“Deconstruction” has become a buzzword among Christian evangelicals of a certain type. Christian singers, writers, and other cultural figures speak about their own process of deconstruction. Deconversion or liberalization of “Christian celebrities” is nothing new. It can be an effective way to get another 15 minutes of fame when someone’s career is in need of resuscitation.
Sometimes, as in the case of I Kissed Dating Goodbye author Joshua Harris, “deconstruction” ends in a loss of faith altogether, followed in his case by a botched attempt to make money off a deconstruction course to help others along in their apostasy. Other times, the process of deconstruction ends up with a faith that looks a lot more like the surrounding culture than anything the Apostles would recognize as “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). Whether deconstruction ends in apostasy or theological liberalism, it is always a move from a superficially more biblical stance to a less biblical perspective.
What causes “deconstruction,” and how do we construct a faith that can’t be deconstructed?
As Christians, we should first and foremost look to Scripture to see what God has to say about how our faith should be constructed. We read that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Job 28:28; Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7, 9:10, 15:33)—meaning that our faith impacts not only what we believe about God, heaven, and morality, but it touches every aspect of our lives, from what we wear to who we marry to how we examine claims of competing belief systems.
God has given us his Word, the Bible, not to tell us everything we need to know, as if a single book could contain all the details of calculus, quantum physics, and botany, but to give us the key to help us understand any conceivable subject we might investigate. When we understand that God created the universe and us and that the world he created “very good” has fallen into sin, we can reconcile what our conscience tells us should be from the often “very bad” reality of life in a fallen world. And when we understand that God has been on a campaign of salvation in Christ that will encompass the entire creation in the new heavens and earth, we can find our place in that order.
The parable of the house built on the rock versus the house built on sand is applicable here (Matthew 7:24–27).
The parable of the house built on the rock versus the house built on sand is applicable here (Matthew 7:24–27). If our faith is founded on a mature belief in and understanding of God’s Word, it will withstand the challenges we face in life. If we are only located within Christianity because that is what has been easiest to a certain point, as soon as something else becomes easier, our faith will crumble like the house built on sand.
It might be surprising to hear that some aspects of deconstruction are the result of the good instinct to push back against mere human tradition. When a certain thing becomes the “Christian way to do things” unmoored from any biblical reasoning, as Christians, we should push back against human traditions. That’s exactly what Jesus did when he utterly rejected the Pharisaical “tradition of men” that had overshadowed and even contradicted the Law of Moses (Mark 7:8).
Where the deconstructors go wrong is that they use human experience rather than the Word of God to gauge whether something should be kept or discarded. When a best friend “comes out” as gay, or one hears the story of a trans influencer that presents the struggle of gender dysphoria in a sympathetic way, it is easy to be swayed and to start to question whether the Bible’s statements about gender and marriage are really relevant in today’s world. When someone who professes a different religion seems to be in many ways moral and a “good person,” it can be hard to maintain that even that “good person” will go to hell unless they repent and put their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. If we don’t have an overarching theology that will allow us to reconcile these things, it becomes more likely that we will discard the Bible’s teaching altogether.
Deconstruction almost always goes from a superficially-biblical stance without mature grounding in biblical truth (for instance, affirming biblical marriage without the theology that undergirds it and allows us to defend it) to acceptance of the cultural norm (such as gay marriage) with an overt, vocal rejection of the prior view.
Was Luther a Deconstructionist?
Some deconstructors look to history for a precedent of deconstruction, and many cite Martin Luther. After all, he started out as a devout Augustinian monk and ended up being one of the key Reformers who founded Protestantism. But when we look at Luther, we see many key differences.
Luther was a Roman Catholic at a time when overtly-superstitious practices like relics and indulgences fleeced the common person, who, for example, might be swindled into paying to release their dead relatives from purgatory. The Roman Catholic church was a den of sexual immorality, even in the highest branches. In other words, Luther was not troubled by a supposed teaching of Scripture, but by superstition and immorality directly contradicting Scripture.
Luther also appealed directly to the plain teaching of Scripture when addressing the sinful practices of the Roman Catholic church. When asked to retract his teaching at the Diet of Worms, he replied:
I cannot submit my faith either to the pope or to the council, because it is clear that they have fallen into error and even into inconsistency with themselves. If, then, I am not convinced by proof from Holy Scripture, or by cogent reasons, if I am not satisfied by the very text I have cited, and if my judgment is not in this way brought into subjection to God’s word, I neither can nor will retract anything; for it cannot be either safe or honest for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.1
Rather than arriving at a conclusion of agreement with the surrounding culture, Luther had to be kidnapped by his friends and held at the Wartburg castle to prevent his assassination. By contrast, most “deconstruction” journeys conclude by walking in lockstep with whatever is fashionable and “woke.” No one ever seems to deconstruct in a way that ends up with being banned on Twitter.
No one ever seems to deconstruct in a way that ends up with being banned on Twitter.
The boundaries of Luther’s reformation were determined by Scripture. That’s why he opposed the Zwickau prophets who claimed direct inspiration that overruled Scripture and the radical reformers. Even if there are areas where one might disagree with Luther’s interpretation of Scripture, what Luther believed was being plainly taught by Scripture was in the forefront. Modern deconstructors have no such relationship with Scripture.
Finally, deconstruction is fundamentally a postmodern phenomenon, so to identify Luther as a deconstructionist is by definition anachronistic and does not fit how Luther himself saw his movement out of Roman Catholicism.
A Faith That Can Be Deconstructed Isn’t Worth Having
If you listen to a person’s “deconversion” story, the description of faith that you will find is not a strong one. Often the faith that gets destroyed is a naïve, uninformed “Sunday school” version that has no explanatory power or substance. So the moment the Christian is confronted with hard questions or personal suffering, or even feeling uncomfortable “judging” someone else’s unbiblical choices, their faith crumbles because it wasn’t built on the bedrock of Scripture.
Deconstructed people often present themselves as more enlightened, but that is only because their former faith was no faith at all; it was just useless, blind acceptance of what someone else taught them.
Deconstructed people often present themselves as more enlightened, but that is only because their former faith was no faith at all; it was just useless, blind acceptance of what someone else taught them. It never became their own faith—it never matured into something that had the substance to withstand the slightest challenge.
Building on Bedrock
A common denominator in most deconstruction stories is an appalling ahistorical ignorance of both the Bible and Christians’ interaction with Scripture throughout Church history. They genuinely think that we’re grappling with questions today that no one thought of while the bubonic plague was killing a third of Europe’s population, or while Christians were being pitted against wild animals in the Roman arenas, or while they lived through one horrific “War to End All Wars” only to live through another one less than a generation later. Anything we’re going through today, someone went through worse during 2,000 years of church history, and wrote about it!
Many people have written about how the training many young people receive in Sunday school and youth groups is frankly incomplete and unable to stand up to even the basic challenges of an atheistic college professor in their freshman year. When the Christian band your child is listening to comes out in support of trans pronouns, or the author of the Christian book you gave them comes out rejecting that message and telling them why they shouldn’t believe it anymore, have you given them a sufficient foundation to withstand that? These instances actually provide a great opportunity to discuss these issues and to help build a foundation for a faith that will withstand the challenges they will inevitably face. AiG wants to partner with fellow believers and help them navigate the constant barrage on Christian faith and the Bible. We have many resources to help, from meaty Sunday school curricula to social issue booklets, to books addressing supposed Bible contradictions. We recommend you read them yourself and then lovingly pass them on to others in need of answers. And don’t forget to pray for those who have “deconstructed,” and those being influenced by it.