Veggie Tales and Moralism Vs. The Gospel

As a former youth pastor I saw some pretty wild things. I saw some gross games, big events, and really bad theology. The worst thing I have witnessed is the teaching of moralism. Moralism is defined by Merriam-Webster as:

a : the habit or practice of moralizing

   b : a conventional moral attitude or saying

2: an often exaggerated emphasis on morality (as in politics)

Young kids go to youth groups and hear that they can change themselves, instead of hearing that the Gospel can change them. I have talked to many youth pastors who have discussed the pressures of building big ministries with kids that do the right things. This pressure comes from head pastors, parents, and society. The problem is that moralism is not the Gospel. Moralism is not what Jesus calls us to. Unfortunately, this isn’t only limited to youth groups.

Many 20 somethings grew up watching Veggie Tales. I only watched a couple of episodes growing up, but going to a Christian college showed me just how many people grew up watching those lovable talking vegetables. Even with my new knowledge of how many Christians watched Veggie Tales, I had no idea that Veggie Tales made about 70 million dollars. Well, Phil Vischer’s company (Big Idea), creator of Veggie Tales, went bankrupt in 2003. Today, Vischer has a brand new view of his work. In a 2011 interview with World Magazine, Vischer expresses some regrets about his beloved creation:

How are you applying your experience with Big Idea to your new venture, Jellyfish Labs? I looked back at the previous 10 years and realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, ‘Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so,’ or ‘Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible says so!’ But that isn’t Christianity, it’s morality…

…We’re drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel. And we’ve intertwined them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore. Our gospel has become a gospel of following your dreams and being good so God will make all your dreams come true. It’s the Oprah god. So I had to peel that apart. I realized I’m not supposed to be pursuing impact, I’m supposed to be pursuing God. And when I pursue God I will have exactly as much impact as He wants me to have.

According to Vischer, Veggie Tales was merely teaching kids how to live right. Sure, they used the Bible to support their principles, but as Vischer points out, “that isn’t Christianity.” That is merely moralism. That is teaching young people how to be Pharisees. It is great that Vischer changed his attitude towards making entertainment that does more than teach a Gospel-less “do good” attitude. I pray that he succeeds in his new endeavor for the sake of the next generation.

What we need to learn from this is that we often have the heart change backwards. Many pastors, preachers, and evangelists think that people can make a positive move towards the Gospel without any heart transformation first.  This is not the case. Romans 3:12 makes it clear that no one can do anything good, and that includes accepting the amazing grace and mercy of God. God causes heart change, we can’t. This makes moralism one of the most terrifying heresies, because it makes people think they are right with God when, in fact, they are not. Moralism falls short of the Gospel message of Christ.

Allow me to end with the words of Dr. Albert Mohler. This is what he said about moralism:

The deadly danger of moralism has been a constant temptation to the church and an ever-convenient substitute for the Gospel. Clearly, millions of our neighbors believe that moralism is our message. Nothing less than the boldest preaching of the Gospel will suffice to correct this impression and to lead sinners to salvation in Christ.

Hell will be highly populated with those who were “raised right.” The citizens of heaven will be those who, by the sheer grace and mercy of God, are there solely because of the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Moralism is not the gospel.

Thanks for reading.

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About Travis Berry

I am a blatantly honest person who loves to think, read, discuss, and write about God and theology. I have a bachelor's degree in Youth Ministry from Crown College. I work at a church in Houston, TX as a Youth Director and love every minute of it! I am married to a wonderful woman named Becky and we are expecting our first child in June! I have a love for God's Word, and a fervor to live it out in the fullest, and I pray this blog reflects that. Thanks for checking out AnotherChristianBlog!.

Posted on June 21, 2012, in Christianity, Life, Theology and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. There is a giant mistake about the pharisees made commonly in the church because we dont like legalism. The pharisees where called out everytime in scripture not for being legalists, not for being moralists, but for being hypocrites (most of the time because they didn’t uphold the very standard they created). Christ calls them “white washed tombs” and states that they “strain out a gnat but swallow a camel” these individuals were not being attacked as hypocrites because they strained out gnats but because in doing so they missed the camels.

    It’s akin to washing thoroughly the nice parts of your body, face feet etc, but ignoring the more gunky parts because it might leave you feeling dirty (armpits etc). Moralism in fact is something Christ did teach, not only that the “yeast of the pharisees” can corrupt and work through the whole dough (so morally one should stay away from thier teachings) but also to the rich young man he teaches specifically for him to take a moral action (give all he owns to the poor).

    The mistake we make is thinking that simply because a person CAN do moral good without a moral heart, the moral good they are doing IS NOT from a moral heart. And John quite vehemently tells us otherwise, that in fact the only sure way to know we are truly saved and thus under grace is by our obedience. Assuming we are under grace, without challenging our actions is in fact the very thing that made the pharisees white washed tombs….not legalism or moralism.

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