Like many people growing up, I believed in God but didn’t have a strong personal faith. I didn’t pray much outside of church, except before mealtimes and in special emergencies. I never read the Bible on my own. I didn’t know it was possible to have a relationship with God. For me, God was a loving, wise, but distant being—a sort of cosmic grandfather who was there when I needed him but otherwise remote.
Though I didn’t know it at the time, I had embraced what sociologists call “moralistic therapeutic deism.” It’s today’s most popular view of God. This view holds that God is concerned with two basic things: making sure we behave the right way (moralistic) and helping us feel better about ourselves (therapeutic). The last term (deism) adds that God does not personally interact with the world but only pops in on rare occasions, otherwise content with letting the universe run on its own.
In college, as I studied and learned more about God, I discovered two glaring problems with that view. First, it doesn’t demand anything of us, and second, it offers nothing significant. For the moralistic therapeutic deist, God is just there, without consequence or reaction. And that sort of God didn’t compel me at all.
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