Sunday, February 12, 2006
John Passmore quote:
from 'The Perfectibility of Man' (pp. 90-91)
"Augustine's theology is certainly theocentric, then, in so far as he firmly maintains that nothing but God ought to be loved for its own sake. There is no love 'left over', as it were, to be directed towards the world, or towards our neighbours, or towards ouselves. But this is not inconsistent, according to Augustine, with my loving myself because self-love, rightly understood, is not a distraction from loving God, but is equivalent to it. 'The love wherewith a man truly loves himself is none other than the love of God. For he who loves himself in any other way is rather to be said to hate himself.' For a man to love himself in this sense, to seek his own true good, is to cherish the image of God within, to love God. To raise the question, then, whether Augustine's theology is fundamentally egocentric or fundamentally theocentric is to ask a question which cannot be answered; for on his view a theocentric and an egocentric theology, properly understood, will coincide.
"Luther will have no truck with such concession to self-love. His theology is resolutely theocentric. Those who truly love God, he says, 'submit freely to the will of God whatever it may be; they seek absolutely nothing for themselves'. 'Love your neighbor as yourself' does not imply, as Augustine had also recognized, 'you ought to love yourself'; it rests only on the observable fact that every man does love himself; it is the equivalent of Jesus' other precept: 'All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.' Men ought not to love themselves. By hating themselves, they can both love God and love their neighbors (b/c love of self exists in opposition, not accordance, to them. - JZ). For the medievel doctrine, as expressed, for example, by Bernard of Clairvaux, that men can attain to perfection by beginning from self-love and gradually arising above it, Luther has nothing but contempt. According to Luther, then, the sign that a man loves God with his whole heart is that he hates himself (in Cranmer's words: "miserable offenders,...not worth so much as to gather the crumbs from under Thy table,...there is no health in us..." - JZ), and is prepared, even to damnation, wholly to submit himself to God's will - not that Luther believed that such a man would be damned(!!!2 Corinth 7:10)! Augustine, in contrast, saw as the perfected man one who love himself, in the 'higher' sense of self-love, but who loved nothing in the world for its own sake. They agree, however, on the crucial point; neither kind of perfection is possible to men."
Posted by John Zahl at 3:12 PM