Is God concerned about more than your feelings? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
A friend of Deeper Waters called me recently to talk about the post on applications in sermons. She had stated that she found that some researchers had asked about why people walk away and they found another answer. They referred to it as moral therapeutic theism. (MTT) The idea is that God is someone there who tells you how to be a good person and get along with everyone and to help you feel good about yourself, part of the whole self-esteem movement.
Now of course, there is nothing wrong with being a good person, properly understood. (Good person does not mean you never rock the boat. Jesus and the apostles certainly did.) There is also nothing wrong with feeling good about yourself, although if you are doing something wrong, you should not feel good about that. Yet is there a problem if you think that is the purpose of the Christian life?
To begin with, if you have this kind of approach, which I would agree is rampant in the church today, then it turns out that God is the servant of you and you are not the servant of God. An example of this is found in “The Shack” where at the end the main character at one time laughs at the thought of “God, my servant.”
So what happens when God lets you down on His end of the bargain supposedly? Then it becomes, who needs Him? It is not the biblical notion that every breath you take depends on Him. It is not the notion that you owe Him everything and He owes you nothing. It is not the notion that every single gift He gives you is grace and not a debt to be repaid.
When you realize God owes you nothing, you can better be appreciative for what He does give you.
Now to be sure, God does give us several things for us to enjoy, but we dare not mistake these for Him. The problem is that if God is just there to make us feel good, what happens when other things seem to make us feel so much better? What if God is really not supposed to give us warm fuzzies? What if that was never really promised in the Bible? What if God was never promised to be our personal therapist?
To begin with, if you find other sources of pleasure, then you will quickly forget about God. Why not? These are better. You can find more joy from sports, video games, television, food, drugs, sex, etc. Now aside from illegal drugs, I’m not condemning any of these totally. I don’t care for sports, but I know several who do. I happen to be an avid gamer. My wife and I have several television shows we like to watch together. My wife has enabled me to expand my diet and so I enjoy many more things in food today. Of course, as a married man, I enjoy sex. You think I’m going to say otherwise?
But let’s suppose that you don’t have that. You will see these as greater goods more likely than God instead of realizing that every good gift you have here comes from God. Do you give thanks for those good things? We often say our worldviews need a place to explain pain. They do! Yet our worldviews also need to be able to explain pleasure. Pleasure is not anti-Christian, but the sole goal of Christian life is not personal pleasure. (Excepting the John Piper version of Christian hedonism.)
What happens when a young man leaves home and later finds the joy of sex and then realizes that he’s not really feeling guilty and he’s having a darn good time. God will be pushed away from his mind. Of course, the exception might be for when he needs Him. God is there to pull him out of emergencies. The young man could find his desire for God suddenly restored when his girlfriend announce she’s pregnant.
Some of you might be thinking he might not enjoy a little fornication. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion though, and it is a suspicion seeing as I remained a virgin until I married, that one’s body doesn’t really know when one is doing something wrong sexually or not. The pleasure sensors act the exact same way. If doing something wrong made us feel miserable every time after all, we’d all live much better lives.
Does that mean these people will openly apostasize and become rabid internet atheists? No. Chances are they’ll just become apathetic. They won’t care. God will be nice when He shows up, but they have no concept that they are to be His slaves. They have no concept that He’s the sovereign Lord of the universe they owe everything to.
Tomorrow, I plan to write more on this topic as I have found it rather fascinating. For now, I just wish to state that we need to do all we can to avoid simply having MTT. We need a real view of the God who is there and to realize that He is on the throne, and not ourselves.
Tags: Moral Therapeutic Theism