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The First Step
Theonomy vs. Autonomy

We live in an antinomian culture (from the Greek word nomos, "law"). Specifically, we live in culture whose attitude toward Jesus is, "We will not have this man to reign over us" (Luke 19:14). Men in the modern world want to be their own god, everyone making up his own law (autonomy). Our culture squarely has rejected Theonomy (God's Law).

The issue . . . is between theonomy (God's Law) and autonomy (self law). Modern autonomous man is aided and abetted in his apostasy from God by the antinomianism of the [institutional] church, which, by denying God's law, has, in theology, politics, education, industry, and all things else, surrendered the field to the law of the fallen and godless self, to autonomy.

R.J. Rushdoony

There is no alternative but that of theonomy and autonomy.

Cornelius Van Til

How can we best describe the world of autonomy, the rejection of Biblical Theonomy? These words come to mind:

violent * superficial * selfish * materialistic * conflict * secular
cheap * undisciplined * lust for power * corruption * illiterate
instant gratification* dictatorship * pollution * war
loneliness * disposable * kickback * hopelessness

In a word, "unmanageable." Human beings have shown themselves incapable of managing the world apart from God's Law.

Admitting this is the first step of A.A.'s 12 Steps:

1. We admitted we were powerless over [our sins] -- that our lives had become unmanageable.

We cannot manage our lives by ourselves.

We cannot manage our lives by making up the rules as we go along.

Only profound humility -- a gracious gift from God -- enables us to make this admission. No progress is possible without it.

Calvinists have described man's condition as "total depravity," which does not mean that man is as wicked as he possibly can be, but that sin and its unmanagable effects extend to every area of autonomous man's life.

  1. Worse than "unmanageable":  Dead
  2. Zombies in search of chaos
  3. Slaves to self-law (autonomy)
  4. Universal slavery: All men everywhere
  5. "We are powerless."

A. Worse than "unmanageable":  Dead

As a result of Adam's rebellion against God in the Garden of Eden, all Adam's children are by nature spiritually dead; if they are to become sons of God and enter His Kingdom, they must be "re-born" by the Spirit of God.

1. God warned Adam not to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree, on threat of immediate spiritual death.

Genesis 2:16-17 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."

2. Adam disobeyed and ate of the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:1-7). As a result, he brought spiritual death upon himself and the whole human race.

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned;

Ephesians 2:1-3 And you He made alive, when you were dead in trespasses and sins, {2} in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, {3} among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

Colossians 2:13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,

3. David King of Israel confesed that he and all other men were born in rebellion against God

Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.

Psalm 58:3 The wicked go astray from the womb; They rebel as soon as they are born, speaking lies.

4. Because men are born in sin and are by nature spiritually dead, they must be born a second time if they are to enter Life.

John 3:5-7 Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. {6} That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. {7} Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'

John 1:12-13 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: {13} who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

B. Zombies with a thirst for the "unmanageable."

When America was a Christian nation, goodness, helpfulness, and truth were exalted. Today, our celebrities are those who have no responsibilities, who make up their own law, and reject God. This is a result of Adam's Fall: men are blind and deaf to spiritual truth. Their minds are darkened by sin; their hearts are rotten and evil.

Genesis 6:5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Genesis 8:21 . . . the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth. . . .

Ecclesiastes 9:3 Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.

Jeremiah 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?

Mark 7:21-23 "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, {22} thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. {23} All these evil things come from within and defile a man."

John 3:19 "And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

Romans 8:7-8 Because the carnal mind is hostile to God; for it is not subject to the law of God,  indeed, it cannot. {8} So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; he is not able to understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Ephesians 4:17-19 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, {18} having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; {19} they have become callous and have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

Ephesians 5:8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light

Titus 1:15 To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled.

C. Before the Spirit re-creates us and we are born into God's Kingdom, we are children of Satan. We are owned by the devil. We are his slaves.

John 8:44 "You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.

Ephesians 2:1-2 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, {2} in which you once walked according to the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,

2 Timothy 2:25-26 God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, {26} and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.

1 John 3:10 In this may be seen who are the children of God and who are the children of the devil: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.

1 John 5:19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the power of the wicked one.

John 8:34 Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.

Romans 6:20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were "free" --  in regard to righteousness.

Titus 3:3 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, slaves to various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.

D. The reign of sin is universal; all human beings are under its power. As a result, no one is righteous -- not even one!

2 Chronicles 6:36 . . .(for there is no one who does not sin) . . . .  (compare 1 Kings 8:46)

Job 15:14-16 "What is man, that he could be pure? And he who is born of a woman, that he could be righteous? {15} If God puts no trust in His saints, And the heavens are not pure in His sight, {16} How much less man, who is abominable and filthy, Who drinks iniquity like water!

Psalm 130:3 If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?

Psalm 143:2 Do not enter into judgment with Your servant, For in Your sight no one living is righteous.

Proverbs 20:9 Who can say, "I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin"?

Ecclesiastes 7:20 Surely there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.

Ecclesiastes 7:29 Truly, this only I have found: That God made man upright, But they have sought out many schemes."

Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way;

Isaiah 64:6 But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.

Romans 3:9-12 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. {10} As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one; {11} There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. {12} They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one."

James 3:2,8 For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. {8} But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. {10} If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

E. Men left in their dead state are unable to manage their lives, change course, and enter the Kingdom. They have no power within themselves to repair their lives and experience the Lord's salvation.

Job 14:4 Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one!

Jeremiah 13:23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil.

Matthew 7:16-18 "You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? {17} Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. {18} A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.

Matthew 12:33 "Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.

John 6:44 "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 6:65 And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father."

Romans 11:35-36 "Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?" {36} For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.

1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; he is not able to understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

1 Corinthians 4:7 For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God,

It is for obvious reasons, then, that man depends on a "Higher Power" to become a child of God.

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