Uncommon grace amid unbelief

Ayn Rand with cancer stickIn Snoring as a fine art: and twelve other essays by Albert Jay Nock (Google Books), we read

I wish to remark that the gift (I call it a gift only for convenience, to save words) which we are discussing is not only dissociated from intellect, but also from conventional morals. Certain Old Testament characters who unquestionably had it, and on occasion let it put itself to good use, were nevertheless what by our conventional ethical standards we would call pretty tough citizens; our old friend Balaam, for instance, and Elisha. It has been said, and I believe it is accepted in some quarters—of course there is no knowing—that Joan of Arc was not in all respects a model of sound peasant character; but granting it be so, she still most conspicuously “had the goods.”

Kutusov himself, like Lieutenant-General Bangs in Kipling’s amusing ballad, had the reputation of being “a most immoral man.” At sixty-three, very big, very fat, with one eye blinded and his face scarred by a bullet in one of Suvo-rov’s wars, he seems somehow to have kept his attractiveness to the ladies, for his friendships with them—some of high degree, some not so high—were many and close. Even during his fourteen months’ stay in Bucharest while he was starving out the Turks, he passed his enforced idleness in dalliance with a handsome and spirited Wallachian gal; rumors whereof got back to Petersburg, to the great scandal and discomposure of Alexander’s court, for which he seems to have cared not a button. “The Spirit breathes where it will,” said the Santissimo Salvatore; and oftentimes the breath of its most intimate inspiration blows upon persons whom we, in our modesty, would at once put down as morally disqualified.

Obviously, Nock should not have included Elisha in his list. But just as obviously Balaam proves his point about “gifted” people.  We’re all happy about Tebow but we know God has granted amazing athletic ability and performance to people who don’t recognize Him and don’t care about doing anything but using the fruits of that gift for a variety of sins. It is true in sports, music, and many other areas of life. We Christians might notice problems where sin breaks down society. But every day we also depend on God’s gifts to sinners as we drive in traffic, drink water, and do a host of other daily activities that show faith in the totally depraved.

And there is no reason to think that this is limited to a few carefully restricted areas. Nock was a skilled writer of beautiful essays. He was also an apostate ex-clergyman and deadbeat dad. Why wouldn’t God allow us to see his generosity, his continual, gracious, generosity to Nock his entire literary career?

I thought of this today in the orthodontist’s office (not for me) when I leafed through a Newsweek because my daughter wanted to use my Kindle. I ran across the print version of this essay:

The GOP Candidates Read Wacky Books

Anti-Christian odes to selfishness? Crypto-Confederate manifestos? On the wacky study habits of the Republican candidates.

…Predictably, the current GOP nominees have more.?.?.eclectic tastes. National Journal has reported that Ron Paul quotes Ayn Rand on the House floor more than any other member. Rand was a virulently anti-Christian über-libertarian whose turgid prose and supremely selfish philosophy has inspired decades of trust-fund kids to smoke dope at boarding school and mock homeless people…

Funny, people claim to disagree with everything Rand ever said, and then agree with her that she taught selfishness… when everyone knows that she taught it was horrible to enslave or take the property of other people, to sacrifice them to one’s own ends. It would be (and is) the easiest thing in the world to read her as the enemy of the selfishness demanded virtually every politician in America.

But what I just read in Newsweek is about the level of “analysis” I find in many Christian politicians.

You seriously think you won’t find important insight in Ayn Rand because she was an atheist and a egomaniacal flake? Maybe egomania protected something that is beneficial to the world. Ludwig Von Mises? Murray N. Rothbard? Friedrich Nietzsche? Christopher Hitchens? If you somehow know that these people cannot “have something” because they were secular writers (and in my view, Mises is in his own way, an atheist), I think you are closing your eyes in the midst of a garden.

I don’t want Christians to uncritically accept any non-christian thought (even from other Christians). But I’d like to see discussions about actual ideas with an open Bible.

Pretending we know in advance that Ron Paul is wrong because he likes Ayn Rand is a path for fools.

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