Why is moralistic therapeutic deism so wrong and so dangerous?
And how could anyone like me stand up and be concerned about a worldview that is telling people to be good and nice to each other? Welcome again to the Truth Pulpit with Don Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Hi, I'm Bill Wright, and today Don continues our series, Deception Close to Home, with part two of a message titled, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism and the One True God.
Last time, Don addressed the first of MTD's assumptions. There's a God that exists who created and orders the world and watches over it. The problem is that allows for every little G God out there, ignoring the exclusivity of the one true God. Today, our teacher will turn to moralistic therapeutic deism's second assumption. God's primary call on us is to be nice to one another.
Well, that sounds good on the surface, but you'll see what's missing. And here's a hint. The truth has revealed by scripture. So, friend, have your Bible open as we join Don Green now as he continues in his ministry of teaching God's people God's Word in the Truth Pulpit. God not only created the world, He sustains it.
People have life. You are here a living, breathing, animate being because God has given you breath to do so. He made you and He gives you breath. He is not remote and inactive and passively watching while you go on as an autonomous creature. Your very existence derives from Him and He is sovereign over life and death. In Ephesians chapter 1 verse 11, well let's turn there, Ephesians chapter 1 verse 11, He is predestined according to His purpose. He works all things after the counsel of His will. All things after the counsel of His will are being worked out by His sovereign direction. This is a God that is utterly distinct from the presuppositions and the mindset that we've called moralistic therapeutic deism. These two things are completely unrelated to one another.
These are mutually exclusive. In Colossians chapter 1, just turning over a couple of books, short books to your right, Colossians chapter 1, speaking of Christ, again you find Christ just... it's as if you're in the midst of this barren landscape, this vague barren landscape that has no definable topical features to distinguish it in your mind. There's just this vague landscape around you and you can't find your bearings, and then when you start to read scripture, what happens is Christ just powerfully rises up out of that and you see it could be no other way. As you examine these things, Christ rises in glory while the vague and deliberately ambiguous statements that pulpits and people make about God are shown to be the empty vacuous things that they are. And so in Colossians chapter 1 verse 15 it says, He is the image, speaking of Christ, of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. That doesn't mean that He was created, it means He has the highest preeminence. He's first in all creation. Verse 16, For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things have been created through Him and for Him.
He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. So we find that when we're talking about God, we have to get to Christ and talk about Christ. And when we start doing that, we see a great cleavage growing between MTD as it breaks off and starts to float away in the sea and drifts out into oblivion for the false worldview that it is and separates out from the truth that remains, the truth about God revealed in Christ, revealed in the God who is sovereign over all things.
Holster, George Barna, whose writings and conclusions I rarely agree with, but his surveys are helpful, said this in his book, The Second Coming of the Church, published several years ago. He said, and I quote, A majority of people believe that all people pray to the same God or spirit no matter what name they use for that spiritual being. So if you're praying, and I'm praying, we're praying to the same God even though we may use different names and have different conceptions about Him. It all ends up in the same place in the end.
Somehow our prayers mystically rise up to wherever God is and they all get there and arrive at the same destination and so we're all okay, we're all praying to the same God. And beloved, that is exactly what's wrong with moralistic therapeutic deism. That is exactly what's wrong with the spirit of our age. That's exactly what's wrong with so much of what passes for Christian teaching in the broader evangelical church today. A vague belief in God is not enough.
This is not true. Has anyone read, I'm not directing this to you, I know you've read it, but has anyone in this room of broad evangelical Christianity, has anyone read James chapter 2 verse 19? You believe that God is one, you do well, the demons also believe and shudder. Jews, Christians, Muslims, Mormons, Hindus, we do not believe in the same God. You must believe in the true sovereign God as He is revealed in the sixty six books of the Bible, as He is revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ, or you are not saved. You belong to the devil. You are a son of the father of lies. You're a son and a child of Satan if you don't believe that. And so there's just a lot of consequences here. Now, I realize I'm probably not offending anyone in this room with what I'm saying, but you know, if someone takes offense at that, that's okay.
They need to hear that. It's okay for someone to have a spiritual slap in their face if it would invigorate them and wake them up out of the spiritual slumber that would, if not roused out of it, would cause them one day to wake up with their first breath, finding themselves in a place of eternal judgment and torment, because they tried to come to God through their own, the way of their own choosing rather than the one way that He has given through our Lord Jesus Christ. So I don't care if I offend somebody.
I hope I offend a lot of people with what I'm saying here today, because the offense will show that yes, we're finally, now we're starting to connect and now we're starting to communicate. You're understanding enough to realize that what's being said here should offend you if you reject it, that it's a challenge, that Christ is a threat to you. People need to understand that Christ is a threat to them if they don't respond to Him in humble, repentant faith, because the one who offers himself as Savior today won't always offer himself that way.
The time will come when you'll stand before Him as a judge, and He will not be amused. And if you do not believe in the one true God, the one sovereign God revealed in Scripture and revealed in the Savior, you are guilty of the highest sin. You are guilty of idolatry, because you're worshipping a God of your own choosing, a God that you have made up, a God that is no God at all, and in giving honor to a God of your own imagination, you are robbing the true God of the honor that is rightfully His. And so, that's why we say that it's not enough to say a God exists who created and orders the world. We immediately want to say, what God are you talking about? What about Jesus Christ?
Who do you say that He is? And those kinds of questions lead you in a different direction than the worldview known as moralistic, therapeutic deism. Let's move on to the second point, the second aspect of this worldview. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
That's not what I'm saying, I'm quoting it in order to refute it, just to be clear. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions. What would we say about that? Well, moralistic therapeutic deism in this mindset, what you see is that its goal is preeminently behavioral, how you act in human relationships.
It's horizontal in its focus. It tells people to be nice, to be tolerant, to be accepting of everything. And it offers a promise that if you're like that, God will ultimately receive you into heaven. And so the focus is on being nice to others in a horizontal way, don't cause offense, don't offend people with what you say.
What are we to say about this? Morality is defined by God. Morality is defined in Scripture.
It is not defined by popular opinion, what the prevailing sentiment in culture is. Morality is defined by God. In the worldview of moralistic therapeutic deism, the reality is that for most people in our world today, popular culture is defining what is good, not Scripture.
And this is so elusive until you start to nail a few things down. Why is moralistic therapeutic deism so wrong and so dangerous on this very issue? And how could anyone like me stand up and be concerned about a worldview that is telling people to be good and nice to each other? Let me guess, you're probably opposed to lollipops too, aren't you? And to bunnies. I bet you don't like bunnies either, do you? And dogs, you don't like dogs? Yeah, no, I don't like dogs. Bunnies are okay.
Dogs, no, I don't like dogs. Amen. Thank you, brother. How can you be opposed to people being good, nice, and tolerant? Well, beloved, here's the deal with this worldview of moralistic therapeutic deism. All of their presuppositions are wrong. There are presuppositions that inform what they're saying. And here's what we have to understand and remember biblically.
And I'm going to tell you things that are so obvious, that we've emphasized so many times, that you'll say, oh yeah, of course. Biblically speaking, seven billion people in the world today, give or take a few hundred million. Biblically speaking, not one of them is good. Not one of them is nice. Because no one meets God's standard. We have to look at this vertically and say, what is God's perspective on individuals and upon humanity? And from God's perspective in Romans chapter three, there is no one who does good. There is no one who seeks for God.
There is not even one. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Matthew chapter five, verse 48, you shall be perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect. And so there's this standard of perfection.
There's this declaration that no one comes close to it. And all of a sudden you realize if that's the case, and if everyone has a heart that is naturally evil and wicked, as Jeremiah says, the heart is desperately sick, who can understand it? That's the biblical diagnosis of every man, woman, and child who has ever lived and ever will live until the return of Christ. Now, beloved, realize something then. To tell people that God declares to be evil, fallen, and wicked, to tell them to be good, is like telling a brick to be ice cream.
You are wasting your breath. A leopard cannot change its spots. In fact, Scripture goes so far as to say that even our so-called good works are not pleasing to God at all. Can I remind you of the book of Isaiah chapter 64? Isaiah chapter 64, verse 6? Isaiah chapter 64, verse 6 says, for all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment, and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities like the wind, they take us away. So even from a human perspective, things that we do that are comparatively good to the wicked things we see around us doesn't meet the standard of God. It's all unclean.
It's all filthy. And so to have a worldview that just comes in and bypassing Christ, bypassing the gospel, and simply telling people go out and be nice to each other, go out and be good to one another, and accept each other without bringing the conviction of the Word of God and His declaration of the fallen nature of every man, woman, and child, and the fact that we all fall short of His glory without talking about that is to miss the whole point. You cannot be good enough. You are not good enough. The whole presupposition is that you can be good, and Scripture says you cannot be good in yourself.
There is no one like that. Now, beloved, let me go a little bit further here and just remind you of something else about it. So, MTD is telling people to be good who don't have the nature to be good, but they're also misunderstanding the real demand of God.
The idea, it's all of this horizontal man-centered stuff, it just makes me want to throw up. It is nauseating, because this is not the preeminent demand of God, our Creator, our Sustainer, and one day our Judge. That is not the preeminent center of the call of God.
Look at Matthew chapter 22 as I continue to bring you back to familiar Scriptures. What does God really want? What does God want? What is His demand? The idea of MTD is He just wants us to be good and to be nice to each other.
That's not it. And it's not like Scripture has hidden His will in a corner where it can't be found. It's not like these issues haven't been discussed plainly by Christ while He was on earth.
Man came to Him. A lawyer, verse 36 of Matthew 22, said, Teacher, what is the great commandment in the law? What's the most important thing that we could glean from the law as given to us by Moses? Verse 37, He said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The greatest commandment is that you would give all of your internal allegiance with all of your powers to the one true God revealed in Scripture. That's the great commandment. He says the second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
You don't go there. You don't bypass the great commandment to get to the second one. The second one is an outworking of the first. And so this mindset misunderstands the real demand of God.
It's vertical. There's accountability to God. And not just accountability, but what God requires from man is to love him in spirit and in truth, John chapter 4, verse 24. And so the demand of God on men is directed toward God first and foremost.
And if you're bypassing that, you're missing the whole. God does not call men preeminently to be nice. He commands them to be obedient. He commands them to love him. And Scripture says that when they do not do that, his righteous wrath is on their disobedient spirit.
John chapter 3, verse 36, He who believes in the Son has eternal life, but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. And once again, we find Christ stepping into the breach of this abominable worldview and with great power and majesty and authority through his word, asserting his preeminence, and the absence of reverence for Christ, the absence of the call of the gospel, the absence of a focus on the true and sovereign God just becomes so evident by comparison that you realize that this has nothing to do with biblical Christianity. Moralistic, therapeutic deism is wrong because it does not see God's holiness. It does not see the preeminence of Christ, and it does not see the sin of man.
It's simply, it is simply an opiate offered to people who simply want to live a self-centered autonomous life without regard for the true demands of God upon their life and affections. Beloved, God does not sentimentally hope for human goodness to be manifested to other humans. Men do not need to feel better about themselves.
Good heavens, good night. That's the last thing we need is for people to have an even more elevated view of themselves than their proud pompous character is already manifesting. Men don't need to feel better about themselves. They need to be born again. They need to humble themselves before Christ and abandon all of their self-preoccupation.
Bow before Christ and with the Apostle Paul say, Lord, what would you have me to do to recognize the authority of Christ, the supremacy of Christ, to yield themselves to Him in a repentant faith that is a call upon every one of you here in this room as well. And so, beloved, we do not hesitate to say that the spirit of our age is an unrighteous false religion. We realize in saying that that we set ourselves in opposition to many professing churches. We make no apology for that because the honor and the glory of God compels us to do no less, and the need of lost souls compels us to do no less. And so we teach them the nature of God and that they fall short of His glory. And then we have the joy of telling them about Christ. We have the joy to tell people about an all-sufficient Savior whose righteousness and shed blood address their true need, not to feel better but to have their objective guilt before a holy God removed and a pure righteousness given to them as a gift that they can alone receive by faith in Christ. And we tell people not that you need to feel better or that you can feel better. Instead, we take it to a whole other realm, a much better, a much higher realm, and we promise people on the authority of the Word of God that they may have forgiveness of sin and eternal life through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Not a man-centered perspective limited to our few brief years on this earth and feeling good about ourselves. The true message of Scripture, the true message of the Gospel elevates our thoughts to a higher realm, says something completely different about the nature of man, and says, here is your need. Christ is your need. You need Christ. You must be saved. Come to Christ and be saved. And so I ask you, do you hold to the Spirit of this age or to Christ? May God send His Spirit upon our efforts individually and collectively as we seek to uphold truth in this dark and dying world.
So obedience to the one true God of Scripture must precede any good works we do, any niceness we convey, if you will, lest our good works be like filthy rags. Pastor Don Green will continue our series titled Deception Close to Home next time on The Truth Pulpit. Be sure to join us then. But right now, Don's back here in studio with some closing words.
Hi, friend. As we close today, I just want to make something available to you. You know, as you listen to these radio broadcasts, they have to fit into a 25 minute format. And we're very grateful for the opportunity the Lord's given us to do just that. But the radio messages are born out of a longer sermon message that contains more information, more background, a fuller explanation of the passage and what we're able to do on radio. So I encourage you to go to our website and find the link that says Follow Don's Pulpit. That'll lead you to a podcast that gives you the full length sermons from every Sunday and every Tuesday from my pulpit. I really think that it'll minister to you over time to hear the full length messages.
So we make that available for free and we would love you to join us in that way as well. Thanks, Don. And friend, to take advantage of what Don just mentioned, simply visit thetruthpulpit.com. That's thetruthpulpit.com. I'm Bill Wright, and we'll see you next time on The Truth Pulpit as Don Green continues teaching God's people, God's Word.
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