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Carl Trueman at TGC: Marxism is Everywhere, But Don’t Call it That.

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Rev. Dr. Carl R. Trueman, who holds the Paul Woolley Chair of Church History and is professor of church history at Westminster Theological Seminary, at at his home in Oreland, PA.

Carl Trueman (five months ago): Who’s a Marxist? Ain’t no Marxists! That’s crazy talk. You gotta be an atheist to be a Marxist. Y’all are some tinfoil-hat wearing crazies! Pffft.

Carl Trueman (today): It’s Marx’ world we’re living in. Most everybody is a Marxist. Is that really such a bad thing?

That’s my paraphrase, admittedly. In October of 2018, Trueman launched a defense of Tim Keller at the White Horse Inn blog, denying that Tim Keller could be called a Marxist because – in his uneducated opinion – you could not be both a Marxist and a Theist.

Is Tim Keller a Marxist in how he defines these things?  While I have not had the pleasure of asking him personally, I have read statements by him that indicate he believes human beings are made in the image of God. That presumably grounds his ethics.  It also places him outside of the Marxist camp, belief in God being somewhat problematic in that school of thought, as (incidentally) is his Christian belief that human beings have a nature which can be defined in metaphysical, rather than contingent, historical terms.

Of course, Carl Trueman was historically, demonstrably, provably wrong on his assertion that someone can’t both be a Marxist and a Theist (which was his only argument in the defense of Keller. As I explained at the time, Social Justice is a term invented by Jesuits who happen to be Marxists. In other words, the concept that combined Marx’s philosophies with religion was invented by theists.

Today, however, Trueman argued on The Social Gospel Coalition blog that Marx’s philosophy is widespread (far more widespread than Trueman would have admitted five months ago) and downplayed its severity.

Trueman seems to have climbed out of his ivory tower, still dressed in the robes of snobbery, and looked around. He writes:

The term “cultural Marxism” has recently entered the mainstream vocabulary of orthodox Christianity. A staple of the media of Twitter and blogs, it seems to have gone the way of all sophisticated ideas when reduced to a few hundred characters and placed in the hands of those with too much time to troll yet not apparently enough to think. It has become a verbal bullet, designed to kill any opponent on the left, much as “white privilege” has come to be used to hit those on the right.

Notice the anger and condescension with which Trueman writes. Theses plebes on their Twitter and blogs…pffft. Forgive me if I don’t want to be lectured on what Cultural Marxism is by a guy who – just five months ago – didn’t know you could be both a Marxist and a Theist. Like, he didn’t know Liberation Theology was a thing, apparently.

Yet the emergence of the term, and even its deployment in inconsequential Twitter exchanges, points to an interesting and perhaps disturbing pathology of our times. Indeed, it witnesses to the fact that, while Karl Marx and his progeny may have lost the economic battle, a good case can be made for saying they’re winning the cultural struggle.

In this sense, we all live in Marx’s world now.

Trueman seems to be angered that the term Cultural Marxism is used. He doesn’t seem to be angered that the ideology is rampant.

Also interesting is that Trueman now sees a connection between economic Marxism and the Cultural Marxism created by Antonio Gramsci. I’m glad Trueman has since read a book on the subject, or perhaps a blog or Twitter feed.

Nonetheless, Trueman is willing to concede the ideas of Cultural Marxism are everywhere (including the blog upon which he writes), but really hates that we’ve properly defined it.

Bandying terms like ‘cultural Marxist’ and ‘racist’ around simply as a way of avoiding real argument is shameful and should have no place in Christian discourse.

I might point out that we are not the ones avoiding “real arguments” and “Christian discourse.” Does anybody remember the ShepCon Q&A? Who’s avoiding an honest discourse? How many academic responses has Trueman provided to the Dallas Statement? I’ll give you a hint, but suffice it to say you can count them on no fingers.

This then brings me to accusations that Christians who are interested in social issues are cultural Marxists. Both sides need to be careful in this matter.

First, the ninth commandment is arguably the greatest moral casualty of the world of Twitter, where half-baked slanderous insults can be fired at strangers with no risk of any personal comeback on the tweeter. The Christian Twitterverse is often embarrassing on this score, betraying both shallowness of thought and also cavalier contempt for the reputations of others. People using the “cultural Marxist” label for those they criticize—as people who casually throw around accusations of racism and the like—should make sure the claim is part of a sustained argument justified by appropriate evidence.

Last time, when Trueman’s tune was quite different, he also waved his bony, accusing finger around with accusations of 9th Commandment-breaking.

Accusations of Cultural Marxism toward Keller and the The Social Gospel Coalition have been well-founded and substantiated by evidence. There is more evidence that Tim Keller is a Marxist than that he’s a Christian.

Cultural Marxism has been well-defined since its inception as a close but not identical twin of economic Marxism by the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory, which began to develop in 1923 and was perfected by the Liberation Theology by South American Jesuit priest, Gustavo Guttierez in 1971. Tim Keller has been quite honest about how Guttierez has shaped his theology and worldview. Guttierez is the chief cornerstone of The Gospel Coalition (for more on this relation, click here).

Trueman seems content to accept the reality that Marx rules the powers and principalities of this world, but detests our proper labeling of it. He also seems intent on dispelling the term, but is utterly comfortable with its implications.

Trueman ends his post at TGC coalition by blaming “Twitter Polemics” and lamenting the fact that 240 characters cannot properly provide enough clarity for a careful discussion.

Let me be clear. The words that Trueman has spent on the subject of Marxism are not clear. They are not astute. They are not helpful. They are intellectually vapid and historically ignorant. The man has no earthly idea what he’s talking about, and using more than 240 characters – if your words make as much sense as Michael Brown talking in tongues – doesn’t help.

I wonder if that paragraph is under 240 characters, so I can tweet it ^^