Thursday, February 10, 2011

Therapeutic Deism

One accusation that is sometimes made is that certain individuals  are teaching therapeutic deism rather than Christianity.  What is therapeutic deism, is it a bad thing, and if so, how do we avoid it?

Now deism sees God as departing after creating the world, leaving it to run itself.  It is difficult to see how  full blown deism can be therapeutic.  But a idea approaching deism is what I call, following C. S. Lewis, a tame God.  A tame God superintends the universe, lays down some general moral and philosophical principles, may help me if I get in a real jam, but leaves me to live my life my way.  He can be therapeutic if He meets my felt needs and does not meddle much beyond that.  He is there to lift my self esteem, give me a positive attitude, save my marriage, or improve my job performance.  But is this Biblical?

The Bible states that our basic problem is that we are sinners (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9) and are in danger of the judgment of God (Romans 1:18; 6:23; Revelation 20:11-15).  Therefore, God intervened and sent His Son so that He could pay the price for our sins (Romans 5:6-8; Colossians 2:11-15;  1 Peter 2:24,25) if we put our faith in Him (Romans 4:4,5; Ephesians 2:8,9; John 3:16).  Therefore, we have confidence in His presence, having being declared righteous before Him by the work of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:31-34; John 3:18; Hebrews 4:14-16), but we are required, through the power of God working in us (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13; Colossians 1:29), to grow into the people God wants us to be (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:11-14; Romans 12:1,2).  We are not to see ourselves as standing before God based on our performance, but we are also not to be satisfied with where we are now but to press on in Christ (Philippians 3:4-16) Also, we are not told that if we trust Christ He will eliminate all our problems, but we can trust God to bring us through them (John 16:33; Acts 14:22; Proverbs 3:5,6).

Now I think there is a place for meeting people where they are; Jesus did with the woman at the well (John 4:1-45), and Paul did with the Athenians (Acts 17:22-34).  But we need to bring everything back to the issue of forgiveness of sins.  Also, while faith in Christ may help in facing the problems in life, there is no guarantee it will make them go away, and if we tell people this we are selling them a bill of goods.  Further, if a person comes to Christ without dealing with the sin issue, they have not really come to Christ.  But most of all, God in not some distant superintendent, but intervenes in and requires our obedience in every detail of our lives. And we need to be on guard, because the wrong idea has a way of subtly creeping into our minds if we are not watchful to prevent it.


  1. Great post. This needs to be preached from every rooftop.

  2. Thank you, I try to preach it on any rooftop I can manage to get on.