Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

Joel WebbonSermon HighlightLeave a Comment

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May 12, 2014

A couple of decades ago, several Americans began to shift from Christianity towards atheism. They began to favor reason and logic over religion and faith. Many felt that belief in a god was unscientific and therefore unintelligent. However, in the last few years there has been a dramatic shift back in favor of spirituality. But this new spirituality is much more vague and continues to view the specific claims of Christianity in a negative light. I believe the dominant spiritual view of our present generation could be best labeled as moralistic therapeutic deism. Here’s a brief synopsis of this view:

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (pleasing a god through morality in order to benefit the self)

  1. There is a God who created the world.
  2. This God wants us to be good.
  3. The main goal of life is to be happy and feel good about one’s self.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in our lives unless we need something.
  5. Good people are rewarded when they die.

Essentially, what people are trying to do is work God into their debt. They think that if they offer him the payment of a good and moral life then he will owe them one later on. They don’t desire intimate relationship with God, but want to ensure that when hard times come God will be obligated to bail them out. Unfortunately, this view of spirituality has crept into many of our churches and even affected the way we read Scripture. It is especially tempting to be influenced by this wrong perspective when reading stories from the Old Testament.

They don’t desire intimate relationship with God, but want to ensure that when hard times come God will be obligated to bail them out.

The story of Joseph is a perfect example. If we’re not careful, we can read the story of Joseph as simply a tale of rags to riches. We can walk away thinking that moral of the story is remain faithful to God and eventually good things will happen to you. But the moral is much bigger than that. This story isn’t meant to be read in isolation like one of Aesop’s fables. It’s meant to be read in the larger context of God’s redemptive plan for all of humanity. The message of the Bible isn’t about us being rewarded for our success, but being redeemed from our failures.

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Joel Webbon is the Preaching and Vision Pastor at The Response Church. In addition to pastoring, he is passionate about helping to teach and develop young church planters. He and his wife Megan live in San Diego, CA.