Words matter. Because ideas matter. Particularly theological ideas. There are few theological words which have greater significance in the history of the church than the word, justice. It’s the root of justification––the doctrine, according to Calvin, which is the hinge upon which the faith turns. But there’s a deeper foundation to the doctrine of justification: the justice of God. This was His motive in offering His Son as a propitiation for our sins: that He would be just and the justifier of those who have faith in Jesus (Rom.3:26). With such profound theological and historical significance to the very heart of the Gospel, itself, it’s difficult to imagine that a conservative, evangelical organization called The Gospel Coalition would carelessly misuse the concept of justice. And yet that is precisely what they’ve done in the latest article by Greg Forster. ...continue reading
John Piper recently spoke at Google on the topic, Jesus Christ Egomaniac? The impetus for that question is the astounding number of prominent people who have explicitly rejected Christianity because they have perceived God (or Jesus) as being an egomaniac. While Piper seems to think that these rejections are based on a misunderstanding of God's love, I'm going to argue that these people are actually rejecting God because of their adopted morality of altruism. But let's start with the four noteworthy instances of such rejections which Piper recounts. ...continue reading
Balance. It’s probably the fundamental functional morality for most people today. And it’s definitely the go-to answer for most moral conundrums. How do love and truth go together? Justice and mercy? Individualism and community? God’s sovereignty and human responsibility? Personal responsibility and charity? The answer: “Balance.”
A Dubious Assumption
But isn’t there a dubious assumption behind the idea that good and true things need to “balance” each other out? The idea of balance implies an inverse relationship between those things which are being balanced: the degree to which one goes up, the other goes down — and vice versa. The degree to which love goes up, truth goes down; and the degree to which truth goes up, love goes down. Such is the conventional wisdom. The key to morality then, in this case, is to “balance” the two out. But what does this mean?
Let us think about it on a spectrum (for this is what the idea of balance implies), with truth on the left, and love on the right. Say that the far left is a 10 on the scale of passion for the truth, and the far right is a 10 on the scale of passion for love. The further you are on either end of the scale toward one virtue, according to the modern conception of morality, the further away you are from the other virtue. Now, if maximum passion for truth is a 10 on one side, and maximum passion for love is a 10 on the opposite side, what would the “balanced” middle of the spectrum be but a zero for both?
Now, let us imagine all of these supposed dichotomous virtues on their own respective spectrums: Justice and mercy on opposite ends; individualism and community; etc.., with all of these spectrums intersecting at the same spot to make a sort of pin-wheel. Perhaps Justice is at 12 o’clock with mercy at 6; truth at 9 o’clock with love at 3 o’clock; and so on with all of the potential spectrums going “‘round the clock.” Now picture what the result would be if one were capable of achieving a perfect “balance” on all of these spectrums. If one’s passion for each of the virtues were measured at this point of equilibrium, the reading would be: zero. Zero virtue. The aim of balancing out the virtues means not aiming at any one particular virtue (this would cause imbalance), but aiming, rather, at neutrality to all the virtues. Such is the implicit ideal behind those who think of morality in terms of balance.
The Pendulum Effect
And such is the cause of the pendulum phenomenon: the swinging from one good “emphasis” to another — whether in culture or in the individual. In fact, if one has this view of morality (this idea of inverse relations between the virtues), there is no other option for the one who wishes to pursue the virtues, then to swing eternally from some “extreme” to another, in the desperate and futile attempt to arrive at the ideal of “balance,” “equilibrium,” neutrality; apathy. Isn’t that — the dreary spell of apathy — the inevitable end of those “mature,” lifeless, beings who have “grown up” and “learned to be balanced,” by avoiding all “extremes” — which means: avoiding all principles, and all virtue?
Observe the spiritual death in the faces of those who have supposedly reached such “balance.” Observe the disdain in their faces (and their voices — as they write disparaging articles), looking down in self-righteous pity upon the “poor” and “naive” souls who are still trying to pursue some virtue or another; observe the frustration of the poor souls who love all of the virtues (as they ought to), but are eternally tortured because of that love — or rather, because of this twisted view of morality, which has condemned that very love for virtue as evil-–I mean, “imbalanced,” from the very start.
What evil, what torture, what agonizing psychological despair, such a view of morality heaps upon its victims. It turns the essence of morality (pursuit of virtue) into the essence of evil, and the essence of evil (neutrality toward all virtue) into the essence of the good. How much despair such a seemingly innocent conception as “balance” can inflict upon those who desire to be good. This is a first-rate example of the absolute necessity of thinking rightly; the necessity to properly integrate those things in life which seem dichotomous (like various virtues); the desperate need for thinking philosophically — lest one fall victim to such insidious doctrines of despair as the one laid out above.
The following is my response to Wayne Grudem's recent article at TGC, Is Gaining Profit From Someone Else's Work Exploitation?
A Great Article, But...
This is a great article, in that it demonstrates the glorious nature of wealth creation (and therefore life-enhancement) in a Capitalist system, while demonstrating some great Biblical principles which support such wealth-creation -- however the article seems to ground the 'goodness' of this employer-employee relationship (and implicitly, of Capitalism in general) in 'love for the other person', which has dangerous implications if carried out consistently (see the Marxist-sympathizing comments in the comment section for examples).
The Only Proper Foundation
While love for others certainly ought to be a strong driving motive of the Christian in all things, it should not (and cannot) be the foundation for the goodness of Capitalism (the system Grudem is implicitly defending above). The only proper foundation (Biblical or otherwise) for Capitalism is: Justice. ...continue reading
“There is a great, basic contradiction in the teachings of Jesus. Jesus was one of the first great teachers to proclaim the basic principle of individualism.... But when it came to the next question, a code of ethics to observe for the salvation of one's soul—(this means: what must one do in actual practice in order to save one's soul?)—Jesus (or perhaps His interpreters) gave men a code of altruism, that is, a code which told them that in order to save one's soul, one must love or help or live for others. This means, the subordination of one's soul (or ego) to the wishes, desires or needs of others, which means the subordination of one's soul to the souls of others. This is a contradiction that cannot be resolved.”
-Letter to Mrs. Austin, by Ayn Rand
The "Great Basic Contradiction"
Previously, I covered the beginning of this (and another quote) by Rand on the teachings of Jesus in regard to individualism and egoism (Read Ayn Rand on Christian Egoism: Part 1, here). In both quotes (each taken from personal letters), Rand begins by praising Christianity for its teaching on the sanctity of man's soul (ego) and for making the salvation of one's own individual soul the primary concern. However in both quotes, Rand goes on to elaborate on a fundamental contradiction which she sees in Christian philosophy: the contradiction between Jesus' teaching on individualism/ egoism and the morality of altruism: ...continue reading
Have you noticed how mystical our culture's talk of love is today? Whether it's the girl whimsically longing to "find true love" (as if it is some magical creature evading her grasp), the boy in reluctant surprise who admits that he "might be in love" (as if it were a disease which has crept up on him), or the couple which speaks of "falling in love" (as if it were a pit into which both stumbled during a blind, dumb stupor), there appears to be very little conscious understanding of what love actually is among most people.
Is vs. Does
Of course there are many who would claim to speak of what love is (typically the adult speaking to the adolescent, who "doesn't know what love is yet" -- as though love were some mystical knowledge imparted to you at a certain age). But these don't speak about what love is so much as they speak about what love does.
"Love waits", "Love puts the other person first", "Love makes you do crazy things", "Love doesn't give up". These are all great and true (in particular respects) descriptions of what love does, but they do very little to explain what love is. If you want proof, simply consider that one could do all of the things listed above (and all the things which could be listed about what love does), and still not have love (see 1 Cor. 13:3). If it is possible to fake love by performing supposedly 'loving' actions (and it is), then the actions, themselves, cannot be love.
Love is Value
If love is not actions, but the fuel for 'loving' actions, then love must be that which fuels action: value. ...continue reading
"Christianity was the first school of thought that proclaimed the supreme sacredness of the individual. The first duty of a Christian is the salvation of his own soul. This duty comes above any he may owe to his brothers. This is the basic statement of true individualism."
-Ayn Rand, Letter to Reverend Dudley
Ayn Rand on Christianity
Though Rand was obviously not a theologian or student of Scripture, she knew enough about Christian theology to identify this foundational moral principle in the teachings of Christ: that the chief moral imperative of the Christian is the salvation of his own soul. And, from this she concluded that Christianity did promote a similar sort of egoism to her own:
"The salvation of one's own soul means the preservation of the integrity of one's ego. The soul is the ego. Thus Christianity did preach egoism in my sense of the word, in high, noble and spiritual sense." -Letter to Rev. Dudley
Elsewhere, Rand writes:
"Jesus was one of the first great teachers to proclaim the basic principle of individualism—the inviolate sanctity of man's soul, and the salvation of one's soul as one's first concern and highest goal; this means—one's ego and the integrity of one's ego." - Letter to Mrs. Austin
Surely, many will likely object that as an avowed atheist, Rand had no business commenting on, or presuming to understand, the foundational morality of Christianity; that she is simply mistaken about this idea of individualism and egoism being an integral part of Christ's teaching. And so, the proper question to ask here is: is she right?
Jesus: The Chief Individualist (and Egoist)?
Did Jesus "teach the inviolate sanctity of man's soul, and the salvation of one's soul as one's first and highest goal" -- thus proclaiming "the basic principle of individualism" and the importance of "one's ego"?
"For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and to lose his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" -Jesus, Mk8:36-37
The implicit answer: nothing. Nothing, Jesus is saying, can possibly be of more value to you than the salvation, integrity, and perseverance of your own soul. Why? Because it is your own individual soul which values -- apart from it, you cannot value anything. Why would there be no profit in exchanging one's own soul for the whole world? Because it is the soul which profits -- apart from it, there is no such thing as profit for the one doing the trading. If you gain everything that could ever satisfy your soul at the expense losing the very thing you wish to satisfy (your soul), then you gain nothing.
"Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" -Jesus, Mt10:28
Translation: Your soul is of supreme value and importance. Your greatest fear should not be any physical threat, but the threat of the soul's destruction; Value the preservation and perseverance of your soul more than this life, itself.
Add to these, and the many others which could be listed, C.S. Lewis' observation that "nearly every description [given by Christ] of what we shall ultimately find if we do [as He commands] contains an appeal to desire" ; that the motive behind all of New Testament morality is the ultimate good of one's own soul (in its union with God). An honest look at Scripture makes it abundantly clear that, in spite of contrary 'Christian' opinions, the atheist, Ayn Rand, is absolutely right on this point: Christ was one of the first and greatest champions of individualism and egoism -- not in the superficial and carnal ways we mean those terms today, but in the deep, ultimate, and ironically spiritual sense which the atheistic philosopher has rightly pointed out.
Contradictions Do Not Exist
Whatever else Christ may have taught, it cannot be denied that He taught this much about the supreme value of the individual soul -- the ego. And if Christ is to be taken as the infallible Truth of God which Christians hold Him to be, then everything else He taught must be understood in such a way as to not contradict His teaching on the "inviolate sanctity of man's soul" -- man's ego.
That is the direction to which Rand turns in both quotes cited above, and the topic of the next blog: did Christ's other teachings contradict His teachings on the value of man's soul presented above? Is Rand right that "there is a great, basic contradiction in the teachings of Jesus", and are modern Christians right to insist that Jesus was a staunch advocate of altruism? Stay tuned.
Since the new poverty-worshiping Pope recently spoke out against the ‘tyranny of Capitalism’, there has been an upsurge in the voices which insist that Jesus was a Socialist. Now before you tune out, thinking that this debate is all about both sides attempting to read ‘political philosophy’ into the teachings of Jesus, let me say very clearly that the central points of Jesus’ ministry had very little (if anything at all) to do with political affiliation.
It's Not About Politics. It's About Morality.
But this debate is not about political affiliation. It is about moral foundations -- which inevitably give birth to political systems. Therefore, this issue is far from irrelevant to those who do not wish to ‘get involved in politics’. It isn’t about politics; it’s about the morality of the Christian worldview, and the central moral principles upon which Christ, the Son of God, operates. These aren’t different views of Government; these are different views of Christ -- and therefore different views of God, and of all of reality.
When someone claims that Jesus was a Socialist, he is not primarily claiming that Jesus advocated State-run charity and wealth re-distribution (though that is certainly included and implied); he is primarily claiming that Jesus practiced and advocated that morality which underpins (and inevitably demands) Socialism: the morality of altruism. Altruism is the moral code which, at its best, states that meeting the needs of others is the ultimate moral imperative; and at its worst, states that self-sacrifice, as an end in itself, is the ultimate moral imperative. While it is understandable that a highly selective and biased reading of the Gospels could result in the belief that Christ taught and practiced this morality, there is no excuse for a truth-seeking, context-respecting Christian to leave the New Testament with that thought.
The Atheism of ‘Christian’ Altruism
Notice that those who claim that Jesus was a Socialist always use the past tense: “Jesus was a Socialist”. Jesus was -- as in: isn’t any more. Jesus was a historical figure, or a good teacher, or a moral leader. Was. Implication: Jesus isn’t around anymore. I realize that it is possible that they simply use the past tense as a convenient figure of speech, but whether it is a figure of speech or not, speaking of Jesus as if He were still dead is absolutely consistent with that moral ideal of altruism. For Jesus to come back to life from the dead would imply that His death, His self-sacrifice, was not an end in itself; it would imply that He might have had something to gain in His death; that His death wasn't entirely altruistic. If Jesus was truly altruistic -- if “Jesus was a Socialist”, He would have stayed in the tomb (i.e. He would have stayed dead). But He didn’t. His death was not an end in itself, but a means to a greater end -- and it is that end which the altruist must consistently deny and evade.
Stop Evading, and Keep Reading
In fact, it is always the end, the ultimate, the big-picture, the goal, which the altruist tends to evade when discussing morality (whether in the Bible or elsewhere). Show me any argument that "the Bible teaches altruism", and I will show you an argument which ignores or evades the ultimate context and reality of what is being taught:
- “Jesus said 'Blessed are the poor'” ... in spirit. Jesus is commending those who see and acknowledge their own spiritual poverty -- not those who lack material wealth.
- “Jesus said 'It is easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God' -Mt.19:23”.
Keep reading: the disciples responded “then who can be saved?”. Jesus replied “with men it is impossible, but with God all things are possible”. Both Jesus and his disciples make it clear that they understood Jesus to be saying that it is impossible for men, in general, to enter heaven apart from God. The talk of the ‘rich man’ is meant to emphasize ‘the cares of this world’, referred to in other parables, as being one of the main reasons that men do not want to think about eternity. That is the theme, taught here and throughout the Gospels by Jesus: that men who are too easily pleased with the ‘here and now’ will never have the appetite for eternal things.
- “Philippians 2:1-8 says that we should not be selfish and that we should be like Christ who humbled himself to the point of death”.
Keep reading: “...for this reason, God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name...” Christ’s humiliation, from the beginning of eternity, was always aimed at His exaltation. “He endured the cross despising its shame, for the joy set before Him” (Heb.12:2).
But these poverty-peddlers are not only plucking words out of context (as demonstrated above); they are gutting Christianity of its ultimate end, its ultimate value: glory -- and reducing Christianity down to a naturalistic, here and now, make the best of what we’ve got, atheistic worldview. To focus on self-denial apart from the context of ultimate self-gain is to turn self-obliteration into the ultimate moral goal of life, and the ultimate end of the universe; to focus on the suffering of Christ apart from the eternal exaltation of Christ is to rob 'the passion of Christ' of His ultimate passion; to focus on God’s love for men apart from His omnipotent and eternal love for Himself, is to gut God of His highest and chief value.
Love the Poor, But Not Like an Atheist
This doesn't mean that God doesn't care for the poor -- or that Christians should neglect the poor. It simply means that caring for the poor must be understood in the context of ultimate morality and ultimate reality -- rather than being made central to morality. It is very true that God cares about the poor, that Jesus demonstrated great care for the poor while on earth, and that Christians ought to follow suit -- but it is atheistic to stop there. God’s care for the poor is not an end in itself (because nothing but God’s enjoyment of Himself is an ‘end in itself’) and Jesus’ care for the poor was always aimed at something higher, more ultimate, and eternal. Therefore, if Christians wish to imitate God and Christ in their care for the poor, they had better begin to think long and hard about those ultimate and eternal things toward which ‘care for the poor’, and everything else, is to be aimed; i.e. they had better figure out how ‘loving the poor’ can be done in a way that is ultimately aimed at eternal values and self-gain. But before they can do that, perhaps they will need to come to terms with the fact that Jesus was not, in fact, the perfect altruist; that Christ, the Son of God, is risen from the dead in glory because He values His own glory as ultimate. He is risen, and therefore He is not a "Socialist".
Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful: thankful for family and friends, for a good job or financial stability, for delicious food and the skill that goes into preparing it, and for an innumerable amount of amazingly good things in one's life. And though they are innumerable, most people find joy in the attempt to enumerate and reflect upon those many things for which they are thankful this time of year. "What are you thankful for?" is the common refrain. But have you ever considered pondering the question, not what are you thankful for, but to whom are you thankful for all of those things?
The More Satisfying Question
That is, to be sure, the more challenging question to answer -- but wouldn't it be the more fruitful question, as well? What good is expressing thanks in general, but to no one or nothing in particular? Isn't the thanks wildly insignificant without a reference to both the what and the who? If you receive a certain amount of joy in occasionally reflecting upon and identifying what you're thankful for, how much more joy is there bound to be in specifically identifying to whom you are thankful for what, and in what way? I say specifically, because it is far too easy to blanket all of your thankfulness with a single answer in a way that washes out all of the intricate and beautiful details, thereby causing you to not only miss out on the detailed joy, but also to commit a careless injustice against those to whom you ought to be thankful in the proper ways.
Different Causes: Different Thanks
It's easy for Christians to simply answer: I am thankful to God. It's easy for some atheists to answer: I am thankful to the productive and creative men in the world. And it's easy for others to simply answer: I am thankful to myself. But aren't all of these a little too simplistic? Who says that there can only be one answer? Is there ever just one answer?
What does it mean to be thankful to someone for something? Does it not mean that you are acknowledging that person's positive causal power in bringing about that good thing? If that's the case, is there ever only one cause for a good thing in your life? Aristotle specified several different types of causation which are active in almost every event, but one doesn't need to have studied Aristotle in order to see the vast multiplicity of causes for everything in one's life -- and therefore a little bit of careful reflection can go a long way in helping one to properly identify to whom he ought to be thankful for those many good things in his life.
Thankful to My Self
There is a very good and right thankfulness to one's self for many of the good things in one's life. The extent to which you have served to be a positive cause for the good things in your life is the exact extent to which you owe yourself thanks -- no more, and no less. In fact, I would argue that even those who are thankful to themselves are not being thankful enough for all of the good things which they have helped to conceive in their lives. Some might thank themselves for the financial stability or status of living which they and their family enjoy; i.e. they are thankful to themselves for the immediate concrete reward of their hard work, which is appropriate. But a man is much more than a producer of material rewards (he is not less, but he is more). Far more vital to the success and joy of life is the production of spiritual values: honesty, integrity, rationality, generosity, creativity, etc... The cultivation and sustaining of these in one's life takes far more work and dedication than any career a man could choose -- and the rewards of this spiritual work are those things in one's life which are far more valuable than one's physical wealth.
I have worked hard for the relative material pleasure which my wife and I enjoy, but far more than that, I have worked relentlessly to cultivate in myself the values which would make me the man that is deserving of her amazing love; the type of man that is suitable for the remarkably loving relationship which we enjoy together. I have labored to cultivate in myself those values which I share with my dear friends: honesty, productivity, integrity, valor -- values which bind us together and enrich our friendships far more than the banality of simply "sharing hobbies". So when I think about how thankful I am for my wife, my friends, my work, and my general direction in life (not to mention the many material things which we enjoy), I am -- in part -- thankful to my self: to that relentless passion in my soul which strives for the very best in life, and will not be satisfied with anything less.
Thankful to Man
Likewise, it is absolutely proper to be thankful to other men for various good things in your life. The extent to which other particular men have contributed as positive causal factors for the goodness which you enjoy is the exact extent to which you ought to be thankful to those men: no more, and no less. This, perhaps, is the ultimate form of thankfulness which Ayn Rand expressed in much of her writing: she was a master at seeing the intricate and beautiful ways various men had contributed to her over-all prosperity (and the prosperity of those around her) in a way that usually goes unnoticed -- and therefore un-thanked.
"When you live in a rational society, where men are free to trade, you receive an incalculable bonus: the material value of your work is determined not only by your effort, but by the effort of the best productive minds who exist in the world around you.
When you work in a modern factory, you are paid, not only for your labor, but for all the productive genius which has made that factory possible: for the work of the industrialist who built it, for the work of the investor who saved the money to risk on the untried and the new, for the work of the engineer who designed the machines of which you are pushing the levers, for the work of the inventor who created the product which you spend your time on making, for the work of the scientist who discovered the laws that went into the making of that product, for the work of the philosopher who taught men how to think and whom you spend your time denouncing." - Atlas Shrugged
Have you ever stopped to think about the enormous amounts of wealth you are privileged to enjoy merely because of the genius of other men whom you may never meet? Some are indeed thankful for notorious men who fought for our political freedom (such as the founding fathers), but have you ever uttered a silent thank you to those valiant men who discovered how to master electricity; the men who designed the vehicle you drive to work; the scientists who refined the process of extracting energy from black tar in the ground; the businessmen who developed a way to bring you the fruit of the scientist's mind in a way that is maximally convenient (and affordable) to you?
What about your line of work? Have you ever considered your position in that career -- and whether you (in your position), alone, would be sufficient to keep that industry and your position profitable? Consider this other quote:
"The machine, the frozen form of a living intelligence, is the power that expands the potential of your life by raising the productivity of your time. If you worked as a blacksmith in the mystics’ Middle Ages, the whole of your earning capacity would consist of an iron bar produced by your hands in days and days of effort. How many tons of rail do you produce per day if you work for Hank Rearden? Would you dare to claim that the size of your pay check was created solely by your physical labor and that those rails were the product of your muscles? The standard of living of that blacksmith is all that your muscles are worth; the rest is a gift from Hank Rearden." -Atlas Shrugged
What about you? Where would you be in your line of work, apart from the genius of other men (whether living now or not) upon whom the entire industry and infrastructure of your job depended?
Thankful to God
And now we get to the section that my fellow Christian readers have been anxiously waiting for -- and my atheist readers wish to evade: thankful to God. I will ask all readers to remember the ground for thankfulness, though, as we begin to discuss it's relation to God. The ground of thankfulness is causation. If God exists (and He does), then He is the ultimate cause of all things. This means that the modern Christian and the Atheist need to be corrected in their thanksgiving when it comes to God.
The Christian wishes to negate the self and others as causes (and therefore as legitimate objects of gratitude) because he mistakenly thinks that God's causation leaves no room for their causation. But doesn't this view seem far too similar to the "zero-sum" idea in economics? That there is only 'so much' cause to be portioned out to players? How silly is that? Remember that there are levels of causation in everything! One level or type of causation does not negate another. The pool stick hitting the cue ball does not negate the cue ball hitting the 8 ball. And the cue ball hitting the 8 ball does not negate the pool stick previously hitting the cue ball! Both are causes, in different respects and to different degrees. Likewise, God's ultimate causation of some good thing does not negate some instrumental causation for that same thing, any more than the [relatively] ultimate causation of your wealth from your company's CEO negates the causation of your wealth from your own hard work.
And that brings us to the Atheist. If, as demonstrated so brilliantly by Ms. Rand above, I owe thankfulness to the plethora of productive and creative minds who have made my standard of living possible, how much more do I owe thankfulness to the God upon whom my life, and theirs, is utterly contingent? Do not say "I don't believe in God, therefore I owe him no thanks". Just because some fool factory worker might "choose" not to believe in Hank Rearden (perhaps for the stupid reason that he had never met him), it certainly does not mean that Rearden never existed! If you truly want to know whether or not God exists, the answers are easy enough to find -- and if you do not want to know, there is no answer which could satisfy your stubborn evasion.
Or perhaps you wish to pretend that because you do not see the direct evidence of His causation in the good things which you enjoy, that therefore you have more justifiable room for doubt and a lack of gratitude. Rand made it abundantly clear in those quotes above that it is often those causers whom you have the least immediate knowledge or evidence of who are the most deserving of the credit for those things which you are currently enjoying. The responsibility is not on them to communicate themselves to you, but on you to consider the levels and types of causation in order to discover them.
Reconsider that quote from Rand about all of the people for whom the modern factory worker is paid:
"for the work of the industrialist who built it, for the work of the investor who saved the money to risk on the untried and the new, for the work of the engineer who designed the machines of which you are pushing the levers, for the work of the inventor who created the product which you spend your time on making, for the work of the scientist who discovered the laws that went into the making of that product, for the work of the philosopher who taught men how to think and whom you spend your time denouncing"...and for the work of God who designed and upholds the wonders discovered by all of the above, and whom you relentlessly evade.
God is the chief producer in the world, the chief engineer, the chief inventor, the chief investor, the chief worker -- He is the Chief Capitalist. And it is by the grace of His infinite capital that men thrive in all of their wondrous ways.There is no life in the universe which is not contingent upon His eternal life. There is no energy in the universe which is not an extension of His omnipotence. There is no value in reality which is not a reflection of His infinite value for Himself. There is no thing - whether spiritual or physical, in heaven or on earth - which is not ultimately from Him, through Him, and to Him, so that there is no thing for which we do not owe Him ultimate thanks.
Give Thanks To Whom Thanks is Due
In your giving of thanks, this Thanksgiving, be conscious of who you are giving thanks to -- and be sure to give credit exactly where credit is due: no more, and no less. Be thankful to your self for those things of which you are legitimately a cause. Be thankful to other men for those things of which they are legitimately a cause. And be thankful to God for your self, for those men, and for everything for which He is legitimately a cause (which is all things). So, thank God. Thank others. Thank your self. And Thank God for others, for yourself, and for all things.
"There is no such thing as duty. If you know that a thing is right, you want to do it. If you don't want to do it—it isn't right. If it's right and you don't want to do it—you don't know what right is and you're not a man."
- We The Living, Ayn Rand
This quote could come across as extremely subjective to the modern reader who is convinced of the Kantian (and Gnostic-like) dichotomy between the objective (what is right) and the subjective (what one wants). Most people - especially Christians - nowadays, want to stress the objectivity of what is right (e.g. "It's right whether you want to do it or not"), while many post-modern types would rather stress the subjective element (e.g. "It's right for you, if you want to do it"). But Rand is saying something here which neither party is capable of comprehending: that it is right for the subject to want to do what is right (and wrong if he doesn't!).
The one who wants to stress the objectivity of morality is correct to do so: whatever is right, is right, whether someone wants to do it or not. The post-modern subjective insistence that one's desire is what determines what is right is blatantly false. But simply correcting the subjectivist is not enough. The idea behind morality is for the subject (i.e. the individual) to conform to the objective (i.e. what is right). To affirm the objective while maintaining a dichotomy between it and the subject is just as disastrous to morality as denying the objective, all together.
Dutiful Men or Obedient Pets?
Duty is the attempt to conform to objective morality by the sheer movement of one's will, by-passing one's own mind and affections. It usually has a connotation of being 'hard-core' and 'dedicated' -- as if those who follow duty are taking morality more seriously than those who do not. The duty mindset says "do it, regardless of whether you like it or not". But what does this translate into besides "do it, regardless of whether you are fully convinced of it or not"? Wouldn't it be more "hardcore" to do the hard work of becoming fully convinced of what is right -- so that you want to do it? Any dog can follow commands -- and that is what the 'duty-driven' have reduced themselves to: obedient, mindless animals. They aren't being 'strong-willed' men (as the motto "pull yourself up by the boot-straps" is intended to imply). They are being weak-minded (or no-minded), compliant little pets.
How to be a Moral Man
The duty-driven, far from being 'serious about morality', are actually desperate to excuse themselves from the most essential (and toughest!) aspects of morality. To be a man (rather than an animal), one must use his mind to become rationally convinced of what is right, and then discipline his values (i.e. his desires) so that they accurately correspond to the value of that which he has discovered to be right. The will, then, naturally follows suit. Skipping over rational conviction and re-ordering of values is no less than the lazy attempt to excuse one's self from the most demanding aspects of true morality. A man (or woman) - who is not a mere beast - should want to discover what is right, and should always love that which they discover to be right. If you don't care about what is right, or - worse - if you know what is right but do not value it accordingly, then you are twisted, and have much deeper problems than outward obedience.
The Death in Duty
To insist that being so twisted is acceptable, and even a virtue, is to plunge one's self head-long down a very destructive path. To ignore or diminish such essential attributes of man as his mind and his values, in order to preserve some stoic concept of 'duty', is to view man as a sub-human cog in a machine of 'obedience'. Obedience to who? How do you know who to obey, when, and to what extent? Don't ask such questions -- it will lead to the dirty activity of your mind and obscure your will's mission to be dutiful. Obey to what end? For what reason? Why should you obey? Don't ask such questions -- it will lead to analysis of your values and get in the way of your will's mission to be dutiful. Such is the nature of the path of 'duty' for those who will take it seriously -- and what other end could become of such dutiful man-beasts, but utter self-subjugation to the loudest, or strongest, or biggest master they are capable of finding? The truly duty-driven man is desperate to be commanded; to be enslaved. It is not his life which he wishes to live -- that kind of life is impossible to a slave or a pet. He wants to wipe out the essence of his own life (his mind and values), and simply become an extension of the mind and values of another. He wants to be the living dead.