A Christian Response to the Masters of Suspicion
It may seem easy for us as Christians to simply dismiss these three Masters of Suspicion: Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx. However, the more I think about them the more I see them as good company to keep. It’s easy for us to read the things we agree with. If a preacher tells us that we shall reign with Jesus, that sounds good. If a Bible teacher tells us that Jesus will supply all our needs, we tune in. If a popular exponent of the Christian economic advice tells us that hard work is a virtue and we deserve to prosper if we work hard, while other less fortunate people are simply lazy, that sounds good to us.
The Bible, unlike our popular teachers, is rather harsh with us. It doesn’t see much good in human nature, in the flesh. The Apostle John warns us: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. For all that is in the world: the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the boastful pride of life are not from the Father, but from the world. And, the world is passing away and all of its lusts but the one who does the will of God will abide forever.” I Jn 2:15. The “world” John speaks of is this world which will one day be burnt up. He is speaking about a system of the world that is opposed to God, because it has made idols of many things: money, sex and power.
How does this verse help us see the usefulness of the three Masters of Suspicion? Nietzsche says that we are driven by will to power, what John calls “the boastful pride of life.” (“I am in charge!”; “I will rule”) Freud says that we are driven by unconscious urges. John calls these the lust of the flesh. (Sexual temptation) Marx says that we are driven by desire for wealth. John calls this the lust of the eyes. (Desire for things or for “financial security”).
It is easy to deceive ourselves. We believe almost always that we are motivated by the best and honest motives. However, if we were as acid with ourselves as the Bible is, and actually as the Masters of Suspicion are, we might realize that we are not as honest with ourselves as we’d like to think.
The goal of this sort of self analysis or introspection should lead us to changing our behavior to a more biblical approach. We should regard others more than ourselves and serve others as Christ served others, selflessly, humbly. We should be examine ourselves regarding our unconscious urges. We need to turn the spotlight of the Holy Scripture and the Holy Spirit on the dark places in our hearts. We must seek to honor our commitments in marriage and in sexual purity. We should consider our wealth as something God gives us to advance his kingdom, rather than “feather our nest” or to buy one more thing because “you deserve it.” Jesus’ life was others’ centered, not self-centered. We should use our wealth to help the poor and needy. Maybe the Masters of Suspicion seem like unlikely company for Christians to keep, but sometimes our “enemies” know us better than we know ourselves.
Postscript for my philosopher friends (and enemies)
I realize that I have not done justice to Nietzsche’s attack on “ontotheology”. It wasn’t my intent. I also haven’t answered Freud’s general insights or even shown that they are true or useful beyond my purposes. Again, that wasn’t my intent. I also haven’t done any critique of Marx per se. It wasn’t my intent either. My intent was to deal with the ways in which considering their thought might help us to critique ourselves.