Moralistic Deism: a term many of us have never heard before. I first heard this term listening to a sermon by Matt Chandler where he introduced it to explain how many professing Christians may actually not be Christians. He uses the term quite frequently and rightly so. And while many of us maybe haven’t seen this term before, it does accurately describe many of our belief system. While many of us claim to be Christian, we are merely Moralistic Deists. So today I thought I would introduce this term to those who have never seen it before.
So what exactly is Moralistic Deism? Well by taking it apart we see that it is focused on morality, (Moralistic), and also focused on the belief in a God, (Deism). So in it’s most base form, Moralistic Deism is a belief in God and the accompanying good words or good morality that follows such a belief. If you are good and you believe in God, this may be you. Sounds a lot like Christianity right?
And this is the extreme danger found in Moralistic Deism. It sounds so close to Christianity that many fall for the false promises it makes. I mean, when we hear about a cult or some other false belief we can easily brush it aside. But Moralistic Deism’s danger lies in its subtle differences. And that is what I want to warn us all about today. Just because you believe in Jesus and are a good person does not make you a Christian. It does make you a Moralistic Deist, but that is not Biblical nor able to save you from sin. There are three primary ways Christianity and Moralistic Deism differ.
But before we look at those, please don’t assume you are Christian and that this Moralistic Deism is talking about your friends or those other people. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 13:5 “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” Notice he doesn’t say test your neighbor or the other people at Church but rather “test yourselves.” So as we walk through these three differences, I encourage us all to test yourselves.
The first and primary difference between Christianity and Moralistic Deism is Jesus. Moralistic Deism loves Jesus and wants Him to forgive us, but doesn’t really rely or depend on Him for their lives. Being a Christian is not just about knowing facts. James tells us in James 2:19 “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe- and shudder!” Believing that Jesus actually died and rose again is only half the answer. The problem is that this knowledge is often where Moralistic Deists stop.
The second part of having a knowledge about who Jesus is is applying it to your life. The demons know Jesus is God, but do they want to serve, love, honor, glorify and praise Him? Do they call Him Lord? A number of verses, (Romans 10:9-10, 1 Corinthians 12:3, Philippians 2:11, etc..), emphasize confessing Jesus as “Lord.” I once heard a British Pastor talk about how Americans have really lost this idea of Lord because we don’t have anything like a Lord in our culture.
But basically Lord means ruler or king. So when we follow Jesus we not only know that He died and rose but we also confess that He is Lord of the universe and of our own personal lives. Moralistic Deists treat Jesus like a Genie rather than Lord of their lives. Is Jesus Lord of your life? Do you want Him to be in control and be the reason you live? Or do you just want Him to help you in those areas you can’t seem to help yourself?
This leads to the second difference between Christianity and Moralistic Deism and it’s one that has been a struggle for Christians ever since Jesus left the earth. It is this idea of grace vs. works. Paul spends most of the New Testament preaching against works based salvation, yet we still want to save ourselves. I’ll pick one verse, (there are many), where Paul tries to show grace through faith is what it means to be a Christian, not works based salvation. Galatians 2:16 says, “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”
Christians and Moralistic Deists both strive to be good people. Christians are motivated by love and do good in reaction to the good already done them by Jesus. They do good works naturally out of the goodness of their transformed heart, (Luke 6:43-45), and when they make fleshly errors they run TO Jesus in confession and repentance. Moralistic Deists are motivated our of fear and do good to try and earn God’s favor. They claim to have been forgiven by Jesus but seem to neglect Him by trying to earn what HE has already done for them. When Moralistic Deists make fleshly sins they tend to run FROM or hide from Jesus. They feel ashamed and instead of going to Him who alone can forgive and heal they run and try to fix it or deal with the problem themselves.
Do you do good works because you know Jesus and want to bring glory to His name? Or do you want to earn some kind of cosmic reward? When you mess up do you fall on your knees before Jesus and ask Him to restore and heal you? Or do you stay away from Jesus until you can fix yourself and can come back to Him looking good?
The third difference is where we put our focus and hope. Christians are Christ focused while Moralistic Deists tend to be self-focused. Christians realize Jesus is Lord and that He alone can save us from ourselves. Moralistic Deists like Jesus and find Him useful, but ultimately depend on themselves to save.
An example of this is in prayer. A Christian prays “your kingdom come your will be done” and “not as I will but as You will.” (Matthew 6:10 and 26:39). The heart of a Christian’s prayer is centered on God and His glory. Yes we still ask for “our daily bread” and other needs, but our ultimate focus is on His will. A Moralistic Deist tends to pray only for needs that they can’t do themselves. Miracles, healings or anything else they can’t fix themselves. But if they know the answer or how to solve the problem they rarely go to God, (Numbers 14:39-45).
Do you pray and rely on Jesus to save and forgive? Or are you self-focused and pray only for that which you cannot do for yourself? Do you see your life as a means to bring glory and honor to God? Or do you see your life as a means to bring glory and honor to yourself?
I pray that each of us would examine ourselves this week. I pray we would ask these questions and seek to find whether or not we can truly call ourselves Christians. Many use the word but some use it wrongly. May we not be those who thought we were Christians yet our Lord says He never knew us, (Matthew 25: 31-46). May we not just be Moralistic Deists who do good and believe in Jesus but rather be Christians who do good because they know Jesus is the universe’s and their personal Lord and Savior. May Jesus be our all-in-all and the reason we breathe.