Masters of Suspicion
Peter J. Leithart
August 15, 2012
Category: Hermeneutics,Theology - Creation
Expounding on Jesus’ words about adultery in the heart (Matthew 5:27-28), John Paul II notes “a significant convergence” with as well as a “fundamental divergence” from postmodern “masters of suspicion” (Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology Of The Body , 310-12).
Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud all dig up the “hidden basis and the orientation” of human action. ”In Nietzschean hermeneutics, the judgment and accusation of the human heart correspond in some way to what biblical language calls the ‘pride of life’; in Marxist hermeneutics to what it calls the ‘concupiscence of the eyes’; in Freudian hermeneutics, by contrast, to what it calls the ‘concupiscence of the flesh.’” Jesus too is a master of suspicion, identifying the hidden lust of the heart.
The fundamental divergence comes from the Bible’s insistence that “the threefold concupiscence does not constitute the fundamental and certainly not the only and absolute criterion of anthropology and ethics, although it is without doubt an important coefficient for understanding man, his actions, and their moral value.” For Freud, John Paul explains in a footnote, the “‘core’ or ‘heart’ of man would be dominated by the union between erotic and destructive instinct, and life would consist in appeasing them.”
To put it differently, Jesus “suspicion” of the human heart takes the form of an “appeal,” a call to repentance, and that means that rescue from lust is possible. Because redemption is real, “we cannot stop at the mere accusation of the human heart on the basis of the desire and concupiscence of the flesh. Man cannot stop at casting the heart into a state of continual and irreversible suspicion due to the manifestations of the concupiscence of the flesh and of the libido uncovered, among other things, by a psychoanalyst through analysis of the unconscious. Redemption is a truth, a reality, in the name of which man must feel himself called, and ‘called with effectiveness.’”
In contrast to the masters of suspicion, Christ calls human beings to “rediscover, or even better, to realize, the spousal meaning of the body and to express in this way the interior freedom of the gift.” Christ’s outer call reverberate in the heart, and create an interior “echo . . . of that ‘beginning’ to which Christ appealed on another occasion to remind his listeners who man is, who woman is, and who they are reciprocally: one for the other in the work of creation.”
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