“What’s wrong with the world?” is one of the four questions that allows a person to become a bit more familiar with the shape of any world view. The Soul of Atlas juxtaposes two seemingly disparate world views: Ayn Rand‘s philosophy and Christianity. The first part of this two-part post answered the question “What’s wrong with the world?” from the perspective of my stepfather, John Aglialoro. He’s an atheist, businessman, entrepreneur, and a passionate follower of Ayn Rand. The follow-up (this post) expresses the answer to the same question from the perspective of my biological father, a doctor, farmer, teacher, and Christian.
What does the Christian see as the world’s problem?
For both fathers, the description of the world’s ills is nuanced. Dad says, “We’re alienated from God because of our own choices, and we’re stuck.”
I would respond, “Why would God do that? Why make us in such a way that we could alienate ourselves from God? How could he love us and give us the opportunity to condemn ourselves?”
Dad sighed, “Look at the big picture.” Then he launched in. “The Christian narrative is a story about God’s Creation, Man’s Rebellion, and God’s Redemption of his Creation. There is nothing wrong with Creation, the way God designed everything to be. Furthermore, we haven’t fully experienced God’s ultimate plan for Creation. In the meantime, most of us reject God and choose life without Him. You want to know what’s wrong with the world? It’s this alienation that permeates every aspect of humanity.”
The alienation stems from two primary places: God’s glory and other-ness and humanity’s sinfulness. God is holy, separated because of his glaring perfection. Every one of us—all of humanity—is sinful. We don’t and can’t achieve the perfection that allows us to approach God on His terms.
I noticed a book on Dad’s table entitled What’s Wrong With the World? by G. K. Chesterton. “That’s got to be the most presumptuous title I’ve ever seen. Is he serious? Altogether arrogant,” I said. That sparked a discussion about what Christians believe and why.
“Not to say that Chesterton has definitively nailed the Christian view on the world’s ills,” he said, “but he struck a chord when his book was published, in 1910.” He paused for a moment and rubbed his chin in thought. “I think some of his insights are valid today.”
“Specifically the initial situation of separation and alienation from our Creator. We just weren’t designed to live apart from Him.”
At one time or another, Dad has shared two analogies with me that illustrate his reasoning. I call the first one the “Refrigerator,” and it goes something like this: A man sets out to buy a refrigerator. The one that he settles on has all the gadgets: separate refrigerator compartments with different temperature settings, automatic freezer defrost, plenty of space and nice layout on the inside, built to last. It even has an electronic inventory using scanning technology. It’s expensive, but the top of the line. The only instructions are simple: plug it into an electrical outlet with these specifications. He gets the appliance delivered first thing in the morning. He loads his groceries and recalls the simple instructions: “Plug it in.” Then, his thought process goes something like this: “For the obscene amount I paid for this refrigerator, it should be self-sufficient. A sophisticated, well-made machine should operate independently.” Acting on his conclusion, he leaves the kitchen and thinks nothing more about it.
It’s later. He heads to his refrigerator to prepare a meal and finds that all of his food is spoiled. He files a complaint with the manufacturer, and the customer service representative asks him several questions about his use of the product. He explains his reasoning, about the cost of the refrigerator, its sophistication, and his conclusions about the way things are. The customer service person responds like this, in the most respectful way: “It’s true that this is a very sophisticated and valuable appliance. In fact, it’s the best we have produced to date. Notwithstanding all the built-in technology, this refrigerator was designed in such a way that it won’t work properly unless it’s plugged in to the appropriate power source. That is not to say that it’s an inferior product in any way; it’s simply the way it’s designed.”
Dad believes that human beings were designed by God to be in a relationship with Him. Outside of a relationship with our Creator, we don’t work. It’s only in communion with Him that we can fulfill the high-point of our humanity.
Dad’s second analogy emphasizes the idea of alienation. He imagines landing on Venus, stepping out of the spacecraft and “breathing in that warm Venusian atmosphere (96.5% carbon dioxide, 3.5% nitrogen).” He smiles. “Immediately, you get that feeling of alienation because you’re in an environment that doesn’t suit your design. While some aspects of life on earth resonate with our human condition, sometimes we simply can’t shake the feeling that there is more to life.”
The conversations I had with both of my fathers were seldom all-in-one, jam-packed and overflowing with decisive conclusions, but at least I grew in my understanding of each man’s perspective. In The Soul of Atlas, I describe the conversation that took place between Objectivism and Christianity. It wasn’t because these two men were talking to each other. The conversation played itself out in my life, as I spoke with each man on their own terms. The result was an exciting adventure that continues to this day.