Anglican Futures: Anglican Alphabet Spaghetti

Anglican Futures Anglican Alphabetti Spaghetti A dummies guide to the plethora of organisations and acronyms linked to faithful Anglicans in the UK and Europe. I once spent some time around military personel.  Everything had its own TLA (Three Letter Acronym) right...

Canterbury Tales: Favourite Bible Stories Retold by Archbishop Justin Welby

Canterbury Tales Favourite Bible stories retold by Archbishop Justin Welby The Good Samaritan A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead, halfway...

Anglican Mission in England Elects Two Suffragan Bishops

Anglican Mission in England Elects Two Suffragan Bishops The Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) met in Synod on 18 June.  While there, they elected two suffragan bishops to aid Bishop Andy Lines in providing episcopal oversight for the overall work.  Bishop Lines also...

Pride Flags Causing Conflict at Christian School

Pride Flags Cause Conflict at Christian School Conflict has broken out in a Christian school in Oxfordshire over the display of “Pride” flags. The institution in question is Kingham Hill School.  The same Trust (Kingham Hill Trust) oversees Oak Hill College, an...

Prayer Book Society Raising Funds to Put BCPs in the Hands of Choristers

Prayer Book Society Raising Funds to Put BCPs in the Hands of Choristers The Prayer Book Society, which will soon celebrate its 50th Anniversary, is raising funds to put a special edition BCP into the hands of junior choristers around the nation.   The idea came to...

Book Review: Reimagining Britain by Justin Welby

Reimagining Britain Foundations for Hope Justin Welby Bloomsbury, 2018, new edn. 2021 (ISBN: 978-1-4729-8497-5, 322pp, £12.99) The Archbishop of Canterbury has made several notable political interventions recently, including over ‘partygate’ and the Rwanda deportation...

Birthday of Anglicanism in America

Birthday of Anglicanism in America By the Revd Canon Chuck Collins June 16, 1607 was the birthday of Anglicanism in America. On this day Captain John Smith and 104 others celebrated the Lord’s Supper when they arrived safely in Jamestown, Virginia. Jamestown was the...

Barnabas Fund Report: Two ChiBok Girls Found

Barnabas Fund Reports Two Chibok Girls Found After 8 Years 24 June 2022 Two women, who were among hundreds of schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram from the Nigerian town of Chibok eight years ago, have been found. Hauwa Joseph was discovered among a group of other...

New Bishop-elect for the Diocese of Cashel, Ferns & Ossory

Church of Ireland News New Bishop Elected for Cashel, Ferns & Ossory The Church of Ireland diocese of Cashel, Ferns, and Ossory now has a bishop-elect.  The Venerable Adrian Wilkinson, Archdeacon of Cork, Cloyne, and Ross was elected to succeed the Rt Revd Michael...

Editorial: Lessons to be Learned from the American Pro-Life Movement

Editorial Lessons to be Learned from American Pro-Life Movement Friday, 24 June 2022, the Feast of St John the Baptist, will be a date which will live in infamy amongst the supporters of abortion.  On that date, the US Supreme Court, overturned the precedent set by...

Pilgrim’s Process: Peter Sanlon

Pilgrim’s Process

By the Revd Dr Peter Sanlon

“Dissertation Concerning the Nature of True Virtue”

As we make our pilgrimage through this world we need to be alert to the ways our sense of what is good and right can be distorted by the complexity of our hearts. 

The great American pastor-theologian, Jonathan Edwards (1703-58) wrote a dissertation which explored the ways we can be confused as to what is truly good and pleasing to Jesus.

Edwards’s ‘Dissertation Concerning the Nature of True Virtue’ was his most technical and philosophical writing — but it makes points very significant to daily life. Edwards asks what is the nature of true virtue? His answer is that ‘True virtue most essentially consists in benevolence to Being in general.’ By this Edwards means a loving care, desire for the good of, and concern for others NOT for any good they do to us — but for whatever is good in themselves. Loving somebody merely for their goodness, requires us to be ‘of a like temper.’ Only those who are virtuous can love virtue. Only those who are selfless can love another without it being a form of manipulation or seeking of selfish return.

Since God is the most good and most fulsome being there is, true virtue will ultimately consist in loving God – not for what he can do for us — but for who he is in himself. This is a philosophical argument, that coheres with the Bible. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4–5).

All of this is very helpful to us as Edwards exposes the ways we can fool ourselves into thinking we are virtuous or godly. Much in the world that people mistakenly think is virtuous, Edwards says is actually self-love. ‘Self-love, I think, is generally defined as a man’s love of his own happiness.’ Edwards points out that people can project their love of self outwards upon their now family members. Doing good to them is actually, for many, a form of self-love. I want my wife to be happy because it makes my life easier. I want my child to do well at school because their achievements make me proud. I want my child to be well behaved because I fear what others would think of me. All of these are motivations that flow from self-love, and empower a person to take what look like ethical actions towards others. 

Doing good from self-love is not actually all bad — Edwards points out that this is how God restrains the sin in the world. Many people are not as unkind as they could be, because they love themselves!

But here is the challenge for us. If our ‘virtue’ is built upon a love of ourselves — rather than a love to God — then it may look virtuous — but it will in reality be fragile and flimsy. As soon as it seems that it hurts me – I will stop doing what I thought was godly. If I go to church out of a form of self-love; I will give up when it no longer satisfies my felt needs. If I love my wife out of self-love — I will turn to another when they seem to offer more pleasure. If I love my kids out of self-love, I will be broken utterly if they ever disappoint. 

If we are to live godly lives through all of our pilgrimage, we must be fuelled not by self love, but love to the God who made us and in Christ dies for us.

Rev. Dr. Peter Sanlon is rector of Emmanuel Anglican Church, Tunbridge Wells: