At the suggestion of several preachers I listen to, I purchased and have begun reading Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris. The subtitle of the book is “Unearthing What I Believe and Why It Matters.” It’s a book of basic theology. (for the record, none of these pastors I listen to have recommended it to me personally – they just recommended it to their listeners and so I decided to take them up on it J)
So, I’m sure for awhile some of what I read will work its way into these devotionals (like today). Here is a wonderful thought I want to share with you that will have to be developed more in future articles. Two researchers, Smith and Denton, did a large study of teenagers to discover their view of God. Their findings are published in a book entitled Soul Searching, and in that book they describe the pervading view of God among teenagers as “moralistic therapeutic deism.”
Moralistic because it gives them a list of rules to live by; therapeutic because God’s primary reason for existence is to make us happy; deistic because while God exists, he isn’t involved. They summarize it with this statement: “In short, God is something like a combination Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist: he is always on call, takes care of any problems that arise, professionally helps his people to feel better about themselves, and does not become too personally involved in the process.”
After some reflection and discussion about this, Mr. Harris writes (and here’s the gist of this article), “I wonder how different our functional view of God is…I would never dare to call God my Divine Butler or Cosmic Therapist, but how often do I treat him as if he were?”
Ouch! That one hurt!
I’ve shared before that one of my passions is for people to truly know and understand the God who is (a phrase I’ve borrowed from Patrick Morley). I interact with many people who talk about “God” in an impersonal way. We still reside in the Bible belt, and so it is very culturally acceptable to speak about God, to attend church, and to pray before meals in public.
But how many people do we interact with on a daily basis that truly know God? And what do we do about it?
A colleague at work was telling me recently about how during Lent her pastor had challenged the congregation to read the Bible every day for the 40 days of Lent. A couple of times a week I’d ask what she had read and learned, and she would share the story or passage that had been covered that morning. But I’m not convinced it actually drew her close to God. Harris writes later in his book, “When God tells us about himself through stories and through doctrine, his purpose is relationship.” (emphasis his). I question sometimes whether people read Scripture just to read Scripture, or do they read it to better know and understand The Author.
Having said all that, let me summarize by challenging you to examine how you treat God throughout the week and ask yourself the question Harris asked- is your functional view of God different than what you say (and if it is we call that hypocrisy).
And for that we must repent and change.