Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is what Western Christianity has been leaning towards in this day and age. It's taught from pulpits all over Australia as we copy off the mega-churches in the US as the foolproof method for church success. But even when it's not taught, it is largely assumed as pre-conceived secular beliefs meld in to make a whole new Christianity.
These are the characteristics pointed out by Christian Smith with Melinda Lundquist Denton who coined the term 'Moralistic Therapeutic Deism ' in the book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Eyes of American Teenagers.
1. "A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth."
Reasonably accurate but it delves into deism by the omission that God does get personally involved in people's lives. God is not some impotent spectator; He does reach out but is often ignored even by His own people. Just because God doesn't choose always to act against evil or in cases of prayer, it does not mean that He is not personal in His comfort and relationships with human beings.
2. "God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions."
Jesus went further. We are to give away freely, not only of our possessions but also of all we have. Not only should we give freely to others, we also must bring our first fruits to God: our abilities, our love, our time, our money.
So many people spend their live on fruitless pursuits and not on things that will bring more people into the Kingdom. But they don't realize that everything they're doing in this life will be burnt up if it's not for Christ! Life is too short to spend on fruitless pursuits.
So it's not about being nice, it's about sacrificing everything - even your own life.
3. "The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself."
Here's a major problem - taking secular values and trying to make them Christian. What's worse is that very few pastors care enough to try to fight this faulty premise adopted by millions of Christians, picking other battles to wage war against. If people are happy, it's not harming anyone, is the assumption. But that is anti-Christianity.
In Christianity we are meant to lay aside our own comfort and happiness for that of other people. To count ourselves lower than others. To count the cost, and pay that cost even at a detriment to ourselves.
4. "God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to resolve a problem."
God is better left in the background, because if God is in the foreground you'll be made uncomfortable and driven towards a little something called repentance. Repentance isn't popular anymore (if it ever has been). If it is acknowledged at all, it's just treated as a once off - something you do when you're first saved and never have to think about again.
5. "Good people go to heaven when they die."
Hell is a hot button issue. Non-believers who are friends of mine seem to zero in on that grievance about Christianity regularly. "No way would MY God send people to Hell." No way would a lot of people's gods send people to Hell. Except those gods have no basis in reality and completely write off any sense of judgment and justice.
Holiness demands a hell. "There a none righteous, no not one." Nobody deserves to be in the presence of God - we are to be forever grateful if we are.
MTD: Easier than taking up our sword.
A lot of Christian hip-hop features Ephesians 6:12-18 mentality; the armor of God, the Christian warrior, being radical and full of zeal. But who is teaching young people that they need to think like a Christian warrior or about the genuine fight for survival against the negative influences of the world, the flesh and the devil? Instead many are subscribing to the MTD easy-ride where they don't have to do anything, rather than to fight the good fight for the sake of the Lord.
I believe the classics should be essential reading and understanding by young Christians. Foxes Book of Martyrs should clearly show how big of a commitment Christianity is. It's not about feeling good - it's about struggling upstream against a torrent of worldly temptations and distractions even to the point of death. A Pilgrim's Progress should show that we are to always be on the path toward God's Kingdom - actively, not passively.
Let us not be ignorant about MTD plaguing the church.
R. Albert Mohler Jr. said that Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is the "dominant religion of this American age" and that "our responsibility is to prepare the church to respond to this new religion, understanding that it represents the greatest competitor to biblical Christianity". But as far as I can see it's not going addressed.
These qualities of MTD and not true Christianity will continue to be assumed from the pulpits unless they are directly addressed. I encourage everyone to make their pastors aware of MTD today and expose it for the lie that it is.
Bridget Brenton has been researching apologetics, philosophy and the paranormal for years. You can check her apologetic effort out at 101arguments.com
Bridget Brenton's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/bridget-brenton.html