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Karl Marx Has Won the Culture, But He Will Not Win the War

November 21, 2023

Editor’s note: The following essay appears in the Fall 2023 issue of Eikon.

The debate about biblical manhood and womanhood has moved beyond word studies and disputes about the flow of thought in Paul’s Epistles.[1] As summarized in an account of “Feminisms, Then and Now,”

From the outset of second-wave feminist activism in the 1960s, the three main branches of feminism were liberal, materialist, and radical. Liberal feminism worked incrementally to extend all the rights and freedoms of a liberal society to women. . . . Materialist feminists were concerned with how patriarchy and capitalism act together to constrain women, especially within environments like the workplace and the home. Thus, their theories drew on to varying degrees Marxism and socialism more broadly. Radical feminists foregrounded patriarchy and viewed women and men as oppressed and oppressor classes.[2]

We are faced with a culture that views the male-female binary as an oppressive construct. And in response, the culture rages and plots in vain, as the power brokers set themselves and those in authority to take counsel together against the Lord and his anointed, seeking to burst their bonds and cast away their cords.

Karl Marx Has Won the Culture

The cultural Marxists are pursuing the destabilization of norms, and those norms are the objective truths about created reality — things like “male and female he created them.” I am of the opinion that these doctrines of demons represent an alternative religion against which it is our duty to stand.

To give an anecdotal illustration: Two girls in our church, an eleven-year-old and her fourteen-year-old sister, recently met girls their own ages in a public place. Both were asked by separate little girls on different occasions: “Do you like girls or boys?” These encounters took place, not in San Francisco or New York City, but in Louisville, Kentucky.

The loss of the givenness that, for instance, little girls will like little boys represents the successful destabilization of norms, or “hegemonic discourses,” as Antonio Gramsci terms them, whereby the assumption that little girls will like little boys can no longer be made. This “blurring of boundaries” is exactly what things like Drag Queen Story Hour are designed to achieve. The drag queens, by the way, have made it all the way to Jackson, Tennessee. The offensive and perverse sexualization of the public library is meant to call into question fixed categories of male and female. As Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay explain, Queer theorists hold that “we should believe sex, gender, and sexuality to be social constructs, not because it’s necessarily true, but because it is easier to politicize them and demand change if they are social constructs than if they are biological.”[3]

The water in which we swim is a toxic brew of Marxism, postmodern philosophy, and expressive individualism. It is an alternative religion, a false gospel, as has been observed:

Social Justice Theorists have created a new religion, a tradition of faith . . . a postmodern faith based on a dead God, which sees mysterious worldly forces in systems of power and privilege and which sanctifies victimhood.[4]

We must take our thoughts and our tastes captive by the knowledge of Christ. Here are the strongholds that need destroying. These are the lofty opinions and arguments raised up against the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10:4–5). We must bring taste into line with the truth. We must disciple people so that they know the difference between the worldview of Critical Theory and Christianity. The formation of a Christian worldview requires a biblical-theological understanding of who we are and where we live, and biblical theology will also equip us to notice the typological patterns in the way the serpent and his seed keep trying the same things in new ways.

Biblical theology is the attempt to understand and embrace the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors.[5] That interpretive perspective, or worldview, has an overarching master story, from which those authors derive (1) truths, doctrines, and dogmas, (2) symbols, imagery, and patterns, and (3) values, ethics, and culture. In the Psalms and other expressions of worship (Exod. 15, the hymns in the New Testament, etc.), the liturgical expressions of worship reinforce the truths by activating symbols to build culture.

In other words, the master narrative explains where the world came from, who human beings are, what has gone wrong, and what God has done, is doing, and has promised to do to set things right in the end. Thus the master narrative inspires faith in God and provokes those who believe to respond to him with thanks and praise. The master narrative also generates symbolism and imagery that summarize, interpret, and portend what has been and will be. In the narrative we find recurring patterns whose significance escalates with each new repetition.[6] And the explanation given in the Bible for why God began the project, how he has orchestrated it and to what telos, is that God seeks to set the fullness of his glory on display. He does this as he makes known his character as a righteous God who upholds his own word when he judges, setting the backdrop and context for the simultaneous display of his character as a merciful God when he forgives and saves the repentant who believe. That is to say, the center of biblical theology is the glory of God in salvation through judgment.[7]

I rehearse this definition of biblical theology and its central claim to be grounded in God’s revelation of his own character because I want to set the biblical worldview in contrast with what seems to be the predominant worldview that informs the rejection of the Bible’s teaching on how human beings have been created male and female with specified responsibilities. Paul speaks of those who “depart from the faith” to embrace alternative worldviews that inform alternative ways of living as “devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared” (1 Tim. 4:1–2). Note that this comment follows hard on the heels of his statement that he does “not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man” (2:12), shortly after which he explains that he writes so that Timothy might “know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth” (3:15).

Carl Trueman explains how the Marxist worldview works:

Take, for example, Christianity’s teaching, taught from myriad pulpits over the years, that husbands and wives should be faithful to each other, should not drink too much, and should work hard and honestly for their masters or employers. A Christian might see these as imperatives because they are the will of God and the means by which human beings, made in his image, can flourish. Marx, however, would see such a belief as mystical nonsense. For him, these imperatives are the means by which the middle-class employers make sure that their workers are the kind of people who make up a stable, sober, obedient workforce. And he would interpret the grounding of these imperatives in religious arguments simply as a manipulative way of granting them an absolute moral authority that cannot be challenged.[8]

And thus, apart from the vast majority of people ever having read Marx, we can feel within ourselves — in our instinctual responses and tastes — how the wider culture will respond to someone with same-sex desires or “gender dysphoria” resisting temptation, embracing his or her God-given sex, and seeking to uphold a biblical sexual ethic. They will say the same about that person that they would about a Christian woman happily embracing a submissive posture to her husband’s authority. For those who belong to “The Church of the Sexual Revolution,”[9] these manifestations of Christian faithfulness represent expressions of false-consciousness. The oppressed have simply taken on the perspective of their oppressors, because the oppressors have successfully indoctrinated those whom they seek to manipulate for their own advantage.

Karl Marx has won the culture.

For the Marxists, racism, sexism, and homophobia are interlocking forms of oppression. To the extent that the distinctions between male and female, the Bible’s moral norms for how they are to relate to one another, and the Bible’s authority structures for men and women are viewed as sexism, I contend that Marxism represents exactly the “teachings of demons” that Paul warned of in 1 Timothy 4:1–2 and is advanced by “the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared.”

Biblical theology, however, will help us to see that the serpent who tempted Eve in the garden in Genesis 3 animates the false teachers who are to be crushed under the feet of the seed of the woman in the church in Rome (Rom. 16:17–20). Paul likewise identifies the serpent who deceived Eve with those who preach another Jesus, offer a different spirit, and hold forth a different gospel in Corinth (2 Cor. 11:3–4). The serpent remains active today with his distortions and lies, and he fundamentally wants to destroy the family. As Carl Trueman observes in The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, “The destruction of marriage, of the sexual codes that justify it, and of the institutions that enforce and police it is therefore central to the liberation of humanity and to the cause of justice.”[10]

Karl Marx has won the culture, but he cannot win the war.

Karl Marx Cannot Win the War

Marx cannot win the war because God made a promise about the seed of the woman. God then ensured the line of descent from which the seed would come. God ordained praise from the mouths of babes and infants. He chose the weak things of the world and the things that are not. He made Moses, who protested that he was “not a man of words” (Exod. 4:10), his prophet, and Moses wrote of the one to come. Moses also wrote of the way God made the world:

Male and female he created them (Gen. 1:27).

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28).

Israel had an all-male priesthood, and Israel was a patriarchal society. Note what Pluckrose and Lindsay say about this word “patriarchy,”

Feminist thought could no longer understand “patriarchy” as the literal “rule of the fathers” (and husbands), but instead as, in Foucauldian terms, vague notions of male dominance permeating every discourse.[11]

But husbands and fathers led in ancient Israel, and the New Testament indicates that husbands and fathers are likewise to lead in the church. Jesus named only male apostles. In their letters, both Peter and Paul instruct wives to submit to their own husbands. And across the New Testament, pastors/elders/overseers are to be men.

Here I want to cite a feminist distortion to guard against a potential error. In their discussion of Simone de Beauvior, Pluckrose and Lindsay note that “it was . . . understood that the construction of gender makes men the default sex and heterosexuality the default sexuality, with women and homosexuality constructed in a position of otherness to these.”[12]

The distortion is that women are not as valuable, not as central, not as important as men.

Shout it from the rooftops, again, that God made them male and female, and that had the woman had no seed there would be no salvation. The Marxified culture assumes that women only have value if they do what men do. Biblical theology would teach us the incalculable value of women managing the household, having children, and being the shapers of the everlasting splendors in their most formative stages of life. Everything Paul has to say about older and younger women in passages such as Titus 2:3–5 is more significant than our culture has begun to imagine.

While on the topic of feminist distortions, let us say a word about “Hegemonic masculinity,” which “refers to dominant forms of masculinity, which are understood to maintain men’s superiority over women and perpetuate aggressive and competitive expressions of maleness, which are socially enforced by hegemonic — dominant and powerful — discourses around what it means to be a ‘real man.’”[13]

Whatever feminists may think about what it means to be a real man, the Bible teaches that Christ embodies it. Whereas Adam stood idly by when the serpent tempted Eve, whereas Abraham and Isaac passed their wives off as their sisters, and whereas a long line of abusers and failures of manhood dot the pages of Scripture, Jesus of Nazareth stepped forward and said, “if you seek me, let these men go” (John 18:8).

True manhood does not use others for his own benefit. Jesus gave himself for the benefit of others. And that Christlike model of self-sacrifice is the kind of love to which Paul calls every husband (Eph. 5:25). Indeed, it is the kind of leadership to which Jesus has called all who would follow him.

The self-giving of the Lord Jesus is like the little stone cut out by no human hand in Daniel’s vision. Karl Marx has won the culture, and the kingdoms are represented in the materials of the statue. But that gospel rock strikes the feet of iron and clay, and all the kingdoms Karl Marx has won become “like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth” (Dan. 2:35).

God’s Christ has conquered, and he will return to consummate his inaugurated kingdom. While we wait, the nations are raging, trying to burst his bonds and cast away his cords. It is ours to understand and embrace the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors, to see the patterns in the narrative and then to align those with the patterns of our own experience: the seed of the woman could only come if women are saved through childbearing, and the human race will only continue if men and women embrace their created sexual identities, enter into marriage, and do together what God commanded in Genesis 1:28. The serpent hates the woman and her seed, and he hates Christ and his church.

He will roar with all his pseudo-righteous indignation against the way the seed of the woman supposedly oppress and harm by upholding the word of God against those who mutilate children and shepherd them down the path to destruction. He tries to claim the moral high ground, but he will never have it: “Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law strive against them” (Prov. 28:4). And,

“Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls (Heb. 10:37–38).

James M. Hamilton Jr., PhD, is Professor of Biblical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Senior Pastor of Kenwood Baptist Church in Louisville, KY. His most recent books include the two-volume commentary on Psalms in the EBTC from Lexham Press and a book on Typology from Zondervan.

[1] This essay was originally given as an address at the CBMW Annual Banquet at the Evangelical Theological Society, November 14, 2022.

[2] Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay, Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity―and Why This Harms Everybody (Durham, NC: Pitchstone, 2020), 137.

[3] Pluckrose and Lindsay, Cynical Theories, 99.

[4] Pluckrose and Lindsay, Cynical Theories, 210–11 (emphasis original).

[5] See James M. Hamilton Jr., What Is Biblical Theology? (Wheaton: Crossway, 2014).

[6] For more on typology, see James M. Hamilton Jr., Typology—Understanding the Bible’s Promise-Shaped Patterns: How Old Testament Expectations Are Fulfilled in Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2022).

[7] For discussion of this idea, see James M. Hamilton Jr., God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010).

[8] Carl R. Trueman, Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2022), 56–57.

[9] Carl R. Trueman, “The Church of the Sexual Revolution,” The Wall Street Journal, Friday, November 11, 2022, A17.

[10] Carl R. Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 153.

[11] Pluckrose and Lindsay, Cynical Theories, 143.

[12] Pluckrose and Lindsay, Cynical Theories, 144.

[13] Pluckrose and Lindsay, Cynical Theories, 154.

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