“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” (C.S. Lewis)
“The most portentous fact about any man is not what he at any given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.” (A.W. Tozer- The Knowledge of the Holy)
Is the brand of faith youth learn today described by:
- A faith that is moderately important?
- A “good enough” faith with the goal of making one “feel-better” with a hands-off god who requires little?
This brand of faith actually has a name which is “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”, a term coined by author Christian Smith to describe the common religious beliefs among American youth today. According to Smith and Kenda Creasy Dena, a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary and author of “Almost Christian”, more American teenagers are embracing this “moralistic therapeutic deism”, a brand of faith in which god exists as a butler or therapist to “meet my needs” and make me happy” upon request.
Described by Dean as “the church of benign whateverism” she poses the essential question: do we model and practice the kind of faith we want our children to have?
If you’re the parent of a Christian teenage, be aware of this “Christian-ish” brand of faith, a self-serving strain of Christianity that diminishes god and reduces his chief goal to boosting people’s self-esteem, a god who does little and asks even less of us. The research team for the NSYR (National Study of Young and Religion) believes that “ Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” is supplanting Christianity as the dominant religion in American churches today.
Is the American church as a whole guilty of fitting the concept of God into a box that fits our comfortable way of life? And are we feeding our children a diminished concept of God as a result? A. W. Tozer says that it is “an idolatrous heart assumes that God is other than He is” and that when the concept of God “in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards declines along with it.”
II Peter and Jude address false teaching within the church that led Christians in their day to hold to a diminished view of God. They had the following to say about such false teachers:
- Clouds without water carried about by the winds, late autumn trees without fruit (Jude 12)
- Wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. (Jude 12)
- Grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts, mouthing great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage.(Jude 10)
- Despising authority, presumptuous and self willed, speaking great swelling words of emptiness. (2 Peter 2:10,18)
Peter was clearly zealous about his faith. His passion and courage grew out of personal knowledge having walked with “the godhead in bodily form”. His vibrant and sacrificial faith was definitely not a “what’s in it for me” brand of faith that is so prevalent today. Self serving in its ideals, MTD allows individuals to be primarily dedicated to avoiding personal pain and supports the notion that parental duties are mostly related to making their children happy and helping them feel good about themselves.
This type of faith soon falls apart for the kids once they leave home however. Kids today need to see us live out a life altering faith that electrifies us before they will embrace it for themselves. They need to see the love of Jesus oozing out of us and a lifestyle that is sacrificial, giving, serving and honoring to God. Christian parents must see to it that the faith they personally adhere to will truly impact the hearts of their kids.
The exhortation to the loveless church in Ephesus was to “return to her first love” and exhortation to the lukewarm church in Revelations 3 was to become “zealous and repent”! We must do the same while we still can: embrace the love of God wholly and grow zealous in our Christian walk!
Young people today long for intensity and wind up seeking artificial means to acquire it. They long for truth and eventually find ways to create it themselves. What they have been fed does not satisfy so they becoming “wandering stars”. Over and over they have heard “great swelling words of emptiness” which have left them empty and famished. No wonder teens in masses exodus the church when they leave home. The therapeutic deist whose office they entered for years failed to cure the ache in their hearts! They are hungry for the true God of the universe in all His splendor – a God who can fill the need in their hearts and deepen their souls.
Peter’s message in 2 Peter is the one we must embrace today – a passionate call to a passionate life altering faith – based on the knowledge of the one true God. Most teens today are not anti-faith. They simply grow tired of the unsatisfying form they have been fed. TAUTA embraces the “nutrients” we need to grow a steadfast faith, rooted rooted in a sovereign God who is WHO HE IS: majestically incomprehensible, glorious, all loving, all knowing, and entirely holy.
“There is a glorified Man on the right hand of the Majesty in heaven faithfully representing us there. We are left for a season among men; let us faithfully represent Him here.” (A.W. Tozer in The Knowledge of the Holy)
- Soul Searching by Christian Smith
- Almost Christian by Kenda Creasy Dean