by Jennifer Ewing

–“Who is John Galt?” this is the pressing mystery in Rand’s bestseller Atlas Shrugged. He is Ayn Rand’s ideal thinking man; an inventor and philosopher who decided to organize intellectuals to strike against the corrupt and parasitic societies and governments. For the objectivist this is “the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”[1] The main good in this philosophy is man’s life; and man’s pursuit of personal happiness cannot be sacrificed to support people who are not productive. As such, Rand considers selfishness to be a virtue. In the novel, the disappearance of Galt and other industrialists is explained:

‘If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down on his shoulders–what would you tell him to do?’

‘I…don’t know. What…could he do? What would you tell him?’

‘To shrug.’[2]

But what happens when Atlas does not shrug off the world? But instead purposes to save it? Even to sacrifice his own life to do it? Let me tell you of another man who is the antithesis of John Galt and his virtue of selfishness. This man is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Savior of the World. While Galt’s chief end is himself, Jesus’ chief end is to glorify God (John 21:19).

“So His visage was marred more than any man,..A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief… Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted… He was led as a lamb to the slaughter…And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all…For He was cut off from the land of the living” (Isa 52-53). “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). “And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus….And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him” (Luke 23:26, 33). “One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!’” (Luke 23:39). The second thief rebuked him and “he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise’” (Luke 23:42). Jesus did not get off the cross; though the weight of the world’s sins was on his shoulders, he did not shrug (1 Peter 2:24).

Jesus’ source of authority is the word of God, not Himself. When He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, He states: “It is written” three times (Matt 4:4, 7, 10). His work was set by God the Father not by Himself (Luke 2:49; John 5:17, 36). His greatest good was not saving His own life. His greatest good was His substitutionary death on the cross (2 Cor 5:21; 1 Peter 3:18; Isa 53:5).

Jesus Christ’s pursuit of personal happiness was of a different variety than that of John Galt: “Jesus…who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2). He was not proud; but displayed a humility to be imitated:

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:5-11).

Those who believe in Him are encouraged to become imitators of Christ (1 Cor 11:1; Eph 5:1; 1 Thess 1:6), not a better versions of themselves. “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:23-25).

His idea of productive labor was to make disciples (Matt 28:19-20); to tell them of the gospel (Acts 14:21; 1 Cor 15:1; 1 Peter 1:12). But He is not a harsh taskmaster: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt 11:28-30).

Atlas shrugged, but Jesus bore the weight of the world He had made, an innocent man dying a criminal’s death in the place of the ones who deserved it; rising again victorious, He will return to earth on a white horse, no longer the sacrificial lamb, but the ruler and judge (Rev 19:11-16). “And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.” (Isa 9:6-7).

[1] Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged (New York, NY: Dutton, 1992), “About the author.”

[2] Rand, 455.