The Insanity of “Balance”

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Balance. It’s probably the fundamental functional morality for most people today. And it’s definitely the go-to answer for most moral conundrums. How do love and truth go together? Justice and mercy? Individualism and community? God’s sovereignty and human responsibility? Personal responsibility and charity? The answer: “Balance.”

A Dubious Assumption

But isn’t there a dubious assumption behind the idea that good and true things need to “balance” each other out? The idea of balance implies an inverse relationship between those things which are being balanced: the degree to which one goes up, the other goes down––and vice versa. The degree to which love goes up, truth goes down; and the degree to which truth goes up, love goes down. Such is the conventional wisdom. The key to morality then, in this case, is to “balance” the two out. But what does this mean?

Let us think about it on a spectrum (for this is what the idea of balance implies), with truth on the left, and love on the right. Say that the far left is a 10 on the scale of passion for the truth, and the far right is a 10 on the scale of passion for love. The further you are on either end of the scale toward one virtue, according to the modern conception of morality, the further away you are from the other virtue. Now, if maximum passion for truth is a 10 on one side, and maximum passion for love is a 10 on the opposite side, what would the “balanced” middle of the spectrum be but a zero for both?

Perfect “Balance”

Now, let us imagine all of these supposed dichotomous virtues on their own respective spectrums: Justice and mercy on opposite ends; individualism and community; etc.., with all of these spectrums intersecting at the same spot to make a sort of pin-wheel. Perhaps Justice is at 12 o’clock with mercy at 6; truth at 9 o’clock with love at 3 o’clock; and so on with all of the potential spectrums going “‘round the clock”. Now picture what the result would be if one were capable of achieving a perfect “balance” on all of these spectrums. If one’s passion for each of the virtues were measured at this point of equilibrium, the reading would be: zero. Zero virtue. The aim of balancing out the virtues means not aiming at any one particular virtue (this would cause imbalance), but aiming, rather, at neutrality to all the virtues. Such is the implicit ideal behind those who think of morality in terms of balance.

The Pendulum Effect

And such is the cause of the pendulum phenomenon: the swinging from one good “emphasis” to another––whether in culture or in the individual. In fact, if one has this view of morality (this idea of inverse relations between the virtues), there is no other option for the one who wishes to pursue the virtues, then to swing eternally from some “extreme” to another, in the desperate and futile attempt to arrive at the ideal of “balance”; “equilibrium”; neutrality; apathy. And is this, the dreary spell of apathy, not the inevitable end of those “mature” (and lifeless) beings who have “grown up” and “learned to be balanced”, by avoiding all “extremes”––which means: avoiding all principles and all virtue?

Balanced Death

Observe the spiritual death in the faces of those who have supposedly reached such “balance”; observe the disdain in their faces (and their voices––as they write disparaging articles), looking down in self-righteous pity upon those “poor” and “naive” souls who are still trying to pursue some virtue or another; observe the frustration of those poor souls who love all of the virtues (as they ought to), but are eternally tortured because of that love––or rather, because of this twisted view of morality, which has condemned that very love for virtue as evil-–I mean, “imbalanced”, from the very start.

What evil, what torture, what agonizingly psychological despair, such a view of morality heaps upon its victims. It turns the essence of morality (pursuit of virtue) into the essence of evil, and the essence of evil (neutrality toward all virtue) into the essence of the good. How much despair such a seemingly innocent conception as “balance” can inflict upon those who desire to be good. This is a first-rate example of the absolute necessity of thinking rightly; the necessity to properly integrate those things in life which seem dichotomous (like various virtues); the desperate need for thinking philosophically––lest one fall victim to such insidious doctrines of despair as the one laid out above.

Ethnic Diversity vs. Color-Blindness

In a recent interview with Collin Hansen (above), Dr. John Piper explained why he didn’t gravitate toward the language of color-blindness. At his Church (Bethlehem Baptist — which is where I currently attend), his successor, Jason Meyer, just preached on the annual emphasis of racial harmony. In light of these events, and of course, Martin Luther King Jr. day, I thought this would be a good opportunity to flesh out my views on the issue.

Why Piper Wants to Avoid Color-Blindness

To be fair, he does not want to avoid it altogether. In fact, he praises color-blindness in a certain context — specifically the context in which people of various ethnicities are in fellowship. However, his contention is that, if he (and his church) were color-blind, there would not be any racial diversity in the church for them to be blind toward. He argues that because of simple inertia of life, people typically don’t associate with others who are different from them. So, it seems that Piper is arguing for a type of “color-awareness” up front, which seeks diversity in relationships, for the sake of being color-blind within the context of those relationships. In and of itself, this is commendable.

The Problem of Color-Awareness

However, there is a dangerous problem which I fear Piper (and many others) seem to be blind to –– and it is a problem which stems from a failure to understand the wider ideological wars going on in our society. There is another group of people who speak often, and loudly, about the need to be aware of racial differences, and you likely know exactly who they are: the political (and ideological) “left” or “progressives”. Particularly lately, the left has drummed up a fever pitch of emotion and rhetoric surrounding “race relations” in America. The unknowing conservative evangelical may want to jump on the bandwagon, and may even begin to borrow their lingo of “white privilege” when speaking from the pulpit – in efforts to sympathize with the hurting minorities alongside the liberal. What the unwitting evangelicals fail to see though, is that it is not concern for racial minorities which drives the left (or their rhetoric of “white privilege”), but their radically collectivist ideology.

Collectivism & Racism

You see, collectivism (the opposite, and only alternative to individualism) is the modus operandi of the social left –– and that is because it is the only alternative to the individualism of Capitalism, which they fear and despise so much. Rather than viewing people as individuals, collectivism views everyone in collectives, or groups, or ‘tribes’. Doing so allows the collectivist to bypass all forms of objectivity (it being a corollary of individualism) for the sake of subjectivity: whether it’s the objective rule of law, objective truth, or objective value, the collectivist wishes to replace it with subjective law, subjective truth, and subjective value, in order to progress their irrational ‘values’ in society. Among many other insidious goals, collectivism aids in the inflation of the left’s god (Government) by breaking up people into groups and causing a constant state of class-warfare, in which their god of Government is the final arbiter and sole beneficiary. Racism, as described eloquently in following quote, is simply one more form of such horribly irrational collectivism:

“Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage—the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.”

-Racism, Ayn Rand

This is true whether we are speaking of a racism which enslaves blacks, or a racism which denounces whites. All racism is crude and evil, because all collectivism is crude and evil.

The Solution

Since individualism is the solution to collectivism in general, I think it will prove to be the solution to racism, in particular. Individualism means: viewing people as primarily individuals; as human beings with independent minds, values, and volitions. To use the language from above, this is being “color-blind” –– i.e. viewing people as individuals rather than as members of some race, culture, or ethnic group. And this really does seem to be the major thrust of the New Testament position on the issue of ethnicity:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” - Gal. 3:28

“Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.”  - Col. 3:11

What about Intentional Ethnic Diversity?

What about Piper’s concern though, that apart from some level of intentionality, there won’t be any ethnic diversity? Part of his concern is also born out of passages like the following:

“You were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation”  - Rev. 5:9, speaking of Christ.

Piper sees here, an emphasis on diversity which is aimed at glorifying Christ. I think he’s right –– in what he sees, but wrong in his application of it. Surely, Christ is shown as more glorious for purchasing for Himself people from all over the earth, of all races and ethnicities, rather than from one, or a select few. However, what is the emphasis in this? Is it on the diversity of those purchased, or the unity of those purchased? That’s a big difference. The diversity highlights the cultural and ethnic differences among various peoples. The unity highlights that which unifies them: namely, Christ. And I think there, we have our answer. The key to unity is not an orientation toward diverse peoples. The key to unity is such a passion for the object which unifies, that one hardly notices (if noticing at all!) that which is diverse.

I think that if (and this is a big ‘if’) Christians could grow appropriately in their affection for the good and the true of God in Christ, ethnic diversity would be a natural overflow, rather than a forced chore. If Christians loved God as they should, the passion to spread their delight in Him would blind them to ethnic differences — and that same passion would have them moving so quickly, there would not be a problem with “staying in one’s comfort zone”. And isn’t there really a deeper issue behind “comfort zones” than ethnic differences, anyway?

Conclusion

Just like the talk of duty is easier than the talk of delight in living out the Christian life, so also the talk of intentional ethnic diversity is easier than the talk of genuine passion for the glory of God (which is blind to ethnicity, while passionately bringing in all people –– regardless of ethnicity). But easy doesn’t mean better. In fact, often times, easy means dangerous. And I think that is the case, here. Not only does the emphasis on ethnic diversity neglect to address the deeper heart issues of failures to love God as one ought, but it also carries the modern evangelical into the dangerous and evil streams of collectivist thought which will inevitably bring doom upon all ethnicities, through ethnic class-warfare –– thus precipitating the very evils which it aims to fight against.

Footnote: As many already know, I owe a huge intellectual debt to Piper, and admire him very much. Likewise, I cherish the opportunity to sit under Jason Meyer’s preaching and pastoring at Bethlehem, and count it as an enormous blessing. My disagreement with them on this (and potentially other issues) should not be seen as eclipsing the tremendous value I see in the teaching and preaching ministries of these men.

Far As The Curse Is Found

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The word “curse” often evokes fairytale imagery or some sort of mystical power which corrupts everything under its influence. But this magical motif in fiction has a very real non-fiction counterpart: irrationality (or sin). In children’s stories, we resort to magical language because it provides a simple and concrete way of depicting the corruption which takes place as a result of irrationality and sin in one’s life –– or in the culture. At least, that would be the rational way of using such mystical language.

The Curse is in You

Unfortunately, there seems to also be an awful lot of people who really do think of sin or evil as some sort of mystical or magical force –– like an invisible spell cast over the population, from which none can escape. After all, that would make it something beyond any one person’s control, and would therefore implicitly expunge everyone from any sort of guilt associated with it. Those who love their own darkness are all too eager to accept the premise that that darkness was pushed upon them, quite apart from their desires. And those who love their own darkness are quite opposed to shining any light upon that darkness (i.e. rationally analyzing it) in order to discover its actual causes and origins.

You see, part of the curse is to relegate it to the uncontrollable and inscrutable domain of mysticism. Whether one refers to it as a curse, or social forces, or God’s will, or “the way things are”, the attempt to leave it there, when speaking about causes and origins of sin, irrationality, and evil is sinful, irrational, and evil. It says, in essence, “This [evil] is inevitable in every way; it cannot be helped; it cannot be stopped; it cannot be opposed; it simply is, and we must conform to it”.

You Choose to Perpetuate the Curse –– or Not

For the love of all that is good (literally), don’t think like that! Yes, there are causes (a great multiplicity of them!) when it comes to evil, irrationality, sin, and corruption. But those more outlying causes (listed above) do not in any way negate the the more immediate causes with which each of us “has to do”; and therefore they do not negate the ability (and moral responsibility) to fight against evil, and hold fast to what is good.

Those more immediate causes are those things in your life (and your soul) over which you do exercise control: your thoughts; your affections; your actions; your dreams; your plans; you work. Everything in your life flows ultimately from and through one source: you. [Don’t begin prattling on about it “being from God” — as if that fact negates the fact that it is also through you. Does God do anything in your life which does not involve you in any way? If so, then it wouldn’t be in your life]. You control those things in your life which proceed from you, and there is one particular part of you from which they proceed: your reasoning mind.

Fight the Curse … Far as it’s Found

And that is where the ultimate battle ground against the curse must take place for each individual: in his own mind –– or more specifically, in his worldview. It is one’s worldview which ultimately determines one’s desires and one’s actions (and consequently, therefore, the general direction of one’s life). Truth in a worldview issues forth in blessings beyond compare, and falsity in a worldview issues forth in corruption and despair. If you hate corruption, you should hate false ideas. I do. I despise intellectual evasion. I despise contradictions. I despise fallacies employed by serious minds –– because I despise death, which is the teleological end of the curse. I despise false political views because I despise the massive evils which must be spawned by them. I despise false theological views because I despise the massive spiritual shipwreck which must occur as a result of them. I despise false philosophical views because I despise the abject horror through which millions suffer (because they haven’t a clue about how to deal with reality!) because of them. I despise false ideas because I despise the curse.

You show me any evil –– from 7.6 million people dying of cancer each year, to 11 million dying in the Holocaust; from a single mother’s struggle to just feed her hungry children, to an unemployed and exhausted father holding a gun to his own head; from children being beheaded for their religion, to children being “aborted” for convenience –– show me any evil, and I’ll show you how it is either caused, or perpetuated, (and usually both) by willful irrationality, many times, on mass scales.

We Christians believe that Christ came and bore our curse, by becoming a curse for us. And in the ultimate sense, He did. We were under a self-inflicted curse through sin and irrationality which issued forth in spiritual corruption and inevitable death. But He took that curse (the curse of God’s wrath) upon Himself, and freed us from the much deserved guilt of wallowing in our own decay. Now, will we continue to wallow in that decay? Will we live ambivalently toward that darkness in which we once walked? Will we think lazily about that curse from which we are saved, so as to enable its grip and effects on so many others? No. The man who has been freed from such a curse hates that curse, and all of its effects. The man who has been freed from such a curse wages war against that curse, and all of its dark doings.

I hate cancer (it took my Grandma). I hate poverty. I hate despair. I hate depression. I hate irrationality, and evasion, and corruption, and sin. I hate death. I hate evil. I hate that damned curse. And I aim to fight it, far as it might be found. And the first place it’s found is: in ideas.

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 sown 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 reorient one’s entire worldview –– the conviction of the greatness to be had in achieving that which is possible, and good, and right; the complete restructuring of one’s values based on the fuller 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