Moralistic Therapeutic Deism may very well be the default religion of most mainline Protestants.
I first encountered the term reading Kenda Creasy Dean‘s book Almost Christian. Dean borrowed the term from the work other others, but MTD forms the heart of her analysis about youth in the church. One of her core points is that youth today practice MTD because they learned it from their parents.
Here is an outline of the doctrines of MTD:
(1) A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
(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.
This religion is so deeply embedded into our congregations that digging it out will be fatal to most. Like a cancerous tumor, it has invaded too many vital organs to be safely dug out.
I find myself perplexed by what to do about it or how to move forward. Will slow, patient, and steady preaching, teaching, and invitations to true discipleship wean people away from MTD? Or does it require shock therapy — the kind that shakes congregations and shatters them?
Musing on this helps me see why John Wesley went out outside the church in search of new converts. Paul went to the Gentiles for some of the same reasons. Some of our most famous megachurch pastors did, too. It is far easier to raise up new Christians free of MTD than it is to cure a congregation in the advanced stages.
Has anyone figured out how to do this?