Put another way, Christians who involve themselves with altruism are involved with a principle that is utterly incompatible with being a Christian. People can be an altruists, or they can be Christians, but they cannot be both. The very notion of an altruistic Christian is a self-contradiction – an oxymoron par excellence.
To begin with, altruism – in its purest definition – is an anti-Christian principle because it denies the reality of God. It thereby negates the first Christian commandment to love God. It also negates the second Christian commandment to love the neighbor because it rejects the spiritual reality of man.
Those who engage in altruism do not practice Christian love, which is an act directed at the concrete, real, spiritual person – at the innermost reality of what makes a person a person. Instead they practice what Auguste Comte defined as the moral obligation to renounce the self to live for the other. Comte believed this total submission of the self to others was vital to the benefit and progress of society, which in Comte’s positivism supplants the role of God.
In my post from yesterday, I included two of Dr.Charlton’s amplifications from Christopher Bamford’s distillation of Rudolf Steiner’s teaching concerning the purpose of mortal life on Earth. These were:
This is creation. Our life on Earth is spiritual; this spiritual life is about love; and this love is creation. Creation is made-of love; and the aim of evolution is to develop this love and consciousness of love.
Love among Men is not sufficient, but it is essential. The first commandment to love god, and the second commandment to love fellow Men are no longer, since Christ, possible to separate. Both are necessary for each other.
As Dr. Charlton notes, since Christ, it is insufficient to love God exclusively or to love one’s neighbors exclusively. To be a Christian, to truly practice and “create” Christian love, one must love God and love one’s neighbors inclusively. The two cannot be separated, which renders the altruistic moral obligation to renounce God for the sake the other nugatory.
Also, the second Christian commandment also calls on Christians to love their neighbors as they love themselves. Thus, self-love also becomes inseparable from love of the neighbor. A Christian who loves God and his neighbor must also love himself. Any Christian who does not love himself is incapable of truly loving God or the neighbor because he is denying the value and worth of his own spiritual essence.
Then there is also the question of ultimate purpose. In a comment from yesterday’s post, William Wildblood asks the following (bold added):
What is the purpose of altruistic action even assuming the altruism is genuine? To make the world a better place? To relieve suffering and spread happiness? That has nothing to do with Christian love which is directed solely to bringing a soul closer to God. In other words, Christian love is focused on spiritual ends. It is not well-meaning, it does not have good intentions and it is not benevolent. Christian love derives from God and seeks to bring everything back to God.
Dr. Charlton picked up on this point and added (bold added):
William W's question is worth bringing to mind in such discussions: "What is the purpose of altruistic action even assuming the altruism is genuine?"
The problem with the world is that it in fundamentally unsatisfactory, ultimately because everything in it decays and dies. We need to evaluate ethical claims in the light of spiritual purpose that addresses this fact.
To my mind, the desirability of any specific altruistic act should be evaluated in terms of being a means to some *positive* end - lacking which it is just 'moving deckchairs on the Titanic'.
Short answer – altruism offers no positive end for Christians – not even in cases when the altruistic action is genuine.
Though I have known this intuitively for quite some time, it was Max Scheler who brought the incompatibility of altruism and Christian love home for me via his short philosophical treatise, Ressentiment (bold added):
Finally, the ressentiment character of modern humanitarianism is also proved by the fact that its leading spokesmen (for example, Auguste Comte) describe it as “altruism.” For the Christian conception of love, devotion to one’s fellow man merely because he is the “other” is as false and misplaced as the liberal-individualistic idea that we best serve the whole and the community by perfecting ourselves—according to the saying: “When the rose adorns itself, it adorns the garden.”
In the Christian view, love is an act of a particular quality, directed at the ideal spiritual person as such, and it makes no difference whether it is the person of the lover or that of the “other.” That is why the Christian considers it sinful to renounce one’s “salvation” for somebody else’s sake! And therefore his own “salvation” is as important to him as love of his neighbor.
“Love God and thy neighbor as thyself,” is the Christian precept. It is characteristic that a leading spokesman of modern humanitarianism, Auguste Comte—the inventor of the term “altruism,” which is a barbarism—takes offense at this postulate. He accuses Christianity of aiding and abetting “egoistic impulses” because it commands us to care for our own salvation as well, and he wants to replace this precept by the new positivistic commandment: “Love thy neighbor more than thyself.”
He fails to see that Christian “love” is a particular kind of spiritual act, which is by its very essence primarily oriented toward the spiritual person (of God and men), and toward the body merely as its vessel and “temple.”
Thus the relation to the other is not an essential characteristic of Christian love, and Christianity necessarily knows a “self-love” which is basically different from all “egoism.” Comte fails to note that it is incomprehensible why our fellow man should have a right to benefaction - since love, for Comte, has value only as a “cause” for good deeds—for the silliest of reasons: simply because he is the “other.”
If I myself am not worthy of love, why should the “other” be? As if he were not also an “I”—for himself, and I “another”—for him! Comte ignores that his tenet is either a hyperbolical pathetic phrase or a nihilistic demand which destroys all vitality and indeed decomposes any structure of being!
But the real question is how such a demand is psychologically explicable. There is a delusion which consists in mistaking for love what is really a peculiar sham form of love, founded on self-hatred and self-flight.
In his Pensées, Blaise Pascal has drawn the classic picture of a type of man who is entangled in many worldly activities (games, sports, hunting, also “business” or unceasing work for the “community”), and all this merely because he cannot look at himself and continually tries to escape from the vacuum, from his feeling of nothingness.
In some psychoses, for example, in hysteria, we find a kind of “altruism‟ in which the patient has become incapable of feeling and experiencing anything “by himself.” All his experiences are sympathetic, built on those of another person and his possible attitude and expectation, his possible reaction to any event.
The patient’s own existence has lost its center and focus, he neglects all his affairs, is completely drawn into the “other’s” life—and suffers from it. He eats nothing or injures himself in order to vex the “other.”
In a milder form, the same phenomenon occurs in the movement of “universal humanitarian love.” This attitude sometimes takes the form of a collective delusion, as within the Russian intelligentsia, especially the academic youth of both sexes, which likes to inject its morbid urge for self-sacrifice and self-flight into social and socio-political “goals” and then interprets its morbidity as “moral heroism.”
The “social politician” who troubles his head about everything except himself and his own business (a type now increasingly frequent) is usually nothing but a poor and empty human being fleeing from himself.
Nietzsche is perfectly right in pointing out that this way of living and feeling is morbid, a sign of declining life and hidden nihilism, and that its “superior” morality is pretense. His criticism, however, does not touch the Christian love of one’s neighbor: it does touch an essential component of modern “love of mankind,” which is in effect fundamentally a socio-psychological phenomenon of degeneration.
In the Fourth Gospel, Christ instructs us to love one another, which points to the real purpose of the Earth and Men - what this world and our mortal lives are essentially for – the creation of relationships from which Beings can learn to love.
Bearing this in mind, it becomes quite clear that altruism can teach Christians nothing about love.
Quite the contrary. The only thing altruism can teach Christians is how to abandon spirituality and submit to materialism, reductionism, positivism, and atheism.
Once a Christian willingly and actively submits to altruism, that Christian stops being a Christian because it is spiritually impossible for a Christian to embrace altruism and remain Christian.
No wonder the System demands that Christians be altruistic!