Dialectical Materialism & Theology

In modern theology I feel the use of dialectical materialism is now a necessity. To understand dialectical materialism we must first understand dialectics, which most attribute to Hegel, but in actuality it originated in Ancient Greece, and made popular by Plato in the Socratic dialogues. The dialectical method is discourse between two or more people holding different points of view about a subject, who wish to establish the truth of the matter guided by reasoned arguments.

When discussing dialectics today we’re most assuredly speaking of either Hegel or Marx. A brief background is that Marx studied under Hegel and at some point the two split. From my reading of Marx after the split you can tell that he has an immense amount of respect for his former teacher. With that said, Marx began to speak out against Hegel’s triadic dialectic form —[“The mystification which dialectic suffers in Hegel’s hands, by no means prevents him from being the first to present its general form of working in a comprehensive and conscious manner. With him it is standing on its head. It must be turned right side up again, if you would discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell.”]

Marx created what is known today as dialectical materialism. It differs from Hegel in that Hegel’s dialectics took place in the mind, or the non-material, whereas Marx’s takes place in the material world. Another quote—[“My dialectic method is not only different from the Hegelian, but is its direct opposite. To Hegel, the life-process of the human brain, i.e. the process of thinking, which, under the name of ‘the Idea’, he even transforms into an independent subject, is the demiurgos of the real world, and the real world is only the external, phenomenal form of ‘the Idea’. With me, on the contrary, the ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by the human mind, and translated into forms of thought.”]

So the question is, how can dialectical materialism benefit theology? Simply put, it creates change. As we move forward into an ever increasing secular world, theology cannot with any good conscious stay in the past. As our realities become more liquid, theology has become a mere relic of yesteryear. I mean, for fucks sake we are still discussing the issue of homosexuality! Women are still looked at as second class citizens, and the church is as segregated today as it’s ever been.

Theology must begin to implement dialectical materialism so as to herald in change. Theology can no longer be a static discussion based on rights, rituals, and dogmas of the past if it is to stay relevant in our modern world. The secular world is already using a form of dialectical materialism. Even if they’re not aware, it is interwoven in ideas and contradictions to those ideas. The problem the theological/religious realm faces is it’s fervent need for a ‘big Other’. This creates a problem as “some thing” is handing down rules that we put ultimate value on. This idolatry will always stifle change and progress. This is where the transcendent primordial father becomes a major issue. Now this issue not only faces fundamentalism, but in a real way it effects liberalism as well.

In closing here are two examples of dialectics. The first being a Hegelian and the second being dialectical materialism—

1: Thesis: potential + freedom
Antithesis: actual + bondage
Synthesis: actual + freedom

2: Primitive communism (common ownership of property), or Gens (hunter-gatherer-fisher societies)
Slavery (Greece and Rome primarily)
Final communism (a return to common ownership), which will arrive in the future


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