Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

In his excellent new book God In the Whirlwind, David Wells says: “There is a dominant view of God among a majority of American teenagers. It is called ‘moralistic therapeutic deism’. This dominant view is that God made everything and established a moral order, but He does not intervene. Actually, for most He is not even Trinitarian and the incarnation and resurrection of Christ play little part in church teenage thinking – even in evangelical teenage thinking. They see God as not demanding much from them because He is chiefly engaged in solving their problems and making them feel good. Religion is about experiencing happiness, contentedness, having God solve one’s problems and provide stuff like homes, the Internet, Ipods, Ipads, and Iphones”.

This is not a problem for just teenagers but for adults too. If God is so detached, or if He even exists, then we would consider most of our problems to be genetic or caused by disease. For example, there was a movie out last fall entitled Thanks for Sharing. It was about a man addicted to pornography. The premise of the movie was that the problem was not his fault. He had a disease. In saying this we remove personal responsibility from all moral lapses in our lives. If it is drug addiction, it is a disease. If it is alcoholism, it is a disease. If it is homosexuality, I was born that way. Genesis 6:5 says, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (emphasis mine)”.

I am far from a perfect person. I struggle with worry, pride, vengeful thoughts, but I am a sinner saved by grace. I will say it again, I am a sinner saved by grace.  The answer to all mankind’s problems is that we are sinners. We do not hear that word mentioned any more. It may only be used as a figure of speech such as God, heaven or hell. What we need is not freedom from “diseases” but freedom from sin.

Isaiah 53:6 says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all”.  Scottish preacher John Brown said, “Christ was sent with the general design of removing, by the sacrifice of Himself, the evil which sin introduced into our world. This He accomplished, in the first place when He removed corporal diseases (sins). In this He pointed also to His principle aim, which was, with the same power to take away spiritual evil from men through the vicarious satisfaction”.

Jesus Christ is the one who as Isaiah says carried our sorrows and suffered the shame of the cross to relieve us of the burdens of our sins. This is the answer to the plight of all mankind. God is not distant from us but offers His love to us through His beloved Son if we would but repent of our sins and seek a relationship with Him.

Quoting again from David Wells, “Today though we need a fresh vision of God and His character of holy–love, our understanding of His greatness gets worn down, sometimes worn out by the constant rubbing against our highly modernized life. It is this vision, though, this knowing of God, that puts steel in the spines and fire in the Christian hearts. When we  are God-centered in our thoughts,  God-fearing in our hearts,  when we see with clarity what His character of holy-love is like, He begins to have weight in our lives. When that happens we become, not just occasional visitors to the eternal, but its permanent residents, its citizens. And that is when the church becomes more than just another organization but, in fact, the outpost of eternity in this wounded world. May the church indeed be all that it is in Christ, so that through its life the glory of God will be seen anew in all its splendor!”