Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Moralistic, Therapeutic, Deism = Another Gospel

Post cards, I am sure you get many of them, not so much from friends on vacation, but those which advertise the latest and greatest.  They are a good marketing tool, and a relatively inexpensive one.  And they are a marketing tool which many churches are using as a promotional piece.  I am sure, if you live in the United States, that you have received many over the span of the last decade.  Well, one of our church members gave me a post card he had received in the mail from an area church, which was promoting its up and coming sermon series.  He looked at me with a grin that was anticipating the response he knew was coming.

I did not disappoint him, but at the same time my heart was saddened by the latest iteration of what has come to be labeled as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, MTD for short.  It has become the religious philosophy, the religious viewpoint of our age, and unfortunately several of the churches in our area have knowingly or unknowingly succumbed to it.  MTD as a religious philosophy has also attached itself to a religious methodology that has become prevalent here in our country.  In their drive to be appealing to the masses, the Willow Creek, seeker sensitive, Purpose Driven adherents have assimilated this view of church and religion into their methodology.

This sermon series being promoted by a local church is a great example of how this philosophy has infiltrated the church.  Here is what the postcard said:

Life in the Permian Basin is a little crazy right now.
With unemployment low and the price of oil high,
opportunity is everywhere, but with that opportunity
comes new challenges.  Managing the balance of work,
relationships, finances, and recreation can be difficult 
at times.  But how should our faith influence our normal, 
but crazy everyday life?  Join us for "Babylon, Bucks,
Babes, and Brewskies,"  a new sermon series beginning
August 5.

Pretty catchy, eh, as each B word is the heading of that week's sermon?  You can come learn how to deal with, and find balance in, our crazy life here in the Permian Basin.  Besides being catchy and cool, it sounds as if it will be problem solving, help giving, encouraging, comforting, and anything but convicting or confronting.  You know, I wouldn't be quite as upset if this just wasn't so prevalent in our area.  Here are recent sermons/series from two other major churches in our area:

1. A four week series on God in the movies.
2. How to handle stress, and being too busy.

And these are the sermon topics for the last few months at these churches.  We have had other post cards from these and other churches over the last few years with similar topics.  Honestly, this is not new, as Robert Schuller (Self Esteem, the New Reformation), Emerson Fosdick, and Norman Vincent Peale espoused this philosophy during the last century.  We can also see elements of it during the Down-Grade controversy in England during the time of Charles Spurgeon. However, it has now become mainstream, and is the dominant philosophy/methodology in the religious life of our country, and its adherents know no denominational or tradition boundary.  What has bothered me is the blindness that so many who say they hold to the authority and inerrancy of the Sciptures have in this area.  Yes, even many of the young, restless, and reformed group are caught up in this as well. 

This philosophy exalts man and lowers God.  It deemphasizes salvation and marginalizes the gospel.  It eliminates sin from the church's vocabulary.  It's emphasis is on happiness not holiness with the goal of personal betterment, not sanctification; in other words become a better you instead becoming more like Christ (which would automatically make you a better you, right?)  The church service is designed to comfort you, not confront you; to entertain you, not train you; to make you feel better about yourself, not feel bad about your sin.  

MTD is nothing more than a refined legalism, with each individual determining his own set of rules.  It redefines good to whatever each person determines is good.   It bears the slogan, "Deeds not Creeds" proudly.  It is a subtle form of self righteousness.  It is narcissism with the veneer of religion, and plays to the exaltation of self, instead of the exaltation of God.  It is all about what God can do and should do for the individual instead of the individual's responsibility to God.  It is truly the religion of self as humility, thankfulness, and gratitude are foreign concepts.

Of course this is a different gospel.  It is the gospel of self-improvement, self gratification, self-awareness, the gospel of anything that makes the self feel better....about its self.  And we know from the Scripture that a different gospel is no gospel of all.  This gospel of self does not save, it damns.  It doesn't lead you to Christ, but leads you away from Him.  It truly is the broadest of the broad paths that lead to destruction. 

Our Savior, the Savior of the gospel, was self-emptying, self-denying, and self-sacrificing; and He has called us to do the same, and has said that these are what we must do to be a true disciple. 

My friends, be on guard against the leaven of self, perhaps the most pernicious of all the leaven.  Listen to Michael Horton as he gives us insight into this philosophy and how it is spread.

Michael Horton gives a good thumbnail sketch of MTD in this short interview.

And he gives a more detailed presentation here.

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