Economics 101 & Theology 101

Ayn Rand and the Age of Story: Why Should Christians Care?

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The 21st century is the age of story, and few have shaped the narrative of our age like novelist and political philosopher Ayn Rand.

Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged has been ranked as second only to the Bible as one of the most influential books in the lives of modern readers.

More than 30 million copies of Rand’s books have been sold, and nearly a million dollars in cash prizes have been awarded in essay contests encouraging high school and college students to read Rand’s novels. In addition, universities are increasingly making her books required reading.

Her works have permeated our culture, so much so that David S. Kotter, an IFWE senior research fellow and professor at Indiana Wesleyan University, has produced research on interpreting Rand and her ideas from a biblical perspective.

His paper, “Check Your Premises: Ayn Rand Through A Biblical Lens,” is available for download, and David will be blogging about Rand in the coming weeks.

I want to take some time today to answer a pressing question regarding this research: aside from Rand’s success, why would IFWE show interest in reviewing the thoughts behind her works?

After all, many Christians are apprehensive about engaging with Rand’s works because of her worldview:

  • Rand was a virulent atheist who despised Christianity and the Bible.
  • She condemned any form of altruism, exalted selfishness, and used the dollar bill as her symbol.

There are three reasons why Christians should interact with Rand’s work and ideas.

1. Even if you have no intention of reading Rand – and her works are certainly not for everyone – it is at least worth knowing what she believed and how her beliefs compare and contrast with the Bible.

2. Any work that appeals to so many people likely contains some truths worth investigating.

For example, I have learned specific truths through reading atheist, New Age, and neo-pagan works, even though I reject their overarching worldview.

We at IFWE believe in common grace, which means that every favor of whatever kind that this undeserving world enjoys originates from the hand of God. While it is true that unbelievers eventually twist truth, they nonetheless have some truth to twist.

In other words, non-believers possess both honey – created truth – and hemlock – truth twisted by the Fall. To discern or sift the the honey from the hemlock, we need to use the Bible as a lens to view the world.

As we do, we carry out the action plan presented in 2 Corinthians 10:5:

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

3. Because all truth is God’s truth, we need to learn anything and everything we can, because each particular truth will lead us ultimately to God’s truth.

We need fear nothing from this endeavor. We certainly don’t need to fear reading the works or examining the thoughts of an atheist. We have already suffered too much from ignorance. Our faith, after all, can stand up to the most rigorous examination.

David’s study of Ayn Rand is a helpful analysis of the honey and hemlock in Rand’s views. If we are going to understand the spirit of our age like the children of Issachar presented in I Chronicles 12:32, it will be wise to know what is good and evil, true and false, about Rand, a leading influencer of modern thought.

What do you think? Should Christians interact with the works and ideas of Ayn Rand? Why or why not? Leave your comments here

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  • John Bishop

    Art,

    Ayn Rand’s work might be better understood if it was set in the context of spiritual warfare! Satan is going to use people like her–gifted, articulate, attractive, ect-to promote his agenda of deception and lies. Seeing behind the curtain will reveal who is really pulling the levers of her philosophy.

    All the best,
    John

  • Jacob

    I think it is more than that; it is not just that Christians should study what nuggets of truth the enemy might have, but we should honestly say that Ayn Rand’s though contains much of great value. There many ways in which objectivist thought and Christian thought overlap, even though in the core issues there are insurmountable differences.

    I think that Rand’s focus on life and on rejecting coercion is fantastic, compatible with Christianity for the most part, and sorely lacking in today’s world.

    • Robert

      I would say that it has “some” value. I take it to be a fairly hollow shell, much like most modern moral philosophy, of a much “thicker” version of Thomistic/Aritstotelian eudaimonism that better explains free markets and liberty as necessary for human flourishing. What Rand got right was that it is not purely selfish to pursue our own goods. What Rand failed miserably at was grounding our pursuit of desire in our own nature and teleology.

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