The relativist/humanist crowd has a problem. They hang on to the words of Freud: ” …libidinal complement to the egoism of the instinct of self-preservation…”. Or in simple english, our self is so important that desire for self-preservation is instinctively as strong as our libido. Out of which follows that we do everything in our own interest, i.e. we are inherently narcissistic.
That is all fine and dandy, but it is inherently self-refuting. We cannot “preserve” ourselves, ever. We can merely prolong our progress towards our eventual demise, i.e. survive. So no matter how much we want to, self-preservation is an illusion. Furthermore, our survival is utterly dependent upon others. We are totally dependent on parents, employers, doctors, police etc to prolong our lives. Therefore, the statement that everything we do is inherently focused on the self is naive at best. There are more than enough examples of others sacrificing their own life so that others may live. That demonstrates that the strength of the relationship is much more powerful than the inherent narcissism. Our relationships define us, and also defines how long we will be “preserved”. While the motive may be survival, the universe of relationships we have is the determinant, since we cannot do anything but depend on others.
If we take “self-preservation” to mean the preservation of the species, then we are still nowhere. Because you cannot preserve the species on your own. You are totally dependent on someone from the opposite gender.
The inherent narcissism view also depends on how we view the spiritual world. If there is no God, then it is easy to say that everything is about the self. The self becomes everything, and this is the atheist presupposition.
As Christians, we look at it differently. Christianity is about self-denial, and total surrender to Christ.
Jesus taught (ESV):
“Luk 10:25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
Luk 10:26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”
Luk 10:27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
Luk 10:28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
Luk 10:29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Luk 10:30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.
Luk 10:31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.
Luk 10:32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
Luk 10:33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.
Luk 10:34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.
Luk 10:35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’
Luk 10:36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”
Luk 10:37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” “
The key text is verse 27. Here we are told that we must love God with everything we have. And secondly, that while we have some self-love, born out of our created image, that love must extend to others, in the exact same fashion.
Books have been written and wars fought over who our neighbor is. Jesus here points out that we should not concern ourselves with the subject of our neighborly love, but with the deed. Show love to whoever is in need, and that recipient becomes our neighbor. This is a unique characteristic of Christianity. Physical, neighborly love is absent from other schools of thought, especially from our narcissistic friends. They may do good things, but then it is in spite of their worldview not because of it.
The counter argument that Christians love God for our own self-interest, to escape eternal damnation, is also groundless. I cannot name one Christian motivated by “escape”. All those that I know are motivated by the positive, the eternal fellowship of life in God’s presence, surrounded by love. Those that mention the negative simply do not understand that it is not about us as individuals, but about the community of God serving Him.
You cannot have it both ways. If you are inherently intent on self-preservation, it leads down extreme roads. Rather than accepting the logical conclusions of their worldview, vague appeals to emotionless and disinterested entities such as”society” come into play.
The Christian does not face that problem. Our love for others is a result of love received from God. Because He loves us, and we Him, we also love others. Like ourselves.