Moral Autonomy

(Priscilla) #1

I have a dear friend, who is sacrificially committed in changing apathetic lives to commit themselves to discipline and hard work. However he believes in exercising moral autonomy in his life. I am concerned with this attitude ever since I began listening to Ravi’s Ask Away and his other programs. How can I convince this friend that moral autonomy is in opposition to our only Lawgiver, the Lord God himself?

(Robert Anderson) #2

Great question. I think if I were in your position I would make sure to ask lots of questions to really iron out what he believes before giving arguments. Is he a Christian?

Does he believe other ought to exercise moral autonomy in their lives? Or rather does he believe others ought not impose their beliefs on others? If so we run into a fatal contradiction. What this is saying is, “Others should practice moral autonomy.” But the whole point of autonomy is that you don’t dictate what others “ought” or “ought not” to do.

It’s a very similar argument to people who believe truth is relative. They will say, “Truth is relative.” Then you can just ask, “Do you believe that statement is objectively true?” It exposes the contradiction.


(Priscilla) #3

This man who is exhorting discipline and willingness to embrace hard work in young people’s lives, was once a believer but had lost his faith while a student in the university. He now has a notion of God, practices transcendental meditation, upholds existential philosophies and strongly believes you are responsible to be accountable for the significance in your life…He believes he is the only one who chooses the morals to live by for himself and considers himself a very principled person. He is a public figure where he comes from, a leader much respected in his profession.

(SeanO) #4

@mutts Robert made a great point about the circular logic of relative morality. In terms of actually reaching your friend, I think you need to first consider where he is at on his own faith journey and how you can best be a witness at the stage. For example, where do you think he is at on the Engel scale? I would say this fellow is either -10 or -11. He is aware of Christ but does not believe in His uniqueness.

At that stage, I think perhaps you will be unsuccessful with arguments. He is not interested. He must experience what Os Guiness calls a ‘signal of transcendence’ that causes him to question his current belief system and be willing to consider other options.

The two things that would be best at this point, if you are his friend, are probably sowing and cultivating. So I think you have to pray for him and aim long term. Take small steps - share a little here and there when opportunity arises.

What do you think? How could the Engel scale help you think through witnessing in his life?

I really like Os Guiness’ book on this topic.

Make Him Wish it Were True - Sowing

Part of the sowing phase is helping someone understand why they might ‘want’ Christianity to be true. Pascal used that approach. Here is a good article by Tim Keller.

“But the phrase “make good men wish it were true” gets across that this takes determination and ingenuity. We must know our culture—know its hopes—and then show others that only in Christ will their aspirations ever find fulfillment, that only in him will the plot lines of their lives ever have resolution and a happy ending.” Tim Keller

Christ grant you wisdom and open your friend’s eyes to Christ’s glory and love.

(Priscilla) #5

I have already dedicated myself to long term prayer for him. He actually applies the same discipline and consistent effort in work excellence with himself as he thinks we owe it to ourselves to contribute effectively to the world we live in. That laziness and love of ease are our worst enemies.

Thank you for your kindly advice and care.

Bless you all for your dedication and hard work. In Jesus name.