Thursday, February 17, 2005

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

I know the title makes me nauseous and confused too! Bear with me. I was in a wedding back during the summer and the groom was more creative than average and decided to hand pick all the groomsmen gifts. My gift, a magazine! (I love magazine and newspapers) The mag is called, “Books and Culture” (If I was more blog savvy I would link it for you.) At any rate, I got my first issue yesterday and in it was a book review on the book, “Soul Searching.” Apparently, this is a book about religion in teenage culture by a well-known sociologist, Christian Smith.
In the little interview with the author this phrase appears, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. The author meansa view of god that provides a moral framework and comfort in the unknown. The author says that most of the teenagers in his research have this type of a believe in Christ. He even broadens his statements to include most of the Christian population.
This past weekend I was having a conversation with my dad driving through backwoods Mississippi. We were chatting about how most of the members of my mother’s family have fear as the over arching theme of their faith and how it is crippling my grandparents. During this conversation my dad states his believe as clearly as I have ever heard him state it, and he describe what this author calls Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. After reading this article and reflecting on the conversation with my dad, I can see how this view of Christ is very popular in the church. As I have thought about it repeatedly the past two days, it makes me very sad and angry that Christ has been reduced to a Moralistic Therapeutic deity.


geoff said...

great post, TP. thanks for putting these reflections out there. as a matter of fact i was reading a post by tony jones this morning about the very same book.

i think this is a huge issue for us as we live missionally in the world and also continue conversations with the American Church. It's also increasingly relevant as we raise children together and are helping form the next generation of Jesus-people.

thanks again TP.

ps: the link to books and culture is here.

geoff said...

i'm not sure why that link to tony's post didn't i go again:

Kevin Rector said...

While it might make him sad to a degree, I doubt that being reduced to a moralistic therapeutic deism makes Christ angry because he's so big and has so much grace that I'm sure he can handle it.

It's like Nicodemus. It was better for Nick to come to Christ in the dark than not at all.

I think the challenge for those who would lead the church is to help people get past seing God and self-help and seeing him as master and father, and brother, and friend.

But that's just what I think, I could be wrong.

lisa g said...

These are interesting thoughts. I appreciate the challenge of the church being to help people see God as something bigger, not just feel sad or angry at what isn't seen.

Something I'm not sure about is that grace and anger need to be mutually exclusive. I don't want to presume to know what Jesus would feel about certain things, but there are accounts of him being angry in the Gospels-- Particularly when the people who are called to be God's chosen people do not seem to understand what He is about. Perhaps I'm also challenged to learn how to be angry but still loving and full of grace.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for putting this issue out there for others to see. I work in youth ministry and this is a problem that the whole community needs to be involved in because it is rising at an incredible rate. Teens are completely misguided in their lives and drastic measures need to be taken before this issue hits more generations to come.