Culture And Its Influence #2 The Desire For Autonomy and the “ism’s”

17 Nov

One of the struggles for the Christian in our life is to find things from our culture that are good and are OK for us to join in with them while at the same time remaining “pilgrims and strangers” in this world.

I have to begin with some comments about a Budweiser ad which is very prominent in our day: it’s the one that eventually presses the need for a designated driver and at the bottom of the ad, in small print, are these words: “Thanks for driving responsibly.”

Consider the word ‘responsibly’ against this backdrop:

  • 44,000 fatal traffic accidents this past year
  • 15,935 were alcohol related

But what is really behind the ad?

  • what I do is my business!
  • something I do is wrong only when it hurts someone else
  • what’s implied behind the words is the reality that 4-5 people will get “sloppy drunk” and that’s OK as long as provisions have been made so others won’t get hurt (Budweiser can feel noble in this situation).

Autonomy: “self-directing freedom; especially moral independency.

“I’m not hurting anyone (but me) so it’s none of your business.”

We love our freedom! Many have died for it; we might not appreciate it as we should. I remember when the walls of communism came down in Europe and we watched freedom come to the Soviet Union and Germany and we reveled in their “newfound freedom.” But that freedom soon had a sour note: the thrill was replaced by the horrific rise of pornography, crime, alcoholism, and the mafia in those places.

Elizabeth Athmire Not My Own (1995 book on abortion): “It is now a truism in this country that the autonomous individual is supreme. Indeed the highest goal in our society is to be a self-fulfilling, self-governing, autonomous and independent self.”

This has become our society’s goal, hasn’t it?!*%%$#! Do WE want autonomy? Would we like it if there were NO intrusions from anyone at all in our lives?

If that is our desire, the result is that the “death of community” must first take place. In the United States, we likely have the most autonomous culture of all others, yet we also live in a culture that’s probably the most lonely.

John Dunn No Man is an Island – “No man is an island entire of itself…every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send the noll, for whom the bell tolls…it tolls for me.”

We are often involved in the making of decisions about what is right and wrong? And also about what we would prefer to occur at a particular time? We must approach it from a perspective, I think, which helps make matters clearer: what if everybody did what I choose to do; if it became universal laws…would I like it or not?

We need to examine the idea of autonomy that says: “get out of my face…what I do is none of your business…get out of my circle…leave me alone….what I do doesn’t hurt you!”

God made us and we are His


  • Genesis 1-2: God brings us into being and is our creator


  • Psalms 100:1-3: “Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. {2} Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. {3} Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his ; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”


  • Luke 15: when a sinner comes home, God is really, really, really happy! He’s concerned with us and has concern for our soul
  • 1 Corinthians 6:18-20: “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. {19} Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; {20} you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”


  • Anything and everything we do as a Christian must be done against this powerful backdrop!


  • Romans 12:3-5: “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. {4} Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, {5} so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”


  • Even IN HERE, we are not autonomous! What does this verse say about the desire of the elders here to help us to be more involved “care groups?” In Christ, isolation dies because we belong to one another. There IS community!


  • 1 Corinthians 12:25-27: “…so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. {26} If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. {27} Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

If I do certain things, isn’t it just me that gets hurt?

  1. Abortion (just my own body)
  2. Accessing pornography on the internet or via a magazine while traveling out of town (no one knows about it)
  3. Get drunk with some guys who will never tell anyone at church because they don’t know my Christian friends

When you sin against your body and against God, you also sin against me. Your sin affects me because you are part of my spiritual body! What you do has an impact upon others who are here today looking at God’s word in this matter. …You are not your own…you were bought at a price…”

What Is Secularism?

Every society is made up of different people, different jobs, different values, and different classes. Nevertheless, students of history tell us that no society can survive or function without a unifying system of thought.

The unifying system of thought that acts as a glue that makes the various parts of a society adhere is called a “world view.” This world view may be built on a philosophical system, or on a religion like ancient Israel.

It may be built on a common mythology, or on a devotion to the state, or on some political philosophy. In every society there is a competition between philosophy, religion, mythology, and politics for dominance. One of these elements will eventually emerge as the principal world view.

Originally, a Biblical world view was the unifying system that dominated American society; but, this is no longer true. In our modern topsy-turvy culture, the principal ism or system of thought that is being reflected in our creative arts, in our popular literature and music, on our TV screens, in our educational institutions, and even in our churches, is secularism.

In secularism, all life, every human value, every human activity must be understood in view of the here and now. There are no windows into the eternal. If there is a God—and the secularist is either an atheist or agnostic—He is totally irrelevant. All that matters isnow.

In the secular world view, human beings are not created in the image of God. They are, instead, wholly physical. Consequently, humans are the outgrowth of an evolutionary process, and are, at best, nothing more than a chance collection of atoms.

Because there is no hope of life beyond this present physical world, the secular humanist declares that man’s highest end is happiness, freedom, and progress for all mankind in this present world. To this end the secularist “assigns to man nothing less than the task of being his own savior and redeemer” (Corliss Lamont, The Philosophy of Humanism, page 283).

  • In stark contrast to secularism, which says, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you die,” stands Christianity, which says, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Christianity speaks of something more than the here and now.
  • While secularism takes the short view, Christianity takes the long view.
  • While secularists talk about the here and now, Christians speak of an eternal life beyond the grave.
  • While secularism, which teaches man is the product of evolution, validates narcissism, hedonism, materialism, and pluralism, Christianity, which teaches man is created in the image of God, refutes all man-made isms with the admonition, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
  1. The Bible tells us that faith comes as a result of hearing God’s Word (Romans 10:17).
  2. In Hebrews 11:3, the writer says that faith has its starting point at Genesis 1:1. Consequently, the starting point for a Biblical world view is the first verse of the Bible.
  3. Before the here and now, God, who transcends this current time-space world, existed in eternity. This means there is more to reality than the here and now.
  4. But, there is more. Apart from “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” there are no real ethical obligations; no such things as absolute norms of conduct—no moral absolutes.
  5. If there is no Creator who is Sovereign of the universe, then man is under no moral obligations and is absolutely free to do as he pleases.
  6. It is here then that we arrive at the crux of the matter. Man, in his arrogant pride, does not want to do what God wants him to do. As a result, man attempts to suppress the truth about God in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18).
  7. Why? Because if man can be persuaded to believe the lie that there is no Sovereign God who lives in eternity, then he can be comfortable involving himself in all sorts of uncleanness and ungodliness (Romans 1:19-25).
  8. Secularism, of course, is the perfect vehicle for such unbelief.

The Gravedigger Effect

In the 20th century, the secularization of American has had a tremendous affect on Christians. It is as unfortunate as it is true that we have bought, nearly “lock, stock, and barrel,” the secularization lie.

Consequently, we have given ourselves over to a traditional, uncritical, and unscriptural view of the separation of church (the sacred) and state (the secular). Although it is true that Christians ought to distinguish between the secular and the sacred, it is just as true that we must never try to separate them. To do so would be to deny the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all of life.

Nevertheless, for the most part, we, as 20th century Christians, have given ourselves over to a view of church and state that has forced us to divide our lives into that which is sacred and that which is secular. This dichotomy has forced us to compartmentalize our religion.

Within the confines of an ever decreasing arena, we unashamedly proclaim belief in, and reliance upon, God. But outside these parameters—cage might be a better word—we are reluctant to even mention His name. Although religion in the private sector may seem to be flourishing, in the public arena it has been almost totally neutralized.

Today, Christianity may be privately engaging, but it is socially irrelevant. The central sectors of society (business, technology, science, medicine, law, politics, etc.) have been stripped of religious influence.

As Americans, and, unfortunately, as Christians, we have thought it only proper to internalize our religion. This “privatization” or secret discipleship (i.e., the “Joseph of Arimathea Syndrome,” John 19:38) has contributed to the current secularization of America.

But, more importantly, it has caused true Christianity to be without any real impact in public life. Afraid to mention the name of the Lord publicly, except within the limited confines of church and family, for fear of being thought un-American, uncivil, un-professional, anti-social, sectarian, and fanatical, we now find ourselves without any real impact in our communities.

Instead of being the salt that savors and the light that shines out of darkness (Matthew 5:13-16), we have allowed the “Wall” the secularists have erected between church and state to force us to publicly blend in with the rest of society.


Narcissism is one of secularism’s false values. It says, “Me first.” It says, “I’m number one.” The narcissist is in love with himself. Other people matter only as they serve to fulfill and satisfy him.

He is only concerned about his rights, his privileges, and his happiness. Wives, husbands, children, employers, employees, and fellow citizens all take a second seat to the narcissist. He or she is a “me first” kind of person. He is in love with the self-esteem, self-love, pull-your-own-strings, put-yourself-first, you’re-number-one shibboleths of modern-day pop-psychology.

When the Christian becomes infected with this spiritual disease, he begins to talk about doing something for himself. He talks of being tired of doing what God and everyone else wants him to do. He begins to complain about the sermons not being uplifting enough. He protests that Bible classes just aren’t positive enough. He whines about the worship services of the local congregation just not doing anything for him anymore. It is not long before families, church unity, ethics in the marketplace, and community stability soon begin to play second fiddle to the “star” of the show—Numero Uno!

By contrast, Jesus instructs us to crucify self and put others first (cf. Matthew 16:24,25; Philippians 2:3). He teaches us to give ourselves away to God and others (Matthew 22:34-40).


Closely related to narcissism, hedonism says that life ought to be lived solely for pleasure. It is personified in the Playboy philosophy of the 1950s and ’60s and is summed up in the motto, “If it feels good, do it.”

It fans the flames of pornography and homosexuality as it promotes anything and everything that supposedly gives “pleasure.” It replaces responsible living with a “thrill at any cost” approach to life. It is responsible for the proliferation of sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS.

Those given over to hedonism are addicted to lust and can never be satisfied. Nevertheless, in their attempts to satisfy their lusts hedonists usually become quite promiscuous. This, of course, destroys many marriages and homes.

Finally, the pursuit of pleasure at any cost leaves men and women broken, lonely, and sad. On the other hand, those who follow God’s Word will find true happiness and satisfaction in the “one flesh” relationship ordained by God, and will find ultimate satisfaction in pleasing Christ (II Corinthians 5:9).


Materialism says, “I am what I have” and “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Instead of concentrating on the spiritual and eternal things, materialism seeks after those things that can be seen, touched, tasted, smelled, and possessed. Everything and everybody takes a second seat to material-ism—the accumulation of things. In contrast to this, Christianity teaches that we ought to be laying up for ourselves treasures in heaven. In other words, life is an investment, and we can either invest for short-term benefits or long-term gains.


Modern America prides itself in its pluralism. Pluralism is modern culture’s belief that there are many different right ways to live and believe. Find whatever works for you. If it’s Jesus and Christianity, fine. If it’s Hinduism, great. Whatever you want to believe is just fine. Find the church of your choice. Dogmatism is out. Absolutes are out. All paths lead to the same god. God wouldn’t turn away sincere people. All this nonsense is pluralism. In pluralistic America, even witchcraft and devil worship are constitutionally protected religions.

Many seem to think that the Creator of the universe is somehow limited by the Constitution of the United States. He is not! Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

The apostle Paul taught, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Any culture totally given over to pluralism has forgotten that there is a Law above the law.

America, both collectively and individually, will honor God and be blessed, or it will disobey God and pay the bitter consequences.


It is our prayer that churches of Christ will stand up and courageously answer the Lord’s bidding to be counterculture. With this in mind, we close with the apostle Paul’s exhortation in Romans 13:12-14, which says: “The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in licentiousness and lewdness, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”

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Posted by on November 17, 2014 in Article


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