Jonathan Edwards on Egoism
It is not contrary to Christianity that a man should love himself, or, which is the same thing, should love his own happiness. If Christianity did indeed tend to destroy a man’s love to himself, and to his own happiness, it would therein tend to destroy the very spirit of humanity. . . That a man should love his own happiness, is as necessary to his nature as the faculty of the will is and it is impossible that such a love should be destroyed in any other way than by destroying his being. The saints love their own happiness. Yea, those that are perfect in happiness, the saints and angels in heaven, love their own happiness; otherwise that happiness which God hath given them would be no happiness to them.
-On Charity and It’s Fruits, by Jonathan Edwards
Yes, that came from Jonathan Edwards — the ‘puritanical’ man with a wig. You may be surprised to learn that he, and other puritans, had a lot more in common with joy-filled philosophers like Ayn Rand than both the modern Church and the modern school system would have you believe.
The quote he has provided above is an excellent description of true egoism — not the twisted cultural projections of blood-thirsty beasts, or of self-absorbed vanity queens, or of narcissistic idiots who can’t see past a mirror. Those are all fine distractions, employed to stoke your hate for the real thing. And the real thing — the real egoism — is simply this:
“that a man should love himself, or, which is the same thing, should love his own happiness”
So Christians, you think that Christianity is opposed to man ultimately ‘loving himself’ and ‘loving his own happiness’? Well, Jonathan Edwards (for one) disagrees with you. In fact, not only does he disagree with you, but he implicitly condemns you as a destroyer of mankind.
“If Christianity did indeed tend to destroy a man’s love to himself, and to his own happiness, it would therein tend to destroy the very spirit of humanity. . . That a man should love his own happiness, is as necessary to his nature as the faculty of the will is and it is impossible that such a love should be destroyed in any other way than by destroying his being.”
But isn’t that the great aim of modern Church culture — to destroy man’s love for himself? Isn’t that the supposed great and mighty sin against which Christians of all denominational stripes can unite — that men love themselves and seek their own happiness? Isn’t this warred against as the very essence of evil in almost all Christian ministries? Yes — and they are dead wrong.
“ to destroy man’s love to himself, and to his own happiness” is “to destroy the very spirit of humanity”. And to “destroy the very spirit of humanity” is to destroy the very image of the One in whom humanity is made. An assault against the essence of Man is an assault against the essence of God (Gen.9:6b). The attempt of altruism, to destroy Man’s love for himself and his own happiness, is the attempt to destroy his very being, because Man’s value for himself and love for his own happiness is inextricably tied to his very being. Ayn Rand parallels Edwards on this point very eloquently:
“The doctrine that concern with one’s own interests is evil means that man’s desire to live is evil — that man’s life, as such, is evil. No doctrine could be more evil than that.” — The Virtue of Selfishness
If the modern Church culture aims to destroy Man’s love for himself, his love for his own happiness, and his concern with his own interests, then modern Church culture aims to destroy the very life and essence of Mankind — which means that the modern Church culture is either wickedly confused or wickedly malevolent; but wicked, nonetheless.
It is likely that they are wickedly confused — confused because they see the Bible saying things like “if anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me” (Mt.16:24), and because of their militant anti-intellectualism and self-appointed bondage to defunct philosophies, they are entirely (and willfully) incapable of integrating that with other verses like “satisfy yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps.37:4). They are incapable of such integrations because, like Man’s life, they have dismissed as evil the very tool of such integrations: Man’s mind.
Make no mistake. The altruistic aims of the modern Church are evil to the core, and if the Church is to ever get off of its monumentally evil war-path against the essence of Man as created by God, it will need to take up the responsibility of thinking –thinking through the dilemmas of seemingly contradictory truths in order to discover a rational integration.
It is true that Man ought to love himself and his own happiness (Edwards, above ; Mt 12:31, Eph.5:29)
It is true that, in order to follow Christ, Man must deny himself and pick up his cross (Mt.16:24).
Both are true. Its your job , Christian, to figure it out.
“Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.” — Ayn Rand
Originally published at www.thechristianegoist.com on January 7, 2013.
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