Moralistic Therapeutic Deism?

…Is this the New American Religion?

Pastor Jason Robertson recently re-posted a link to a 2005 article by Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Seminary, in which he critiques a then recent study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which found that the faith held by most young people today amounts to a form of squishy deism, rather than the robust and magnificent Christian faith held by our ancestors. The researchers labeled the religion of today as “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.”



A common misconception of Christianity is that the Bible, which Christians adhere to, is filled with mythical stories whose primary goal is moral application. Sadly, the topical preaching found in most all Evangelical and Fundamentalist pulpits today has led the younger generations to conclude that the Bible is just a book of moralistic stories which are used to teach personal lessons of conduct. Tools like the Life Application Study Bible or Charles Stanley’s Life Principles Study Bible re-enforce this misunderstanding.

The Problem

The problem with turning Christianity into a moralistic organization, rather than a redemptive organization, is that it undermines the Gospel message, the core distinctive of the Christian faith. Once the Gospel is undermined, Christianity is no different than Romanism, Islam, Judaism, and other false religion that teaches a grace-less means of self-improvement/salvation apart from the Grace of Christ alone. As Christianity loses it singular distinction, confused young church dropouts see no difference between one “path” and another. Isalm teaches morals, Christianity teaches morals, Budhism teaches morals, I have my own morals and you have yours – it’s all the same and yet its all personalized – sadly it all ultimately has man as its god and brings spiritual death.


The only corrective is a return to the redemptive-historical Biblical-Theological method of expository preaching, aimed at systematically teaching God’s unfolding plan of redemption, as revealed in Scripture, with Christ, not morals or Israel at the center!


People want to believe that God is on their side. Their consciences tell them there IS a god, and all men have a tendency to try to fashion this god to our own personal benefit.

The Problem

The problem with preaching a prosperity god is that it turns Christianity into superstition. The god of this religion is a magic genie who exists to grant wishes when the magic lamp of religion is rubbed in just the right way. The mentality is at the root of the charismatic movement, prosperity gospel, liberalism, and revivalism. Any religion that puts man, his wants, desires, needs, and happiness at the center, is man-made and false.

The Solution

A robust and full preaching of the Gospel of Christ – the depravity of man and the Sovereignty of God. Men need to understand their inherent evil and lack of natural good in order to appreciate the true goodness of mercy of God and in order to appreciate His true Holiness. And, man needs to see the majestic and transcendent Holiness of God, in order to appreciate his own utter depravity. With these two in proper focus, the heart is prepared to reach to God with empty hands, begging only for mercy, and ready and willing to humbly obey and to live a life in subjection to a higher calling – the glory of God.


It is naturally embedded into the heart of man that there is a God (James 2:19, Romans 1), but to ascent unto the Christian God of Holiness and Justice is to turn from sin and self love – which the natural man is not willing or capable of (Rom 8, 1 Cor 1-2).

The Problem

It has been hip in recent times for young folks who are out of church to maintain a sort of agnosticism or deism about religion. This can be the safe house for one that is genuinely confused about the truth claims of, say, Biblical Christianity versus Catholicism versus Mormonism (etc); or, more likely, it can be a lazy excuse for pursuing ones own agenda at the expense of looking to God’s perfect Word.

The Solution

The only solution is to preach the Gospel without compromise. Christianity MUST NOT conform to the least common denominator mentality in order to widen its tent. Truth is exclusive! Jesus is exclusive (John 14). We must bring the Gospel message into sharp contrast to the relativism of today, not capitulate to it.

According to the research, todays religious young hold to beliefs listed below. As you can see, there is a kernel of truth in each, but a subtle partial spiritual truth is a soul-damned lie, when it comes to the gospel –

1. A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.

True as far as it goes, but this is a personal and eminent God. One who is Holy and has communicated His holiness to man and one who will judge man.

2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.

True as far as it goes, but the inability of man to save himself is not emphasized here – this confusing message conflates all religion into one and the same message – do good works to save your soul.

3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.

This is the central tenant of Satanism – worship of self. Happy is defined as pleasure and one defines oneself as one’s own god of pleasure. The core of the Christian faith, in contrast, is to glorify God by loving him and our neighbor.

4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.

Here’s the pop-psychology! This carnal mind is the enemy of God (Rom 8:7).

5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

Wrong! Perfect people go to Heaven when they die. Yeah, but no one is perfect right? Wrong! Christ is! Are you IN Christ? Do you have Christ’s righteousness as your own? No? Then you have NOTHING whatsoever to offer.

Romans 3:10-19 says,

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.


2 thoughts on “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Moralistic Therapeutic Deism? « Abraham's Seed --

  2. Let us say, my friend that you were caught Jay-Walking downtown, walking across the street when the light said “Don’t Walk” or flashed that Red Hang signal. And you were arrested for this offense and put in jail until your trial. I was your prosecutor, and when the trial came to court, and I proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that you indeed Jay-Walked (lets say there was a video). So you are convicted of that crime. Now it is the sentencing phase, and I get up and say (to your utter shock and amazement):

    “Your honor, you know that by the underlying principle of our legal justice system, he which is found guilty of the most minor offense is considered guilty of all other offenses. Therefore, I move that the defendant be sentenced either to life in prison without parole or to death by lethal injection, for this murder, rape, child-molesting, insurrection, bribery, extortion, and so on, which he has been found guilty of.”

    You would think I had taken leave of my senses and assume that the judge would laugh me out of court. But after the judge agreed and sentenced you to death, and after an appeal to the Supreme Court showed that they agreed with the judgment, you would indeed die regardless how shocked and baffled you might be!!!

    But why? Who would come up with such an absurd legal principle as that he which is found guilty of the most minor offense is considered guilty of all other offenses? What strange form of insanity is this, that a Jay-Walker be punished as a murdering rapist?

    James 2:10 “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”

    So the KJV. The NIV is even more clear, for it says “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”

    This passage does not mean (as Christians tend to euphemistically interpret it) merely that every sin is considered as lawbreaking. Nay, it means that he which commits the most minor offense (telling a little white lie for example) is condemned by God as if he had committed all other offenses too (murder, rape, etc.) despite the fact that he clearly has not actually committed such offenses.

    It is on this basis and this unjust basis alone that it can be said within the context of Christianity that everyone deserves eternal torment in hell fire whether their sins are small or large. The one who has only committed one sin of the smallest and most harmless sort is nonetheless, according to this basic principle of the Christian system, considered to be guilty of all other offenses and is condemned to eternity in hell more on the basis of the sins he didn’t commit (but is nonetheless condemned for) than on the one sin he did actually commit.

    My point is that your worldview is entirely based on an unjust principle, the principle of James 2:10. And it is only within this framework of yours that asserts plainly that God is unjust (for it asserts that God operates his court of justice on this absurdly unjust principle) that you condemn Moralism and Deism, or Moralistic Deism.

    You say: “5. Good people go to heaven when they die. Wrong! Perfect people go to Heaven when they die. Yeah, but no one is perfect right? Wrong! Christ is! Are you IN Christ? Do you have Christ’s righteousness as your own? No? Then you have NOTHING whatsoever to offer.”

    Why can only perfect people go to heaven, though? Ah, because your unjust concept of God says that in God’s mind the person who is guilty of the most minor offense is considered guilty of all other offenses, thus a very good person who commits one minor sin (and even a ceremonial infraction like not being baptized exactly right would count for most Christians, or perhaps missing Church once) is to your God as guilty as the most vile murderer or rapist, or is indeed seen as somehow more vile to your God.

    But the Moralist Deist (and such I am now, although I at one time was a Christian and even for a while a Marcionite) views God as just. You say you view God as just but in practice you are found a liar, for you claim his justice is based on this unjust principle of James 2:10.

    And because the Moralist Deist view God as just, he understands that the only way for the judge of the universe to be just (“Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Genesis 18:25) is for him to reward and punish proportionally to the amount and intensity of good and evil that a person commits. All or nothing heaven or hell is not just. Nor indeed is considering people as guilty of greater offenses just when they have only committed minor offenses.

    Ceremonial infraction also can play no part in God’s justice for the Deist, for unlike morality which God has innately placed in mankind in the creation (we are born with the innate knowledge of right and wrong) there is no such knowledge of proper ritual or ceremonial belief against which a ceremonial claim can be said to be self-evident. But morality is self-evident and thus the only basis of just judgment.

    For as to ceremonial law, unless God has made a ceremonial law known to all mankind in every time in an incontrovertible way so that it is beyond dispute it is from him, it can form no just basis of judgment. So all ceremonial systems (as Christianity’s demand for faith is certain abstract dogmas on the nature of God and in certain historical claims which are unprovable, and in certain rituals such as baptism and the Lord’s Supper and Church attendance) are shown to not be of God, who is just and would not secretly impose such things or impose them in a way in which it was not obvious to all that he imposed them.

    But God being supremely just has made the knowledge of that which he has imposed on all (morality) self-evident, by placing it instinctually within man as a sort of time-released capsule of innate knowledge which releases itself to the conscious mind over time. When a man claims that he does not know that murder or rape is wrong he is simply a liar, for God has placed this knowledge within us. When a man claims he did not know that the correct ceremony was to say these magic words as opposed to those magic word, he speaks truly, for he has no innate knowledge of this subject placed within him instinctually as he has with morality.

    I have already posted this response to you on my blog here. But I post it here again to make you aware of it. Reply to it here or there, or just be a fundamentalist and ignore it. That is more your concern than mine. I have done my duty.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s