Page 6, 3rd April 1970

3rd April 1970
Page 6
Page 6, 3rd April 1970 — CHRISTIAN MATERIALISM

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M GARAUDY is con . cerned to stress the openness of essential Marxr ism, and its ability to assimilate all authentic cultural and scientific developments; he acknowledges frankly the oppressive and obscurantist practices associated with it in many of its actual his torica I manifestations. "Ma terialism." to him, amounts simply to conscientious submission of one's hypotheses and theories to the actual facts.

The whole book is compassionate, tolerant and sensible, a monument to the antitriumphalist strivings of the most enlightened contemporary Marxists. We Catholics have no good reason to crow over the shabby way in which the French Communist establishment has recently treated M. Garaudy; we should

rather reflect how often authority in the Church has been abused in a similar way.

It must often strike any Christian reader of this book that "materialism" as conscientious submission to fact is by no means intrinsically inconsistent with acknowledgement of God's existence. In this sense Aquinas was a "materialist," since he thought that rigorous submission of one's reasoning to the facts of experience would in fact lead one to affirm the existence of God and to accept by faith that he had become incarnate in Jesus Christ.

But, of course, "materialism" is usually taken in a narrower sense, according to which it involves intrinsically denial of God's existence. Marxist theory, both at the most and at the least sophisticated levels, seems to me to be characterised by an oscillation between materialism in the broad and in the narrow sense, which has the effect of eliminating a priori the question of God's existence and of the truth of religion in general.

Mr. Bourdeaux presents us with a fearful vision of the working-out of the dogmatism of "materialism" in the narrow sense -when it is the very opposite of the tolerant and openminded submission to the truth described by M. Garaudy. In form, the book is a collection of documents relating to the life of Christians in Russia, all the more effective for the sparseness and lack of emphasis of the commentary.

A girl in the habit of worshipping at a certain church was ordered to be treated in such a way that she would no longer do so. She was physically abused, raped, and left half dead on the open road. She was found next day and taken to hospital by the local people: there she died shortly afterwards. On the instructions of the police, the doctors diagnosed that the girl had died from lung trouble Ip. 113).

have selected this incident at random from the book; it occurred as recently as 1964.

Gollwitzer's work is a model theological critique of Marxism, clear, hard-hitting, stringently argued and perfectly fair. The author points out that it is not enough to indicate the shallowness of Feuerbach's and Marx's criticisms of the Christian faith — easily as this can be done, as he abundantly demonstrates.

Christians ought also to learn from their criticisms to ask how far they themselves have used their religion as a mainstay of and pretext for class oppression and economic iniquity, in the manner rightly stigmatised by Marx.

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