(1st Things) George Weigel–Domesticating the Divinity

Two factors creating today’s crisis of faith are familiar to most of us: “scientific fundamentalism,” which asserts that the only path to truth is through the empirical scientific method and the natural sciences, and “secular messianism,” which imagines the world to be perfectible by human agency alone. Archbishop Vigneron identified a third factor impeding or corroding faith today, “moralistic therapeutic deism.” He writes:

This term was famously coined by two sociologists to describe the amorphous set of religious beliefs to which many American young people subscribe. This belief system is moralistic in that it emphasizes moral behavior, vaguely defined as being nice, kind, pleasant, respectful, responsible, and so on. It is therapeutic in that it envisions God as on call to take care of problems that arise in our lives, but not otherwise interested in us nor holding us accountable for our choices. It is deistic in that it views God as having created the world but not personally involved in it. Such views fall short of the Christian understanding of God, who does hold us accountable, who gave his Son for us to save us from the devastating consequences of sin, and who desires to be deeply involved in our lives.

The Church of Nice is not the Church of Jesus Christ, who came “to cast fire upon the earth” and longed to see it blaze up [Luke 12.49]. Yes, the Church of Jesus Christ is the Church of the merciful father, who restores to the prodigal son the squandered dignity of his sonship. But the condition for the possibility of the son’s receiving the father’s forgiveness is the son’s recognition of his need for forgiveness—the son’s recognition that he had been reduced to foraging for swine’s fodder by his self-indulgent self-sufficiency.

There are signs all around us of Christian communities domesticating God by trimming their doctrinal and moral sails to the prevailing mores of the postmodern West.

Read it all (my emphasis).

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Posted in Theology