Ayn Rand on Christian Egoism: Part 2

<< Read Part 1

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“There is a great, basic contradiction in the teachings of Jesus. Jesus was one of the first great teachers to proclaim the basic principle of individualism…. But when it came to the next question, a code of ethics to observe for the salvation of one’s soul—(this means: what must one do in actual practice in order to save one’s soul?)—Jesus (or perhaps His interpreters) gave men a code of altruism, that is, a code which told them that in order to save one’s soul, one must love or help or live for others. This means, the subordination of one’s soul (or ego) to the wishes, desires or needs of others, which means the subordination of one’s soul to the souls of others. This is a contradiction that cannot be resolved.”

-Letter to Mrs. Austin, by Ayn Rand

The “Great Basic Contradiction”

Previously, I covered the beginning of this (and another quote) by Rand on the teachings of Jesus in regard to individualism and egoism (Read Ayn Rand on Christian Egoism: Part 1, here). In both quotes (each taken from personal letters), Rand begins by praising Christianity for its teaching on the sanctity of man’s soul (ego) and for making the salvation of one’s own individual soul the primary concern. However in both quotes, Rand goes on to elaborate on a fundamental contradiction which she sees in Christian philosophy: the contradiction between Jesus’ teaching on individualism/ egoism and the morality of altruism:

“Christ did say that you must love your neighbor as yourself, but He never said that you must love your neighbor better than yourself – which is a monstrous doctrine of altruism and collectivism. Altruism – the demand of self-immolation for others – contradicts the basic premise or Christianity, the sacredness of one’s own soul. Altruism introduced a basic contradiction into Christian philosophy, which has never been resolved.”

-Letter to Rev. Dudley, by Ayn Rand

Jesus gave men a code of altruism“, “Altruism introduced a basic contradiction into Christian philosophy“, “this is a contradiction which cannot be resolved“. These are serious charges – not only against Christianity, but against Christ – and if true, they certainly warrant the rejection of Christianity as an irrational ideology – and worse, the rejection of Christ as a contradictory teacher. Either Christianity does not advocate altruism, or Christianity is a farce. I obviously intend to demonstrate the former — and I want to start by examining Rand’s claim about Jesus’ instructions on how to save one’s soul.

Salvation Through Altruism?

But when it came to the next question, a code of ethics to observe for the salvation of one’s soul … Jesus (or perhaps His interpreters) gave men a code of altruism … a code which told them that in order to save one’s soul, one must love or help or live for others. This means, the subordination of one’s soul (or ego) to the wishes, desires or needs of others, which means the subordination of one’s soul to the souls of others.

This may be one of the most tragic misunderstandings of Christianity I have ever come across; the idea that the salvation of one’s own soul comes through altruism, as such – which is the neglect and strategic destruction of one’s own soul – is entirely antithetical to the Christian message. And yet, based on what is preached and believed by most Christians today, Rand was completely justified in concluding that this was Christianity’s true path of salvation.

In truth, the serious student of Scripture who genuinely wants to know the prescription given by Christ and His apostle’s regarding salvation will come to one conclusion: salvation is through faith alone – not by any work – altruistic or otherwise (Eph. 2:8-9). But don’t fly off the handle and read “anti-intellectual fantasies” when you read the word ‘faith’. That is not what was meant by the Biblical authors and that is not the way Christians should mean it today. Faith, properly understood, is the emotional and volitional response to that which is certainly known (known by reason) in the face of irrational and petty obstacles which would otherwise cause doubt. Therefore the question you should be asking yourself regarding the faith which alone brings salvation is: faith in what?

The answer is: in the supreme value of Christ, and in His irrevocable promise to absorb the wrath of God on behalf of those who trust in Him. If you (Christians) do not know any reason to believe that Christ is supremely valuable, or that He “is faithful and just to forgive your sins”, then you likely do not have any faith. To the Objectivist, if you are saying right now “but Christ, God, wrath, etc.. are all just parts of your fairytale which I have no reason to believe in”, then you may need to check your premises. Just because Christians treat Christianity like a fairytale does not mean that it actually is a fairytale. There is very good reason to believe that God exists and that He is very much like the supremely rational (and valuable) John Galt, in both character and motive.

And just as in Atlas Shrugged, the discovery of fundamental truths about reality which completely re-orient one’s entire worldview; the conviction of the greatness of achieving that which is possible and good and right; the complete restructuring of one’s values based in the panoramic view of reality which has been discovered, will immediately result in actions which will no doubt appear to be self-destructive and irrational to those who are still held captive to that old, contradictory, tattered, and truncated worldview which threatens to truly destroy life, the self, and everything valuable.

John Galt & Jesus Christ: Don’t You Dare Call Them Altruists

That which many (including Rand)  mistake for altruism in the Bible is really no different than that which Dagny (and others) mistake for self-destruction in people like Francisco D’Anconia (and other “shruggers”) in ATLAS SHRUGGED: incurring – and in some cases even planning – radical short-term loss for the sake of ultimate long-term gain, because of an evil and irrational world (context) which has forced them to choose between the two.

No Objectivist in their right mind would accuse Galt or Francisco of practicing or advocating altruism as they renounced and destroyed the apparent good in the rotten and irrational world where all good was tainted and used for evil. Therefore, neither should any Objectivist condemn Christ or Christianity as altruistic because of the extremely rational talk of letting go of the tainted good for the sake of attaining that good which is untainted and pure. John Galt gave up his entire life - in one sense – but don’t you dare ignore the fact that what he gave up on (his old life) was tainted and could never bring happiness; that his chief motive and accomplishment in giving up on that life was the fulfillment of his deepest values and the attainment of his true life. Likewise, Jesus Christ gave up (and told many others to do the same) much in this life, but don’t you dare ignore the fact that in His death, He was condemning and destroying death, itself; that He was sentencing to death that which is old, corrupt, irrational, and evil in this life; that He was leading captives free into that which life is truly meant to be: rational, just, joyous, and free. Don’t ignore the fact that He did not stay dead. Don’t you dare call either of these egoistic heroes “an altruist”.

Reclaiming His Greatness

Rand’s letter to Reverend Dudley continues:

The entire history of Christianity in Europe has been a continuous civil war, not merely as a fact, but also in spirit. I believe that Christianity will not regain its power as a vital spiritual force until it has resolved this contradiction. And since it cannot reject the conception or the paramount sacredness of the individual soul – this conception holds the root, the meaning and the greatness or Christianity – it must reject the morality of altruism. It must teach men neither to serve others nor to rule others, but to live together as independent equals, which is the only possible state of true brotherhood. Brothers are not mutual servants nor mutual dependents. Only slaves are. Dependence breeds hatred. Only free men can afford to be benevolent. Only free men can love and respect one another. But a free man is an independent man. And an independent man is one who lives primarily for himself.”

So long as Christians choose to embrace contradictory moral ideals (so long as they evade Christian egoism in Scripture & Christian thought — and prefer rather to read Kantian altruism into Christian ideology), Christianity will continue in the spiraling decay and throws of confusion which it has come to find itself in, here in the second millennium. The degree to which Christians give little to no care concerning the foundations and details of their worldview is the exact degree to which there will be no true Christianity to speak of in the world. Christian leaders everywhere are talking about the need for renewal and revival — and yet they sneer at the very thought of re-evaluating the basic philosophical and moral assumptions which have deadened and numbed the souls of everyone within the Church’s reach.

If Christians wish to truly reflect the greatness of Christ, they must find the courage to examine and discard false notions about greatness (and about Christ) which they may be harboring. They must rediscover the true greatness (gain) to be had in the Christian life, and hold that (the gain – the value) as ultimate over everything else in Christian morality. They must learn to be individuals who love their brothers because of a common love (common value) in Christ and in ultimate reality — rather than being “self-less” parasites upon their “brothers”, ciphering every ounce of value from every saint who dares to value at all.

But once Christians have done this — once they have re-examined and corrected the philosophical foundations of their worldview; once they have discarded the irrationality and evil of altruism; once they have seen the ultimate value of the egoistic Christ and in following Him in His campaign against corruption and death; once they have embraced Christian egoism and become captive to the glory of living a happy and rational life – forsaking corrupt and irrational pleasures for the sake of all that is truly and lastingly valuable, then the true greatness of Christ and Christianity can once again be unleashed upon the world.

Related Posts

Ayn Rand on Christian Egoism: Part 1

If Jesus Was a Socialist, He Would’ve Stayed in the Tomb

The Galt-Like God

Love: It Aint Magic

love pic

Have you noticed how mystical our culture’s talk of love is today? Whether it’s the girl whimsically longing to “find true love” (as if it is some magical creature evading her grasp), the boy in reluctant surprise who admits that he “might be in love” (as if it were a disease which has crept up on him), or the couple which speaks of “falling in love” (as if it were a pit into which both stumbled during a blind, dumb stupor), there appears to be very little conscious understanding of what love actually is among most people.

Is vs. Does

Of course there are many who would claim to speak of what love is (typically the adult speaking to the adolescent, who “doesn’t know what love is yet” — as though love were some mystical knowledge imparted to you at a certain age). But these don’t speak about what love is so much as they speak about what love does.

“Love waits”, “Love puts the other person first”, “Love makes you do crazy things”, “Love doesn’t give up”. These are all great and true (in particular respects) descriptions of what love does, but they do very little to explain what love is. If you want proof, simply consider that one could do all of the things listed above (and all the things which could be listed about what love does), and still not have love (see 1 Cor. 13:3). If it is possible to fake love by performing supposedly ‘loving’ actions (and it is), then the actions, themselves, cannot be love.

Love is Value

If love is not actions, but the fuel for ‘loving’ actions, then love must be that which fuels action: value. Value is the invisible reality in the soul made visible through the actions of the body. Actions flow from values. Love, therefore, is the invisible reality in the soul (value) made visible through the loving actions of the body. To love someone is to value them. To value someone is to consider them of value to oneself. The greater the value, the greater the love.

True and False Love

Why then, do we speak of “true love” as though there is some sort of false love, if love is value? Either you value someone or you don’t. Either you love someone or you don’t. Is there true and false value? In a manner of speaking, yes. To be more clear, there is rational and irrational value. It is possible to have irrational values, like valuing video-games over productive work. Likewise, it is possible to have irrational love, like ‘loving’ someone who is truly destructive to you and your life. Both are instances of mistaken value; instances of mistakenly believing that something or someone is of value to you when, in reality, both are ultimately destructive to you and to your life.

How does one avoid such errors? The solution is the same in both cases: one must properly discover and identify that which is objectively valuable to one’s self and one’s life. The solution to valuing video-games more than productive work is to discover and genuinely be convinced of the superior value in productive work; to see the glory of real life achievements as superior to the childsplay of conquering make-believe foes; to feel the triumph of a success wrought by maximizing and exhausting the creative capacities of one’s entire being (mind, soul, and body) in the physical world. The only effective weapon against irrational value is the discovery and embrace of rational values.

Likewise with love. Rational (i.e. “True”) love is the recognition of rational values in the person and character of another. The greater those values, the greater the love. Irrational (i.e. “False” or “Tainted”) love is either not truly love at all, or love which primarily values the irrational in another person.

Tainted Love

There are two variants of irrational or ‘tainted’ love — and these two impostors of true love are the reason for much disillusionment about love in our culture today. The first is not really love at all, but the pretense at love; the illusion of it. In this false love, it is not truly the other person who one values, but the false sense of security and value which one gets from “being in a relationship” with that person. A schoolgirl may claim to be in love with the most popular boy in school, when in reality what she truly loves is the illusion of how valuable she would seem to be if she really were in love with (and loved by) him in the true sense. She desires the effect (feeling valuable) without the cause (having worthy values which would make her relationally valuable). The root of this false love is often insecurity about oneself, manifested in a desperation which attempts to overcompensate for the feeling of a lack of personal value. It is not so much that this person values irrationally, but that he (or she) has not discovered how to hold deep, personal values at all; he mistakenly thinks that he will gain value by being appraised as valuable by someone else, rather than realizing that the appraisal of others is only as valuable as its accuracy in that which it is appraising: one’s own personal values.

The other type of ‘tainted’, or false, love is that kind which primarily values the irrational in another person. This can more appropriately be called “love” (more-so than the previous type of tainted love), in that it truly is a valuing of the other person because of what one sees as valuable in them, but it is a twisted sort of love because it will only result in the ruin of both the lover and the beloved. To value the irrational in another person is to ultimately value the destruction of that person — whether one consciously intends it or not. True love values that which is most objectively valuable in the other person.

How To Love

“To say ‘I love you’ one must first know how to say the ‘I’”. -Ayn Rand

If true love is valuing that which is most objectively valuable in another person, than there seems to be some preliminary requirements for one to experience true love: the ability to value, and the ability to identify and value that which is objectively valuable.

“The ability to value? Doesn’t everyone have that?” In the most surface-level sense, yes. However, what is meant here is the ability to hold deep and unchanging values, by oneself. One of the problems in our culture today is that many people are incapable of any sort of value which is not transient and fickle, or which is not simply a ‘following of the herd’. Apart from holding firm and resolute values in one’s own soul (regardless of what others may think), it is impossible to value anything of significance in another person – and it is impossible for any other person to value anything of significance in you! So, in order to rediscover love, we must rediscover the weight and glory of deep, lasting, personal values (i.e. rational egoism)

The next step is the ability to identify and value that which is most objectively valuable. This means discerning (appraising) the objective value of everything in life. If you are not able to figure out that which is most objectively valuable (and why), then you will not be able to identify the objectively valuable in another; and if you attempt to love another person apart from identifying and valuing that which is most valuable in them, then you will likely wind up valuing (and thereby encouraging) that which is less valuable in them — leading to their destruction. Therefore, to truly love another person, you must learn to identify that which is truly lovely in them; which means you must learn to identify that which is truly lovely (i.e. valuable), in general; which means you must discover an objective standard and hierarchy of value (i.e. you must think philosophically about value).

So, how to love? You (your self — your egomust value (for yourself; find valuable to you) that which is objectively valuable in another person. In other words, to love, you must be a rational egoist.

Ayn Rand on Christian Egoism: Part 1

Read Part 2 >>

aynrand

“Christianity was the first school of thought that proclaimed the supreme sacredness of the individual. The first duty of a Christian is the salvation of his own soul. This duty comes above any he may owe to his brothers. This is the basic statement of true individualism.”  

-Ayn Rand, Letter to Reverend Dudley

Ayn Rand on Christianity

Though Rand was obviously not a theologian or student of Scripture, she knew enough about Christian theology to identify this foundational moral principle in the teachings of Christ: that the chief moral imperative of the Christian is the salvation of his own soul. And, from this she concluded that Christianity did promote a similar sort of egoism to her own:

“The salvation of one’s own soul means the preservation of the integrity of one’s ego. The soul is the ego. Thus Christianity did preach egoism in my sense of the word, in high, noble and spiritual sense.” -Letter to Rev. Dudley

Elsewhere, Rand writes:

“Jesus was one of the first great teachers to proclaim the basic principle of individualism—the inviolate sanctity of man’s soul, and the salvation of one’s soul as one’s first concern and highest goal; this means—one’s ego and the integrity of one’s ego.” - Letter to Mrs. Austin

Surely, many will likely object that as an avowed atheist, Rand had no business commenting on, or presuming to understand, the foundational morality of Christianity; that she is simply mistaken about this idea of individualism and egoism being an integral part of Christ’s teaching. And so, the proper question to ask here is: is she right?

Jesus: The Chief Individualist (and Egoist)?

Did Jesus “teach the inviolate sanctity of man’s soul, and the salvation of one’s soul as one’s first and highest goal” — thus proclaiming “the basic principle of individualism” and the importance of “one’s ego“?

“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and to lose his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” -Jesus, Mk8:36-37

The implicit answer: nothing. Nothing, Jesus is saying, can possibly be of more value to you than the salvation, integrity, and perseverance of your own soul. Why? Because it is your own individual soul which values – apart from it, you cannot value anything. Why would there be no profit in exchanging one’s own soul for the whole world? Because it is the soul which profits — apart from it, there is no such thing as profit for the one doing the trading. If you gain everything that could ever satisfy your soul at the expense losing the very thing you wish to satisfy (your soul), then you gain nothing.

“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” -Jesus, Mt10:28

Translation: Your soul is of supreme value and importance. Your greatest fear should not be any physical threat, but the threat of the soul’s destruction; Value the preservation and perseverance of your soul more than this life, itself.

Add to these, and the many others which could be listed, C.S. Lewis’ observation that “nearly every description [given by Christ] of what we shall ultimately find if we do [as He commands] contains an appeal to desire” ; that the motive behind all of New Testament morality is the ultimate good of one’s own soul (in its union with God). An honest look at Scripture makes it abundantly clear that, in spite of contrary ‘Christian’ opinions, the atheist, Ayn Rand, is absolutely right on this point: Christ was one of the first and greatest champions of individualism and egoism — not in the superficial and carnal ways we mean those terms today, but in the deep, ultimate, and ironically spiritual sense which the atheistic philosopher has rightly pointed out.

Contradictions Do Not Exist

Whatever else Christ may have taught, it cannot be denied that He taught this much about the supreme value of the individual soul — the ego. And if Christ is to be taken as the infallible Truth of God which Christians hold Him to be, then everything else He taught must be understood in such a way as to not contradict His teaching on the “inviolate sanctity of man’s soul” — man’s ego.

That is the direction to which Rand turns in both quotes cited above, and the topic of the next blog: did Christ’s other teachings contradict His teachings on the value of man’s soul presented above? Is Rand right that “there is a great, basic contradiction in the teachings of Jesus“, and are modern Christians right to insist that Jesus was a staunch advocate of altruism? Stay tuned.

Read Part 2 >>

Related Posts:

Selfish Love: With C.S. Lewis and Ayn Rand

If Jesus Was a Socialist, He Would’ve Stayed in the Tomb

Jonathan Edwards on Egoism

If Jesus Was a Socialist, He Would’ve Stayed in the Tomb

Socialist Jesus

Since the new poverty-worshiping Pope recently spoke out against the ‘tyranny of Capitalism’, there has been an upsurge in the voices which insist that Jesus was a Socialist. Now before you tune out, thinking that this debate is all about both sides attempting to read ‘political philosophy’ into the teachings of Jesus, let me say very clearly that the central points of Jesus’ ministry had very little (if anything at all) to do with political affiliation.

It’s Not About Politics. It’s About Morality.

But this debate is not about political affiliation. It is about moral foundations — which inevitably give birth to political systems. Therefore, this issue is far from irrelevant to those who do not wish to ‘get involved in politics’. It isn’t about politics; it’s about the morality of the Christian worldview, and the central moral principles upon which Christ, the Son of God, operates. These aren’t different views of Government; these are different views of Christ — and therefore different views of God, and of all of reality.

When someone claims that Jesus was a Socialist, he is not primarily claiming that Jesus advocated State-run charity and wealth re-distribution (though that is certainly included and implied); he is primarily claiming that Jesus practiced and advocated that morality which underpins (and inevitably demands Socialism): the morality of altruism.

Altruism is the moral code which, at its best, states that meeting the needs of others is the ultimate moral imperative; and at its worst, states that self-sacrifice, as an end in itself, is the ultimate moral imperative. While it is understandable that a highly selective and biased reading of the Gospels could result in the belief that Christ taught and practiced this morality, there is no excuse for a truth-seeking, context-respecting Christian to leave the New Testament with that thought.

The Atheism of ‘Christian’ Altruism

Notice that those who claim that Jesus was a Socialist always use the past tense: “Jesus was a Socialist”. Jesus was — as in: isn’t any more. Jesus was a historical figure, or a good teacher, or a moral leader. Was. Implication: Jesus isn’t around anymore. I realize that it is possible that they simply use the past tense as a convenient figure of speech, but whether it is a figure of speech or not, speaking of Jesus as if He were still dead is absolutely consistent with that moral ideal of altruism. For Jesus to come back to life from the dead would imply that His death, His self-sacrifice, was not an end in itself; it would imply that He might have had something to gain in His death; that His death wasn’t entirely altruistic. If Jesus was truly altruistic — if “Jesus was a Socialist”, He would have stayed in the tomb (i.e. He would have stayed dead). But He didn’t. His death was not an end in itself, but a means to a greater end — and it is that end which the altruist must consistently deny and evade.

Stop Evading, and Keep Reading

In fact, it is always the end, the ultimate, the big-picture, the goal, which the altruist tends to evade when discussing morality (whether in the Bible or elsewhere). Show me any argument that “the Bible teaches altruism”, and I will show you an argument which ignores or evades the ultimate context and reality of what is being taught:

- “Jesus said ‘Blessed are the poor’”in spirit. Jesus is commending those who see and acknowledge their own spiritual poverty — not those who lack material wealth.

- “Jesus said ‘It is easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God’ -Mt.19:23”. Keep reading: the disciples responded “then who can be saved?”. Jesus replied “with men it is impossible, but with God all things are possible”. Both Jesus and his disciples make it clear that they understood Jesus to be saying that it is impossible for men, in general, to enter heaven apart from God. The talk of the ‘rich man’ is meant to emphasize ‘the cares of this world’, referred to in other parables, as being one of the main reasons that men do not want to think about eternity. That is the theme, taught here and throughout the Gospels by Jesus: that men who are too easily pleased with the ‘here and now’ will never have the appetite for eternal things.

- “Philippians 2:1-8 says that we should not be selfish and that we should be like Christ who humbled himself to the point of death”. Keep reading:…for this reason, God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name…” Christ’s humiliation, from the beginning of eternity, was always aimed at His exaltation. “He endured the cross despising its shame, for the joy set before Him” (Heb.12:2).

But these poverty-peddlers are not only plucking words out of context (as demonstrated above); they are gutting Christianity of its ultimate end, its ultimate value: glory — and reducing Christianity down to a naturalistic, here and now, make the best of what we’ve got, atheistic worldview. To focus on self-denial apart from the context of ultimate self-gain is to turn self-obliteration into the ultimate moral goal of life, and the ultimate end of the universe; to focus on the suffering of Christ apart from the eternal exaltation of Christ is to rob ‘the passion of Christ’ of His ultimate passion; to focus on God’s love for men apart from His omnipotent and eternal love for Himself, is to gut God of His highest and chief value.

Love the Poor, But Not Like an Atheist

This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care for the poor — or that Christians should neglect the poor. It simply means that caring for the poor must be understood in the context of ultimate morality and ultimate reality — rather than being made central to morality. It is very true that God cares about the poor, that Jesus demonstrated great care for the poor while on earth, and that Christians ought to follow suit — but it is atheistic to stop there. God’s care for the poor is not an end in itself (because nothing but God’s enjoyment of Himself is an ‘end in itself’) and Jesus’ care for the poor was always aimed at something higher, more ultimate, and eternal.

Therefore, if Christians wish to imitate God and Christ in their care for the poor, they had better begin to think long and hard about those ultimate and eternal things toward which ‘care for the poor’, and everything else, is to be aimed; i.e. they had better figure out how ‘loving the poor’ can be done in a way that is ultimately aimed at eternal values and self-gain. But before they can do that, perhaps they will need to come to terms with the fact that Jesus was not, in fact, the perfect altruist; that Christ, the Son of God, is risen from the dead in glory because He values His own glory as ultimate. He is risen, and therefore He is not a “Socialist”.

Related Posts:

Egoism Or Communism: Christians Must Choose

Selfish Love: With C.S. Lewis and Ayn Rand

The Egoist God

The Galt-Like God

Church, Step Away From The Gun (of Government Coercion)!

tgc gun

“Do not ever say that the desire to do good by force is a good motive. Neither power-lust nor stupidity are good motives” -Ayn Rand

A recent blog post by The Gospel Coalition has freshly demonstrated that American Christian culture is absolutely beside itself with either power-lust or stupidity (or both). [I obviously agree with Rand that those are the only two possible motives behind such an idea -- but that is a different conversation, for a different time].

The blog, entitled Should The Church ‘Get Out of The Marriage Business’? claims to be a response to modern day Christians (like myself) who do not morally condone homosexuality, but want to allow legal same-sex marriages (i.e. Christians who do not wish to force their view of marriage onto society). The author disagrees, and believes that the Church’s definition of marriage should be “imposed on the public square” (via the Government). Why? There seems to be two primary reasons for the author’s position. The first has to do with his view of the Church. The second, with his view of the Government. Both are horribly erroneous views.

“The Church is Too Weak, So it Should Pick Up A Gun”

“This argument assumes that Christians can maintain and safeguard their own definition of marriage by refusing to impose a particular viewpoint in the public square.” -Andrew Walker (Author of TGC Blog)

Here, and later in the article, the author reveals that he believes that the Church is incapable of holding strong to it’s definition of marriage (as one man and one woman), without using the Government to force that definition on non-Christians. His argument is that the Church will be overcome by the cultural norms (in due time), and will inevitably bend the knee to the culture’s definition — similar to the way Christians have adopted the culture’s views on divorce.

Stop and think about what this means for a second: The Church is too weak to resist the influence of the culture — therefore, it should use physical force and coercion (through the Government) to protect it from the culture’s ideas. That is the essence of the authors argument, here: that Christians are not capable of maintaining their Christian worldview without pointing a gun at the heads of non-Christians to make them comply with that worldview.

I shouldn’t need to point out how disgustingly sick and evil such a notion is. If Christians in America are so limp-wristed and weak in their worldview that they will inevitably cave to cultural influences, then the problem is not with the corrupt culture, but with the intellectually (and morally) dead Church! If there is a problem with Christians following cultural norms, rather than standing firm on Christian truth, then Church leaders (like those at TGC) should not be trying to fix the corruption of the culture — they should be trying to fix the weakness of the ChurchWhy is the Church so weak? Why do Christians so easily cave to cultural influence? Could it be because the Church, on an institutional level, has taken an intellectual back-seat to the culture for the past few centuries? Could it be because Church leaders, in false humility, have shunned worldview (i.e. philosophical) thinking? Yes, the Church in America is weak. It is weak, blind, deaf, dumb, and stupid — all by choice; all to be “humble”. This is not the culture’s fault. This is your fault, Chirstian leaders. This is the fault of every influential Christian who refused to think, and to think accurately about all of reality. Picking up the gun of Government coercion will not strengthen the Church, but weaken it. It will weaken it by enabling it to go on in it’s anti-intellectual fantasy land [<blog] for another few years, until the corruption of the culture begins to scratch the itch of some other foul, leaking sore in the American Christian’s non-worldview.

But there is another egregious fault in the author’s position, here: This was posted by The Gospel Coalition. The Gospel is good news to be proclaimed by the Church in such a way that people fall in love with the God of the Gospel, and willfully change their lives as a result of their new-found hope in God. There is hardly anything more antithetical to the Gospel than the idea that Gospel morality should be physically forced upon unbelievers, at the point of a gun. And that is precisely what the author (and any Christian who agrees with him) advocates for when wishing to criminalize same-sex marriage.

The Role of the Government

And that brings us to the author’s other reason behind his position: the role of Government in society. Although he never explicitly spells out his view of the purpose of Government, the author leaves quite a few clues throughout the article. He mentions “the public trust”, “cooperation”, “common good”, and “common belief” as some of the goals of Government action. He, like many Christians, believes that the Government is supposed to help sustain these things, and that a Government enforced Christian view of marriage would be a step in that direction. But what are these things!? “Public trust” - Who is the “public”? The majority?; “Cooperation” – among whom? and to what end?; “Common Good” – as determined by whom?; “Common belief” – among whom? and what is being believed?

These vague bromides concerning the Government’s role in society are a Socialist’s dream! But vague bromides are horribly insufficient when discussing the legal use of physical force — and that is exactly what the Government is. No one would think it acceptable for a gun-safety instructor to simply say “be nice and be safe”, without ever going into any actual detail about gun-ownership, self-defense, the dangers of treating the weapon lightly, etc… So why on earth do so many Christians think it is acceptable to speak so lightly about institutionalized legal physical force (i.e. Government)!? Government is a gun - a very big, dangerous, complex, heavy-duty gun, and it ought to be treated as such.

The only proper use of physical force is in response to the initiation of physical force. Just as there is no justification for pulling out one’s hand-gun and forcing someone to tell you the truth when you suspect them of lying (even though lying is evil), likewise there is no justification for an individual or group to attempt to use the Government to forcibly keep others from doing something which does not initiate force against someone (no matter how evil what they are doing might be). The only proper role of the Government, therefore, is the protection of individuals from the initiation of physical force. Any other view of Government is necessarily tyrannical and authoritarian, at root. Abuse of the Government is as significant (and more so!) as the abuse of a weapon.

So, American Church: I know you’re scared. You’re scared because you’re weak, and you are afraid of losing your integrity by giving into the peer pressure of the culture. But, that is no reason to pick up the gun of Government coercion. You are weak by your own designs. You don’t have to be weak, and you don’t have to give into the culture. You can (if you will) be the strong, confident, “pillar and buttress of truth” you were meant to be — but not by force! Only cowards hide behind guns. If you want to be strong, you will need to think: think philosphically, think critically, think introspectively, think comprehensively, and think confidently. It is your only alternative.

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Thankful, to Whom?

Thank You

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful: thankful for family and friends, for a good job or financial stability, for delicious food and the skill that goes into preparing it, and for an innumerable amount of amazingly good things in one’s life. And though they are innumerable, most people find joy in the attempt to enumerate and reflect upon those many things for which they are thankful this time of year. “What are you thankful for?” is the common refrain. But have you ever considered pondering the question, not what are you thankful for, but to whom are you thankful for all of those things?

The More Satisfying Question

That is, to be sure, the more challenging question to answer — but wouldn’t it be the more fruitful question, as well? What good is expressing thanks in general, but to no one or nothing in particular? Isn’t the thanks wildly insignificant without a reference to both the what and the who? If you receive a certain amount of joy in occasionally reflecting upon and identifying what you’re thankful for, how much more joy is there bound to be in specifically identifying to whom you are thankful for what, and in what way? I say specifically, because it is far too easy to blanket all of your thankfulness with a single answer in a way that washes out all of the intricate and beautiful details, thereby causing you to not only miss out on the detailed joy, but also to commit a careless injustice against those to whom you ought to be thankful in the proper ways.

Different Causes: Different Thanks

It’s easy for Christians to simply answer: I am thankful to God. It’s easy for some atheists to answer: I am thankful to the productive and creative men in the world. And it’s easy for others to simply answer: I am thankful to myself. But aren’t all of these a little too simplistic? Who says that there can only be one answer? Is there ever just one answer?

What does it mean to be thankful to someone for something? Does it not mean that you are acknowledging that person’s positive causal power in bringing about that good thing? If that’s the case, is there ever only one cause for a good thing in your life? Aristotle specified several different types of causation which are active in almost every event, but one doesn’t need to have studied Aristotle in order to see the vast multiplicity of causes for everything in one’s life — and therefore a little bit of careful reflection can go a long way in helping one to properly identify to whom he ought to be thankful for those many good things in his life.

Thankful to My Self

There is a very good and right thankfulness to one’s self for many of the good things in one’s life. The extent to which you have served to be a positive cause for the good things in your life is the exact extent to which you owe yourself thanks — no more, and no less. In fact, I would argue that even those who are thankful to themselves are not being thankful enough for all of the good things which they have helped to conceive in their lives. Some might thank themselves for the financial stability or status of living which they and their family enjoy; i.e. they are thankful to themselves for the immediate concrete reward of their hard work, which is appropriate. But a man is much more than a producer of material rewards (he is not less, but he is more). Far more vital to the success and joy of life is the production of spiritual values: honesty, integrity, rationality, generosity, creativity, etc… The cultivation and sustaining of these in one’s life takes far more work and dedication than any career a man could choose — and the rewards of this spiritual work are those things in one’s life which are far more valuable than one’s physical wealth.

I have worked hard for the relative material pleasure which my wife and I enjoy, but far more than that, I have worked relentlessly to cultivate in myself the values which would make me the man that is deserving of her amazing love; the type of man that is suitable for the remarkably loving relationship which we enjoy together. I have labored to cultivate in myself those values which I share with my dear friends: honesty, productivity, integrity, valor — values which bind us together and enrich our friendships far more than the banality of simply “sharing hobbies”. So when I think about how thankful I am for my wife, my friends, my work, and my general direction in life (not to mention the many material things which we enjoy), I am — in part – thankful to my self: to that relentless passion in my soul which strives for the very best in life, and will not be satisfied with anything less.

Thankful to Man

Likewise, it is absolutely proper to be thankful to other men for various good things in your life. The extent to which other particular men have contributed as positive causal factors for the goodness which you enjoy is the exact extent to which you ought to be thankful to those men: no more, and no less. This, perhaps, is the ultimate form of thankfulness which Ayn Rand expressed in much of her writing: she was a master at seeing the intricate and beautiful ways various men had contributed to her over-all prosperity (and the prosperity of those around her) in a way that usually goes unnoticed — and therefore un-thanked.

“When you live in a rational society, where men are free to trade, you receive an incalculable bonus: the material value of your work is determined not only by your effort, but by the effort of the best productive minds who exist in the world around you.

When you work in a modern factory, you are paid, not only for your labor, but for all the productive genius which has made that factory possible: for the work of the industrialist who built it, for the work of the investor who saved the money to risk on the untried and the new, for the work of the engineer who designed the machines of which you are pushing the levers, for the work of the inventor who created the product which you spend your time on making, for the work of the scientist who discovered the laws that went into the making of that product, for the work of the philosopher who taught men how to think and whom you spend your time denouncing.” – Atlas Shrugged

Have you ever stopped to think about the enormous amounts of wealth you are privileged to enjoy merely because of the genius of other men whom you may never meet? Some are indeed thankful for notorious men who fought for our political freedom (such as the founding fathers), but have you ever uttered a silent thank you to those valiant men who discovered how to master electricity; the men who designed the vehicle you drive to work; the scientists who refined the process of extracting energy from black tar in the ground; the businessmen who developed a way to bring you the fruit of the scientist’s mind in a way that is maximally convenient (and affordable) to you?

What about your line of work? Have you ever considered your position in that career — and whether you (in your position), alone, would be sufficient to keep that industry and your position profitable? Consider this other quote:

“The machine, the frozen form of a living intelligence, is the power that expands the potential of your life by raising the productivity of your time. If you worked as a blacksmith in the mystics’ Middle Ages, the whole of your earning capacity would consist of an iron bar produced by your hands in days and days of effort. How many tons of rail do you produce per day if you work for Hank Rearden? Would you dare to claim that the size of your pay check was created solely by your physical labor and that those rails were the product of your muscles? The standard of living of that blacksmith is all that your muscles are worth; the rest is a gift from Hank Rearden.” -Atlas Shrugged

What about you? Where would you be in your line of work, apart from the genius of other men (whether living now or not) upon whom the entire industry and infrastructure of your job depended?

Thankful to God

And now we get to the section that my fellow Christian readers have been anxiously waiting for — and my atheist readers wish to evade: thankful to God. I will ask all readers to remember the ground for thankfulness, though, as we begin to discuss it’s relation to God. The ground of thankfulness is causation. If God exists (and He does), then He is the ultimate cause of all things. This means that the modern Christian and the Atheist need to be corrected in their thanksgiving when it comes to God.

The Christian wishes to negate the self and others as causes (and therefore as legitimate objects of gratitude) because he mistakenly thinks that God’s causation leaves no room for their causation. But doesn’t this view seem far too similar to the “zero-sum” idea in economics? That there is only ‘so much’ cause to be portioned out to players? How silly is that? Remember that there are levels of causation in everything! One level or type of causation does not negate another. The pool stick hitting the cue ball does not negate the cue ball hitting the 8 ball. And the cue ball hitting the 8 ball does not negate the pool stick previously hitting the cue ball! Both are causes, in different respects and to different degrees. Likewise, God’s ultimate causation of some good thing does not negate some instrumental causation for that same thing, any more than the [relatively] ultimate causation of your wealth from your company’s CEO negates the causation of your wealth from your own hard work.

And that brings us to the Atheist. If, as demonstrated so brilliantly by Ms. Rand above, I owe thankfulness to the plethora of productive and creative minds who have made my standard of living possible, how much more do I owe thankfulness to the God upon whom my life, and theirs, is utterly contingent? Do not say “I don’t believe in God, therefore I owe him no thanks”. Just because some fool factory worker might “choose” not to believe in Hank Rearden (perhaps for the stupid reason that he had never met him), it certainly does not mean that Rearden never existed! If you truly want to know whether or not God exists, the answers are easy enough to find — and if you do not want to know, there is no answer which could satisfy your stubborn evasion.

Or perhaps you wish to pretend that because you do not see the direct evidence of His causation in the good things which you enjoy, that therefore you have more justifiable room for doubt and a lack of gratitude. Rand made it abundantly clear in those quotes above that it is often those causers whom you have the least immediate knowledge or evidence of who are the most deserving of the credit for those things which you are currently enjoying. The responsibility is not on them to communicate themselves to you, but on you to consider the levels and types of causation in order to discover them.

Reconsider that quote from Rand about all of the people for whom the modern factory worker is paid:

“for the work of the industrialist who built it, for the work of the investor who saved the money to risk on the untried and the new, for the work of the engineer who designed the machines of which you are pushing the levers, for the work of the inventor who created the product which you spend your time on making, for the work of the scientist who discovered the laws that went into the making of that product, for the work of the philosopher who taught men how to think and whom you spend your time denouncing”…and for the work of God who designed and upholds the wonders discovered by all of the above, and whom you relentlessly evade. 

God is the chief producer in the world, the chief engineer, the chief inventor, the chief investor, the chief worker — He is the Chief Capitalist. And it is by the grace of His infinite capital that men thrive in all of their wondrous ways.There is no life in the universe which is not contingent upon His eternal life. There is no energy in the universe which is not an extension of His omnipotence. There is no value in reality which is not a reflection of His infinite value for Himself. There is no thing – whether spiritual or physical, in heaven or on earth – which is not ultimately from Him, through Him, and to Him, so that there is no thing for which we do not owe Him ultimate thanks.

Give Thanks To Whom Thanks is Due

In your giving of thanks, this Thanksgiving, be conscious of who you are giving thanks to — and be sure to give credit exactly where credit is due: no more, and no less. Be thankful to your self for those things of which you are legitimately a cause. Be thankful to other men for those things of which they are legitimately a cause. And be thankful to God for your self, for those men, and for everything for which He is legitimately a cause (which is all things). So, thank God. Thank others. Thank your self. And Thank God for others, for yourself, and for all things.

The Church’s Cowardly Fear of Ideas

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Christians seem to have a curious sort of love-hate relationship with knowledge, ideas, thinking, and philosophy. They have to love it – to an extent – because without it, you don’t have Christianity. After all, the word Gospel means “good news” — and news is information, and information is communicated through ideas, and ideas are evaluated by thinking, and accurate thinking is the science of philosophy, and once an idea has been thought about and accurately understood to be true, it is held in the mind as knowledge. Therefore, the extent to which a Christian wishes to take Christianity seriously, he will find himself in the uncomfortable position of having to deal with all of that dirty intellectual stuff quite a bit.

I say that he finds himself in an uncomfortable position because it is almost an unspoken rule that a Christian ought to despise intellectual work, at worst, or be highly suspicious of it, at best. The intellect, nowadays, and everything which goes along with it, is considered to be more of a dangerous and necessary evil which should only be consulted when absolutely necessary, than it is considered to be a remarkable and glorious tool to be wielded expertly by all.

In a sense, these Christians have the right idea about the intellect: it is extremely dangerous – for the one who does not know how to use it. It is one of the deadliest weapons in the universe, being used to produce every moral atrocity ever known to man. And the realm of ideas is a treacherous place to find one’s self – if one does not know how to navigate it. Therefore, the desperate longing in most men to steer clear of that most dangerous weapon (the intellect), and to escape that perilous realm (of ideas) is almost understandable — almost. The reality, though, is that there is no escaping it. Man, by his nature, is inextricably inside of the realm of ideas, and cannot ever escape it but by the futile attempt (seen all over culture today) to revert himself back into a ‘beast of the field’. And the sword of the intellect is so inextricably a part of man that he cannot ever fully be parted from it — his only option, if he wishes to denounce his union to it, is to turn it upon himself and to fall on it.

But forget about it being impossible for man to consistently renounce the intellect and the realm of ideas. The modern man (and much less, the modern Christian) cares very little for consistency — he is quite happy to have his evasive, head-in-the-sand cake, and eat it, too. Consider therefore, the more practical, and hopefully obvious, implications of the very dangers which keep so many away from ideas. If ideas are so powerful, and if all of the good powers and institutions in the world are too fearful to come near them, what do you think the evil powers and institutions of the world will do in response? Do you suppose that evil is as afraid of that power as you are? Do you suppose that evil is shy about picking up the sword of the intellect or about reigning supreme in the realm of ideas (the very realm which no man can escape)? As Christians cower on the battlefield of ideas, paralyzed by the fear of appearing ‘arrogant’ to their brothers, do they suppose that their enemy has stopped its advance; that it has loosened its torturous grip on those very brothers whose superficial judgement he so fears?

Yes, there is danger in picking up a sword. There is danger and a right kind of fear associated with taking arms. But in the middle of a war, it is the height of effeminate indecency to fear the sword more than the advancing enemy. There are many potential dangers to intellectual rigor, but the gravest danger of all is to allow those lesser dangers to keep your from it.

Do you fear that your knowledge will ‘puff you up’ and make you arrogant? Then, learn how to not be an arrogant fool! Perhaps the only reason that a little bit of knowledge tends to puff you up is because you are only taking in a little bit of knowledge. Perhaps you only see five feet in front of you on the battle field, where your brothers lie wounded on the ground and all you can see is their wounds, compared to your lack of wounds. Maybe looking up (i.e. thinking harder and deeper) in order to see further down the battle field, where your stronger brothers are valiantly riding against the enemy will humble you a bit. Perhaps climbing an intellectual mountain, in order to see the whole scope of the war, will help you to forget about your petty arrogant self so that you can focus on the more important things. There are a million things you could think of and learn about to cure you of your arrogance, but there is one thing that sure as hell is not going to help: sitting on the battlefield, closing your eyes, and saying “I must not be arrogant, I must not be arrogant” as people are slaughtered all around you.

Do you fear that you will make a mistake? Then, focus more, try harder, and get over your weakness! This isn’t about you and your ability to handle ideas perfectly. The battlefield is not a pageant, and swordsmanship is not a show. No one is sitting on the sidelines, taking notes on your form. If they are, slay them! — they deserve it. And if you are one of those side-line judges, passively critiquing aspiring intellectual soldiers on non-essentials, rather than helping them in the battle in every way you can, watch out! The Lord of the battle will not deal pleasantly with those who scoff at His soldiers over frivolities in the face of war.

Whatever your fear of ideas and intellectual rigor may be, there is no excuse for not overcoming those fears for the sake of what is at stake in the battle of ideas. I do not say: don’t be afraid of making mistakes, but rather: become an expert, so you make fewer mistakes! Your fallibility is not an excuse to stick your head in the sand and give up.

“Do not say that you’re afraid to trust your mind because you know so little. Are you safer in surrendering to mystics and discarding the little that you know? Live and act within the limit of your knowledge and keep expanding it to the limit of your life. Redeem your mind from the hockshops of authority. Accept the fact that you are not omniscient, but playing a zombie will not give you omniscience—that your mind is fallible, but becoming mindless will not make you infallible—that an error made on your own is safer than ten truths accepted on faith, because the first leaves you the means to correct it, but the second destroys your capacity to distinguish truth from error.” -Ayn Rand

‘But’, you might object, ‘there are lots of Christian leaders who decry anti-intellectualism and encourage people to use their minds — who are you arguing against?’. Yes, there are good Christian leaders who – almost reluctantly – confess that anti-intellectualism is a bad thing and that the mind is a good thing, but that is about as close as these supposed generals get to picking up their swords and doing any real battle. Look at the literature and works of those leaders within Evangelicalism who speak out the most about the necessity of the intellect and observe that even among these, you will find 90% warnings about the dangers of the intellect with 10% mild and vague approval of using one’s intellect. In other words, our most courageous generals in the battle are riddled with fear to the point that the most they can offer — beyond warning of the dangers of picking up the sword — is to grant you approval for doing so.

But it is not mere permission which is needed, today. Fear-laden generals who pay lip-service to battle are of very little good to the soldiers who need leaders that will actually fight — and fight well. We need leaders who are so over the fears associated with intellectual rigor that they are experts in the war of ideas. We need generals (and soldiers), who are not only over the fear of picking up the sword, but who have mastered it in such a way that it is now an extension of their own body (like it actually was from the very beginning — as noted above).

This means: the ability to speak critically about a dangerous idea without the need to speak about one’s own humility before, during, and after such criticism. It means analyzing major ideas and ideologies for coherence, validity, and value (1 Cor 2:15). It means questioning obscure language to discover any hidden premises or poisonous assumptions being smuggled into innocent peoples’ minds. It means relentlessly taking ideas to their logical conclusions in order to track and project the inevitable trajectory of any given idea — whether true or false. It means discovering the proper criteria for deciding whether an idea is true or false. It means discovering the proper hierarchy of ideas in order to know which types of ideas are foundational (and therefore determinitive) for other types of ideas. In other words, it means taking ideas seriously; which means taking reality seriously.

Anything less is nothing more than cowardice. Do not say “at least it’s humble”. Obsessing over one’s own humility in the face of such a battle is the anything but humble. Do not say that it’s loving. Love does not stand by idly while one’s beloved is poisoned, tortured, deceived, and destroyed. Do not say that it is not your ‘gift’ or your ‘calling’. The extent to which you are involved in communicating or promoting ideas (i.e. the extent to which you are acting as a human being) is the extent to which you are directly responsible for the content, value, and trajectory of those ideas you are communicating to others. It is time for Christians (and people in general) to stop making excuses, and get their butts onto the battle field — where the enemy has been (and will continue to be) happy to rage as long and as violently as he is allowed.

Related Posts & Pages:

-The Christian Intellectual 

- Epistemology

- The “Christian” Fairytale

- There is No Such Thing as Scripture “Apart” From Philosophy

- Athens & Jerusalem: General and Specific Revelation