Book suggestions for unbelieving friends

Interesting! I had no idea Piper had much grasp on Rand. I would not say that I went down the rabbit hole as a youth, but I will say I found her system more internally consistent than the romanticism of the modern day, which I describe as “It’s good to be good because being good is good.” It was John Robbins’ book “Without a Prayer: Ayn Rand and the Close of Her System” that really solidly closed off Objectivism as a viable “ism” to me. To my understanding it is the only philosophical deconstruction of Rand that meticulously avoids commentary on her person, and deals with Objectivism in a thoroughly scholarly way. I guess it seems appropriate that the spiritual heir of Gordon Clark would take on such a task :slight_smile:

You are the only person I’ve ever met who has ever mentioned that book. I think I bought it mail order out of the back of some Libertarian publication. I read it in high school as an apologetic work to have discussions with my friend. I wasn’t reformed at the time, and gave it a skim a few years back now that I had some grasp on Reformed theology and the Clark-Van Til controversy.

And for the record, I consider attacks on prophets’ characters entirely warranted. If someone is going to found a new philosophical system, perhaps they should consider not committing adultery. It’s such a consistent pattern: Preach sexual continence, practice sexual incontinence, invent post hoc rationalizations for one’s own sexual incontinence. Mohammed, Joseph Smith, Ayn Rand, I’m sure the list goes on.

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Certainly appreciate the clear rejection of relativism. I’ve read a bit of Rand but not a lot. I’m gonna read that article more thoroughly but I do think Piper was right, there’s some good stuff and some dangerous stuff. Not really the direction I want to point my unbelieving family though.

Rand was very careful to include allowances for what we know as adultery - think of Dagney Taggart’s several encounters in Atlas Shrugged - in other words Rand wasn’t being inconsistent with her own philosophy in hooking up with Branden. It can be condemned from a Christian perspective but at that point one isn’t engaging Rand on her own ground. What I like about Robbins’ approach is that he engaged her on her own ground. He showed very clearly and dispassionately, even respectfully how her philosophy was inconsistent at the basic level - his deconstruction of her “tabula rasa” theory of man is particularly compelling

Understand entirely, you never know what will resonate with people. Rand was, if I can put it this way, used by God to clear out a lot of unhelpful, contradictory clutter in my thinking and implant a healthy skepticism of people who blindly assert things. However in His mercy He did not leave me there. To think He would do that for everyone in every case is presumption. Still, depending on the personality of the person, a ricochet effect may be more or less likely.

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I read The Fountainhead in high school and was entranced. I loved it. It didn’t sit quite right, though. I knew there was truth there, but I also knew it was tangled up in lies. I wasn’t able to do much untangling, so I just moved on. But I really did love the book.

That said, I would go further than @Krlamb1 and say to you, @Auslander, that it’s a really bad idea to recommend Rand to someone like the individual described at the top of this thread. I would certainly be willing for church officers and pastors to read the stuff to understand and teach and dissect it, but, as the Piper article points out, it’s really dangerous.

If I can get inside your head a little, Eric, I would guess that you recommended it because Rand fired your imagination. She was exciting, especially for men. “Bear the weight of my own existence and go out and try to be a hero? Face reality like a man? Sign me up!” says every red-blooded young man ever. It’s precisely what is so exciting about Jordan Peterson to so many young men. (You can read my annotations to Pipers article on Rand here.)

Both Rand and Peterson preach a different gospel, which, of course, you concede, Eric. But I’m also sure you’ve noticed that when people who don’t have a good foundation in the truth come into contact with them, they are led astray. I think this is even more true of Peterson than Rand precisely because he takes the Bible and it’s stories seriously. (I haven’t wrapped my mind around Peterson yet, but I’m trying. I think it will be important for us to answer him. Otherwise he will steal our young men.)

So what would I recommend?


Sadly, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, also. Scammel’s bio records that he justified his adultery by telling his first wife it was necessary for the continuity of his creativity. If I remember correctly.

John wrote that back in 1979. Four years earlier I had started work as an air brakeman and car knocker at the Proviso Yard of the Chicago and Northwestern Railway just outside Chicago. We had three lines going through our shop and repaired everything that could go wrong on railroad cars. One of my best jobs ever.

I had recently finished Rand’s books and was gobsmacked the first day on the job by my foreman exclaiming to no one in particular, “Who is John Galt?”


And since it came up, I think it’s also worth cautioning our readers against Gordon Clark and John Robbins. Both seem to promote the error that all that matters is our intellectual assent to the truths of Scripture. Here’s a good place to start, if you’re curious:


Hi @ldweeks

All error is dangerous to the degree that one lacks discernment to handle it. The less discernment one has, the more dangerous the error.

Let me also share just a little bit of what was in my head - Rand did the opposite of “firing my imagination” - in my literary experience, it was Neil Gaiman who did that. Rand made sense on a lot of levels. Not on every level, but Rand reduced the squishy, shifting, romantic leftism of the modern mainstream to absurdity. She did it on logical and moral grounds. Up until Rand, many decades had passed without an accessible, moral defense of free enterprise - I’d even say, since Frederic Bastiat’s “The Law.” Many would take the pragmatic defense of free enterprise, which went along the following lines: “yes, socialism is inherently more moral; however, people are selfish and therefore free enterprise is the more pragmatic option.” Rand would not grant that and I’m convinced that anyone who supports free enterprise owes her a debt of gratitude for her work on the cultural barricades along with many other voices from history, including our founding fathers.

I carefully do not concede the point then, that Rand is somehow more dangerous than anything else. An “objectivist” is easier to argue with than the modern romantic because at least the objectivist agrees on a framework for exchanging views between themselves and Christians. The modern romantic (the 80% ‘mainstream’ raised on Disney) empties out language and fills it up with new meaning, which is dishonest (words like “justice”, “tolerance”, “experiences”, etc). I personally find “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” to be more dangerous than “The Fountainhead.”


The Clark-Van Til controversy and the bad blood it left behind is a sad episode in the Church but having read both, and attending a VanTillian seminary, I would certainly say this is an intramural difference and not something that Christians need to be “warned against” unless we are being warned against getting too parochial/tribal.

I’m confused. You say,

That made me think you didn’t consider any particular work or idea to be more dangerous than anything else. But then you also say,

So it would seem that we agree that some works are more dangerous than others, but we disagree on where the danger lies for a retired man. Have I understood you?

Yeah, that’s my bad for not being clearer. I would say that things that rely on emotional reaction to smuggle in a wrong assumption about the world are more sinister (perhaps “dangerous” is the wrong word) than things that openly, clearly meter out their arguments. When thinking of the Grinch, I had children in mind in the sense that their discernment is very low and they have little ability to tell when they’ve been emotionally manipulated. So in that, I did drift from the original topic.

For where the danger lies for a retired man, I have no idea as everyone is different and “retired” is a very broad category. Certainly OP can judge best on that.

Can we at least agree that the Grinch probably read a lot of Ayn Rand? The Whos down in Whoville liked mindless altruism a lot, but the Grinch who lived just north of Whoville did not. He lived for himself. Just like those heroes John Galt and Howard Roark. Until he was tragically corrupted at the end.

The Cat in the Hat feels like more of a pure nihilist, but that might just be me.


Agreed on Clark and Robinson. I’ve seen a lot of bad fruit from their writings over the years.

Well, since we died down on the Ayn Rand convo I thought I would follow up and share that I took Pastor Tim’s suggestion for the book Born Again by Chuck Colson and also threw in a Baseball history book (something to appeal to his youth and that might wet his appetite for reading). I really considered Pilgrim’s progress but I think language would be a major barrier and culturally he just might not relate.

Overall I really appreciate everyone’s suggestions. Particularly the suggestions for the Ralph Moody series; these are exactly the kind of reading I was looking for him. I think those will probably end up on my book shelf for our family and I might lend them out to my father-in-law or just buy them in twos as we work through them.

Like I said before, I do appreciate the roll of Ayn Rand in literature and even philosophy, but for “suggestions for unbelieving friends“, I have to admit she has had more impact within atheist circles than within faithful communities. In some ways she takes what is most interesting of Nietzsche and pairs it with what is most abominable of Marx. In the end she scratches us where we itch. But again, not really on my list of good reads for unbelievers or even new believers. It requires a carefully discerning mind to spit out the bones from that author.


We once had the pleasure of hosting “The Bookening Bros” in our home. I’ve never felt so ashamed as when Brandon saw the Ayn Rand on our shelf.

I remember hearing John Piper tell a funny story where he decided to look up his own name in an index of an Ayn Rand biography… and it was there!


Was it a rubber hose? I don’t know why they consented to such torture, but I find that far more disturbing than your book choices.


The nice thing about the editing feature is that now no one knows what you’re talking about…


Don’t let @hhtuck fool you, Joseph. It was the worst hosing of my life. The hosting on the other hand was amazing.


All, FYI Life Together is the free audiobook this month (March 2020) at


Perfect. Thank you Pastor @tbbayly for the suggestion and the @danielmeyer for the notification on the free audio. Downloaded now.

This was such a helpful thread time to resurrect it.

My father in law really enjoyed the Chuck Colson book so now I’m moving on to Bonhoeffer’s Life Together and Ralph Moody’s Little Britches. I have a feeling these will end up being a staple.

It seem all this time socially distanced from the family is giving him a appetite for reading. Hoping to encourage him with simple Godly truths. I was thinking perhaps Trusting God, by Jerry Bridges. I think the reading is easy enough, but maybe deep. Still I think he could benefit from it going through this season of COVID-19 without the usual support of his family.

Still welcoming more suggestions. General criteria: not very high brow and relatable.