In our service this past Sunday we introduced the idea of Moral Therapeutic Deism. The term was coined by sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Denton to describe what most Americans believe in 2005. You can read more about their findings in their book Soul Searching or with Al Mohler's analysis. Moral Therapeutic Deism is basically legalism or moralism. Here are the five core beliefs:
The fundamental problem with Moral Therapeutic Deism is essentially this: mankind is good enough to find its way to God, we don't need God's saving grace. They think that being moral or good law-keepers is the key to salvation.
The problem with this is that it is subtle, and often goes by the name "Christian," even though, underneath it is anything but.
So what do moral therapeutic deists look like? How do you spot them?
Here are three possible examples of Moral Therapeutic Deists:
Churchgoers: Sometimes they are really moral people. People mistake things that Christians do: reading the Bible, going to church, praying, etc. for good things to earn their way to heaven. They think that if they are really religious people, that God will accept them. They need to hear the gospel of grace, that these things will never be enough for them to get to God, but that God provides them a free way.
"Good People": Sometimes these moralists don't think church is necessary. They think that if they vote Republican, don't lie, don't cheat, send their kids to get baptized, then they will be good. They mistake being a good Christian with being a good human being. They think that being a good member of society is enough for God. They are those people you say, "Well they're good at heart." They need to know that they can't be good enough husbands or wives, good enough workers, good enough fathers or mothers to get to heaven.
Ashamed: These are the people who have tried to be a good Christian or tried to be a good husband and they have just not measured up. These are the people who are afraid to enter a church because they feel so ashamed. They carry around the weight of guilt. They are the prodigal sipping pig food out of the trough. These are the people who need to hear, "God has provided his son to save you." They need to hear the words of Jesus that all who are burdened by sin can feel at peace because his yoke is light.
Do you know anyone like this? Will you share the good news of the gospel with them?
DL Moody is one of the most celebrated evangelists in church history. The worldwide church would not be what it is without his influence. Yet many people don't know that one of DL Moody's sons went through a prodigal season. We see how DL's passion for evangelism melded with his loving heart of a father with this excerpt of a letter from his biography:
...the thing that hurts me worst is that you have no desire to know Christ. Sometimes my heart is so heavy & sad to think that you have such contempt for one that has done so much for your mother & father, all that we are or have has come from him & you have been saved from an early grave I think in answer to prayer & now when you have strength & health given to you & are now in a position to do good you turn against the truest & best friend you will ever have. For the life of me I cannot see why you should have taken such a dislike to Christ.
I sometimes think it is my fault, if I had lived more consistent you would not be so disgusted with what is so near my heart. Last September was the happiest month of my life when I thought you had really started for the kingdom of God but when I returned home & found you were more indifferent than ever my heart sank within me. I have not talked much with you for fear I would turn you more against him whom I love more than all the world & if I have ever said or done anything unbecoming a Christian father, I want you to forgive me & would rather die than to stand in your way.
In these heart-wrenching paragraphs, we can learn a few things:
1. Faith is not genetic. My mom always says that "God has no grandchildren." Parents need to share the gospel with their kids, pray hard, and apologize when they go amiss. Each generation needs to rediscover the beautiful savior for themselves. Not even the children of the greatest evangelist the world has ever known inherited it.
2. Evangelism by love. One thing that strikes me is that Moody so loved Christ that the thought of someone not loving Christ like he did was shocking, sorrowful, and painful for him. This compelled Moody to evangelize and share his faith, so that all would come to love Jesus Christ like he did.
3. Christians can feel sad. From all accounts, including his sons', Moody was a wonderful father. Yet when something so hurtful happened, Moody was able to express his doubts, his fears, and his pain honestly. Christians are allowed to be sad.
Southern Heights Christian Church
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