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The Truth of Ayn Rand

And what of Rand? I quickly relegated her to my intellectual and spiritual past. Friends from my Objectivist period drifted out of my life. As a new Christian, I immersed myself in the Bible, Christian literature, and the Christian community. Only occasionally, in the intervening decades, did Rand enter my consciousness—once again with the recent release of the movie Atlas Shrugged. In reflecting on how she inadvertently influenced me, I've seen God's hand work through her in a number of ways.

Ayn Rand taught me how to think. "Man cannot survive except through his mind," says Howard Roark in The Fountainhead. "He comes on earth unarmed. His brain is his only weapon. Animals obtain food by force. Man has no claws, no fangs, no horns, no great strength of muscle. He must plant his food or hunt it. To plant, he needs a process of thought. To hunt, he needs weapons, and to make weapons—a process of thought. From this simplest necessity to the highest religious abstraction, from the wheel to the skyscraper, everything we are and we have comes from a single attribute of man—the function of his reasoning mind." And so Rand challenged me to reject sloppy thinking, to apply reason meticulously, not least when dealing with culturally mandated assumptions. But that very commitment to reason gave me tools that led, much to my surprise, to a critique of Objectivism itself. The unseen Reality to which Plato pointed made sense not simply as an alternative way of seeing the world, but also under the test of reason.

Indeed, that very test points to God himself. The order and complexity of creation, the fact, as Lewis notes in Mere Christianity, that there seems to be a moral law with a claim upon human beings ("right and wrong as a clue to the meaning of the universe," he calls it), all stand upon the foundation of the firm application of reason. Rigorous thought can set the stage for faith and demonstrate the reasonableness of the Christian claim that Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords. While reason cannot, unaided, present the fullness of Christian truth, it can support and undergird it.

Ayn Rand taught me that there is such a thing as objective reality. Three Aristotelian axioms—Non-Contradiction, Either-Or, and A is A—mark the three sections of Atlas Shrugged. "Contradictions do not exist," Francisco tells Dagny. "Whenever you think that you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong." In other words, a thing is true (or false) regardless of what we think about it. This flies in the face of modernism (which tends to dismiss out of hand the supernatural and the miraculous, with no evidence beyond skepticism) and postmodernism (which doesn't so much reject the supernatural as completely relativize it). When a postmodernist says, "All truth is relative; you have your truth and I have mine," Rand, and I, might answer: Your very statement contains an inherent inner contradiction. You claim as objective truth an assertion that would, in effect, negate itself.

All of this, in the end, led me to the non-sentimental and objective claims of the gospel. The gospel is no mere preference. It is true, or it isn't. Jesus is who he says he is, or he is (again, Lewis) a madman or a fraud. Christian doctrine—Creation, Fall, Incarnation, Redemption, Consummation, and our ultimate and beatific vision of the Trinity—is true, or false. It can't be both. Rand's view of objective reality is admittedly limited. She relies on the senses and goes no further. She dismisses faith as mysticism and its practitioners as witch doctors. But she is right in this: If something is true, it is so because it aligns with reality. Our desires neither confirm nor deny its validity. Our only choice is to say "Yes" to truth, or not. As a Christian, that "Yes" is to Truth incarnate, Jesus Christ.

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Ayn Rand Led Me to Christ