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Friday, July 8, 2011

Everything Happens 4

Today I'm reading Jeremiah 32:20 "You performed signs and wonders in Egypt and have continued them to this day, in Israel and among all mankind, and have gained the renown that is still yours." And Daniel 6:27 "He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.”

I'm still reflecting on the difference between the phrases "Everything happens for a reason" or "There's a reason why everything happens."

So far this week I've looked at secular nihilism (every happens for no reason). Everything happens because of fate or Karma (pre-determinism). And today I'm adding what is probably the most wide spread faith of our day "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism."

The phrase was coined by Christian Smith, Professor and associate chair in the Department of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and director of the National Study of Youth and Religion. He researched the religious and spiritual beliefs held by U.S. teenagers. After hundreds of discussions about religion, God, faith, prayer, and other spiritual practices, he summarized their beliefs as "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism" (MTD).

1. A God exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth. But has most checked out of daily contact.

2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.

3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.

4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to resolve a problem

5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

Moralistic – Do Good. This is the belief that the Gospel can be reduced to improvements in behavior. Living a good and happy life is being a good, moral person. That means being nice, kind, pleasant, respectful, and responsible; working on self-improvement; taking care of one’s health; and doing one’s best to be successful.

Therapeutic – Be Nice and Smile.This is the belief that people enjoy psychological benefits by participating in something good. This is not a religion of repentance from sin or living as a servant of a sovereign divine. Rather, it is about feeling good, happy, secure, at peace. It is about attaining subjective well being, being able to resolve problems, and being nice to people. It is doing good things so that you feel good about yourself.

Deism – Just Do it. This is the belief in a God who exists, created the world, but leaves you alone. In this belief, God is like a Divine Butler who waits for you to call upon Him to intervene or a Cosmic Genie to grant your wishes. If things do not go as one expects, God gets the blame.

Deism has a long history in the USA. Many of the founding fathers were Deists. Thomas Jefferson for one. The classic view is that there is a God, but he sort of got the universe going and then went on vacation. Like a cosmic clock maker who made the clock, got it running and then left the room. So, God does not intervene in human affairs. In this way it resembles secular thought except that it leaves room for heaven and hell. But, there's no divine intervention - which is different from the modern teen view described above. That's why Thomas Jefferson took a razor blade and cut out all the references to anything miraculous in his Bible.

God's there, but he's busy. Too busy for us. So, it's praise the Lord and keep your powder dry. There is no hero coming to the rescue.

I think most people live this way. Even most people who call themselves 'Christian.' On a daily basis they don't really believe God is going to do anything in their lives. Prayer is just a good stress reliever, like yoga. Nothing is really accomplished through prayer except lowering your blood pressure. God's there - far, far away - so this world is up to me, and I'd better get busy.

The result then is a feeling of great distance from God. Sort of blaming him for the overall mess we're in but having to shoulder the full weight of responsibility for living this life. That's a heavy load. It's the self-reliant loner who's the "captain of his own soul."

No grace there. No power from the Holy Spirit. Just grit your teeth.

As far as I can tell that's not the message of Jesus. The Bible is a record of God's activity in this world. A record of his interventions. From the Exodus from Egypt to Christ's resurrection and beyond. To cut out the miracles from the Bible like Jefferson did is to miss the entire point of Jesus' teaching. It's not another moral code to live by. It's salvation undeserved through God's actions in Jesus Christ.

But the idea of a miracle IS that God suspends the NORMAL laws of nature. And that's where we get back to the question: At what level of involvement is God at work suspending the natural course of human cause and effect?

Something to think about over the weekend.

And thanks for you email responses about your struggles with these issues in your life. Keep 'em coming to


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