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Christians and Lawsuits
Posted by Clare
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The couple sat in my office and poured their heart out.  Their siblings were tearing the family business apart, sucking a great living out of it, but contributing very little to actually grow the business.  (In their opinion.) “They’re parasites and we want them out.  Do you know a good Christian lawyer?”

“Yes, I do.  But first, I’d like to talk to you about what the Bible has to say regarding lawsuits and then let’s talk about some biblical alternatives to resolving disputes.”

We began by reading outloud together this passage from I Corinthians 6:1-8;

“If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people?  Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world?  And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases?  Do you not know that we will judge angels?  How much more the things of this life!  Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church?  I say this to shame you.  Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?  But instead, one brother takes another to court – and this in front of unbelievers!  The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already.  Why not rather be wronged?  Why not rather be cheated?  Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters.”

They were quiet for a moment.  Somehow reading scripture outloud adds weight to these words.  The husband spoke first.  “I know what the Bible says about Christians and lawsuits, but this has got to stop!”  I reminded him that Christians should probably never use the phrase, “I know what the Bible says,” followed by a “but”.  The danger with using the word but is that it discounts what God says in favor of our own opinion on the matter.  Subconsciously, we’d all like our own personal exceptions from some difficult teachings of scripture, but that’s a dangerous and sinful enterprise.

“So you don’t believe in any lawsuits at all?” asked the wife.  “A better way to put it,” I said, “Would be to say that Christians have the personal freedom to take legal action against some people or corporations, but not against other Christians.  There don’t appear to be any exceptions in the I Corinthians passage even if we’re being defrauded.”  They just stared at me like I was Amish.

So, before I talked to them about some biblical options for resolving disputes with their Christian siblings let’s discuss what I believe the Bible gives us freedom to do within certain boundaries:

Christian freedom and boundaries.

1. Most lawsuits are initiated because of some loss suffered due to some other person’s negligence or deceit.  When the offender in a damage action is a corporation, such as an insurance company, there would seem to be no biblical restriction to pursuing that “entity” under secular law, provided the claim is legitimate and fair.  One of the purposes for corporations is to shield individuals from liability.  Regarding insurance companies, they are paid premiums by their clients, so that they can pay all just claims.  That’s their only reason to exist.

2. However, Christians must always examine their motives for any legal action even against these entities.  If the real reasons are greed, anger, or vengeance, then even those lawsuits are sinful and therefore prohibited.

3. The fact that we have a legal right to do something, doesn’t give us freedom to do it.  The law says what we may do, but for a Christian, justice raises the bar, telling us what we ought to do. And God may well convict someone to give up the right” to sue for spiritual reasons, not the least of which is to have a witness in the lives of the principals involved.

Suing non-believers

Since the direct implication of I Corinthians 6 passage deals only with believers suing one another, what about suing non-believers?  There are no direct references to not suing a non-believer, but there are some indirect references to how Christians should act.

The Bible clearly teaches that to put others first, even when they are wrong, even non-believers.  “Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either.  Give to everyone who asks of you and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back.” (Luke 6:29-30)

Can I defend myself?

It’s a reasonable question to ask.  I believe the answer can be found in Paul’s defense against the unjust accusations made against him (Ref. Acts 16:37, 22:25, 25:11).  Paul did not attack his accusers, nor did he attempt to extract any compensation from them.  But he vigorously defends himself against their claims, several times even reciting Roman law applicable to his case.  But even in defending oneself a Christian cannot withhold any information important to a just resolution, regardless of how damaging it is to his/her case.

Personal lawsuits against a fellow Christian

Getting back to the couples questions regarding the proposed suit against their siblings, the Bible couldn’t be clearer on this issue.  In the I Corinthians 6 passage, Paul says it’s better that we be defrauded than ever go to a civil court against a fellow Christian.  Paul considers it an embarrassment to God and a terrible witness to non-Christians.  Not only that, but if you’ve ever been taken advantage of, you know the unkind, unchristian thoughts and emotions that injustice brings out in you.  When we go to court, all those emotions are stirred up again, and can be a root of bitterness in us.

So then, what is a Christian option?  Jesus offers this option, rarely used today, but one I and others have used to get justice or resolve issues between Christians;

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.  If they listen to you, you have won them over.  But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17

So, how does that work in real life?

For the next few weeks I’ll be blogging on various ways Christians can resolve disputes privately, or use the church, or even groups outside of the church, based on biblical principles.  As Paul once said there is a more excellent way!

An acknowledgment:  I’m thankful to Larry Burkett for his thoughtful writings on this subject which have shaped many of my thoughts.

Questions:  What do you think? Agree or disagree? Are there any exceptions you can think of for Christians suing one another?

Following Jesus in Real Life

 

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The Gift of Tongues and Other Sign Gifts
Posted by Clare
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“I believe that all the gifts of the Spirit are alive and well in the world today. I’m also not a charismatic – that is I’m not aware that I possess any of the sign gifts.”

There, I said it!

For some of you, I just crossed over to the other side. Others of you are confused because in my blogs several weeks ago I identified myself as a member of a dispensational church. Dispensationalists generally view the sign gifts (speaking in tongues, miracles, healing, etc.) as having ended when the apostolic age ended. (When the original apostles died.)

While I’m very grateful for the biblical worldview of dispensationalists, and take seriously most of their theology, a theological system can never be allowed to trump the Bible. And, in my opinion, on this issue, I believe the weight of scripture is on the side of those who believe that there’s no clear biblical evidence that the sign gifts have ended.

Who Cares?

You may be asking yourself, “who cares”? I think you should. Because just three weeks ago I was asked by our 12 year old grandson if I believed in speaking in tongues and I was able to tell him my thoughts and also explain why other Christians who also love God and have a high view of scripture, don’t believe in them.

George Barna, in his wonderful book Revolutionary Parenting says that exposing your children to ideas held by other good Christians, even if you disagree with them raises their confidence in your willingness to “trust them” to choose for themselves.  Better that you guide this discussion yourself than simply telling them what you believe and hoping they never consider another biblical viewpoint.

The following are excerpts that I sent to the elders of my church fifteen years ago, so there would be no ambiguity regarding what I believe on this issue. (I’ve been an elder three times since.)

“Dear Fellow Elders,

Let me preface my comments with this statement. I am not charismatic, I have no interest in defending the charismatic movement or specific individuals who claim to have these gifts. In fact much of the public charismatic movement is an embarrassment to me as a believer. That may be reason for caution and discernment, but not for dismissal. My only concern is what does the Bible teach?

While there are many respected theologians on both sides of this issue, I believe the overwhelming biblical evidence is on the side of those who believe that there is little or no evidence in the Bible of the passing of the sign gifts at the end of the New Testament era. Therefore, I believe there could be and probably are, believers today who possess sign gifts, given by the Holy Spirit, for the same reasons he gave them in the New Testament church, to validate the authority of the gospel message, to aid in the proclamation of the gospel, and to demonstrate his power. The fact that tongues or other sign gifts have not been a part of our church’s experience or have not been as evident for the majority of church history, as they were in the New Testament, does not prove they do not exist today. We look only to the Bible – not our experience for our evidence.

What does the Bible say?

The following texts are the ones most commonly used as proof texts that the sign gifts have ended. Following each quote are my comments on those verses.

“And in the church God has appointed first of all Apostles, second Prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all Apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts.” I Corinthians 12:28-31

My Comments: There is no hint of the gifts passing. In fact it states just the opposite, namely that God apparently appointed others, who were not Apostles with one or more of the apostolic gifts.

________________________________________

“Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.” I Corinthians 13:8-10

My Comments: Those who doubt the sign gift are for today almost always leave off the next few important verses. I Corinthians 13:11-12. “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

If both passages are read in context, it’s obvious that the “passing away” refers to something which will happen either at Christ’s return and reign, or his revelation to us as believers in heaven following our death.

___________________________________________

“Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.

Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know that tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me. So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.

For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind us unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind. If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say Amen to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.

I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But on the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. In the Law it is written:

“Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.”

Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers. So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”

When then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two – or at the most three – should speak, one at time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.” I Corinthians 14:1-28

My Comments: Opponents almost always fail to quote the last two important verses from I Corinthians 12:39-40 which summarizes Paul teaching in this chapter:

“Therefore, my brothers be eager to prophecy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues (emphasis mine). But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.”

Is there anything about this command which is ambiguous? Is there any hint of these gifts passing? There is no question Paul values prophecy above speaking in tongues, but the fact that it may be a lesser gift does not prove its passing.

Is Paul’s teaching valid for today?

I can’t imagine that the Holy Spirit would write, through Paul, almost an entire chapter in I Corinthians, on the proper and improper use of tongues, even going to the point of stating, “do not forbid speaking in tongues,” for a gift that was about to cease in a few decades.

And, if these instructions were written only to the Corinthian church, then what other things taught in I Corinthians are only written to the Corinthian church or are no longer valid in the present church age? Do we believe Paul’s instructions in I Corinthians 5, regarding church discipline was only for the Corinthian church or for the apostolic age, and is no longer applicable for today? Do we believe Paul’s teaching in I Corinthians 7 on divorce and marriage, or on communion was only meant for them and not for today? We are on dangerous ground if we take a cafeteria approach to scripture that was written, not by Paul, but the Holy Spirit, to all people, of all ages, unless it’s clearly stated otherwise.

For instance, there are times the Bible will introduce some new teaching that replaces older commandments and ideas. In Galatians, Paul makes it very clear that believers no longer live under the legalism of the law, but by faith alone in Christ and in the freedom of the Holy Spirit. The same can be said when Jesus clearly predicted the coming of the Holy Spirit who ushered in the church age. However, any major shift in how God works was always clearly predicted in scripture. No clear teaching exists for the passing of these gifts, or any spiritual gift.

But, I’ve heard the argument made, “The sign gifts are no longer needed for today.” Says who? Does the Bible say that? That’s an argument of reason not from scripture.  There’s also an argument that the New Testament records only the apostles or those under their authority exercising these gifts, so since we no longer have apostles these sign gifts have passed.  But, that’s an argument from silence.  It’s not proof that the gifts were only exercised by the apostles.

The Dangers

It’s true that the sign gifts can be divisive. I’ve heard stories of those with certain gifts acting as though they were more spiritual than others who didn’t have them. But then, that’s a sin issue and not a theological one and should be dealt with as such. I don’t assume that everyone who claims to have a gift, any spiritual gift for that matter, actually does. The power of suggestion can be tricky to discern. I “tried” to speak in tongues years ago because I wanted to so badly. I made strange sounds, but that’s all it was- I think. I’ve come to the conclusion that if it’s truly a gift from God, I don’t have to earn it, or make it happen. He’ll give it to me.

I’ve personally prayed this prayer many times:  Lord, please give me any spiritual gift that will accrue to your glory. But, please withhold any gift that will cause me to be prideful or sinful. I want only your glory Lord.

I also believe each church has the right to govern how and when the gift of tongues or any of the gifts are exercised in the church, particularly in worship, to avoid confusion.  That’s clear from I Corinthians 14. But denying the existence of these gifts or what one does in the privacy of their own worship experience is wrong. I also have no evidence that the sign gifts are as prevalent today as they once were in the early church, but that’s simply my personal observation.

In conclusion, I have great respect for Christians who believe differently and I’m proud to call them my brothers and sisters in Christ.  However, we’ve always prided ourselves in being a Bible-based church.  If that’s the case, we have to let the Bible speak for itself even if we don’t fully understand why it may not fit neatly into our theological framework.  I’ve personally found God difficult to organize.  When that happens.  Sola Scriptura, (the Bible alone).”

By the way; if you hold to the dispensationalist view on this issue, then please take the time to prepare yourself to teach your children, what you believe and why.  But for their sake, also expose them to some of what I’ve described.  They’ll find out from someone eventually, anyway.

I apologize that I’ve not taken the time to present a more balanced viewpoint. This blog simply got too long.You may want to go to precepts.wordpress.com for a thoughtful defense of the dispensationalist view.

Questions:  Do you believe the Bible clearly teaches something else and can you help me find that in scripture and not in apologetics?

Following Jesus in Real Life

 

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Many ways to God?
Posted by Clare
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“My son believes there may be many ways to God, including other religions.  I know that’s not true but what do I say to him?”

The man sitting across from me, asking the question appeared to be a sincere Christian attending a good church.  But his son ran off to college and heard other opinions that sounded more “fair” than the claim of his church and of Jesus, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father, except through me.” John 14:6 And, fairness is the most celebrated virtue on college campus’ today – almost a religion itself.

“Tell me” I asked, “Do you think your son is a believer?” “He was, but not anymore. He says he’s on a spiritual search, like many of his friends.”

That doesn’t surprise me.  Ironically, it’s my experience that the only people who seem to believe there are many ways to God, are people who don’t really believe in a real god.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  That’s taking too big a risk. They’re not atheists – instead, for all practical purposes most believe in the mush god.

The mush god is an all-purpose god. He’s the god of the Chamber of Commerce – the god who’s blessing they ask on the food and for prosperity for our nation.  The mush god expects very little from you except to love others and live and let live, but otherwise he doesn’t stick his nose in your moral business. He understands that “boys will be boys” and forgives anyone, from anything, if you’re sincere.  After all, he’s a god of love!

The mush god is the one your son’s friends will pray to if they need something big – too big for them to handle.  They’ll cry out to him if their mother is dying, or if they get arrested for something.  He’s close enough to be a comfort but distant enough, to not be terribly inconvenient.”  The reason I explained first about the mush god is because if they believe in any god, it’s likely this one, or the god of another religion they really don’t know much about that they believe there are many paths to.

Many ways?

I once addressed a large high school group on this question of “Are there other ways to God?”  I began by showing them three travel guides to three different countries – Switzerland, Ethiopia and China.

“Each of these are books.  They have that in common.  They also have this in common, they’re all travel books.  They describe a specific country, how to get there, how to enjoy your time and the rules and customs you’re expected to observe when you’re there. They also tell you whether or not you need visas, because each country has its own requirements for entry.  But here’s what they don’t have in common.  Each book describes a country, completely different from the other two.  No one reading the book on Switzerland, particularly a Swiss citizen, would think that all countries were alike.  Ethiopia and China are nothing like Switzerland.

Here’s the point: Almost every religion believes in a god and an afterlife, and has its own requirements for entry. But, no two religions describe them the same, or believe they are the same thing, but just use different terminology. If you read the Koran, it describes their version of heaven (paradise) and how you get there, which is completely different than the description of the Christian heaven. And, no Jew would mistake the Christian idea of heaven and the kingdom of God for whatever afterlife different Jews claim to believe in.  And, no Hindu would say you have to believe in Jesus to get to Nirvana and their Nirvana bears absolutely no relationship to the idea of either heaven or paradise!

So, no serious Jew, or Hindu, Muslim or Christian would say all paths lead to God.  As I said at the outset, the only people who seem to believe that all paths lead to God are those who don’t take seriously any gods!

Does that prove anything?

Being intellectually honest, that argument doesn’t prove that Jesus is the only way.  But ideas like, “there are many ways to God”, get repeated so often that they become urban legends – believed only by the uninformed and unreligious.

My initial goal when meeting with young people, who have been exposed to biblical truth when they were young, but then have been led to doubt their faith, is to help them to begin doubting these myths they’ve recently come to believe.

It’s been my experience that many of them truly want to believe in a real God who loves them and has a purpose and plan for them individually and for his world. But, often they’re fearful of losing the respect of the intellectuals in their life, who think religion is for the feeble minded.

If your college age kids or young adults don’t have close Christian friends, humanly speaking it’s going to be tough. One of the best things parents can do for their freshman children or grandchildren is look up the various Christian ministries working on the campus of the school being attended. Then give your child all their contact information. Also, contact a few of these ministries yourself and give them your students contact information as well. Be intentional!

Also, here are some websites that may help you prepare yourself for a discussion with your student:

http://www.comereason.org

http://www.thoughtfulchristianity.net

http://www.str.org

http://www.apologetics.com

Ultimately, the best defense I know is serious prayer and parents living out the truths of the gospel in a way that your kids will truly admire.  The following statement was made on the website monvee.com and it sums up the opinions of a number of non-Christians in America. “If Christianity were true, it would produce better people.”

While I believe that ultimately your child’s eternal fate is in God’s hands, your ministry and mine is to validate the gospel by our transformed lives, not just clever apologetics. That and prayer is your best human defense against these counterfeit faiths.

Question:  How have you prepared your student for the “many ways” challenge someone will make to their faith?

Following Jesus in Real Life

 

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A Spiritual Continental Divide
Posted by Clare
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Even if they say they are Christians, your children or grandchildren, may believe in a different God than you do!

For the last two weeks I’ve explored some of the practical applications of the two predominate protestant, biblical worldviews, covenantal and dispensational theology.  This blog features another “Christian” worldview.  It’s one of the most ill-defined, fastest growing and potentially, most deadly theology of any I’ve encountered.  And your children or grandchildren may actually believe it!

A few years ago, I served on Spiritual Formation Task Force for a local Christian high school and I was given a book by Christian Smith, entitled, Soul Searching. Under a major grant from the E.I. Lilly Foundation, Dr. Smith, a Christian sociologist, at the University of North Carolina and his team conducted hundreds of face-to-face and phone interviews to find out what American teens really believed about God.

His findings were startling to me, but the more time I spend with high school students, even in conservative churches, the more convinced I am that his research is right on. And, his findings explain why the faith of our fathers is not the faith of our children. Here’s a summary of what he found.

A Spiritual Continental Divide

The Continental Divide is an imaginary, geographic line running north to south, along the peaks of the Rocky Mountains of the U.S. All water or snow landing on the east side of that line flows to the east and just the opposite for moisture landing on the west side of that line. The Continental Divide is not just an interesting geographic observation. It determines the quality of life and the livelihood of millions of people, who either receive, or fail to receive its life giving water.

There is a spiritual “continental divide” in Christianity also. Either:

My life belongs to God. Because God is my creator and I’ve been rescued and redeemed by Christ, I now belong to him and the primary purpose of my life in the family of God is to love him and make life better for others. God is my life. Speak Lord your servant is listening.

My life is my own. “I believe in God and am grateful for Jesus’ love for me. I go to church to stay connected with him and learn more about how to live a better life. God’s primary job is to help guide me through life.”

For this group God is more like an “app” for their I-life. They press “God” with prayer when they need help. He’s always there to rescue them when life hands them something they can’t handle. Other than that and their church life, they’d prefer a God who wasn’t terribly inconvenient particularly when it comes to moral or lifestyle choices – this god is user friendly.

Either your life belongs to you, or your life belongs to God.

The second worldview is what Dr. Smith calls, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). It’s a counterfeit-spiritual adaptation and really isn’t Christian at all. The tragedy is that this counterfeit appears to the pre-dominate “Christian” worldview held by the majority of teenagers and young adults in the U.S. today. To understand how this has come about, Dr. Smith in his book briefly outlines two completely opposite worldviews, the first is a “Morally significant worldview and the second, a morally insignificant worldview.”

A Morally Significant Worldview

To live in a morally significant universe, means that we recognize there is a some larger purpose for our life, beyond our own existence, which has moral laws and a framework for making decisions, which are far more important than our personal happiness. We willingly agree to subordinate our personal rights for the common good of the community which holds to those views, or the deity which demands them, or both.

A Christian, morally significant worldview is the rock-solid belief that God is working in history and in the lives of men and women, whose daily choices and habits, either resist, or respond, to God’s redemptive purposes.  In all cases, his will supersedes ours.

A Morally Insignificant Worldview

By contrast, when a person lives in a morally insignificant universe, there is no creator, no God and; therefore, no moral absolutes, no cosmic purposes, no angels or demons – just life now. There are causes to support, like environmentalism, world peace, and justice, which gives some meaning to life, but even these are optional.

There are also obvious consequences for good and bad choices for us and others, but the framework for making those choices is ours to determine, based on what we believe is right or wrong. We have no moral right to force our ideas on others, unless they are in opposition to the humanitarian or environmental causes we champion or they impinge in my personal freedom.

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD)

The dominate religion among contemporary U.S. Christian teenagers is what we might well call “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. For all practical purposes, it’s a combination of these morally significant and insignificant worldviews. The creed of this religion, as it emerged from our hundreds of interviews with Christian teenagers, sounds something like this:

1. God either created the world or at the very least is working through evolution and people to give it some order, but obviously God can’t fix everything, or he would if he was a loving God.

2. Jesus was the Son of God, died on the cross and rose from the dead for the sins of the world and his primary teaching was that we ought to love everyone.

3. Jesus was more about love than rules.  God wants us to be happy and to feel good about ourselves.

4. We’re hopeful that the Bible has been translated with accuracy, but no one can be sure. Still it’s very helpful for teaching how we ought to live, but some of the moral rules that were true and worked thousands of years ago, may not be true today.

5. Good people who believe in God go to heaven when they die. However, the notion of hell for good people of other religions or those who’ve never heard is inconsistent with the idea of a loving God.

6. While I personally believe Christianity is true, it’s arrogant to believe we have all the answers or Christ is the only way to God.

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, is primarily about providing “therapeutic” benefits to its adherents. This is not a religion of repentance from sin, of living as a servant of a sovereign, divine God, of building character through suffering, of basking in God’s love and grace, or self-denial and self-expenditure on behalf of others.

Rather, it’s centrally about feeling good, happy, secure and at peace. One 15 year old Hispanic, and conservative Protestant girl from Florida expressed the therapeutic benefits of her faith in these terms: “God is like someone who is always there for you, I don’t know, it’s like God is God. He’s just like somebody that’ll always help you go through whatever you’re going through.”  Another 17 year old evangelical says, “He just kind of stays back and watches, like he’s watching a play, like he’s a producer. He makes the play all possible and then he watches it, and if there’s something he doesn’t like he changes it.”

Is this a new religion?

This isn’t a new religion!  It appears to operate as a parasitic faith. It can’t sustain itself, on its own; rather it must attach itself to established religious traditions, like Christianity, feeding on their doctrines and sensibilities. Their parents are happy that their kids are going to church and while they suspect the devotion of their children isn’t quite what they would like, at least they haven’t abandoned the faith. However, for all interests and purposes, most have.

So, if you’ve been wondering why you and your children are using the same words, perhaps even attending the same church, but there’s no passion for God, perhaps this is why.  It’s not that they’ve thought all this out and have come to a logical decision to adopt these worldviews, but many have, unwittingly morphed into this counterfeit Christianity, or their friends have and it’s scary. As Paul said in II Timothy, this religion “has a form of godliness, but denies its power”.

Some questions for you to ask your children:

1. What questions about traditional Christianity do you or your friends find most confusing?

2. Please describe for me the God you believe in – what is he like? (When they give you answers, take a little time to probe a little deeper to find out what they really mean. Also, ask what their friends think.)

3. Do you believe there may be other ways to God except through faith in Jesus?

4. How do you think this world was created?

5. What do you believe about the Bible? Do you think it’s accurate, relevant, etc.? Do you know how we got it?

6. Do you think there are moral absolutes that have been and always will be true? Which ones? Which ones may no longer be true?

My question for you:  What evidence do you see of MTD in your family or church?

Following Jesus in Real Life

 

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