MTD stand for “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.” Christian Smith came up with MTD in describing a pseudo religion that is replacing biblical Christianity with a pseudo-Christianity. MTD has five basic tenets: 1) A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth, 2) God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, 3) The goal of life is to be happy and feel good about oneself, 4) God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when he is needed to resolve a problem and 5) Good people go to heaven when they die.
The appeal of MTD one of improving one’s self-esteem and subjective happiness and getting along well with others. “America has lived a long time off its thin Christian veneer,” notes Smith, “[but] that is all finally being stripped away by the combination of mass consumer capitalism and liberal individualism.” “Is the Christiainity we have been living…..a means of deeper conversion, or does it function as a vaccination against taking faith with the seriousness the Gospel demand,” wonders Rod Dreher. MTD is dangerous to our spiritual health because it evades the necessity of Jesus’ substitutionary death for our sins.
The reality of Good Friday, in stark contrast to MTD, is vital in the soul care of men. We remember a God who suffered for us, freeing us from the bondages of our ingrained patterns of sin. God enters our story and suffered. As the prophet Isaiah foretold, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him and by His stripes we are healed (Is. 53:5). We face the temptation of emptying the cross of its power in “the cozy cultural religiosity” of our day, worshipping, “a God without wrath [who] brought men with sin not a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of Christ without a Cross” (Niebuhr).
The necessity of the cross is central to the healing of our masculine souls. Our help is found at the foot of the cross, where in trust, we look up and see Jesus bearing all of our sin and shame in his body. We have a concrete place to go with our guilt. In surrender, repentance and forgiveness we find healing in the shadow of the cross. I might not be very articulate in my passion in bringing healing to the souls of men, but I can continually point men to the foot of the cross.
Paul reminds us, “The Message that points to Christ on the cross seem like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out. It’s written, I’ll turn conventional wisdom on it head, I’ll expose so-called expert as crackpot” (I Cor 1:18-19 – Message). Against much cultural wisdom, soul care is done in the shadow of the cross.
Fleming Rutledge points to the necessity of the cross in these words, “Forgiveness is not enough. Belief in redemption is not enough. Wishful thinking about the intrinsic goodness of every human being is not enough. Inclusion is not a sufficiently inclusive message, nor does it deliver real justice. Only a power independent of this world can overcome the grip of the Enemy of God’s purposes for his creation. [Thus] Jesus Christ….offered himself to be the condemned and rejected Righteous One…At the historical time and place of his inhuman and godless crucifixion, all the demonic Powers loosed in the world convened in Jerusalem and unleashed their forces upon the incarnate Son of God.”