Freedom Should Not Be Confused with Autonomy

Recently I was at a conference for Christian creative-types with my teammates from work. The time together was terrific, but during many of the sessions, I found myself with a rather odd feeling in the pit of my stomach. (And it wasn’t just because of the smoke machines working overtime during the praise band sessions.)

Without trying to make assumptions about motives—because I believe all the presenters genuinely desire to be impacting their communities for the sake of Christ—the questions asked never really got beyond what can we do to be more engaging, exciting and creative. We never got to the question behind those, which is what are we trying to do in the first place as we seek to be creative.

Walking away, it felt as though in our desire for creative excellence and to reach people for Christ, we were confusing the freedom that Christ offers with autonomy.

This is certainly not unusual in the West. In fact, we do it all the time. Consider how we view governments, regulations, or even being called to moral accountability. When governments do something that we don’t like, what do we do? Often, we grumble. When we are called to account for things we have done, what do we do? Often, we demand that people mind their own business.

But we must be careful that in whatever sphere—whether in our churches, at our jobs, or in our families—we do not display a cavalier attitude toward authority.

In terms of creativity in the Church, desiring creative excellence is a good and beautiful thing. But we have to let God’s Word shape and define the boundaries in which we are to express our creativity. We need to be careful that we don’t fall prey to base pragmatism or a desire to be cool, one that looks at the world’s entertainment and says, “If we do that, then people will come.”

R.C. Sproul puts it well, “We are not free to do what is right in our own eyes. We are called to do what is right in His eyes. Freedom should not be confused with autonomy.”[1. R.C. Sproul, Can I Know God’s Will?, Kindle Edition] We need to let that truth guide our creativity as much as our morality. Understand the boundaries God has placed, embrace them and glorify God through them. But don’t confuse freedom with autonomy in your creativity.

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