Why Autonomy Doesn’t Work

My last two posts discussed the contemporary belief that autonomous human beings will be healthier and better adjusted persons than one’s under authority, making for a superior society. I cited reasons why they believe this is so.

Let me cite three reasons why these schemes advancing autonomy do not work.

The first and most obvious one resides in the selfish old nature. Allow an individual to be a law unto himself, and he will make selfish decisions that result in relational and societal breakdown. Liberals never seem to be able to come to grips with the old nature issue.

Because of our innate selfishness, people need God’s laws and the authority behind them in order to make loving rather than selfish decisions.

Second, we need the wisdom embedded in God’s laws. None of us have sufficient information or intelligence to make up the structure for successful living on our own. This becomes apparent from secular efforts to do so as found in the teachings of Karl Marx and Humanist Manifesto II.

Even if human beings were smart enough to figure out how they were designed to live, they would still need God’s commands because human beings are so good at rationalization. If humans made up a moral code on their own they would also devise ways to rationalize away any and all of its precepts. In that sense, we are too smart for our own good. Or in the words of Jeremiah, “”The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; who can know it? “ (Jeremiah 17:9 NKJV) Therefore, we need God’s laws mandating good behaviors.

A third reason why the theories presented in the previous two posts do not work resides in the reason those espousing them believe that they do work. They are convinced that evolution has provided human beings with a subjective internal guidance system, reflective of animal instincts, referred to be Carl Rogers as the self-actualizing tendency, which will instinctively direct individuals toward optimal behaviors.

The operative word here is “subjective.” God has provided animals with this type of instinctive guidance system, but He has called human beings to manage their lives by approaching life objectively, employing their minds to determine optimal decisions and their wills to implement those decisions. The systems of autonomy previously discussed replace this objective guidance system, calling us to follow the subjective component of our makeup.

The problem is that unlike squirrels, which God has supplied with an adequate subjective guidance system, because God has designed us to function objectively using our minds and wills, He has not provided us with a subjective guidance system capable of guiding our lives. Even worse, the human subjective component, rather than providing us with a superior guidance system, or even an inadequate one, actually comprises a counterproductive mechanism for directing our lives. Human emotions, rather than encouraging right decisions, usually advocate for wrong ones.

The hippie movement demonstrated that. Their slogan, ”If it feels good, do it,” called them to adopt such as system. How did it work? In short order it made Haight Ashbury into a drug infested, crime infested slum. In a few days it ruined the farm of Max Yasgur, where Woodstock was held. Communes, which started out with altruistic aspirations quickly deteriorated, and the movement itself only lasted about five years. This movement provided living proof that feelings serve as a very destructive guide.

Of course the mind works best when advised by Scripture. But the neglect of the mind in preference for feelings provides a formula for disaster.

Yet, this constitutes the orientation of our society today. I just watched a car commercial that said nothing about the car but showed the driver having a good time visiting various interesting locations around the country. Buy this car and you can have fun. Never mind that you could visit those places in any car. Your mind would have to tell you that. But your feelings associate that car and having fun. Apparently this approach to advertising works. We are guiding our lives by feelings.

The autonomous person guided by feelings is like a car going a hundred miles an hour without a driver. Or worse yet, a nation of autonomous people functioning on feelings could even choose as a driver a President like Barack Obama for two terms. What more proof do you need that feelings-driven autonomy doesn’t work?

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