“Heteronomy, Autonomy, or Participated Theonomy?”
“Yes. Heteronomy, Autonomy, or Participated Theonomy? Man, I just listened to one of your talks, and you need to know that you are talking about Heteronomy, Autonomy, or Participated Theonomy!”
“Dude, I have no idea what you are talking about…speak English!”
For the next 45 minutes, my friend Chris unpacked – in plain English this time – the choices we have as free human beings to encounter “the law” – any law really. Drawing on what Pope Saint John Paul II taught in his encyclical The Splendor of Truth (Veritatis Splendor), these are three ways to encounter nomos (law): boundaries or restrictions on our freedom.
We perceive laws as either imposed on us from the outside by another (“hetero-”), self-created within ourselves (“auto-”), or by free participation with or in God (“theo-”). Our Scripture readings today beg the question: how do you experience law in your heart and mind as a disciple of Christ?
Deuteronomy 4 (deuteros “second” + nomos “law”, Moses’ fifth book of the Pentateuch), Psalm 147, and Matthew 5 speak to us of the privilege of having the law. It is given to us by God to live with “wisdom and intelligence” as a “great nation”, and hand on to our “children’s children.”
What a privilege to have a God who so knows us, loves us, and abides so closely to us that he “proclaimed his word…statues and his ordinances” that are “Spirit” and “everlasting life” to us unlike “any other nation!”
It is a privilege to know what is: the reality of creation, the boundaries of our God-given freedom that flow from who and whose we are, our identity, meaning, and purpose. Our origin, history, and destiny reveal a law of love between us and God that is filial, spousal, and capable of engendering the greatest desires of our heart: eternal life, love, and the joy that they bring. How could this law be anything other than a participation with God to be “called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” Praise the Lord, Jerusalem!
Damon Owens is executive director and international speaker for joytob proclaiming the joy to be loved as sons and daughters of God our Father. In 2018, Pope Francis awarded him the Benemerenti Medal for his work building faithful marriages and families.