The self-help industry has made billions of dollars convincing people that they simply need to believe in their goodness to succeed. Much of what is marketed by self-help gurus is called moral therapeutic deism. It’s a belief system that says that God is all loving and merciful and He loves you just the way you are regardless of any sins you commit. You are a “good” person and that’s all that matters.
In fact, sin doesn’t have much of a place in moral therapeutic deism. Any progress a person makes in this life is due to that person’s strength and ability and God is merely a spectator in the life of the individual. It is true that God loves each one us, but He doesn’t love or tolerate our sin. Our ultimate happiness lies in Him alone and that means the necessary purging of our attachment to sin in this life and in Purgatory.
“No, God is good. We are sinners. That is what every saint down through the ages has taught.”
Moral therapeutic deism is also a major problem in the Church today. It is one of the many pieces that fit together to show us how we have found ourselves in such dark days.
I sat in a discussion a few weeks back that I have pondered for some time now. The discussion turned to how we are “good”—laity and clergy who haven’t molested anyone—and so we can never understand such egregious sins as what has been brought to light by the scandals. That stuck with me and not because I agreed with this assessment. It is the opposite of what the saints say of themselves throughout Church history. No, God is good. We are sinners. That is what every saint down through the ages has taught.
It is easy for us to look at the grave sins of others and say: “Thank you Lord that I am not so-and-so.” We see this illustrated in Sacred Scripture by Our Lord Himself when he compares the prayers of the Pharisee to the sinner. What we forget is that the only reason we are not “so-and-so” is purely by God’s grace.
We do not sin or fall into those temptations because of God’s grace working in our lives. He has kept us upright, through no merit of our own. We are not prone to weakness in every area. There are temptations we haven’t had to face. We haven’t had to battle those demons. Thanks be to God! This should humble us greatly.
As I heard it said ‘that we could never understand these sins because we are good’, I thought to myself, “But I do understand how these men could commit these sins.” I don’t need to ask “why” because I know the darkness in my own heart. In fact, I’m positive that Our Lord hasn’t even shown me the blackest parts of my heart quite yet because, in His mercy, He knows I’m not ready to confront them, but I will have to, in His appointed time.
No, it’s not the exact same type of darkness as these egregious sins, but the more Christ sheds His purifying light into my own soul, the more I see how weak and sinful I am. It is through this process born of prayer, frequent reception of the Sacraments, intense periods of desolation, and spiritual warfare that I have come to understand the deep wound the Fall inflicted on human nature at a visceral level. The Fall has wounded us far deeper than most of us realize. These scandals should horrify us, but not surprise us. We are all capable of great evil without God’s grace.
Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.