Christian Smith at Notre Dame and his team of researchers came up with the title of America's religion: Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. As the name belies, it's the religion of becoming a better person who feels good and does so essentially by one's self. A brief synopsis of its tenets:
- A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
- This god wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
- The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
- This god does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when this god is needed to resolve a problem.
- Good people go to heaven when they die.
Here's why that works in America but not in the Bible. America is a place of religious diversity by design, has generally been freedom-loving people, and (yes, imperfectly) has tolerated those who differ from us individually as long as they don't assault what holds us in common. MTD works great for that scenario. You might even make the argument that America's structure has created this religion. Maybe so.
But the Bible takes issue with every tenet:
(1) There is God, Creator and Orderer of all natural things, but who quite literally holds all things together (Col. 1).
(2) This God of the Bible doesn't want people to be nice - He wants to transform them into people who reflect His character.
(3) The central goal of every breathing human being, indeed of all creation, is to give God glory - that is to see Him for who He is and enjoy Him for who He is.
(4) Because God holds everything together and is in the transformation business, He is intimately involved in every aspect of life, caring even for sparrows who fall to the ground.
(5) Nice people with good manners, gruffer people who have good work ethics, and the worst of the murderers are all sentenced to a just punishment for eternity in an existence separated from God. Heaven is reserved for those who put their trust in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross, where He paid for our sins, and His resurrection, where He gave us life. He wasn't just an example to follow - He is the payment that saved us.
All of this prompts us not to pursue our security but the beauty and power of God's Kingdom coming through everyday occurrences, intentional servanthood, and taking care of those who can't take care of themselves. The worldview of Christianity (vs. the worldview of MTD) prompts us outward into ministry that matters. May it be true of me (and you too).
But that's just me thinking thoughts...