A God “who is [not] particularly involved in one’s affairs –
especially affairs in which one would prefer not to have God involved”
from, “Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers”
Can we make God anything we want Him to be? Can we put Him in a little box and just release Him whenever He’s wanted? Kind of like the genie on the movie Aladdin who famously said, “Phenomenal cosmic power!!! Itty bitty living space.” Maybe we can just say so long to the idea of a personal and involved God altogether.
The idea is old-fashioned anyway. Why would anyone want to have a God Who is always in their business? I mean, we can make it on our own right? We have been for several thousand years. When was the last time someone actually heard God’s voice? I suppose it was Jesus and that was almost two thousand years ago. If He is going to be so absent who needs Him?
I was introduced to a new term recently that has its origins in an interesting book by sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist called Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. I admit that I am far behind the eight ball since this book was published in 2005, but studying the concept has led me to some profound insights. It was important to me that I search out the idea because the authors made some very interesting claims about current teen spirituality and religiosity.
The term?: moralistic therapeutic deism (we’ll call it MTD so I don’t have to spell it out every time).
This, MTD, is the belief that people should live a good moral life, that the moral code should be therapeutic rather than punitive and that this code is formed by a god who (to quote the book)
“…exists, created the world, and defines our general moral order, but not one who is particularly personally involved in one’s affairs—especially affairs in which one would prefer not to have God involved.”
In other words, a clock maker god who set the world in motion and then left it alone.
Let’s break this down. We should all live morally. Of course, this is a personal morality that may be different from someone else’s, but we should respect that and not come down on the other guy’s system. Rather this moral code should make you feel better. It should give you a peaceful feeling, a feeling that you are doing good in the world and not judging other people. Finally, this view is overseen by a god who created it all for us and then decided to rest and smile benevolently down on whatever His creation decided to do…the scamps (he says as he playfully ruffles their hair).
This belief is bounded by five precepts:
- A God exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
- God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to one another, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
- The central goal in life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
- God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when a god is needed to resolve a problem.
- Good people go to heaven when they die.
What a life! It’s a utopia in which everyone loves each other and tries to get along with his or her neighbor. I like that idea. Also, if someone gets out of hand, we call god off the couch and ask him to strike that offensive idiot with a lightning bolt or something.
Okay, I’m done with all the facetious nonsense. Let’s look at this in the real world; the world God did construct and wants His creation to live in. The one where He tells us to “Be holy, for I am holy.” (I Peter 1:16).
Who’s fault is it that teenagers apparently have this incredibly distorted view of God? I have a few anecdotal views, but nothing concrete. However, since this is my blog I can make all the suppositions I want. I will try to make them with at least a modicum of thought attached though.
Who is responsible?
- Culture: as a people (I’m talking about the US here) we have been slowly slipping away from God for decades. The fact that people decided to take God out of every facet of public life has had its consequences. Video games, the media and Hollywood should come in for their share of the blame also.
- Parents: I know you have to work hard and don’t have time to teach them that morals are absolutes based on natural law (if you even know what that means anymore), but maybe you could have sent them to church. Hey, free babysitting!
- Peers: many teens who are trying to live a godly life are thwarted by peers who pressure them to go another way, call them deranged if they adhere to ancient mystic principles or just isolate them if they don’t fit the norm.
- Teen: the teens themselves are not without fault. A little research will prove the premises inherent to MTD completely off kilter.
But who is primarily responsible.
I am. And you are. If you are reading this and take the name of Christ, you are to blame, just as much as anyone else, for the moral decay in our country. What are we going to do about it? If we lose this generation, it will be hard to recover.
But…God is Sovereign. He rules and reigns. I think we need a little II Chronicles 7:14 right now.