Moralistic Therapeutic Deism and the warping of basic beliefs

In the last post I mentioned that Moralistic Therapeutic Deism emphasizes, and makes the whole of religion, the beliefs that (1) religion makes you moral, (2) religion makes you happy, and (3) God helps you when you need Him.

There is a kernel of truth in each of these statements and, when understood within the context of biblical Christianity, are profitable for believers to meditate on. However, in the hands of MTD, which is fundamentally self-oriented instead of God-oriented, the ideas are twister and warped so that the resulting doctrine doesn’t match that which arises out of orthodox faith. Let’s take a look at each of these in a little more detail.

(1) Religion makes you good:

Orthodox view: We are dead in our sins and fundamentally opposed to God. But God made a way for our salvation. Through the sacrifice of Jesus our sins are paid for if we respond to Him in faith. When this happens we are made alive in Christ. We are justified, made positionally righteous. We are renewed. God grants us His Holy Spirit so that God performs a work in us as we make every effort toward holiness. We are made progressively righteous by the supernatural work of God.

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4, 5)

MTD view: Religion provides a series of carrots and sticks which we, on our own, respond to. We don’t want to get in trouble and we want to make God happy. Sometimes, we just need some good advice, or a few tips on a Sunday morning. Religion helps us raise and “civilize” our children, regularly teaching generic platitudes about being nice and helping others. Moral absolutes are self-determined, not established by God.

(2) Religion makes you happy:

Orthodox view: God is our gracious Father and He desires our well being. We are most fulfilled when we are living in accordance with His will. He grants us the fruit of the Spirit which includes joy and peace (Galatians 5:22). When we cast our anxieties on God he grants us a peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7). There is significant reason to rejoice when we think of the promise of eternal life. We can rest in the promises of God. However, the path to peace and joy often follows a hard road, one of repentance, suffering, trials, and self-denial. In fact, a godly grief which leads to repentance is necessary for salvation. Additionally, happiness is an effect of salvation, not its aim.

MTD view: Happiness (or fulfillment) is the aim of religion. You don’t need repentance to be happy. You need feel-good religion. You don’t need faith that Jesus took away your sins. You just need faith that everything will eventually work out.

(3) God helps us when we need Him:

Orthodox view: God is intimately involved in every area of our lives. He is in charge of all of history. Nevertheless, we have the privilege to come to him in prayer (again, Philippians 4:7), which includes worship, thanksgiving, confession, and supplication (requests). In all things God’s will is done and, in all things, God acts as a gracious Father who knows how to respond to the requests of His children and give them good gifts. God’s goals are not always the same as our goals and what we think is good is not always the same as what God thinks is good.

MTD view: Usually God keeps at a safe distance. He monitors the world but is not usually very involved. Sometimes he steps in to help someone feel better or accomplish a life goal, win a football game, get a raise at work, etc. He doesn’t really place and hard demands on our lives. We can talk to him, and he is obliged to give us what we ask for. The worst this God can do is fail to fulfill our desires.

Wednesday: Six Signs You’re a Moralistic Therapeutic Deist

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