Marx’s Call for a World-Changing Philosophy: Herbert Marcuse, Liberation and Jesus Christ

Marcuse emphasizes that liberation is grounded in the truth.
He sees, in Marx’s thought, an “absolutism of truth (which) … once for all separates dialectical theory from the subsequent forms of positivism and relativism” (Reason and Revolution (RR), p. 322, emphasis mine).
Marcuse describes this absolutism of truth thus: “According to Marx, the correct theory is the consciousness of a practice that aims at changing the world. Marx’s concept of truth, however, is far from relativism. There is only one truth and one practice capable of realizing it. Theory accompanies the practice at every moment, analysing the changing situation and formulating its concepts accordingly. The concrete conditions for realizing the truth may vary, but the truth remains the same and the theory remains its ultimate guardian. Theory will preserve the truth even if revolutionary practice deviates from its proper path. Practice follows the truth not vice versa” (RR, pp. 321-322, emphasis mine).
Marx’s call for a world-changing philosophy is, in Marcuse’s opinion, directly related to the liberation of the individual since, for Marx, the transition from capitalism to socialism is necessary “in the sense that the full development of the individual is necessary” (RR, p. 317).
It is this goal of individual freedom which must be maintained where revolutionary practice has resulted in the replacement of one repressive system with another.
The New Testament conception of truth is quite different from that of Marcuse.
The New Testament proclaims that Jesus Christ is the Truth (John 14:6) and that freedom comes through truth – “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
When truth is defined christologically, Jesus Christ is recognized as the Liberator. The practice of liberation is, then, rooted in the confession of faith in Him as the Liberator.
When liberation theology is properly rooted in such faith in the Liberator, it does not become social activism which is independent of personal faith.
Discussing the connection between Christology and “political theology”, Berkouwer writes, “Helmut Thielicke … criticizes ‘political theology’ on the grounds of its christology, not on the grounds of its concern for the affairs of this world. In this christology, Thielicke thinks, Jesus is viewed as a model of human activity in such a way that the issue of his divinity evaporates. He sees this as a natural upshot of a christology that has concern only with man and his world. Jesus becomes a substitute for an absent God. Naturally, in the mind of ‘political theologians’ Thielicke’s fears are misplaced. For, they say, what they want is not to replace the gospel, but to trace its bearing on worldly affairs” (A Half Century of Theology, pp. 208-209, emphasis original).
According to Berkouwer, “the problem for Christian theology lies in the manner in which the work of man is integrated into the work of God” (p. 209, emphasis original).
Man’s liberating activity must be rooted in rather than arbitrarily separated from the liberating activity of God in Christ.
The New Testament proclamation concerning the work of Jesus Christ the Liberator emphasizes the uniqueness of His redemption through which man, by faith, receives God’s gracious gift of justification (Romans 3:24-25).
In view of this teaching concerning the uniqueness of the work of Jesus Christ the Liberator, salvation is described thus: “this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
The call to Christian obedience is issued on the basis of divine mercy (Romans 12:1; Ephesians 2:10).
A Christian theology of liberation may be regarded as an attempt to understand the Gospel and follow its practical implications in the contemporary world without implying an unbelieving replacement of the Gospel of divine redemption with an ethic of social action.

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