As readers of thefrontieratgrace.com, you are used to our Wednesday “Ask Beau” feature, in which we seek to give biblical answers to practical questions that men face (we can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org). Recently we received the following question from Chris via email:
With some attention being brought to Ayn Rand and her influence on many politicians and others, is Ayn Rand’s philosophy, “Objectivism,” in any way compatible with Christianity?
Today our feature is more properly called “Ask Dan,” because Dan Hermiz, a frequent contributor to the blog, has taken a shot at answering this one. Enjoy!
It’s a simple question, on the face of it. But the truth is that Rand, like many philosophers, spent a lifetime formulating and articulating her own unique philosophy which is, as she put it, “for living on earth.” This is to say that it is both systematic and comprehensive. It deals extensively with epistemology, morality, metaphysics, truth, politics, justice, and economics—just about everything a worldview needs. And because of this, what might seem simple at first glance is actually quite complex.
However, I do not believe that complexity must rule out the possibility for clarity. And having at once a healthy respect for complexity, yet a strong, even burdensome desire for clarity in regards to Rand’s philosophy, I admit that I have lamented on more than one occasion that “I’m waiting for the epic take-down” of her philosophic construct from someone far more qualified than me. But alas, I’m still waiting. And it may interest you to know that according to a survey conducted by the Library of Congress, Rand’s Atlas Shrugged ranks second, behind only the Bible, on a list of the most personally influential books among the American reader.
If I may, before jumping into a more analytical arena, I’d like to briefly share my personal feelings on this issue. For the lover of free-market economies, limited government, individual rights, reason, the law of non-contradiction, and the opportunity for personal achievement, Ayn Rand is a seductive ally. So seductive, that in spite of her being a pro-choice atheist, many “conservative Evangelicals” find themselves deeply enamored with her philosophy. I think this speaks volumes to the rhetorical force of her arguments, but in not every case is it true that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” In my personal opinion (for what it’s worth), Rand’s philosophy, on the whole, is one of the darkest, most destructive and godless philosophies known to modern man—second only perhaps to nihilism. Yes, I just said that.
While I suppose that on some of the details, Rand’s philosophy may align with a biblical worldview, I am far more concerned with its central tenets. In a nutshell, Rand has described her philosophy as follows: “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.” She further described her purpose in writing both novels and philosophy: “to define and present the image of an ideal man . . . what man can be, and ought to be.”*
In Rand’s philosophy, the individual, quite literally, is the moral center of the universe—God.
“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no god’” (Psalm 14:1).*
Rand was an atheist.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
According to Rand, “in love, the currency is virtue . . . you love them for what they have achieved in their own character . . . you only love those who deserve it.”
“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
Rand believed that “rational self-interest” was the highest form of morality. And, if I may opine once more, her arrogance was breathtaking. In her own words, she had “superior contempt” for most of her peers, considered herself “the most creative person alive” and openly criticized just about every thinker, teacher, and philosopher in history.
Christ, the real “ideal man,” said this in Mark 10:42–45: “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
In Christ’s kingdom, the currency is servanthood.
Rand believed self-sacrifice, or “altruism” of any kind, to be the highest form of immorality.
I’ll leave you with one interesting, yet profoundly relevant anecdote from Rand’s life. Rand considered Atlas Shrugged to be “the one central integrating purpose of everything I did.” John Galt’s epic speech alone took her two years to complete, as it was essentially the “summing up [of] all the essentials of the novel.” En route to its publication, Rand interviewed several publishers, and in a discussion with the publisher who eventually won the “contest,” Rand was asked, “Wouldn’t you have to clash with the Judeo-Christian Ethic?” Years later, in an interview, Rand said that it was for precisely this reason that the publisher “got the book.” In her estimation, he was the publisher who most “got it.” Rand’s philosophy, in her own words, is wholly antithetical to a Christian worldview. And she wouldn’t have us thinking otherwise.
(Note: Quotations from Ayn Rand are taken from the documentary, Ayn Rand: In Her Own Words, directed by John Little and Robert Anderson. Biblical quotations are from the English Standard Version.)