Egoism or Communism: Christians Must Choose

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Internal War

There is a very good upsurge of ‘Liberty-minded’ thinking going on today – particularly in traditionally ‘Christian conservative’ circles. But even with power-house movements like the Tea Party, the liberty-leaning masses haven’t been able to catch significant footing in the culture. Why? Because the majority of them (the ‘Moral Majority’ …aka Christians) are at war with themselves ideologically. Consider the following quote very carefully, and ask yourself if you do not already see this playing out:

“Since both parties (Democrat and Republican) hold altruism as their basic moral principle, both advocate a welfare state or mixed economy as their ultimate goal … It is precisely [the altruism-collectivism-statism] ends that ought to be rejected. But if neither party chooses to do it, the logic of the events created by their common basic principles will keep dragging them both further and further to the left. If and when the “conservatives” are kicked out of the game altogether, the same conflict will continue between the “liberals” and the avowed “socialists”; when the socialists win, the conflict will continue between the socialists and the communists; when the communists win, the ultimate goal of altruism will be achieved: universal immolation. There is no way to stop or change that process except at the root: by a change of basic principles. -Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal p.146, emphasis added.

Addressing the Root

Christians can talk all the game they want about Capitalism, Free-Markets, the Rule of Law, and Liberty, but as long as they’ve got altruism as their root — as their basic moral principle, they will inevitably be advocating for Communism, Collectivism, and Statism – no matter how loudly they may protest otherwise.  Christians, more than anyone, should understand the importance of the root — of basic moral principles (see all of Jesus’ references to trees and plants and leaven). Principles have trajectories. And trajectories cannot be changed mid-air — they must be changed at the root.

The Ends of Altruism

Altruism — the moral ideal of sacrificing one’s own values for the sake of the other — can only ever lead to Communism and Collectivism, if followed consistently. Incidentally, that is all the liberals are doing: they are consistently following the inept moral advice Christians have promoted in their unthinking and anti-intellectual slumber through Modernity. Now the chickens are coming home to roost, and Christians are getting a frightening (and long overdue!) wake-up call with the spectacle of rampant wealth-transfer, social planning, and economic regulation. What did you expect? You condemn self-interest and personal profit as evil, insisting that everyone should ‘deny himself’ in every way possible, considering the good of ‘others’ as paramount — and then when the masses take you seriously and begin to enact your advice on a cultural and political level, you stare in astonishment that they actually took you seriously. Do not say that you only meant it individually — that you never expected your morality to be carried out on a political level. To think ‘individually’ is a sin (according to your altruistic morality) – we should not think of ourselves individually, but of everyone corporately; i.e. collectively. There is no escaping it. Altruism (other-ism) is the destruction of the individual for the sake of the collective; it is the destruction of profit for the sake of poverty; the destruction of freedom for the sake of chains; the destruction of man for the sake of ‘men’. Therefore, if Christians truly wish to oppose the evils of Communism and Collectivism (and the political corollary of Statism), they must renounce Altruism with swift and exhaustive repudiation.

The Only Alternative

It is not enough to simply dismiss Altruism, though. If it is not replaced with the proper moral root, that weed will grow back and continue its destruction. The only moral alternative to Altruism is Egoism — rational self interest. It is rational self interest which allows man to see himself as an individual – apart from the collectivist herd. It is rational self interest which allows him to have values – according to which he uses his faculties to shape the material of the world into valuable assets (i.e. ‘Capital’). It is rational self interest which drives man to value (and therefore to protect) his life, his freedom, and his property. This rational self interest – this egoism – is the only moral root for Capitalism, Individualism and Liberty. Apart from this root, there will be no genuine prosperity, but with it, the possibilities are endless.

Those are the alternatives laid before the American Christian:

Egoism with its social corollaries:

Capitalism, Individualism and Liberty

OR

Altruism with its social corollaries:

Communism, Collectivism and Statism.

One or the other. You cannot have both.

Obviously, understanding the integral nature of egoism in Christian thought is going to be difficult for modern Christians who have mindlessly convinced themselves of the morality of Altruism. My advice: check your assumptions, check out (and subscribe to) this blog, and keep digging for resources. You will find that Altruism is FAR from the moral ideal that it is cracked up to be — and you will especially find that God is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the ultimate Egoist. 

For Starters, Check out the following posts:

Jonathan Edwards on Egoism

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

The Egoism of Christian Hedonism

and Brothers, Value Your Self

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20 thoughts on “Egoism or Communism: Christians Must Choose

  1. I also hate altruism, I love Ayn Rand, my philosophy comes from her with a bit of right-libertarian views. I see the individual as a god, not the God, but the master of his life. Selfishness is my cause, “what’s in it for me” is my motto. My second motto is “I do unto others what others do unto me.” I suffer no fools, I don’t reward evil with good, pain with compassion. I believe that only through rational self-interest a man can find happiness, or at the very least, has the satisfaction of doing things his way.

    I always tell my Christian friends, “Jesus didn’t die so you could die, he didn’t sacrifice so you had to sacrifice, he died so you could live, so you could be free.” It’s the same reason I believe Jesus would have supported the Second Amendment, it’s why he told his apostles that it was better to sell your cloak to buy a sword than to do without one.

    Of course, in Ayn Rand circles I don’t tell people I believe in God because I do not wish to have debates about religion. I don’t like debating religion with Atheist because you can’t debate something that requires faith with people that only see reason. I do however argue that even when you have reason, there are times in your life where you take chances based on faith, not logic. A new job in a new city requires faith, changing careers requires faith, investing in speculative stocks requires faith. Reason is powerful when you know the outcome, if you know cyanide kills you, you won’t drink cyanide unless you want to die. But when you don’t, that’s where faith comes in. Anyway, I invite you to check out my blog.
    https://sellingthesecondamendment.wordpress.com/

  2. Thank you for your comment.

    I think you may be mistaken about Christianity needing faith rather than reason, though — or maybe in your understanding of the relationship between faith and reason. Check out the following posts, they may be of help:

    http://thechristianegoist.wordpress.com/2012/10/30/faith-the-fruit-of-reason/

    http://thechristianegoist.wordpress.com/2012/12/12/godthe-immovable-mover/

    Faith plays no roll in a proper *belief* about God (or anything else in the universe). It does play a roll in the working out of those beliefs in some circumstances, though.

    • As indicated in the post (and everywhere else on my blog), by “egoism” I mean rational self-interest.

      With that in mind, can you think of anywhere the Bible commands us NOT to seek our ultimate rational self-interest? Would you argue that the Bible would have us be irrational or miserable …. or both?

      “He who loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will SAVE it. For what does it PROFIT a man to gain the whole world but to lose his soul?” -Mark 8:35-36

      There’s one of many that could be listed. But, I don’t want to just grasp at random verses and treat the Bible like some grab-bag of fortune cookies. I want to get at the whole message, the big picture. And that requires thinking systematically (i.e. philosophically) about everything in God’s Word and in God’s World.

      What is your big picture view of God’s morality? Would He have us seek our rational self-interest? Or would He have us be irrational and miserable? Is He irrational and miserable, or does He seek His own rational self-interest?

      I will address this to Dapper Dan (below) as well: Have you read my posts on Christian Egoism (linked at the bottom of this blog post, above)? Have you read Desiring God by John Piper? His book (and his ministry) is a triumphant litany of Biblical commands and reasons to “seek your highest pleasure .. in God”, as he puts it. Have you read Jonathan Edwards or Augustine or Lewis or Calvin?

      If you have (read and studied the above), and you would still like to argue for a view of Christian morality that is ultimately aimed against our seeking our own rational self-interest, be my guest. It would be a battle against the entirety of the Biblical message and against the majority of historical Christian thinkers.
      If you haven’t (read and studied the above), I would encourage you to. You may just find that YOU have been the one imposing flawed philosophical categories onto your Christian worldview.

      • You are quite bold to demand that Christians “must choose” between egoism and communism considering that your demand is not based on any scriptural authority.

        By your rationale for re-defining egoism as “rational self-interest”, how can you possibly have a problem with altruism, which someone could re-define as “rational concern for the well-being of others”? You are allowing yourself to be defined by terms favored by Objectivists. As a Christian, I prefer to avoid that weakness.

        I do not wish to answer a questionnaire or read your entire blog right now. I simply wanted to see if you could answer a question related to your post. I would welcome questions about my beliefs where appropriate on my blog. In reading my blog you’re bound to come across my thoughts regarding the writings of Calvinists. Lewis however is quite good. I recommend him.

        Lastly, do you really want to be the guy who is inspiring “gunads” to continue down the road he’s on?

        -Ben

  3. “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 2 Timothy 3:1-7

    • This is why I’ve stopped going to church. Such collectivist thinking, you might as well call it Christian Communism. Is it a sin to love yourself? Is it a sin to love money? Are these the words of Paul or a bad translation? If it’s a sin, then I choose to be a sinner. I will not be a slave of collectivism. I live for me, Jesus died so I could be free, not so I could be his slave. If I wanted to submit, I would become a Muslim. Islam means submission, literally.

      • There is nothing in that scripture to suggest collectivism. Political communism is based on coveting and stealing, both of which are also sins according to the Bible.

    • See my above reply to Ben.

      “Delight yourself in the Lord” – Psalm 37:4
      “Without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He is, and that HE REWARDS THOSE WHO SEEK HIM” -Hebrews 11:6

      I could list a lot more. Now, unless you hold that the Bible contradicts itself, you’ve got to do the “evil and dirty” task of THINKING systematically (i.e. philosophically) about how those types of commands for us to seek rewards and eternal life and pleasure in God, etc.. fit with the talk about self-denial, etc.. I have.

      There is a type of self-denial commanded in the Bible. And there is a type of self-interest commanded in the Bible. Either they are contradictory and we should throw the Bible out, OR they fit together hierarchically, so that one is ultimate over the other; with the lesser being FOR THE SAKE OF the other.

      So, is self-denial for the sake of ultimate self-interest. OR is self-interest for the sake of ultimate self-denial?
      Be very careful how you answer: the very character and nature of God is at stake here (whether you realize it or not).

  4. The response of gunads is the perfect example of why the majority of 2,000 years of Christian history would consider your philosophy dangerous. When our desires determine morality, we start to believe that……well, that Jesus died on the cross because He owed US something. We desire rewards, our desires determine morality, therefore God must give it. That is obvious nonsense, Biblically speaking. God owes us nothing. We owe Him everything. You want Christianity to be capitalistic? On a level that’s true. We owe a debt to God that we can never pay back. And debt is servitude. What He gives us ought to inspire gratitude, not an entitlement mentality—which is the mentality of communism. (I should be “very careful”? I will. Perhaps you both should do the same.)

    Moving on …

    1. No one would argue that there are heavenly rewards and that eternal life is important to God. But it’s a focus on eternity, not on this earth. You’re blog focuses mainly on this earth. You have to wait for heaven to get heavenly treasures. That’s what makes them heavenly treasures.
    2. You mistake secondary consequences (rewards) as the basis of primary concerns (which is seeking the kingdom of heaven Matthew 6:33). In other words, you’re mistaking the bonus for the actual morality. You base all morality and goodness on rewards and what you get out of it. So do children. But the cosmic good must be good in and of itself. If something was only good for what we get out of it, than whatever we get out of it would be greater. We certainly benefit by obtaining it because it’s goodness will be ours. But the obtaining of the thing itself is not what gives it it’s goodness. It’s good whether we attain it or not, or even whether we value it or not. (Again, we owe God everything and it’s moral to give it, even if we don’t get anything else in return. We will get something else in return. But that’s not what makes it moral.)

    And I’ve talked enough. I know you will disagree because apparently Ayn Rand affected you more than Jesus did. But I really wanted to say it anyway.

    “Our reasoning powers are a gift from God, and we must use them to the full; but we should recognize their limitations.” – Bishop Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way

    • My desires hurt no one, as a devotee of Ayn Rand, I would never use force unless it’s lawful self-defense. I have no problem with Christianity until it gets on my business. In fact, as a right-libertarian and objectivist, I am used to Christians, we share a lot of the same ideals when it comes to guns, self-reliance, business, small government, etc. I’m a huge supporter of home schooling, I’m a huge hater of the National Endowment for the Arts, PBS, NPR, and all those unnecessary public institution hardly anyone uses. I only depart from my Christian friends when they try to outlaw porn and keep obscenity illegal.

      However, right now it’s not the Christians I worry about, but the socialist Atheists. Yes, I know Objectivism has Atheists but I’m not speaking about those. I’m speaking about the ones that are as annoying as the worst fundamentalist. The noes that persecute military chaplains for their beliefs, the ones that demand FORCED secularization.

      The military allows Atheist groups, even pagan groups, yet the secular Nazis aren’t happy just being allowed to exist, they want to convert others and use the courts to intimidate anyone who believes in God.

      Here in Chattanooga it’s common to have an invocation before a government meeting, it’s what the people like. Just like people like going to football stadiums to watch football, 90% of them don’t mind an invocation. Nobody’s forced to pray or listen, it just happens, yet the socialist Atheists want to ban that.
      https://sellingthesecondamendment.wordpress.com/

    • Woa, woa, woa. Where did I say anything along the lines of God owing us something!? Or about us being entitled to something from God!? No way in hell! (literally). If, and when, you get to read my book (which I am working on) you will see just how remarkably far from my thoughts of God that type of mentality is.

      There is definitely dangerous philosophy running rampant in Modern Christianity, but you’re far from establishing that mine is the dangerous one. Who said anything about “our desires determining morality”? I think you are projecting a lot of unhealthy (and stupid) “Christian” errors onto me. (I am saying that those errors are stupid — not you!)

      So you agree, then, that the Bible does call us to ultimate self-interest and ultimate reward (even if that ultimate isn’t realized until the after-life). The when are where of the rewards isn’t as immediately important as the fact that they are real, and that we should want them. Your blog is about “Principles”. That is a principle – that Christianity holds self-interest and reward as ultimate over self-denial and duty. The rest (when and where and how that happens) are just details — important details! — but those details do not change the nature of the principle. Once a principle is established to be true, the next task is to consistently apply it to all of life, taking all of the detailed specifics into account.

      You seem to impose a dichotomy between “good to us” and the “cosmic good”. But, why does there have to be a dichotomy? When speaking of “good to us” I mean what is objectively good for us — and why would you assume that there is a dichotomy between what is objectively good for us and the “cosmic good”. If the cosmic good is good, then it is objectively good.

      I completely agree that it is good whether we value it or not (and that is extremely important!) That is what I mean when I say objectively good. And that is why I insist that values (or self-interest) must be rational (i.e. objective).

      So we agree (more than you likely realize!) that value is objective — whether we ever realize it or not; and that God is objectively good and valuable, whether we ever come around to enjoying Him or not.

      But the question I am after is this:
      Must we come around to enjoying Him? Must we discover Him to be the value that He is?
      The answer is YES! Otherwise, we do not fully know and appreciate Him. He must be fully enjoyed for all that He is. All of His goodness must be fully enjoyed by His creation (us).

      Now, is there any good in the universe which is not ultimately His goodness? No. Therefore, we must labor to fully (and rationally) enjoy everything that is objectively good (i.e. valuable) – for His glory.

      Dan, I think you are very much on the right track and that you really just have some misunderstandings (misunderstandings which are understandable when considering modern church culture). I would highly recommend reading Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, by John Piper. He’s not some fringe dude — he’s one of the most prominent and respected preachers, pastors, and teachers in the evangelical world today. You can also access a whole host of free online resources at DesiringGod.org

      For what it’s worth, I was, and always will be, a Christian before I was an admirer of Ayn Rand. I use Rand to fuel my love of Christ, taking her, and every other philosopher, captive to the glory of Christ. This, among other concerns, will be made very evident in my book and in the continuation of my blog (and anything else I do). But there are a lot of errors out there which must be addressed before Christ can be seen and celebrated for all of His true glory.

      • Yes of course I believe in heavenly rewards. I’m also not saying we shouldn’t want good things. You posted on my blog about egoism vs. altruism so I’m assuming you read that I believe in self-interest AND the interests of others. It’s not a difficult concept and there’s no need to complicate these things.

        My main point in the last comment was that rewards are not the basis for morality as you and Objectivism say. While parents give rewards to children to guide them toward what is right, they always look forward to the day when the children no longer need the rewards but do the right thing just because it’s the right thing. It’s a matter of priorities. Do we serve Jesus because He is worthy of our service? Or do we serve Him for the goodies? When Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan he didn’t end by saying “…and what he did was right because he felt good about himself and got treasures in heaven.” No. He simply said “Go and do the same.” (I also noticed you didn’t address the idea of debt being servitude and we owe a debt to God.)

        What I—and it seems Ben too—am trying to do is bring a little balance. Balance is also a principle in life. In balance we have two legs, birds have two wings, the planets are in balance in orbit, drinking too much or too little water will kill us, etc. Focusing too much on ourselves will kill us the same way focusing too much on others will. I’m sure you will say that we could focus on others in order to not die but that’s the “endless discussion” I mentioned in my blog about egoism vs. altruism and it’s a waste of time. Why deny ANY form of altruism if you’re only going to accept a small form of altruism? Why not just accept and do what the Bible clearly teaches; love God and love your neighbor. God will take care of our needs and desires.

        C.S. Lewis, in The Great Divorce, pictured hell as the place where people live in complete self-centeredness and think only of themselves all the time. It’s an interesting take. In The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis talks about our heavenly glory that will be revealed. But he also keeps the balance by saying,

        “It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.”

  5. @ Ben:

    There’s no “Scriptural” basis for choosing between two mutually exclusive propositions? So the Bible would have us either ignore such issues or blindly embrace contradictions?

    If you “redefine” altruism to mean “having rational interest in the well-being of others”, I would have no problem with it (provided you weren’t making it the essence of virtue). You’re too stuck on the terms being used. At the end of the day, I don’t care what you call it, the position is what matters. Stop hiding behind the supposed ‘obscurity’ of the terms (as if you don’t have the ability to ask clarifying questions about what one means by a term), and start dealing with the positions themselves — regardless of what they are called. For more on the actual positions, see my comment on Dapper Dan’s Post:
    http://principlesnotmen.wordpress.com/2013/04/28/a-christian-laymans-thoughts-on-objectivism-egoism-vs-altruism/#comment-734

    Ultimately, I am not nearly as concerned about the effect that my writing may have on an individual as I am about whether or not it is true. If it is true, and people stumble over it, woe to them. If it is false, and people stumble over it, woe to me.

    But, Gunads seems to be implying that he is stumbling over your type of Christian — which means you had better check to be sure that you are not siding against the truth. Otherwise, woe to you. (Mark 18:7)

    • Okay, fine. Let’s drop the terms!

      Here is my basic position: A concern and love for others while also maintaining a rational interest in my own needs. This is not entirely altruistic nor is it egoistic. I’m seriously curious to know how you would define this position. I consider it to be Christian, and a healthy and balanced approach to life.

      I believe the Bible says it best:

      “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” -Phil. 2:3-4 (NASB)

      Selfishness is easy for anyone, but Christians aspire to a Christlike love for others.

      By the way, you and your readers may find my most recent post interesting:
      http://frontierruminations.wordpress.com/2013/07/26/ayn-rand-and-objectivism-case-closed/

      Take care.

      -Ben

  6. The problem is not with the Bible or interpretation. The word clearly states, that we are to deny ourselves as Christ did and pick up our cross and follow him. To love others as we love ourselves. Which means exactly what it says. If we treated others as we would like to be treated, we wouldn’t have the problems that exist in our society today. To love is to practice living by the 10 commandments which makes for a healthy society.

    The problem with what Christians believe is not wrong, it is wrong when what we as individuals are called to do are being passed on to the Government to do for us. That is not God’s intent. Charity should be practiced by individuals Christians and their church. Social programs should come from the Church community and not the government.

    The bible states if you don’t work, you don’t eat. Encouraging people to be lazy and relying on government for their livelihood is a sin. God wants us to rely on him only and that is done by mankind who is made in his image, caring for the poor, widows and orphans. It’s also done by helping those in need by offering them the opportunity to take care of themselves. When society tries to replace God, he will leave us to our own destruction. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Man cannot handle power unless governed by the Holy Spirit. The government cannot be controlled by the Holy Spirit and will therefore become corrupt and tyrannical.

    Learn from the bible and history. God said, my people perish from the lack of knowledge. And another, come let us reason together. To whom much is given, much is required. There can be no utopia on earth. That is reserved for heaven. What we can have is compassion and love for one another by living the Christian life, where we help others according to what we have been blessed with. Not what the government wants to take from us to regulate everyone’s life according to their will.

    Success and talents should not be considered shameful. God gave us the gifts which should be used to glorify his name by our personal willingness to share it with other. Not by coercion or mandates. The bible says that the poor will be with us always. The reason, I believe, is so that we can personally care for others out of the good things that he has provided for us. This cannot be done when you have no personal interaction or desire in what is supposed to be done on your behalf by a government that does not want God nor respect him.

  7. CS Lewis proposed, in Weight of Glory (and elsewhere), that the root of Christian morality was the fulfillment of our desires and the pursuit of our happiness. Of course, theologically he would also propose that such can only ultimately be fulfilled through God. But he argued that this idea that “unselfishness” is the proper basis of morality is flawed and actually Un-Christian. Here is a passage from that essay:

    “If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the
    virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you had asked
    almost any of the great Christians of old, he would have replied, Love. You
    see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive,
    and this is of more than philological importance. The negative idea of
    Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good
    things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence
    and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the
    Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about selfdenial,
    but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny
    ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and
    nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains
    an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to
    desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad
    thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is
    no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises
    of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels,
    it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.
    We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition
    when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on
    making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by an
    offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

  8. Balance:

    “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” -Phil. 2:3-4 (NASB)

    -Ben

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