Will the Left and Right Attack Paul Ryan for His Support of Ayn Rand?

We now know that Paul Ryan is Mitt Romney’s VP pick. Shortly after Congressman Paul Ryan’s appearance at the 2011 Faith and Freedom Conference in D.C., a Bible-waving protester confronted the Chairman of the House Budget Committee and questioned him for modeling his proposed budget after “the extreme ideology of Ayn Rand rather than the basic economic justice values of the Bible.”

The protestor offered Ryan a Bible and advised him to “bone up on what it says about how we should treat the poor and vulnerable” with a specific “focus on the Gospel of Luke.” The protestor offered no particulars but I suspect that he was part of the “red-letter Christian” brigade of social activists who believe the Bible promotes a socialist form of economics. Ryan politely turned down the Bible. He told the protestor that he already had one.

The Bible does not teach socialism of any kind. The first directive of economics in terms of the Bible is found in the Eighth Commandment: “You shall not steal” (Ex. 20:15). This applies to governments, even if a majority of people empower the State to steal from some people so what is stolen (taxed) can be given to other people.

Are conservatives making a mistake by appealing to the works of Ayn Rand (1905–1982), a dedicated and proselytizing atheist whose personal life is not something that anyone but the most consistent libertine would want to emulate? Are any of Rand’s economic views unique to her? Do conservatives really need her writings when they have the works of Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Milton Friedman, and many others? Christians have written a great deal on the Bible and economics. Dr. Gary North has written an entire commentary on the Bible and economics — from Genesis to Revelation.

Rand is the author of a number of novels that illustrate an Objectivist Ideology that represent the morality of free-market capitalism and rational self-interest. Does one need to be an Objectivist to be able to account for the legitimacy of the free-market and economic self-interest? No.

Like today’s New Atheists, Rand advocated reason as the only means of acquiring knowledge and rejected all forms of faith and religion. She promoted rational egoism (an action is rational if and only if it maximizes a person’s self-interest) and rejected ethical altruism (individuals have a moral obligation to help, serve, or benefit others). In her 1964 Playboy interview, Rand stated, “Objectivism tells you that you must not accept any idea or conviction unless you can demonstrate its truth by means of reason.” But how does an atheist account for reason given materialist assumptions about the nature of reality? Reason is non-material. In addition, how does Rand know that reason is reasonable? She assumes the validity of reason. If she used anything else to prove reason’s validity, then that proof-point would be more foundational than reason. Her reason-only approach is circular.

Without a biblical worldview there is no way to account for the limited sovereignty of the individual and the inviolate sanctity of intellectual and physical property, themes expressed in The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Her atheism did not give her the needed foundation for such claims. She borrowed these foundational principles and separated them from their source. She’s like the “little girl who must climb on her father’s lap to slap his face. . . . [T]he unbeliever must use the world as it has been created by God to try to throw God off Hs throne.”1 Her observational principles work in her system as long as the majority of people are not atheists.

  1. John A. Fielding III, “The Brute Facts: An Introduction of the Theology and Apologetics of Cornelius Van Til,” The Christian Statesman 146:2 (March-April 2003), 30. []