When Karl Marx at 17 was facing graduation finals he wrote, as one of the required essays, a brief study of “the union of the faithful with Christ according to John 15:1–14, demonstrated in its origin and nature, its absolute necessity and its effect.” The essay will be carried in a forthcoming issue of Decision, publication of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. It is remarkable because of Marx’s subsequent place in history as a molder of dialectical materialism more than for its theological acuteness, although the manuscript was approved by his teacher as “a thoughtful, copious and powerful presentation of the theme” (Edward H. Carr, Karl Marx: A Study in Fanaticism, London, Dent & Sons, 1934, p. 5).
In the recent book Marx Meets Christ (Westminster Press, 1957), Frank W. Price reminds us that Marx’s parents “came from long lines of Jewish rabbis.… When Marx was only six years old, his father … with all his seven children, was baptized into the German Lutheran Evangelical Church. This ‘crossing the line’ was a move for political emancipation and social convenience, and was not the result of any new religious experience” (p. 18). Marx’s father, Hirschel, changed his name to Heinrich upon baptism. Boris Nicolaievsky and Otto Maenchen-Helfen tell us that Heinrich Marx, a lawyer, was a “Protestant a la Lessing” who knew Voltaire and Rousseau inside out, a Kantian, confessing “a pure belief in God, like Newton, Locke, and Leibnitz.” The study “Who Are They?: Karl Marx” prepared at the request of the U.S. House Committee on Un-American Activities notes that “Religion played no part in the Marx family.… For purely economic and social reasons Hirschel converted his entire family to Christianity. Religious indifference predominated ...1
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