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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Moral Autonomy

Free will -- that's the big issue. It's the reason that Arminians don't like Calvinists. It's the major sticking point for people who hear things like "moral inability." It's the objection that arises when I point to Scriptures that say that faith and repentance are gifts granted by God, not something that comes (originally) from us. It really is the objection to this huge, overarching perception I offer of the Sovereignty of God. The standard position on the Sovereignty of God is that God, in His sovereignty, has laid aside His complete sovereignty to give way to Man's Free Will. Anything less is unacceptable.

Free will, then, is the sticking point. It's odd to me because I believe in free will. But, of course, the objection will be raised that I do not. Why? Because I do not believe in absolute free will. I do not believe, for instance, that if God knows all things and knows that Bill over there (I'm pulling a random name out of a hat) will choose to eat Grape Nuts in the morning, then there is no possibility that Bill will not eat Grape Nuts in the morning. And, of course, I read the "cannots" of Scripture and take them to be real. Now, that's not quite fair, I know. Those who disagree with me wouldn't say, "They're not real." But you know what I mean. I take them at face value and others don't. Absolute free will would require that Natural Man is perfectly capable of understanding the things of God, for instance, and I cannot read 1 Cor 2:14 to see that as possible.

What is absolute free will? It is autonomy. Autonomy is a two-part word, where "nomy" refers to law and "auto" refers to self. Thus, autonomy is being self-ruled. It is independence, self-government. In terms of free will, it is the belief that I and I alone determine the choices I will make. When stated that way, can you hear the echoes of "I will be like the Most High"?

There is, in all of us, this problem of sin. Natural Man is slave to that problem. Those of the New Birth have a new nature to go to. But we all suffer from this problem and will until we die. We all have, then, a problem with being under another ... especially God. It is really hard (read "not natural") for us to see God's moral principles as good, pleasant, even freeing. Jesus said, "My burden is light", but, let's be honest -- we don't often see it that way. We generally see God's moral principles as oppressive. What we really want, you see, is moral autonomy. What we really want is to choose what we consider to be good and, as our own independent self-law, it would be good. We do not want people to tell us, "You know, sex outside of marriage is a sin" or, worse, "You know, God intended marriage to be for life." We don't want God meddling in our "fun stuff" because "fun" = "good" and we have free will and we really, deep down, want moral autonomy.

The idea that moral obligation is a cross to bear is a false idea. The Creator of the device that we know as "human" knows best how that device works. We are complicated beings with hidden operations and unseen nuances and only the Maker knows how everything operates. Absolute free will -- autonomy -- is a fabrication. It doesn't exist, not because God won't allow it, but because it is irrational. No one can make choices without influences. Without inclinations, all choices are random choices. Moral autonomy, on the other hand, is worse than a myth. It is dangerous. It assumes "I know what's best for me" and this is not true. Still, it is the demand of most humans that we be allowed to do what we please because "I will be like the Most High." Realizing that cause behind the call for moral autonomy ought to give us pause.

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