Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

I read an article on Moralistic Therapeutic Deism recently in World Magazine (a more complete article can be found here). It’s kind of making me wonder if we’re succeeding at passing our faith on to the next generation.

In brief, MTD has the following tenets. They start out pretty good, then quickly deteriorate:

  1. A God exists who created and orders 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.

I showed my resident teen expert (my 15-year-old daughter) the second article, and here was her reply: “What can I say? I think these people need something more. Who wants to wait until they die to see if they’re good enough? Not me!”

Now, no teen is necessarily standing up and proclaiming that he or she believes this, and it’s doubtful that the teens interviewed have formulated their theology so clearly. However, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the average teen (churchgoer?) has developed this sort of belief system. After all, what are the two things we tend to focus on in our services and sermons, especially to teens? I think they are:

  1. You are a sinner. Translation: I need to be good.
  2. God can help you in times of trial. Translation: I turn to God in times of trial.

We hear occasionally about how we should be doing something for the Kingdom of God, but often the things we are told we should be doing are along the lines of prayer, giving, or volunteering at the church. We’re not often told that we have a mission to accomplish, and that we have been empowered and gifted to do it. Maybe if we heard that more often, our teens would be less inclined to think of God in the ways they currently are. As my daughter said, these people need something more.

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