Jul 102011



Yes, the ‘Rand’ is Ayn Rand.  The atheist, selfish, capitalist, free market, anti collectivist, merciless etc…  Don’t like her?  Well that doesn’t really matter here.  I’m looking at ideas and maybe I won’t even express hers accurately.  I’ll take a little piece at a time.  I’m interested to see if (though an atheist) her broader views are compatible with scripture.  I think they are.  Lets begin where she would, I think, with first principles.

Rand was a great fan of Aristotle.  Each volume of Atlas Shrugged was named after principles he basically codified.  ‘Non-Contradiction’, ‘Either Or’, and ‘A is A’.  In short if one really lives like these basic principles are not true, reality would kill them.  For instance, Non-Contradiction:  Gravity is real and not real at the same time in the same way so if I jump from the cliff this time I won’t fall…..splat!  And, A is A:  That knife at my throat is not a knife but a stick of butter (A is not A).  I’ll just walk right through it….slice..spurt… dribble dribble.  You get the picture.  Rand however applied these to more practical things as well, and deeply so.

Lets begin with “The Virtue of Selfishness“.  You can read the whole book or just consider the title carefully.   The Virtue of Selfishness.pdf is 138 pages short.

Rand abhorred altruism.  The idea of the rejection of self in favor of the good of all others first.  She viewed this as denying reality and the root of most if not all our problems.  She would even call it evil.

“The Objectivist ethics proudly advocates and upholds rational selfishness—which means: the values required for man’s survival qua man—which means: the values required for human survival—not the values produced by the desires, the feelings, the whims or the needs of irrational brutes, who have never outgrown the primordial practice of human sacrifices.”

Note, she does not equate “rational selfishness” with values produced by the desires, the feelings, the whims…etc…  The ultimate application of altruism is self sacrifice, or literally, making oneself a sacrificial animal for others sakes.  The obvious question follows:  If all strove for and attained this goal of altruism then who would be left?  This is antithetical to human survival!  I get that.  But is the opposite (rational selfishness) the virtue that makes humanity survive?  Is it immoral to be rationally selfish by any widely accepted and properly understood standard, ie. the bible?  Is true altruism found in scripture?  To examine this I’ll make the challenge.  Find me any person who ever lived without self interest ie. truly altruistically.  Most folks I know will immediately go to Jesus.  But think about that a bit before you speak up.  An altruistic sacrifice has no gain for the sacrificial animal, the human sacrifice of Jesus in this case.  But did He gain?  Yes, according to the bible He did indeed gain.  Okay but was that the reason he did it?  Some say if that wasn’t the motive then it is okay if one gains by their selfless altruism.  I’ll even grant that for argument, but again that’s not the example of Jesus.

Heb 12:2 Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross  NKJV

Why did Jesus sacrifice himself according to Hebrews here?  For our good only and nothing for Himself?  Or, even for the Father’s sake yet not His own?  That’s not what it says, does it?  Oh my, was the author of Hebrews a Rand fan?  Self joy is not an altruistic goal, is it?  That seems like a bargain for one of Rand’s “traders.”  He valued the joy set before Him in exchange (trade) for His sacrifice.  How selfish of Him.  Well surely God’s mercy and His sacrifice of His son is an altruistic example of other-centeredness.  Most bible teachers today would remind us that we are not the center of God’s universe, but lets let Paul speak for Him this time.

Rom 9:17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.  18 Therefore (to show His power and declare His name) hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. 19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?  20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?  21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?  22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:  23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,  KJV

Wow!! That’s a whole lot of self interest.  How about one of just about every Christian’s favorite passages?

Rom 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.  29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.  KJV

What is the altruistic reason Paul gives for our predestination to be conformed to the image of His son?  That we might have all things work to our good?  NO!!  “THAT” He might be the firstborn among many.  So again it’s all about Jesus and God.  Do we receive benefit from all that stuff?  Of course!  Does Jesus as well?  Of course!  Is it altruistic?  Nope.  Is it selfish?  Looks like it.  Is it bad?  I certainly don’t think so.  Are we to follow after Jesus’ examples?  Then where do we get these ideas of altruism as Christians?  Okay, but that was Jesus and I’m not Jesus.  Shouldn’t we be altruistic according to scripture?  I’ll make this one short.

“Love others”, is that it?  No.  “Love others as you love yourself.”  Notice we are not commanded to love ourselves.  ITS A GIVEN THAT WE DO ALREADY.  In fact if we don’t love ourselves, we won’t know how to love others by the logic given in Jesus’ statement.  Surely of all things self love is self interested and not altruistic.  Do a quick look at virtually all of Jesus’ commands to us and note the self interested reasons He almost always (if not always) gives us for following those commands.  Do X because you want or will like the Y that results.  Never is it, do X because it will only have benefit for others and that is good and altruistic.  It seems to me like a proper understanding of “rational selfishness” and altruism will stand our conventions on their heads and rightly so according to the bible.  One of The Westminster Catechism’s  first questions is “What is the chief end of man?”.  The proposed answer is “To glorify God and ENJOY HIM FOREVER”.   To place these two in harmony and understand better what Rand seems to have missed about Christianity (probably because most of us have as well) I’ll quote the Christian Hedonist, John Piper.  This is on the walls of his church, “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.”  This is a traders creed, similar to how Rand understands love.  We will give/trade the most for what we value the most.  I live for His glory (my sacrifice/trade) because it is what makes me the happiest/most satisfied.