Don't worry; be happy!

This should be everyone’s mantra, right? I mean, isn't a positive outlook on life something admirable? Not necessarily . . . Today, I’m going to ask you to hang with me as I share something that’s been heavy on my heart--something that’s been permeating our society (and our churches!)--for close to two decades now.

Moralistic Therapeutic What???

I recently read an article1 explaining what was identified in the early 2000’s as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD) also known as, more informally--“believe-in-yourself-ism.” One of its repercussions is that I am now a victim of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon--the experience where once something is brought to your attention, you see and notice it everywhere you go. Once you read the list below of the tenets of MTD, you’ll know what I mean.
  • Of course, I believe that God created the world. It’s too complicated to just have materialized on its own.
  • God wants me to be kind to others.
  • God pretty much leaves me alone, but is there if I need help.
  • As long as you are a good person, you will go to Heaven.
  • God wants me to be happy and feel good about myself, right?
“Everyone can conjure up some happiness and some niceness, so we sort of shelve God and decide we don’t really need Him. We just need to believe in ourselves, to invent who we are and what we want to do, and we need to just go for it.”2 

The more I looked into this philosophy, the more it reminded me of a scene from a Percy Jackson movie where Percy and his friends--looking for clues in their quest--end up at the Lotus Casino. When they enter the building, they are surrounded by music, dancing, lights, and laughter, and are offered a lotus flower confection to eat. After eating just one, they immediately begin to lose all sense of time and urgency, and completely get caught up in all the enjoyment around them while continuing to consume lotus flower treats. After days had passed virtually unnoticed, Percy heard his father’s voice in his head whispering:  “Don’t eat the flower, Percy. It dulls the senses--keeps you prisoner here.”
The MTD philosophy feels good, but it dulls the senses and keeps you prisoner to a false premise. This type of thinking which “seems right to (people)” leads to death (Proverbs 14:12).

Let me be clear: No one on Earth has ever experienced life without God.

Eternity without God

I have actually heard people say they don’t need or want God in their life, and they look forward to being in Hell, partying it up with all their friends, etc., etc. What they are not understanding is that eternal death (Hell) means complete separation from God and anything that shows the character of God. Let me be clear: No one on Earth has ever experienced life without God.
Galatians 5:22,23, known as the “fruit of the Spirit” to believers, are qualities of God Himself that He desires to see grow in believers, not to control us, but to give us the most fulfilling life possible. These are also qualities that make others want to be around us in order to enrich their own lives.
Using these qualities, allow me to elaborate about what life or death would be like completely devoid of God:
God is LOVE
  • Without Him there is NO LOVE, care, light, or warmth.
God is JOY
  • Without Him, joy, HAPPINESS, elation--whatever you want to call it--IS NOT POSSIBLE.
God is PEACE
  • Without Him, LIFE IS CHAOS, confusion, cacophony.
  • Without Him, NOTHING that is considered thoughtful, benevolent, GOOD, or selfless would exist.
  • Without Him, fidelity, LOYALTY, brotherhood, etc. are OUT THE WINDOW.
  • Without Him, the rule would be violence, chaos, lawlessness--COMPLETE DISORDER.
That is what Hell is--a dark, chaotic, noise-filled (weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth), panic-inducing environment with NOTHING good, kind, or comforting about it. There will be no friends, no pleasure, no parties, no rest.
MTD is a trap--an effective one at that--and the devil himself is at the root of it. Put another way,  “Satan is most effective in the church when he comes not as an open enemy, but as a false friend; not when he persecutes the church, but when he joins it...”3

God’s Joy--not the world’s “happiness”

God created a perfect, glorious dwelling place beyond our imagination--Heaven--a place that includes only what is in line with His character. His entrance requirement is simple …  sinless perfection to keep it that way. Wait a minute! That would mean NO ONE QUALIFIES, right? But remember, God is love. He loved you and me so much that He gave His Son--Jesus--to solve the sin problem that would separate us from Him forever.  It’s His gift, but you have to believe it and receive it (John 3:16). Nothing you can conjure up can change the reality of what will happen if you don’t.

Psalm 16:11
You will show me the path of life. In your presence is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

2. Jen Oshman, “Why Moralistic Therapeutic Deism Is a Dead End,” Crossway, July 10, 2020. See 
3. John MacArthur, 2 Corinthians (Chicago: Moody Press, 2003),  371.
Holly Varnum, Director of Curriculum Development at Reasons for Hope* joined us September 2021 to launch curricular materials to support many of our media resources. With degrees in education, curriculum and instruction, and educational administration, she comes with over three decades of experience in working with teens and adults in camp ministry, teaching and administration, and curriculum writing (A Beka Book, Focus on the Family, and Answers in Genesis to name a few). God has provided her with a well-rounded educational perspective through service in Christian schools, charter schools, public schools, Christian camps, and local church ministry. She has been a classroom teacher, instructional coach, administrator, camp counselor, Sunday School teacher, ladies’ Bible Study teacher, and conference speaker and looks forward to using her passion for God’s truth within the context of RforH*. 

Her hobbies include cooking and baking, hiking, camping, travel, and working on do-it-yourself projects. Holly and her husband, Paul, (RforH*’s new Director of Media Content) also enjoy any time they can spend with their three grown daughters, two sons-in-law, and two grandchildren (so far!). They live in the beautiful state of Maine, and yes, eat lobster (properly pronounced “lobstah”) whenever they get a chance!

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