Sunday, May 13, 2007

Is Personal Autonomy Sinful?

1. independence or freedom, as of the will or one's actions: the autonomy of the individual.
2. the condition of being autonomous; self-government, or the right of self-government; independence: The rebels demanded autonomy from Spain.
3. a self-governing community.

Mirriam Webster
1 : the quality or state of being independent, free, and self-directing
2 : independence from the organism as a whole in the capacity of a part for growth, reactivity, or responsiveness

n 1: immunity from arbitrary exercise of authority: political independence [syn: liberty] 2: personal independence [syn: self-direction, self-reliance, self-sufficiency]

So thinking about autonomy, no one is completely autonomous. We are not autonomous from the local governments. We are not autonomous from God's Will. We will suffer the consequences when we do not line ourselves up with God's Will. We are not fully autonomous from the needs and desires of our families.

However, everyone experiences a large degree of personal autonomy. We get up and go to bed when we want, have the job we have decided upon, wear the clothes we choose, eat the food we want, live in the house we want, all from the choices available. That is a lot of personal autonomy. Personal autonomy is not bad provided we use this freedom wisely. Those who do not use their freedoms wisely may end up in jail, ostracized from friends and church, etc.

It is personal autonomy used wisely that brings us opportunities to witness about God to nonbelievers, to do good to others, to spend time in the presence of God and therefore be blessed by His presence, and so on.

Children grow up from little personal autonomy to greater degrees of personal autonomy as they mature into the capacity to make wise decisions, at least that is the idea in raising one's children. Unfortunately, many parents give their children too much personal autonomy before they are wise or mature enough to handle it. And of course, schools often encourage more freedom among children then they are really ready for.

And so on......

Those who want to say that autonomy is sinful are drawing from a disagreement on the meaning of 1 Cor. 11 where Paul is saying the woman is to have authority on her own head. The traditional interpretation is that the woman is to have "a symbol of" authority on her head. The problem is that those words are added in by misguided translators. The new tactic by traditionalists is to make accusations that any woman wanting to be responsible for her own life and decisions is wanting more control than women should have, and she is being rebellious.

But it is God's desire that every Christian believer grow and mature into the fullness of the Man Christ Jesus. This maturity is not only for men but for women also. God wants a healthy body of believers. We need to grow in wisdom because some day we will all be judging the angels.

1 Cor. 6:3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?

Jason David BeDuhn
"'Because of the Angels': Unveiling Paul's Anthropology in 1 Corinthians 11."
Journal of Biblical Literature

Once again, Paul's basic point is clear: women must have, that is,
_exercise_ authority over their heads. _exousia_ can only mean that
the women themselves possess this power of authority. The long-
forwarded notion that it means that women's heads are under _someone
else's_ authority is linguistically unsubstantiated. _exousia_ is
otherwise unattested in Greek literature with the meaning "a sign of
someone else's authority." Paul _always_ employs the term to mean
authority held by the subject: the individual's right and freedom to
act, the individual's control over objects, persons, or situations,
and by extension as a title of individuals who exercise such
authority. In fact, Paul is concerned throughout 1 Corinthians with
the issue of "authority" precisely in the sense of rights or freedoms
claimed by his readers which he seeks to have them voluntarily
subordinate to broader community values. I must emphasize the
absolutely clear linguistic force of this term, no matter what
difficulty it gives us in understanding Paul at this point, because
_most_ interpretations of 1 Corinthians 11 are based on the reversal
of that linguistic force and cannot be substantiated without such a

"This sense for _exousia_ in 1 Cor 11:10 as one's own right and
authority, not subjection to someone else's, is supported by Paul's
use of _opheilo_ in the same verse, "for in Paul this does not imply
external compulsion but obligation." Paul_always_ employs _opheilo_
with the sense of performing one's duty and acting upon one's own
responsibility and commitment, and the substantives based onthe verb
likewise all carry the meaning of a responsibility, obligation, or
moral debt of the individual. The language Paul chooses in v. 10,
therefore, only could have been understood by his readers and hearers
as referring to the responsibility women hold in the situation under


Clay said...

Hi Justa,

You might know me as hmm from another board. I just wanted you to know that I am fine. I don't think that is a real healthy place to hang around.

I am very greatful to you for the wisdom and support you shared with me. God Bless...

AND I like this entry on autonomy! Good stuff! Maybe "autonomy" is a less threatening word than "authority" to those who don't REALLY have either, though they think they do...

Justa Berean said...

Hi hmm. Nice to meet you :)

Yes, the other place is a collection of some of the most illogical and hateful Christians I've been around lately. Well, then there are the Bayly Brothers who are avowed patriarchalists. And also the Five Aspects org. who teach that men are "lords of the earth" and women are to be mistresses of the "lords" domains. It would be a funny collection if they were not so destructive to real people.

And BTW the male authority promoters think autonomy to be an ugly word. Is it any wonder? :(

Clay said...

I never even heard of the Bayly brothers till recently. But- as a former homeschooler- I just received the annual catalog from Vision Forum and in the past I never noticed the bias. I visited their website and they are proud patriarchs. They are so brazen as to say in their "tenets" that "GOD IS MASCULINE" (yikes! Reminds me of Romans Ro 1:23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man)


(BTW God is Spirit!)

Justa Berean said...

Its a poorly thought out stance. Sad to see that Vision Forum is taking it up, as it appears CARM is also.

If God were male, thus masculine, than all male things would be in God's likeness and all female things would be inferior attributes. Thus, all male lions, cockroarches, bulldogs, manta rays, turkeys, etc etc. etc. would be likened to Godly characteristics. But we know this isn't true.

When God said that He was making the human in the image of God AND that He was making the human male and female, God was not equating male and female as being in God's image. God was making the human in God's (God said our image) image and ALSO making them male and female. Such a simple bit of logic.