You have been kicked out of Heaven, and you aren’t happy. You know you can’t dethrone the Creator, but you do know you can cause much grief with His creation. You have one shot at this. What scheme would you concoct to successfully cause the maximum amount of grief?
If I were the Devil, my major thrust would be to present the option of the autonomous self. And that is precisely what the real Devil did when he asked Adam and Eve, “Has God really said?” The Devil has been running that play ever since Adam and Eve decided they would be better gods than God. This scheme has never been on fuller display than today. The rise of the autonomous self has infected at least fifteen realms of our world.
From cradle to grave, image bearers are encouraged to love ourselves, believe in ourselves, and live our own truth. Don’t worry about what others think; if it feels good, do it. This is the mindset that permeates our society where every man is an island with no responsibilities to anyone or anything but self.
Let’s start with the obvious expressions of autonomy:
It is not uncommon for a university student to affirm that we might be living in a giant’s dream. Why? Because the rise of the autonomous self allows us to be detached from what is really real.
Your truth is your truth, right?
Love is love. Why? Because YOU get to decide how YOU want to use your body.
The argument of bodily autonomy was used by progressives to persuade the Supreme Court that Roe v Wade is good law. Your body. Your choice.
What gender are you? Whatever gender YOU choose to identify with.
Subtle expressions of autonomous selfism:
What does that Bible verse say to YOU?
7. Church attendance.
I don’t need to be with God’s people, I have myself; and that’s enough for me.
The autonomous self has the right to be happy and break any vow that limits one’s ability to do so.
9. Broken families.
Parents who dare to speak into the lives of their adult children will be cancelled by them without compunction. Nobody, including Mom and Dad, is going to stand in the path of my self-actualization.
We allow drug addicted image bearers to sleep under bridges because we must let the individuals live the way they think best.
Of course, it makes no sense to allow people to become pot-heads, but it makes perfect sense if you believe in the autonomous self.
The autonomous self has no obligation to neighbor or country. This life is about ME. We are all captains of our own destinies.
13. Texting and driving.
My text is far more important than your life.
14. Violent crime.
Murder is no longer the taking of a human life, it is an act to ensure someone is no longer a threat to my self-fulfillment.
Why aren’t young people getting married? Because a covenant relationship puts constraints on ME and how I want to live.
I suspect the list could go on and on, but the point is clear: the Devil’s scheme to encourage humans to shake their fists at God, is alive and well. The question, of course, is: what do we do about this?
The Better Adam
If you consider the Devil’s strategy to tempt Jesus in the wilderness, they were three variations of the same scheme: autonomous self.
1. Tempting Jesus to turn stones into bread was the Devil’s way of encouraging Jesus to satisfy His own desires, rather than the desires of the Father (Matthew 4: 3-4).
2. Tempting Jesus to throw Himself off the Temple was the Devil’s way of questioning God’s Word by forcing God to do what I want Him to do (Matthew 4: 5-7).
3. Tempting Jesus to receive the kingdoms of this world was the Devil’s way of telling Jesus, “Wouldn’t it be better if YOU ran the Earth? (Matthew 4: 8-10)
How did Jesus counter the Devil’s “autonomous self” temptations? The Word. And that is precisely what we must do. If we engage our culture on any other level than the Bible, the Devil will have more victories than losses.
- Yes, continue voting, but know that politics will not save a society bent on autonomy.
- Yes, continue to do good to all men, but know that acts of charity will not slow down a culture that is racing toward self-destruction.
- Yes, continue to reason with people, but know that their reason machines are broken and nobody has ever been reasoned out of the kingdom of the autonomous self.
Recently, I had a meal with Darrell Harrison of Grace to You, and he brilliantly said that it is a fool’s errand to debate a CRT proponent. Instead, Darrell encouraged us to lift the conversation to another realm: the Bible. That is precisely what we must do with CRT and every other realm, ideology, or stronghold that stands in opposition to God.
If we want people to think rightly, they must first believe rightly. And that is why we must confront the world in its lostness with a two-edged sword. Nothing else will persuade anyone to stop living autonomously and start living for the One who died to save sinners.
If you want to watch my entire sit-down meal with Darrell, watch here: