Atlanta native Jeff Foxworthy made a name for himself as a stand-up comedian doing a routine called “You might be a redneck.” Some of these classic one-liners include, “If you have a set of salad bowls and they all say Cool Whip on the side, you might be a redneck … If you have ever been accused of lying through your tooth, you might be a redneck … If you ever use your ironing board as a buffet table, you might be a redneck.” Foxworthy is a masterful comedian.
A theological system known as deism is no laughing matter. Deists hold that God is transcendent but is impersonal and has no dealings with the world. Therefore, deists deny such things as special revelation (that God can communicate with human beings) and miracles. Problematically, it seems as if many professing Christian theists are practicing deists. The following are three ways in which modern Christianity seems to be drifting towards a form of deism.
- You might be a deist if you reject divine communication. Undoubtedly, many people abuse and misuse the phrase, “The Lord told me.” Some have claimed that the Lord told them that they needed to raise so many millions of dollars for a new jet or for a new building. While many of those claims are greatly suspect, the reaction to the extreme charismatic movement tends to move too far in the other direction. For instance, John MacArthur notes that “The truth is, there is no fresher or more intimate revelation than Scripture. God does not need to give private revelation to help us in our walk with Him” (quoted in Buettel, “The Lord Told Me,” GTY.org, https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B160122/the-lord-told-me). The problem with MacArthur’s response is that he is gravitating towards an implicit deism. John Morrison warns that modern theology has greatly been influenced by a cosmological dualism which tends to shut God out of the world from all “spatio-historical action and objective self-declaration” (Morrison, Has God Said, 2). Is it not then possible, at least, that God could communicate with individuals on a personal level? I think so. Furthermore, I think God communicates with us often, although not in an audible voice necessarily. Yet, I would caution that we do need to check everything by Scripture as God does not lie and, thereby, would not contradict what he has said in his word (Titus 1:2).
- You might be a deist if you reject divine miracles. While it would be difficult to imagine that any Christian would dismiss God’s ability to perform miracles, the anticipation that God could work a miracle has seemingly declined in a modern rationalistic belief-system. This, too, comes from a philosophical ideology that holds that God cannot interact with space and time. However, is God not the one who created and developed the laws of nature that govern the universal system? If God is the one who created all things, including the laws that bind things together, then one could certainly hold that God continues to perform miracles as God sees fit. The rejection of God’s ability to perform miracles in the current age shows a bent towards deism rather than classical Christian theism.
- You might be a deist if you reject divine relationships. Finally, it seems that some writers and scholars (and I use general language intentionally) have popularized a notion that divine relationships are not biblical. That is, a person should simply accept a theological truth and not pursue an intimate relationship with a holy God. However, that again leans towards a deistic understanding of God. Jesus says, “On that day you will know that I am in my Father, you are in me, and I am in you” (John 14:20, CSB) before saying, “Remain in me, and I in you” (John 15:4, CSB). Paul writes, “The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ—if we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom. 8:16–17, CSB). A covenantal relationship with God is deeply personal. Thus, we should not think that our journey is one that is walked alone. Rather, the believer has the promise that God will be with them until the very end (Matt. 28:20).
This article is not to badmouth any theologian or writer. Certainly, the individuals who wrote against certain practices did so with a concern that certain people were abusing the name of God. Nothing could be worse than that. Yet, the history of humanity reveals that individuals typically have the uncanny ability to take issues to its extreme end. My concern is that by guarding individuals from New Age philosophies and radical forms of Christianity—some which have become quite cult-like—many are leading individuals into a form of deistic theology. Throughout the pages of Scripture, individuals have encountered God personally and radically. Their walk with God was quite personal and relational. While God is mighty and awesome, he is also tender, compassionate, and near to all of us. May we never forget that.
Recommended resources related to the topic:
Letters to a Young Progressive by Mike Adams (Book)
The Case for Miracles: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for the Supernatural by Lee Strobel Kindle Edition
Jesus, You and the Essentials of Christianity – Episode 14 Video DOWNLOAD by Frank Turek (DVD)
Brian G. Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com, the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast, and the author of the soon to be released book The Layman’s Manual on Christian Apologetics. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction), his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors), and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University and is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Brian has been in the ministry for nearly 20 years and serves as the Senior Pastor of Westfield Baptist Church in northwestern North Carolina.
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