Mr. Nice Guy

In my last article, I talked about how one attribute of God can be so inflated above all others that he becomes a whole different God all together.  I showed how sometimes people take his omniscience to mean that God is always watching us in the manner that he is waiting for us to mess up so that he can nail us.  Today, I want to swing the pendulum to another, and I think more prevalent, misunderstanding of God.  Lacking good theological knowledge of God, many portray him to be Mr. Nice Guy.  This God’s primary goal for all his people is their own personal happiness and bolstering self-esteem.  People with this image of God live their life with the motto, Just do your best, God understands. This characterization of God has really turned into its own religion that has infiltrated its way into many established religions and denominations.  Christian Smith and Kenda Creasy Dean, among others involved in the National Study of Youth and Religion, are convinced that these new beliefs about God have highly contributed to the staggering declining numbers of young adults leaving the church after high school and college.  This phenomenon has been named Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.   Here’s how Dean outlines it in her book, Almost Christian:


1.      A god exists who created and orders the world and watches over 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 one’s self. 4.      God is not involved in my life except when I need God to resolve a problem. 5.      Good people go to heaven when they die (p. 14) So what’s wrong with the Mr. Nice Guy God?  Similar to the finger-pointing God, this belief is entirely man-centered.  The faith in this religion is really in oneself.  Christianity becomes a legalistic morality that has nothing to do with Christ.  Who is glorified in MTD?  You.  In the end, Mr. Nice Guy isn’t very loving at all because he cannot fulfill our deepest need.  And he surely isn’t God, because he is lacking holiness, justice, and sovereignty.  God is impotent.  Man is sovereign. Christianity isn’t about being nice.  Our faith makes an offensive claim:  that since the Fall, man is totally depraved, unable to glorify our Creator apart from his saving grace.  We are corrupted by sin in our minds, bodies, and actions, perpetually worshiping anything and everything but God: power, fame, relationships, careers, image, pleasure…  We are in bondage and we cannot escape our horrible condition by our own efforts.  My best is not good enough.  Not even close.  And then comes one of the best phrases in the Bible, but God “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show us the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:4-8). (To read my article on the difference between nice and kind, click here.) Ours is a historic faith with content.    “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.  After that he was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.  After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.  Then at last He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time” (1 Cor. 15:3-8).  If what we claim is not true, then our whole faith falls apart.  If Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is all there is to God, than no wonder church members are dropping like flies.  The covenantal renewal ceremony turns into a moralistic pep talk.  Who needs to wake up early on a Sunday morning for that?