Reconstruction Series : Pt. 1 | Repentance
This is the first article of a four-part series on deconstruction and reconstruction.
I came to Christ in 2002 at the height of a movement within Christianity that sought to make the faith more relevant, commonly referred to as the “seeker-sensitive movement.” On the surface, this change seemed like a necessary correction to the “cold, dead religion” of 20th-century evangelicalism. The mantra was, “It’s not about religion; it’s about relationship.” Unfortunately, large-scale corrections in the Church like this often lead to over-correction. These kinds of pendulum swings have been a staple of Church History from the beginning. The Church gets off balance in one area, the imbalance motivates well-meaning believers to course correct, and a movement begins.
A quest for authenticity: the over-correction
In the early 2000s, evangelism became less about calling people to faith and repentance and more about convincing unbelievers that their previous experience with Christianity wasn’t attractive because it wasn’t the real thing. Many tried to convince the world that there was a cooler, more accessible version of the faith. If they would just give it a try, they’d see how much better real Christianity is. This led to a modernistic approach to everything – the philosophy that if it’s old, it’s bad. Tradition became a dirty word. The more traditions you cast off, the more authentic your church was. It was not only a badge of honor to boast that you could wear flip-flops to church; it was somehow more spiritual than those who continued wearing their Sunday best.
Contemporary Christian music played an integral part in redeeming the “realness” of Christianity. The more you could push the envelope, the more real you were. I remember a worship team playing Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” to open up for the pastor’s “talk” one Sunday morning. Whatever the song's relevance to the message, the underlying motivation was certain. That motivation was, “See, we can do this in church because we’re not religious.”
This philosophy set the stage for the modern deconstruction movement.
In recent years it has become popular, even trendy, to deconstruct. “Ex-vangelical” is now a moniker taken on by the elite. The ethos of deconstruction is “I used to believe that too but I’ve outgrown it.” In deconstruction, the professing believer takes a critical approach to all of the beliefs they have identified as Christian. I should note that being critical and asking questions of beliefs that you take for granted is not a bad thing in itself. But as with most critical appraisals of anything, where you start will determine where you end up. Or better yet, why you start will determine where you end up. It is healthy and God-honoring to critique a belief from a place of honest questioning, seeking to understand what and why you believe it. However, modern deconstruction is a different animal altogether.
The fruit of the “Cool Christianity” movement
Modern deconstruction is almost always motivated by a pre-existing desire for some element of the Christian Worldview to not be true. This is the natural outgrowth of the movement mentioned earlier. The idea is that these old archaic beliefs about gender, sexuality, inerrancy, creation, etc., have the same cold and repulsive qualities as the traditions the church sought to break free of in the early 2000s. And we need to deconstruct this worldview to rebuild a new one that is more real and authentic. It’s the same philosophy.
Ironically, when you listen to some of the popular deconstruction stories, you find that many of the things they deconstructed were actually misrepresentations of true Christian beliefs. Straw-man versions of the doctrines they don’t want to be true.
In one account, the deconstructor bemoaned the lack of intellectual depth in their former Christian beliefs, stating that they always had a nagging sense of doubt when it came to creation versus evolution. They went on to say that when they began to search for answers to settle their mind, there were no satisfying answers to be found. It was made to sound like the person had been forced to keep their head in the sand all this time, and they finally snapped out of the “Group Think.” They deconstructed from a blind faith model of Christianity that is foreign to the Bible.
I’ve heard the same types of stories regarding the history of the Bible and its canonization. The deconstructor said they lost faith in the Bible because they couldn’t continue pretending to be okay with the “murky history of its origins.” It wouldn’t take much work to find tomes of information from any number of scholarly sources to discredit both of those conclusions entirely. Brilliant minds have studied and written on both topics for ages.
Furthermore, in all the stories I’ve come across, the one deconstructing never ends up keeping beliefs they found challenging at the beginning of the process. In other words, the deconstructors always end up where they wanted to end up – rejecting those beliefs they didn’t favor and embracing the ones they did. It’s a rigged process. Interestingly enough, many of the discarded beliefs are the ones most offensive to the culture.
As with most things in the current cultural lexicon, deconstruction has two meanings. The forward-facing meaning is generic and morally neutral: the critical dissection and analysis of our beliefs in order to put them to the test of truthfulness. The functional meaning is more specialized and certainly carries a moral element. In this sense, deconstruction is nothing more than apostasy masquerading as the pursuit of – here’s the word again – the “authentic.” It is the latter use of the term that I am addressing. In light of this, the first and foremost call to those who are deconstructing or have deconstructed is to repent. Repent and return to the truth.
For the one who has deconstructed, one of two things has happened. Either you have rejected Biblical truth and embraced unbelief because it is more morally or culturally convenient for you to do so, thus deconstructing your faith in the one true God while simultaneously creating a god after your own image (Rom. 1:22-23). Or, you have deconstructed from a faith that was Biblically deficient to begin with, and instead of reconstructing using the truth of God’s Word, you’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater.
The truths of God’s Word are in themselves relevant to every person in every age. The Christian faith is not ours to construct or deconstruct but to learn and hold fast to. The consequences of tampering with it are dire.
“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:3-4)
The encouragement to reconstruct your faith is not an encouragement to define or redefine but to seek the common faith handed down to us in the scriptures. No one has put the truth of Biblical Christianity to the test and found it wanting. How can I be so sure? I can be sure because Christianity is objectively true and demonstrably so. The case for that is the work of another article, however. Suffice it to say either Christianity is true or it’s false. And if it’s true, then deconstruction is nothing more than hip apostasy, which is why we begin this series with a call to repentance for those involved in this apostasy.
Nick Judd is the Kids Pastor at The Journey Church in Lebanon, TN. He is also the co-host of the "Everyday Apologetics" podcast. Nick is passionate about growing people in their knowledge of the Word of God and in their ability to defend it in the midst of a culture fighting against truth.