In this episode Kurt speaks to Cody Libolt and Jacob Brunton with For the New Christian Intellectual. They discuss the philosophy of Ayn Rand and its relation to Christianity.
Kurt: Good day to you and thanks for joining us here on another episode of Veracity Hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. It’s great to be with you here again in the Defenders Media offices in downtown west Chicago. Last week we had a wonderful time at the Compass Church, Bolingbrook Campus where we did 500, the Protestant Reformation, was our annual Defenders Conference and we had a number of great speakers, great topics as well. We looked at, last week, if you listened to last week’s episode you would have heard my talk on Scripture and tradition where I looked at John Calvin and the church fathers. There’s some great other topics. We had James Payton talking about getting the Reformation wrong. Sort of misconceptions we might have about what happened and what the Reformers really believed. We had Jerry Walls as well. He talked about his new book Roman, But Not Catholic. Also we had Dr. Richard Park talking about the Imago Dei in Catholic and Protestant thought. It was a great time for all. A number of great breakout speakers as well. Dr. Tyler McNabb, Seth Baker, Cisco Codo, David Montoya even, talked about his testimony. It was all in all a great event. Chris, I don’t know about you, but I would say that in terms of production value and execution, it was one of the best we’ve done.
Chris: I agree. It’s been a pretty good season for conferences this year.
Kurt: That’s right. We got all the talks recorded and so hopefully we’ll get those up. I know Chris, this is your full-time job. Hopefully, in a month or so we’ll get those up for you to watch and listen to those. Today, we’ve got an interesting episode. We’re talking about political philosophy and Christianity today. We’re looking at the person and thought of Ayn Rand and who she is we will cover momentarily. We’re going to be talking about her view relates to Christianity and whether it’s even compatible with the Christian worldview. In order to help me think through these issues, I have invited two guests today and if you’re watching the livestream, if you’re watching here on Facebook video, we’re trying our best to do a conference call so you should be able to see both of them. They are Cody Libolt and we have Jacob Brunton and they are from “For The New Christian Intellectual.” Gentlemen. Thank you for joining me so much on the show today. We’re going to be talking about Ayn Rand, so clue us in a little bit about who she is and what got you interested in her thought life.
Cody: You go ahead, Jacob.
Jacob: Sure. I actually, I became a Christian pretty late in life, 17. I didn’t grow up in the church and so from the beginning I was kind of philosophically oriented. I wanted to know good reasons for why I was a Christian and I always thought about Christianity than everybody else because I had sort of that philosophical bent. I was interested in philosophy in general and when I heard about Ayn Rand, I thought, “You know. I remember Piper saying some good things about her. John Piper. He’s got his ministry Desiring God. He had some good things to say about her,” but I really wasn’t sure, but I came across an atheist that wanted to kind of debate with me and he was a big follower of Ayn Rand and so I was, “Alright. I’ll look into Ayn Rand. You look into Christianity and let’s have some debates.” We both ended up influencing each other quite a bit. He realized that Christianity was actually a lot more rational than he thought originally and I realized that, “Hey. Ayn Rand actually had some really important insights that are more biblical than most people realize at first.” I started looking into her. I started reading all of her work. To answer the question of who she was, she was a Russian born philosopher who migrated to America because of the Communist regime there in Russia. She was escaping and she kind of viewed America as her adoptive home nation and she talked a lot about the virtues that made America great and that was something that was really important to her philosophy. She’s written a number of really popular books, biggest one is Atlas Shrugged that most people are probably familiar with and it’s been really popular in American political discussions. She’s got a lot of interesting things to say and a lot of interesting questions that she asks about philosophy and the way she approaches things that I think Christians can learn a lot from.
Kurt: And Cody. How
about you? What got you interested in the thought life of Ayn Rand?
Cody: For me, it was in my last year of high school, I asked the librarian what are some books that would stretch my mind. She said I should read these. I read Rand’s novel The Fountainhead. I didn’t know anybody that knew anything about Ayn Rand at that point. I was very challenged by the main character, Howard Roark, and his approach to seeking values, seeking values with a very self-interested mindset. I realized, “The theme of this book, I’m not sure if I agree with it.” For a couple of years I had to sit about it and think about it and then I ended up reading Atlas Shrugged and I was like, “This is different. This is really different.” Really challenged me in a lot of ways and I didn’t really have anybody to talk about with it. When I married, my wife[NP1] ,I shared it with her and I was like, “What do you think about all this?” She started realizing there’s something to this. There’s something helpful. Even as a Christian, Rand’s not a Christian, but this is challenging some of my conceptions and making me think through whether even my conceptions came from the Bible or came from someone else so then probably the next biggest step was meeting Jacob. I found he had a blog already. Jacob, you had the advantage of talking to people one on one that were already interested in these ideas. For me, it was a long time thinking, “Am I the only Christian in the world that’s ever read Ayn Rand?”
Kurt: Before we get into more detail about exactly what she believed, I think we need to ask the question, why is it that Christians should think about philosophy? Why should we take the time to reflect upon various issues in our lives?
Jacob: That’s a really important questions and that’s one of the reasons I’m so passionate about philosophy. I’m doing a Master of Arts in philosophy here at Southwestern in Fort Worth, Texas and I did my undergrad in theology so it’s not like I’m doing philosophy at the expense of theology. I see them as very importantly intertwined. I think a lot of Christians tend to think of philosophy primarily in terms of apologetics which is true. Philosophy’s very valuable for interacting with unbelievers and answering objections and things like that, but I think there’s also a lot of value to it when it comes to theology and building up our Christian worldivews, because when we come to Scripture, we always have philosophical assumptions that we’re bringing to it, and the question is, “Are you thinking carefully and critically about these philosophical assumptions or are you just kind of being carried along by every wind of philosophical doctrine from the culture and sort of accepting those ideas by default?” I think the problem is if you’re not thinking critically about philosophy then you’re going to be sort of by default accepting bad ideas without realizing it because you haven’t thought through how to realize it and how to identify the difference between this is what Scripture says and this is a philosophical assumption I might be bringing to the table.
Kurt: Cody. It sounds like for you that was an experience you might have had. As you were reading Rand, you noticed you may have different assumptions. Is that right?
Cody: Yeah. That’s for sure. Rand is known mainly for like, if you’re just a casual reader of Rand or if you’ve heard of her, she’s known for her political views which she’s very strongly pro free market, but the core of her philosophy is what she thinks about reason and the role of the mind in life and what she thinks about human motivation. What should be your motivation if you’re flourishing and a healthy human being? For her, it’s rational self-interest which is an unusual focal point for a moral code. So when I looked at that, I said, “Let’s assume for a second that she’s correct. Just give her the benefit of the doubt temporarily and then go back to look at some of the things that Scripture is saying. Would this work with Scripture, or would this mean that Scripture has to be false and so therefore I have to choose. What it turned out is that there’s two radically different ways to read a lot of the passages in Scripture that speak of denying yourself. The first way is the way that is preached most commonly. The second way is the way that you finish the sentence and you find out what the rest of the sentence says.
Kurt: Yeah. Nice. We need to be aware that we have at least when we’re interpreting the Bible, we’ve got hermeneutical baggage or baggage that we do bring to the text and so we have to be careful of those assumptions that we have be it philosophical, methodological, factual, that we just had a false idea about some state of affair that happened. It’s definitely important to evaluate these beliefs that we have and sort of to do maintenance if you will on our own beliefs and the beliefs about how we view things, even think about things, so that we can try to seek out the truth and understand people correctly for what they’re saying. Even the ancient Scriptures, it’s really important we understand those clearly and correctly. You guys have thought about Ayn Rand quite a bit. You do podcasts. You talk about her philosophy and the entailments of her philosophy. Tell me a little about how you think Christians hold faulty assumptions when we think about Ayn Rand and part of the reason why I ask is, I think for a number of people that are familiar with her, she was an atheist. It’s almost as if whatever she believed about how government should interfere with social issues, we immediately should dismiss her. Why do you think that that’s a bad idea?
Jacob: I think this goes back to what we were talking about. It’s something I wanted to add to it, the value of philosophy. one thing that I didn’t mention is philosophy studies general revelation and by that we just mean what Paul’s talking about in Romans 1. He talks about how through the things that have been created, through nature, we can perceive true things about God and about God’s world and about the relationship between His creation and Himself and so there’s lot of true things that God has revealed about Himself and about reality in nature through things that have been created and that’s what philosophy does in large part. Philosophy studies the nature of things, but if you were a Christian, we believe that that’s also God’s revelation. It’s similar to Scripture in that it’s revealed by God for our good and for His glory and if we neglect that, then we’re neglecting something really good that intends for us to utilize in our Christian lives. Because it’s general, it’s there for everyone to see whether they’re a Christian or not, which is the point of Romans 1, other people can understand it and stumble upon it and find good true things that even if they’re not a Christian. For instance, most Christians today would say Aristotle stumbled upon some pretty good ideas and so did some other non-Christians throughout history. There are a lot of instances of people discovering true things about reality that are really good and really helpful and really applicable to our lives, even to our Christian lives, even though those people weren’t themselves Christians, and we would say that Rand has done something similar, especially when it comes to human nature and the role of reason in human life and how we should interact with other people in society. That’s kind of the angle that we come at with this and I think one way to see the value of Rand, of what Rand has to offer here is to look at this Lewis quote, I think a lot of people are probably familiar with, especially if they’re familiar at all with John Piper’s ministry. Lewis in his famous work The Weight of Glory said that the New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and take up our cross 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. Here’s the important part. 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 not 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 our Lord finds our desires not too strong but too weak. His point there is that one of the assumptions that we’re bringing to Scripture that we’ve gotten from Immanuel Kant who was a philosopher in the Enlightenment and the Stoics who were philosophers in Ancient Greece, is this idea that to take pleasure in something is somehow immoral. That to do something for a self-interested reason makes it immoral or tainted. For instance, Kant would say you should love your wife. You should do loving things for your wife, but not because you enjoy her, not because she’s valuable to you, but because it’s your duty, and so the extent to which you enjoy serving your wife is the extent to which it’s actually immoral because you’re being selfish and what C.S. Lewis is saying here is that’s a Kantian idea. That’s not a Christian idea. You can’t find that in Scripture. Scripture is saying you should do things for your joy. Jesus is always appealing to your greater joy, your greater self-interest. When He says, “Whoever would come after me, must deny Himself and take up His cross to follow me for whoever would lose His life will save it, for what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose His soul?” Jesus’s reasoning is, if you want to profit, if you want long-term, full, everlasting joy, then you’ve got to give up your short term self-interest. The emphasis though is on self-interest. It’s on long-term joy. That’s what Lewis is pointing out here and that’s where we think Rand is helpful in helping us to see how that works out in everyday life.
Kurt: So the issue here for you guys is Christians have one way of reading the self-denial passages in the New Testament, specifically from the teachings of Jesus and the way that they’ve frequently been read is that we have to deny earthly goods in order to pursue Jesus and spiritual goods, whatever that might mean. Is that correct so far?
Jacob: Close. I think a lot of people would say that you shouldn’t even be motivated by spiritual goods.
Kurt: Ah. Interesting.
Jacob: Because of this Kantian notion of, well that’s selfish. You shouldn’t be concerned about your own good. You should only be concerned about the good of others.
Kurt: It’s almost to use like another worldview reference. It’s almost like a Buddhist type denial of self because if you were to have that interest, that self-interest, that would be selfish, but as you guys have explained and utilized C.S. Lewis here, that’s a very, that’s a Kantian idea, that’s not one that lines up with a proper reading here of that teaching. Is that right?
Cody: When you hear in sermon after sermon after sermon death to self, death to self, and then you go to the Scripture and you look for that phrase, you don’t find those three words in a row. You find death to the old self, death to sin, new life, we’re new creation, so you have to ask yourself, when you have a phrase like that that’s so catchy, has that come from Jesus or is that come from our relatively recent Christian history which is the last couple hundred years in which the culture at large as well as the church have been kind of taken over by Immanuel Kant’s perspective on that issue and if you just open that question in your mind, which is what Rand did for me, she opened up the question, when I go back and I read Matthew, let me give you a couple excerpts from Matthew.
The Father which seeth in secret Himself shall reward you openly.
Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.
I say unto you he shall in no wise lose his reward, for what is a man profitted.
It is better for thee to enter into life.
For everyone who has forsaken houses he shall receive a reward a hundredfold.
So all these different, that’s just in Matthew, but again and again Jesus is saying look at the treasure, look at the treasure. If we as Christian leaders are not doing the same then we have to ask why are we not doing that.
Kurt: Yeah. I do want to get into sort of the entailments of that idea, especially as it pertains to the marketplace, but before we do that, I want to ask you about John Piper a little bit. I’m not too familiar, of course I’m familiar with Piper’s ministry, but it sounds like for you guys, John Piper has himself has talked about Ayn Rand perhaps. Tell me a little bit about that since it’s not really something we might connect together.
Jacob: I actually, Piper was sort of a spiritual father to me in my early years as a Christian because I was kind of in a theological desert so to speak. I was a baby Christian going to some pretty unhealthy Bible colleges theologically just because I didn’t know any better, and I found Piper and his ministry was a big help to me in my early Christian walk and I actually did my undergrad at his Bible College, at Bethlehem Bible College and Seminary. He wrote a critique, but he called it an appreciative critique of Ayn Rand’s ethics. You can go to his website, desiringgod.org and just search Ayn Rand. It’s called the Ethics of Ayn Rand. He wrote this back while she was still alive, but he’s updated it since. He goes through her moral philosophy and basically says, “She’s got a lot of really good points here, especially in combatting the sort of Stoic or Kantian ideas of self-denial”, and Piper sort of really blazed the trail in going this direction, and his big thing is, I don’t know if you’re familiar with his catchphrase, his big thing is you can’t fully glorify God if you don’t come to Him for reward. If you don’t see Him as something that is valuable to you, if you don’t enjoy God and that’s why his website is called Desiring God and what he’s doing there is he’s just unpacking what Hebrews 11:6 says. “Anyone who would come to God must believe that He is and that He is the rewarder of those who seek Him.” I think what Piper’s trying to say is He is the reward Himself. That’s one of the reasons that he really appreciates Rand’s thought because she really does a good job of combattting this stoic idea of self-denial. What Piper said though in that article is that Rand’s philosophy didn’t have to be totally scrapped. Instead, it had to take the infinite God into account and that would require rebuilding that philosophy from the ground up and he kind of said, “I’m not going to take on that project. That’s the project of a lifetime.” That’s something Cody and I have talked about and we kind of view that as our project. That’s what we’re sort of choosing to take up a mantle have, to rebuild Rand’s philosophy from the ground up taking the infinite God into account.
Kurt: So for at least Piper’s ministry and perspective, I’m aware that he has received some criticism about this idea and I think some call it Christian hedonism or something like that. What has been your reception of that criticism? Do you think that maybe Piper’s gone a little bit too far and we need to have a more moderate perspective on this or is Piper’s view just spot on and consistent?
Cody: Should we have a moderately true philosophy and theology or should we just have a true philosophy? The moderation doesn’t come into this. It’s just a question of what’s true and what’s false. There’s yes and no propositions. Should we be motivated by reward? Should Piper have called his philosophy Christian hedonism? That’s maybe not the best name.
Kurt: Sure. Sure. I guess, forgive me for asking a poorly phrased that question. Let me see if I can better rephrase. With regard to those things that we should pursue, should those things be done in moderation then.
Jacob: I get what you’re asking and I think it’s a legitimate question. I think the irony is Piper hasn’t gone far enough.
Jacob: We’re wanting to go further. I think Piper has definitely opened the door to understanding the Bible in this new light and basically doing what Cody said. Just reading the rest of the text. Every time there’s a call to self-denial, if you just keep reading, it’s in the context of ultimate self-gain. When you understand that, it opens up this radically new way of looking at life. I don’t think Piper has gone the whole way in unpacking that and I think part of it is his focus is ministry. He’s just focused on unpacking Scripture. He’s not doing philosophy. He’s not doing Christan worldview formation which is what I’m interested in. I would say, yes and amen to what Piper has done in Christian theology, but I want to keep going and keep applying that to the entire Christian worldview.
Kurt: Gotcha. That helps to explain a little bit more of the mission of your guys’ ministry and before we take a break here, let me guide people to that website. It’s Christianintellectual.com and the name of the ministry is For The New Christian Intellectual. We’ve got to take a short break here. When we come back though, I want to explore and unpack how some of these ideas might find themselves into our political philosophies as Christians. What does that entail for economic duties, say how much a person might make, that sort of thing, and also we had someone write in regarding concern about social issues as well. Stick with us through this short break from our sponsors.
Kurt: Alright. Thanks for sticking with us through that short break from our sponsors. If you’re interested in learning how to become a sponsor, you can go to our website veracityhill.com and click on the patron button. This is a good reminder here, we are doing a fundraiser, I know it’s been a few weeks since I’ve talked about this since we’ve just been busy with the conference, but we are doing a fundraiser right now for Veracity Hill and our goal is to get support totalling $800 per month, that’s our fundraiser this year. Here are the way that the funds will be used. To have a proper advertising budget which we presently don’t have. To be able to honor the work and effort of our techinical producer Chris, week after week, his steady loyalty to the program here. We’d like to be able to say, “Chris. We recognize how valued your work is” and then also to be able to pay the host here. I guess that’s me, a little bit more and the reasoning for that is not so much for my total increase, but because my work with Defenders Media, I cut off a little bit, we hired a director of marketing, so he’s handling some tasks that I used to handle so that’s the reason for that, just to make sure that we can keep the lights on here at the office and the bills paid and bring you content week after week. We would love to get your support. You can go to Veracityhill.com/patron to help us out and I believe we’re about 26% of the way through the fundraiser. We will keep announcing this until we reach our goal, but it would just be wonderful to have you partner with us and if you are donating more than $20 a month to the program, we will send you a Veracity Hill USB flash drive preloaded with some of our favorite episodes. That’s a little thank you gift that we can offer to you and we’d love to get your support.
Today we’re talking about Ayn Rand and her philosophy and how it relates to the Christian intellectual, how we as Christians can incorporate some of the perspectives and ideas that she had and meld it with a proper Christian worldview for a number of people, they have felt this tissue, I know I’ve messaged with some people in the past about this, they felt this tension that they’ve read Ayn Rand and they were also Christian but they didn’t know how it could meld together. Lo and behold, many of the ideas are compatible and here to shed out those ideas with me are Cody and Jacob with The For The New Christian Intellectual. Gentlemen, I’m not sure if you were clued in on this, but we do a segment of the show called Rapid Questions. We haven’t had two guests before doing this so I think we will first, we’re going to do two rounds here of Rapid Questions. I think the first time ever. Which one of you would like to go first?
Cody: I’ll go first.
Kurt: Okay. We’ve got Cody here. These are again just of kind of goofy, kind of just random questions about life, the things you enjoy, and so we’ve got sixty seconds here. Chris. Make a note here. We should start getting a sixty second countdown for those on the livestream. That way people watching people can follow along here with the clock. Okay. So here we go. Cody. Are you ready?
Cody: Go ahead.
Kurt: Alright. What is your clothing store of choice?
Kurt: Taco Bell or KFC?
Cody: KFC, but my wife won’t go.
Kurt: Where would you like to live?
Cody: Right where I am which is Ashland, Oregon.
Kurt: Okay. What’s your favorite sport?
Cody: Man. It’s gotta be something like ultimate frisbee?
Kurt: That’s a sport? I’m just kidding. What’s your spouse’s favorite holiday?
Cody: Her own birthday.
Kurt: Okay. What’s your favorite movie?
Cody: Right now, it’s Chappie.
Kurt: Have you ever planked?
Kurt: Do you drink Dr. Pepper?
Kurt: I’m sorry. Have you ever driven on the other side of the road?
Kurt: What’s one thing you’d be sure to keep with you if you’re stranded on an island?
Cody: Dang. I don’t even have any idea.
Kurt: Okay. That was a hard one. That’s alright. We’ve had a variety of answers on that one. We’ve had Bible, I think we’ve had water, couple of weeks ago was the best answer we ever had, gun.
Kurt: A couple of weeks ago our show was on a moral case for gun ownership and Tim Hsiao was our guest and so of course, he was saying that he would want to have his gun with him so he could hunt with it. That was pretty funny. Jacob. You’re up next here for Rapid Questions and I’m gonna try my best not to repeat some of the questions that you just heard because that clued you in a little bit. There might be some overlap. I most assuredly ask every guest if they’ve had Dr. Pepper so you can prepared for that one. Jacob. Are you ready?
Jacob: I’m ready.
Kurt: Alright. Let’s go. What’s your clothing store of choice?
Kurt: What song is playing on your radio these days?
Jacob: My Way by Frank Sinatra.
Kurt: Nice. What kind of razor do you use?
Kurt: What fruit would you say your head is shaped like?
Jacob: A melon?
Kurt: What’s your most hated sports franchise?
Jacob: All of them.
Kurt: Not much of a sports guy huh?
Kurt: Left or right?
Kurt: Do you drink Dr. Pepper?
Kurt: Would you drink a Dr. Pepper if it were handed to you right now.
Kurt: Yes. I like it. What’s your inner milkshake flavor?
Jacob: Chocolate. Double triple chocolate.
Kurt: Wow. The Hokey Pokey, Electric Slide, or the Macarena.
Jacob: Electric slide.
Kurt: If you were a baseball pitch, which one would you be?
Kurt: A curveball. Nice. Alright. Gentlemen. Thank you for playing Rapid Questions. I’m glad that we could get to know a little bit more about your life, these random questions. Cody. I am very sad that you don’t drink Dr. Pepper. Jacob. Glad to know that you would drink one right now if it were handed to you.
Jacob: That’s right.
Kurt: It happens to be my favorite beverage.
Jacob: I couldn’t tell.
Kurt: If only I had one right now. No. Chris and I go after lunch right after the podcast and I pretty much always get Dr. Pepper unless the machine isn’t working and then it’s a Pepsi. Always Dr. Pepper. Dr. Pepper makes the world taste better, but of course what makes the world taste even better is a little bit of freedom and Ayn Rand talked about freedom. You like how I wove those together there?
Jacob: That was a seamless transition.
Kurt: Thanks. We’re talking about Ayn Rand and her philosophy. You guys clued us a little bit about how self-denial plays into how some Christians might have misconceptions about her view and really what we’re talking about is self-interest and even Jesus when we understand Him properly, talks about self-interest, these things from which we’re supposed to deny ourselves, there’s a greater good at stake, there’s treasures in heaven awaiting us, there are these goods available so it’s not as if self-denial is denial of the self altogether. I want to talk about and ask you questions about how this relates to our views of economics. I know for some people they think that an executive employee of a corporation, they might just make too much money and really, they should not take as much home and that in fact they might be even greedy for that. We don’t even have to think of the executive employee. We might even think that it’s greedy for an employer to not pay his or employees say $15 an hour. Tell me a little about how Ayn Rand’s philosophy can influence our economic ideas.
Jacob: You’re up first, Cody.
Cody: The main thing to understand about economics and political theory, your viewpoint about what justice is in a society, is you have to realize that those ideas are based on something else philosophically. They’re based on your moral code, your view of right and wrong in general, and then you just make applications from that moral code to your political code. If your political code, I’m sorry, your moral code, says the definition of moral human behavior is doing whatever is good for other people, and that’s pretty much just the definition, you’ll get one sort of political system, and I don’t actually think that political system will be good for anyone because it’s not a true moral code, but if your moral code says that each person should do what’s rationally in his own best interest, he should care for, as Paul says, his own family. Each person should work and be productive and if a man will not work, he will not eat. Those are moral propositions. If you play that out and you take it seriously, thou shalt not kill, then you get a certain political system.
Kurt: Jacob. What are your thoughts about how we should incorporate Ayn Rand’s views here on say economic issues.
Jacob: Yeah. I think this is one of the ways that Ayn Rand can be a huge value to Christians, especially Christians on the conservative side of the political aisle so to speak, cause Christians in general tend to lean towards capitalism. They see the horrors of socialism and communism and things like that and they don’t want central planning in general. They tend to be more for free markets and individual rights. That’s what the Constitution and the founding of America was about, so we want to be about that, but they don’t really have a moral argument for those things. They’ve got lots of economic arguments. More people will be helped if we adopt free markets than if we do social planning and communism, things like that. That’s kind of the gist of the argument that most Christians are able to put forth for capitalism. What we’re wanting to say is, no, if you want to defend capitalism, if you want to defend individual rights and the founding of this country, you’ve got to go deeper. You’ve got to go down to the moral level and you’ve got to recognize that the good of others isn’t the end-all and be-all of morality and it shouldn’t be and it can’t be and the problem is if you take that as your moral code like Cody said, you end up with communism, and that’s kind of one of the reasons why conservatives keep losing the political battle, because they’re losing the moral argument. The reason that our country has drifted more and more away from capitalism and away from individual rights and away from free markets and towards socialism and other socialistic policies is that everyone believes and everyone agrees that profit is greedy, that profit is evil, and so what the conservatives end up doing is they end up saying, “Yeah. We agree that profit is not the best thing, but we need it to help other people,” and so it’s like this compromising position and when you compromise on moral issues, you’re always going to lose, and that’s what we’ve been doing. If you look at political history in America, that’s the history, and Rand does an amazing job drawing this out. This is where Rand really becomes practical for conservative Christians. She’s really great at showing the historical flow of conservatives who are wishy-washy on their moral principles and they want to compromise, and when they compromise they’re always compromising towards the left, towards socialism, towards communism, until you get to the point where are today where a fully Republican house, fully Republican senate, and a Republican president can’t even repeal socialized medicine. Rand would say the reason we’re there is because we’ve got this moral code that says that your moral duty above anything else is to serve other people and the alternative to that is to say, “No. In society, justice means getting what you’re due” and it might be a good thing to share with other people voluntarily, but it’s evil to take by force what doesn’t justly belong to you.
Kurt: Yeah. It really gets into a discussion of property rights, what does belong to you, and we need to really clear the brush and think deeply about what all of this means, what it entails, if say our labor, we have a right to the inheritance of our labor, and Jacob, I liked your point here about the problem of compromise because for those that have conviction and you compromise on that conviction, you’re going to lose. One of the things, you brought up a contemporary example here about the socialized medicine in our country. One of the things I think that bothers me the most is the consistency. We don’t get too much into talking party politics on this show, but I do want to mention this for the sake of the principle illustrated here. For seven years, Republicans talked about repealing what’s commonly known as Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act, and for just about seven years the House and Senate passed bills that would have done such a thing, but they knew it wasn’t going to get signed into law because they knew President Obama was going to veto it. Now when it comes to the time they could pass the exact same legislation, they’ve capitulated, because they know it would be signed into law. I think in terms of being consistent. If our convictions are true and if we make certain promises to the people we represent, that’s a sign of moral decay where people are not holding true to their promises and we recognize that it’s all just for show. The Scripture talks about such people, people that speak to those that have the itching ears, people that just tell people what they want to hear instead of just acting upon it so that is something to be concerned about. Some of the lessons here from Ayn Rand is that we can have this conviction, we can hold to these truths, we don’t have to be worried that it’s even greedy to have a profit, that with that money we can use it for good and it’s not in and of itself, a bad thing. What we do with it maybe is the concern that Christians should have. Is it greedy for someone to make $10,000 than someone else? Maybe not. Maybe that also depends on the skill set and the job that they’re doing. It’s not that we all have to have an equal outcome in this world, but I think God’s going to judge us on how we use our money. That’s really what’s important to Him. If you’re a billionaire, but you’re supporting so many non-profitis and if you’re using that money to make more money to give to non-profits, especially Christian non-profits, I think God’s going to say that’s a good thing. It’s not that the guy has a billion dollars, that’s not a bad thing in and of itself whereas critics of Ayn Rand or capitalism in general might think that, which is I think a shame. Now I want to read a comment here from a listener who has a concern about Ayn Rand’s philosophy against social conservatives. I’ll read some excerpts here that he writes. We’ll call him A and A writes in here, “Ayn Rand is a huge proponent of libertarianism under the rubric of objectivism. I read various of her writings while a student at university and critiqued them and at least one essay that I probably still have. She defends political libertarianism on foundational grounds, antithetical to Christianity. This is not to say that all libertarians share her philosophy, but it is valid to ask why libertarians have such disdain for the positions of social conservatives. Most libertarians criticize out social conservatives for favoring laws against prostitution and polygamy and most social conservatives refuse to embrace libertarianism and their candidates because of their support for legalizing prostitution, polygamy, bestiality, and a bunch of other actions that Scripture teaches man has no moral right to engage and that tend to debate the culture.” What would you say to this listener here about his concern of his compatibility of Ayn Rand’s view and a Christian view?
Cody: I would start by saying that there’s too many fires to put out in that question because there’s too many false assumptions. First of all, Ayn Rand was not a libertarian and she repudiated the libertarian party. The libertarian party took a lot of her ideas and twisted them, but she’s not a libertarian, she doesn’t identify as one, she doesn’t agree with their platform. All these things that he’s assigning to Ayn Rand, I challenge him to go read what she said, because he hasn’t. The next thing is Ayn Rand’s views on what is allowable legally in society are well documented on almost every issue so should minors be exposed to being able to purchase alcohol or be able to see explicit material? She has good positions on those things and it would be good to find out what those positions are.
Jacob: And importantly, what her reasons for those reasons are and that’s what we need to start thinking about is what are our reasons for the political positions that we take. I don’t think Christians think very carefully about that. Christians tend to view political things through party lines and not just political parties, but through cultural party lines. The majority of Christians in my clique say that X should be illegal and therefore X should be illegal and that’s just what the Bible says. Wait a second. Where does the Bible say that? There are a lot of things, absolutely, that the Bible condemns as immoral, but the question is should those things also be illegal? I think that’s a legitimate question. So long as you’re not advocating for a total theocracy, you agree in principle that there’s a difference between morality and politics. You agree that there are some things that are immoral that shouldn’t be illegal. For instance, do you think that the Mormon church should be outlawed? It’s immoral, but should it be illegal?
Kurt: Here in this country we recognize the great benefit to religious pluralism and so that is a good that we recognize even though we see that as you say, Mormonism is immoral. We could think of an easier example like when a child lies to his or her parents. That’s a wrong, but we don’t think that the police should come in and arrest the child for doing some immoral act. so as you point out here Jacob, there are moral issues and immoral issues which we recognize as the case, but nevertheless we don’t believe that there should be political action or prohibition upon. Let me take one specific example that might arise here. What should we say about prostitution? Is that something that Christians should take a stand on? What do you guys think? I should clarify, should Christians take a stand on political prohibition or regulation of prostitution?
Cody: Someone that wants to make prostitution illegal in the United States on the basis of the Bible, should probably open the Bible.
Kurt: And by that you mean you don’t think it would be a good idea because there are other better ways to deal with the issue? Is that right, Cody?
Cody: Are you going to go further than the Mosaic Law?
Kurt: So you’re thinking, if someone’s going to be consistent here, let’s look at another host of issues.
Cody: It’s just that the question is, are we going to outlaw everything that we think is wrong or everything that we know is wrong and on what basis? What is the criteria that you use to decide what you do and do not outlaw? If the person is coming at it from the point of view being a Christian they might be coming at it from the point of view that the Bible teaches it’s wrong. Okay. So where does the Bible teach that Christians should outlaw prostitution? Where does it even say that the ancient Hebrews should outlaw it? What is your basis? I don’t think that it’s the Scripture. So then, you have a philosophical premise that’s coming into play here which is if it’s wrong and I know it’s wrong, therefore I am entitled to make it illegal, but I don’t think you could apply that premise consistently across all your views, so then maybe there’s another premise we haven’t discovered yet.
Kurt: Yeah. Maybe that premise is “I’m drawing principles out of the Bible” or something like that, but you make a good point that it might not be explicit that that’s the case and we need to think more carefully and on those different merits, judge whether we should consider outlawing X, Y, or Z. Yeah. Nice.
Jacob: I think there is a connection between morality and politics in that there’s a moral way to use the law. Right? The law is essentially a sword and that’s what Romans 13 calls it. The state is a sword. It’s force. That’s what politics is. That’s what the state is. It’s force. It’s a gun. The question really boils down to what’s the moral use of a gun in society? What’s the moral use of force? Is it moral to point a gun at someone’s head and say “Don’t do this.”? When you put it like that, you start to think maybe that’s going to have different political implications than I originally thought.
Kurt: Yeah. And at that point, yeah, we can look at the outcomes and see if something’s counter-productive. I know that sometimes in the political world, there might be good intentions but there sometimes, maybe even oftentimes have bad outcomes and we need to judge the policy based on those merits. We are running low on time here gentlemen. I want to give you each this question here to close. If you had one to two minutes to explain Ayn Rand’s philosophy and how it’s compatible with a Christian worldview, what would you say?
Jacob: Are we each answering this, one at a time?
Kurt: Yeah. I want you to each answer. Don’t worry. We’re not going to do a countdown clock.
Jacob: No. That’s alright.
Cody Jacob. I’ll let you think about your answer and I’ll go ahead, because I think I’ve got one.
Kurt: Okay. Cool.
Jacob: You got it.
Kurt: Thanks Cody.
Cody: This is the conversation that I had with a good friend of mine named John, and I just said, “Ask yourself why you love the Lord. Why do you love Him? Is there a reason?” His answer was, “Because He first loved me.” Okay. So say some moral monster like Stalin loved you. Would you love him back? So I think that there’s maybe a little bit more to it than just that He loved you. There’s something about Him that you love. There’s some fact about His nature that you love. Why? You ask yourself, well, would I love Him if He were not good to me? Would I bless His name, like Job says, I bless His name even if He curses me, but why? It’s because He has that relationship with him because he knows that when he dies he’s going to be with his redeemer. The fact is, every Christian, every follower of the Lord, has always looked to God for their eternal destiny and for their hope. That’s what it means to love Him. Hebrews speaks of without faith it’s impossible to please God and to have faith, it means that you approach God believing that He will reward those who earnestly seek Him. That’s what faith is, so to my friend John and to be anybody that’s asking this question, what does Ayn Rand has to offer, I would say Ayn Rand opened to my eyes to the fact that the choices ought to proceed from our values and our values are based on objective observations, facts. In relation to God, the fact is that God is a value and if you believe that and you believe that that is a proper reason to seek God, I think that you’ve got the main thing that Ayn Rand can give you which is to open eyes to see what the Bible says.
Kurt: Okay. Great. Thanks Cody. How about you Jacob? If you had one to two minutes to explain Ayn Rand’s view and how it’s compatible with Christianity, what would you say?
Jacob: The main draw to Ayn Rand for me is actually the way that her philosophy matches up with the character of God. This is what I’m most excited about and what I’m most passionate about. Rand wanted to pain a picture of the ideal man in her writing. She did that in the character of John Galt in Atlas Shrugged. I think he’s actually a perfect picture of God’s character. A lot of people think that God is anti-reason, that you have to drop your reasoning at the door of a church and accept God by faith and by whim and by emotion, but God is not anti-reasoning. God is essentially rational. A lot of people think that God is ultimately altruistic. He ultimately just cares about other people and He doesn’t care about Himself. That is not the picture the Bible paints. Isaiah 48:8 says, “I’m saving you for my own sake. For my own sake I do this God says, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” Jesus went to the cross for the joy set before Him, the joy of His glory on the other side. God is the ultimate egoist. God is the ultimate rational egoist. He’s ultimately rationally self-interested and everything that He does is for His own glory. That’s a good thing. I’m afraid that the people who hate Ayn Rand, they hate her because they hate the picture of God that the Bible actually paints. I think Rand does a really great job of correcting our view of what morality is so that we can correct our view of what a morally good God is.
Kurt: Well, thank you for that explanation there. I know that for me the conversation this afternoon has been very intriguing and enlightening and helpful, to have Ayn Rand’s philosophy explained and laid out. From what I’m gathering here, it sounds like you guys perceive that Rand’s very much been misunderstood by a number of people who perhaps haven’t even read her works. That’s an encouragement for us to make sure we understand what our opponent is saying. Is that right? You think a lot of people just haven’t really properly understood her. Is that correct?
Jacob: Absolutely. I think the most popular conservative piece of literature that people refer to when criticizing her is Whittaker Chamber’s review of Atlas Shrugged back in the 50’s. He doesn’t give one substantial quote from her novel in reviewing it. I think that’s absolutely accurate. Most people who criticize her have no clue what she actually said or believed and if we want to be honest, especially as Christians, in dealing with other worldviews, it’s beholden on us to actually figure out what she said and what she believed and I think the best way to do that is to read her works.
Cody: I would say in defense of some of the people that have tried to understand her and not understood her, her views are radically different from anything that is in the cultural milleu right now. It is difficult to understand what she’s saying and it is work and you may think on the surface, I get one or two points. Guarantee you, you don’t yet understand how she got to that conclusion. It’s going to take some time and until then, I would just say try and talk to somebody who has really studied what she said and ask whether your understanding of her lines up with their understanding and maybe you’ll learn something.
Kurt: Yeah. Great. Gentlemen, thanks so much for coming on the show today and we’ll have to have you on in the future to talk about some other stuff as well.
Jacob: Thank you so much for having us.
Kurt: Great. Alright. That’s Cody Libold and Jacob Brunten and if you want to learn more about them, you can go to Christianintellectual.com, see what they’re up to these days. You can also join a Facebook group that they have and here’s the way to do it. In your web browser, just type AynRandandChristianity.com and that will redirect you to their Facebook group. You can pick their brain about things. Ask them questions. They’d be happy to interact with you. That web address again is AynRandandChristianity.com and Ayn is spelled A-Y-N.
Okay. I know this has been an engaging discussion. If this has been new to you, I’d love to know what your thoughts have been if this has been helpful or there are some follow-up questions or comments that you’d like to make. There are a couple of ways you can get in touch with me. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can join our free texting plan. Just text the word VERACITY to the number 555-888. I would love to see what you think about today’s episode or other episodes that you’ve recently listened to and see how they’ve encouraged you or if you have any suggestions for the future as well, I’d be happy to take those, and if you haven’t already, please do like our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, and if you really are a devout follower of the show I want to request that you write us a review on Facebook or iTunes or the Google Play Store. Help get the word out about what we’re doing so when people come to that page they can see what people already think about the show.
That does it for today’s episode. I’m grateful for the continued support of our patrons and the partnerships that we have with our sponsors, Defenders Media, Consult Kevin, The Sky Floor, Rethinking Hell, The Illinois Family Institute, Evolution 2.0, Fox Restoration, and Non-Profit Megaphone. Thank you to the technical produce today, Chris, and to our guests, Cody and Jacob, and finally I want to thank you for listening in and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.
[NP1]Unsure of her name around 6:20