Ayn Rand, Christianity and St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica

Re-posted from September 10th in honor of our new friend, @warrioress…

I’ve been tiring of beating up on Obama over the past few weeks and now that the conventions are over, I think I’m going to take a bit of a break from that and focus once again on the underpinnings of his political beliefs. There will not be very much new to chew on between now and the election, it is going to be an ad blitz with each candidate trying to “out define” the other. All that will do is harden support for people who have already made up their mind.

I see the polls. I don’t understand them. I simply don’t understand how Obama’s personal favorability ratchets up after that lackluster speech at the convention, a continuation of the crap jobs and economic statistics and no occurrence of any major event that favors him. I do think more people have made up their minds already and all we are seeing is polling “noise” in these fluctuations. There hasn’t been an election with this stark of a difference since Reagan and Carter in 1980, so for there to be very many “undecideds” seems to me to be a bit counterintuitive.

I still don’t think it will be close and I think Romney wins. Perhaps not what the numbers indicate, but down to my viscera, I simply cannot see how Obama gets a mulligan from America for the past four years. The media has focused on the conservatives who aren’t thrilled with Romney but they have not accurately gaged the feelings of the largely silent ABO (Anybody But Obama) crowd – I think this group is substantial and may not appear until the lever is pulled on election day. This election could turn into a stunner of Pauline Kael proportions for the compliant Obamedia pundits.

Unless somebody gets an unexpected ass whuppin’ at on of the debates, I don’t expect much to happen. Pollsters will continue to oversample Democrats in the same percentages as 2008 and we won’t start to see accurate polling until about 3 weeks before the election, about the time that the polls started to correct themselves in 1980 (the pollsters have to retain some degree of credibility). I expect Romney to do well, Obama will, of course, appeal to emotions rather than logic and Ryan will smash Biden. Slow Joe could lose a debate to his reflection in a mirror, so I hope Ryan doesn’t beat him to the point that the electorate feels sorry for Biden. Punditry aside, the solution to the win/lose equation is now mostly in the hands of the candidates.

Well, back to philosophizing. I ran across a quite intriguing piece at TownHall in which Katie Kieffer argues capitalism, not socialism, is compatible with Christian teachings and that Ayn Rand’s philosophies are actually compatible with Christianity as well, opinions that I share and have expressed. She writes:

Increasingly, priests and pastors are preaching that socialism (in the name of “social justice”) is Christ-like. In truth, capitalism, not socialism, reflects Christian values. I think Christians would be less likely to embrace socialism if they understood that the economic philosophy of Ayn Rand is compatible with Christianity.

‘Social Justice’ Evolves

In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle speaks of a general form of justice that encompasses all virtue. Describing general justice, Aristotle writes: “It is complete virtue and excellence in the fullest sense… It is complete because he who possesses it can make use of his virtue not only by himself but also in his relations with his fellow men; for there are many people who can make use of their virtue in their own affairs, but who are incapable of using it in their relations with others.”

Thomas Aquinas, a renowned Catholic philosopher adopted a form of Aristotle’s idea of general justice. Eventually, the Catholic Church attempted to modernize Aristotle and Aquinas’ idea of general justice by calling it “social justice.”

The Catholic Church developed the term primarily to help explain justice in a modern society that was moving from farming to more complex forms of production and human interaction. As Michael Novak with the Heritage Foundation points out, Pope Leo XIII specifically slammed socialism and praised the natural differences in talents and abilities among human beings as beneficial to society.

Novak explains how, over time, progressives warped the term “social justice” to mean “equality” (redistribution of wealth and resources based on arithmetic, not individual production), the “common good” (determined by federal bureaucrats) and “compassion” (forced sharing).

Today, numerous pastors are preaching a version of social justice that is basically no different from socialism. I encourage Christians to exchange the convoluted idea of “social justice” for “capitalism.”

Katie further argues that if there is a God, He is a capitalist, not a socialist:

That said, one may not believe in any “god” and still claim to be rational. For example, one cannot believe that God condones socialism because socialism is inherently irrational and violates natural law, as I explained here.

Natural law (that which we know through reason alone) tells us that private property and freedom are inherent human rights. Aquinas writes in his Treatise on Law that all human laws must stem from natural law: “But if in any point it [human law] deflects from the law of nature, it is no longer a law but a perversion of the law.”

Jesus did not say: “Blessed are the wicked, for they shall obtain equal salvation.” Jesus did not tell Caesar: “Take 90 percent from the wealthy and redistribute it among the poor.” As I’ve written, Jesus’ own biblical teachings were capitalistic in nature. So, if you claim to be a rational Christian, you must admit that Jesus is a capitalist.

Her reference to Aquinas and Natural Law got me thinking about the Summa Theologica (written between 1265 and 1274) and the wisdom there. Why is Natural Law important? It is because it is the basis for the founding ideals of our nation is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence:

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation…

If you want a good example of Socratic method and its application to reason and logic, there are worse places to start than with Aquinas. Here is the excerpt from Question 95: Human Law, Article 2:

Article 2. Whether every human law is derived from the natural law?

Objection 1. It would seem that not every human law is derived from the natural law. For the Philosopher says (Ethic. v, 7) that “the legal just is that which originally was a matter ofindifference.” But those things which arise from the natural law are not matters of indifference. Therefore the enactments of human laws are not derived from the natural law.

Objection 2. Further, positive law is contrasted with natural law, as stated by Isidore (Etym. v, 4) and the Philosopher (Ethic. v, 7). But those things which flow as conclusions from the general principles of the natural law belong to the natural law, as stated above (Question 94, Article 4). Therefore that which is established by human law does not belong to the natural law.

Objection 3. Further, the law of nature is the same for all; since the Philosopher says (Ethic. v, 7) that “the natural just is that which is equally valid everywhere.” If therefore human laws were derived from the natural law, it would follow that they too are the same for all: which is clearly false.

Objection 4. Further, it is possible to give a reason for things which are derived from the natural law. But “it is not possible to give the reason for all the legal enactments of the lawgivers,” as the jurist says [Pandect. Justin. lib. i, ff, tit. iii, v; De Leg. et Senat.]. Therefore not all human laws are derived from the natural law.

On the contrary, Tully says (Rhet. ii): “Things which emanated from nature and were approved by custom, were sanctioned by fear and reverence for the laws.”

I answer that, As Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. i, 5) “that which is not just seems to be no law at all”: wherefore the force of a law depends on the extent of its justice. Now in human affairs a thing is said to be just, from being right, according to the rule of reason. But the first rule of reason is the law of nature, as is clear from what has been stated above (91, 2, ad 2). Consequently every human law has just so much of the nature of law, as it is derived from the law of nature. But if in any point it deflects from the law of nature, it is no longer a law but a perversion of law.

But it must be noted that something may be derived from the natural law in two ways: first, as a conclusion from premises, secondly, by way of determination of certain generalities. The first way is like to that by which, in sciences, demonstrated conclusions are drawn from the principles: while the second mode is likened to that whereby, in the arts, general forms are particularized as to details: thus the craftsman needs to determine the general form of a house to some particular shape. Some things are therefore derived from the general principles of the natural law, by way of conclusions; e.g. that “one must not kill” may be derived as a conclusion from the principle that “one should do harm to no man“: while some are derived therefrom by way of determination; e.g. the law of nature has it that the evil-doer should be punished; but that he be punished in this or that way, is a determination of the law of nature.

Accordingly both modes of derivation are found in the human law. But those things which are derived in the first way, are contained in human law not as emanating therefrom exclusively, but have some force from the natural law also. But those things which are derived in the second way, have no other force than that of human law.

Reply to Objection 1. The Philosopher is speaking of those enactments which are by way of determination or specification of the precepts of the natural law.

Reply to Objection 2. This argument avails for those things that are derived from the natural law, by way of conclusions.

Reply to Objection 3. The general principles of the natural law cannot be applied to all men in the same way on account of the great variety of human affairs: and hence arises the diversity of positive laws among various people.

Reply to Objection 4. These words of the Jurist are to be understood as referring to decisions of rulers in determining particular points of the natural law: on which determinations the judgment of expert and prudent men is based as on its principles; in so far, to wit, as they see at once what is the best thing to decide.

Hence the Philosopher says (Ethic. vi, 11) that in such matters, “we ought to pay as much attention to the undemonstrated sayings and opinions of persons who surpass us in experience, age andprudence, as to their demonstrations.”

21 thoughts on “Ayn Rand, Christianity and St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica

        • When you are writing/editing a post and want to insert a link, select some text you want to use, highlight it, go to the top of the editing tool bar and there are two symbols that look like links in a chain, on is whole, the other broken. With the text selected, click on the complete link button and a little window will open, go to the page that you want to link to, select and copy the address out of the address bar, then go back to the TRNL edit page and paste the address in where it says to. Click on “add link” and there you go…link thingage.

  1. DAMN! Now THIS post is right down my ally, but I only had time to skim it before leaving for an apt. this morning. To be sure, I WILL return to it:-) HOWEVER, until tonight, let me offer this thought, Utah:

    I see the polls. I don’t understand them. I simply don’t understand how Obama’s personal favorability ratchets up after that lackluster speech at the convention, a continuation of the crap jobs and economic statistics and no occurrence of any major event that favors him. I do think more people have made up their minds already and all we are seeing is polling “noise” in these fluctuations. There hasn’t been an election with this stark of a difference since Reagan and Carter in 1980, so for there to be very many “undecideds” seems to me to be a bit counterintuitive.

    As I see it (and have for some time now), there are two possibiloities here:

    1 — The media/polls are intentionally lying, in which case they should be dismissed. OR

    2 — Americans are no longer Americans, they are merely U.S. citizens – in which case, we’d all best get to Texas and prepare to defend that last bastion of freedom from all directions.

    More later, but I LOVED what I read so far. Also, do not forget Locke. He derived the system of Natural Rights/Natural Law our founders used and he did so entirely from the book of Romans. If you look for it, you’ll find his treatise on Romans on line. GREAT READ!

    • The coolest thing to me is that Aquinas wrote this 500 years before America existed and 400 before Locke. I like stripping items like this back all the way to these guys because they were keen observers of actual human behavior without all the modern excuses of psychology and these “soft sciences” we are slaves to today. If you murdered someone, you were just evil, you didn’t get a pass because your daddy didn’t hug you enough. They tried to use science to understand, not to excuse – like we do today.

    • The vast majority of laws in America today are perversions of the law. These perversions give an advantage to one American over another merely because of race, color, creed, or voluntary membership in some group or class.

      By law, EQUALity, is outlawed. All the while stating we are just making things FAIR.

      Science was founded & practiced in a way which tried to accurately describe and identify our world. Thereby allowing “man” to predict and build new inventions for the “betterment” of “man”.

      Now science is used by the statists to “prove” or argue G-d does not exist, merely because man can describe and create new inventions?

  2. I told you I would come back to this.

    OK, reading this closer, I have some points I think deserve to be examined closer. Katie claims that God would be a Capitalist. I disagree. Capitalism — as we know it – is socialist in nature. The Capitalist cannot build the huge corporations we see in our modern world without govt. It is not possible. Because the corporation is an artificial entity, it cannot exist without some form of social support. For this, the capitalist needs a society where the govt. allows corporations to exist as private property. Our founding fathers did not allow this as it violates natural law! Such an arrangement is socialist/fascist in nature and incompatible with our system of government as it was designed. Worse, if and when govt. grants the corporation legal “personhood,” slavery then enters that society. It is not easy to see because it is cloaked in claims of private property and the free market, but, as a legal person, a corporation cannot be owned – yet it must be owned. This is technically slavery and it is a logical contradiction which is a violation of natural law. God did not ordain capitalism as we know it to work under His system of natural laws, therefore, God could not be a capitalist.

    To put a finer point on the issue, Capitalism – as we know it today – is designed to allow the individual to shield himself or herself from personal responsibility for their actions. Instead of people paying the price for the wrongs they commit in the name of their company, the corporation – an artificial person – is held responsible. This means the owners of these corporations seldom pay any personal penalty when they act immorally; the cost is born by the corporation. And, if it is a publicly held corporation, that means the price is paid socially – by the stock holders, personally, and the society which supports the corporation’s existence in general. ALL of which are in direct contradiction to God’s steady insistence on individual responsibility. Therefore – again – God is NOT a capitalist – not as we know and understand the term/system today.

    Finally, I would suggest that we all consider the importance of Biblical teachings in the establishment of our understanding of natural rights and natural law. The Greeks and Romans had no real concept of ownership of private property – not in the sense we understand when we discuss capitalism. This is why, if you look to the European notion of natural rights, you get Hobbes. A perfect example of the world Hobbes creates can be seen in the Middle East today. HOWEVER, when you accept the Biblical principles of the FREE MARKET (i.e. NOT capitalism, but individual enterprise) – as Locke and our founders did – THAT is where the notion of personal ownership of property enters the picture. What’s more, it was ordained by God.

    Now, the specifics of property ownership in the Bible has limitations, as it did in the understanding of our founders, and that is where I would suggest we look to study the finer points of how best to operate a free market society as God would have us do. But, at the very least, we should understand that the Bible tells us that private ownership of land was first given to man by God, through Moses. It also tells us it is a stewardship relationship, and that we are held individually and personally accountable for how we use it. And it tells us there are limits and social responsibilities placed upon our ownership and use of the land we own. All of this is much different from what we call “Capitalism,” and it is why the system we are fighting to preserve today is no better than the one the Left is trying to replace it with (socialism).

    • Good comment/thought.

      However I disagree with your definition of capitalism.

      Capitalism is more accurately described by Bastiat, Frederic 1848.

      B, what you are calling capitalism by corporations, IS NOT capitalism in the sense of American founding.

      “modern day” corporatism, which you have accurately identified in other posts, is a PERVERSION of capitalism.

      The corporation lobbies the government for a “leg up” over their competition, is a form of fascism, which leads us back to Marxism.

      The current corporate situation is anti-thetical to free markets, where people are free to make choices, and held accountable for their bad acts, if they so choose to make/take bad acts and thereby hurt others. Which in a properly operating free market, would be held accountable in a properly operating judicial system through TORT law.

      Real capitalism is Judeo-Christian in nature, where people are allowed to profit from their industriousness. And those who choose Not to work to their capacity, suffer the lack of reward for their lack of work.

      • You will find NOTHING in Bastiat that allows for an artificial entity to be given personhood status and then owned and used by another/others to escape personal responsibility.

        Call it what you will, but this is the system we have today and it is called capitalism. I would break between this system (whatever you chose to call it) and the free market as ordained by God/Natural Law. They are NOT the same.

        • Corporatism today is nothing more than the old “East India Tea Company” of Yesterday.

          It’s not true, free market capitalism. With true free market capitalism, everyone plays on a level playing field. This just HAS NOT Been the case since at least the time of “the war of northern aggression”.

          See, “War is a Racket” by Major General Smedley Butler. 1938(?)

          True capitalism, with true free markets, as envisioned by Milton Friedman would make EVERYONE Rich, including government.

          • Texas,

            Where any system exists that allows one person to become as wealthy as George Soros, there can be no such thing as a “free market.”

            1st — such a system MUST be based on a socialist system. There is no way for one man to ever accumulate this much wealth acting entirely on his own efforts. You either need a stock market (which is no more the “free market” than what you call corporatism), or you need govt. supported corporatism (as you are calling it). This is why Henry Ford tried and failed to run his operation from the mine to the sales floor — one man cannot run an operation that large.

            2nd — When you allow someone like Soros to have the wealth he has accumulated, then how do you tell him he cannot spend it? If you do, you attack the notion of private property upon which you are building your notion of the free market. HOWEVER, if you do not restrict how such a wealthy man spends his money, then he can topple govts. THAT is a violation of natural law, but the system you are defending would and does protect this violation in the name of private property rights.

            Actually, the notion of private property ownership does NOT belong to natural law — not in the way we use it today. It is another social construct. In the pure state of nature, you can lay no claim to property beyond your means to defend it. Try working AND defending more than a small plot of land and tell me how that works out for you. This is why govt. is created: to allow for social contracts (which IS part of natural law) to provide for the common protection of private property ownership. So, you see, even private property rests on socialization — in a manner of speaking.

            I am not sure you understand that I am trying to get to a better definition of the free market, because, unless we can accurately define it, then we cannot protect it as it becomes whatever anyone wishes it to be. Sound familiar? 😉

        • I agree with you on corporations. Corporations should not be allowed to do allthe things they do, including things an individual or group of individuals CANNOT do.

          The new “east India tea companies”, ala GE and government stolen, owned, and run corporations like GM today, should be stopped.

          But that’s not free market capitalism, they are practicing corporatism/fascism.

  3. Pingback: Ayn Rand, Christianity and St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica … | Christ Tech

  4. I said four years ago that the Republicans Wanted to lose in 2008, because they knew their economic eggs were about to hatch, They knew that the American people would forget by 2012 that it was 8 years of Bush that got us into this mess in the first place. Which is why they picked such a doozy of a VP candidate in the first place. Was Sarah Palin even considered unaccompanied by an elbow in the rib by Romney and his inner circle? Hell no! This time they want to win, because, the next four years are gonna be better, goes the thinking. Come Tuesday, I will know if I was right about the American people.

  5. Pingback: The Sin Of Envy | The Rio Norte Line

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