Contending for the Faith

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. –Jude 3

Have you ever heard of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism? According to research* most American adults and teenagers live by this cultural religion. It is a religion that piggybacks upon existing Christian beliefs and then tweaks them just enough to rob the power from a thriving Christian life. So, what exactly does MTD look like?

Moralistic refers to the concept that most Americans believe in right and wrong. In MTD, people decide for themselves what those things are. As long as people live consistently according to their own list of rights and wrongs, they can call themselves moral people.

Therapeutic refers to the concept that most Americans believe God exists for our happiness, satisfaction, and fulfillment. God’s job, according to MTD, is to solve people’s problems and to help them get what they want out of life.

Deism refers to the idea that most Americans believe in a God who cannot really be known. In MTD, God watches people play the game of life and doesn’t get involved much, unless of course, when people need Him to fix a problem or help them get what they want.

There’s probably a bit of the MTD “infection” at work in all of our lives. Sometimes, we play fast and loose with moral definitions, creating wiggle room to hold to “morals” even when we know the Scriptures draw a different line in the sand. Sometimes, we expect God to be the “genie” in our hip pocket; when we want or need something, we rub the lamp (pray) and expect God to give us our three wishes. And sometimes, we too tend to view God as distant, unknowable, detached, and unreachable.

Yet, the Scriptures paint an entirely different picture. The Scriptures are a real, living source for authority in our lives. We were designed by God to enjoy Him and to live for His pleasure in all we do. And, we know that God entered into human history in the ultimate way, through His Son, Jesus, to reveal Himself to us–not from afar, but right here with us.

We contend for our faith by maintaining our commitment to the Scriptures and by holding one another accountable to sound belief. In doing these things, we will keep the faith.

1. Do you see examples of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism demonstrated in the lives of those around you?

2. Are there any indications that MTD has infected your life?

2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Timothy 4:3-4; 1 Corinthians 10:31

* Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers by Dr. Christian Smith with Melinda Lundquist Denton; Oxford University Press.

Back to Top
Jim Liebelt

Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has over 35 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord culture blog also appears on and Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

  • About HomeWord

    HomeWord helps families succeed by creating Biblical resources that build strong marriages, confident parents, empowered kids and healthy leaders. Founded by Jim Burns and supported by Doug Fields, HomeWord and Azusa Pacific University have partnered to form The HomeWord Center for Youth and Family. Learn More »

  • About Azusa Pacific University

    APU is a leading Christian college ranked as one of the nation’s best by U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review. Located near Los Angeles in Southern California, APU is a Christian university offering associate’s, bachelor’s, master's, doctoral, and degree completion programs, both on campus and online. Learn More »

  • Contact Information

    • HomeWord
      PO Box 1600
      San Juan Capistrano, CA

    • Send us an email

    • 800-397-9725
      (M-F: 8:30am-5pm PST)