In fact, individual autonomy has been pretty popular since Adam and Eve first introduced it in the Garden of Eden! But in a world in which there are limited resources, conflicting interests, unequal power to defend ourselves or attain our desires and no ultimate moral authority–everyone doing what he or she feels is right is a sure recipe for chaos.
In a chapter in his book Mere Christianity called “The Three Parts of Morality,” C. S. Lewis compares mankind to a fleet of ships sailing in formation. He explains, “The Voyage will be a success only, in the first place, if the ships do not collide and get in one another’s way; and, secondly, if each ship is seaworthy and has her engines in good order. As a matter of fact, you cannot have either of these two things without the other.” Lewis goes on to add that the third part of morality is the agreed-upon destination of the fleet, saying, “…however well the leet sailed, its voyage would be a failure if it were meant to reach New York and actually arrived at Calcutta.”
Imagine what would happen if the captain of every ship in humanity’s fleet “followed its own compass” or took whatever course “felt right” to him or her in the moment. Some ships would likely imperil their own captain and crew; many would certainly collide with others, too. And if there were no common, mutually agreed upon destination, the collective voyage would certainly be a failure.
In the same way, living in a world where right and wrong are determined by the feelings of individuals would be like trying to navigate through a forest using a compass in which the coordinates North, South, East and West switched places every time you took a step. It would be impossible to get your bearings, or to arrive at your destination. Feelings are subject to change from moment to moment and situation to situation. So, a feelings-based moral compass would be useless in navigating our way through the various and often complex moral decisions we face throughout life.
Morality that is based on how we feel is a very unreliable guide for living. As much as we might applaud “following your heart” in principle–it can break down very quickly in reality. Imagine the mother of a young child who decides she doesn’t “feel” like caring for her son or daughter–so she leaves them with a friend or relative and never returns. Even if the mother “felt good” about her choice, would it be right?
Life just operates better when our choices are informed by a morality “outside ourselves,” and not when morality is defined by our personal preferences. We aren’t the best candidates for determining what is right or wrong–but God is. A never-changing, morally perfect, loving, all knowing, and all-powerful God is in a far better position than we are to prescribe what is right for us and for the world He created.
Mark 7: 20-23 “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”
“Sin is rejecting or ignoring God in the world he created, rebelling against him by living without reference to him, not being or doing what he requires in his law— resulting in our death and the disintegration of all creation.” The New City Catechism, “What Is Sin?”