Doubts about Autonomy – 3

Posted: December 28, 2012 by J in Mission, Theology

My first doubt about our ‘self-rule’ theology is that it doesn’t ring true (see previous post). Another concern is on the level of psychology: I think this ‘gospel’ tends to make people proud when they should be humbled. Let me explain.

The ‘rebel’ view of sinfulness pictures people standing against God, trying to set themselves up as gods. That picture is way too powerful: some people might even be attracted to the romance, the heroism of it. The david vs goliath struggle and all that. Warriors in a cosmic battle.

But shouldn’t we be helping people see that sin has weakened and enslaved them,? We instead tell them it has made them strong and (kind of) free. How is that going to make them feel about themselves?

By telling people they have become their own master, we give them the idea that the alternatives are self-rule or God’s-rule. But the Bible tells us the options are enslavement to the evil powers of this world – Satan and his lot – or else the blessedness of serving the living God. That’s a very different pair of options. The biblical gospel does not encourage the dream that humans might themselves be Master. Yet I think our ‘autonomy’ message often does fuel just that fantasy.

The way the Bible tells it, sin has left us blind and deluded, hopeless and helpless, sick and broken, oppressed and harassed by dark powers. Nothing masterful or heroic about that picture. Nothing autonomous either.

That’s a message to bust up human pride: the self-rule message is more likely to bolster it.

It was Glen Scrivener who suggested this problem at his blog, and I think he’s right.

  1. Counter argument is (of course) that you’ve left out the square which talks about Self-Rule = Death. Not much heroic in that picture.

    I agree that the Autonomy perspective does tend to ignore the Spiritual Enslavement reality. On the other hand, that probably doesn’t have much evangelism currency either. “Hi, do you know that your biggest problem is that you’re Satan’s Slave?” Not gonna get very far with that one either.

    • Jonathan says:

      Yes, I imagine it would be quite unpopular with the strong and successful. But with the weak and distressed, it may possibly get traction. Should have some explanatory power for decoding their sufferings.

  2. jeltzz says:

    I think some people actually are living an autonomy fantasy, where they are masters of their own destiny. For those people, I would suggest, it’s about showing that ‘autonomy’ is actually slavery to delusion.

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