Moralistic therapeutic deism (or MTD for short) may not be a familiar term to most of us, but according to the 2005 book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers by Christian Smith and Melinda Lindquist Dento, it is what defines the practices of most Christian young people in the United States today.

teen prayingLet’s take a look at each part of this term:

Moralistic: The belief that a central part of religious life is being a good and moral person.

Therapeutic: The belief that religion helps us to feel good about ourselves.

Deism: The belief that God exists, created the world and defines our general moral order, but is no longer personally involved in one’s affairs.

While the finding of this book have not been universally accepted by the Christian theological establishment, it makes me sad that these were some of the concepts that were revealed in the authors’ research, whether prevalent or not among Christian youth.

The belief that “being good” will get us into heaven remains so commonplace in our society on TV and in movies, that it becomes acceptable. It reminds me to be even more vigilant in spreading the news that we are only saved by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. I have put this verse on my bathroom mirror to remind me of that every day:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. —Ephesians 2:8-9

In the same vein, the idea that we need to feel good about ourselves all the time is so entrenched in our society, that it leads to an almost exclusion of an acknowledgment of sin. We as Christians must never deny the fact that we are born sinful and that we are sinners and are in need of forgiveness from God. That does not feel good to admit, but it is something we must do in order to receive God’s mercy. I put this verse at my desk at work to remind me of this:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. —Romans 3:23-25

Though we may not always sense it, our God is the furthest thing from a far-off. The concept that God is not involved in our personal lives is counter to everything that Christianity is about. Our God desires to be with us always and to know us intimately. Our relationship with him is what drives us in our words and actions as we seek his guidance for our daily living through prayer. I put this verse on my bedside table to remind me of God’s closeness to me every day:

Can a woman forget her nursing child,
 that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
 Even these may forget, I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. —Isaiah 49:15-16

With is in mind, I have coined a new term to describe my life in the Lord:

Saved, Forgiven, Loved (SFL, for short).

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