As described by Smith and his team, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism consists of beliefs like these: 1. “A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.” 2. “God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.” 3. “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.” 4. “God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.” 5. “Good people go to heaven when they die.”
Now for the shock.... none of those five statements is true on the whole and even those that might be partially true are so distorted as to make the truth within them unintelligible. Yet... many, dare I say most?, people who call themselves Christian will agree to them. In other words, Christianity has been so shifted from its moorings on Scripture and tradition that Christians are unable to recognize the wholesale makeover of the Christian faith into something that it is not, powerless to bestow what it promises, and complete incapable of leading us to God and to the life with God that is His gift and gracious will in Christ.
Rather than me rant against this, I found an Orthodox blogger who has succinctly answered MTD rather well. See if you do not agree... I could not help but add a few comments in green.
1. “A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.”
is only half true. The Incarnation is the direct contradiction of this
statement. It’s semi-deist, which holds the belief that God made the
world then withdrew from it and watches from a distant. Christ and His
incarnation directly contradict this. [Watch out for theistic evolution and for the devaluing of the Incarnation. It is the kiss of death to the authentic Gospel.]
2. “God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.”
only half true. There is NOTHING spiritual about being moral and nice
and good. Nothing at all. As you know, there are many atheists and
agnostics who are good people who have values and principles.
did not come to make bad men good, but to make dead men live is how my
priest puts it. Our problem is not one of morality, but of ontology. Father Stephen writes,
“The Orthodox contention is that morality fails to describe the true
nature of the Christian life. Rather the world ontological is more
proper: it means have to do with the very being of someone – their
essence. What we need is not a change in behavior (morality) but a
change in who we are (ontology). Christ came to change us, not reform
us. [Baptismal rebirth, the gift of new life, and the vocation of life that proceeds from that baptismal regeneration is the lens through which Christians talk. Christ did not come in the flesh, suffer, die, and rise again to make us better people but still dead but to make us dead people alive and from that new birth proceeds the new life which embraces the commandments not in fear but in love, the new heart created anew in Christ for good works.]
does not use Orthodox means – it’s all in the ‘head.’ It is rules.
Ontological change requires that our very being or existence (thus the
word existential) be united with Christ, His life becomes our life and
thus we live a new life.” This contradicts MTD.
3. “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.”
thought is very pagan and hedonistic. God is not your therapist or pal
in the sky who solves your problems. It’s bad theology, and it fails to
deal seriously with sin and the falling out of communion with God that
we have experienced. Of course the goal of our living is “the Good
Life”, but I will go on the record to say that that does not mean being
happy all the time and feeling great about one’s self. Nor does it mean
being gloomy, downplaying the Image within us, and having too low a view
of anthropology as the Calvinist would. The Good Life can mean a lot of
things, and I do not want to digress too much into said topic. [The Joel Osteens and his wannabes who profess your best life now have betrayed the Gospel with an illusive dream that always ends in death, eternal death, and eternal unhappiness. This is not about nuance but about truth -- the truth that saves.]
4. “God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.”
This is again contradictory to Christian teaching and the Incarnation. God is involved in every aspect of our lives.
For more on this I recommend reading Father Stephen’s book,
“Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Story Universe.” He states
the thesis that we have created this false 2 story universe where God
is up there somewhere and should stay there, and that we are all down
here with the physical world of secularism, which does not deny there is
a god, but that seeks to put Him in His proper place in the second
story where He can mind His own business and we’ll mind ours. It again
contradicts the incarnation.
Kingdom of heaven is here and now and present. There is but one story
in this universe not two. God is here and now. We have tried to push Him
out, but it is never going to work. God is very active and moving. St.
Luke tells us in Acts that “in Him we live, and move, and have our
being”. St. Paul says in Colossians that “all things all together in
Him.” I believe our very being, our existence, our very breath is held
together by Him. He is alive and active in our hearts. If one is a true
believer than one would never say God is there just to solve a problem.
The Scriptures make it clear we are the Holy Temple in whom the Spirit
dwells. [Maybe it is time we stopped pointing to heaven when our kids ask us where God is. The sad truth is that we have come to believe it and the false myth of a distant God whose presence must be invoked. Vocatus atque non vocatus Deus aderit.]
5. “Good people go to heaven when they die.”
is false because, again, as Father writes in the blog I linked to
earlier, it is not about being “good” or “bad”. It’s about being alive
and being in communion with God; it’s about being changed
ontologically. [Here the Athanasian Creed (Quicumque Vult) spells it out clearly (unless we quote mine and separate the words at the end from the beginning). Whoever would be saved must what? Confess the Trinity, worship the Trinity, live within the life of the Trinity, as Jesus has revealed in His incarnation and the Spirit imparted whom He sent in His name.]