In A DISCUSSION OF THE “VIRTUE OF SELFISHNESS” BY AYN RAND — PART 1, we considered the first chapter of THE VIRTUE OF SELFISHNESS: A New Concept of Egoism by Ayn Rand. In part 2 we will review Chapter 2: Mental Health versus Mysticism and Self-Sacrifice by Nathaniel Branden (see here for a copy of the transcript with chapter links).
Who is Nathaniel Branden?
Here is how he describes himself.
I am a practicing psychotherapist, a corporate consultant, and a writer. Over eighty percent of my clients never enter my office. We work via the telephone – from places as far from Los Angeles (where I live) as Ireland, Singapore, and Moscow.
I have a Ph.D in Psychology and a background in Philosophy. The books that I write tend to represent a blending of these two disciplines. My books include: “The Psychology of Self-Esteem,” “The Disowned Self,” “Honoring the Self,” “How to Raise Your Self-Esteem,” “The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem,” “Taking Responsibility,” “The Art of Living Consciously,” “Self-Esteem at Work,” “The Psychology of Romantic Love,” and a personal memoir – “My Years with Ayn Rand.” I feel an enormous sense of pride in contemplating these titles and what went into them. (from here)
In the video he talks about his relationship Ayn Rand.
What Is The Basis Of Nathaniel Branden’s Argument?
Branden’s thing seems to be self-esteem. Thus, the word occurs 46 times in THE VIRTUE OF SELFISHNESS. Here is how “self-esteem” first shows up (in the Introduction).
Since selfishness is “concern with one’s own interests,” the Objectivist ethics uses that concept in its exact and purest sense. It is not a concept that one can surrender to man’s enemies, nor to the unthinking misconceptions, distortions, prejudices and fears of the ignorant and the irrational. The attack on “selfishness” is an attack on man’s self-esteem; to surrender one, is to surrender the other. (from here)
Branden begins Chapter 2 by making a connection between self-esteem and reason.
A mind is healthy to the extent that its method of functioning is such as to provide man with the control over reality that the support and furtherance of his life require.
The hallmark of this control is self-esteem. Self-esteem is the consequence, expression and reward of a mind fully committed to reason. Reason, the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by the senses, is man’s basic tool of survival. (from here)
Because Branden feels faith threatens his self-esteem, Branden launched what he apparently considers a counterattack. He began his attack by defining faith.
Faith is the commitment of one’s consciousness to beliefs for which one has no sensory evidence or rational proof.
When a man rejects reason as his standard of judgment, only one alternative standard remains to him: his feelings. A mystic is a man who treats his feelings as tools of cognition. Faith is the equation of feeling with knowledge.
To practice the “virtue” of faith, one must be willing to suspend one’s sight and one’s judgment; one must be willing to live with the unintelligible, with that which cannot be conceptualized or integrated into the rest of one’s knowledge, and to induce a trancelike illusion of understanding. One must be willing to repress one’s critical faculty and hold it as one’s guilt; one must be willing to drown any questions that rise in protest—to strangle any trust of reason convulsively seeking to assert its proper function as the protector of one’s life and cognitive integrity. (from here)
To win his battle against faith, Branden creates a straw man. That is, his definition is only half-true. What faith actually involves is taking courageous action on beliefs we know to be true. The next section from, WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT TO BELIEVE IN GOD? PART III, explains what faith means to a Christian.
I must learn to believe in Christianity. I must have Faith in what Christ taught. That means more just convincing myself the Christian faith is Truth. In his book, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis says Christians use the term “Faith” in two senses or two levels.
In the first sense it means simply Belief — accepting or regarding as true the doctrines of Christianity. That is fairly simple. But what does puzzle people — at least it used to puzzle me — is the fact that Christians regard faith in this sense as a virtue. I used to ask how on earth it can be a virtue — what is there moral or immoral about believing or not believing a set of statements?
Lewis goes on to say that you can know something to be true and still be tempted from acting on that belief. The human mind is not ruled entirely by reason. Lewis gives several examples. When we have no other reasonable choice, we can be persuaded by fear not to accept the risk of anesthetics and the surgeon’s knife. A man can become so enthralled by a pretty woman, he trusts her with a secret when he ought not. Or consider the example of a boy learning to swim. The water can be so frightening. When his instructor takes his supporting hand away, will the boy have faith in his lessons or suffer a moment of panic?
It is not enough to believe that the Bible is reasonably and logically true. I must learn to trust in God and obey his commands.
When I am tempted, will my faith break? Am I not a mere man? And so I must study the Bible and seek to become ever more steeped in Faith.
Because Branden advocates self-esteem, he also advocates pride. Therefore, Branden also denigrates the virtue of humility. Again, he creates a straw man.
Humility is, of necessity, the basic virtue of a mystical morality; it is the only virtue possible to men who have renounced the mind.
Pride has to be earned; it is the reward of effort and achievement; but to gain the virtue of humility, one has only to abstain from thinking—nothing else is demanded—and one will feel humble quickly enough. (from here)
What humility actually involves is obedience to God. By comparison to the Being that created all things, we are nothing. What value we have, we derive from the fact God loves us.
Here is an extract from seekfind.net‘s Bible Dictionary.
Humility is the realization that only by submission to the Holy Spirit can any Christian ever allow God to do His good works through them. On the other hand, pride makes Christians think that they can continue in sin. Humility makes Christians realize that they have been saved to good works and that good works all proceed from God. Pride makes a Christian think that he or she does not need the Holy Spirit. Pride that makes a Spirit Filled Christian think that he or she has received the Holy Spirit because he or she was worthy. Humility is the realization that we receive the Holy Spirit because we are needy, not worthy. (from here)
God created us for His glory, not our own. Therefore, we find true pride and joy when we serve our Lord.
Evidence For The Resurrection of Christ Jesus
Branden arguments make sense only if we can rightfully believe there is no God. Because there is a God, Branden’s arguments make little sense. Logic and reason, not merely faith, dictate that we humble ourselves before our Creator, the Creator of the Universe, and obey Him.
Christians say Christ Jesus, the Son of God, died on a cross and paid the price for our sins. As proof, they offer the Resurrection of Christ Jesus. Does reason dictate we believe in the Truth of this Miracle? Yes! What are the proofs?
- We have the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These tell of the crucifixion of Jesus, of His burial, of His resurrection, of the witnesses to His resurrection, and of an empty tomb. No body has ever been found.
- We have more than five hundred witnesses.
- Rather than recant, many witnesses died as martyrs. Acts 6:8-Acts 7 describes the death the first martyr, Stephen.
- We have changed lives. As illogical as it may seem to Nathaniel Branden, the peoples of the Judeo-Christian tradition tend to be the most logical and tolerant, for God is not the author of confusion.
James 3:16 King James Version (KJV)
For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
Christians believe God created an orderly world, and God wants us to worship Him with all our heart, mind, and strength.
Ephesians 2:10 Good News Translation (GNT)
God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do.
- We have converts, the billions who converted to Christianity.
Here are various websites that consider and explain the evidence for the Resurrection.
- 7 Proofs of the Resurrection from About.com
- Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the Catholic Encyclopedia
- Historical Evidence for the Resurrection from Desiring God
- Historical Evidence of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection from What Christians Want To Know
- Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ from Xenos Christian Fellowship
- A Debate — Is There Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus? from Reasonable Faith
- Wikipedia also offers competing evaluations of the evidence: Resurrection of Jesus and Historicity and origin of the Resurrection of Jesus. The second evaluation is frankly skeptical
When you review these accounts, consider that the members of the early church had nothing to gain materially by spreading the Gospel. Those in authority persecuted them, and the authorities martyred many of them.
Consider also that the people who wrote the New Testament were either witnesses to the events they describe or they recorded what witnesses told them. Therefore, the New Testament provides firsthand accounts of the events it describes.