by Jay Atkinson

Traditional communism is the common ownership of the means of production. The reference to communism in the book of Acts is having all things in common. "And all that believed were together and had all things common and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need." To explain the kind of communism that the early church practiced it is necessary to understand the sense of brotherhood that the members of the Jerusalem Church had toward each other. It was not, to be sure, an arbitrary communism and bears little relation to communists of today but the principle on which it was based was communistic. They held jobs, bought and sold and made a profit on their earnings, much like you would see in an ideal social democracy. This was the spirit of Pentecost; the beautiful outpouring of unselfishness that was soon to be lost. It was the result of a spiritual oneness that should be an example to us today.

It was not just altruism that was practiced in Jerusalem, the claims of the Christian family were recognized as of a higher order than the claims of the individual. This was for the relief of the necessities of the brethren, not just because they were in need and suffering, but because they were brethren. Of course many were in need but it was the power of the Holy Ghost in the hearts of the believers that prompted them to such selfless acts of charity - and it worked. "Neither was there any among them that lacked, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold. And laid them down at the apostles' feet and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need." The Essenes also practiced communism.

Saint Benedict's vision was a monastery with its fields and workshops that was self-contained and self-supporting. A monk was to think nothing as being his own property but all belonged to all. This ideal was a type of Christian communism like the apostles practiced. It was the early Christians in Jerusalem that Benedict cited for his precedent, all shared in the common stock. This same type of communalism still exists among the best Christian groups today. Upon arriving to America at Plymouth, the Pilgrims initiated communism and for seven years there was to have been no private ownership of land, and everyone was to have been fed and clothed from the common stock. It didn't last long.

What the Jerusalem church practiced was a voluntary and democratic social communism. The representation of communism in the modern world is something entirely different. American society and capitalism in general has oversimplified the terms of independence and class struggle as being part of the red menace and demonized the social gospel to the point of starving the greater part of the world. The Communists however see capitalistic society as a 19th century bourgeois relic which is doomed to perish. The truth is that laissez faire capitalism and totalitarian communism are both anti-Christian. In case you are wondering, I'm a social democrat. Communism represents an obsolete point of view that lags a century behind the present situation and capitalism has always violated the precepts of Jesus and apostolic mandate.

There is the communism that the church should not totally reject. A Christian who believes in the communion of saints and celebrates Holy Communion should not be against communism or communalism or community completely. Communism in an apostolic setting has some definite Christian potential but it will not include the atheistic tyranny of communist regimes of the past. The totalitarian type of communism that we have seen would not have been possible if the church had not rejected the social gospel in the beginning. The luke-warm church turned inward and became arrogant, above and beyond social service and accepted capitalism and free enterprise as the Christian god. They became rich, wanting for nothing and was blind to the avarice around them. If the love and brotherhood that was practiced in the book of Acts were a visible reality in the church of recent history, the right-wing puritan insanity that we see today would not have been possible, nor the third-world response in revolution to break the yoke of economic oppression.

To a Marxist, communism has solved the enigma of history. Communism is defined as a movement and consciousness of movement advancing towards the highest form of social organization. It settles the question of men and nature, existence and essence, freedom and necessity, individual and collectiveness. In theory and practice it solves all these questions and it is mindful that it solves them. With its criticism of oppression and expectations of a better world, Marxist communism started as a rational eschatology, in many ways akin to restoration prophetic ideals. With the appearance of Soviet communism, however, the rational and eschatological setting was discarded and only tyranny and atheism remained. Paul Tillich writes that "The Church did not hear the prophetic voice in communism and therefore did not recognize its demonic possibilities."

One for all and all for one is a good platitude but it hasn't worked yet. Each according to his ability and each according to his need is a slogan, not a reality. On the one hand, communism is open and kind to all; on the other hand, it is exclusive and intolerant, even of its own people. The authors of the Communist Manifesto associated progress with violence. Aristotle writes that "No one, when men have all things in common, will any longer set an example of liberality or do any liberal action; for liberality consists in the use a man makes of his own property." Emerson in his day wrote of communism. "A cruel kindness, serving the whole even to the ruin of the member; a terrible communist, reserving all profits to the community, without dividend to individuals. Its law is - you shall have everything as a member, nothing to yourself."

Although communism is practiced in the early church, it has been so maligned by totalitarian excess that it no longer reflects the apostolic mandates. Capitalism is however very easy to attack as being anti-christian and the main god of the luke-warm materialistic church. They think that they are serving Jesus but it is their own lusts that they are serving. It is a lie that they have accepted that has prompted God to send them a strong delusion.

A healthy economic democracy is the only thing that can defeat atheistic international communism and capitalistic greed. It reformed Europe in the 19th century but in America even the issue of a national health care plan for our people is considered too socialistic to be taken seriously. Just think of the many ignorant Christians that consider political activity in the Church as subversive activity. Look around you at a conservative faith that think that liberality and a planned economy is of the communist sort. Robert McAfee Brown takes this on as well: "Any one opposed to the state is automatically branded a communist."

Then what of the Christian communism that we find in the book of Acts? It is much more than communism, because it is the altruism of charity. It is done out of a pure heart, a dedication and obedience to the apostolic mandate and a sincere desire to serve God and be part of a sanctified body. It is the motivation of a supernatural principle to provide for the needs of others. It transcends self-interest, selfish family values and the desire to get rich. Unfortunately in a world ruled by the avarice of satan's people worshiping mammon, it just won't work. Only when we as a Christian society can build upon a foundation with Jesus as the chief cornerstone will the Kingdom come and social justice reign supreme.
[12, 23, 25, 50, 61, 74, 75, 94, 96, 106, 189, 211, 261, 267, 271, 281, 10, 324, 328, BD, Acts 2, 4]

The Lord has given Christians the grace to reconcile the children to their Fathers

As One Body

  • We prepare for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb
  • Harvest the Fruit of the Latter Rain
  • Follow Him as the Army of the Lord into His Glory

Help To Prepare A Holy Bride!

Issue Oriented Discussion Newsletter

Index | Search This Site | Aristide.Org | The Latter Rain | Babylon the Great | The Kingdom | The Nicolaitans | Jezebel
The Baptism With the Holy Ghost | The Grand Delusion | World Trade Org | Liberation Theology | Jay Atkinson | Alphabetical Index