Through Piper’s Desiring God, I saw the beginnings of Objectivism applied to Christianity. Piper’s Christian Hedonism applies the principle of seeking one’s highest pleasure—the highest possible occupation of the human soul for its own delight and happiness—to the doctrines of Christianity. The conclusion of many Christians through the centuries, and the testimony of the Christian Bible, points to God Himself as the highest, most glorious occupation of the human being. Throughout, Piper extends and exhausts C. S. Lewis’s exhortation not to settle for anything less than all God has created humanity to enjoy to the fullest:
When infinite joy is offered us, [we are] like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slums because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
Throughout my first, second, and third encounter with this amazing discovery, the mantra of Ayn Rand’s reality-based quest toward happiness echoed on every page. To me, it became clear that the Creator, the One who created Ayn Rand and every Objectivist, the Author of Ayn Rand’s “non-contradictory joy,” was displaying the passionate fulfillment of Objectivism’s spiritual dimension.
I had seen the volatility of an Objectivist-Christian discussion before, largely due to the spiritual fervor on both sides. Both parties see that the stakes are high because of 1) the vital relevance of philosophy in general (what we refer to as “world view”), and 2) the implications of Objectivism and Christianity in particular. Because of the fervency of the attacks on Ayn Rand’s writing (her fiction) and ideas—by academics and the popular press alike—I began to see my own emotional conflicts played out on a broader horizon. The aspect of the two worldviews that struck me most was the sense in which Christianity is the fulfillment of Ayn Rand’s worldview in its simplest objective.
The most profound difference between Objectivism and Christianity is their perspectives on humanity’s highest occupation. What is man’s purpose? Objectivism teaches that man’s highest value and moral purpose is his own “rational self-interest.” For Rand, “virtue” consists of doing what “secured” your life and well-being. Through the writing of Ayn Rand, Leonard Peikoff, David Kelley, John Piper, Tim Keller, C.S. Lewis, and Jonathan Edwards—to name a few—I found that understanding the two worldviews together deepened my understanding of each worldview separately.
The Conversation did that for me.