Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is a term associated with the work of Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton in Soul Searching: The Religious Lives of American Teenagers. Smith and Denton use these terms (MTD) to describe the common religious beliefs of American Youth.
The essence of MTD includes the belief that 1) A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth. 2) God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions. 3) The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself. 4) God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem. 5) Good people go to heaven when they die. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moralistic_therapeutic_deism]
I am admittedly a novice in this discussion and at this point I am finding my way to clarity and wisdom regarding it. I do appreciate the insightful summary produced by Al Mohler and the overview provided by Wikipedia.
I am burdened to know how to respond to this mindset since my ministry role has me in the midst of this generation of young people. I am most concerned about that superficial and phony Christianity spawned by these tenets. In fact, Christian Dean has addressed this in a second book, Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church. (Oxford University Press, 2010).
Since I like solutions to problems I see a pathway in two areas. First, the church must be the church. By that I mean it must take seriously its role to be the pillar and ground of truth [1 Tim 3:15]. In the matter of MTD, the church must confront the faulty views of a phony Christianity with clear, contextual biblical teaching especially as it relates to the gospel.
Second, affirmations without affection for the person of Christ and His Word yield a dead orthodoxy filled with emptiness and idolatry. It is commendable to do right; but to do right apart from Christ is called filthy rags. It is commendable to feel good and pursue happiness, but to pursue happiness apart from Christ is selfish. It is commendable to acknowledge God, but to not see Christ’s place in your life is blind pride.