There are two subtle gospels that are fast becoming the de facto religion of our day. They are Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD) and the Golden Rule Gospel.
Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD) is characterized by:
- Moralistic—People equate faith with being a good, moral person (generally, being nice).
- Therapeutic—Faith becomes a means of feeling better about ourselves. It is a self-help gospel.
- Deistic—God exists, but this God is not involved in human affairs with any regularity.
MTD leads to a focus on behavior, and one’s self-focus causes the person to think both that others exists to make our lives more pleasant and that God doesn’t need to be actively involved in our world.
The Golden Rule Gospel is a corollary to MTD and is generally relayed as some version of “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). Those who hold to this gospel tend to read the Bible less, attend worship less, talk less with others about their faith questions and struggles, and respond less to social issues in light of faith. The passion generated by Golden Rule faith is lukewarm at best. The Golden Rule Gospel emphasizes “right living” rather than “right believing.” This emphasis on good deeds is found most prevalent in mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic congregations, as well as in predominantly middle-class, suburban, and White communities.
Most important to Golden Rule Christians is care for relationships, doing good deeds, and looking for opportunities to provide care and comfort for people in need. Their goal is neither changing another’s beliefs nor changing the whole political system. They would like the world to be a bit better for their having inhabited it, but they harbor no dreams of grand revolutions.
The root problem is that this is not faith, it is behavioralism.
God is found through good behaviors, and along the way we learn to tolerate and embrace those who are different, at least in theory. It takes “nice” a step toward kindness and solidarity but stops short of the transformative neighbor love that is undergirded by grace.
Most disturbingly, Jesus is largely absent from the picture.
Adapted from chapter 4: Take Jesus’ Message Seriously in Growing Young: 6 Essential Strategies to Help Young People Discover and Love your Church, by Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin