Stories of deconstruction break my heart. A few years ago, after hearing of a well-known Christian author abandoning Christianity, I remember going upstairs to my room and crying on the edge of my bed. Just this morning, I saw a Facebook post from a young woman saying she was “glad to announce” that she was leaving Christianity because “it wasn’t working” for her anymore.
Deconstruction is common in our society, especially among millennials and Gen Z, but it’s not a new phenomenon. Since the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry, individuals have been doubting His words and falling away from the faith. There has never been a time when Christianity has not been attacked by those who deny or seek to reinvent its doctrines.
Deconstruction is simply a new term for an old reality.
In the past, apostasy would have likely been the term used for those who deny and abandon Christianity. Alternatively, heresy (defined as any deviation from God’s written word) is used for those who don’t necessarily deny Christianity, but instead seek to reinvent it to be more in line with culture or personal preference. Heresy is an old word that’s not often used today and can easily be confused as full-blown apostasy. It’s not on the same level as apostasy, but can be the first compromise on a slippery slope. This can easily lead to complete abandonment of God, or a Christianity so altered it no longer resembles the apostolic faith.
Using terms like apostasy and heresy in reference to deconstruction might seem shocking. But let’s define what we mean by deconstruction. There are two primary ways I hear the term “deconstruction” used today:
(1) By individuals who, after undergoing a period of doubt over their faith or experiencing hurt from a church or segment of Christianity, have unpacked their beliefs, and decided to no longer hold those same beliefs. In other words, they’ve chosen to reject Christ and Christianity. This matches the definition of apostasy: “Refusing to continue to follow, obey, or recognize a religious faith.”
(2) By individuals who, after experiencing the same or similar experiences as the first example, have unpacked their beliefs and decided to hold to a few core doctrines of Christianity (such as Jesus’s death and resurrection or the existence of God), and to reject other beliefs (such as God’s design for marriage or the exclusive nature of Christianity). Heresy does not simply encapsulate deviations on so-called “essential” doctrines, but any deviation, distortion, or dismissal, no matter how small, of what Scripture has commanded and revealed. A heretical view, therefore, is a view that:
1. Does not align with God’s Word.
2. Claims superiority over the Word or dismisses what it says.
3. Incorrectly interprets and intentionally warps and mishandles what Scripture has revealed.
This form of deconstruction, therefore, must be clearly identified and labeled as heresy.
When we consider issues like deconstruction, it’s important to remember that Christianity is not ours to play with. It’s not a set of good ideas or helpful suggestions we can take or leave at will. It’s the absolute truth of all reality. The reality of a holy God who created the world and reigns over it, and the reality that we are sinful people who either submit to God or rebel against Him. There’s no third option.Christianity is not ours to play with. It’s not a set of good ideas or helpful suggestions we can take or leave at will. It’s the absolute truth of all reality. Click To Tweet
It breaks my heart when I hear people say things like, “I no longer believe a lot of what Christianity teaches, but I’m not giving up on Jesus.” Almost like it’s possible to separate Jesus from what He taught. The truth is that Christ Himself said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). The rest of Scripture reiterates Christ’s words: “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him” (1 John 2:4-5).
Christianity is not merely aligning with certain values or selecting a religion you identify with. It’s not merely ascribing to a way of life, or even believing in the existence of God or Heaven and Hell. It’s following Jesus and Jesus alone. To be sure, following Jesus means conforming to God’s values and the way of life He commands. It does mean believing what the Bible says about God, Heaven, and Hell. But Christianity is not just a “flavor” we choose from the buffet of religion that we can tweak to fit our own preferences. And one cannot deconstruct or reinvent the doctrines of Christianity and remain a follower of Christ. Being a Christian—a follower of Christ—necessitates obedience to the ways of Christ.
But Wait…What About Counterfeits?
But wait, I know many will say: What about people who deconstruct from truly unbiblical forms of Christianity?
Sadly, distortions of Christianity exist. I can think of many ways people distort God’s Word and offer their counterfeits as truth, from the feel-good message of the prosperity gospel to the constrictive, man-made rules of Bill Gothard. I recently watched Amazon’s documentary Shiny Happy People. While the doctrines Gothard promoted were disturbing, equally so was that all the ordinances of Christianity were lumped into the same box and labeled “toxic.” Everyone who had escaped from Gothard’s teaching was portrayed as having been liberated, and in response to these genuinely anti-biblical views, complete deconstruction of Christianity and rejection of Christ was glorified. People, sadly, have the ability to distort God’s Word for their own sinful purposes, but that doesn’t mean the Word itself is “toxic” or should be rejected. In situations like this, it’s not deconstruction or rejection that’s needed, but a return to God’s Word and a wise and thorough disentangling of lies from truth.
Examining your theology is far from actual deconstruction. We’re called to emulate the Bereans in Acts 17:9-12 who daily searched out the truth, studying the Scriptures to make sure everything they heard lined up with the Word of God. As we grow in Christ, we will doubtless be confronted by doctrines we hold that are incorrect or realize an idea we’ve been taught is inconsistent with Scripture. We may even come to the realization that the entire theological system of a denomination we’ve always ascribed to is not on base. Or we may discover that many of the voices around us are teaching ideas that are unhelpful, unbiblical, and contrary to the Word of God. Throughout my years of following Christ, I’ve had my beliefs and theology on countless topics refined or even overhauled. This is a good thing that shouldn’t be labeled “deconstruction.” The distinguishing mark for whether or not the change of our beliefs is good is if they are altered to fit our emotions, experiences, or preferences, or informed by the Word of God.
Following emotions, experiences, and preferences can easily carry us far from God, but revising our perspectives because God’s Word shows us something better is exactly what Romans 12:2 means when it tells us to be “transformed by the renewing of [our minds].” Doubts or questions about a particular doctrine or belief shouldn’t result in panic, supposing the entire foundation of our faith is suddenly on shaky ground. Rather, it should bring about a reinforced commitment to lay down our own thoughts and feelings on a matter and search the Word of God for the truth it contains. In a world and even a church filled with false teachers, faulty thinking, and secular worldviews, we must cling to the source of truth—God’s holy Word. People will distort it, abuse it, and even do evil in its name, but they and their works cannot be our proof of whether it’s true or false. Deconstruction is not the answer, and a complete 180-degree turn won’t point us in the direction of truth—only another version of sin, albeit a culturally applauded one. Only by understanding what the Word alone says and following it obediently can we find truth and freedom, living how God desires His people to live.
Truth in an Age of Deconstruction
Given the distortion of God’s Word, false teachings, and the reality of people rejecting the faith, the question arises: How can we stand strong in this environment? How can we help others know the truth and remain faithful?Deconstruction is not the answer, and a complete 180-degree turn won't point us in the direction of truth—only another version of sin, albeit a culturally applauded one. Click To Tweet
First and foremost, we need to learn and follow God’s Word. The main reason so many fall away and so much incorrect teaching exists in Christian circles is that we are often not Christians who thoroughly know God’s Word. We are susceptible to errant theology when we don’t personally understand and study Scripture. Churches today often look more like places of religious entertainment than biblical study. This breeds an environment of “Christians” who are not true followers of Christ and who will doubtless fall away because they have no sure foundation (see Matthew 7:24-27). Churches are filled with unbelievers who claim to be Christians, but who don’t actually know what that means because they’ve never heard and understood the true gospel.
Instead, we need to be people who deeply know God’s Word and who point out the difference between the many false gospels and the true gospel of God’s Word. We must know what God commands, who Jesus really is, and how He calls His children to live.
Second, we need to hold fast to the faith. Scripture encourages us over and over again to “continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast,” and to “not [be] moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard” (Colossians 1:23). “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:6-8).
These are still timely and relevant encouragements we need to actively communicate to those around us. We’re called to first hold fast to the faith ourselves and then encourage the steadfastness of others.
Third, we shouldn’t be surprised when people fall away and renounce Christ. We shouldn’t be surprised when God’s Word is distorted and abused. We shouldn’t be surprised when those around us reinvent their idea of Christianity in the name of being progressive or culturally acceptable. We were told this would happen (see 2 Timothy 4:3-4, 2 Peter 2:1-2).
We should, however, be grieved. We should grieve for those who don’t know Christ or who are cheated out of truly knowing Him because of a false gospel. Our hearts should break that Christ is so often misrepresented and disobeyed. This isn’t the way it should be, but it’s not a surprise because this is the way God said it would be.
Lastly, we need to pray for those deconstructing. The apostle James says, “If anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20). How do we turn a friend back who’s straying? By speaking truth to them, dialoguing with them in humility, kindness, and love; bringing them back to Scripture, faithfully living obedient lives in front of them, and by fervently praying for them. In the prior passage, James tells us that “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). Prayer is a powerful and integral part of drawing unbelievers to Christ and struggling Christians back to truth.
Deconstruction is a discouraging topic, especially when it hits close to home. But it’s also one that can point us to one of the most encouraging aspects of God’s nature: He draws people to Himself and holds His children fast (see John 6:44, John 10:28-29). Our task is to know His Word, obey His Word, and proclaim His Word as we trust Him to do His work.Our task is to know His Word, obey His Word, and proclaim His Word as we trust Him to do His work. Click To Tweet