Over the last two weeks I have been looking at the responses to the so-called School of Suspicion offered by three prominent Christian thinkers–C.S. Lewis’ response to Freudianism, Alvin Plantinga’s response to “the Freud & Marx Complaint,” and Merold Westphal’s reflections on the religious uses of suspicion. However, the question remains: Do any of these approaches provide Christians with an adequate response to the suspicion of Marx, Nietzsche and Freud?
In a word: no.
While Lewis, I think, conclusively shows Freud’s analysis to be absurdly reductionistic, Plantinga demonstrates the F&M complaint to be an example of petitio principii, and Westphal shows that critiques similar to those of the great immoralist were found on the lips of our Lord, it cannot be forgotten that we also live in the day of oily televangelists, grievous ecclesiastical scandal, and–to put not too fine a point on it–when sanctimony is all too often used as a thin cover for good old fashioned xenophobia. We live in a day and in a country in which the main dividing line between the church and the world is more often drawn along the lines of political partisanship, allowing self-proclaimed saints to boast of some sort of convenient, cozy moral superiority while either turning a blind eye to the deep inequities ravaging the rest of the world or, worse, blaming the victims. In such a context suspicion is not only to be expected, it is almost certainly warranted.
While the responses to the School of Suspicion offered by Lewis, Plantinga, and Westphal may serve well as supplements, arguments can never overcome suspicion in the absence of genuine love and integrity. The only adequate response is to first learn when not to refute atheists and then to “in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity of doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.” (Titus 2:7-8) Suspicion can be overcome, but not without penitence.