Moral Therapeutic Deism – You Lost Me (A Sidebar)

I’ve been slowly blogging through David Kinnaman’s book You Lost Me which analyzes the reasons why so many young people either wander away from faith completely, put faith on hold for a time, or feel disconnected to faith while still being in the church.  One of the reasons given is that Christian faith is shallow.  Christianity in America has been described by sociologist Christian Smith as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism:

Moralistic – Christianity is basically about being a good person, just like every other religion.

Therapeutic – Christianity is about feeling good about yourself; God is a big fan of yours and wants you to be happy!

Deism – The Christian God who wants you to be good and feel good is not involved in life but instead is distant, far away.

I looked back at my blog and found other posts I’ve written about Moral Therapeutic Deism.  If you’re interested, check them out:

Souls In Transition: Moral Therapeutic Deism (May 24, 2010)

When you make religion into just about being a good person (moralism) and when you want all religions to be basically the same, you are left with a more or less deistic God. This God also makes you feel good, because “God” kind of likes what you like, does not like what you do not like, and would never be mad at you. Such a God is unnecessary and practically meaningless.

I could go on a tangent about how such a God is worthless and has little to say to the horrors of the world such as the Holocaust, human trafficking, genocide and more, but I’ll save that for next time. Another temptation is to go on a tangent about how the differences in world religion are what matters, but this post is already too long. I will say that God becoming human in the person of Jesus Christ so that we no longer have an abstract God but God with a face, the face of Jesus, and who self-sacrificially gave his life to heal us of all guilt and who calls us to also self-sacrificially give ourselves for others is in a whole other universe than the God most emerging adults (and probably Americans in general) believe in.

Costly Grace (Sept. 17, 2010)

Studies have shown that the religion of young people in American culture isMoral Therapeutic Deism. The majority of you people believe there is a “God”. They stop there, believing that on this point all religions more or less agree and that is really all that matters. This God does not really interact with us much (hence “deism”). Religion is just about ethics, being a good person, which again is where all religions, more or less, agree. Finally, the purpose of religion is to make you feel good about yourself (therapeutic). If God is watching he pretty much likes what you like and approves of anything you do.

When we read the stories of Jesus, this whole idea is shredded. We are reminded that you are not saved by simply believing in God (that makes you a theist or a deist). Salvation, healing, freedom – these things come in the grace of Jesus Christ. We believe not in an abstract “God” but in Jesus Christ, God in the flesh. As God walking among humanity, when Christians speak of God we start with Jesus Christ.

Almost Christian 1

Kenda Creasy Dean, author of Almost Christian, calls MTD “diner theology” and writes: ”

Like Esau, American Christians tend to think with our stomachs, devouring whatever smells good in order to keep our inner rumblings at bay, oblivious even to our own misgivings. Sociologists paint American Christians as restless people who come to church for the same reasons people once went to diners: for someone to serve us who knows our name, for a filling stew that reminds us of home and makes us feel loved, even while it does a number on our spiritual cholesterol” (8).

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