182 Princes Highway or Pakenham Office: 2 Simon
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Dissertation by Dr. Bill Spencer
This dissertation arose out of
observations relating to the conduct of a marriage counselling course.
and the relevance of
heteronomy, autonomy and theonomy to both marriage and faith.
Web Presence sponsored by Joan Spencer
© 2002 J.S.& A. Pty Ltd.
This dissertation explores the interface between autonomy, heteronomy and
However, while it does not engage in a thorough critique of individualism, it nevertheless
does examine the various expressions of autonomy from the Enlightenment to the present
day. It draws on the appropriate contributions in the area of its concern made by
Kant, Kohlberg, Bellah et. al., and Fowler. It has implications for Christian Education,
and Pastoral Care, and raises questions regarding the extensiveness and delivery of
The study concentrates on the moral reasoning of individuals, and it examines the
prevalent attitudes and reasoning within two Australian congregations. It includes the
study project used in one of the above congregations to endeavour to inform the reasoning
and perspective in one of these congregations, and the strategy that arose partially from
The theory frames the continuum between heteronomy, autonomy and theonomy. Consequently
it identifies attitudes that lie along this continuum. The continuum has three broad
categories. The broad categories are Heteronomy, Autonomy and Theonomy. Autonomy is
presented as a valid expression of the Christian faith, and it discusses some of the
consequences for the church when this is acknowledged. It is argued that heteronomy,
autonomy and theonomy have significance for the individual as well as culture generally,
and that from an individualist perspective, the three concepts have relevance for the
"way of being" of the individual as he or she moves through each pole of the
The thesis supports Tillich's appreciation of the secular, and with him affirms that
the holy and the secular are in correlation, and that each depends on the other. In the
context of a cultural theology, and Tillich's assertion that "religion is the
substance of culture and culture the form of religion," the thesis disputes the
concept that religion and the Christian faith must struggle to defeat the secular. The
thesis argues that, although implicit within Tillich's Cultural Theology, Tillich
nonetheless, does not specifically identify the personal dimension of the individual as he
or she moves from a heteronomous through an autonomous to a theonomous perspective. This
thesis endeavours to develop the implications for the individual and then as a consequence
the church, as the individual progresses through these expression of faith.
The thesis further applies these expressions to outreach into a largely autonomous and
individualistic society and arrives at some preliminary observations of the nature of the
church in the future and its task.
This page was last updated on
the 11th September 2009