Two worldviews that rarely meet with grace are Christianity and Objectivism. However, there is merit in learning about Objectivism even as a Christian.
What is Objectivism?
To put it in the briefest of terms, Objectivism is the philosophy of rational individualism founded by Ayn Rand. Rand describes this in her own words, writing “My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” Rand is saying that rationally maximizing your own happiness should be the goal of life. Rand argues both society and the individual benefit from adherence to her philosophy.
Some Christians hesitate to study Objectivism because of its secular nature and they may fear placing themselves higher than God. However, if you already know God, there is value in reading this philosophy as it strengthens one’s gratitude for His creation.
My exposure to Objectivism
I cannot claim to be an expert on Objectivism, but I have had the opportunity to study some of Rand’s work. My first exposure was in high school when my English class was assigned to read Anthem. Although it came with a caveat from the teacher, who told us that she doesn’t agree with Rand on much, it was an invigorating read that showed the evils of collectivist ideology. To Rand, collectivism is the notion that the individual should be subjugated to and even sacrificed for the common good or group. Anthem paints a picture of a society that implements collectivism systematically—a totalitarian state where independent thinking and even singular pronouns do not exist.
Recently I’ve had the privilege of participating in research workshops on Objectivism with philosophers and intellectuals, one of whom was among Ayn Rand’s original disciples. In addition, I am a member and contributor to the Ayn Rand Center Japan in Tokyo where I live. Though my understanding of Objectivism pales in comparison to my peers, my Faith does not detract from my appreciation of many of Rand’s ideas. I am not writing this article to contrast Christianity with Objectivism nor to criticize either. The purpose of this piece is to share the encouraging, pro-human, and pro-progress messages from Objectivism with any Christians that are unfamiliar with it.
Money is not the root of all evil
The idea that money is itself evil or even the root of it is a Marxist notion that is found nowhere in Scripture. At best it is a drastic misquote of 1 Timothy 6:10 and a misunderstanding of what money really is.
Money is a medium of exchange; “It is produced by man’s capacity to think.” As financial expert and Evangelical Christian Dave Ramsey says, “Money is amoral… When you earn money, it just makes you more of who you [already] are.” Rand explains it best in Atlas Shrugged (380-385) when one of the novel’s characters responds to someone who claims money to be the root of all evil.
“Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value… Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish but it will not replace you as the driver.”
Left-leaning Christians may object, but consider how God celebrates the idea of wealth in Proverbs. Proverbs 10:4 says, “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth” (NIV). Were Abraham, King David, King Soloman, or Job evil solely due to their immense wealth?
Your neighbor’s “needs” don’t give them a right to your property
Individual rights are necessary for man to rationally pursue the best life he can. Without them, man isn’t free and the extent to which he can prosper is restricted. Rand writes, “The concept of a ‘right’ pertains only to action—specifically, to freedom of action. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men. Thus, for every individual, a right is the moral sanction of a positive—of his freedom to act on his own judgment, for his own goals, by his own voluntary, uncoerced choice. As to his neighbors, his rights impose no obligations on them except of a negative kind: to abstain from violating his rights.” One principle in this quote is the concept that your neighbor doesn’t have a right to your property even if he needs it.
It works the other way too; you don’t have the right to use violence to take from your neighbor. Nor can someone morally seize your property to give to a third party who needs it (i.e. wealth redistribution). It has to be voluntary for it to be moral. The idea that “Thou shalt not steal” isn’t always thought of in this way but it’s necessary for a free society. As Dave Ramsey writes in The Legacy Journey, “As I read the New Testament, I realize the Apostle Paul did not have much patience for idle hands.” Members of the Church at Thessaloniki chose not to work and instead sustained themselves by living off of other’s food without paying them. Paul denounced them (2 Thessalonians 3:6-12) as leeches on their community. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t help others voluntarily. We are commanded to give charitably, but no man that thinks he deserves your charity has a right to it.
Objectivism celebrates man, his capacity to reason, and the human progress that is created as a result. Christians sometimes forget that reason is a gift endowed by God to man. Reason is part of what makes us uniquely human. It gives us the ability to discover and understand the natural world. Objectivism is a product of reason. Though Objectivism and Christianity are not always compatible, Objectivism allows us to celebrate ourselves as the complex creation of an all-powerful God and encourages us to love our own existence.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.