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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Book Review - The Danger Of Self Love

A couple of weeks ago I finished a book by Paul Brownback entitled The Danger Of Self Love. I purchased this book several years ago in a used bookstore. I was already settled in my view on this topic and the title of the book seemed as though it would be in keeping with conclusions that I had already drawn. In fact the subtitle caught my attention, Re-examining A Popular Myth.

Paul Brownback received a B.S. from the United States Military Academy, a M. Div. from Talbot Seminary; Ph.D. from New York University. When the book was written (1982) he was president of Citadel Bible College, Ozark, Arkansas.

I was convinced by my personal study of the Scripture and reading the opposing view in a few places, (Bobgan and Adams) that the whole concept of self-love, self-esteem was nothing more than self-promotion. Any honest inquirer would have to see that the emphasis is on self. This is completely contrary to the teachings of Scripture.

When I looked through the Table of Contents I realized this would be a helpful book in providing some insight into the origins of the self-love teaching. It was indeed insightful.

I was already aware that the concept of self-love originated in the realm of secular, humanistic, evolutionary, psychological philosophy. It was not until the 1970's that the christian world began to jump on the "bandwagon". They took the psychology of the world and dressed it in Scripture that was ill-fitted to the cause and hoodwinked a whole generation of Christians who did not know their bible. You can go into any "christian" bookstore and find a huge section of books dealing with the concept of self-love. All the ills of the nations are blamed on the fact that people do not love themselves as they ought, and this by people who profess to be Bible believers. It seems to never cross people's minds that the ills of the nation could be because people love themselves too much. This is in fact the position that I would take. When I saw the book it was simply refreshing to see someone willing to take on what has become the accepted view of self-love.

James Dobson has been a major promoter of this philosophy and in doing so has done grave damage to the people he assumes to help. The worst thing about "Christians" who embrace this humanistic philosophy is that they inevitably end up talking out of both sides of their mouths. Why? Because the concept of self-love is inconsistent with the teachings of the Bible.

This whole concept has made us into a nation of emotional weaklings. The worse thing you can do to someone is assault their sense of self-esteem. It has caused us to abandon an achievement based society. Now, no matter how lazy, irresponsible, or undisciplined people are they are encouraged to love themselves. In fact we are told they are that way because they do not love themselves as they ought. I say they are that way because they love themselves more than God and others.

The book comes in at 157 easy to read pages. There are 16 chapters that are subdivided under different heading. I always like this about a book because it provides numerous good stopping points along the way. For anyone that is interested in a different perspective than what we are constantly fed in our "christian" book stores I would highly recommend this book.

Mr. Brownback does and excellent job of tracing the growth of the concept of self-love. He concisely and thoughtfully gives us the roots of this philosophy. He deals with the philosophical origins of self-love in a way that is easy to understand. He gives us the Scriptural view of self-love and reveals the absurdity of those who choose to stake out the Scripture for support for this humanistic approach to life. It is easily done and all honest minds will accept his conclusions but those who enjoy having their egos stroked by the concept of needing to love themselves will discount his faithful exposition of the Scripture.

While I have no intentions of rehashing all the arguments and points of the book he does point out one verse of Scripture that has always seemed to be a major oversight in those who want to use the Bible to support the idea of self-love.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 - This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

What the Bible condemns we are constantly encouraged to do and reminded that it is because that we fail at this point that the culture is descending into chaos. The reality is that it is because men love themselves that the culture is descending into chaos. Self-love is one of the characteristics of the last days and its presence ensures perilous times. Thank you evangelicals for encouraging that which the Bible condemns!

The following are some quotes that might whet your appetite:

"it is obvious that the psychological teaching on self-love has replaced what used to be theological territory."

"The greatest book ever written on personality, however, is the Bible."

"The fact is, though, that the Bible contains no explicit, positive teachings about self-love as it is described by contemporary theorists."

"But doesn't the Bible teach that I should love my neighbor as myself? So if I am going to love my neighbor, I must love myself first. It is interesting to note that the first contemporary self-love advocate to use this passage as biblical support for self-love was not an evangelical but Erich Fromm, a psychologist and thoroughgoing, self-declared humanist."

"All people are assumed to love themselves in some sense. The obvious message is, 'Since you love yourself, do likewise to your neighbor or wife.'"

"No one has to command me to meet my own needs; that response is built in. But when it comes to meeting my neighbor's needs, I have not been wired by nature to be automatically sensitive to his concerns. So Christ's command calls me to that kind of awareness."

"Theology is theocentric . . . psychology is anthropocentric."

"Man in the image of God is not capable of being the source of anything of value."

"The view of man as having autonomous worth leads to an error in a very practical area of Christian living. It produces a somewhat misplaced confidence."

"It is a serious theological error to see confidence in our abilities as a hallmark of mature faith, and then to view that confidence as the basis of self-esteem."

"From the scriptural perspective man cannot be viewed as autonomous, either in his existence of his ability to perform."

"Whatever our worth may be, whatever capacities we may have, whatever may be accomplished through them, as we recognize that everything of worth finds its ultimate source in God and depends on Him for life and meaning and fruitfulness, the appropriate response is not self-esteem but adoration of the God who is the source of all."

"The atonement is not a demonstration of the worth of man but of the grace of God."

"We should be painfully aware that God's acceptance of us did not communicate that there is 'something truly wonderful about us,' but rather that there is everything truly wonderful about Him, especially love and grace."
This is an important point. God did not save us because we have worth but because he has mercy!

"our relationship with God does include a conditional element, not involving our security, but affecting our fellowship, blessing, God's use of us in ministry, and eternal reward."

"Our relationship with God is conditional in many vital respects."

"Though a Christians self-image is rooted in divine grace, one cannot expect to continue to enjoy a positive self-image if he is living irresponsibly."

"The greatest problem I have in trying to establish a good self-image on the basis of performance is me. As I look inward I see much that I do not like: wrong attitudes and motives, weakness, and inclinations to sin. Then as I look at the flaws in performance those defects produce I have a difficult time standing before the mirror of God's Word and saying, 'I am a beautiful person.'"

"The greatest peril of self-love is that it is worship of self."

"We believe the biblical alternative to the wave of concern over self-image is have no self-image at all."

"both self-love and self-hate are self-centered attitudes."

"To call yourself an 'awful person' does not seem too bad because you are both to be pitied for your condition and praised for your nobility in admitting it. But to confess sin is different."

"The psychologist's office may be the only place where winning does not count. The problem is that sooner or later the client must walk out the front door, where he finds that there are conditions to acceptance."

"Life consists not in looking inward and feeling good, bad, or otherwise about self. Rather, it centers on God, who is to inspire awe."

"So the thrust of New Testament living is upward and outward, focused on others."

"when we have no "I" to protect, when it has been absorbed in others, there is no longer a firm basis for embarrassment."

This is a very good book and an easy read. Brownback is swimming against a swift current in this book but I would hope in doing so he makes some waves.

You can purchase the book at the following address:

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