Economics 101

Are You Ready? A Biblical View of Ayn Rand’s Life and Work

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Ed. note: this is the first in a series of posts by David Kotter, Ph.D, exploring the life and work of Ayn Rand. This series was adapted from Dr. Kotter’s full research paper, “Check Your Premises: Ayn Rand Through A Biblical Lens.” 

“Are you ready?” asked John Galt, as he took the hand of the broken and bleeding heroine Dagny Taggart.

At the conclusion of the recently-released film “Atlas Shrugged II,” based on Ayn Rand’s best – selling novel, Atlas Shrugged, Galt was about to pull Dagny from the burning wreckage of her world and carry her into his paradise.

In a similar way John Aglialoro, one of the movie’s producers and trustee of the Atlas Society, is reaching out to unite with Christians to “reclaim America” by promoting shared principles of free markets, limited government, and individual rights.

Indeed, the Bible has significant areas of overlap with Rand’s Objectivist philosophy.

Nevertheless, Rand’s mixture of capitalism, atheism, and misguided anthropology should give Christians pause before jumping completely on board. Marvin Olasky, editor-in-chief of World Magazine, challenges Christians to “show what in Rand they agree with and what they spurn.”

This series will accept Olasky’s challenge by comparing Rand’s work to the timeless truth of the Bible. Specifically:

  • We will begin next week with an overview of Rand’s life and philosophy.
  • The following week will contrast Rand’s contention that selfishness is the highest virtue with a biblical understanding of self interest and altruism.
  • Next, this investigation will consider Ayn Rand’s anthropology in light of biblical teaching on gender.
  • The last post will highlight that Rand’s conception of the ideal man has striking features in common with Jesus Christ.

Why is this important? Ayn Rand remains one of the most prominent business philosophers decades after her death in 1982. Her thought has inspired many public figures who in turn have impacted the world we live in:

  • House Budget Committee chair and vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan was inspired to pursue economics after reading Ayn Rand.
  • Former Federal Reserve chair Alan Greenspan was a personal friend of Rand and a committed follower.
  • John Allison, new head of the Cato Institute and former CEO of BB&T Corporation, is unequivocal in Forbes magazine:

I am a major proponent of Rand’s philosophy because Atlas Shrugged changed my life.

As evidence of Rand’s wide impact, more than 30 million copies of her novels Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, We the Living, and Anthem have been sold.

The Modern Library Reader’s List of the 100 best novels includes all of Rand’s titles in the top ten with Atlas Shrugged sitting at the top. Finally, when researchers conducting a study for the Library of Congress asked readers, “What one book most influenced your life?” Atlas Shrugged was second in influence only to the Bible.

Next week we will examine the life and philosophy of Ayn Rand to better understand what the Bible says is right and wrong about Atlas Shrugged and Objectivism.

What are your thoughts on Ayn Rand, her work, and her philosophy? Leave your comments here.

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  • Robert

    Great article. Was just discussing this in ethics course. Her egoism is one-dimensional and cut off from ontology. Thomistic eudaimonism accounts better for the same thrust in human nature to pursue our own good. Because its grounded in our nature, which is grounded in Creation, it has a much richer explanation for *why* we want our own good, and also it makes those goods consistent with self-sacrifice, benevolence, and virtue.

  • Keith

    I notice the last comment here was 3 years ago. I have become a fan of the book, Atlas Shrugged over the past few years. I consider myself a Christian yet see many amazing similarities to Biblical philosophy in spite of Ayn Rands denouncing it.

    I have gone over the book many times as I spend a lot of time on the road. I concluded that Ayn Rand intended this to be a fictional representation of a reality derived from her experiences in Russia, her philosophical studies, and her obvious love for America and what it stood for. She saw many philosophies developing in America that reflected the weaknesses of those in Communist and Socialist governments. Thus by reading her book as an “allegory” of a sort, one can get a clearer picture of its purpose.

    She is not the only one, by the way, that criticizes many Christian beliefs that some consider mystics and totalitarian ideas. A misunderstanding of man’s obligation to man has led to many atrocities like the Dark Ages in history. Any discussion in this discourse that provides much in the way of proof, would be too long to be discussed here.

    I see in her writings a severe scepticism of Biblical philosophy that historically is much warranted. A close inspection of modern Christianity reveals it has been heavily influenced by Roman, Greek, as well as Judiastic philosophy. Unfortunately Ayn Rand did not take the time to research Biblical history to see if her views of it were accurate so she “threw the baby out with the bath water” so to speak.

    That being said, the premisses, in my opinion, are remarkably on par with Bible Philosophy. She describes her characters on the surface as ruthless selfish business people, yet in their relationship with each other quite selfless and giving. She portrays her characters at first as the world sees them them proceeds to show their true character. Her ideas on economics are amazing similar to those of Adam Smith who greatly influenced early America and made it the most powerful country in the world.

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