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      "Moralistic, Therapeutic Deism" is Not Christianity.

      Sunday, November 2, 2008

      Many of you have read the posts I've put up lately claiming that we're dealing with another religion and not Christianity in regard to what the "seeker" movement puts forth. I believe that a man named Christian Smith has finally given an accurate name to the beast: "Moralistic, Therapeutic Deism."

      In the article that I'm going to link to at the bottom of this post, he lays out the basic five aspects of this religion.:

      1. A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.
      2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
      3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
      4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when he is needed to resolve a problem.
      5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

      I believe that points 1 and 2 can be debated as to being Christian doctrine. They certainly are truths, but they are half-truths, and, as Mark Kielar says, "A half truth being presented as a whole truth is a complete untruth." I believe that God is active in the affairs of life on earth and not merely sitting back watching as indicated in point 1. I also believe that point 2 is in error in that we can be "good, nice, and fair" to each other without ever believing in Jesus Christ and "loving our neighbors as ourselves and loving God with all our hearts" as Christ commands. I know professing atheists who are very "good, nice, and fair", but obviously I don't know a professing atheist who is saved from God's wrath that is to come. Look closely at points 3, 4, and 5, though, and you will see that these points are antithetical to what Christianity is.

      Point 3: "The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself."
      This point is basically at the heart of all the fads, all the books, all the programs, all the lectures, all the legalism, and all the twisting of Scripture that is permeating much of this religion of "seekerism". The basic problem is this: An focus on self and a focus off of God unless God fits into the focus we have of ourselves. It's humanistic in its core. Sadly, though, this religion holds that this is the chief end of man (for God to glorify ourselves) whereas the great confessions of the past such as the Westminster Shorter Catechism hold that "Man's chief end is to glorify God, [a] and to enjoy him for ever. [b]"
      [a]. Ps. 86:9; Isa. 60:21; Rom. 11:36; I Cor. 6:20; 10:31; Rev. 4:11
      [b]. Ps. 16:5-11; 144:15; Isa. 12:2; Luke 2:10; Phil. 4:4; Rev. 21:3-4

      Point 4: "God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when he is needed to resolve a problem."
      This is also antithetical to what the Bible plainly teaches. We need God for everything. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." (Jas 1:17) If we hold that we need God only when bad things happen, then there is no way to get around the fact that we believe that we are capable of doing good apart from Him and His graces. This is a classical theological term known as Pelagianism. What you need to know about Pelagianism for this post is that Pelagianism teaches that man is basically good apart from God's grace, and Christianity teaches that man is wicked apart from God's grace. ("We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away." (Isa 64:6))

      Point 5: "Good people go to heaven when they die."
      In a sense, this statement is correct. If we've kept the law without offending it in even one point (James 2:10) and if there's no such thing as imputed sin from Adam (Rom. 5), we're good enough to go to heaven on our own. The problem is, though, that "all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God" (Rom. 3:23) and original sin is taught in the Bible (Rom. 5). If that wasn't proof enough that by our own "righteousness" we can't make it to heaven, you can just ask the Apostle Paul himself: Paul, is there any righteous enough to make it to heaven? "There is none righteous." Paul, are you sure? Do you hold that there's not even one person that's righteous? "No, not one." (Rom. 3:10)

      So now we've effectively proven that the 5 points of Moralistic, Therapeutic, Deism, are not only not taught in Scripture, they are the antithesis of Scripture. Yet this MTD is basically what is taught in the "seeker" movement today. For those of you that are familiar with the "seeker" movement, think for a second about the types of verses that are normally quoted by the leaders in this movement; are not the verses they usually quote, even if the verses are quoted out of context, in some sense formalizing to these 5 points that are listed above? Are not the verses that they omit quoting and actually rail against quoting often because of "their bad experience with fundamental churches as a child" opposed to the 5 points that are listed above? It's something to definitely think about, but I am convinced that Christian Smith has nailed it. It's another religion folks, and now, we have a name to call the beast.

      Here's an article by Christian Smith that deals with this subject. In this article, he addresses the subject of teenagers, but, through my experience of conversing with others within the "seeker" movement and hearing the "sermons" put forth by their leaders, I believe the conclusions presented in the following can be as aptly applied to older people and this movement as a whole as well. I highly, highly recommend it.:

      Moralistic Therapeutic Deism by Christian Smith
      Get your own at Scribd or explore others:

      HT: White Horse Inn (otherwise, I may not have heard of Christian Smith's study)


      Jaes said...

      Just a nit. Can you fix the spelling for therapeutic in your article? It's correct in the article you display in the body of your post. No biggie, but I've been a fan of the phrase since hearing it on White Horse Inn awhile ago!

      Anonymous said...

      I feel my former church was a hybrid of this, and of Dallas Willard's spiritual disciplines. We did have near altar calls too, confusing. They would have a sermon talking about the need for Christ and repentence, and have an altar call. I believe many of the pastors believe in the "bridge illustration" type Christianity. However, they became very theraputic...and now they appear to be headed to guilting people into clamping down for the disciplines. I'm not sure exactly what that is, but it's what I was seeing....

      Betsy Markman said...

      There is absolutely no more logical direction for hedonistic, self-absorbed, post-Christian America to go. It is the natural extension of self-worship...for now God worships us too! And it blends beautifully into every other New Age abomination out there, so that adherents will have no difficulty merging into the one-world religion.
      But if there's one thing that Reformation Day should remind us of, it's that God's arm is not shortened, and He is still mighty to save. Revival may come again!

      Lane Chaplin said...

      Thanks for letting me know, jaes. I actually tried to search for it on Google after I wrote it because it didn't look quite right, but I still got it wrong. Thanks again for the correction.

      Dusman said...

      Hi brother Lane,

      I have actually printed this article out, identified these five points, and taught against them from the Scriptures at the Christian school that I work at. The students have thoroughly enjoyed it and have learned a boatload about the Bible in the process.

      Dustin S. Segers

      Mother of Dog said...

      I'm a Jew so I have a question. Do you believe that although I am a wonderful human being who loves others and strives to do good - that I will burn in hell as opposed to a nasty Christian? I'm really asking, I'm not being sarcastic. I'd like to understand more how you view the world.


      Jews do not believe in hell. We believe that hell is three weeks with our parents in Miami, lol!

      Lane Chaplin said...

      Hi Mother of Dog,

      You ask "Do you believe that although I am a wonderful human being who loves others and strives to do good - that I will burn in hell as opposed to a nasty Christian?"

      A loaded question or a complex question as it is otherwise known as is an informal logical fallacy. What a loaded question basically is is a question that already assumes it's conclusion in the formation of it. For example, if someone were to ask you, "Did you quit beating your wife?" you either say "yes" which means that you were beating your wife or "no" which means that you're still beating her. Here you ask, "Do you believe that although I am a wonderful human being who loves others and strives to do good - that I will burn in hell as opposed to a nasty Christian?" Your question assumes that you are a wonderful human being. Isaiah in the Old Testament, though, said that "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." (Isa 64:6) and in the New Testament it tells us, "as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." "Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips." "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness." "Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known." "There is no fear of God before their eyes." "(Rom 3:10-18) That means that you, I, everyone are not "good human beings." It means that we're all sinful. Now, you also make the claim that you love others. Love is the fulfillment of God's law because it doesn't do harm to others. (Rom 13:10) Have you done no harm to others? Have you never lied to someone? Have you never stolen anything? Have you never looked at someone with lustful intentions? If you lie even one time, you're a liar. If you steal even one time, you're a thief. If you look at someone lustfully even once, you've committed adultery with them in your heart. I'm guilty of all these things. I'm willing to bet that you are, too. So to answer your question, we're all "really nasty", it's just that some of us are forgiven by trusting in Christ. Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Rom 10:4) We're justified now by faith alone in Him, His finished work on the Cross, and his resurrection from the dead. What the law was incapable of doing (redeeming sinners), He did. I encourage you to read the book of Romans and see how Paul deals with the Old Testament passages. Read it in one setting if possible. It's only about 16 short chapters. It's well worth it.

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