Over at the Acton Institute website and blog, I take a look at some comments attributed to Lord Brian Griffiths, a vice president and advisor at Goldman Sachs: "The injunction of Jesus to love others as ourselves is an endorsement of self-interest."
There are a few things wrong with this. First, it doesn't seem to be what Griffiths actually said. And second, the upset over these comments presume that there's no legitimate place for self-interest in Christian morality.
In attempting to correct these problems, I cite Lewis, who puts it very well, I think: "If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith."
Another more proximate source of this confusion in America is the influence of a theologian like Samuel Hopkins (1721-1803), a professed disciple of Jonathan Edwards and founder of the "new divinity" movement, known for his profession of "disinterested benevolence." But on the question of self-love Hopkins departs radically from Edwards, the latter arguably having more in common with the view expressed by Hopkins' contemporary Adam Smith than with Hopkins himself.
One important background for this discussion is the issue of whether a mark of sanctification is the believer's ability to renounce self-interest to such an extent that even if he or she were to be damned, they would still profess love for and glorify God. Hopkins affirms this specific doctrine, asserting that "none are his disciples who have not a heart to love God, even though he is their enemy, and disposed to curse and destroy them; who cannot be an unjust and injurious enemy." This view is renounced by both Edwards ("The more a man loves God, the more unwilling will he be, to be deprived of this happiness") as well as his grandfather Solomon Stoddard.
This radical kind of self-abegnation is certainly not invented by Hopkins, but it does to me appear to clearly be the minority position, at least in the West. The dominant view is the Augustinian conception of ordered loves, which includes a place for ordinate self-love. I’m curious about those more familiar with Eastern theology whether and how this specific issue (love of God in spite of damnation) or more generally the question of extreme renouncement of self-interest is taken up.