I encountered Moralistic Therapeutic Deism in full force in a conversation in our church’s After School program. As I reflected further upon that conversation I came to realize that Jesus himself provides an excellent antidote to MTD kinds of thinking. In the gospels, he is recording as asking a probing question to the disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” Peter’s answer, “you are the Messiah” is one of the key points of Scripture.
C.S. Lewis famously declared Jesus must be either be rejected or wholeheartedly accepted. Because of His claim that he could forgive sins he must have either been a self-deluded madman, pure evil, or really the Son of God. He does not give us the option of just viewing him as a wise teacher.
In rejecting the distinctive teachings of Christianity, MTD, at its heart, attempts to view Jesus as just another wise teacher who gives us some great advice on how to be moral and how to be happy. The role if Jesus is not to reconcile people to God through his shed blood, but to make some people feel pretty good about life and let generally good people go to heaven. But, the key distinctive of Christianity is that Jesus really was who he claimed to be. His call to discipleship is a real call. His demand that we repent and turn in faith holds us to account.
Everything hangs Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” You can dismiss him as a madman, reject him as evil, or accept him as Savior of the world. MTD tries to use Him for its own ends, as a means towards happiness and moralism. In doing so, it fails to take the words, actions, and teachings of Jesus seriously.