Sean Edwards

The American Resurrection

Defining Christian Objectivism

What is “Christian Objectivism”?

Christian Objectivism is a worldview that is a synthesizes the Christian faith with Ayn Rand’s philosophy called “Objectivism.” So, then, what is Ayn Rand’s “Objectivism”? It’s best let her tell you herself:

“At a sales conference at Random House, preceding the publication of Atlas Shrugged, one of the book salesmen asked me whether I could present the essence of my philosophy while standing on one foot. I did as follows:

  1. Metaphysics: Objective Reality
  2. Epistemology: Reason
  3. Ethics: Self-interest
  4. Politics: Capitalism

If you want this translated into simple language, it would read: 1. “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed” or “Wishing won’t make it so.” 2. “You can’t eat your cake and have it, too.” 3. “Man is an end in himself.” 4. “Give me liberty or give me death.”

If you held these concepts with total consistency, as the base of your convictions, you would have a full philosophical system to guide the course of your life. But to hold them with total consistency—to understand, to define, to prove and to apply them—requires volumes of thought. Which is why philosophy cannot be discussed while standing on one foot—nor while standing on two feet on both sides of every fence. This last is the predominant philosophical position today, particularly in the field of politics.

My philosophy, Objectivism, holds that:

  1. Reality exists as an objective absolute—facts are facts, independent of man’s feelings, wishes, hopes or fears.
  2. Reason (the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses) is man’s only means of perceiving reality, his only source of knowledge, his only guide to action, and his basic means of survival.
  3. Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.
  4. The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others.The government acts only as a policeman that protects man’s rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders. In a system of full capitalism, there should be (but, historically, has not yet been) a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.” – Ayn Rand, 1962

Christian Objectivism holds these values as well, just within the context of the revelation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. One might wonder how this possible since Ayn Rand herself was an atheist and many Christian precepts appear to be in conflict with Objectivism. But these are perceived conflicts, not actual ones.

1) Christian Objectivism believes that the Bible is an accurate account of history and thus it’s revelation should be considered fact.

2) Christian Objectivism recognizes that reason is “man’s only means of perceiving reality, his only source of knowledge, his only guide to action, and his basic means of survival.” Reason is not purely intellectual thought, which many Christians have shunned, but “the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses.” Reason puts all the pieces from all of our senses together and builds an understanding of reality from them.

Spiritual revelation is a sense just like any other, therefore, reason takes our spiritual revelation and applies it everything else we know about the world and synthesizes a understanding of reality from it. And just as it must do with all of our other senses, reason must analyze if our spiritual revelation is congruent with all of other senses and/or if it is giving us false information. Sometimes our senses (all of them) send us wrong information and it is the responsibility of our minds to weigh everything we are receiving and come to a conclusion about reality around us.

3) This point is probably the hardest for most Christians to swallow, but it is still true, though understood a little differently. The original design in the Garden of Eden was for humanity to enjoy union with God and enjoy their lives on Earth. There was no ministry to be done, there was no sacrificing necessary. People were to live their lives and enjoy them. Christian Objectivism holds that the enjoyment of life and God are still our ultimate purposes, though service and self-denial are sometimes necessary to achieve those ends.

C.S. Lewis articulates this point well in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses:

“[In modern Christianity] The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. 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 to take up our crosses 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 our desire.”

Self-denial and sacrifice are not bad things. They are necessary if we want to achieve everything God has for us. Self-denial and sacrifice are evil if they are held as ends unto themselves and made the penultimate purposes of our lives. Hebrews 12:2 states that Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him. He did not deny Himself and go through the Cross purely out of self-sacrifice. He did it because He wanted the joy of redeeming His people.

Therefore, self-denial and sacrifice have their place, but only as means to an end, and they must be completely voluntary. They cannot be forced onto anyone.

4) Objectivism holds that there are two ways in which goods and services are transmitted between people. Either through trade, where people willingly trade with each other for their mutual benefit, or through force, where one person steals from another. There are no other options.

A basic tenant of Christian Objectivism is that Jesus always made compliance with His teachings voluntary, which includes giving to charity and being generous. He never told His disciples: “Help the poor, and if you don’t have enough money to do it, then forcibly take it from someone else.” Government run welfare and social security, though born of good intentions, force some people involuntarily support a charity with which they do not agree. This is wrong and can never be justified.

Money is a product of men’s labor and thus an extension of their lives. No one has a right to their lives but they themselves, and God as their creator. Compassion does not give men the right to tell others how to live their lives or what to do with their money. Therefore, capitalism is the only moral way in which resources can move between individuals. Walter E. Williams put it best when he said:

“Prior to capitalism, the way people amassed great wealth was by looting, plundering, and enslaving their fellow man. Capitalism made it possible to become wealthy by serving your fellow man.”

We as Christians have the privilage to help those around us, those in great need, because it reflects the heart of the Father and empowers people to encounter His love. This virtue is not self-denial or sacrifice. It is integrity. If we believe who we are and who God is, then we can’t pass by one of His children who is in need. We know who they are and who they can be even they do not yet see it. They need to be built up and brought back into their potential.

But we do not have the right to force people to help the less fortunate. To quote Terry Goodkind, “Charity must always voluntary. Otherwise it is just a nice word for slavery.”

That, in a nutshell, is Christian Objectivism.

  • Excellent post… thanks for sharing it. I enjoy Ayn Rand’s writings, especially regarding capitalism and the role of government. You, however, have done a great job at explaining her overall philosphy and how it can be incorporated into my faith as a Christian. Thanks again.

  • Sean

    Thank you Dr. Burroughs, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  • Sean Edwards

    Arkone, thank you for your comments. However, I stand by my position. Hebrews states that Jesus bore the cross “for the joy set before HIm.” That means his motivation behind being crucified was the joy he’d experience joy on the other side. Presumably a joy he could not attain otherwise. Given the nature of his sacrifice, we can assume that his joy stemmed from the reconciliation of man to God. Therefore, Jesus bore the cross (torture) so that he could experience the joy of having a redeemed people. His motivation was joy, not sacrifice. To get that joy he had to go through something terrible, but that is different than sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice.

    This means that his actions were self-interested in nature. That doesn’t mean he’s “selfish” in the brutish sense, but we must conclude that his actions were based on what he got out of the situation. If this causes us problems, we may need to go back and redefine what we mean by “love.” If love is selfless (in the sense that most interpret it), then love must be cold and dutiful. If you receive joy from your love, than it can no longer be called love; you get something out it (joy). Furthermore, if Jesus’ actions were motivated by joy, then it means humanity brings him joy, and that he wants us redeemed. That is far more powerful than him doing what he did out of a cold, selfless duty.

    So, I hate to disappoint, but I have not realized how wrong I am 🙂 If anything, my position has been further cemented. However, this article does need some updating. That is on my “to do list.”

    Thank you for reading!

  • Sean Edwards

    Arkone, we’re entering the territory of Straw-Men arguments. So, lets define some terms:

    1. How do you define selfishness? I define it a “selfish” act as “any act that benefits the one performing the act.” Can these actions also help others? Yes, and they often do. Can they also harm others for personal gain? Yes, but that is selfishness. It is exploitation.

    2. How do you define “altruism”? I define altruism as a moral code that defines a “good” action as one that benefits anyone but the one performing the act, and a “bad” action as one that benefits the doer of the act.

    I abhor altruism. I think it is unbiblical and counter to human nature. It is designed to break mens spirit, and leave people open to being ruled rather than being free.

    Why is charity toxic if you makes you feel good? You say this:

    “Looking to do charity for the “joy” of it is the root cause of what is known as ‘toxic charity.’ Charity that doesn’t actually help anyone, but makes the giver feel good about themselves.”

    You assume that my definition of charity doesn’t help anyone, and only gives the doer a sense of joy. That is a false assumption. My definition of charity is any act that benefits another person, without the expectation of repayment (in time, money, or service). My definitions of “selfishness” allow for a “selfish” charity (one that helps others while also giving you joy for doing so).

    You say, “Saying that love must be “cold and dutiful” in order to be selfless is incorrect – when you sacrifice for others you do so because you burn with passion, motivating you to do whatever it takes for that which you love.”

    I have some questions, because this statement has a lot assumptions baked into it.

    What is a “sacrifice”? I define a sacrifice as trading one value for a lesser value. If we truly “sacrifice [because we] burn with passion… for that which [we] love”, then you’re saying, “I value myself over that which I love. And my sacrifice proves it.” Are you saying that?

    When you “sacrifice” for your wife, are you saying, “I value myself more than I value you, but I’m trading my value for myself for my lesser-value of you. This sacrifice proves my love for you.” Is that love?

    What is passion? Why do you have it? And where does it come from? Usually, people feel passionate because they feel they are doing good and/or productive. They feel they are pursuing something of great value. This means that people’s definitions of “right” and “wrong” fuel “passion.”

    What are your definitions of “right” and “wrong?” And why how do you know those definitions are correct? Basically, how do you know your moral code is the right one? And that your “passion” is burning “for the right thing”?

    How do you define “love”? And why do you “love” something or someone?

    Many people equate love with pity. They are not the same. Pity looks at the plight of someone and moves you to compassion. Love looks at the values in someone and inspires respect and affection for the person. I do not want to marry someone whom I pity.

    If we say that Jesus bore the cross out of a sense of duty and pity (selflessness), it doesn’t mean much. I’d still be really thankful, but it says very little about God feels about us. It only says something about His moral code. Who wants people to do things for them “because they’re supposed to”?

    However, if He did what He did because He values us, and our presence/existence brings Him joy, it is very powerful. It means the God of the universe sees value in me. If he did what he did out of selfless love, it only means he did what he did to satisfy his moral code, and no more.

    This is not an argument to defend my position, it merely illustrates the false ideas we have about altruism, love, and selfishness. We value “selfless” acts without understanding what that term even means.

    My argument, however, comes straight from the Bible. It says Jesus did what he did for the joy set before him.

    Lets say your significant other was going to die a horrible death, and you’d never see them again. In this scenario, you can save them, but at great cost and unthinkable pain. If you truly love your spouse, you’d do it. Why? Because you value them. You want to be around them. And you want them to continue existing.

    So, by taking their place, you’re securing the rest of your life with them. The vision of that life would keep you going through the trials and torture. This is what people have done for millennia. Soldiers take pictures of their wives into battle. Why? To remind them why they fight.

    The bible says He did what He did because of the joy set before him. What joy? Our redemption and reconciliation to the Father. Our salvation was like the soldiers picture of his wife. God so desired to be our father, that He was willing to go what He did to secure it.

    Even though Ayn Rand was anti-faith, her philosophy is not. She was ant-faith because she misdefined faith (in my opinion). She thought faith was a form of cognition. And for many, it is. However, you do not have to believe faith is form of cognition to have faith, or to believe in God and the Bible.