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Reconciling Ayn Rand with the Gospel
Am ^ | 04/23/2011 | Ann Barnhardt

Posted on 04/23/2011 7:42:56 AM PDT by SeekAndFind

The motion picture Atlas Shrugged - Part 1 was released in theaters last week, and coupled with the positively prophetic mapping of the plot of Atlas Shrugged to current events, Ayn Rand and her Objectivist Philosophy are front-burner topics.  I know that many Christians read Rand and want to stand up and cheer, but at the same time are racked with guilt because of her atheism and decidedly anti-church professions.  Can Rand be reconciled to the Gospel?  Can Christians read and learn from Rand's writings?  I say yes, and emphatically so.

The first thing we must do is approach this question from an adult perspective.  It is patent absurdity to argue that atheists and other non-Christians have nothing to offer society or the Christian milieu itself.  To argue that the work of atheists be dismissed is to argue for the dismissal of a large percentage of the advances and breakthroughs in mathematics, physics, and biomedical science that have been achieved over the last several centuries.  Furthermore, any Christian worth his salt should be able to defend his beliefs, and should welcome honest challenge and questioning -- not run from it.  Steel sharpens steel.  Raw squid left out in the sun for six hours sharpens nothing.

One of the hallmarks of Rand's Objectivist philosophy is the supremacy of an individual's capacity for logic and reason.  Those two words, logic and reason, appear over and over again in all of Rand's writings.  Here is a quote from Rand herself, emphasis mine:

My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.

The Christian reconciliation of all of this lies in the Gospel of John, chapter 1, verse one: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

In John's creation narrative, he immediately identifies and establishes Jesus Christ as divine, co-eternal with God the Father, begotten, not made.  Today, we simply say that Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.  But what we must focus on in terms of this discussion is the word that John uses to name and identify Jesus: John calls Him "the Word."  In the original Greek, the word John uses is "Logos."  The word "logos" in Greek is the same word used for the concepts of logic and reason.  This Greek root is indeed the etymological source for the modern English word "logic."  What John did in the very first sentence of his Gospel is to specifically identify Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, as Logic and Reason Itself.  Logic and reason are intrinsic, constitutive qualities of God.  They are His essence.  They are who He is.  This is why Christ identified Himself as "The Truth."  Logic and reason are the process and mechanism by which statements are determined to be either true or false.  A true statement is simply a statement that is aligned with God.  1+1=2.  True.  Why is this true?  Because it is in alignment with the existential reality that is God Himself.  Or, for you math buffs, consider Euler's Identity, which I and many, many others consider to be the very thumbprint of God:  



Here are the five great constants of mathematics: e, the base of natural logarithms; i, the imaginary number which is the square root of negative 1; pi, the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter; the number one -- the multiplicative identity; and the number zero, the additive identity.  Now look at how simply and beautifully these numbers combine to form a true statement.  That, dear readers, is God winking at us.  Rand was right -- reason is our only absolute, because Reason is God Himself.  If one re-reads Rand making this simple, conceptual substitution, it will literally knock you to the floor. 

There is one more postulation I would like to make, and this one is going to make heads explode on both sides.  It is my considered opinion that Rand probably influenced Pope John Paul II's masterwork on human sexuality, "Theology of the Body."  When I first read Atlas Shrugged, one of the most powerful and astounding passages to my mind was Francisco d'Anconia's monologue on sexuality in Part 2, Section 4, "The Sanction of the Victim."  I had just finished reading "Theology of the Body" and was dumbstruck by the similarities between the two works.  Both works center around sexuality as a total, complete gift of self.  Further, both works emphasize how the individual must first hold himself in esteem before he can possibly give himself to another unreservedly as a gift.  Additionally, both works explain how the lack of esteem of self, and even self-loathing, pervert the sexual act and drive people back inwards upon themselves, eventually leading to highly destructive sexual behaviors.

Atlas Shrugged was published in 1957.  At that time, Karol Wojtyla, who would later become Pope John Paul II, was wrapping up his second doctorate in philosophy.  Wojtyla, as a Pole, was intensely interested and personally invested in fighting Marxist Communism.  He had personally experienced the horrors of both National Socialism under the Third Reich during World War II, and then Communism under the Soviets in Poland.  The notion that Wojtyla, a post-doctorate level philosopher himself, did not read Rand, who provided a scathing critique of the very system Wojtyla knew it was his vocation to fight, is laughable.  I contend that Francisco's monologue may have planted, or at the very least fertilized, Wojtyla's nascent philosophy on sexuality, which later became "Theology of the Body."

And somewhere this morning, a grad student in theology has just been handed the topic of his doctoral thesis. 



TOPICS: General Discusssion; History; Religion & Culture
KEYWORDS: aynrand; gospel
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To: higgmeister

I know that Objectivism markets its conclusions differently than I analyze them. You can pick whichever version suits you. I stand by my analysis, because human nature is involved, and the marketing for every system eventually gives way to the pragmatic and mostly disappointing reality of attempted implementation.

Rational self-interest is just such a problem. The rational application of mutual self-interest often provides some major, common themes that can unify social structure in beneficial ways. Natural Law says exactly the same thing, and said so long before Rand. Objectivism goes off the rails and is inferior to Natural Law because it does not acknowledge any higher duty that may require the cessation of self-interested behavior as measured by some standard of rationality.

The attempts to circumvent this accusation by appeal to such things as genetic altruism, for example, ring hollow. Nietzsche was more honest, if less well understood. In practice, pure self-interest is whatever you can see in front of you at the moment, as it pertains to you, the seeing individual. If Stalin can make a comfortable life for himself by slaughtering millions, why shouldn’t he? He has fulfilled the Objectivist maxim … for himself. Rationally, the others, the dead, the dying, the imprisoned, the sycophantic, do not matter. If Stalin wins for himself, all is well with the universe.

Now, if you are lucky enough to be having a social beer with him, you may attempt to persuade him that he is really acting against himself, and doubtless in your own highly rational mind you could show this is true. But if materiality is all there is, then whoso gets the most for the longest wins, as they see it. Morality founded exclusively on the self sounds like an elegant solution. In reality it becomes a rationalization for narcissism, a stem cell that mutates according to the Kantian limits and distortions of the particular self it infects, producing sometimes a Gandhi, sometimes a Stalin, sometimes a middle-class producer who is tired of the vampirism of the welfare state.

Natural Law, by contrast, sets the table with not only rational self interest but also civic duty and virtue, universal norms that sometime put the ego in tension with the common good. This is the best of all possible worlds, and it has been time-tested and works quite well in the context of fallible human nature. It is the key that unlocks the mystery of why we Americans have succeeded all these centuries. Our Constitution, our Declaration, our Founders, were all based squarely on theistic Natural Law, and not in the empty void proposed by Objectivism’s godless universe.

Objectivism is Rand grasping at straws to reject the inevitable consequences of both Nietzsche’s amorality and Christian morality (which she explicitly rejected) without seeming to resort to theism of any kind, but cherry-picking those Natural Law principles that suited her purpose. Yet it is a cheat, because it contained an embedded “should,” because a belief that we “should” act or think any particular way is an appeal to an Arbiter, which she says she denies. Nietzsche recognizes this and openly exposes the cheat. Rand papers over it, using “Reason” as a stand-in deity. In practice, humans must implement either system. Therefore, the results must be the same, and equally disappointing, for systems that share a common root. Sorry. I’ve lived too long to be beguiled into believing otherwise, people being what they are.

Peace,

SR


51 posted on 04/24/2011 9:13:37 PM PDT by Springfield Reformer (Winston Churchill: No Peace Till Victory!)
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To: Springfield Reformer
(Stalin) has fulfilled the Objectivist maxim … for himself.

As Ayn Rand said, "You can't eat your cake and have it, too."

You cannot change the essentials of Objectivism to match your own foibles and then attack the straw-man you have just stood up.

John Galt's oath:
"I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for the sake of mine."

What you describe is simply a libertine, the anathema to an Objectivist. Stalin forced others to live for his sake which goes totally against Objectivism. An Objectivists would execute Stalin for the crime of putting other individuals to death for his own gain.

In our times civic duty and virtue in the altruistic manor you refer almost never exists. The wealthy patron that donates to the newest worthy cause does so for reasons other than Christian altruism. Charitable giving always selfishly makes the giver feel good and the more money given makes him by degrees famous or provides a good tax break. A multitude of thousands have there names placed on the monument to their giving which is almost always the motivation for their generosity. Their giving selfishly increases their own feeling of self-worth. Lenny Skutniks or even Truett Cathys are few and far between. You may try to convince me that the oafish Ted Turner donated $1 billion from Christian Charity but I doubt that even you could believe that.

If you still hold that Objectivism and Communism or Fascism are alike, you deny the obvious objective truth.

52 posted on 04/24/2011 11:27:33 PM PDT by higgmeister ( In the Shadow of The Big Chicken!)
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To: Jenny Hatch

bump.


53 posted on 04/25/2011 10:52:20 AM PDT by FBD (My carbon footprint is bigger than yours)
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To: higgmeister

Whatever. I stand by my analysis. Rand was a follower, and a sanitizer, of Nietzsche. Anton Lavey was a follower, and a plagiarizer, of Rand. You do the math. There is a fundamental evil in purely egoistic “morality,” as reflected not only by the logical incoherency it represents, but also by the company it keeps. And how else could it be? Galt’s oath has no enforcer. It therefore has no meaning. Real practitioners of egoism are never so noble as the characters in fictional books, who are never pressed by local realities like the rest of us. They are paper cutout dolls who can be made to say and do anything the scriptwriter demands of them. You say I am not objective for my lack of faith in Objectivism’s proposed utopia. Really? Sez who?


54 posted on 04/25/2011 10:55:17 AM PDT by Springfield Reformer (Winston Churchill: No Peace Till Victory!)
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To: ml/nj
We are commanded to "Love your neighbor as yourself." So if one doesn't love himself first, there won't be much love for the neighbor.

Bingo!

55 posted on 04/25/2011 11:25:24 AM PDT by the_conscience (We ought to obey God, rather than men. (Acts 5:29b))
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To: the_conscience

Psychopathic narcissists of the world agree with both of you!


56 posted on 04/25/2011 11:26:53 AM PDT by little jeremiah (Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point. CSLewis)
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To: little jeremiah

Apparently you believe one should love his neighbor more than himself. Any liberal would agree with that. Thanks to people like you we have a collectivist society.


57 posted on 04/25/2011 11:31:43 AM PDT by the_conscience (We ought to obey God, rather than men. (Acts 5:29b))
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To: the_conscience

Everyone already loves himself. When there’s a fire in a building, who stays in to fry?

Jesus is obviously saying - “You already love and take care of yourselves. So, now you should care about others the way you already care about yourselves.”

But his first commandment is to love God. The second part, which is based upon the first, is to also care about others.

This is not sectarian, but univerally applicable.

And your accusation that caring about others is collectivism is insanely laughable. You will not find less of a collectivist than myself.


58 posted on 04/25/2011 11:49:56 AM PDT by little jeremiah (Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point. CSLewis)
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To: little jeremiah

Your simplistic interpretation misses the point.

God loves himself first of all yet shows mercy to insolent humans.

Besides, aren’t you the Hindu who promotes wanting the government to dictate to people what they can or cannot do in their private lives?


59 posted on 04/25/2011 12:12:05 PM PDT by the_conscience (We ought to obey God, rather than men. (Acts 5:29b))
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To: the_conscience

God’s position and conciousness cannot be imitate by human beings.

Moral absolutes are essentially the same in every religion, that is why they are absolutes.

Private life activities like abortion? Porn? Rest stop sodomy?

Libertarianism is the kook anarchy ultra fringe element of the left.


60 posted on 04/25/2011 1:59:47 PM PDT by little jeremiah (Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point. CSLewis)
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To: little jeremiah
God’s position and conciousness cannot be imitate by human beings.

I'm not familiar with all the terminology or intricacies of your pagan religion but isn't it basically pantheistic? ya know... we all have a spark of divinity or some such? God is in everything... yada yada. What exactly is God's "position" and what is it about his consciousness that cannot be imitated?

Moral absolutes are essentially the same in every religion, that is why they are absolutes.

To some extent, yes, but the question is which of those so-called absolutes we want the government to enforce will be based on from where different religions believe those absolutes are derived. Pagan religions believe that individuals can achieve some level of morality that gains them other worldly benefits.

We Christians believe that individuals are unable to achieve any level of morality that will earn them an other worldly paradise. We rely on a substitute who has already earned it for us. We realize our moral corruption and yet God is willing to accept us for the work of another. That's why we show mercy to our fellow man. We're no better morally than he is and we should show the same mercy to him as God showed to us. Jesus gave a good parable about this in the Bible of the two debtors. Check it out!

As far as what morals a Christian wants the government to enforce we look to our Holy Scriptures and especially the Ten Commandments. We generally refer to those sayings as divided into two tablets. The first tablets describes our requirements to God and the second tablet describes our requirements to our fellow man. So Christians generally refer only to the 2nd tablet to inform the magistrate as to what he needs to enforce. The 2nd tablet can be summarized as not inflicting any coercion, theft, or fraud against your neighbor. So that's it. Any other so-called absolute is not mentioned in the 2nd tablet.

Moralists of any stripe are all the same. They always contradict themselves claiming they want what's best for their neighbor when in reality they only want to impose their own selfish interests.

61 posted on 04/25/2011 2:48:28 PM PDT by the_conscience (We ought to obey God, rather than men. (Acts 5:29b))
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To: the_conscience

Hinduism is essentially monotheist, you misunderstand but many people do.

Your statement:

“Moralists of any stripe are all the same. They always contradict themselves claiming they want what’s best for their neighbor when in reality they only want to impose their own selfish interests.”

Makes no sense. You are basically saying anyone who promites morality is bad; ie - immoral. You sound like a libertarian who wants no holds barred porn, dope, prostitution and homo-agenda everything.

IOW, an immoralitst. People wither promote morality or immorality. Your choice. I make my choice clear. I guess you do too, since you fault me for not supporting dope, porn, prostitution and the homo-agenda.


62 posted on 04/25/2011 3:03:28 PM PDT by little jeremiah (Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point. CSLewis)
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To: little jeremiah

One of my absolute morals is that anyone who worships a false god deserves death.

Should I have the government enforce that?


63 posted on 04/25/2011 3:08:37 PM PDT by the_conscience (We ought to obey God, rather than men. (Acts 5:29b))
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To: the_conscience

If you make up smack and call it a moral absolute, it’s not a moral absolute.

Moral absolutes come from God’s instructions, not the minds of fallible human beings.

So unless you’re God, you can’t make any old rule and call it a moral absolute.

Since you don’t want to discuss rationally, there’s no point in discussing. Something about pearls and swine comes to mind. I’m always willing to discuss moral absolutes respectfully, but it has to be a two way street. So, I won’t respond to whatever sniping or snarking you come up with.


64 posted on 04/25/2011 3:12:31 PM PDT by little jeremiah (Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point. CSLewis)
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To: little jeremiah

Make up smack? It’s in God’s instructions. Apparently what’s “absolute” is only relative to what you agree is absolute. You contradicted yourself again.


65 posted on 04/25/2011 3:18:57 PM PDT by the_conscience (We ought to obey God, rather than men. (Acts 5:29b))
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To: stylin_geek

I realize it may be hard for you not to be an idiot so I will refrain from saying something like don’t be an idiot. But, here is a quote that goes directly against the Biblical view of charity as a moral duty if you are a Christian. Now, you may not be, but my point was that Rand’s views are opposed to Biblical views.

“My views on charity are very simple. I do not consider it a major virtue and, above all, I do not consider it a moral duty. There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them. I regard charity as a marginal issue. What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue.”

This was supposedly from an interview in 1964 with Playboy magazine. She is not fighting against compulsory charity as in forced by government. She is fighting against charity as a duty. Of course, she’s not a Christian and you probably aren’t either, which is fine, but spare me the hogwash. You can’t reconcile her to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


66 posted on 04/25/2011 9:22:44 PM PDT by Fred.Widdowson
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To: higgmeister

Then, is this quote from a 1964 interview with Playboy a lie or not?

“My views on charity are very simple. I do not consider it a major virtue and, above all, I do not consider it a moral duty. There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them. I regard charity as a marginal issue. What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue.”

Charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue for Christians. Just read the verses I listed. If this quote is a lie then I will apologize. Otherwise there is no way to reconcile her philosophy with the Gospel.


67 posted on 04/25/2011 9:22:51 PM PDT by Fred.Widdowson
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To: Fred.Widdowson

I said nothing about reconciling Ayn with Christianity.

Strawman argument.

I said you don’t know what you’re talking about in regards to Rand and charity.

I stand by that viewpoint and you’ve managed to reinforce my observation.

And you are most definitely not a Christian, though you may think you are.

You are amusing, though. Some Christian you are, calling people you don’t know names.


68 posted on 04/26/2011 9:03:04 AM PDT by stylin_geek (Never underestimate the power of government to distort markets)
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To: 21stCenturion

...


69 posted on 07/22/2012 4:02:30 PM PDT by 21stCenturion ("It's the Judges, Stupid !")
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