What is the problem with moralistic therapeutic deism?
Two words, Jesus Christ. Thanks for joining us on the Truth Pulpit with Don Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. I'm Bill Wright, and today Don will continue teaching God's people God's word. With more of our series, Deception Close to Home, and part two of a message titled, What is Moralistic Therapeutic Deism?
Last time, Don first offered a broad definition of the term and then began looking at one term at a time. To be moralistic is to be pleasant and non-confrontational, ignoring doctrinal errors. To be therapeutic is the idea that faith should make you feel good about yourself and God, whereas scripture says we must be humbled. On today's program, Don will examine the meaning of deism in full context.
So friend, have your Bible open and ready as we join Pastor Don Green right now in the Truth Pulpit. May I point out to you that moralistic therapeutic deism is the religion of Joel Osteen and all those like him about how God wants you to have your best life now, and God's on your side without any indication that God was ever against you in the first place, that God is a righteous judge who is angry with sinners every day, as Psalm 7 says. None of that, Romans 1, none of that has any place in moralistic therapeutic deism because the whole purpose of God is to make you feel better.
And why would he be angry with you then if that's the purpose of life and religion? MTD is driving a gospel presentation that leads with the idea that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Let me tell you, God can help you. God can fix you. God can make you feel better. That's what they mean.
That's what this sense of therapeutic means in MTD. And beloved, here's the problem. Here's the problem. As long as you're happy, as long as you feel happy, then you don't need to fuss over what the truth is. You don't need to fuss over what true doctrine is. You don't even need to fuss over what the real gospel message is. If you feel good, religion, faith has attained its purpose and there is nothing further to explore. There's no reason to discuss it any further. That's lethal.
That's dangerous. What I want you to see again is that this is all earthbound. It's all man-centered. The whole purpose of faith is to give you subjective benefits. It provides therapy for you as you go through the challenges of life. And the spirituality of this worldview then is geared toward the inner feelings of people rather than a revealed standard of righteousness from a holy God that has been made known in the 66 books of the Bible. You don't need the Bible if MTD is true.
You don't need the Bible as long as you feel good about yourself. It divorces truth from religion. Well, let's go to a fourth point here. Number four, what does deism mean in moralistic therapeutic deism? It means this. The deism of this worldview, of this set of presuppositions relates to its view of God. And the deism is this.
Oh, this is so very important. A God exists who created the world and defines our general moral order, but he is not particularly personally involved in your affairs. He keeps a safe distance. In other words, he allows you your autonomy. You can go through life as you wish. God does not have a standard of righteousness that he applies to you or by which he will judge you.
He keeps to himself pretty much. This God is not demanding. This God makes no assertions, moral requirements upon your soul or upon your life. In fact, in this worldview, God can't be like that. God can't be demanding because, follow me here, beloved, God can't be like that because God's job is to solve our problems and to make people feel good. That's why he exists is so that you would feel good.
Now, if the point is to make you feel good, in what sense could he ever make demands, unwelcome demands upon you? He couldn't do that. That would be contrary to the reason he exists.
In what sense, if God is keeping a safe distance, in what sense is there any room for what Jesus said the ministry of the Holy Spirit would be, that he would convict the world of sin, judgment, and righteousness? But under the worldview of MTD, God is something like a roadside assistance mechanic. Driving along, your car's doing well, you don't need the roadside mechanic. There's no reason to know him. You don't know who he is. There's no personal relationship there. That roadside mechanic makes no demands on your life. He has nothing to do with your life in normal circumstances. But, when something breaks down, when you're stranded alongside the road, he will come and fix it for you with no expectation of a personal relationship afterwards. He'll come and he'll fix things for you, get you going again, but there's no expectation, no demands.
He's just there to get you up and running again as soon as possible. This God of MTD, God in quotes with a small g, this is a nice God who helps you be nice and to feel nice. If you're sad, if you're discouraged, he helps you feel better. If you have problems, he'll intervene, he'll help you. But beyond that, he's not involved in the affairs of your life or of the world. He accepts you as you are and he makes no demands upon you. Now, what's the natural outcome of that when it comes to death and heaven and hell? In this MTD framework, most everyone goes to heaven when they die.
Why wouldn't they? Why would God send me to hell? I'm nice and he likes me. And who wouldn't like me?
I'm nice. Now, beloved, for people who want autonomy and pleasant circumstances, this religion of moralistic therapeutic deism is exactly what the doctor ordered. I just want to live my life without any problems.
I want to be my own boss and I want things to go well with me. If something happens and I need some help, I'll call upon God like George Bailey did in It's a Wonderful Life. God, I'm not a praying man, but I don't know what to do here and so I need your help here on the assumption that God will just automatically jump and respond to them just because they ask. And so if you want a life without God making any demands upon you, if you want a life free from moral obligation, if you simply want out of life good circumstances that are comfortable without any challenges or trials that you have to go through, then you are a prime candidate to be deceived and sucked in by this worldview that we have called moralistic therapeutic deism. If you just want to be happy, that's the place to go. If you just want to be happy, man, spool up Joel Osteen and let the image that his dentist and his hairstylist have put together in an external way take you for a ride. It'll be smooth as silk.
It'll go down like syrup. Why wouldn't you do that? Why don't we all become moralistic therapeutic deists except for the fact that it takes a lot longer to say that than to say I'm a Reformed Baptist? You go and tell somebody you're a moralistic therapeutic deist.
They've given up on you by the sixth syllable and they're going off to something else. What's the problem with this worldview? What is the problem with moralistic therapeutic deism?
What stands in the way of it? Two words. It is the same two words that guarantee you the authority of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The problem with moralistic therapeutic deism is Jesus Christ.
He runs the whole system. He is the mortal enemy of moralistic therapeutic deism. And if you wanted to add a fifth point to your notes here, you could just write it out as Christ in MTD. Jesus Christ and his clear words in Scripture reject the horizontal moralism of MTD. Let's turn to the Gospel of John chapter 3.
The words of Christ reject the horizontal moralism of MTD. He said in John chapter 3 verse 3, "'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Unless you have been born from above, unless God does a work in your heart, you cannot enter the kingdom.'
It's immediately vertical with Christ. Unless you're born of the Spirit, you cannot enter into the kingdom of God,' he says in John chapter 3 verse 5. In verse 7 he says, "'You must be born again.'" There is no place for the new birth. There is no need for the new birth.
There is no need for regeneration in MTD because everybody's just fine the way they are. Christ will have none of it. He says you have to be born again.
And if you're not born again, you're not going to heaven. There's no room for that in MTD. Christ is an uncomfortable presence for those who hold to this mindset, for those who govern their life according to this man-centered false approach to God and life.
Can I point out something else? We talked about the moralism of MTD meaning that, you know, you need to be someone that people like. No, no, that can't possibly be true because people just remember, remember the whole problem with MTD is Jesus Christ. He is the whole problem with this worldview. And the problem here that Christ presents to this worldview, may I remind you, is that men did not like him. They called him Beelzebul, attributed his works to Satan, and when their words weren't enough, they crucified him. We will not have this man reign over us. We have no king but Caesar. Crucify him, crucify him, crucify him, they cried out to Pilate.
They hated him. There is no possibility that the worldview of MTD is true if it can't include Jesus Christ. Not only that, Christ himself rejected any idea of a therapeutic self-absorption about feeling good about yourself. Look at John chapter 8, turn there with me. In John chapter 8, verse 21, Jesus said to the Jews, I go away and you will seek me and you will die in your sin.
Where I am going, you cannot come. Jesus tells them plainly, you are going to die in sin. He's not making them feel good about themselves, he is warning them about their spiritual condition, that they are on the brink of eternal perdition. The Jews didn't buy it, verse 22.
Surely he won't kill himself, Willie, since he says where I'm going, you cannot come. And he was saying to them, you are from a below, I'm from above, you are of this world, I am not of this world. You have nothing to do with the realm of God.
That's hardly going to make them feel good. And in verse 24 he says, therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins. MTD encourages people, if by nothing else, by its silence, to bypass Christ as a means of reconciliation to God.
It teaches people that they can just call out to God, however they are, whoever they are, wherever they are, they can just cry out and God will immediately bend to their will and do whatever they want him to do to make them feel better. Jesus is having nothing of that. He said, unless you believe in me, you're going to die in your sins. And so Christ rejects their moralism, demanding that they be born again.
He rejects this therapeutic self-absorption, I hope you feel better, I want to make you feel better. And he comes alongside and he warns people, you're going to die in your sins without me. And there's another aspect, the deism of MTD. The words of Christ reject this idea of a distant, undemanding God. You cannot reconcile the God of MTD with the words of Christ. Look at John chapter 14.
I want to look at a couple of passages here. John chapter 14, familiar passage. In verse 6 he says, I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me. He speaks to all of humanity. He speaks to every man, woman, boy, and girl that has ever lived and ever will live. Unless you come to God through me, you will not come to him at all.
That's pretty demanding. That's a vertical assertion over against the idea that God is just distant and undemanding and all he wants to do is help you out when you've got a problem that's making you feel bad. Christ steps into this mindset and obliterates it by his authority and by his claims. Turn back to the gospel of Mark chapter 8.
A distant, undemanding deity? Not Christ. Mark chapter 8, verse 34. He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, if anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. He demands personal allegiance and self-denial if you are to become a Christian.
And if you don't want that, if you just want to keep it to yourself, he says in verse 35, whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake in the gospels will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? You get everything you want out of life, he says, well and good, but you just lost your soul. Make a choice.
What do you want? Without me, you can gain the world and lose your soul. Beloved, Christ did not come to affirm you in your goodness. He came to save you from sin. In Luke chapter 5, verses 31 and 32, we don't need to turn there, he said, I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
It's not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. And so the only people that are reconciled to God are those who come to Christ for forgiveness of sin. Otherwise, they are lost, no matter how good they feel about themselves during this lifetime. And the last thing that Christ did was to come and to affirm people with a preoccupation, with the horizontal matters of the things of this temporary life. Look at John 15, John 15, and this idea that the whole purpose of religion, the whole purpose of morality is to make you somebody that the world will like. I remember someone telling me over 30 years ago, you know, if people could just be nice, if we could just be Christians and just be nice and smile at each other, more people would become Christians. What a foolish, simplistic statement that has nothing to do with anything that Scripture says about the matter.
Christ said the exact opposite in verse 18. He says, if the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own, but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this, the world hates you. True Christians, those who have, pardon the expression, true religion, those who are truly in Christ are not going to be loved by the world at all. Why do you think it is that Facebook silences so many Christians in the things that they say? Elsewhere, the Apostle John said, in 1 John chapter 3 verse 13, you don't need to turn there, it's a brief verse, he said, do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.
Don't be surprised. This is the nature of true life in Christ, is that it sets you in opposition to the world. And if the world crucified Christ, you better believe that it's going to hate his true disciples. They hated the master, they'll hate his servant.
This isn't difficult in the sense that it's not hard to understand. And so, beloved, we come to the end of our time today with the recognition that the spirit of moralistic, therapeutic deism opposes biblical Christianity. It is a seductive, soul-killing flattery of the pride of man and the autonomy of man. And the fact that teaching like this predominates in a lot of Christian pulpits should not restrain us from condemning it and exposing it and warning people that what you are hearing is not true Christianity according to the words of Jesus Christ at all. Our only defense against this, when it so flatters our minds and is so appealing to our carnal desires, our only defense against this is the words of Christ found in Scripture, in the inerrant word of God that teaches us the truth and that teaches us to deny ourselves and to come to Christ, pick up our cross and follow after Him.
Something that has nothing to do with this worldly spirit that passes for religion in our perverted and degraded age. So, friends, it's worth asking after a time like this, who is your God? Is it the God of the Bible as He has made Himself known in the Lord Jesus Christ? Or have you been seduced and following after this God of moralistic, therapeutic deism who is no God at all?
He was simply a God of your own selfish heart, wanting what you want, wanting your autonomy, wanting pleasant circumstances without any regard to Christ. You don't need to be a Christian to want your circumstances to go well. You don't need to be a Christian to want to pray to a God who will help you whenever you demand His presence to jump and serve you. You don't need to be a Christian for that. The reason is that's not Christianity.
I haven't even gotten started with what I want to say. We will spend the next few weeks dismantling it and come to clearer convictions about what we believe and what we're privileged to proclaim. As we've been reminded today on The Truth Pulpit, we can't achieve Godly goodness in our own power. We must rely only on the righteousness of Christ.
That realization puts the lie to moralistic, therapeutic deism, or what we'll call MTD for short. Next time, Don will take a closer look at the contrast between MTD and the one true God. So plan now to join us as we continue our series, Deception Close to Home. Right now, though, here again is Don with news of a special resource. Well, my friends, as we wrap up today's broadcast, I just want to say a quick word about the tremendous pressure that our culture is bringing against biblical morality. Even Christian leaders are starting to waffle on these most basic issues of biblical truth and righteousness. But God's Word has not changed, and I know that you, if you're a familiar listener to this broadcast, you want to stand firm on this issue just like I do. Well, what we want to do is put into your hands our series titled The Bible and Homosexuality. It's available by CD or by free download, and my friend Bill is going to help you find it right now. Just visit us at TheTruthPulpit.com and click on Radio Offers to learn more. That's TheTruthPulpit.com. I'm Bill Wright, and we'll see you next time as Don Green continues teaching God's people God's Word, here on The Truth Pulpit.
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