Recently, there have been many people who are participating in “deconstructing” their faith. Numerous podcasts, internet videos, and blogs are becoming popular among those who are experiencing doubts and questioning their Christian faith. Many “Christians” have even claimed to have fallen away from the faith because of the process of deconstruction.
Well-known figures, such as Joshua Harris and Bart Ehrman, are a few examples of people who claimed at one time to have been “Christian” but deconstructed their faith and no longer believe.
Many Christians are rightly concerned about the current movement urging deconstruction of the Christian faith. Instead of moving toward a correct view of the Bible by removing cultural biases and interpretations, these individuals are usually rejecting faith altogether or forcing the Bible to fit their culture.
Instead of ignoring those who are questioning long-held beliefs and practices, Christians should be prepared to answer this new movement. Being aware of the real issue behind deconstruction while also encouraging people to be aware of their beliefs and study Scripture seriously for themselves, Christians can properly encourage those with doubts while also protecting against the dangers of deconstruction.
The term “deconstruction” is the technical term used by theologians to refer to the process of reevaluating beliefs about faith. To trace back the beginnings of deconstruction, one must understand the teachings of French philosopher Jacques Derrida.
According to Derrida, ideas and the origins of constructed reality, also known as “the center,” should be deconstructed, or taken apart, and then made into something new (Katlyn Graupner, “Jacques Derrida,” Global Journal of Classical Theology).
Derrida’s view of deconstruction has normally been applied to literary criticism and philosophy, but the modern, “popular usage [of] the term has come to mean a critical dismantling of tradition and traditional modes of thought” (“Deconstruction,” Britannica, 2021, par. 1).
Applied to one’s faith, then, a person actively takes apart their “constructed” faith to examine their beliefs. For instance, a common area of deconstruction in faith is in reference to the biblical teaching about homosexuality. Because of the culture, the “traditional” biblical view of homosexuality is unpopular and unacceptable because Scripture teaches that homosexuality is a sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
Since there is a strong tension between this view and the culture, many people have undergone a deconstruction of the “traditional” view of homosexuality to reject what the Bible teaches or explain away the unpopular teaching in favor of an advocating view of the LGBTQ+ movement. People will also commonly do this with the teaching of hell and the gospel message.
The Real Issue of Deconstruction
Although many people who undergo deconstruction or reevaluation of their beliefs do so because they question key doctrines in the Christian faith, many issues regularly spring from matters of their own culture instead of biblical teaching.
In an important article by Hunter Beaumont, he rightly points out how a person’s doubt typically comes from “tension caused by a culture shift and not necessarily by Christianity” (“Deconstruct Your Culture, Not Your Faith,” The Gospel Coalition, 26 Apr. 2021, par. 8).
Questioning the validity of teachings within one’s culture or even a person’s church culture is a healthy practice to do. Numerous individuals, both young and old, have had damaging encounters in their church. Others have been fed lies from the Christian and secular culture, which are not true or based on Scripture.
Too often, the Western church has intertwined politics with the Bible, creating a mixture that is not helpful or glorifying to the Lord. Instead of discerning what is biblically right and wrong in one’s culture or Christian subculture, many churches have instead made the Bible fit their cultural beliefs.
In this way, evaluating and closely examining one’s surrounding culture based on the Bible could be a positive effect of the deconstruction movement. However, doubting individuals and Christians will need to focus on their own cultural assumptions, which has affected how they perceive the Bible.
Scripture never changes (Psalm 33:11), but culture is constantly shifting and going through periods of transition. A person must evaluate and be discerning of the ever-changing culture around them, both in their society and in their church.
The Need for Widespread Biblical Understanding
One of the reasons people are doubting key Christian doctrines is that they do not properly understand the teachings of the Bible. For instance, many people who are involved in deconstructing their faith are questioning the doctrine of hell because they do not understand how a loving, merciful God can send people to hell.
Instead of looking into what the Bible says about hell, many people who are deconstructing their faith follow false theories that hell is a theory, which was created during the intertestamental period, and that Jesus never talked about eternal separation from God.
Because individuals are quickly turning away to listen to popular deconstruction teachers who are advocating doctrines that fit with what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3), they are not seriously examining the teachings of the Bible.
Furthermore, most people who are involved in deconstruction are also casting doubt on God’s Word, which dangerously leaves them with nothing to examine their beliefs against.
Compounded with the problem of deconstruction is the fact that Christians in the Western world have a long-neglected personal reading of the Bible, the study of theology, and growing in discipleship.
Individuals expect to be taught at church, by the “trained professionals,” and do not attempt to develop their own interpretation and study of Scripture to formulate and articulate their beliefs about God, salvation, Jesus’ death, and resurrection, or the Bible.
Neither are they receiving regular training in spiritual growth or personal discipleship. Because of this, believers and churches should encourage those who are doubting and struggling with questions to seriously study and examine their views based on the Bible, like the Bereans (Acts 17:10-12).
Widespread study of the Bible, an accurate view of the gospel, and personal discipleship need to be encouraged in the church to combat the dangers of deconstruction, which has fed off the general shallowness of modern Christian faith.
A Word of Warning
While steps can be taken to actively engage the growing movement of deconstruction within Christianity, believers do need to be aware that many who will “fall away” were never true followers of Jesus.
As 1 John 2:19 states, “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us” (NIV).
Some people who are participating in deconstruction may claim to “fall away” or “leave” the faith, no longer believing, but the truth is they were never believers at all. If a person truly places their trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection to save them from slavery to sin, then they are eternally secure in their faith (John 10:27-28). Hence, a person can never lose their salvation, but they can never truly “walk away” or “leave” the faith either.
Individuals who claim to have “lost” faith because of deconstruction should be understood to have always been unbelievers who were merely trying to “play the Christian game” of going to church and earning their salvation through righteous acts and “being good.”
Such people need to be lovingly told the true gospel message, demonstrating that true salvation is based on Jesus’ work of redemption, not the good works of mankind (Ephesians 2:8-9). Only then will they understand that Christianity is not about following a set of religious rules or traditions, but about a personal relationship with the living God (John 17:3).
The Way Forward
Although the popular movement of deconstruction will not be leaving anytime soon, believers can positively affect those involved in the movement. They can do so by encouraging individuals involved in deconstruction to question the secular and “Christian” culture based on Scripture.
Most of the problems and tension come from individuals attempting to fit the Bible and Christianity into their preferred cultural teachings instead of allowing Scripture to speak for itself.
Furthermore, believers and those involved in church ministry need to support individuals in studying the Bible on their own, developing and articulating their beliefs through a personal statement of faith, and encouraging personal spiritual growth and discipleship.
Finally, believers who have friends who are struggling with deconstruction should seek to be helpful and present, while also reminding them of the true gospel message. Ultimately, the hope for those who are lost in the depths of deconstruction is found in Jesus Christ, the only Way to truth and peace (John 14:6).
For further reading:
Can a Christian Doubt God and Still Have Faith?
What Does the Bible Say about Wavering Faith?
How Can We Read the Bible as Culture Changes?
Can a Christian Lose Salvation?
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Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. She holds a BA in Ministry, a MA in Ministry, and is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing to develop her writing craft. As someone who is passionate about the Bible and faith in Jesus, her mission is to help others learn about Christ and glorify Him in her writing. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening.