots. Some even called for students to kill their parents. Saul Alinsky challenged this drift.

Alinsky was an effective worker’s union organizer, a talented community organizer, a radical political leftist, a Communist sympathizer, and a Marx-inspired revolutionary. He helped turn the tide of the New Left away from the violent approach back to a gradualist approach. It was not their ends that he disapproved of—he too fantasized about the destruction and overthrow of the USA. It was rather their means that he criticized:


They [the New Left radicals] also urge violence and cry ‘Burn the system down!’ They have no illusions about the system, but plenty of illusions about the way to change our world. It is to this point that I have written this book.[28]


When he rebuked the calls for violence by the New Left it was not because he held that such violence would have been morally unjustifiable; he rebuked them because they were doomed to fail. He was just being pragmatic about it. A few thousand citizens armed with pipe bombs and pistols had no chance of successfully bringing down the most powerful nation in the world from the inside. That just couldn’t work. But a gradual acquisition of power could succeed if a more patient, subtle, deceptive, and effective strategy were used.


What follows is for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be. The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Notes on how to take it away. [29]


He encourages organization and agitation for helping revolutionaries use what little power they had to gain more power. His famous thirteen rules for radicals have been used for many different causes, but ultimately the overall thrust is towards one end: gaining power. By listening to people who really want something (the “have-nots”) that the powerful (the “haves”) are withholding from them, by further agitating them and organizing them into communities committed to social change, teaching them to provoke[30] the powers that be to overreact against them, and taking advantage of public sympathy, they can gradually take what they want. His methodology of organizing the powerless and agitating the powerful helped shift the balance of power in the United States. When you cannot be a wrench in the gears of the machine, be sand in it. Eventually the sand will bring the machine to a halt. Meanwhile don’t telegraph your plans to your enemy.



The Prevalence of Marxism Today


Despite having allowed some non-Marxist freedoms in, Communist Marxism remains the official and dominant political-economic force in China, Cuba, Laos, North Korea, and Vietnam today. There are also governments in other countries—such as the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa—who do not self-identify to the public as either Marxist or Communist but who historically had strong ties with the Soviet Union, have had many Communists in the highest echelons of their leadership, and exhibit strong Leninist tendencies today. Between 1998 and 2015 there was a resurgence of popular hope in Marxist principles in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. This so-called “pink tide” ended with a popular rejection of most of the Marxist leaders and policies.

Despite the fact that it sits above the largest oil deposit in the entire world and the second largest natural gas deposit in the Americas, Venezuela is presently collapsing in every way. It should be one of the most prosperous nations in the world. But with rampant violence, empty food stores, and collapse, its cities have become one of the most politically, socially, and economically uninhabitable places on earth to live. And why is this? One of the main reasons is that they have over the last fifteen years slid deeper and deeper into Castro-styled Marxism under the leadership of Hugo Chavez. Before he took power, when journalists asked Chavez if he was a Communist, he would answer, “I’m a humanist.” This was the exact same answer his mentor Fidel Castro used decades earlier when asked if he was a Communist. Their dodge is deceptive because humanist sounds far less dangerous than communist. Meanwhile most contemporary humanists tend to register on the Marxist end of the spectrum. Later, after coming to power, Chavez admitted that he was actually “a convinced follower of Marxist-Leninist ideology.” He and Nicolas Madura, his successor, led Venezuela into severe hyperinflation, deep economic recession, terrible food shortages, an elimination of the middle-class, a greater number of poor, and some of the highest crime and murder rates on earth as they progressively implemented Marx’s ten planks.

While the Marxist countries have been forced to sacrifice some of their control for freedoms, the freer countries have sacrificed some of their freedoms for Marxist controls. The “Western Marxists” sometimes compete with and at other times cooperated with the “Eastern Marxists.” Likewise the Eastern Marxists sometimes competed with and at other times cooperated with the Western Marxists. Blurring the lines further, many of the families who made their fortunes as capitalists provided funding for Communist front organizations. Carrol Quigley, professor of history at Georgetown University was a mentor to Bill Clinton long before he became the 42nd President of the United States. In his Tragedy and Hope, Quigley posits an international network of bankers who operate in fabian ways, work towards Western Marxist goals of global control, and were not averse to fund and cooperate with Eastern Marxist organizations:


There does exist, and has existed for a generation, an international Anglophile network which operates, to some extent, in the way the radical Right believes the Communists act.  In fact, this network, which we may identify as the Round Table Group has no aversion to cooperating with the Communists, of any other groups, and frequently does so. I know of the operations of this network because I have studied it for twenty years and was permitted for two years, in the early 1960’s, to examine its papers and secret records.  … Since 1925 there have been substantial contributions from wealthy individuals and from foundations and firms associated with the international banking fraternity. … The chief backbone of this organization grew up along the already existing financial cooperation running from the Morgan Bank in New York to a group of international financiers in London …  there grew up in the twentieth century a power structure between London and New York which penetrated deeply into university life, the press, and the practice of foreign policy. … It was this group of people, whose wealth and influence so exceeded their experience and understanding, who provided much of the frame-work of influence which the Communist sympathizers and fellow travelers [Soviet sympathizers] took over in the United States in the 1930’s.[31]



A Few Prominent Marxists Today


Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America, has denied allegations of being a socialist and a Marxist. But his views do fit well in the socialist spectrum and he has been very strongly influenced by Marx and Alinsky. He also has a very strong Marxist background, ties, and orientation. His legal father, Barack Obama, Sr., was a socialist with communist leanings. His ideological father, Frank Marshall Davis, was a card-carrying member of the Communist Party with a passionate desire to destroy the American system. His mother, Anne Dunham, was a radical leftist, a devotee of the Frankfurt School’s “critical theory,” and a Communist as well. Another one of his mentors, Jeremiah Wright, a revolutionary Marxist and Muslim turned pseudo-Christian preacher, gained some fame for preaching a sermon insistent upon the need for God to damn the USA rather than bless it. Wright is also a fount of Black Liberation Theology.[32]

Barack Obama attended Columbia University, one of the chief fountains of both Fabian and Frankfurt strains of Marxism,[33] and, as a political science major there, he learned the nuances of the Cloward-Piven strategy—a plan to increase the burden of the public welfare system to create an overwhelming crisis in the evil capitalistic system and cause the rise of a Marx-inspired government that would end poverty by the forceful redistribution of wealth.

Obama got his start in politics as a community organizer under the auspices of two organizations Saul Alinsky founded. He became a trainer in Alinsky’s methods and used some of the Alinsky methods to help his presidential campaign succeed. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1991—a time when many of the professors were still optimistic about Soviet Communism. Also many of them were pundits of “critical legal studies,” a NeoMarxist revolution against American jurisprudence that assumes law is about power rather than justice. Roberto Unger, one of Obama’s professors during his years at Harvard Law, is not ashamed to admit that he is Marxist revolutionary in the Frankfurt School tradition. Obama also studied the Marx-inspired “critical race theory” (CRT) under Derrick Bell at Harvard and went on to teach it as a lecturer at the University of Chicago. As President, Obama appointed one self-described Maoist Communist to an important role in his cabinet. While enjoying upper-class wealth, Obama’s deleterious attempt to socialize health care, his refusal to speak out against the violence associated with various movements under the MoveOn.org umbrella, and his promotion of several other global governance agendas are indicative of a generally Marxist orientation. Now that his second term as President has ended, Obama plans continue to lend his talents for organizing and agitating to the insurgency movement.

Bill Ayers, the co-founder of the Weather Underground, a communist organization that openly called for guerrilla warfare and the overthrow of the US government, was also one of Obama’s mentors in Chicago. In acts of terrorism, and largely in protest of the military involvement in Vietnam, Ayers’ group planted bombs at the New York City Police Department headquarters in 1970, the United States Capitol building in 1971, and the Pentagon in 1972. Ayers served no prison time for his terrorism.[34] He went on to become a professor in the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Although he officially denied any significant association with Barack Obama, Ayers later claimed to have written Obama’s autobiography Dreams of my Father (1995) prior to Obama’s bid for the presidency.

In 2017, Bill Ayers, along with Carl Dix, a founding member of the Revolutionary Communist Party USA, recently helped create the RefuseFacism.org movement.[35] This movement seeks to organize and agitate with “massive protest and resistance from tens of millions of ordinary people” to oppose the inauguration of the 45th President, to create “a crisis of rule,” to “have the effect of figuratively stopping society in its tracks,” create “a political eruption from below,”  “bring DC to a halt,” foster “non-violent direct action disrupting business as usual, occupying public spaces … strikes … in cities around the country.”[36] This echoes Marx’s writings, resembles some of the propaganda and strategies used by Lenin, and is textbook Alinsky. While the Refuse Fascism organization calls for non-violent protest out of one side of their mouth, they also are calling for militant fighting out of the other:


In short, should we hold back now it will almost certainly become immeasurably more difficult to fight back once Trump-Pence are in power and using the vast state power at their disposal to implement their program. The path of holding back, of waiting and seeing, of calculating odds is littered with corpses.  Far better to fight as hard as we can now, however difficult the circumstances, fostering an ethos and framework of resistance as we go for victory and going all out in a telescoped period of time for what is indeed our best shot. There are, of course, no guarantees of victory for people who have right on their side.  The only guarantee that has ever existed is that if you don’t fight for justice you will certainly not get it. Let us fight.[37]


Hillary Rodham Clinton has served the US as a Senator and as the Secretary of State. When including the votes of three million illegal aliens and questionable results from several districts in five states, Hillary won the popular vote for the election of the 45th President of the United States. But she failed to earn the electoral vote. While she is certainly not a consistent Marxist, she was converted to a Marxist viewpoint in her college days. The 92-page thesis she wrote as a political science major was titled “There is Only the Fight: An Analysis of the Alinsky Model.” Although she did offer some criticisms of his work, she clearly defended Alinsky’s means and, in agreeing that there is ultimately one fight, she agreed with his ends. That fight is at heart of the Marxist worldview; it is the lens through which everything must be viewed to be understood properly. She looked up to Alinsky at one time as a model and mentor. She interviewed him in person and kept a personal correspondence going with him. While her views on “the fight” have matured over the decades, Mrs. Clinton remains a leftist radical and an Alinsky-inspired revolutionary.

Jorge Bergoglio, better known now as Pope Francis, the 266th and current Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, is one of the most influential people in the world today. At least a billion people are listening to him. Officially he supports neither Capitalism, Marxism, nor Marxist Liberation Theology. Bergoglio preaches that the main problem of the world needs to be “radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality.” He sounded so much like a Marxist so often that many began to ask whether he was in fact a Marxist.  Bergoglio answered, “Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended.” Bergoglio set the locus of his social doctrine in the tradition of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) rather than in Marx. But Francis is not talking about the old RCC and its old traditions; he is talking about the new RCC created by the Second Vatican Council. Prior to that council, the RCC and Marxist-Leninism were bitter enemies and irreconcilable competitors. After the council ended (1965), the enmity cooled and the RCC began to move in Marxist directions. According to RCC historian and former Jesuit professor Malachi Martin:


Within five years of the end of Vatican II, by the dawn of the 1970s, the whole of Latin America was being flooded with a new theology—Liberation Theology—in which basic Marxism was smartly decked out in traditional Christian vocabulary and retooled Christian concepts. Books written mainly by co-opted Catholic priests, together with political and revolutionary action manuals, saturated the volatile area of Latin America … Liberation Theology was a perfectly faithful exercise of Gramsci’s principles. It could be launched with the corruption of a relatively few well-placed Judas goats. Yet it could be aimed at the culture and the mentality of the masses. It stripped both of any attachment to the Christian transcendent. It locked both the individual and his culture in the close embrace of a goal that was totally immanent: the class struggle for socio-political liberation. Swiftly, the linchpins of Vatican and papal control were replaced by the action-oriented demands of the Roman Church—Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans, Maryknollers—all committed themselves to Liberation Theology.[38]


Interestingly, Bergoglio is the first Jesuit in history to ever become a Pope. His words resonate with the stream of NeoMarxist thought that has been infiltrating the Jesuit order since the 1950s through the work of Jesuit-Marxist thinkers like Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (also considered to be the founder of the New Age Movement), Karl Rahner, and a cadre of Liberation Theologians.[39] After having their own revolution the Jesuits in turn caused a revolution in the RCC during and after the Second Vatican Council.

Quoting Francis frequently, the Vatican recently started pushing the agenda of creating a global government (“create a world political authority,” “the creation of a public Authority with universal jurisdiction,” “creating a world political Authority,” “arrive at global Government” [40]) that controls “peace and security; disarmament and arms control; promotion and protection of fundamental human rights; management of the economy and development policies; management of migratory flows and food security; and protection of the environment.” This system of control would of course include a “central world bank that regulates the flow and system of monetary exchanges.” This world government is to be “geared to the universal common good,” “aimed at achieving the common good on the local, regional and world levels,” is about “global social justice,” and “aimed at achieving free and stable markets and a fair distribution of world wealth.” There is nothing here that cannot be found in the writings of Eastern and Western interpreters of Marx. Nor is there anything here that can be achieved without the authoritarian and totalitarian power.

Ironically, while the Pope and the new RCC Church talk in increasingly Marxist tones about the plight of the poor, the evils of greedy capitalism, and the need for other people’s investments to be controlled, they continue to take in billions of dollars every year from their 1.2 billion subjects. Vatican City, which has a population of just 800 people, receives no less than 300 million dollars’ worth of wool per year from its flock. Although no one knows how much wealth the RCC really has, it is known that they manage 6 billion euros worth of assets, have 700 million euros of equity, and keep over 20 million dollars in gold in the vaults of the US Federal Reserve. One also can wonder why they haven’t started auctioning the many priceless treasures (gold, ivories, textiles, illuminated manuscripts, mosaics, tapestries, paintings, sculptures, frescoes, etc.) kept in the Vatican. It is a piquant irony that the Apostle Peter was able to say, “I have no silver or gold…” (Acts 3:6) but the church that he supposedly founded is worth countless billions—or perhaps even trillions—of dollars and euros.

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th and current Dali Lama of Tibetan Buddhism, is another religious leader with considerable influence around the globe. Given the Maoist invasion and oppression of Tibet, we might expect the Dali Lama to be very critical of Marxism. However, while addressing an American audience in 2011, he explained, “I consider myself a Marxist . . . but not a Leninist.” Also, in a 2015 lecture entitled “A Human Approach to World Peace,” Tenzin went on record as saying, “As far as socioeconomic theory, I am a Marxist. … In capitalist countries, there is an increasing gap between the rich and the poor. In Marxism, there is emphasis on equal distribution.” Tenzin is right in saying some of the best-known Marxist countries (China) are practicing capitalism now. But he fails to mention the fact that all of the “capitalist countries” have in the last 100 years become a mixture of capitalist, socialist, Marxist, and Keynesian[41] economic practices. He seems to have missed the fact that the gulf between “the 1%” and “the 99%” was felt more acutely in the extreme Marxist experiments. Eastern Marxism purged the upper-class, created a new upper-class, eliminated the middle-class, and enlarged the lower-class. The gulf between rich and poor in Western countries grows proportionately to the adoption of Western Marxist theory.



Reasons to Reject All Forms of Marxism


The Heart of Marxism is Conflict


While the impulse to rebel and revolt and quarrel has been with mankind since the beginning, Marx may have been the first to make it the kernel of a philosophical worldview. With its emphasis on equality and justice for all, Marxism sounds quite appealing in the abstract. But in the real world terror, slavery, misery, mass murder, injustice, inequality, and even genocide are inevitable. It’s built into the system. While posing as the system of cooperation and the antidote to the system of competition, Marxism is founded on the assumption that history can only properly be understood as a competition, a fight, a conflict, a war. Just as never-ending competition between species in the Darwinian model of evolution supposedly produces biological progress, so too does social progress supposedly happen through conflict between people groups.[42] The revolutionaries seek to help the weaker people groups cooperate to revolt against the stronger group.


Marxism is anti-Christian


Marx’s antipathy for religion in general (“the opiate of the masses”) and for Christianity in particular (considered to be nothing more than a tool of oppression) is not in dispute. In the Warsaw Pact countries, church leaders that complied with the revolutions were rewarded while church leaders that opposed the revolution were removed. The satanic, anti-Christian roots start with Marx, who after abandoning the Christian faith, wrote, “I wish to avenge myself against the One [God] who rules above,”[43] “I shall howl gigantic curses upon mankind,”[44] and, “With disdain I will throw my gauntlet full in the face of the world and see the collapse of this pygmy giant … then I will wander godlike and victorious through the ruins of this world. … I will feel equal to the Creator.”[45] When writing in positive tones about the bloody revolutions in 19th century France and the overturning of their progress by Napoleon, Marx seems to have concluded that “in the name of the people … ‘All that exists deserves to perish.’”[46]

By age eighteen Marx had rejected Christianity and embarked upon an anti-Christian and pro-Luciferian path. One of his early poems tells of how “that enthroned Lord,” “the Almighty,” has “snatched from me my all” and how “nothing but revenge is left to me,” “revenge I’ll proudly wreak on that being,” and “I shall build my throne high overhead. … defiant.”[47] One of Marx’s former early partners, Mikhail Bakunin, wrote in ways which harmonize well with the spirit and words of Marx:


The Evil one is the satanic revolt against divine authority, revolt in which we see the fecund germ of human emancipations, the revolution. Socialists recognize each other by the words, ‘In the name of the one to whom a great wrong has been done.’… In this revolution we will have to awaken the Devil in the people, to stir up the basests passions. Our mission is to destroy, not to edify. The passion of destruction is a creative passion.[48]


The “one to whom a great wrong has been done” refers to Lucifer, the great cherub who attempted to depose God and was in turn cast out by God. Luciferians (i.e., Satanists) see Lucifer as the victim—the righteous rebel—and God as the unjust King who needs to be overthrown. Both the ends and the means of the purer forms of Marxism (and the revolutionary ideologies that preceded it and fed into it) are ultimately satanic. They originate from men who were in rebellion against the God of their parents. They also fit the Bible’s descriptions of Satan as a deceiver who “disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14), a thief who “comes to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10), and an adversary who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8), and the ultimate rebel. Alinsky essentially dedicated his book Rules for Radicals to Satan with these words:


Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgement to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins—or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom—Lucifer.[49]




The Question of Compatibility


It could be argued that most of the people who hunger, thirst, and work for a more equitable and just world prefer to avoid the bloodshed, terrorism, and other evils that tend to go along with Marx’s spectre. They’re interested in a soft revolution, constructive reforms, an effective but unoppressive yoke, and a milder, sanitized, reformed, kautskian version of Marxism. Indeed, many western Marxists work with sincere and noble aspirations in peaceful ways towards constructive reforms of highly imperfect systems.[50] And it may have been the criticism and work of moderate western Marxists that helped temper some of the abuses that western governments would otherwise have continued to wallow in. Perhaps if Christians in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries had been more sensitive to and vocal about unjust labor practices, imperialism, colonization, slavery, consumerism, unjust wars, racism, persecution, inequalities, predatory lending, greed, and the ubiquitous Old Testament themes of justice and righteousness for the powerless, the vacuum that secular Marxism filled wouldn’t have been empty. Secular Marxist humanists are following a desupernaturalized version of the Judeo-Christian vision of justice that both Israel and the Church lost.

Pressing the point further, perhaps many modern Christians have already proved that the Christianesque aspects of Marxism can be adopted while the materialistic, violent, and antichristian elements are filtered out. Marx’s vision of justice may partially be inspired by and harmonious with the many Old Testament passages on justice, Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount (“blessed are the poor” and therefore “condemned are the wealthy/powerful”), writings about controlling greed found in the Talmud and other rabbinic writings, and some of the writings of the Anabaptist Christian radicals who were persecuted and murdered by Protestants and Roman Catholics alike. Perhaps Isaiah and Jesus were the first embryonic Marxists and as society evolved Marx was offering an evolved application of true Christian principles. Marx may have been influenced heavily by Isaiah:


I want you to remove the sinful chains, to tear away the ropes of the burdensome yoke, to set free the oppressed, and to break every burdensome yoke. I want you to share your food with the hungry and to provide shelter for homeless, oppressed people.  – Isaiah 58:6–7 (NET)

Class conflict is real and perhaps lies at the heart of the social gospel of how we need to build the kingdom of God on earth. Perhaps Marxism provides a helpful way to break with misguided Greco-Roman interpretations—the Western Captivity—of the Bible that occurred after “the Constantianian Shift.” Perhaps Marx offers an important part of the Reformation that Luther and Calvin didn’t get around to. A large percentage of the Christian Churches in the West are already heavily influenced by Marxism and contribute to Marxist causes.

There are many admixtures of Christianity and Marxism in various ratios. Surely some blends are better than others. But should they be blended at all? While the Marxist critiques of the wealthy and powerful often show areas where improvement is needed, the Marxist vision is ultimately neither constructive nor reformative. In so far as they are possessed by Marx’s spectre, the leaders of the new Marxisms will content themselves with gradual and peaceful reform only as a means to weaken and replace the incumbent powers. When the system is sufficiently weakened, the reforms end and the attempt the revolution begins. As thousands of kind-hearted socialists discovered during the early days of the Russian Revolution, their work as mild revolutionaries helped the more heartless revolutionaries accomplish the Revolution—the very bloody, nasty, evil revolution. Those who hunger and thirst for Marxist righteousness are working towards that same end. They may do so in ignorance and in good conscience, but eventually it leads towards large quantities of blood and many tears. Although it is denied, it seems that following the money trail of the World Council of Churches[51] (WCC), the National Council of Churches (NCC), the United Methodist Church, and the United Presbyterian Church, and other Marx-intoxicated Christian groups shows millions of dollars sent to finance propaganda, weapons, ammunition, and pay for several Marxist “liberation armies” on at least two continents. If this is true, it offers a poignant example of the work of the nonviolent Marxist revolutionaries being something that can be untangled from violent revolutionaries.

While encouraging efforts towards truly constructive and peaceful reforms, we must discourage any support of all destructive and revolutionary movements.[52] In so far as Marxism is directly or indirectly revolutionary, it has no continuity with the Scriptures. The expectation of support for the established government runs through all the books of the Old and New Testaments. Members of the Tribes of Israel and members of the global Church were both encouraged to not revolt against the established authorities—even when those authorities were very abusive. When their slavery was unbearable and when their baby boys were being murdered, Moses and the Israelites did not rise up in armed revolution against Pharaoh and Egypt. They endured suffering, they groaned, and they left when Pharaoh asked them to. When Moses became the leader of the Israelites, he carried a shepherd’s staff—not a spear, sword or bow. But the Israelites themselves never killed or harassed their Egyptian oppressors.[53] David refused to oppose King Saul even though Saul had gone insane, was trying to murder David, and deserved no such mercy. Even though his people had been slaughtered, kidnapped, and held against their will, Daniel faithfully served and blessed the kings of the Babylonian and Persian Empires—despite the fact that they were guilty of many injustices.

Unlike most of the Jews of their day, Jesus and his Apostles never raised their voices or their ink quills—much less the sword—against either Caesar or the Roman Empire. They were supportive of the Roman Empire despite the fact that it was a kingdom that they knew would “devour the whole earth, and trample it down, and break it to pieces” (Daniel 7:23). Contrary to the liberation theology perspective, while Jesus and most of his apostles were executed by Roman order, they had not acted as subversives or revolutionaries. When Jesus told his eleven remaining followers to purchase swords and heard that they had a total of two, he said, “It is enough” (Luke 22:35-38). Two swords among eleven men is no way to start of a revolution. As Jesus was being arrested, when Peter asked if he should “strike with the sword” Jesus answered in the negative and did damage control (Luke 22:49-51). Jesus chided the armed mob by asking, “Am I leading a rebellion that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me” (Luke 22:52-53).[54] Jesus was the greatest revolutionary in world history. But he was not a destructive or violent revolutionary in the Marxist tradition. He sent his disciples out as “sheep among wolves” who were to be “as wise as serpents but at harmless as doves” (Mt. 10:16). While on trial with the regional Roman authority Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting [to prevent my arrest but] my kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). His judge had no concerns about him as a threat to Rome and said, “I find no guilt in him” (18:38).

The Roman Tribune who rescued the Apostle Paul from death at the hands of a violent mob asked whether Paul was “the Egyptian … who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness” (Acts 21:27-39). His question is comical. In his mission as an Apostle, Paul had no blood on his hands. The revolutionary message that Paul was propagating was preaching was that God was adopting non-Jews into his family without any need for rites like circumcision and obedience to the Mosaic Law. This aroused the anger and violent responses from many Jews but the violence was only directed at Paul and other Christians. The first and second generations of Christ’s followers were victims of—but not wielders of—violence.

James, the half-brother of Jesus and an important leader in the church of Jerusalem, wrote a sobering warning to the class of people who are characterized by monetary wealth, fraud, power, and oppression of the workers they employed:


Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you. (James 5:1-6)


Written 1,800 years before Marx, James’ warning sounds almost like something Marx could have written. It is likely that Marx drew some of his inspiration from the Jewish and Christian traditions that James was a part of. They’re talking about similar problems—problems that still plague our societies today. But note how the response to the problem that James encourages is diametrically opposed on every point to the response the Marxists encourage. James urges patience and faith:


Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (James 5:7-11)


While Marxist criticism may occasionally serve to show professing Christians where they need improvement, the blending of Marxism and Christianity will invariably produce doctrines that are contrary to the knowledge of God. For example, Marxist Christians tend to replace a theistic view of a transcendent and infinite God with an immanent and finite view of God. God becomes little more than the march of history, the outworking of class conflict in history, or an algebraic variable for the desire for social change. Non-Marxist Christians believe that while Christ’s kingdom is not of this world in this present age, someday Christ himself will return and create his own geopolitical kingdom on earth. Marxist Christians invariably replace that hope with an emphasis on an earthly kingdom that we must create ourselves. The gospel of salvation by grace, through faith, not by works, but for good works (Eph. 2:8-10) gets replaced by a social gospel of salvation through revolutionary works—either the sand-in-the-machine works of Alinsky or the bullet-to-the-head works of Mao. It is not those who are “poor in spirit” whom God blesses but those who are poor in material goods. The hope of eternal life and resurrection of the body are minimized at best and eventually lost.

The ideological evolution of John de Gruchy, Professor Emeritus of Christian Studies at the University of Cape Town, may serve as an unfortunate example of how Marxism transmogrifies a Christian’s faith. In his book Confessions of a Christian Humanist de Gruchy outlines his journey away from a God-centered Christianity to a Marx-intoxicated Christianity. He describes the “evangelical-fundamentalism” of his younger days as supporting the status quo of an ethically inhumane apartheid in South Africa, of supporting misguided sexual guilt, patriarchy, and “saving souls.” He rejoices over his conversion to what he believes to be a superior theology—one that integrates darwinism, feminism (NeoMarxist), liberation theology (NeoMarxist), black theology (NeoMarxist), commonalities with Hinduism, and the Eastern Orthodox Christian notion of “divinization.” He credits Dietrich Bonhoeffer, several semi-Christian Marxists (Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, Teilhard de Chardin, Karl Rahner, Desmond Tutu), and even the Hindu philosopher Savrepalli Radhakrishnan as helping him on his journey to become a proper Christian Humanist. DeGruchy explains:


Being a Christian humanist implies that one is committed to human dignity, rights and freedom, and has some real hope for humanity; and being a Christian humanist suggests that these commitments and this hope are inseparable from one’s faith in Jesus Christ.[55]


But when answering the question about the real hope that is within him, de Gruchy believes that the traditional view of eternal life and resurrection has been misunderstood by orthodox Christians for two thousand years. He reinterprets them as follows:


… ‘eternal life’ . . . refers to a quality of life rather than to endless quantity; it is life lived under the reign of God, in the ‘kingdom of heaven’ here and now. Part of what we are saying in proclaiming the ‘resurrection of the body’ is that we are part of a web of human life, for Christians, ‘the body of Christ’, that has been raised to newness of life. . . the ‘resurrection of the body’ suggests something organic, it has to do with the interconnectedness of life of which death is an inevitable and indispensable part. This might not give much comfort to those who wonder about the whereabouts of their loved ones who have died, or about their own destiny, but it may well provide a fresh perspective from which we can look at the reality of death and ‘the life everlasting’. The ‘resurrection of the body’ is not to be understood in a crude, literal sense; it refers to the reconstitution of our personhood in relation to others in ways that we cannot even begin to imagine.[56]


It should be obvious that de Gruchy has parted company with Jesus and his Apostles on this crucial doctrine. Or, to borrow a phrase from the Apostle Paul, he has “shipwrecked his faith” (1st Tim. 1:19) on the reef of Marxism. He is also blowing the faith of his students and readers towards the same reefs with the winds of his teaching. Ironically, while de Gruchy self-identifies as a theologian in the Reformed-Evangelical tradition, none of the Protestant Reformers would have had any tolerance for his secularized view of eternal life or his purely this-worldly social gospel. He has completed the process of becoming a secular humanist who self-identifies as a Christian but who may very possibly not be identified as a Christian by Jesus Christ himself.





Regardless of whether Marx’s original spectre has departed the world scene or not, there are several other Neo-Marxist spectres around to take its place. They have achieved prominence in many of the fields that shape peoples’ worldviews and attitudes. The implications are far reaching in individual, regional, and global scopes and in political, economic, cultural, moral, and ideological arenas. Morally it tends to lead toward rebellion against every imperative in the word of God.

Even the push for social justice tends to end in social unrest. The means and ends of Marxism tend towards bloodshed and tragedy. For example, in this day when the Pope, billionaires like George Soros,[57] and many of the most powerful political leaders of the day are sending hundreds of thousands of Muslim migrants from Africa, Asia, and the Middle-East into Europe and North America, it is done ostensibly in the name of compassion for the dispossessed, global equality for the oppressed, and multiculturalism. Painted as a “love your neighbor as yourself” it sounds like something Christ might have said. But in the Marxist matrix, the current migrant crisis[58] is a method of pitting one group against another group, of creating shifts in power and class conflicts, and of course for creating economic, social, cultural, and moral crisis, and fostering conditions that are ripe for “the Revolution.”

Marxism is not simply a philosophy of overthrowing governments and controlling the machinery, the workers, and the economies of the world. Eastern-styled Marxism starts with worldly warfare (guerilla warfare and revolution) and then, once established, leads to ideological slavery in opposition to the knowledge of God. Western-styled Marxism engages in ideological and cultural warfare first and then leads to worldly warfare second.  If the factors of theft, rebellion, constant conflict, and totalitarian controls are not enough to compel the defenders of the Christian faith to declare war against it, Marxism has always been a humanistic philosophy that “suppresses the truth … about God” (Rom. 1:18-19). It wages war against the knowledge of God and therefore it deserves an apologetic response. When the Apostle Paul described his earthly mission he did so in militant terms:


For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to Christ… (2 Cor. 10:3-5)


For our earthly mission to have continuity with the apostolic mission, we should not participate in the bloody wars waged with bombs, bullets, and blades; we should instead be militant, strategic, tactical warfighters in the ideological war for the knowledge of God our Lord and Christ.

Christianity—in all of its pre-Marxist forms—are Marxism’s chief enemies. The fact that both Marx and Engels both went through strong Christian phases in their earlier days (before biblical criticism turned them against the God of the Bible, against Christian churches, and even against Western Civilization itself) is part of what makes Marxism extra deceptive and dangerous. It has a knack for replacing Christianity as a purely secular counterfeit. It also has a knack for infiltrating Christian worldviews, hybridizing with them, retooling and secularizing them. Marxism invariably drips the acid of criticism onto everything it touches. That’s part of the bargain.

We may be seeing some signs that one of Marx’s spectres has begun to haunt the evangelical Christian academy. The current era is one where several esteemed evangelical scholars will, for example, praise and defend a book with a subtitle of “A New Historiographical Approach”[59] despite the fact that New Historicism is a school of thought which is rooted in some of the theories of Karl Marx (as filtered through Michael Foucault, Lynn Hunt, and Stephen Greenblatt) and despite the fact that the book criticizes pieces of the historical gospel narrative. When other evangelical scholars criticize this type of criticism they become criticized and ridiculed for having been critical. This too seems to resonate with the spirit of Marx and the Frankfurt theorists. This may also show which direction the compass needle is pointing. Instead of heading in the “Christian Humanist” direction that Professor de Gruchy took, let us instead learn how the guerillas wage their ideological wars and then proceed to destroy the arguments and lofty opinions they have raised against the knowledge of God.


End Notes

[2] These farming communities in Israel were among the first pioneers of primitive and hardline strains of Marx-inspired Communism. Until recently some Marxists would argue that they proved that Marxism was succeeding in the micro level and therefore could theoretically still be made to work on the macro level.

[3] Aden, Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Benin, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Congo, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Ethiopia, Hungary, Laos, Mongolia, Mozambique, Namibia, North Korea, Poland, Romania, Somalia, South Yemen, Soviet Union, Vietnam, and Yugoslavia.

[4] The Paris Commune (1871), Finnish Civil War (1918), German Revolution (1918), Hungarian Soviet Republic (1919), Mongolian Revolution (1921), Salvadoran peasant uprising (1932), Spanish Revolution (1936), Indonesia, Malaysia, etc.

[5] In 1917 the Bolsheviks legalized abortion in Russia. There were an estimated 6-7 million abortions per year in the USSR. That adds 300 million unborn victims to the tally. There are more than 13 million abortions per year in China. China reported 336 million abortions in the last 40 years. In the US, the secular humanists (with Neo-Darwinian and Neo-Marxist leanings) legalized abortion in 1973, and approximately 60 million unborn Americans were sacrificed. Between China, the USSR, and the USA, there were close to a billion children that were not permitted to set foot on the earth.

[6] Marxism in Cuba under the brutal leadership of the Castro brothers has so far led to the directly execution of an estimated 140,000 Cuban citizens (not including the thousands who were starved), caused 78,000 more Cubans to die at sea as they tried to escape, and caused 1.5 million desperate Cubans to emigrate to the USA as political refugees.

[7] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977), 44-45. Italics added.

[8] William Ebenstein, Great Political Thinkers: Plato to the Present, 3rd edition. (NY: Hold, Rinehard, and Winston, 1964), 747.

[9] At the beginning of the Russian Revolution, Kautsky could not imagine that his former associates would allow atrocities to occur. He wrote, “They know that terror can never uproot ideas.” War Minister Trotsky replied, “Mr. Kautsky, you do not know what terror we will apply.” Cited by Richard Wurmbrand in Christ in the Communist Prisons (NY: Coward-McCann, 1968), 83.

[10] Edward R. Pease, The History of Fabian Socialism (NY: E.P. Dutton & Company Publishers, 1916),19. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13715/13715-h.htm. Also William Ebenstein, Great Political Thinkers: From Plato to the Present. 3rd edition. Hold, Rinehard, and Winston. 1964. 752.

[11] Martin Cowen, Fabian Libertarianism: 100 Years to Freedom (XLibris, 2016), Kindle location 274.

[12] George Bernard Shaw. Who I Am and What I Think: Sixteen Self Sketches. (Constable, 1949). Shaw cofounded the London School of Economics, won a Nobel Prize for literature, and wrote sixty plays which helped popularize socialist views and values on education, marriage, religion, government, health care, and class conflict. In the preface to the Communist Manifesto, Engels seems to address the Fabian variant:

Yet, when it was written, we could not have called it a Socialist Manifesto. By Socialists, in 1847, … professed to redress, without any danger to capital and profit, all sorts of social grievances, in both cases men outside the working class movement, and looking rather to the “educated” classes for support. Whatever portion of the working class had become convinced of the insufficiency of mere political revolutions, and had proclaimed the necessity of a total social change, that portion, then, called itself Communist. … Thus, Socialism was, in 1847, a middle-class movement, Communism a working class movement. Socialism was, on the Continent at least, “respectable”; Communism was the very opposite. And as our notion, from the very beginning, was that the emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class itself there could be no doubt as to which of the two names we must take. Moreover, we have, ever since, been far from repudiating it.

[13] In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels famously wrote, “The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.” The Fabians who helped fund the Russian Revolution preferred to conceal their aims. Lenin would later admit, “We have to use any ruse, dodge, trick, cunning, unlawful method, concealment, and veiling of the truth. The basic rule is to exploit the conflicting interests of the capitalist states.”

[14] Sidney Webb, Socialism in England (London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co, 1889), 26-27. George Bernard Shaw also wrote, “The Fabian Society was warlike in its origin. … in 1885 … we denounced the capitalists as thieves…, talked of revolution, anarchism, … and all the rest of it, no the tacit assumption that the object of our campaign, with its watchwords, ‘EDUCATE, AGITATE, ORGANIZE’ was to bring about a tremendous smash-up of existing society, to be succeeded by complete Socialism.” The Fabian Society: Its Early History (The Fabian Society, 1892).

[15] Pease, 26.

[16] Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Soviet Communism: A New Civilization? (NY: Scribner’s Sons, 1936).

[17] Paul Kurtz. Humanist Manifesto 2000: A Call for a New Planetary Humanism (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1999), 2.

[18] Ibid, 20.

[19] A Secular Humanist Declaration (The Council for Secular Humanism, 1980). http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php/11. Accessed January 14th, 2017.

[20] Malachi Martin. The Keys of This Blood: The Struggle for World Domination between Pope John Paul II, Mikhail Gorbachev, and the Capitalist West. (NY: Simon and Schuster, 1990), 247-251.

[21] J. Landowsky, The Red Symphony (Christian Book Club of America: 2002).

[22] Max Horkheimer, “Traditional and Critical Theory.” Cited in Marcuse, Feenberg, and Leiss, The Essential Marcuse: Selected Writings of Philosopher and Social Critic Herbert Marcuse (Boston: Beacon Press, 2007).

[23] Columbia University was also where Fabian Marxist John Dewey was training thousands of teachers in “progressive education.” Interestingly, the USSR eagerly translated Dewey’s pro-collectivist books and used them in their own educational systems.

[24] Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, and Questioning.

[25] Herbert Marcuse. “Reflections on the French Revolution.” Quoted in Michael Walsh, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace: The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West (NY: Encounter Books ,2015), 46.

[26] Herbert Marcuse, “On the New Left.” Cited by Walsh, 46.

[27] Communist Manifesto, 44

[28] Saul Alinsky. Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals (NY: Random House, 1971), xiii.

[29] Ibid, 3.

[30] While preferring nonviolent approaches over violent approaches to socio-political change, Alinsky’s methods are nevertheless hardly commendable. He agrees with Mao that power comes from the barrel of a gun but realizes that those who do not have ‘the guns’ must exploit other means of gaining power over those who hold the guns. Once the Alinskyites gain enough power there is no reason in their system to continue with a nonviolent and gradual approach to social change. Once they begin to believe they can get away with it, they will be free to revolt like Maoists.

[31] Carroll Quigley, Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time. (NY: MacMillan, 1966), 950-955.

[32] Liberation Theology is invariably Marxist in orientation and, if the Communist defector Ion Pacepa is correct, was originally created as a disinformation campaign by the Russian and Romanian KGB agencies during the 1960s. It would reword Marxism in Christian vocabulary in order to help spread the revolutionary memes through the minds of Latin Americans in particular. Variations were made for other people groups.

[33] Attending Columbia University is not necessarily a guarantee of Marxist indoctrination. The famous economist Milton Friedman, for example, studied statistics at Columbia in the 1930s and became one of the greatest critics of Keynesianism, Socialism, and Marxism. Similarly, economist F.A. Hayek, who is famous for dialogues with Keynes and for his anti-socialism book The Road to Serfdom, spent most of his career on the faculty of the London School of Economics—the same school that was started by the Fabian Society. Columbia was rife with Marxism in the 1980s however.

[34] Officially no people were actually killed by the bombs. Ayers has since publicly condemned all forms of terrorism—including Obama’s extensive use of drone aircraft attacks in other nations.

[35] https://refusefascism.org/about-contact/initiators/. Accessed January 9th, 2017.

[36] These are all direct quotes from https://refusefascism.org/faqs-on-stopping-trump-pence/. Accessed on January 9th, 2017. Similar militant language (“Hundreds of thousands of people will be storming the streets across the US,” “we need massive resistance in the streets,” and “Let’s fight for the revolution we really need”) is used by the J20Resist movement at http://www.workers.org/j20/. J20 refers to January 20th, 2017, the date of the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States. The Mayor of the District of Columbia encouraged rioters to protest peacefully and to stop destroying the city.

[37] Ibid. Italics added.

[38] Keys of this Blood, 260-261.

[39] Malachi Martin, The Jesuits: The Society of Jesus and the Betrayal of the Roman Catholic Church (NY: Touchstone, 1987).

[40] The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. “Towards Reforming the International and Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority.”  http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/justpeace/ documents/rc_pc_justpeace_doc_20111024_nota_en.html. Accessed January 9th, 2017.

[41] John Maynard Keynes, a member of the Fabian Society, is often portrayed as the savior of capitalism or the synthesizer of capitalism and socialism. Since his solution requires increases in government spending and intervention it arguably fits more on the Leftist end of the spectrum.

[42] In a letter to Ferdinand Lassale in 1861, Marx wrote, “Darwin’s book [Origin of the Species] is very important and serves me as a basis in the natural sciences for the historical class struggle.”

[43] Richard Wurmbrand, Marx and Satan (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1986), 5.

[44] Ibid, 7. See also Paul Johnson, Intellectuals (New York, NY: Harper and Row, 1988), chapter 3.

[45] Ibid, 18. A slightly different translation can be seen in Early Works of Karl Marx: Book of Verse at https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1837-pre/verse/verse20.htm. Accessed January 1st, 2017.

[46] Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/1346/pg1346.txt. Accessed Jan.1st, 2017.

[47] Early Works of Karl Marx: Book of Verse. “Invocation of One in Despair.” https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1837-pre/verse/verse11.htm

[48] Marx and Satan, 16.

[49] Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals (Random House: 1971). This nod to Lucifer is found on the page prior to the table of contents. It is not clear whether he regards Lucifer as a real being whom he admires or whether he takes Lucifer as a great symbol of rebellion. For the complete text see https://archive.org/stream/RulesForRadicals/ RulesForRadicals_djvu.txt.

[50] The non-Marxist and less-Marxist systems are highly imperfect too. New Left historian and former Boston University professor Howard Zinn wrote A People’s History of the United States (http://www.historyisaweapon.com/ zinnapeopleshistory.html) to portray the American story through a Marxist lens as one of exploitation and oppression of the weak by the strong. Despite valid complaints by other historians about its lack of objectivity, the book cannot be dismissed simply as a work of fiction. Real injustices and inequalities fuel Marxist aspirations. Zinn’s book became a best seller and is used as a textbook in many colleges and high schools. According to files released by the FBI in 2010, Zinn had been a very active member of the Communist Party USA and a member of several Communist front groups. While recommending Zinn’s book only as an example of effective Communist propaganda, many of his complaints about the abuses of power are not wholly without merit.

[51] From the WCC’s website: “The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour … The WCC brings together churches, denominations and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories throughout the world, representing over 500 million Christians and including most of the world’s Orthodox churches, scores of Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed churches, as well as many United and Independent churches. … There are now 348 member churches.” https://www.oikoumene.org/en/about-us/about-us/. Accessed January 12th, 2017.

[52] See Norman Geisler, Christian Ethics: Contemporary Issues and Options, 3rd edition (IL: Baker Academic, 2010), 252-259.

[53] The one recorded exception to this serves to reinforce my point. In Exodus 2:11-12, Moses, as a young man, did kill an Egyptian whom he had seen beating a Hebrew slave. The question of “who made you a prince and judge [rescuer] over us?” (2:15) suggests that his act of vigilante justice could have been seen as an attempt to start a revolution of some type. If that was the beginning of Moses’ short career as a revolutionary it was also the end of it.

[54] C.f., Matt 26 and Mark 14. The older English translations translate λῃστής as having revolutionary or insurrectionist connotations. Translators of some of the newer translations see this usage as developing later and prefer to translate it more along the lines of a robber. Luke, for example, uses the same word for the highwaymen who attack travelers in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30). With the older translation, it is simply clear that Jesus was obviously not a revolutionary while those arresting him thought he might be. If we go with the newer translation the idea that Jesus was a revolutionary was so far from the truth that it never even entered the minds of his adversaries.

[55] John W. de Gruchy, Confessions of a Christian Humanist (MN: Fortress Press, 2006), 30.

[56] Ibid, 208.

[57] George Soros graduated from the London School of Economics, became the 27th most wealthy person in the world, is chairman of the Open Society Foundation (which has given several billion dollars to left-wing groups), is a major funder of MoveOn.org, and was a major contributor to the Obama and Clinton campaigns. Since communism and socialism have been “thoroughly discredited” he now devotes his fortune toward working against the threat of “global capitalism.” In the process of advancing his “open societies” he has funded organizations that champion social justice—and sometimes clash with police and riot in the streets of cities like Ferguson (2014), Baltimore (2015), Charlotte (2016), Chicago, Portland, Oakland, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. (2017).

[58] Since 2015 hundreds of thousands of people from Syria, Afghanistan, Albania, Iraq, Eritrea, Pakistan, Nigeria, Somalia and several other countries have poured into Germany, Hungary, France, Sweden, the UK, and other European countries. This is enabled by adoption of the “open borders” doctrine and fueled by the invasion of Syria and Iraq by the jihadis of Islamic State. The Islamic State and the Muslim Brotherhood seems to have had support from some Leftist groups in the West.

[59] Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2010).


An Evaluation of Marxist Humanism (Part 1 of 2)

An Evaluation of Marxist Humanism

Part 1 of 2

by Norman L. Geisler

Judged by the standard of political influence, Marxism is the most widespread form of humanism in the world. Its founder, Karl Marx, was born in 1818 to a German Jewish family which was converted to Lutheranism when he was six. As a university student he was influenced heavily by Georg Hegel’s idealism and he adopted Ludwig Feuerbach’s atheism. After some radical political activity, which resulted in expulsion from France in 1845, he teamed up with Friedrich Engels to produce the Communist Manifesto (1848). With the economic support of Engels’s prosperous textile business Marx spent years of research in the British Museum and produced his famous Das Kapital (1867). These and succeeding Marxist writings have bequeathed a form of humanistic thought that is politically dominant in much of the world.

The Marxist View of God and Religion

Even as a college student Marx was a militant atheist who believed that the “criticism of religion is the foundation of all criticism.” For this criticism Marx drew heavily on the radical young Hegelian, Ludwig Feuerbach. Engels admitted that Feuerbach influenced them more than did any other post-Hegelian philosopher. [1] He triumphantly spoke of Feuerbach’s Essence of Christianity which “with one blow . . . pulverized [religion] . . . in that without circumlocution it placed materialism on the throne again.”[2]

There were three basic premises Marx learned from Feuerbach. First, “the teaching that man is the highest essence for man”[3] was accepted. This means that there is a categorical imperative to over-throw anything—especially religion—which debases man. Secondly, Marx accepted the premise of Feuerbach that “man makes religion, religion does not make man.”[4] In other words, religion is the self-consciousness of man who has lost himself and then found himself again as “God.” Thirdly, Marx also accepted the Feuerbachian belief that “all religion … is nothing but the fantastic reflection in men’s minds of those external forces which control their daily life, a reflection in which the terrestrial forces assume the form of supernatural forces.”[5] In brief, God is nothing but a projection of human imagination. God did not make man in His image; man has made “God” in his image.

Marx’s atheism, however, went well beyond Feuerbach. Marx agreed with the materialists that “matter is not a product of mind, but mind itself is merely the highest product of matter.”[6] That is, he agreed with Feuerbach that man in seeking his origin must look backward to pure matter. Marx, however, objected that Feuerbach did not go forward in the social domain. For Feuerbach by no means wished to abolish religion; he wanted to perfect it.[7] Feuerbach, reasoned Marx, did not see that the “religious sentiment” is itself a social product.[8] Hence “he [did] not grasp the significance of ‘revolutionary’ of ‘practical-critical,’ activity.”[9] Feuerbach did not realize, in the words of Marxism’s famous slogan, that “religion is the opium of the people.”[10] Man needs to take the drug of religion because this world is not adequate to assure him of his complete and integrated development. So he compensates himself with the image of another, more perfect world.[11]

In going beyond Feuerbach, Marx argued that “nowadays, in our evolutionary conception of the universe, there is absolutely no room for either a Creator or a Ruler; and to talk of a Supreme Being shut out from the whole existing world [as deism does] implies a contra-diction in terms.”[12] Hence, concluded Marx, “the only service that can be rendered to God today is to declare atheism a compulsory article of faith and … [to prohibit] religion generally.”[13]

Marx had no illusions that religion would immediately cease to exist when socialism was adopted. Since religion is but a reflex of the real world, religion will not vanish until the practical relations of everyday life offer to man perfect relations with regard to his fellow men and to nature[14]—that is, until the communist utopia is realized.

 The Marxist View of Man

Basically Marxism holds a materialistic view of man’s origin and nature. This, of course, entails an evolutionary concept of man’s origin.

The Origin of Man

Darwin’s Origin of Species was published in 1859. Marx’s Das Kapital came out only eight years later (in 1867). Evolution for Marx was a helpful addition to his materialistic understanding of the origin of man.[15] “Mind is the product of matter,” he wrote; that is, mind has evolved from material stuff. The nonliving matter has always been; it has produced the living, and finally, the nonintelligent has produced the intelligent (man).

Marx had written his doctoral thesis (at the University of Jena, 1841) on the materialistic philosophies of two early Greek philosophers, Epicurus and Democritus. Then with the subsequent support of Darwinian evolution he could explain the origin of human life as the product of evolutionary processes in a material world—there was no longer any need to speak of God.

The Nature of Man

Marx was not interested in pure philosophy, which he dismissed as mere speculation and quite useless when compared to the vital task of changing the world.[16] Hence he was not particularly interested in philosophical materialism. His being designated a materialist, however, does not mean that he denied mind altogether (as he denied life after death). Rather he believed that everything about man, including his mind, is determined by his material conditions. “For us,” said Marx, “mind is a mode of energy, a function of brain; all we know is that the material world is governed by immutable laws, and so forth.”[17] This view would fit with what philosophers call epiphenomenalism, according to which consciousness is nonmaterial but dependent on material things for its existence.

Karl Marx was more interested in man in the concrete, in man as a social being. He believed that “the real nature of man is the total of social nature.”[18] Apart from the obvious biological facts such as man’s need for food, Marx tended to downplay individual human existence. He believed that what is true of one man at one time in one society is also true of all men at all times in all places.[19] Thus it is not [that] the consciousness of men . . . determines their being, but . . . their social being determines their consciousness.”[20] In short, psychology is reducible to sociology, but sociology is not reducible to psychology.

One important generalization Marx makes about human nature is that man is a socially active being who distinguishes himself from other animals in that he produces his means of subsistence.[21] That is, it is natural for men to work for their living. Thus, Marx concludes, it is right for men to have a life of productive activity, to be workers.

The Alienation of Man

Men who do not find fulfillment in industrial labor will experience alienation. This alienation will be eliminated when private property is done away with.[22] Private property, however, is not the cause but a consequence of alienation.[23] The alienation itself consists in the fact that the work is not part of the worker’s nature. He is not fulfilled in work because it is forced on him so that someone else may be fulfilled Even the objects he produces are alien to him because they are owned by another. The cure for this ill will be the future communist society in which everyone can cultivate his talent by working for the good of the whole commune of mankind.[24] It is in this sense that Marxism is appropriately called a humanism.

The Marxist View of the World and History

 The Dialectic of History

 As has been noted already, Marx’s overall view of the world is materialistic. He uses the term historical materialism to designate that view of the course of history which seeks the ultimate cause and the great moving power of all important historic events in the economic development of society.[25] Further, Marx can be classified as a dialectical materialist, following in the tradition of the Hegelian dialectic of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.[26] History is unfolding according to a universal dialectical law the outworking of which can be predicted the way an astronomer predicts an eclipse. In the preface to Das Kapital Marx compares his method to that of a physicist: “The ultimate aim of this work is to lay bare the economic law of motion of modern society” He also speaks of the natural laws of capitalistic production as “working with iron necessity toward inevitable results.”[27]

The dialectic of modern history is that the thesis of capitalism is opposed by the antithesis of socialism, which will unavoidably give way to the ultimate synthesis of communism. History is predetermined like the course of the stars, except that the laws governing history are not mechanical but economic in nature. Man is economically determined. That is, “the mode of production of material life determines the general character of the social, political, and spiritual processes of life.”[28] This, of course, does not mean that man is determined solely by economic factors. Marx means only that the economic is the primary or dominant influence on man’s social character. Engels emphatically proclaimed, “More than this neither Marx nor I have ever asserted. Hence if somebody twists this into saying that the economic element is the only determining one, he transforms that proposition into a meaningless, abstract, senseless phrase.”[29]

The Future of Capitalism

 On the basis of his assumption that the dialectic of history is carried out by means of economic determinism, Marx confidently predicted that capitalism would become increasingly unstable and that the class struggle between the bourgeoisie (ruling class) and the proletariat (working class) would intensify. The poor would become larger and poorer until, by a major social revolution, they would seize power and institute the new communist phase of history.[30]

The fact that these predictions did not come to pass remains an embarrassment to Marxist theory. It casts doubt on the scientific and predictive value of orthodox Marxism.

The Future Communistic Utopia

According to Marx, capitalism has internal problems which will eventually lead to a communistic economic system. For as the masses become more numerous and the capitalists fewer, the latter will control great concentrations of productive equipment which they will throttle for their own gain. But the masses will then sweep aside the capitalists as a hindrance to production and seize an industrial economy which has been carried to the edge of perfection by self-liquidating capitalism Thus there will emerge a progressive society with no wages, no money, no social classes, and eventually no state. This communist utopia will simply be a free association of producers under their own conscious control. Society will ultimately realize the communist ideal: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”[31] There will, however, be the need for an intermediate period of “the dictatorship of the proletariat.”[32] But in the higher stage the state will vanish and true freedom will begin.

The Marxist Ethic

There are several characteristic dimensions of the ethics of Marxism. Three of these are relativism, utilitarianism, and collectivism.


 Since Marxism is atheistic, and since, as Nietzsche rioted, when God dies all absolute value dies with Him, it is understandable that Marxist ethics is relativistic. That is, there are no moral absolutes. There are two reasons for this.

First, there is no external, eternal realm. The only absolute is the inexorable progress of the unfolding dialectic of history. Engels wrote, “We therefore reject every attempt to impose on us any moral dogma whatever as an eternal, ultimate and forever immutable law on the pretext that the moral world has its permanent principles which transcend history.”[33]

Secondly, there is no such thing as a nature or essence of man which could serve as a foundation for general principles of human conduct. Man’s ideas of good and evil are determined by man’s concrete place in the socioeconomic structure. In brief, class struggle generates its own ethic.


On what basis are one’s actions regarded as moral? The answer is, they are regarded as moral if they serve to create a new communist society. Actions can be justified by their end. Lenin once defined morality as that which serves to destroy the exploiting capitalistic society and to unite workers in creating a new communist society,[34] in effect saying that the end justifies the means.[35] This is the communist’s equivalent of utilitarianism’s “greatest good for the greatest number in the long run.” Whatever promotes the ultimate cause of communism is good, and what hinders it is evil.


Another feature of Marxist ethics is that the universal transcends the individual. This is a heritage from Hegel, who believed that the perfect life is possible only when the individual is organically integrated into the ethical totality. For Marx, however, the highest ethical totality is not the state (as it was for Hegel) but “universal freedom of will.” Note that this “freedom” is not individual but corporate and universal. The difference from Hegel is that the emphasis is shifted from the state to society, from the body politic to the body public.

According to Marx, in the perfect society private morals are eliminated and the ethical ideals of the community are achieved. This will be accomplished, of course, by material production. For material production determines religion, metaphysics, and morality.[36]

An Evaluation of Marxist Humanism

 Several aspects of Marxism call for comment here. Some comments will be of a positive nature; a large number, however, will point out weaknesses in Marx’s philosophy.

Positive Contributions of Marxism

Marx’s concern for the condition of workers is to be commended. Working conditions in Europe and North America are vastly improved today from those of over a century ago when Marx wrote and this is at least partially due to the pressure applied by Marxists. Likewise, Marx is certainly right in attacking the view that workers are merely a means to the end of capitalistic gain. Thus there has been a significant humanistic contribution in that Marxist philosophy places man over money.

Another positive contribution of Marxism has been its corrective on unlimited and uncontrolled capitalism. Any system which permits the rich to get richer and makes the poor poorer without limits is bound to produce ethical abuses. In the ancient Jewish economy this possibility was checked by the Year of Jubilee (every fiftieth year), when acquisitions were returned to their original owners.[37]

Finally, the millennial aspirations of Marxism are noble. Indeed, the Marxist philosophy of history encourages men to work toward the goal of overcoming the perceived evils of the present world. It is this humanistic vision which has captured the imagination and dedication of many young thinkers.

Negative Features of Marxism

Marxism is subject to numerous critiques. We will briefly indicate some of the more significant ones.

First, the dogmatic atheism of Marxism is unfounded. It is self-defeating to insist that God is nothing but a projection of human imagination. “Nothing but” statements presume “more than” knowledge. One cannot know that God is confined to imagination unless one’s knowledge goes beyond mere imagination.

Second, Marx’s deterministic view of history is ill founded. Not only is it contrary to fact—since things have not worked out as Marx predicted—but it is a category mistake to assume that economic influence works like physical laws.

Third, a materialistic view of man ignores the rich spiritual and religious aspects of human nature, to say nothing of the evidence for man’s immateriality and immortality.

Fourth, in its strongest form ethical relativism is self-destructive. The absolute denial of absolutes cuts its own throat. And to replace one absolute with another (the communist end) does not avoid absolutism. Also, the fallacies of the “end justifies the means” ethic are infamous.

Fifth, Marxism holds out an admirably idealistic goal (a human utopia) but has a miserable record of achievement. Life in Marxist countries has been more like hell than heaven. While the goal of a perfect community is desirable, the revolutionary means of achieving it is highly dubious. Every country that experienced a communist revolution ended up seeing a system that is even more repressive and oppressive than the flawed system it displaced. Where the standard of living improved for some in the short term it was at the expense of the many whose property and wealth was seized while they were murdered, sent to labor camps for reeducation, or sent to collective farms to serve as slave labor. And ultimately the promise of equality for all proved to be equal poverty and oppression for the people while the few at the top enjoyed what little wealth was left over. Also the means for maintaining the system—brainwashing campaigns, fear of the secret police force, networks of secret informers, etc.—after failing to deliver on its promises is dystopian. From a Christian perspective the means of transforming mankind is not revolution and reprogramming but regeneration. It begins not with the birth of a new government but with the birth of new men and new women—that is, the new birth (John 3:5).

Sixth, Marx’s view of capitalistic systems was short-sighted, shallow, and based on a stereotype. While his critique of the unbridled, compassionless capitalism at work England in the nineteenth century was warranted and insightful, it wrongly assumed that capitalist systems were impossible to gently reform in a politically and the only possible option was a violent and bloody overthrow. Marx was wrong. Several capitalistic countries were able to implement several types of reforms and implement controls without violence.[38]

Seventh, Marx’s view of religion is superficial. He should have heeded his father’s exhortation to him at age seventeen: “Faith [in God] is a real [requirement] of man sooner or later, and there are moments in life when even the atheist is [involuntarily] drawn to worship the Almighty.”[39] Or better yet, in view of his later tumultuous life and the revolutions his thought has precipitated in the world, Marx should have applied his own earlier thoughts:

Union with Christ bestows inner exaltation, consolation in suffering, calm assurance, and a heart which is open to love of mankind, to all that is noble, to all that is great, not out of ambition, not through the desire of fame, but only because of Christ.[40]

Karl Marx’s own father feared it was the desire for fame which transformed Karl’s Christian conscience into a demonic passion. In March 1837 he admonished his ambitious son:

From time to time, my heart revels in the thoughts of you and your future. And yet, from time to time, I cannot escape the sad, suspicious, fearful thoughts that strike like lightning: Does your heart match your head and your talents? Does it have room for the earthly but gentler feelings that are such an essential consolation to the sensitive human being in this vale of sorrows? Is the demon, which is clearly not given to or dominated by everybody, of a celestial or a Faustian nature?[41]



[1] See Marx and Engels on Religion, ed. Reinhold Niebuhr (New York: Schocken, 1964), 214.

[2] Ibid, 224.

[3] Ibid, 50.

[4] Ibid, 41.

[5] Ibid, 147.

[6] Ibid, 231.

[7] Ibid, 237.

[8] Ibid, 71.

[9] Ibid, 69.

[10] Ibid, 35.

[11] Ibid, 36.

[12] Ibid, 295. Even agnosticism was rejected by Marx: “What, indeed, is agnosticism but, to use an expressive Lancashire term, ‘shamefaced’ materialism? The agnostic conception of nature is materialistic throughout.”

[13] Ibid, 143.

[14] Ibid, 136.

[15] At Marx’s burial, Engels eulogized him saying, “just as Darwin discovered the law of evolution in organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of evolution human history.” Robert L. Heilbroner, The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times, and Ideas of Great Economic Thinkers. (Simon and Shuster: New York: 1986) 170

[16] See Marx, Selected Writings in Sociology and Social Philosophy, trans. T. B. Bottomore (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964), 82.

[17] Marx and Engels on Religion, 298.

[18] Marx, Selected Writings, 83.

[19] Ibid, 91-92.

[20] Ibid, 67.

[21] Ibid, 69.

[22] Ibid, 250.

[23] Ibid, 176.

[24] Ibid, 177, 253.

[25] Marx and Engels on Religion, 298.

[26] Hegel himself rejected this dialectic, though it is commonly attributed to him. See Gustav E. Mueller, “The Hegel Legend of Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis,” Journal of the History of Ideas 19, no. 3 (1958): 411-414.

[27] Das Kapital, ed. Friedrich Engels, trans. Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling, in Great Books of the Western World, ed. Robert Maynard Hutchins (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 19521, vol.50, 6.

[28] Marx, Selected Writings, 67; cf. 70, 90, 111ff.

[29] Marx and Engels on Religion, 274.

[30] See Marx, Selected Writings, 79-80, 147ff., 236.

[31] Ibid, 263.

[32] Ibid, 261.

[33] Quoted in R. N. Carew Hunt, The Theory and Practice of Communism. New York: Macmillan, 1962), 87-88.

[34] Ibid, 89.

[35] Some neo-Marxists have rejected this, insisting that means are subject to the same moral principles as the end. But they have thereby departed from orthodox Marxism. See George H. Hampsch, The Theory of Communism (Secaucus, N. J.: Citadel, 1965), 127.

[36] See Marx, The Communist Manifesto, ed. Samuel H. Beer (New York: Appleton Century-Crofts, 1955), 177.

[37] Leviticus 25.

[38] Robert L. Heilbroner. The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times, and Ideas of Great Economic Thinkers. (Touchstone: 1986). 166-169.

[39] Letter from Trier, November 18, 1835.

[40] Written by Marx between August 10 and 16, 1835.

[41] Saul K. Padover, Karl Marx: An Intimate Biography. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1978), 97.

Copyright 1983, 2016 – Norman L. Geisler –  All rights reserved

This essay is adapted from Chapter Five of Norman Geisler’s Is Man the Measure? An Evaluation of Contemporary Humanism (Wipf & Stock: 1983). It will also be reproduced in Norm’s forthcoming book Is Man the Measure: An Evaluation of Contemporary Humanism and Transhumanism (Bastion Books: 2017).

Read Part 2 of 2 here.

The Concept of Truth in the Inerrancy Debate

The Concept of Truth in the Inerrancy Debate

Copyright Norman L. Geisler, 1980


How is it that evangelicals on both sides of the inerrancy debate can claim the Bible is wholly true and yet one side believes that there can be minor mistakes of history or science affirmed by the biblical authors1 while the other side denies that there are any mistakes whatsoever? Some even claim to believe in inerrancy to the point that every word of the Bible is true,2 and yet they hold that Jesus’ statement that the mustard seed is the “smallest of all seeds” is scientifically incorrect.3 Some claim that the Bible is “the only infallible rule of faith and practice”4 but hold that Paul was wrong when he affirmed that the husband is the “head” of the wife.5 One errantist put it bluntly when he wrote. “We can speak of the Bible as being inspired from cover to cover, human mistakes and all.”6

Is this duplicity? Are those who believe the Bible contains errors intentionally deceiving their constituency? Do they hold a double standard of truth? As a matter of fact, it is not necessary to come to any of these conclusions. Errantists do not hold a double standard but rather a different theory of truth.

Could it be, then, that the real problem is that a fundamental issue that occasions the difference between the two major camps of evangelicals on biblical inerrancy is that they are presupposing different theories of truth? This writer proposes that this is indeed the case. One thing is certain: Different theories of truth will make a significant difference in what one considers to be an “error,” or deviation from the truth. In fact, what counts as an error on one definition of truth is not an error on another definition of truth.7


Two Theories of Truth


For the sake of simplicity of discussion, only one of several noncorrespondence views of truth will be discussed. One that is used by errantists may be called an intentionality view of truth.8 According to this view a statement is true if “it accomplishes what the author intended it to accomplish,”9 and conversely, a statement is false if it does not. Several corollaries of this view of truth may be stated.

  1. The first corollary is that a statement is true, even if some of its factual assertions do not correspond with reality, so long as the statement accomplishes its intended purpose.10 This means that factually incorrect statements can be true, provided they accomplish their intended results. For instance, the parental exhortation to a young child, “If you are good, Santa Claus will bring you presents,” is factually incorrect but, according to this view of truth, it could actually be true if it helps produce the intended good behavior in children before Christmas.
  2. A second implication of this point is that factually correct statements can be false if they do not accomplish their intended goals. Some parents are driven to negative psychology in saying, “That is bad; do not do that,” because their factual correct statement “That is good” was not accomplishing its intended result.11
  3. A third corollary of the noncorrespondence view of truth is that persons, not merely propositions, can be properly characterized as true.12 A person is true if he accomplishes or lives up to someone’s intentions for him, and persons are not true if they fail to measure up to someone’s expectations (whether the intentions are their own or another’s).



According to this view, truth is “that which corresponds to the actual state of affairs,” to the way things really are. If this theory of truth is correct, then an “error” is that which does not correspond with the facts, with what is really the case.13 Several corollaries of this view may be observed.

  1.  The first corollary of a correspondence view of truth is that a statement is true even if the speaker (or writer) intended not to say it, provided that the statement itself correctly describes a state of affairs.
  2. The second corollary is that one can make a true statement that is actually more than he intends to say. Everyone has had the experience of accidentally revealing more by his words, to his own embarrassment, than he intended to say. This writer once heard an unfair umpire say, “I umpired against that team once.” He obviously meant, “I umpired a game for that team.” Judging by his highly questionable calls, what he actually said was true, even though he did not mean to reveal as much.
  3. The third corollary of a correspondence view of truth is that, properly speaking, truth is a characteristic of propositions (or other expressions) about reality, but truth is not a characteristic of the reality itself.
  4. The fourth corollary is that reality, or that which is, is neither true nor false as such; it simply is. For instance, a lie can be real but the lie is not true. That is, someone’s lying can be the actual state of affairs. One would not say that the lie is therefore true. It is simply true that he is actually lying.

Therefore, strictly speaking, it is propositions about states of affairs which are true or false. Truth is found in the affirmation (or denial) about reality, not in the reality itself.

Of course “reality” or states of affairs referred to by propositions can be mental states of affairs (thoughts, ideas, etc.) or even other propositions. But strictly speaking, on a correspondence theory of truth, only affirmations (or denials) are true or false, not the reality about which the affirmations are made. Persons can be called true in the secondary sense that what they say can be trusted to come to pass or to correspond to reality. So they can be called true or trustworthy persons because their statements can be trusted to come to pass, or to correspond with reality.14


Some Implications for Inerrancy

It seems apparent that if one adopts the noncorrespondence (intentionality) view of truth he could easily (and consistently) hold that the Bible is wholly true (as God intends it) and yet the Bible could have many errors in it. For if truth means only that the Bible will always accomplish its intended purpose (regardless of factual incorrectness), say, “to make men wise unto salvation,”15 then it can do that with or without minor errors. Even incorrect maps can get one to the intended destination. In this view, there can be unintentional biblical errors in minor matters, without affecting the author’s main intention to save sinners. These minor errors do not reflect badly on the author’s (God’s) character, since they are not pernicious. In an intentionality view of truth one does not need an inerrant Bible; all one needs is a “reliable” and “trustworthy” Bible.

It becomes obvious that serious implications for the doctrine of inerrancy follow from each of these theories of truth.



With this view several implications follow for inerrancy, two of which will be discussed.

First, factual incorrectness in affirmations is not necessarily an error unless the author intended to affirm it.16 Accordingly neither the so-called “three-storied universe,” the “mustard seed,” nor affirmation about creation (versus evolution) are really errors, even if they are factually incorrect statements. For example, as long as Genesis 1-2 fulfills its intention, say, to evoke worship of God, then — any incorrect scientific affirmations notwithstanding — it could still be wholly true and without error. The same could be true of the Flood, of Jonah and the great fish, of Paul’s view of male “headship,” and of other biblical affirmations of this kind. On an intentionality view of truth these could all be factually wrong and yet the Bible would still be trustworthy.17 As long as the intention of God is being fulfilled through these passages, that is, His redemptive function, then it does not matter whether some aspects affirmed in them correspond with reality.

Second, on an intentionalist’s view, truth, properly speaking, can be personal and not merely propositional. Persons who fulfill someone’s intentions are true or genuine. In this sense Jesus’ claim, “I am the . .. truth” (John 14:6), could mean that He is the one who perfectly fulfills the Father’s intentions for Him.

It should be noted in passing that proponents of this view cannot claim that something is not true simply because it was intended by someone. If this were so, then almost everything ever written would be true, since surely almost every author intended to tell the truth, even though most of them make many mistakes.

In any event, the intentionalist view of truth discussed here holds that true statements are those which faithfully fulfill their author’s intentions. That is, it is not simply a matter of intention but of accomplished intention which makes something true.18 In the case of God’s truth one could say it always accomplishes what God intends (Isa. 55:11). The Bible, then, would be inerrant so long as it always accomplishes its purpose to “make us wise unto salvation” (2 Tim. 3:15).



Inerrancy means “without error” or “wholly true.” On the correspondence view of truth, several implications are involved. First, it would mean that whatever the writer of a scriptural book actually affirmed is to be taken as true, even if he personally did not intend to affirm it. That is to say, the Bible could say more than its human authors intended it to, since God could have intended more by it than the authors did.19 Psalm 22 may be an example of this. David may have intended merely to describe his own persecution, whereas God intended to affirm the Cross in this passage. This is what many think happened to the prophets (1 Pet. 1:10-11) when they wrote of things that seemed to go beyond them (cf. Dan. 12:4).

Of course the fact that the authors could say more than they intended does not mean they did. One might hold that God supernaturally restrained the biblical writers from doing so in order that there would always be an identity between God’s intentions and the author’s intentions.20 In any case, an implication of the correspondence theory of truth is that one knows an author’s intentions by his affirmations and not his affirmations by his intentions. This is so because there is no way for one to get at the biblical author’s intentions apart from his expressions of them. A person cannot read a biblical author’s mind apart from reading that author’s writings.21

Second, on the correspondence view of truth an error can occur even when an author intended otherwise, because error has to do with his affirmations and not simply with his intentions apart from his affirmations. In short, mistakes are possible even if they are unintentional. Therefore to prove the Bible in error, one need not prove wrong intentions of the author (which is virtually impossible to do) but simply show that he made an incorrect affirmation.22 Hence any proposition affirmed as true by any writer of Scripture which does not (or did not) correspond with the reality to which it referred would be false and in error even if the author did not intend to so affirm.

For instance, if the Bible actually affirms that hell is geographically down and heaven is up, and if this is contrary to fact, then the Bible would be wrong regardless of what the author may have intended by the passage. Further, if the Bible affirms that God directly created all basic forms of life and if this is contrary to scientific fact,23 then the Bible would be in error. Likewise, if Paul affirmed that a husband is the “head” of his wife and if in fact God does not intend this to be so, then the Bible would be in error here.24

It should be noted in passing that the correspondence view of truth does not have any direct implications as to the beliefs of the biblical authors. They may have believed many false things just so long as they did not affirm any of these false beliefs in Scripture.25 For on this view of truth “whatever the Bible affirms, God affirms,” and God cannot affirm as true what is false.


What Is Truth?

At first one might think that the resolution of the problem as to which view of truth is correct could be achieved by a simple appeal to biblical usage of the terms for “truth,” namely, aletheia and emet.26 However, these and kindred terms are used both ways in Scripture. “Truth” is used of correspondence to reality in Proverbs 14:25; John 8:44-45; Acts 24:8, 11; Ephesians 4:25; and in many other places. On the other hand, God is said to be truthful) (Rom. 3:4) and Jesus said, “I am … the truth” (John 14:6), thus showing that “truth” is used of persons.

How, then, can the problem of the two views of truth be resolved? Is this an irresolvable impasse? This writer thinks not. For one view of truth is broad enough to include the other, but not the reverse. For example, a true statement will always accomplish its intention, but what accomplishes its intention is not always true. Lies and falsehood sometimes accomplish their intentions too. Hence only the correspondence view is adequate as a comprehensive view of truth. Further, if truth is only personal but not propositional, there is no adequate way of explaining the numerous biblical passages where truth means propositional correspondence?27 In fact, of the some one hundred New Testament occurrences of the word “truth” (ἀλήθεια) only one passage indisputably uses truth of a person as opposed to propositions or expressions about reality (viz., John 14:6). Some other passages speak of truth as being (or not being) in a person (e.g., John 1:14, 17; 8:44; 1 John 2:4), but the latter passage makes it clear that a person is not considered true because he “is a liar,” which involves false propositions (or expressions). In his second epistle John speaks of “walking in the truth” (v. 4) or of continuing “in the teaching” (v. 9) as though truth were personal, but then he explains that this means to “walk in obedience to his commands” (v. 6), which are propositional. Most of the other passages using truth in a personal sense employ words for truth in the adverbial sense of “truly,” not in the substantival sense of “truth.” At least one can safely say that the normal and consistent New Testament usage of “truth” is of truth in the cognitive, propositional sense. Truth is what can be known (Rom. 2:20), what can be thought (1 Tim. 6:5), what can be heard (Eph. 1:13; 2 Tim. 4:4), what can be believed (2 Thess. 2:12) — in short, it is used of propositions. And any passage where truth is used in reference to a person can be understood as meaning a person who speaks the truth or one whose word can be trusted (cf. Rev. 3:14; 21:5).

Even if some passages are best understood as meaning truth in a personal or practical sense, they still entail a correspondence view of truth. For the person or action must correspond to God’s expectations in order to be true. Furthermore the passages where truth is used propositionally cannot all be explained as truth in a strictly intentional or personal sense, that is, a sense that is not necessarily factually correct. Hence truth — biblical truth understood as primarily (or exclusively) personal or intentional does not accurately represent the teaching of Scripture about the nature of truth.


In Defense of a Correspondence Theory of Truth


There are two lines of argument for a correspondence view of truth — the biblical28 and the philosophical.



The ninth commandment is predicated on a correspondence view of truth. “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exod. 20:16) depends for its very meaning and effectiveness on the correspondence view of truth. This command implies that a statement is false if it does not correspond to reality. Indeed this is precisely how the term lie is used in Scripture. Satan is called a liar (John 8:44) because his statement to Eve, “You will not surely die” (Gen. 3:4), did not correspond to what God really said, namely, “You will surely die” (Gen. 2:17).


Ananias and Sapphira “lied” to the Apostles by misrepresenting the factual state of affairs about their finances (Acts 5:1-4).

The Bible gives numerous examples of the correspondence view of truth. Joseph said to his brothers, “Send one of your number to get your brother; the rest of you will be kept in prison, so that your words may be tested to see if you are telling the truth”(Gen. 42:16).

Moses commanded that false prophets be tested on the grounds that “if what a prophet proclaims … does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken” (Deut. 18:22).

Solomon prayed at the dedication of the Temple, “And now, O God of Israel, let your word that you promised your servant David my father (that there would be a Temple) come true” (1 Kings 8:26).

The prophecies of Micaiah were considered “true” and the false prophets’ words “lies” because the former corresponded with the facts of reality (1 Kings 22:16-22).

Something was considered a “falsehood” if it did not correspond to God’s law (truth) (Ps. 119:163).

Proverbs states, “A truthful witness saves lives, but a false witness is deceitful” (14:25), which implies that truth is factually correct. In court, intentions alone will not save innocent but accused lives. Only “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” will do it.

Nebuchadnezzar demanded of his wise men to know the facts and he considered anything else “misleading” (Dan. 2:9).

Jesus’ statement in John 5:33 entails a correspondence view of truth: “You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth.”

In Acts 24 there is an unmistakable usage of the correspondence view. The Jews said to the governor about Paul, “By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him” (v. 8). They continued, “You can easily verify (the facts)” (v. 11).

Paul clearly implied a correspondence view of truth when he wrote, “Each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor” (Eph. 4:25).

The biblical use of the word err does not support the intentional theory of truth, since it is used of unintentional “errors” (cf. Lev. 4:2, 27; etc.). Certain acts were wrong, whether the trespassers intended to commit them or not, and hence a guilt offering was called for to atone for their “error.’9

To summarize, the Bible consistently employs a correspondence view of truth. A statement is true if it corresponds to the facts and false if it does not. Rarely are there even apparent exceptions to this usage.3°

If the biblical arguments are this strong for a correspondence view of truth, why is it that many Christians — even some who believe in inerrancy— claim to hold a noncorrespondence (intentionality) view of truth? Actually the reason is often quite simple: There is a confusion between theory of truth and test for truth. That is, often both parties hold the correspondence theory of truth but differ in their claims that truth is tested by correspondence, by results, or by some other method. In short, truth should be defined as correspondence but defended in some other way.

In summation, there are good reasons for insisting that a correspondence theory (definition) of truth should be accepted, regardless of the apologetic debate about how Christian truth is to be tested.



Several arguments outside biblical usage can be given in support of a correspondence view of truth.

Lies are impossible without a correspondence view of truth. If one’s statements need not correspond to the facts in order to be true, then any factually incorrect statement could be true. And if this is the case, then lies become impossible because any statement is compatible with any given state of affairs.3′

Without correspondence there could be no such thing as truth orfalsity. In order to know something is true as opposed to something that is false, there must be a real difference between things and the statements about the things. But this real difference between thought and things is precisely what is entailed in a correspondence view of truth.

Factual communication would break down without a correspondence view of truth. Factual communication depends on informative statements. But informative statements must be factually true (that is, they must correspond to the facts) in order to inform one correctly. Further, since all communication seems to depend ultimately on something being literally or factually true, then it would follow that all communication depends in the final analysis on a correspondence view of truth.

Even the intentionalist theory depends on the correspondence theory of truth. The intentionalist theory claims something is true if it is accomplishing what it intends. But this means that it is true only if the accomplishments correspond to the intentions. So without correspondence of intentions and accomplished facts there is no truth.



A certain irony is involved in the present debate about inerrancy which illustrates this point. Hubbard, who is apparently an intentionalist and errantist, recently criticized Lindsell, who is an inerrantist and correspondentist, for misrepresenting thefacts about the situation at Fuller Theological Seminary. He provided Lindsell with “a handful of errors”32 in Lindsell’s treatment of the Fuller situation. But why should these be called “errors” on an intentionalist’s view of truth? Surely Lindsell intended well and even accomplished his intentions in arousing awareness of the drift from inerrancy at Fuller. But this is all that one can expect on an intentionalist’s view of truth. In short, why should Hubbard complain about factual misrepresentation unless he really holds a correspondence view of truth? And if he holds a correspondence view of truth, then why should he reject the factual inerrancy of the Bible? The least to be expected is that he be consistent with his own view of truth.

There is more, however, that biblical Christians must expect and even demand. It is this: Every Christian should get his view of truth about the Bible from the Bible. And if this is the correspondence view of truth, as the foregoing discussion indicates, then it follows that the factual inerrantists are right. That is to say, the Bible is inerrant in whatever it affirms.



1 LaSor admits that “those portions where one passage is clearly in disagreement with another (such as the thousands in Kings compared to the ten thousands in Chronicles) cannot be explained as ‘textual corruptions– because otherwise “we could never again use the canons of criticism to support any text against the conjectural reading of liberal critics” (William S. LaSor, “Life under Tension,” Theological News and Notes ‘Pasadena, CA: Fuller Theological Seminary, 1976], p. 7). This means, according to LaSor, that clear contradictions (such as four thousand stalls in 2 Chron. 9:25 and forty thousand stalls in 1 Kings 4:26) should be accepted as part of the autographs.

2 In a letter to a radio listener Daniel E. Fuller wrote. “I believe that every statement in the Bible is totally without error and every word is equally inspired” (April 28, 1978, italics added).

3 Fuller claims that “although the mustard seed (see Matt. 13:32] is not the smallest of all seeds, yet Jesus referred to it as such” because “to have gone contrary to their mind on what was the smallest seed would have so diverted their attention from the knowledge that would bring salvation to their souls that they might well have failed to hear these all-important revelational truths” (Daniel E. Fuller, “Benjamin B. Warfield’s View of Faith and History,” Bulletin of the Evangelical Theological Society 11 (Spring 19681:81-82).

4 From Fuller Theological Seminary’s “Statement of Faith,” Article III.

5 See Paul K. Jewett, Man as Male and Female (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1975), p. 139.

6 Dewey Beegle, The Inspiration of Scripture (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1963), p. 138.

7 It is clear from the writings of the errantists that this is their belief. Hubbard wrote, “The nub of Lindsell’s quarrel with many of us who have been his colleagues is the interpretation of the word ‘error’ . . Many of us signed, and still could sign, Fuller’s earlier Statement without buying Lindsell’s definition of error” (David A. Hubbard, “A Conflict in Interpretation,” Theological News and Notes, p. 8). Rogers approvingly quotes Bavinck that “the purpose, goal. or ‘designation’ of Scripture was ‘none other than that it should make us wise to salvation.’ According to Bavinck, Scripture was not meant to give us technically correct scientific information” (Jack Rogers. “The Church Doctrine of Biblical Authority,” in Biblical Authority, ed. Jack Rogers [Waco, TX: Word Books, 1977], p. 43). In other words, since the Bible accomplishes this soteriological intention, then it is true.

8 This view could also be called a “functional” view of truth since it centers in the saving function of the Bible. Rogers and McKim write, “The authority of Scripture in these [Reformed] confessions resided in its saving function, not in the form of words used” (The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible (New York: Harper & Row, 1979], p. 125). Again they state, “It is significant to note . .. that for the Reformation concept of the ‘reliability’ of Scripture in achieving its function of salvation, Terretin substituted a discussion of the formal ‘necessity’ of Scripture” (ibid., p. 175).

9 Fuller (Fuller to Geisler, March 29, 1978) and Hubbard hold this same functional view of truth, namely, that the Bible is true in that it is “able to make us wise unto salvation.” Hubbard contends that “error” in the Bible means “that which leads astray from the truth God is teaching” (“A Conflict in Interpretation,” p. 8).

10 Berkouwer makes it clear he holds this same intentionalist or functional view of truth. He wrote approvingly of Kuyper that “he was not at all troubled by the absence of accuracy and exactness precisely because of the God-breathed character of Scripture: the reliability of the Gospels was guaranteed by thispurpose of the Spirit” (G. C. Berkouwer, Holy Scripture, Studies in Dogmatics, comp. and ed. Jack B. Rogers [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1975] p. 250, italics added). Berkouwer also stated, “The authority of Scripture is in no way diminished because an ancient world view occurs in it; for it was not the purpose of Scripture to offer revealing information on that level” (ibid., p. 181, italics added).

11 Rogers claims that the redemptive function of the Bible is the locus of truth rather than the verbal form (The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible, p. 125). Broadly speaking, the intentional (functional) view is a species of the “pragmatic” theory of truth, along with its sister “personalistic” and “existential” theories of truth.

12 Of course neoorthodox theologians such as Emil Brunner contend that revelation is personal, not propositional (see, e.g., Brunner’s Revelation and Reason [Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 19461, pp. 369-70). This neoorthodox view bears a strong kinship with the neoevangelical views of Berkouwer, Rogers, and others.

13 On a correspondence view of truth see Aristotle Categories 1. a.10-4.b.19 and On Interpretation 19.a.10-19.

14 Thiselton gives an excellent discussion of the various theories of truth and of the biblical usage of truth (The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, s.v. “Truth.- by A. C. Thiselton, 3:874-902).

15 Fuller has stated this point very clearly. “I believe it is a necessary implication of II Tim. 3:15 that the Bible’s truth depends on how well it lives up to this intention, stated explicitly here. I know of no other verse which states the Bible’s purpose so succinctly as 11 Tim. 3:15” (Fuller to Geisler, March 29, 1978).

16 A thoroughly consistent intentionalist’s view of truth, in contrast to a correspondence view. is factually unfalsiflable. For no matter what facts are presented contrary to the affirmation, it is always possible that the author’s intentions were true.

17 Davis is more forthright than most errantists in admitting errors in the Bible (see Stephen T. Davis, The Debate about the Bible ‘Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1977]). He tries to preserve the “infallibility” of the Bible in moral matters while denying its inerrancy in historical and scientific matters. But even here he runs into difficulty since some of his illustrations are “errors” and have decidedly moral aspects, for instance, the slaughter of the Canaanites (ibid., p. 97).

18 In this sense the intentional or functional view of truth is akin to or a kind of subspecies of a pragmatic view of truth. As James remarked, “Truth happens to an idea. It becomes true, is made true by events. … ‘The true,’ to put it very briefly, is only the expedient in the way of our thinking, just as ‘the right’ is only the expedient in the way of our believing” (William James, Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking [New York: Longman, Green, & Co, 19131. pp. 201, 222, italics his).

19 Even Hirsch, who places strong emphasis on the intention of the author in interpretation, admitted that “the human author’s willed meaning can always go beyond what he consciously intended so long as it remains within the willed type, and if the meaning is conceived of as going beyond even that, then we must have recourse to a divine author speaking through the human one. In that case it is His willed type we are trying to interpret, and the human author is irrelevant” (E. D. Hirsch, Jr., Validity in Interpretation [New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1967]. p. 126, n. 37).

20 Kaiser places great weight on this point. See his recent essay, “Legitimate Hermeneutics,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman L. Geisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1980), pp. 117-47.

21 Phillip H. Payne makes an interesting point of this in “The Fallacy of Equating Meaning with the Author’s Intention,” Thrifty Journal 6 (Spring 19771:23-33.

22 Hirsch contends that there is no meaning apart from the author’s intention of that meaning (Validity in Interpretation, p. 58). But if this claim is not false it is at least in need of serious qualifications. First. It would seem to make all unintentional falsehoods meaningless statements, whereas it seems evident that unintentionally false directions can be clearly understood, even though they are wrong. Second, why cannot a statement be meaningful even if no human has affirmed it? As long as someone could affirm it, even as he reads it. it would seem to be a meaningful statement. In other words, is not its affirmability (not whether it has been affirmed) a sufficient condition for its meaning?

23 This writer believes the Bible does affirm creation and opposes evolution. See the excellent book by A. E. Wilder Smith, Man’s Origin, Man’s Destiny (Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw Publications, 1968).

24 In this sense inerrancy as held by a proponent of the correspondence view of truth is a truly falsifiable position. All one needs to do to falsify the biblical affirmation “Christ rose from the dead” is to produce the body of Christ or good evidence of witnesses who saw it in decay sometime after the first Easter morning (see 1 Cor. 15:12-13).

25 It may even be possible for an author to reveal some of his beliefs through his affirmations without necessarily affirming those beliefs. First Thessalonians 4:15 may be an example (“we who are still alive …”). Paul did not affirm that he would be alive when Christ returned, but he seemed to believe (or hope?) that he would be alive at the Lord’s return.

26 The Hebrew word for truth (r1,415) is used in roughly the same way as the New Testament word. It occurs some 127 times. Often it is used of propositional truth. The Old Testament speaks of true /ces (Neh. 9:13), words of men (1 Kings 17:24), words of God (2 Sam. 7:28; Ps. 119:160), commandments (Ps. 119:151), Scripture (Dan. 10:21), and of the factually correct (Dent. 17:4; 22:20; 1 Kings 22:16; 2 Chron. 18:15). Also “truth” is used of God (2 Chron. 15:3: Jer. 10:10). of value judgments (Ezek. 18:8), and of actions (Gen. 47:29; Judg. 9:16). But even these can be understood in the sense of correspondence to what is or what ought to be. In short, truth is what can be spoken (Jer. 9:5), known (lsa. 10:19), declared (Ps. 30:9), factually investigated (Deut. 13:14), written (Neh. 9:13), or expressed in some way (2 Sam. 2:6), and is what would correctly represent that to which it refers. In view of this it is strange to read that “truth is not measured in the Old Testament by correspondence to a theoretical norm but by its ability to achieve its goal” (Brevard Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 19791. p. 535).

27 See note 26 for Old Testament examples and the following discussion for New Testament examples.

28 These arguments are basically an elaboration and expansion on some of the same points made by Robert Preus (The Inspiration of Scripture [London: Oliver & Boyd, 19551. p. 24).

29 Of the five times 1111/ (“to err-) is used in the Old Testament (Gen. 6:3; Lev. 5:18; Num. 15:28: Job 12:16; Ps. 119:67). The Leviticus and Numbers references clearly refer to erring unintentionally. Further, the noun riRri, Is used nineteen times and all but two are of unintentional errors (Lev. 4:2. 22.27; 5:15. 18; 22:14; Num_ 15:29. 25 [twice], 26, 27. 28, 29: 35:11 [twice]; Josh. 20:3, 9). Only Ecclesiastes 5:6 and 10:5 could be understood as using rt.nli to refer to intentional errors.

30 John 5:31 (RSV) appears to be an exception. Jesus said, “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid” (dkriel)c). This would seem to imply that Jesus’ factually correct statements about Himself were not “true.” This, however, would be nonsense on even an intentionalist’s definitions of truth, for surely Jesus intended truth about Himself. What is meant here is that a self-testimony was not established as true. Or. as the NW puts it, such “testimony is not valid,” despite the fact that it is true, since it is only by the testimony of two or three !other] witnesses” that every word is established (Matt. 18:16: cf. John 8:17) and not by one’s own word. Elsewhere Jesus clearly said, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid” (John 8:14). meaning that it is factually correct, even if they did not accept it.

31 Part of the confusion rests in the fact that errantists sometimes confuse “lying” which is always an intentional falsehood and “error” which is just a plain falsehood. Rogers and McKim seem to make this mistake when they said that “error, for Augustine. had to do with deliberate and deceitful telling of that which the author knew to be untrue” (The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible, p. 30. italics added). Besides the fact that Augustine is not speaking of a mere error but a lie in this context — a crucial fact which Rogers and McKim mistakenly overlook — their use of the word untrue in the last part of the sentence belies a correspondence view of truth which Is at odds with the intentional view they are proposing in the first part of the quotation.

32 See David A. Hubbard, Theology, News and Notes (Pasadena, CA: Fuller Theological Seminary. 1976), p. 26. Hubbard’s comment is especially strange in view of the fact that he explicitly rejected Lindsell’s view of an “error” or untruth (ibid.. p. 81.



[This was originally published in Bibliotheca Sacra, October-December 1980]

[Optical character recognition had a few glitches that will need to be corrected later.]

Was Mark Confused or was it Mike Licona?

Was Mark Confused or was it Mike Licona?

by Norman L. Geisler


The Problem

In his YouTube presentation on this topic, Mike Licona declared that “probably Mark is confused” concerning the location of the Feeding of the 5,000. Later, in his internet article on the topic (8/23/2016) he wrote, “The difficulty appears after the feeding when in Mark 6:45 we read that Jesus told His disciple to cross over the lake to Bethsaida. This seems difficult to reconcile with Luke’s report that the feeding had occurred at or near Bethsaida.”


Proposed Solutions

After reviewing what Licona considers several admittedly “possible” solutions, he dismissed them for various reasons; they were “awkward,” did not solve the “tension,” “a stretch,” or “groundless.” He concludes, “while some are less ad hoc and more plausible than others, none of them enjoys anything close to a scholarly consensus….” He then resorts to his favorite solution—a hermeneutically definitive appeal to extra-biblical Greco-Roman genre and finds similar difficulties when Plutarch tells “the same stories differently.” Thus, Licona concludes that he also is willing here to accept the “confusion” of Mark, and “remain content to live with an unanswered question.”


A Brief Evaluation

First of all, there is no unresolvable problem for an inerrantist here, as even Licona admits there are “possible” solutions.

Second, he even acknowledges that some solutions are “more plausible” than others.

Third, Licona’s problem rests with his acceptance of  Greco-Roman genre which allows for even contradiction in the Gospel, as there are in Greco-Roman literature.

Fourth, he reflects his distaste for some attempts to use the time-honored method of “harmonizing” (which goes back as far as Tatian’s Diatessaron, c. 150-160 a.d.) to reconcile the tension or apparent contradiction. He calls it “hermeneutical gymnastics” and elsewhere refers to similar proceedings by the exaggerated term “hermeneutical waterboarding.”

Fifth, Licona’s confusion, not Mark’s, also stems from the hidden premise that if there is no “scholarly consenses” on a problem, then we must consider it unanswered, if not unanswerable. He seems unwilling to admit the venerable conclusion of St. Augustine who wrote, “If we are perplexed by any apparent contradiction in Scripture, it is not allowable to say, ‘The author of this book is mistaken; but either: [1] the manuscript is faulty, or [2] the translation is wrong, or [3] you have not understood’” (Augustine, Reply to Faustus 11.5). But to repeat, “it is not allowable to say, ‘The author of this book is mistaken’”—or confused. God is not confused, and He cannot err (Heb. 6:18), and the Gospel of Mark, along with the rest of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16), is the Word of God. Therefore, it cannot be confused or err. If anyone was confused here, then mark it down, it was not Mark.


Copyright © 2016 Norman L. Geisler. All rights reserved.


Explaining Biblical Inerrancy

Vital Issues in the Inerrancy Debate

I am Put Here for the Defense of the Gospel: Dr. Norman L. Geisler: A Festschrift in His Honor


I Am Put Here for the Defense of the Gospel: Dr. Norman L. Geisler:

A Festschrift in His Honor

Edited by Terry L. Miethe

Pickwick Publishers | 2016

480 pages

Order at Wipf&Stock and use “Geisler” as a 40% off coupon code!

Or purchase from AMAZON. 


Preface by Ravi Zacharias · xi

Introduction by Terry L. Miethe · xiii

Tributes to Norman L. Geisler

Thanks for the Memories by William E. Nix · xxi

A Tribute to Norman L. Geisler by Patty Tunnicliffe · xxiii

A Personal Story by John Ankerberg · xxvii

Yesterday, Today, and Forever: Personal Reflections on a Favorite Professor

by Timothy Paul Erdel · xxix

A Tribute to Dr. Norman L. Geisler by Mark M. Hanna · xxxii

Personal Experience with Norm by Grant C. Richison · xxxiv

Biographical Reflections about Norm Geisler by Winfried Corduan · xxxv

Norma Turbulenta: “Stormin’ Norman” by Donald T. Williams · xxxvii


chapter 1: Using Apologetics in Contemporary Evangelism by David Geisler · 1

chapter 2: Distinctive Elements of a Judaeo-Christian Worldview by William E. Nix · 22

chapter 3: Our Faith Seeks Their Understanding: Evangelistic-Apologetics & Effective Communication by Ramesh Richard · 57

Biblical Studies

chapter 4: Beware the Impact of Historical Critical Ideologies on Current Evangelical New Testament Studies by F. David Farnell · 76

chapter 5: Building Babel: Genesis 11:1–9 by Thomas Howe · 99

chapter 6: The Task of Bible Exposition by Elliott Johnson · 122

chapter 7: God’s Ultimate Purpose for Creation by Grant C. Richison · 135

chapter 8: Text Versus Word: C. S. Lewis’s View of Inspiration and the Inerrancy of Scripture by Donald T. Williams · 152


chapter 9: Some Features of Finite Being in St. Thomas Aquinas by Winfried Corduan · 169

chapter 10: Unamuno and Quine: A Meta-Philosophical Parable Concerning Faith, Reason, and Truth by Timothy Paul Erdel · 192

chapter 11: Open Theism, Analogy, and Religious Language by Joseph M. Holden · 204

chapter 12: Defending the Handmaid: How Theology Needs Philosophy by Richard G. Howe · 233

chapter 13: Aristotle: God & The Life of Contemplation, or What is Philosophy & Why is it Important? by Terry L. Miethe · 257

chapter 14: The Enlightenment, John Locke & Scottish Common Sense Realism by Terry L. Miethe · 281


chapter 15: Big Data, Big Brother, and Transhumanism by J. Kerby Anderson · 297

chapter 16: Using Expository Preaching to Address Ethical Issues in Our Day by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. · 307

chapter 17: Moral Absolutes and Moral Worth: A Proposal for Christian Ethics Inspired by Norman Geisler by Richard A. Knopp · 317

chapter 18: A Christian Response to Homosexuality by Patty Tunnicliffe · 346

Other Religions & Cults

chapter 19: Why They Blow Themselves Up: Understanding Islamic Suicide Bombers from a Christian Perspective by John Christian · 370

chapter 20: A Theological and Apologetical Assessment of Positive Confession Theology by Ron Rhodes · 382

Norman L. Geisler’s Impact

chapter 21: The Impact of Norman Geisler on Christian Higher Education by Wayne Detzler · 400

chapter 22: A Detroit Yankee in King Cotton’s Court: Love Expressed in the Thought and Writings of Norman Geisler by Paige Patterson · 417

Tabula Gratulatoria: Testimonials to Dr. Geisler’s Impact on our Time · 427

“Geislerisms” · 431

About Norman L. Geisler · 433


Is the Ark-Like Structure Found on Mt. Ararat a Hoax?

For those who are interested in the search for Noah’s ark, check out the response by Philip Ernest Williams (Mount Ararat Discovery Foundation) to “A Critique of the Claim of Noah’s Ark Ministries International of the Discovery of a Wooden Structure on Mount Ararat” by Dr. Randall Price Ph.D. and Don Patton, Ph.D. Click this link to read it: http://araratdiscovery.org/ReviewPrice2010Critique.pdf.

For other cutting-edge articles on the search for Noah’s ark, also

please visit http://www.Arkapology.com.


Salvation, the Church, and the Papacy


Click here to open as a PDF: Salvation, the Church, and the Papacy

Salvation, the Church, and the Papacy

Mike Field



The inerrancy of Scripture is common ground for Protestants and Roman Catholics.[1] However, its interpretation is not. In fact, Catholic apologist Robert Sungenis asserts: “the written Word cannot cry out to you, ‘Wait! You have misinterpreted me!’ But the Church can.”[2] Thus, Roman Catholics believe that the Church, in the person of Peter’s successor and the bishops in communion with him, possesses “the charism of infallibility when authentically teaching matters of faith and morals.”[3] The papal bull, Unam sanctam, written by Boniface VIII in 1302, provides a provocative example of such teaching on salvation, the church, and the papacy. Indeed, Unam Sanctam concludes with the words: “we declare, say, define and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.”[4] Commenting on this papal bull, Catholic apologist Mark Shea says: “When a Pope declares, pronounces and defines, he is using the formula to make crystal clear that he is delivering, not his personal opinion, but the dogmatic teaching of the Catholic Church.”[5] Nevertheless, like the apostle Paul, we Protestants ask: “what does the Scripture say?”[6] In other words, might the divine author be saying through Scripture that Boniface VIII has misinterpreted His inerrant Word?

The primary questions of interest in this study are: (1) Is EENS as articulated by Boniface VIII in Unam Sanctam consistent with Scripture?, and (2) Is EENS as formulated by Vatican II consistent with Unam Sanctam and/or Scripture? The initial assumption is that it is presumptuous to declare what is absolutely necessary for salvation (as Boniface VIII did), and unwarranted to speculate about those incapable of faith, such as infants or the profoundly retarded. The methodology I have chosen is to analyze Unam Sanctam in its historical context, drawing from Scripture and the writings of the church fathers and others, including Roman Catholic apologists, and then to evaluate its present interpretation according to Vatican II.



Published on November 18, 1302, the papal bull Unam Sanctam was prompted by a Church-State quarrel between Boniface VIII and King Philip IV of France that began in 1296 over taxation of the clergy.[7] Over the intervening years the power struggle escalated to encompass control of the clergy’s attendance at rival councils called by the king and the pope. The pinnacle of hostilities occurred in September, 1303, ten months after Unam Sanctam was published, when an armed band from Philip briefly captured Boniface after hearing of his plans to excommunicate him. The pope died within a month. This episode represents just one of many chapters in Church-State conflicts over the centuries.

For example, after Christianity was declared a legal religion in 313, Constantine set the precedent for all of the Ecumenical Councils (AD 325 to 787) to be convened by the Roman emperor (and in one case, the Roman empress). Yet in 800, Pope Leo III presided over Charlemagne’s coronation as Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. The Church-state pendulum then swung the other way for more than two centuries of lay investiture, wherein feudal lords and vassals appointed bishops and other church officials. Pope Gregory VII (1073 – 1085) wrested power back to the Church, not only ending lay investiture, but also excommunicating and deposing King Henry IV of Germany. Pope Innocent III (1198 – 1216) further consolidated power by acquiring title to papal states, declaring all kings to be subject to the pope, and asserting that the pope, as Christ’s vicar, could be judged by no man.[8] It is in this context that Unam Sanctam was published and has come to be viewed as “one of the most carefully drafted documents which emerged from the papal chancery . . . a formal exposition of the plenitude of papal power, spiritual and temporal.”[9] In light of today’s prevailing perspective wherein the powers of Church and State are considered to be largely complementary, Boniface’s papal bull might seem irrelevant – were it not for his dogmatic claims about salvation and the papacy.


Boniface VIII’s Unam Sanctam

Boniface VIII makes five provocative claims in Unam Sanctam, each building upon the preceding ones. This study will briefly examine these claims in light of their historical context and the teaching of Scripture. The five claims are:

(1) Salvation and forgiveness of sins can be found only in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

(2) There is one head of the Church: Christ and the Vicar of Christ (the pope).

(3) The pope is the shepherd of all of Christ’s sheep, and only those who are committed to the pope can be Christ sheep.

(4) The plentitude of papal powers underscores the perils of resisting the pope.

(5) It is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.

The opening statement of Unam Sanctam offers an interesting mix of Scripturally-based ecclesiology and the provocative soteriological premise upon which Boniface builds a series of pretentious claims about the relationship between salvation, the Church, and the papacy.



Unam Sanctam’s Opening Statement

Urged by faith, we are obliged to believe and to maintain that the Church is one, holy, catholic, and also apostolic. We believe in her firmly and we confess with simplicity that outside of her there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins, as the Spouse in the Canticles proclaims: ‘One is my dove, my perfect one. She is the only one, the chosen of her who bore her,’ and she represents one sole mystical body whose Head is Christ and the head of Christ is God. In her then is one Lord, one faith, one baptism.[10]

Much of this opening statement about the Church is scripturally sound. For example, the Church is one according to 1 Cor. 12:5-12 (the body of Christ is one, though the members are many). The Church is holy according to Eph. 5:25-27 (Christ cleansed the church “by the washing of water and the word . . . that she would be holy and blameless”). Moreover, 1 Cor. 1:2 attests to the catholic, or universal, scope of the Church, including “all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In addition, Paul describes the apostolic character of the Church in Eph. 2:20 by affirming that the Church has been “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” Boniface then reiterates the point that the Church is unique, “the only one” (Song of Songs 6:9; cf. Rom. 12:4-5, 1 Cor. 10:17; 12:12-13, 20; Eph. 2:16; 4:4; 5:25-32; Col. 1:24; 3:15; etc.), and he alludes to Col. 1:18, identifying Christ as the head of the Church, and to 1 Cor. 11:3, which says that the head of Christ is God. The paragraph concludes with a quote from Eph. 4:5, further describing the Church, marked by “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” These truths are common ground for Protestants and Roman Catholics.


Boniface’s First Provocative Claim

Embedded among Boniface’s affirmations about the Church is his first provocative claim: that outside of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins. The general belief that “outside the church there is no salvation” was well-established long before Boniface’s time, known by the Latin phrase, “extra ecclesiam nulla salus” (EENS). However, Boniface’s precise language and his subsequent assertions about the Church, the papacy, and salvation raise significant questions. How does this dogma, as understood by Boniface and the church fathers, stand up in the light of Scripture?


Outside of the Church There is No Salvation (EENS)

Boniface VIII justifies his premise by appealing to the story of Noah’s ark. He writes: “For certainly, in the time of the Flood, the ark of Noah was one, prefiguring the one Church. . . . And outside of Her, everything standing upon the land, as we read, had been destroyed.” Compare Heb. 11: 7 – “By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world.” Thus, the ark functioned as a safe haven during God’s judgment of the world by the great flood: whoever was in the ark was saved, whoever was outside of the ark perished. Boniface infers that the Church will function in the time of God’s future judgment as the ark did in Noah’s time.

The EENS dogma is by no means unique to Boniface, having been articulated more than a thousand years earlier by Cyprian of Carthage. Cyprian quotes 1 Pet. 3:20, writing: “[Peter] said, ‘In the ark of Noah, a few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water; the like figure where-unto even baptism shall save you;’ proving and attesting that the one ark of Noah was a type of the one Church.” A number of other church fathers agree with Cyprian.[11] Yet, Augustine recognizes an important soteriological difference between the ark and the Church: “How many sheep there are without, how many wolves within!”[12]

Augustine’s observation about the Church notwithstanding, those who leave the Church are singled out. Cyprian cites 1 John 2:19, “Let none think that the good can depart from the Church. . . . ‘They went forth from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, surely they would have continued with us.’”[13] However, Cyprian takes this verse out of context. John is talking about ‘antichrists,’ who deny that Jesus is the Christ. Christians leave churches and other fellowships for many reasons, the vast majority having nothing to do with rejecting Christ. For example, John Mark deserted Paul and Barnabas in Pamphylia during his first missionary trip, yet his faith remained intact, as Paul himself attests later (cf. Acts 15:38; 2 Tim. 4:11).[14] Hence, Cyprian’s interpretation of 1 John is not a reliable test of whether or not someone is outside of the Body of Christ.

Cyprian also asserts that schismatics as well as heretics are outside the Church. For example, in the treatise, Unity of the Church, he quotes Luke 11:23 and comments: “‘He who is not with me is against me, and he who gathereth not with me scattereth.’ He who breaks the peace and the concord of Christ, does so in opposition to Christ; he who gathereth elsewhere than in the Church, scatters the Church of Christ.”[15] Cyprian likens schismatics to Korah, who rebelled against Moses.[16] However, schisms are messy, and typically all participants share some fault.

Nevertheless, Augustine argues from 1 Corinthians 13: “You ask, do they [schismatics] have the baptism of Christ? Yes. You ask, do they have the faith of Christ? Yes. If they have these, what do they lack? . . . Listen to the Apostle: ‘if I understand all holy things . . . if I have all prophecy . . . and all knowledge.’ . . . Listen further: ‘if I have all faith . . . so that I could move mountains. But if I have not love, I am nothing.’”[17] Augustine infers that if you have not love, your faith is nothing and you are therefore without Christ and have no hope of salvation. He continues: “Prove to me now that you have love: hold to unity. . . . If we praise one Father, why don’t we recognize also one mother?”[18] However, if unity is the proof of love, unity with whom? For example, the “mother church” in Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70. The remaining churches still shared one Lord, one faith, one baptism; yet the schism between East and West in 1054 persists to this day.[19] Attempts to take sides in that schism by identifying the “mother church” are futile. More importantly, do we recognize and love our brothers and sisters in Christ? Our Lord must grieve schisms, and we should strive to avoid them and to be reconciled one to another.

In spite of the strong tradition supporting EENS, not all church fathers limit salvation to membership in the Church, or even to faith in Christ. For example, Justin Martyr (ca. 170) writes: “[Those] who lived according to reason [logos] were really Christians, even though they were thought to be atheists, such as, among the Greeks, Socrates, Heraclitus, and others like them.”[20] However, salvation by reason alone is another gospel. Another church father, Clement of Alexandria (ca. 200), asserts: “before the advent of the Lord, philosophy was necessary to the Greeks for righteousness,” because, he says, it brought the Greeks to Christ as the Law did the Hebrews.[21] Again, philosophy without Christ never saved anyone (cf. Acts 17:22-31).

In summary, EENS (“outside the Church there is no salvation”) has enjoyed a strong, though not unanimous, following since the third century. This tradition counts deserters, heretics, and schismatics as being outside the Church – notwithstanding John Mark’s desertion and the long-standing schism between the East and the West. In addition, EENS raises questions about the definition of the Church: are the Old Testament saints catalogued in Hebrews 11 members of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church? Interestingly, even Calvin and the Westminster Confession endorse a version of EENS.[22] But – what does Scripture say about these things?


A Scriptural Evaluation of EENS

First, nowhere does Scripture articulate EENS. Instead, Scripture teaches broadly that “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:32; cf. Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:13).[23] And, according to Gen. 4:26, “men began to call upon the name of the Lord” in the time of Adam and Eve. Interestingly, the Old Testament name, YHWH, translated Lord, is incorporated in Jesus’ name, which means “YHWH saves” (cf. Matt. 1:21). Thus, Old Testament saints, in effect, called upon the name of Jesus. Hebrews 11 gives many examples of such saints who lived long before the Church was founded, and yet have come to the “heavenly city.” Moreover, Rev. 7:4-8 explicitly identifies twelve thousand from each tribe of Israel as “sealed bond-servants of our God,” and Rev. 21:9-27 depicts the bride of Christ as having twelve gates representing the tribes of Israel and twelve foundation stones representing the apostles (cf. Eph. 2:20; Rev. 4:4, 10; etc.).[24] In summary, according to Scripture, salvation is not confined to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church – but extends to all who call upon the name of the Lord (YHWH, Jesus).

In particular, Scripture promises salvation and forgiveness of sins to all who are ‘in Christ’ by grace through faith. For example, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph. 1:13; cf. Rom. 1:16). Moreover, Peter declares in Acts 10:43, “Of Him [Jesus] all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.” Furthermore: “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal. 3:27). In other words, no one “in Christ” can be outside the Church since the Body of Christ is the Church, according to Col. 1:18.


Boniface’s Second Provocative Claim

Boniface’s second provocative claim is that there is one head of the Church: Christ and the Vicar of Christ (the pope). Like EENS, the primacy of Peter has a long history in the Church, but the church fathers did not articulate it as Unam Sanctam did. For example, Cyprian writes of Peter: “upon whom He built the Church, and whence He appointed and showed the source of unity.”[25] Theodoret of Cyrus (ca. 450) also says of Rome: “For that holy see has precedence over all churches in the world.”[26] However, no church father ever suggested that Christ and the pope constitute one head of the Church. From where did this idea come?

According to Unam Sanctam: “[The ark] had one pilot and helmsman, that is, Noah, and outside of Her, everything . . . had been destroyed. . . . And so, of the one and only Church there is one body and one head, not two heads like a monster; that is, Christ and the Vicar of Christ, Peter and the successor of Peter.” In other words, since the ark prefigured the Church (as Boniface previously argued), and the ark had “one pilot and helmsman,” so also must the Church have only one pilot and helmsman. However, Noah could not have been the pilot of the ark because he, like the other passengers, was stowed deep inside, tossed by the waves and driven by the winds and currents to land on Mt. Ararat. Rather, God was the pilot and helmsman of the ark.

Nevertheless, Boniface continues to argue that since Christ is the head of the Church and there can only be one head (lest the Church be like a two-headed monster), then Christ and “Vicar of Christ” must be one head. Boniface is right that Christ is the head of the Church and there is only one head. But one plus one is not one. Peter and his successors cannot say “I and Christ are one” in the same way that Jesus said “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).[27] Jesus alone, being both divine and human, is capable of being the head of the whole Church, of both those in heaven and on earth (cf. Col. 1:18; 2:19). Moreover, Peter and his successors are undeniably members of Christ’s body, not the head of the body. Thus Boniface commits a category mistake. Furthermore, Peter himself acknowledges that he is not the “Chief Shepherd” (1 Pet. 5:4).[28] Boniface is mistaken: Christ has no peer in the Church; He alone is its head. The ramifications of Boniface’s claim, which implies two heads of the Church, become clearer as the text of Unam Sanctam unfolds.


Boniface’s Third Provocative Claim

Boniface next argues that the pope is the shepherd of all of Christ’s sheep. On what grounds? He writes: “there is one head [of the Church]. . . Christ and the Vicar of Christ, Peter and the successor of Peter, since the Lord speaking to Peter Himself said: ‘Feed my sheep’, meaning, my sheep in general, not these, nor those in particular, whence we understand that He entrusted all to him [Peter].” The idea that Peter was the universal teacher or the chief shepherd of the Church was by no means new with Boniface. For example, John Chrysostom late in the fourth century cites John 21:17-19: “‘Tend My sheep’ . . . ‘Follow Me’ . . . And if any should say, ‘How then did James receive the chair at Jerusalem?’ I would make this reply, that He appointed Peter teacher, not of the chair, but of the world.”[29] Gregory the Great, at the turn of the seventh century, also comments on Acts 10:25-26 thus: “When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter raised him up, saying, ‘Stand up; I too am just a man.’ It is hence that the chief Shepherd of the Church . . . refers to the equality of his creation.”[30] However, it is one thing to make claims about Peter; it is another to apply them to Peter’s successors.

Interestingly, regarding Jesus’ prophecy in John 10 to bring other sheep into his flock, Catholic apologist Tim Staples asks: “Who does our Lord use as the shepherd to bring this prophecy to pass?” He then suggests that John 21:17 supplies the answer: “Jesus the shepherd here commissions Peter to be the prophetic shepherd of John 10:16 to shepherd the entire people of God!” Staples next asserts that the prophecy is fulfilled in Acts 10 when Peter “commanded [Cornelius and his household] to be baptized . . . There was now one fold and one shepherd for Jews and Gentiles.”[31] However, Staple ignores the fact that Christ had already decided that Paul would be entrusted with all of the Gentiles (Acts 9:15; Rom. 1:5).

In addition, the authors of the book, Jesus, Peter, and the Keys, assert that because other disciples were present when Jesus commanded Peter to feed his sheep, that Jesus gave Peter a distinct and supreme office, ruler over all the flock.[32] Moreover, they say, “Our Lord did not say feed these lambs, nor those lambs. He said My lambs . . . He does not abdicate His office of pastor when He appoints a Vicar; He makes him co-pastor with Him and in Him. All the lambs and sheep of Christ are Peter’s also. No one in the whole flock, no disciple of Christ, can claim exemption from the jurisdiction of Peter.”[33] Yet Rom. 1:5 and other passages indicate otherwise.

According to the book, Upon This Rock, by Stephen Ray, even the apostle John was subordinate to Peter’s successors after Peter’s death. He asserts that John, writing his gospel thirty years after Peter’s death, paid special attention to the claims of Peter “because Peter was living on in his successors who even during John’s own lifetime . . . were exercising Peter’s prerogative of shepherding the entire flock.” He continues, “Whatever John’s position . . . he was still inferior not only to Peter but to Peter’s successors, for to John was not given the supreme commission to feed the entire flock of Christ.”[34] However, John’s own disciples knew nothing of this. Ignatius of Antioch (ca. 105) addressed a fellow-disciple of the apostle John, Polycarp, as the “Bishop of the Church of the Smyrnaeans, or rather, who has, as his own bishop, God the Father, and Jesus Christ.”[35] The apostolic fathers, therefore, did not recognize a special Petrine office.[36]


A Scriptural evaluation of the pope as universal shepherd

Scripture portrays the broad extent of Peter’s shepherding role as temporary at best. In fact, Christ personally entrusted a significant portion of His sheep to Paul during Peter’s lifetime. As Paul writes in Galatians: “Those who were of high reputation” (Peter, James, and John) recognized “that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised” (Gal. 2:6-9; cf. Acts 22:21; Rom. 15:15-16). In fact, Paul writes to the church of Rome that he, not Peter, was entrusted with the Gospel to all of the Gentiles (Rom. 1:5). Moreover, as Peter addresses his fellow shepherds of Christ’s flock, he admits that he is not the Chief Shepherd: “I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder . . . shepherd the flock among you. . . . And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory” (1 Pet. 5:1, 2, 4; cf. Acts 20:28; Heb. 13:20).[37] Finally, Jesus did not say to Peter, “Feed all my sheep;” whereas Scripture affirms that He did entrust Paul with the gospel to all the Gentiles. Boniface’s interpretation of John 21:17 does not follow.

Furthermore, Jesus leaves no doubt in John 10 who is the ‘one shepherd’: “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, . . . and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd” (John 10:14-16). Jesus thereby identifies Himself as “the good shepherd,” claiming a personal relationship with each of His lambs, whom He will bring into one fold, where they hear His voice and follow Him (cf. vv. 27-28). No bishop is capable of such a personal relationship with all of Christ’s sheep. Moreover, by laying claim to all of Christ’s sheep, Boniface creates tension between Christ and His alleged Vicar. No one can serve two masters (Matt. 6:24). There is no question, then, that Boniface’s interpretations of John 10 and John 21 are contrary to the teaching of Scripture and the testimony of the apostolic fathers. Jesus Christ is and always has been the only universal shepherd of the Church.


Corollary to Boniface’s Third Provocative Claim

Having just argued that the pope is the universal shepherd of all of Christ’s flock, Boniface then claims that only those committed to the pope can be Christ’s sheep. He writes: “Therefore, if either the Greeks or others declare themselves not to be committed to Peter and his successors, they necessarily admit themselves not to be among the sheep of Christ, just as the Lord says in John, ‘there is one sheepfold, and only one shepherd.’” Ironically, he also likens the Church to Christ’s seamless tunic which was not torn (cf. John 19:23-24), yet now he specifically cites the Greeks. What about the Greeks who had followed Christ since Paul brought them the gospel, and who continued to follow Christ after the East-West schism?

About commitment to the Petrine office, Catholic apologist Mark Shea says, “It is impossible to accept Christ without accepting the authority of Peter’s office to some degree or other. If you say to Jesus, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ you are submitting to the judgment of Peter, who said it first (Matthew 16:16).”[38] Shea forgets that the thief on the cross never heard Peter’s confession, so it was not possible for him to submit to Peter’s judgment. Jesus also said that Peter’s confession was a revelation from God, not the result of human judgment. In fact, Scripture teaches “no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). Furthermore, the context of Boniface’s statement has nothing to do with King Philip’s response to Peter’s confession. Boniface is instead warning the king against resisting the pope, which he more fully articulates in the next section of Unam Sanctam.

Nevertheless, Boniface’s assertion that Greeks or others not committed to the pope are not Christ’s sheep rests on a false premise. Peter could not hand down a universal office that he himself did not hold. Moreover, it is striking that Boniface denies that some are Christ’s sheep without regard to Christ’s own relationship with them. Indeed, Jesus says, “My sheep hear My voice and follow Me, and I give eternal life to them, . . . and no one will snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:27-28). Furthermore, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37). Indeed, “The Lord knows those who are His” (2 Tim. 2:19). Scripture thus refutes Boniface’s arbitrary exclusion of Greeks (who were originally entrusted to Paul anyway) and others (such as the thief on the cross) from Jesus’ flock. Moreover, Boniface exposes his own duplicity: claiming to be “one head” with Christ, he could not be further from the mind of our Savior, who desires all men to be saved (1 Tim. 2:3-4).


Boniface’s Fourth Provocative Claim

So far, Boniface has focused on commitment to the pope; he focuses next on the dangers of resisting the papacy.[39] In the fourth section of Unam Sanctam, he asserts that the pope possesses a plentitude of powers, and consequently anyone who resists papal authority does so at his own peril.[40] Among these powers, Boniface asserts that the Church has ‘two swords’ – one spiritual and the other, temporal. He supports this claim by citing Luke 22:38, where Peter asks Jesus if two swords are enough as they head to Gethsemane following the Last Supper. His interpretation simply does not follow. He also claims that the Church has been appointed over the nations and kingdoms of the earth, as God says of Jeremiah in Jer. 1:10. Yet Rom. 13:4 declares that civil government with its temporal power is a minister of God, not of the Church. Third, he asserts that the supreme spiritual power [the pope] judges all things but he himself is judged by no one (cf. 1 Cor. 2:15). Innocent III made this same claim a century earlier. Perhaps this assertion explains the impunity of past immoral popes?[41] Did not Jesus say, “You shall know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:15-19); and did not Peter himself say, “Let another man take his office” (Acts 1:20; cf. Deut. 21:21; 1 Cor. 5:11-13)?

Boniface bases all of these powers on Jesus’ words to Peter in Matthew 16: “Christ ‘disclosed [Peter] to be the firm rock, just as the Lord said to Peter himself: ‘Whatever you shall bind, etc.’” He describes this authority as “a divine power given by divine word of mouth to Peter and confirmed to Peter and to his successors by Christ himself.” However, Jesus gave the other apostles the same power to bind and loose, and He never addressed Peter’s successors (Matt. 18:18; cf. John 20:23). Moreover, throughout the history of the Church there has never been a unanimous interpretation of ‘this rock’ in Matthew 16:18.[42] For example, although Tertullian (ca. 210) and some early church fathers describe Peter as “the rock on which the church is built,”[43] Hilary of Poitiers (ca. 365) and others say that Jesus was speaking of “the rock of confession whereon the Church is built.”[44] Moreover, Augustine declares: “For the Rock was Christ; and on this foundation was Peter himself also built. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus.”[45] After all, Christ is the corner stone (Eph. 2:20; cf. Matt. 21:42; Acts 4:11).

Nevertheless, Boniface assumes the “plentitude of papal powers” to be his, and adds, “Whoever, therefore resists this power so ordained by God, resists the ordinance of God. . . .” (cf. Rom. 13:1-2). By claiming all of these powers, Boniface portrays himself as Christ’s equal. Furthermore, his appropriation of Paul’s teaching about civil authority projects a certain ominous tone, leading to his fifth, and most provocative, claim.


Boniface’s Fifth Provocative Claim

Unam Sanctam concludes with the words: “Furthermore, we declare, say, define and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.”[46] This claim seems to rest on an implicit assumption: that the pope is an arbiter of salvation. Boniface thereby usurps the prerogative of Jesus, the author of salvation (Heb. 2:10). Whatever the power of the keys of the kingdom might be, salvation is from the Lord alone. “There is no savior besides Me,” declares the Lord in Hosea 13:4 (cf. Isa. 45:21; 1 Tim. 4:10; Tit. 1:4). In fact, Peter himself, filled with the Holy Spirit testifies of Jesus: “there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Neither Peter nor his successors are able to save.[47] Thus, the conclusion of Unam Sanctam, invoking the formula of papal infallibility, contradicts Scripture and is therefore false.

In summary, Boniface argues in Unam Sanctam (1) that the pope is Christ’s peer in the Church, outside of which there is no salvation or forgiveness of sins; and (2) that the power of the keys passed down to Peter’s successors extends to salvation itself. However, Scripture and reason counter every provocative claim Boniface makes. Christ alone is Savior and head of the whole Church. Moreover, the Body of Christ has flourished in Orthodox and Protestant Churches around the globe for centuries apart from the pope. How, then, have Roman Catholics (especially, as taught by Vatican II) understood the provocative claims asserted by Unam Sanctam?

As background, it is important to recognize that Roman Catholics cannot ignore Pope Boniface VIII’s ‘infallible’ teaching, thanks to the dogma adopted at Vatican I in 1870.[48] Yet, Unam Sanctam has been divisive for Roman Catholics: some, like Leonard Feeney, assert that it and Vatican II are incompatible; whereas most, like Dave Armstrong, believe that Vatican II and Unam Sanctam are consistent.[49] Yet others express various personal opinions, such as this one by Phil Porvaznic (“Philvaz”): “a non-Catholic CANNOT submit or be subject to the Pope, even if the person sincerely desired to obey the Pope in everything and believe all his teachings. Only CATHOLICS can submit to the Pope . . . Therefore, Unam Sanctam applies only to Roman Catholics.”[50] Porvaznic’s opinion, however, is not compatible with Boniface’s explicit assertion that Greeks not committed to the pope are not among Christ’s sheep. Nor is his opinion consistent with the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the documents of Vatican II, the official sources of Roman Catholic teaching that will be considered next.


Unam Sanctam Revisited: Vatican II

Vatican II largely retains the perspective of Unam Sanctam, albeit with some significant revisions. For example, the dogma that outside the Church there is no salvation (EENS) is now stated thus: “Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.” The Catechism continues: “those, who through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church” but “who seek God with a sincere heart” and try to do his will according to their conscience, “may achieve eternal salvation.”[51] Thus Vatican II recognizes “invincible ignorance” as an exception to the rule of “no salvation outside of the Church.”


Invincible Ignorance

Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong affirms “invincible ignorance” as taught by Vatican II and claims it was known and accepted by Boniface VIII. He cites Thomas Aquinas to support this position. However, Unam Sanctam, exempts no one from the “absolute necessity” of being subject to the pope. Moreover, according to Aquinas, if unbelievers “who have heard nothing about the faith are damned, it is on account of other sins, which cannot be taken away without faith, but not on account of their sin of unbelief.”[52] Aquinas therefore denies that invincible ignorance saves anyone. Rather, as Scripture repeatedly affirms: salvation requires faith in the name of the Lord (cf. Joel 2:32; Hos. 13:4; John 1:12; 3:16; Acts 16:31; Rom. 10:11-13; 2 Tim. 3:15; Heb. 11:6; 1 Pet. 1:5, 9; etc.). God may overlook ignorance, but He does not reward it.

According to Jesus, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). Moreover, Paul affirms that “whoever calls upon the Lord will be saved” and asks, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?” (Rom. 10:13-14). Thus, according to Paul it is necessary to hear and believe in order to call on the Lord. Paul demonstrates this in Acts 17, where he finds Athenians groping for an unknown God and he responds by telling them about Jesus, saying: “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring that all people everywhere should repent” (cf. Acts 17:22-31). Instead of excusing ignorance, Paul asserts that God now demands repentance from all peoples. Therefore, Vatican II appears to be at odds with the Apostle by asserting that ignorance (if ‘invincible’) exempts one from needing to call upon the name of the Lord, which requires knowing who the Savior is (cf. Acts 10:34-35; Rom. 10:13-14). Rather, fulfillment of Jesus’ Great Commission is necessary for the salvation of “some from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.”

The Head of the Church

Vatican II also differs from Unam Sanctam in its treatment of the head of the Church. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “[A]ll salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body.”[53] Lumen Gentium adds that the successor of Peter is “the Vicar of Christ, the visible Head of the whole Church.”[54] Vatican II thus stops short of calling the pope ‘one head’ with Christ. Yet Christ and the pope cannot both be head of the whole Church; you cannot serve two masters.[55] Moreover, Eph. 1:22-23 teaches that Christ is “head over all things to the church, which is His body.”

Not surprisingly, Vatican II has retained Boniface VIII’s claim that the pope is the shepherd of all of Christ’s sheep. As expressed by Unitatis Redintegratio, Christ “selected Peter, and after his confession of faith determined that on him He would build His Church. Also to Peter He promised the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and after His profession of love, entrusted all His sheep to him to be confirmed in faith and shepherded in perfect unity.”[56] The claim that Christ entrusted all of His sheep to Peter and his successors has already been refuted.


Christ’s Sheep and Unity

On the other hand, Vatican II views Christ’s sheep in a radically different way than Unam Sanctam. In fact, instead of saying that anyone not committed to the pope cannot be among Christ’s sheep, Unitatis Redintegratio declares: “The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter.”[57] This document calls such Christians “separated brethren” (more will be said about this later).

Regarding unity, Vatican II asserts: “The Roman Pontiff, as the successor of Peter, is the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity of both the bishops and of the faithful.”[58] Catholic apologist Tim Staples ties this interpretation to Luke 22:24-32, where “Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail, so that ‘he may be the source of strength and unity for the rest of the apostles’”[59] However, it does not follow that Jesus’ prayer for Peter’s faith makes his successors the permanent “source of strength and unity for the whole Church.”

Scripture never teaches that Peter’s successors are the source of unity; in fact, the papacy, with its antipopes and its roles in the great schisms of the Church, has a mixed record on unity.[60] According to Eph. 4:4-5, unity is found in “one Spirit, one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.” In fact, perhaps baptism, with its confession of the one faith, is a better visible sign and symbol of unity of the Church.[61]


Papal Powers

Regarding papal powers, Vatican II says: “The pope’s power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, . . . the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power.”[62] This claim is based on Jesus’ promise to Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:19). For most Catholics, this is the strongest Scriptural argument for the exclusive claims of the papacy. For example, Scott Hahn argues that the keys imply a permanent office requiring perpetual succession from Peter throughout the history of the Church.[63]

On the other hand, it is not at all clear (1) what power and authority Peter possessed that was not shared by other apostles, and (2) what authority Peter actually handed down to his successors.[64] As already noted, the other apostles shared the power to bind and loose (Matt. 18:18), and Christ subsequently entrusted Paul with the Gospel to all of the Gentiles (Rom. 1:5; cf. Gal. 2:9). Thus, Peter himself held no permanent exclusive power or authority (cf. 1 Cor. 5:5; 1 Tim. 1:20).[65] Moreover, none of Peter’s successors walked on water or exhibited any other signs and wonders to confirm this alleged supreme office. Furthermore, none of Peter’s successors are part of the foundation of the Church, as the apostles were. There is simply no basis in Scripture or in history for the presumption that Christ granted supreme perpetual power to Peter or to his successors.


Separated Brethren and EENS

Regarding the salvation of Christians separated from the Church, Vatican II takes a cue from Augustine’s understanding of EENS. Having argued that unity is the proof of love, without which faith is nothing, Augustine continues:

Outside the Catholic Church there can be everything except salvation. He can hold office, he can have sacraments, he can sing “alleluia,” he can respond “amen,” he can hold to the gospel, he can have faith and preach in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But never except in the Catholic Church can he find salvation.[66]

Apparently Augustine recognized in his day that Christians “outside of the Catholic Church” demonstrated all the visible signs of Church life. Yet, he felt compelled to insist on institutional unity as the test of the widely accepted dogma that outside the Church there is no salvation. Nevertheless, does not Scripture teach that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9-11)? Sadly, Vatican II followed the tenets of EENS rather than Scripture, and said: “[I] is only through Christ’s Catholic Church . . . that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation.”[67] In addition, Unitatis Redintegratio 2.22 states: “Baptism, therefore, envisages a complete profession of faith, complete incorporation in the system of salvation such as Christ willed it to be, and finally complete ingrafting in eucharistic communion.” Therefore, according to Vatican II, ‘separated brethren’ cannot “benefit fully from the means of salvation” because they lack “complete incorporation in the system of salvation.” Consequently, how do Roman Catholics today believe Protestants are saved?

Roman Catholics find it difficult to articulate how Protestants are saved because of the dogma of EENS. What follows is an attempt to explain this complex issue in simple terms. According to Vatican II, a person is incorporated into the Church by Trinitarian baptism, which does not have to be administered by a priest (UR 1.3, CCC 1256). Thus, Protestants are incorporated into the Church by baptism. However, the new life conferred at baptism requires ongoing nourishment, which Rome attributes to the Eucharist based on John 6:53: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves” (cf. CCC 1392).[68] Roman Catholics are required to partake of this “spiritual food” at least annually, which in turn requires preparation by the sacrament of Reconciliation (CCC 1389). However, Rome asserts that only priests possessing sacramental Orders conferred through apostolic succession can administer a valid Eucharist, in which the bread and wine truly become the body and blood of Christ (CCC 1400).[69] Moreover, according to Joseph Ratzinger (later, Pope Benedict XVI), Protestant “Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element [the Eucharist] of the Church.”[70] In other words, Protestants are deprived of ongoing spiritual nourishment through a valid Eucharist. Hence, according to the Roman Catholic Church, Protestants lack what Jesus said is necessary for [spiritual] life. Nevertheless, like Augustine, Roman Catholics cannot deny the vibrant spiritual life manifest in many Protestant communities today. Consequently, Roman Catholics conclude that Protestants may be saved by means of extra-ordinary grace, being excused from the ordinary means of grace provided through the Eucharist because of non-culpable ignorance.[71] However, this is essentially the same means of salvation that Vatican II articulates for unbelievers. Why is “by grace you have been saved through faith” not enough?



Summary and Scriptural Reflections on the Papacy

In summary, Vatican II differs substantially from Unam Sanctam as follows: (1) it says that those who are invincibly ignorant, yet sincerely seek God, may be saved outside of the Church (vs. “there is no salvation outside of the Church”); (2) it recognizes baptized Christians not in communion with Rome as Christ’s sheep (vs. only those committed to the pope are Christ’s sheep); and (3) it distinguishes Christ, the (invisible) Head of the Church, from the pope, the visible head of the whole Church (vs. Christ and the Vicar are “one head,” not “two heads like a monster”). However, Vatican II does claim that the papacy is the “supreme and universal power over the Church” as well as “the perpetual source of unity.” Finally, Vatican II asserts that all baptized Christians – except for those who do not know any better – must be completely incorporated in “the system of salvation” available through the Church (vs. the “absolute” necessity for all humans to be subject to the Roman Pontiff).

In contrast, Jesus says that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. What is necessary for salvation? Trusting the Savior who has revealed Himself through the prophets and in the person of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; Rom. 10:13-14; Heb. 11:6).[72] We Protestants affirm salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to the Scriptures alone, for the glory of God alone (the “five solas”). Nevertheless, the Church plays a significant role in nurturing God’s children on their journey of salvation.

Regarding the nurturing role of the Church, Scripture suggests several ways the papacy may be affirmed. For example, as a bishop, the pope is called to preach the gospel and teach the mysteries of God, as well as to exhort, rule, and manage the church of God under his care (cf. 1 Tim 3:1-7; 2 Tim. 2:2; Tit. 1:5-9).[73] Moreover, as the spiritual leader of more than one billion Christians, he has great responsibility and power (Heb. 13:17). Therefore, he must be careful not to usurp the authority and role of the Head and Chief Shepherd of the Church, nor disparage the authority of other overseers of Christ’s flock (cf. 1 Pet. 5:1-5). In addition, as Paul writes: “Render to all what is due them” (Rom. 13:7). Christians who are under the pope’s care are to follow his example and to obey him, as he watches over their souls (Heb. 13:7, 17); Protestants, as well, should love, honor, and respect the pope as a brother in Christ and as the leader of many of Christ’s sheep.

Finally, with a sincere desire to seek reconciliation between Christians who are separated from one another by various divisions, I commend the following from Vatican II: “Sacred Scriptures provide for the work of dialogue an instrument of the highest value in the mighty hand of God for the attainment of that unity which the Saviour holds out to all” (UR 2.2).


APPENDIX: Summary of Unam Sanctam’s Claims and Responses

(1)    Salvation and forgiveness of sins can be found only in the one holy catholic and apostolic Church – a questionable assertion, in view of Joel 2:32 and Hebrews 11. Salvation is from the Savior, who is not bound exclusively to a New Testament institution.

(2)    There is one head of the Church: Christ and the pope – nonsensical (one plus one is not one); a category mistake (Peter is a member of the body, not the head). Christ is the sole head of His body, the Church.

(3a) The pope is the shepherd of all of Christ’s sheep – refuted in Rom. 1:5 and Gal. 2:9 (Christ entrusted Paul with the Gospel to the Gentiles); and by John 10 (according to Jesus, the shepherd has a personal relationship with each sheep; there is one heavenly shepherd and many earthly shepherds).

(3b) Only those committed to the pope can be Christ’s sheep – contrary to Scripture: Jesus promises eternal life to all who come to him; and no one will snatch His sheep (including the Greeks) from His hand (cf. John 10:27-29).

(4)    The plentitude of papal powers underscores the perils of resisting papal authority – claims based on eisegesis, wrongly portraying the pope as Christ’s peer.

(5)    It is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff – it is presumptuous for the pope to set himself up as an arbiter of salvation (Heb. 2:10); salvation is from the Lord alone (Hos. 13:4; Acts 4:12).



[1]Robert Sungenis states that “official statements and teaching of the Catholic Church have always affirmed and continue to affirm that Scripture is written wholly and entirely in all its parts through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and that it is absolutely inerrant” (Robert A. Sungenis, Not by Scripture Alone: A Catholic Critique of the Protestant Doctrine of Sola Scriptura (Santa Barbara: Queenship Publishing Company, 1997), 38.

[2]Ibid. 4.

[3]Lumen Gentium (LG) 3.25, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, by Pope Paul VI, 1964, at http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html (accessed January 29, 2015). A ‘charism’ is a divine gift for the building up of the Body of Christ.

[4]As quoted by Mark Shea in “Just Exactly Where is the Church?” at Mark-Shea.com, http://www.mark-shea.com/unam.html (accessed March 10, 2015).


[6]Rom. 4:3; Gal. 4:30. Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation), 1995.

[7]For further reading, see Philip the Fair and Boniface VIII: State vs. Papacy, ed. Charles T. Wood (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967).

[8]For further reading on Gregory VII and Innocent III, see Mandell Creighton, “Halfway House from Gregory VII to Luther,” in Wood, 94 – 95.

[9]F. M. Powicke, “The Culmination of Medieval Papalism,” in Wood, 103.

[10]The English translation of Unam Sanctam, unless otherwise noted, is quoted from Catholic Planet.com at http://www.catholicplanet.com/TSM/Unam-Sanctam-English.htm (accessed February 22, 2015). The name, Unam Sanctam, comes from the first words of the bull: Unam sanctam ecclesiam catholicam (one holy catholic church).

[11]Cyprian of Carthage, Letters 75.2 (ca. AD 255), in Ante-Nicene Fathers vol. 5 (ANF 5), ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975). Others who taught EENS prior to Boniface VIII include Irenaeus, Origen, Lactantius, Jerome, Augustine, Gregory the Great, Innocent III, and Thomas Aquinas.

[12]Augustine, Homilies on the Gospel of John 45.12, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, series 1, vol. 7 (NPNF 1-07), ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1888).

[13]Cyprian, Unity of the Church 9, in ANF 5.

[14]Anti-popes might similarly be charged with schism; but was Hippolytus therefore outside the Church when he opposed the heretical Callistus, yet restored to the Church when he later reconciled with another pope?

[15]Cyprian, Unity of the Church 6.

[16]Cyprian, Letters 72.8 and 75.8.

[17]Augustine, Address to the People of the Church at Caesarea 3, translated by Jean Goodwin, at http://www.public.iastate.edu/~goodwin/sermo.html (accessed February 23, 2015).

[18]Ibid. 5. More importantly, do we still recognize and love our brothers and sisters in Christ?

[19]There have been steps between the East and Rome to “forgive and forget,” but the schism remains.

[20]Justin Martyr, First Apology 46, in ANF 1 (ca 170).

[21]Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 1.5, in ANF 2 (ca. 200).

[22]According to Calvin, “Moreover, beyond the pale of the Church no forgiveness of sins, no salvation, can be hoped for . . . the paternal favour of God and the special evidence of spiritual life are confined to his peculiar people, and hence the abandonment of the Church is always fatal.” However, he cites Joel 2:32, “And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered; For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape . . .” (Institutes of Christian Religion 4.1.4, trans. Henry Beveridge [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989]). Thus, according to Calvin, the Church includes Jews. The Westminster Confession similarly states that there is “no ordinary possibility of salvation” out of the visible Church, “which consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and their children” (25.2). See The Westminster Confession, in Reformed Confessions Harmonized: with an annotated Bibliography of Reformed Doctrinal Works, ed. Joel R. Beeke and Sinclair B. Ferguson (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999).

[23]The phrase, “the name of the Lord,” appears more than one hundred times in Scripture.

[24]Israel, with its unique gifts and calling, should not be confused with the Church (cf. Rom. 9-11). Members of both are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev. 21:27; cf. Dan. 12:1; Rev. 12-13).

[25]Cyprian, Epistles 72.7, in ANF 5 (ca. 255).

[26]Theodoret, Epistles 116, in NPNF 2-03 (ca. 450).

[27]Jesus, having taken human nature while remaining eternal God, makes an ontological claim when he says, “I and the Father are one.” That God subsists in three persons is not a contradiction. One person (the Father) plus one person (the Son) plus one person (the Holy Spirit) is three persons and at the same time one God.

[28]On the other hand, Stephen Ray notes that the President of the United States does not deny his office when he addresses his audiences, “My fellow Americans.” However, the President does not say, “When your President comes . . . ,” as Peter says of the Chief Shepherd. See Stephen K. Ray, Upon This Rock: St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999), 59.

[29]Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of St. John 88, in NPNF 1-14.  

[30]Gregory the Great, Morals on the Book of Job 21.24, trans. John Henry Parker and J. Rivington (1844) at http://www.lectionarycentral.com/GregoryMoralia/Book21.html (accessed March 19, 2015). Cf. Book 5, Epistle 18.

[31]Catholic Answers, “The Papacy in Scripture, no Rocks Required,” by Tim Staples, at http://www.catholic.com/blog/tim-staples/the-papacy-in-scripture-no-rocks-required (accessed March 6, 2015). Staples also attributes supernatural strength to Peter who “heaves the entire net of fish to shore by himself” (the net, according to Staples, is a symbol of the church). Staples fails to acknowledge that moving a heavy object in water requires no special strength, as long as the object is buoyed by water (water was used by NASA to simulate the moon’s much lighter gravity when training astronauts in the 1960s).

[32]Scott Butler, Norman Dahlgren, and Rev. Mr. David Hess, Jesus Peter, and the Keys: A Scriptural Handbook on the Papacy (Santa Barbara: Queenship Publishing Company, 1996), 118 – 22.

[33]Ibid. 123. Notice the similar language vis-à-vis Unam Sanctam: “not these lambs, nor those lambs.”

[34]Stephen K. Ray, Upon This Rock, 49n64 (quoting Hugh Pope).

[35]Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to Polycarp preface, in ANF 1. Ignatius was also a disciple of John.

[36]Roman Catholics cite Ignatius’ letter to Rome as evidence for the primacy of that See, but the text merely mentions “the region of the Romans” (ANF ­1). Moreover, Ignatius asserts that all authorities, including Caesar, should be subject to the [local/regional] bishop, as their bishop is to Christ (To the Philadelphians 4, in ANF 1).

[37]Because shepherding requires personal relationships, the office of shepherding Christ’s flock on earth is distributed among many: “He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers” to spiritually feed the members of Christ’s flock under their care (cf. Eph. 4:11).[37] The Catechism of the Catholic Church agrees in principle: “the office of shepherding the Church, which the apostles received . . . [is] to be exercised without interruption by the sacred order of bishops.” Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 862, at http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p123a9p4.htm#889 (accessed March 1, 2015).

[38]Shea, “Just Exactly Where is the Church?”

[39]Unam Sanctam merely escalates warnings to the king communicated a year earlier (1301) in his papal bull, Ausculta fili. Not long after Unam Sanctam Boniface VIII wrote a bull of excommunication against King Philip.

[40]The text for this fourth claim is actually divided among four sections (4 – 8) of Unam Sanctam as translated at catholicplanet.com.

[41]Roman Catholics acknowledge the gross immorality of popes such as John XII (AD 955), Benedict IX (1032–48), and Alexander VI (1492–1503), but they say that the Vicar of Christ does not have to be impeccable (sinless) to be infallible. However, the point is that such men should have been deposed and replaced.

[42]In spite of the diversity of interpretations of Matt. 16:16-19 noted, Stephen Ray asserts that “preconceived biases or anti-Catholic sentiments, and not objective study of the passage itself, compel the objector to resist the clear meaning of the biblical passage” – clear only to those who agree with Ray? (Upon This Rock, 61n82)

[43]Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heretics 22, in ANF 3. Cyprian, Origen, Ephraem the Syrian, Basil of Caesarea, Epiphanius, Jerome, and Cyril of Alexandria also said Peter was the rock upon which the Church was built. Some of these church fathers also endorse other interpretations of ‘this rock’ in Matt. 16.

[44]Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity 6.36, in NPNF 2-09. Gregory of Nyssa, Ambrose, Epiphanius, Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, and Theodoret also identify the rock as Peter’s confession or his faith.

[45]Augustine, Homilies on the Gospel of John 124.5, in NPNF 1-07. Eusebius, Cyril of Alexandria, Theodoret, and John of Damascus agree that Christ was the rock upon which the Church was built.

[46]Thomas Aquinas’ Contra Errores Graecorum (ca. 1265) contains a number of assertions favorable to the papacy, including: “It is also shown that to be subject to the Roman Pontiff is necessary for salvation” (part 2, 38). See Contra Errores Graecorum, trans. Peter Damian Fehlner, ed. Joseph Kenny, at http://dhspriory.org/thomas/ContraErrGraecorum.htm#b38 (accessed March 2, 2015). The editor says he has supplied “missing chapters,” but does not identify which chapters were thus supplied and why they were missing. Nevertheless, the assertions about the papacy attributed to Aquinas are addressed in this study.

[47]“There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy” (James 4:12).

[48]At Vatican I, Pope Pius IX defined the dogma of papal infallibility while declaring his previous (1854) teaching of Mary’s “Immaculate Conception” to be infallible. Canon 18 of Session 3 asserts: “this is the infallibility which the Roman Pontiff, the head of the college of bishops, enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith, by a definitive act he proclaims a doctrine of faith or morals.” The formula used by Pius XII in his later declaration of Mary’s bodily assumption into heaven (1950) is almost identical to that of Unam Sanctam.

[49]Leonard Feeney (1897-1978) was excommunicated for teaching that Jews and Protestants could not be saved; however, other “old school” Roman Catholics remain. For example, several years ago, a contributor on Stephen Ray’s Defenders of the Catholic Faith apologetics forum (http://www.catholic-convert.com/) told me, “You are separated from the Mystical Body of Christ and the wrath of God does indeed remain upon you.”

[50]Phil Porvaznic, “The Unam Sanctam ‘Problem’ Resolved: Can Non-Catholics Be Saved?” at http://www.philvaz.com/apologet0ics/debate9.htm (accessed February 12, 2015).

[51]CCC 846-47; cf. LG 16. Pope Pius IX was the first pope to tie ‘invincible ignorance’ to EENS (Singulari Quadem, 1854). The tradition articulated by Pope Innocent III (Fourth Lateran Council, 1215), Pope Boniface VIII (Unam Sanctam, 1302), Pope Eugene IV (Cantate Domino, 1441), and Pope John XXIII (1958) has been revised.

[52]Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica vol. 2, part 2 of 2, 10.1 (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1947). Aquinas also denies that one who has a false opinion of God (e.g., other religions) knows Him (ibid. Dave Armstrong cites Aquinas, arguing that invincible ignorance is not a sin; but he fails to recognize the burden of other sins that, without faith, condemn all humans. See “Dialogue on ‘Salvation Outside the Church’ and Alleged Catholic Magisterial Contradictions” (2004), at Biblical Evidence for Catholicism with Dave Armstrong,  hxxp://socrates58.blogspot.com/2007/03/dialogue-on-salvation-outside-church.html (accessed March 10, 2015).

[53]CCC 846.

[54]LG 3.18; cf. CCC 882.

[55]Conflict occurs when requiring religious assent and submission to the teaching of the pope (such as in Unam Sanctam) that can be reasonably shown to contradict the teaching of Christ and His apostles (cf. LG 3.25).

[56]Unitatis Redintegratio (UR) 1.2, a decree of Vatican II, at http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decree_19641121_unitatis-redintegratio_en.html (accessed February 28, 2015). At the same time, CCC 862 affirms “the office of shepherding the Church, which the apostles received . . . to be exercised without interruption by the sacred order of bishops.”

[57]UR 1.3. Interestingly, this broader view of Christ’s sheep has incited a backlash from some conservative Roman Catholics who claim Vatican II ushered in a realm of anti-popes who have corrupted the Church’s dogmas. The fact is, the Protestant situation today is in principal the same as it was for the Greeks in Boniface’s day.

[58]LG 3.23; cf. Cyprian, Epistles 72.7 (ca. 255).

[59]Staples, “The Papacy in Scripture.”

[60]There have been more than forty antipopes (including Boniface VII). Moreover, the pope initiated both the Great East-West Schism (1054) and Martin Luther’s excommunication (1521), resulting in lasting schisms within the Body of Christ. In addition, not long after Boniface VIII, two or three popes simultaneously claimed to be the only valid successor of Peter for forty years (1378 to 1418) – a situation Unam Sanctam did not anticipate.

[61]The Eucharist is (should be) another visible sign and symbol of the unity of the Body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 10:17). Sadly it has become a symbol of divisions within the Body. Similarly, the assembly of Christians for worship can be either a sign of unity or division, depending on the context. It, too, often is a sign of the latter.

[62]LG 3.22; cf. CCC 882.

[63]Catholic-pages.com, Scott Hahn on the Papacy, at http://www.catholic-pages.com/pope/hahn.asp (accessed March 26, 2015). Interestingly, Calvin identifies the keys as a metaphor for the gospel, which is the power of God for salvation (cf. Rom. 1:16; Eph. 1:13). See Institutes of Religion 4.6.4. He says “heaven is opened to us by the doctrine of the Gospel.”

[64]Another question might be: How does anyone today know to which of Peter’s successors “the keys” were actually bequeathed? For example, Mark, a well-known protégé of Peter was the first patriarch of Alexandria; and the line of succession from Peter in Rome is not reported consistently by the church fathers.

[65]Roman Catholics cite Isa. 22:15-25 as a type of the keys Jesus offered to Peter. However, in Isaiah, Shebna, the incumbent, is deposed and replaced by Eliakim, something that has never happened with the papacy (“the supreme spiritual power is judged by no one”). Instead, there were often ‘anti-popes,’ and only in hindsight did “the Church” decide which were the rightful heirs of ‘Peter’s Chair’.

[66]Augustine, Address to the People of the Church of Caesarea 6.

[67]UR 1.3; cf. CCC 845. CCC 830 defines the means of salvation to be: “correct and complete confession of faith, full sacramental life, and ordained ministry in apostolic succession.” CCC 1129 says that the sacraments are necessary for salvation: “The fruit of the sacramental life is that the Spirit of adoption makes the faithful partakers in the divine nature by uniting them in a living union with the only Son, the Savior.” CCC 1816 also says that “service of and witness to the faith are necessary for salvation” (cf. Matt. 10:32-33).

[68]Protestants view John 6:63 as the key to Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” Tertullian says of this passage: “we ought therefore to desire Him in order that we may have life, and to devour Him with the ear, and to ruminate on Him with the understanding, and to digest Him by faith” (On the Resurrection of the Flesh 37, in ANF 3). Similarly, Irenaeus writes: “Eat ye from every Scripture of the Lord” (Against Heresies 5.20.2). Consequently, Protestants seek spiritual nourishment primarily by coming to Christ through the written Word of God: through reading, prayer, and preaching; although Anglicans celebrate the Liturgy of the Word together with the Liturgy of the Sacrament. See the footnote below for more on the Anglican perspective of the Eucharist.

[69]According to Rome, even Anglicans, who claim apostolic succession, do not have a valid priesthood, nor a valid Eucharist, because they deny transubstantiation. Thomas Aquinas explains this dogma in Summa Theologica, vol. 2, 3.73 – 83. According to Aquinas, “the entire Christ could be in both His hands and mouth. Now this could not come to pass were His relation to place to be according to His proper dimensions” (3.81.1 ad 2). Also, “God ‘wedded His Godhead,’ i.e. His Divine power, to the bread and wine, not that these may remain in this sacrament, but in order that He may make from them His body and blood” (3.75.2 ad 1). These are highly strained interpretations of Jesus’ words, “This is My body.” The Apostle Paul suggests an alternative in 1 Cor. 10:2-4, where he identifies manna as spiritual food and says that the rock that gave the Israelites spiritual drink “was Christ.” The substance of the manna and the water did not change, yet they provided both physical and spiritual nourishment. Thus the sacrament can be affirmed as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace” (the Anglican view).

[70]Joseph Ratzinger, Dominus Iesus 17, [2000]). See http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20000806_dominus-iesus_en.html (accessed March 22, 2015). According to Ratzinger, Protestants worship in “ecclesial communities” which “cannot be called ‘Churches’ in the proper sense” because “these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element [the Eucharist] of the Church” (cf. CCC 1275). However, the Eucharist was originally celebrated house to house with more than 3000 people without the sacrament of Orders (cf. Acts 2:42, 46-47). Protestant clergy fulfill the requirements and functions of church leaders defined in 1 Tim. 3; 2 Tim. 2:2; Tit. 1; Heb. 13:17; etc.

[71]This explanation was given by Andrew Preslar in private correspondence, August 18, 2015.

[72]It is vain to call on the name of the Lord without faith (cf. Job 35:13; Psa. 18:41; Isa. 1:15; Rom. 10:9).

[73]The pope, like all other bishops and overseers of the Church, must meet the qualifications of and fulfill the responsibilities of the office.



Copyright © 2016 Michael A. Field – All rights reserved

Mike Field is a graduate of Southern Evangelical Seminary (MA-Apologetics), a lover of Jesus and His Word, and a member of Church of the Cross (Anglican) in Austin, TX. Hoping to retire soon to spend more time in ministry, Mike currently helps his wife, Leanne, train people in healthcare informatics and health IT at the University of Texas.

This essay is reproduced at http://normangeisler.com with permission of Mike Field. It originally appeared in the March 2016 issue of the Journal of the International Society of Christian Apologetics.  For additional resources by Dr. Geisler on Roman Catholicism, please visit http://normangeisler.com/rcc/.