LGBT vs. The Church: Why Christians Have This Battle All Wrong

aptopix-gay-marriage-idahojpeg-01d6f_c0-183-3000-1931_s561x327My home state, Idaho, is the latest locale for the showdown between the LGBT movement and Christian businesses. This time, it’s not a Christian bakery or photographer, but a wedding chapel. You can read the article here.

It’s tempting for Christians to think that these instances of Christian businesses being forced to acquiesce to the LGBT agenda is the result of the recent and sweeping legalization of “gay marriage”, but that conclusion seems a little too reactionary, and misses some more fundamental issues that Christians should have been aware over the past few decades. Think about it: typically, making something legal does not automatically make it illegal to decline participation in that thing. When marijuana was recently made legal in a few states, it was not simultaneously made illegal for a Washingtonian to decline a joint offered to him by his neighbor, or for a Colorado woman to tell her kids that smoking pot can be bad for them. So why then, is the legalization of “gay marriage” resulting in the criminalization of those who disagree with gay marriage? There is obviously something else at play.

Anti-Discrimination Laws

If you read about these cases carefully, you’ll find that it is not (yet) Christian churches or individuals who are being criminalized for their disagreement with “gay marriage”, but Christian businesses. This is important because the legal accusations being brought against them do not even concern “gay marriage”, as such, but discrimination in general. They are being threatened with prosecution under anti-discrimination laws, and those laws are particularly applicable to businesses at the time being. And these, the anti-discrimination laws, are the real legal problem behind the current backlash against Christians. Of course, this is a lot harder for many to grasp — and much more to argue — since blaming anti-discrimination laws makes one sound, well, discriminatory. These laws were put in place mostly as an (over)reaction to the evil discrimination of whites toward blacks in prior eras. But in the hurry to prove how ‘not racist’ we all are, no one — including the Christian — stopped to think about the inevitable consequences of making discrimination illegal.

What is Discrimination?

Discrimination, strictly defined, means exercising one’s will toward a preference of one thing over another thing. When applied to society, it simply means interacting with other people according to your values — and we do this all the time. When you choose to go to McDonald’s rather than Burger King, you have discriminated based on quality (or price, or convenience, etc…); when you choose to propose to the woman you love, you have discriminated against all other women on many grounds (beauty, affection, personal values, etc…); when you choose a place to live, you have discriminated against all other options on grounds of location, affordability, amenities, etc…; when you open a business doing something you love, you have discriminated against opening every other type of business on the grounds of your personal preference. You see, discrimination is not a bad thing (in and of itself). It is essential to freedom, because it is simply the free exercise of your own ideas and values.

But what about the bad discrimination!? Choosing not to interact with people because of their skin color, or their gender, etc…? These are examples of people discriminating in a way that most of society would agree is wrong (as would I). Now here is the crucial question: should such discrimination be made illegal — i.e. should the government punish people who exercise such discrimination? The answer given by our recent forefathers who put the anti-discrimination laws in place was “yes, but…”: “Yes, people should be punished for discrimination like this, but we don’t want to go too far and violate the first amendment — so, we’ll just make it illegal for businesses to discriminate like that”. And thus, anti-discrimination laws were born.

Individuals, Yes. Businesses, No….?

On what grounds, though, do these laws distinguish between individuals and businesses? Pay attention now, because this is where the Christian (and everyone else, for that matter) is going to have to choose. Businesses, after all, are owned by individuals. A business is simply a material extension of the individual(s) who own(s) and operate(s) it. To outlaw an action by a business is no different than outlawing that action by the individuals who own that business (because the business is an extension of themselves and their values). Therefore, anti-discrimination laws, no matter how well intended, do violate the first amendment, and more fundamentally, the individual rights to property and to liberty. By all means, people should boycott businesses which practice discrimination in a way they deem unacceptable (i.e. I would never patronize a business which refused black people as customers), but don’t undercut universal individual rights by bringing the government into the equation! Since the anti-discrimination laws do undercut fundamental individual rights, it should be no surprise that they eventually reached into certain exercises of those rights that no one, 50 years ago, would have imagined: the right to refuse to use one’s own business in a way that is against one’s own religion. But here we are, and Christians are in a surprised tissy fit over it all.

Why the Surprise, brother Christian?

Why the Surprise, though? Because rather than understanding and upholding the proper role of government (the protection of individual rights) in the midst of a swath of groups who wish to abuse others with the government, the Church has by and large been playing fast and loose with the government, itself, in its irrational and reactionary defense to its opponents in “the culture war”. The Church was all too eager to use the billy-club of government coercion against the liberals, in battles over mandatory prayer in public schools and preventing gay couples from calling themselves “married”, but now the tides (i.e. majority) have changed, and that billy-club (temporarily) belongs to the liberals; the Church wants (rightfully) to call “foul!”, but has lost all credibility to do so, because of its many fouls during the heyday of the moral majority. Rather than being the referee which strictly upheld the proper use of the law, the Church chose to become one of the many thugs struggling against each other in the attempt to wield (and abuse) the law for its own nefarious advantages. Now the the Church has no moral ground to stand on when it attempts to defend itself on the grounds that the law is being used unjustly.

Moving Forward

In spite of the fact that Christians just pathetically look like the big bully on the playground who just had the tables turned on him (and that is pretty much the case), there is still a way for Christians, and the Church in general, to move forward and resume their rightful place as objective referee (i.e. prophet) to the government: we must repent. But before that, we must understand. Christians must learn and understand the proper role of government. The state is not instituted to be a theocracy (to any degree); nor is it instituted to punish all evil. The state is meant to punish a very particular kind of evil: the evil of violating individual rights. When, and only when, the Church comes to understand this, it will be able to see why it must repent of its prior abuses of the law.

The Olive Branch (and Litmus Test)

What specific acts of repentance could, and should, be performed though? There is one which I think would function beautifully both as an olive branch (toward those the Church has attempted to abuse) and as a litmus test ( to prove that we really mean it when we say we are for individual rights), and that is: support the legalization of “gay marriage”. Not support gay marriage”, but support the legalization of it; i.e. support the individual right of gay couples to call themselves “married” and to receive the same unjust tax breaks associated with being called “married” by the state. If Christians did this, they could gain some moral ground by proving that they are objectively for individual rights — across the board (not just when it suits them) — and that they can be trusted in the debate about the proper role of the government in society. If Christians don’t do this, then the Church will reap what it has sewn politically. And it won’t be pretty.

Related Articles

Setting Christians Straight on “Gay Marriage”

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

Justice: The Only Proper Foundation for Capitalism – (A Response to an Article by Wayne Grudem on The Gospel Coalition)

file000704919536The following is my response to Wayne Grudem’s recent article at TGC, Is Gaining Profit From Someone Else’s Work Exploitation

A Great Article, But…

This is a great article, in that it demonstrates the glorious nature of wealth creation (and therefore life-enhancement) in a Capitalist system, while demonstrating some great Biblical principles which support such wealth-creation — however the article seems to ground the ‘goodness’ of this employer-employee relationship (and implicitly, of Capitalism in general) in ‘love for the other person’, which has dangerous implications if carried out consistently (see the Marxist-sympathizing comments by Curt and Haze in this comment section for examples).

The Only Proper Foundation

While love for others certainly ought to be a strong driving motive of the Christian in all things, it should not (and cannot) be the foundation for the goodness of Capitalism (the system Grudem is implicitly defending above). The only proper foundation (Biblical or otherwise) for Capitalism is: Justice. The primary reason it is right and good for an employer to hire and profit from employees is because such profit is just. Every form of capital poured into the business — from the massive intellectual efforts of design, the long (often years) of toil in bringing the dream of the business into reality, the enormous up-front costs to begin the business (usually requiring a large amount of debt on the owner’s part), to the ongoing stress of a multitude of extraordinary responsibilities to keep the business running and growing — all of it is paid by the owner (or ‘employer’), and therefore every single last aspect of the business – including the material which the employees put together, the tools with which they do so, the training programs they received to learn how to do it properly, the air-conditioning or heat they enjoy in the building while doing their work, the running water, the restrooms, the snacks (if provided), etc… – all belong to the ‘employer’. None of it rightfully (i.e. justly) belongs to the employee, apart from what the employer freely offers to the employee, and the employee freely accepts (i.e. wages).

To imply that the employee is somehow entitled to the profit, or to more than what is offered by the employer, is not wrong primarily because it is ‘unloving’ toward the other person. It is wrong primarily because it is horribly unjust. It is the attempt to extort the employer’s property (which he has every just right to own) from him, on some shaky grounds that the employee isn’t getting treated ‘fairly’ — but what is fairness? Is it not a synonym for justice? And isn’t justice simply each party receiving what is due? Is not the property of the employer due to the employer? What then is due to the employee, other than that which the employer has promised to give in exchange for his work? According to justice (i.e “fairness”): Nothing.

Getting at the Root

Justice — the rightful ownership of one’s own property, and the strict upholding of contracts made between various parties (i.e. wage agreements) — is the only proper foundation for the employer-employee relationship, and for Capitalism, in general. However, if Christians truly wish to dispel ‘Marxist theory’, they must ultimately dispel the moral foundation of Marxism: altruism (the morality of death), and come to grips with the glorious fact that God is a God of ultimate personal gain, and that He created a people who should be about the business of maximizing rational, long-term, earth-transforming, ever-expanding, overflowing-in-love, personal gain!

Related Articles

Egoism or Communism: Christians Must Choose

The Egoism of Christian Hedonism

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

The Galt-Like God

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

Back To School

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Why I’ve Been AWOL

For those of you who don’t know, and have been wondering where I’ve been, I have recently moved across the country to attend Bethlehem College & Seminary in order to finish my Bachelors Degree through their Degree Completion Program. I haven’t completely set the blog aside, but I have had to take some time off over the past 1/2 year or so to focus on all of the intricate logistics of moving across country, applying to school, switching jobs, and coming up with the funds to support all of this! 

The School & The Goal

Most of you may know this, but for those who don’t, Bethlehem College & Seminary is an outgrowth of Bethlehem Baptist Church, where Dr. John Piper was Preaching Pastor for over 30 years. Piper, the author of Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, has been a very outspoken critic of altruism in the Church, and has even declared that he is on a campaign against Immanuel Kant and the stoics. He was (and seemingly still is) somewhat of an admirer of Ayn Rand, and has spoken a number of times about his appreciation of her and his sorrowful disagreement with her regarding various topics. For the most recent example, listen to this podcast from last March: Ayn Rand’s Tragic Trajectory. Since retiring from the pulpit at Bethlehem, Piper has become the Chancellor at Bethlehem College and Seminary.

I say all that to point out the incredible opportunity I have in finishing my degree through BCS. Not only am I attending a school of extreme academic rigor, but I am attending a school full of men and women who have learned to lean in toward philosophical and intellectual dilemmas, rather than running away from them. I am attending a school that very explicitly denounces relativism, pluralism, and subjectivism — not just in the culture, but in the Church; in the minds and lives of individuals, and in the trajectory of institutions. If there is a breeding ground for mature, honest, and vibrant Christian intellect in the US today, this is it. And I am excited to be a part of it. 

Where to From Here?

So, does this mean I am shutting down The Christian Egoist? By no means! This is, I believe, the best next step in pursuing my passion to become a professional (and hopefully influential) teacher of philosophy and theology — whether through my writing, through speaking, or through a formal academic position. It is also an opportunity for me to sharpen my understanding of various issues which are highly relevant to my philosophy. While attending school part time, I still need to work full time, so my time is limited. However, I do want to continue work with The Christian Egoist. I may not be able to blog as often as I once did, but I do hope to blog semi-regularly on various issues. One of the things I’m most excited about is the opportunity to blog about topics being covered in my classes, and then analyzing them from a ‘Christian Egoist’ perspective. I also have roughly 50% finished of a first podcast episode in a series of podcasts on ‘Arguments for the Existence of God‘. This series will, in part, be a response to Objectivist philosopher, Dr. Diana Hsieh’s podcast series on the same topic. 

 

So, please stay tuned and stay plugged in. Check back frequently for updates (which I should be able to do more often as we get settled into our new place and routine). And please consider praying for us during this challenging time. Also, if you believe that my success could be of value to you, please consider donating toward my tuition, here.

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

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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 >>

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“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