In a day when pop culture has more influence than the Bible, sound theology may not feel so important. According to The Field Guide On False Teaching, a form of deism reigns supreme “in America, especially among young people.”
[Moralistic therapeutic deism] has five central beliefs: a God exists; He wants people to be good to each other; the goal of life is to be happy; God does not involve Himself in human affairs except to resolve problems; and good people go to heaven when they die.
In my experience, most people who profess a belief in God unknowingly hold to this system. They view God as mostly distant and unknowable. He’s not typically involved in our affairs unless we become desperate enough to seek his divine intervention. He doesn’t ask much from us. His will for us is simple and arbitrary. As long as we are relatively good people, he will surely open the gates to heaven when our time comes to enter.
This view of God is popular because it’s convenient. God makes no strenuous demands. He doesn’t even define what it means to be a good person. Yet, it has two distinct advantages over atheism. First, one can call upon an all-powerful God in times of need, like a magical genie. Second, heaven awaits. At a loved one’s funeral, we can take solace in knowing he or she has entered a better place because he or she was a seemingly good person.
How can we know these things about God, goodness, and eternal life? That question has an interesting answer. The modern deist, not to mention all of Western society, borrows from the Christian Bible and worldview while ignoring the inconvenient parts and rejecting the source. On the one hand, we might say they are merely embracing self-evident truths. After all, what can be known about God is evident among them because God has shown it to them (Ro 1:19). On the other hand, inherent knowledge of our Creator’s existence doesn’t mean humanity is born with sufficient understanding of heaven or God’s definition of goodness.
How do we know heaven is a desirable place? How do we discern good versus evil? How do we know God has moral standards for us? God’s Word (i.e., the Bible) tells us. According to pop culture, however, theology is best served vague. Countless people profess to believe in a God whom they refuse to let speak for himself. Worse yet, they may refuse until they stand before his glorious throne and hear him say, “Depart from me, you who are cursed” (Mt 25:31, 41). Why are they cursed? We’ll have to read the Bible to find out.
We can debate the Bible’s reliability or discuss various interpretations of it, but asserting things about God without consulting what God says about himself hardly makes sense. The prophet Isaiah says, “Seek the LORD while he may be found” (Isa 55:6). Inquire about him. Ponder him. Examine the Scriptures daily because all Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (Ac 17:11; 2Ti 3:16, 17).