Saturday, December 22, 2007

Cromwell and Marxism

I know, the title is misleading, given Marxism's inherent atheism. Being said, Marxist historians are more faithful interpreters of Oliver Cromwell and political Puritanism than modern day Reformed historians.

Interspersed are comments from Lester de Koster's outstanding study on the social elements of Calvin's preaching, of which Cromwell was the best applier.

"Cromwell saw the Christian life as a City-fying this-worldly fruit of God's word preached. He saw a Christianity active in the streets, normative in the halls of decision, citizens compelled, propelled, impelled by the Spirit and inspired language" (21).

More light must be shed on de Koster's thesis. De Koster maintains that the preaching of the Word liberates people. Rather than waiting for "heaven" these liberated people invade the "intererim." The intererim is the space between earth and eternity or more precisely, it is the earthly perspective of eternity. They are, in other words, to build The City. The city is the focal point between the Churchc adn the Kingdom of God. Or, better put, it is the fruit of the Church's harvest. The Church harvests the Kingdom of God and the result is the City. It is the throne of Christ's Kingdom on earth. The City is the focus of the most influential world power in the history of Civilization: Christendom.

German historian Oswald Spengler says in Decline of the West, "While the Lutheran movement advanced leaderless in central Europe, Calvin viewed his rule in Geneva as the starting-point of a systematic subjugation of the world under a Protestantism unfalteringly thought to its logical conclusion. Therefore, he, and he alone became a world power."

So back to Marxism. Why are Marxists so interested in Calvinistic Christianity, of which capitalism is an obvious corollary? First of all, Marxism, like political Puritanism, was a unified worldview. It made no divorce between faith and works, religion and politics. Even though perverted, it understood that law was inescapably religious.

Moreover, Cromwell's Commonwealth was the closest thing to an "ideal moral order" ever realized on earth.

4 comments:

TexasBob said...

Cromwell is probably better compared to Lenin. Cromwell was about as true to Calvin as Lenin was to Marx. The chief similarity between Cromwell and Lenin lies in their willingness to murder innocents in pursuit of their better society.

Moreover, I doubt that Marxist scholars are interested in mainstream Reformed theology. But I'm sure they see a common Hegelian root that they share with the Dutch neo-Calvinists and their progeny (theonomists, Federal Visionists, etc.). After all, theonomic political theory is none too different from Alasdair MacIntyre's, who would probably still identify himself as something of a Marxist.

JA said...

theonomic political theory is openly free-market. It is hard to compare it to Marxism.

texasbob said...

Of course, that raises another question altogether: Is it possible to have genuine economic freedom when most other politically oriented "spheres" of public life are guided by a theocratic state?

Besides, even most conservative economists have abandoned the naive articulations of market economics as espoused by the Rushdoony-North-Leithart crowd. This is largely due to Douglass North's (no relation to Gary) extensive work in institutional economics.

Douglass North demonstrates the relationship between political/legal institutions and economic development. The conclusions of institutional economists are much more consistent with mainstream Reformed (i.e., two-age) political theory. I have nowhere seen any serious attempts by the theonomy crowd to engage Douglass North's work. Perhaps they can turn to that once the dust settles on the justification controversy.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Im from melbourne Australia.

I believe that one of the things that Cromwell did was to ban the court jester----no humour allowed.

Calvinists of all stripes should always have a court jester nearby to remind them to laugh at themselves and their stern pomposities.

I think the jester was re-introduced in the UK in the last year or so.