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-by Gary J. Percesepe

Appropriating the Atheists (Part 2)

(Second of two parts; click here to read Part 1)

As to the benefits and limitations of this approach, I see the benefits as being a way of reawakening the prophetic voice of biblical religion. I think there is a great deal in both the Old Testament and the New Testament that is the serious critique of the religion of the covenant people of God. Reading the way in which people like Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud developed those kinds of critiques in modern settings helps me to see more clearly what's going on in many portions of the Bible. Also, it helps me to update it to see what those kinds of biblical critiques would look like if they had been made in the nineteenth or twentieth century instead of in biblical times.

The limitations of this approach I've expressed by saying that "man does not live by Ex-Lax alone." It's a cathartic; it's a purgative; it's a critical function. It presupposes that there is something positive that does not come from suspicion itself. So it's always a parasitic activity. There is, of course, the danger that one will become so happy about developing these kinds of critiques, especially of other individuals and other communities, that suspicion will become itself a vice. I think it can become a virtue if one learns to try to develop suspicion about oneself and one's own community and uses it as a way of trying to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in the work of sanctification.

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