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Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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January 17, 2023 12:01 am


Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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January 17, 2023 12:01 am

Few philosophies in the history of civilization have promised more and produced less than Marxism. Today, R.C. Sproul considers the disastrous effects of Karl Marx's attempts to overthrow the religious and economic foundations of the Western world.

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Renewing Your Mind
R.C. Sproul
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Coming up next on Renewing Your Mind, the philosophy of Karl Marx. Marx understood how the means of production drive economic growth and prosperity. But the problem he saw in all of this alienation was it is the ownership class who owns the tools.

And because they own the tools, they have the power to hire workers at the wage they choose. That seems fair to most people, but Marx didn't think so. He claimed there was something wrong with how we measure the value of our work. But his solution to fix the struggles of the working class went far beyond economics, and the results have been disastrous.

Here's R.C. Sproul as he examines the consequences of ideas. When we studied the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, I said that the revolution in ideas that was precipitated by Kant's work had greater impact on American civilization than our actual government revolution of 1776. But if there's any philosopher whose thinking had a greater impact on the whole of Western civilization and in a short period of time, it would be that of Karl Marx. I mentioned that when I was in high school, there were two billion people on the face of this earth, and by 1965, the number of people who were under the regimes of communist government and who lived behind the Iron Curtain were two billion people. That is, the same number of people who populated the entire globe in 1957, just a few years later, as the world progressed in its population, it reached that same number of those who were under the tyranny of Marxist governments. And so, if we think that ideas have consequences, then we certainly see that manifest in the philosophical work of Karl Marx.

But we also understand from the beginning of our study that not only are there consequences to ideas and that ideas shape events, but also events have the same reciprocal tendency to spawn new ideas. And if you look at the biography of Karl Marx, you will see something dramatic that took place in his childhood that had a tremendous impact on his thinking and consequently on the whole world. When he was a boy, he was born into a Jewish family in Germany, and his father was a prosperous merchant, and the family had to move to another city.

And when they moved to the new city, the city was dominated by members of the Lutheran Church. And for business purposes, Karl Marx's father joined the Lutheran Church because he thought that it would help in his business, and this had a tremendous impact on this young boy. He was completely disillusioned by this and saw in that experience that what was driving his own family and his own personal environments was not religion or faith or ideas, but economics.

And he never forgot that. And as he went to England later on and studied in the British Museum, and sat there and contemplated the history of the world, he had been a student of Frederick Hegel, and he agreed with Hegel's idea that history moved in a dialectic process, but he disagreed with his mentor who developed idealistic materialism, and Marx produced his theory of dialectical materialism. That is, he said that history is driven by the conflict not of spiritual ideas or logical concepts, but rather through the very real concrete impulses of material concerns, particularly with respect to the clash of economic systems. And he said the way in which this manifests itself outwardly in the shaping of society and of world culture is in what he called the class struggle.

And looking back over the course of history, he saw that people had gone through various stages of transition from the feudal system of the Middle Ages to the agrarian economy that followed it, and then later on into the Industrial Revolution, which provoked a crisis, according to Marx, that reached deep into the human spirit. You know that the traditional way in which we've defined the uniqueness of man is to describe man as homo sapiens, which means man the wise. That is, our uniqueness has been rooted and grounded in our intellectual capacity and our ability to reflect upon our own existence and that sort of thing. Well, Marx rejected that view of man and said that the proper definition for the uniqueness of the human race should be found in this expression, homo faber.

You understand that in the Germanic world, a factory is called a fabric, and the fabric is the place where things are manufactured or are made. And so that's the basic word behind this, and homo faber means literally man the maker or man the worker. And what Marx was saying at this point is that what defines our human existence, where we eat and drink and sleep, is centrally related to our work. Whenever you meet somebody for the first time, you ask them three questions.

You ask them their name, where they live, and then you ask them, what do you do? And that expresses the concern that we have to identify our own existence in terms of our vocation or in terms of our labor. Now, Marx as he analyzed the movement of history said that our deepest existence is rooted in our work and that what happened with the Industrial Revolution and the conquest of capitalism as an economic system, particularly in the Western world, produced in the human spirit a profound alienation, and it's the alienation of the individual from the fruit of his labor. And he saw this as a crisis that would bring about radical changes in the future structures of society. Unlike the philosophers of history that had preceded him, such as Hegel, who looked for history to flow out of this dialectical process through a built-in evolutionary system by which history just happens to move by invisible laws in a given direction, Marx came to the conclusion that if we can see where society ought to be and is not there, that is, if we can envision a better world order than we presently enjoy, we should not wait for the impersonal forces of evolutionary history to bring that about, but we need to take action to change the given structures of the day.

And so he advocated the use of violence to bring about the improvement of man's economic condition. You've seen the slogan, Arbeit macht frei, labor makes free, and workers of the world unite, all having its roots in the impetus of Marxist philosophy where he encouraged the proletariat, the working class, to rise up in revolution against the ownership class to bring about a new world order through violent revolution, which revolutions occurred with great rapidity in the earlier part of the 20th century that brought about dramatic changes to the society of this world. Part of this alienation from his labor that Marx spoke of was this. In a rural economy, in an agrarian economy, the farmer is more or less self-sufficient, much more self-sufficient than in an industrialized society.

And he owns his own tools, but most significantly, he enjoys the fruit of his own labor. When the transition came from that kind of an environment to an industrialized environment, then people began to work for wages where they did not participate in the ownership of the company or the factory in which they work and did not own the fruit of their labor. And so Marx saw this modern system as a reinvention of slavery, not the kind of slavery that the feudal serf lived under under the military leadership of the barons of that day, but now it was the slavery imposed by the factory owners, the owner of the company store, for example, who gave a pittance by way of salary to the worker and to the laborer, but the great bulk of the profit from this industry went to the owner. And as a result, people were cut off from the fruit of their labor. And also at this point, Marx raised a serious challenge against the capitalistic view of value, that according to capitalism, the laws of economics that rule are the basic laws of supply and demand. And what drives the value of goods and services up, obviously, is scarcity more than anything else. And so one of the reasons why the managerial class earned so much more money than the working class is because the knowledge that they bring to the job is scarce, and it has a greater value per person in the success of the capitalistic enterprise, that is, people who have entrepreneurial skills and gifts and who are knowledgeable technicians and so on get higher wages than unskilled laborers because there's a competitive marketplace, and their scarcity of knowledge and gifts and talents drives up their value as wage earners in the marketplace, just as the scarcity of goods drives up the price of goods in the marketplace. And over against that way of doing things, Marx created or emphasized what he called the labor theory of value, that the way in which wages should be paid is on the value of the labor that is brought rather than on the scarcity of it, that it's the hard toil of the man in the blast furnace that really makes it possible to produce steel, and his great energy cost and sweat and toil should be the subject of a much greater reward because the value of work is intrinsically related to the effort that is produced.

Now also, in this understanding of things, Marx saw that the key advantage that the owners had over the workers was that the owners owned and controlled the means of production. Now we say that whoever owns the tools owns the game. When I was a kid and we played baseball, we didn't have organized baseball games, we didn't have official umpires, and so we had to referee, as it were, ourselves, among ourselves.

And if there happened to be a disputed call at first base, I say, I'm safe, and the other guy says, out, and one team all agrees that he's out, and the other team all says, safe, who decides? Well, it would usually come down to this, it's my bat, it's my ball, I'm safe, because without me there is no baseball game because I own the means of production. I own the tools.

And he understood that the invention of tools is what propelled the world into the industrial age, because what tools do is save labor, they are labor-saving devices, and the tools have the unique ability to bring about exponential increases in production. You take your front lawn and you want to keep your front lawn manicured. There are different ways that you can do it. You could go out there with a pair of scissors and cut each blade of grass individually to keep your lawn manicured. It would be very inexpensive in terms of the tool that you use, but at the same time it would be labor-intensive and time-consuming. Now, you can improve your productivity in cutting your grass by getting a more sophisticated tool. You could perhaps buy a push lawnmower and do the job in much less time with much less effort than you would with a pair of scissors. But however, to do that costs more money because the lawnmower costs more than the pair of scissors. And then you can go beyond that to a power mower and reduce your time even further and your effort even further, but your expense goes up for that particular tool.

And you can go to the next level of a riding lawnmower, which makes it all the quicker and easier on you, but more expensive. And so the point is that as tools become more sophisticated, they have the capacity to increase production radically. You take the American farmer and compare him to a third-world farmer, and the two farmers may be of the same physical strength and the same native intelligence, but one produces a hundred times more wheat than the other one. And the basic reason is that the American farmer has the sophisticated tools and equipment to increase his production where the man in the third world is using a mule and a wooden plow perhaps. And so Marx understood how the means of production drive economic growth and prosperity. But the problem he saw in all of this alienation was it is the ownership class who owns the tools. And because they own the tools, they have the power to exploit the workers they hire at their wages, but all of the profit goes to the owner, and this produces enmity, alienation, and the class struggle. You can see this right now in professional sports where the players are saying, I want high salary because without me nobody comes to the stadium. And the owner says, wait a minute, I'm the one that invested in this venture in the first place. I'm the one who took the risk. It's my capital that made this possible.

And not only that, but the value of this sport has been contributed to by all those who came before you to build up this franchise. Why do you think that this group should suddenly reap the profits when they haven't put the expenses in? On the other side are saying, but wait a minute, because of our skill and our labor, you're reaping hundreds of millions of dollars and I want a piece of it. And so you have conflict, you have lockouts, you have strikes, you have all of that going on because you're because you're having a struggle over economics and a kind of class warfare. And so what Marx called for was the ownership of the means of production by the state, to get rid of private ownership of the means of production because he believed by the states owning the tools and owning the means of production, then there would be a great leveling of benefits to all of the people and that everybody would profit equally from the welfare of the state, from each according to his ability, to each according to his need. But for that to happen takes revolution because the structures that are in place in capitalistic societies, according to Marx, are established really on the basis of economic vested interest and a whole superstructure of that society is built on these economic forces and they are designed in order to safeguard and perpetuate the vested interests of the ruling class. The two institutions that Marx criticized most radically were law and religion. He said that the capitalist societies say that they build their legal structure on the basis of some transcendent concept of justice where lady justice has a blindfold and natural law dominates.

And he said, no, that's not how it really happens. What really happens is that the legal structure of a given society will always reflect the vested interests of the ruling class. That is, the laws will favor the rich and disenfranchise the poor.

They will favor the owner and be harmful to the worker. And so the idea of a just society based on natural law is a mythological concept that is perpetrated by the fraud of the ruling classes. And this is seen all the more forcibly in the presence of religion. You've heard the phrase that wasn't originated with Marx but was used by Marx and his followers, that religion is the opiate of the masses. That is, that religion is used by the ruling class to put the working class, which is always in the majority, asleep to cause them to be dulled and numbed to their pain.

We might use the American cotton plantation during the earlier period of our history that used slave labor. And the slaves were encouraged to enjoy their religion and to sing their songs, which featured a future reward based upon present obedience. It's, swing low, sweet chariot, coming forth to carry me home. I looked over Jordan and what did I see?

A band of angels coming after me. The idea was keep your eyes on heaven because you're not going to get anything here, but if you behave yourself and be a good slave, then when you die, you'll go to heaven and God will reward you there. And so Marx said that religion is invented by the ruling class to maintain control over the masses and is used as a tool to exploit them. That's why he wanted to get rid of not only the false juridical structures of capitalistic society, but also of the religions, the organized religion that was used as a tool by the owners to keep the workers in line.

Now his own philosophical structure had its religious elements. It had its saints and its heroes that were virtually adored and worshiped, and he gave them all a future promise, a utopian eschatology where for Marx, heaven would be heaven on earth that would be that would be realized by a classless society in which the free development of each individual person would translate into the free development of all. As I said, there's probably been no philosophical system that has had such a rapid and radical impact on people's lives in the history of the West and the East than Marxism. And yet at the same time, there's probably never been a philosophy that promised more and produced less than this one, no philosophy that's plunged more people into such abject misery as this one had, because Marx's theories violated the basic laws of growth in prosperity and wealth for people, and it has proven to be an unqualified disaster. And probably the last bastion of Marxism left in this world today, some commentators have said, is the American university system.

That's R.C. Sproul with a message from his series on the history of philosophy. It's a series we call The Consequences of Ideas. Thank you for joining us for the Tuesday edition of Renewing Your Mind. As we examined the ideas of Karl Marx today, I think it became obvious why Dr. Sproul saw the importance of studying these philosophers.

Marx lived many years ago, but as R.C. pointed out, his ideas influence how our world thinks today. We need to be equipped to counter these views winsomely and biblically. And that's why I commend this series to you.

There are 35 messages. It provides you with an overview of philosophy highlighting some of the most influential thinkers, from Socrates in Plato to Hume, Marx, and Nietzsche. We'll send you this 9-DVD set with your donation of Itty About Deligitor Ministries. After you've completed your request, we'll also add a digital copy of the study guide to your online learning library, along with an MP3 disc containing the audio files.

Give your gift online at, or if you prefer, you can call us at 800-435-4343. Studying these ideas requires us to think and to think deeply. But as believers, we are called to do exactly that. We at Ligonier are here to help you as you continue your study, and we are thankful for your financial support that allows us to do just that. We'll continue this series tomorrow, and Dr. Sproul will concentrate on a 19th century Danish philosopher named Søren Kierkegaard. He didn't mince words when he addressed the lack of passion that marked the church of his day. We'll learn more about him tomorrow on Redoing Your Mind. I hope you'll join us. you
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-17 04:02:13 / 2023-01-17 04:10:08 / 8

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