Daddy (Isn’t There) Issues: The Myth of Autonomy

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And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind…

Romans 1:28

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“The options are God and absurdity. People choose absurdity because they love their sin.”

~ Sye TenBruggencate

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There he hung, dangling on the edge of the seemingly bottomless pit that had just opened beneath him, holding onto life with his right hand and reaching down into the darkness with his left.

“Junior, give me your other hand! I can’t hold on!”

“I can get it,” he responded almost to himself under his breath. His focus and left hand’s fingers were fixed on the shiny object of undivided affection laying just below him in the pit, just out of reach, but so tantalizingly close. He could literally feel it with the tip of his fingers.

“I can almost reach it, dad,” he continued with conviction and anxiety born of the intense hope and desire that had overtaken him as he stretched and stretched and…

“Indiana.”

The voice from above was calm and clear this time. It’s clarity pierced the fog that had come over the man hanging on the edge of oblivion. It brought an awareness that had been lost in pursuit of the treasure that was just…out of…reach.

Indiana.”

This time the voice was even more purposeful. It was pleading, but in a  calm, controlled manner.

“Let it go.”

And with that, Indiana Jones came to his senses, abandoned the Holy Grail that a moment before had him reaching for death, and obeyed his loving father’s call, who then lifted him from the pit.

This magical movie moment from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is rich. It speaks powerfully to the self-destructive practice of idolatry.

In this particular Hollywood adventure, Indiana and his father, the elder professor Henry Jones, were both captivated by the lure of the Holy Grail. Its splendor entranced the Henry senior throughout much of his academic career. Its physical reality nearly cost the younger Jones his life in the cavernous pit that ultimately took the Grail from them both, swallowing it into the darkness that would have also snatched young Indiana, but for the purposeful, life-saving words of his loving father.

Idols and idolatry are part and parcel of fallen human nature. As Calvin rightly noted, “the human heart is a perpetual factory of idols.”

In the hierarchy of idolatry, autonomy is at the pinnacle. It is the form fitting glove to the fleshly hand of pride, the first and favorite idol of the fallen human heart.

Autonomy is fallen man’s mastering mirage.

It is his Holy Grail. It is his Precious.

(This post is part of a series on biblical apologetics and will be best understood in context. If you haven’t yet read, The Alpha of Apologetics…and Everything ElseMeology vs. Theology: Putting God on Trial and Man on the Throne, The (not so) Great I (probably) Am: The Man-Centered Myth of the “Probably God”, and Swiss Cheesiness: The Myth of Neutrality, you might want to check those out first so that the approach and terms used here are understood in their intended context. Thanks!)

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IMPOSSIBILITY + INSANITY = AUTONOMY

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He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Colossians 1:15-17 (Emphasis added)

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. . . Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Colossians 2:2-3 (Emphasis added)

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God the Spirit through Paul in his letter to the Colossians could not have been more plain: Each and every thing was created through the Person of Jesus Christ for the Person of Jesus Christ. In context, the “all things” of Colossians 1:15-17 really, truly does mean all things. Everything from law, economics, and love, to religion, sexuality, and the bird chirping in an apartment complex tree was made through the Person of Jesus Christ and for the Person of Jesus Christ.

Later in the letter, a corresponding truth is proclaimed when in Colossians 2:2-3, we learn that “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are hidden in the Person of Jesus Christ. They are a part of Him. His nature produces, defines, and sustaines them. There is no knowledge and there is no wisdom to be found apart from His Person. He is Truth (John 14:6).

So when someone asks or ponders the question, “What is truth?” the answer is Jesus Christ. To deny Christ is to deny truth, knowledge, and wisdom. As these things are impossible apart from Him, all that can be left to the unbeliever is truth-less, knowledge-less insanity.

That insanity is always the unavoidable consequence of autonomy, since autonomy’s aim is to separate one from the authority and nature of the  living, personal source of all knowledge and wisdom.

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AUTONOMY’S SLAVES

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Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.

John 8:34 (bold emphasis added)

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It’s important to remember that to the spiritually blind, dead, and sin-enslaved mind, autonomy is as real as any mirage has ever been to any man desperate for the sight of that which they wished was really there. To the unbeliever, their self-delusion is so great that autonomy is there…it’s within reach…it is utterly attainable. They can see it. They can taste it.

In their burning desire for sin they will not surrender the notion of autonomous rule over their own life, their minds become more and more warped, and their senses become increasingly distorted over time. They will deny any objective standard or truth, no matter the evidence and no matter the experience of consequences related to their denials. They will never surrender their pursuit of autonomy.

They will reach for that unattainable mirage of an idol with all that they have. They will, if left to themselves, spend their every thought and every breath in its pursuit.

It is their identity.

It is their everything.

It owns them.

How’s that for irony?

Autonomy owns its worshipers in that it literally defines everything they think or do. As we confirmed in Scripture, the separation of any thing from the Person of Jesus Christ renders that thing hideous, lifeless, truthless, and destructive. For the sin-perverted mind, however, this is a price worth paying. As insane as that sounds, it is true nonetheless.

The would-be autonomous man can and will sacrifice everything, including truth, logic, morality, and even sanity itself, to fuel the blind rage and hatred that he has for the Father.

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DADDY (AND AUTHORITY) ISSUES

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Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

Ephesians 6:1-3 (bold emphasis added)

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The essence of autonomy is the rejection of any personal authority over one’s self. That being the case, it shouldn’t be the least bit surprising to us that a people increasingly in pursuit of absolute autonomy would experience increasing dysfunction at the family level. The rejection of God the Father as the adored, respected, and ruling Head over humanity is mirrored in rebellious man’s propensity to rebel against any and every father figure placed before him.

Just as the pouting, undisciplined, self-obsessed child screams and rages in disobedience, so too does the “adult” unbeliever pout and rail against the Father he knows is there…and hates.

This is not mere rhetorical pounding against the unbeliever; it is an important and foundational reality of his nature and worldview. We are well served to note this ugly truth as we form a biblically coherent understanding of fallen man and a biblically coherent apologetic to defend the faith from that man…all with the hope that the Gospel may be used by the Father to raise the pouting, childish, would-be autonomous ruler from spiritual darkeness and death to abundant and eternal life.

However much fallen man may wish or imagine or delude himself into believing otherwise, autonomy is a fiction. It does not exist.

How do we know this?

Because God has told us so in His Word.

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Every single breath, thought, bit of logic, and use of language employed by the wannabe autonomous, self-ruling Precious Snowflake is completely dependant upon the Person of Christ. It is a gift…a gift by the unmerited grace of the very God they hate. The more clearly we understand and present this truth, the better for our witness, our apologetic, and, most importantly, the glory of God.

This post is a slightly modified excerpt from The Beginning of Knowledge: Christ as Truth in Apologetics, an introduction to Christ-centered apologetics.

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