I just didn't grow up in a particularly "churchy" type of family.
Sure, we all believed in God (and still do), but the only time I remember going to church regularly as a kid was the year I was confirmed, and even then we never went as a whole family that entire year.
Then, once I celebrated my Confirmation, that was it until a baby was born, someone died, or someone got married.
Unfortunately, old habits die hard, and even though I now know the truth about why we should go to church each and every week, and how wonderful it is that we get to receive Christ's gifts of forgiveness and love through His Word and Sacraments each time we do, I still struggle mightily to get us all up, get us all going, and get us all out the door and to church faithfully each Sunday.
Anyway, this isn't really a post about church attendance, but I did think about how my lack of church attendance growing up definitely contributed to my catching an MTD, or a deadly case of "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism," through spiritual adultery, which has scarred me to this day.
Thankfully, a proper distinction between Law and Gospel, repentance and faith, the Word of God faithfully preached, and the Lord's Sacraments rightly administered, were (are) the sweetest healing balm for my heart, mind, and soul.
As a result, I was instantly cured of this MTD and forgiven for my sins of spiritual adultery and idolatry after all those years.
I's commonly believed that this MTD is a relatively new disease within Christ's Church, but I have a feeling it's been around a lot longer than that (maybe 20-30 years) and we just didn't have a name for it yet.
Regardless, what exactly is "Moral Therapeutic Deism (MTD)" and why should you care? Good question. I'll try to explain as best as I can from a layman's perspective.
Some have called it "A Sham And A Scam" and others have called it "Christianity's Misbegotten Step-Cousin" too. Clearly, whatever it is, it's not a "good" thing at all so let's take a closer look.
Those are just a few screenshots from a full storyboard by Adam 4D: A Curiously Christian Webcomic that tackles this all too important subject.
Earlier, I mentioned how I believe that it was my being a "C&E Christian"/"Christmas & Easter Christian" that largely contributed to my eventually subscribing to this un-Biblical concept of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism in the first place.
That's fitting, because it was this brief statement on the "Spirit of Christmas" written by a Confessional Lutheran Pastor that finally started to cure me of this MTD that I had contracted.
One study of religious views among American young adults described their spirituality as moralistic, therapeutic, deism (Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers). Moralistic – God just wants us to be good. That is what religion is about. Therapeutic – When I feel the need then I’ll turn to God. God is my therapist and comforter when life gets really bad, but otherwise I have little contact with Him. Deism – God is not active in my life. The message of Christmas gives us a contrary spirituality. Christianity is far different than these common beliefs.
Moralistic – Being good is not enough. Humanity isn’t good before God. The Father in heaven did not send us a teacher of morality, but He sent us Jesus. The importance of the name “Jesus” is explained by an angel of the LORD who declared, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt 1:20-21 NASB). This naturally ties into the next heading.
Therapeutic – Going to a marriage and family counselor or a psychologist can be quite helpful. They can be masks of God in which the Creator blesses His creation, but we must never reduce God down to someone who helps us with our mental health when we feel the need. The greatest need is the one we often do not feel. Many people don’t sense the gravity of their sin nor the need for deliverance from the judgment of the Law of God. People often think that because they are good in their own eyes that they are also good in God’s eyes. Christmas teaches us differently as Paul writes, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4-5).
Deism – This element may seem to conflict with the therapeutic understanding of spirituality, but not too much. The young adult may believe he/she can turn to God in a crisis but otherwise God is absent. The incarnation says something different. God is active in our life in the person of Jesus Christ. “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US” (Matt 1:23 NASB). God is with us in Jesus. He is active in our life and that means today as well. A problem is that people don’t bother asking, “Where has God promised to work?” The LORD promises to work in our lives through the Word and the Sacrament. God is present working for us, in us, and through us.
The Spirit of Christmas is far different than the moralistic, therapeutic, deism common among many younger adults today. Instead of moralism we have grace. Instead of therapy we have salvation. Instead of Deism we have Immanuel, “God with us.”
It's certainly not Christmas, but I know there are many Christians out there who need to hear this now and right away.
Better yet, here's another point-by-point refutation from from another Lutheran Pastor where he sums up the very real danger with MTD nicely as follows...
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.
These are hardly the only Lutheran resources that address this subject, but they are a great place to start. You might also want to check out an 8-minute interview with The White Horse Inn's Mike Horton on Moralistic Therapeutic Deism for another good summary warning.
God willing, my guess is that as books like "Broken: 7 'Christian' Rules That Every Christian Ought To Break As Often As Possible" and "Has American Christianity Failed?" written by two faithful Confessional Lutheran Pastors gain greater popularity and widespread readership, the cure for this MTD will begin to spread like wildfire!
In a Lutheran layman's terms, while there are many believers within Christ's Church who have contracted this MTD, the good news is that there's a free cure that is "JESUS CHRIST for you and for the forgiveness of your sins yesterday, today, and tomorrow as promised through His Word and Sacraments!"
NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 3 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!