Winter is well upon us, the temperature has plummeted and I am thankful for the modern invention of the heat pump. We gathered as staff this morning for the informal daily office of the Dom-post morning quiz over coffee. The Anglican Centre staff scored 10 out of 10 today! As we were celebrating, our gifted youth ministry staff were talking about a conference they recently attended where they discussed contemporary culture’s fascination with MTD. (I know you can’t wait to know what MTD stands for!) “Moral Therapeutic Deism” stands for the reality where people are happy with an informal religion that delivers a generous inclusive ethical framework, that helps us feel better about ourselves and believes in some distant and non-intrusive benevolent creator spirit.
Once the youth staff identified this, I immediately recognised the phenomena! I think we all recognise it across western societies today. So many people I meet adhere to this loose quasi-religious framework. Actually, a bit of MTD makes some sense as a Christian. To a limited extent aspects of MTD can be found in the Kingdom of God as we understand it. Definitely the Kingdom offers a compelling moral framework.
Consider the Beatitudes (which I preached on in Fielding this past Sunday);
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5 NIV)
The Kingdom of God clearly also offers a therapeutic dimension, in the Kingdom we are promised abundant lives and reconciliation to ourselves and others. Finally the Kingdom of God also clearly articulates a caring good and compassionate God. So in many senses MTD desires, as recognised in our contemporary society, can be seen reflected in God’s Kingdom vision. However, as Scott McKnight says so brilliantly in his latest book, “Kingdom Conspiracy”, that we so often want the Kingdom benefits without acknowledging the King. This is central to the unbiblical worldview held by the majority of Christians in western developed society, as the experts tell us. It is central to the secular spiritualism, a spirituality without God, palatable by over 75% of secular society.
In a contemporary society, obsessed with pursuing a moral therapeutic deism we, as Christians, cannot propagate a vision of the Kingdom without a King. Ultimately, the Kingdom dream, which we so desire, is only possible when we acknowledge Jesus as the King – as the one we owe allegiance to. A belief in a MTD does not in itself give us the power to transform ourselves. Only as we lay down our lives, pick up our cross and follow Jesus, the King, do we find transformation power, that enables us to be all we were created to be, and hence transform our families, cities, society and world.
My prayer today is for those of us trapped in a Moral Therapeutic Deism; that once again we find the One who offers us the power to change what we cannot change ourselves; that we find Jesus, The Resurrected One; that we experience His resurrection breaking into our lives, making all things new.
p.s. I know for some language of “King” is problematic so feel free to use different language such as gender neutral.