Monday, May 4, 2015

Be nice...

In "Are You Now, or Have You Ever Been, a Moralistic Therapeutic Deist?" Alan Wisdom argues that ignorance of the gospel among those who grew up in the Church is a pretty severe indictment of Christian education:
.... Smith, Dean, and their colleagues did surveys and in-depth interviews in which they queried thousands of young people about their religious beliefs and practices. Very few, they found, were atheists or hostile toward religion. On the other hand, relatively few were able to articulate and consistently practice a faith that resembled classic Christianity. ....

What the respondents did seem to believe, as Smith summarized it, was: God functions as an authority who gives us rules to guide our behavior (this is the “moralistic” part). The main point of these rules is to be a nice person who gets along with other people. If we obey the rules, God makes us feel good about ourselves (this is the “therapeutic” part). But God isn’t involved in a personal or direct way in our daily lives (this is the “deism” part). He may show up in a crisis, to make us feel better about ourselves.

This set of half-conscious assumptions is what Smith, Dean, and associates call “moralistic therapeutic deism.” It’s not necessarily false. We should seek good relations with the people around us. If we obey God’s commands, we will usually end up happier. God is a refuge in times of trouble.

Yet the Good News of Jesus Christ is so much greater than any of this. ....

Dean suggests a disturbing explanation: Perhaps these teenagers and young adults adopted [moralistic therapeutic deism] because that’s what they were taught. .... Be nice to other people and you’ll have a happy life, and God will be there when you need him. All that stuff about Jesus dying for our sins never really made an impression. ....

How would your congregation fare under this kind of self-examination? .... [more]