It seems like the popular thing to do lately is for Christians to deconstruct their faith and now “come out” as non-Christians, “hopeful agnostics”, and even atheists. Author Josh Harris “fell away” from his faith last year after leaving his wife. Christian musicians have been doing this a lot. Recently, popular YouTubers Rhett and Link films some podcasts talking about why they left their faith behind.
In the wake of all these deconstruction stories are our millennials and GenZ-ers who watch and listen and then begin to doubt. It’s not the fault of celebrities that this is happening…some of it lies on us who haven’t taken the time to explain why their arguments aren’t all that great and have actually been debunked for centuries.
Go back in time about 18 or 19 years and I was one who got caught up in deconstruction and began to doubt my faith. At that time, the popular deconstructionisms came from “Christian” authors called Emergents. These postmodern authors were forming a network of Christian thought leaders and creating a movement of new ideas that were taking theological ideas and reforming them into something different. They sounded convincing. They were well-spoken and wrote best selling books. Everyone was reading these emerging texts. And many people were leaving orthodox, historic Christianity behind for something “cooler” which connected with young people.
I read Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell. I own all the Nooma videos that supposedly were good before his “fall”. (Side note: In just one of the first videos he made in this series, he deconstructs falsely who God and Jesus is. He uses the example of Mithra and makes false claims of who he is. His whole premise is wrong. So, no, Nooma videos are not good teaching. And no, they weren’t “before his fall”. He was wrong from the beginning.)
I drank in the many works of Brian McLaren (Generous Orthodoxy, The Church on the Other Side, More Ready Than You Realize, etc). You name it, I read it. Tony Jones, Dan Kimball, Donald Miller, Shane Claiborne, Mike Yaconelli…I soaked it up and my faith wavered.
I had gotten to the point where I questioned my baptism, felt like the church was outdated and irrelevant, and wanted to leave behind ministry for good. Because everyone was “doing it” wrong and didn’t have answers to my questions.
It was a downward spiral that took me to some dark places in life. When I had some confrontations in ministry and things weren’t going well, I quit my youth ministry job because it wasn’t getting better. There were parents accusing me and my wife of absolute lies and with my doubts arising, it was further proof that the church was too messed up to fix. So we left and I was suicidal. As David M. Young says in sermons and in his book A Grand Illusion, progressivism is not leading people to a better understanding of Christianity. It is the off-ramp to the Christian faith. I had taken the off-ramp.
In this time of peril I had met with a wonderful man, Silas Shotwell, who counsels ministers in crisis. I remember sitting in one of the rooms we met in and praying together. I remember when we got to a point in the prayer when we needed to “listen for God to answer” the prayers we were praying. And God spoke to me. It wasn’t audible. It wasn’t some miraculous moment in the biblical sense. I can’t even prove it was God. But I heard a voice in my head say, “It’s going to be ok. I’m here.” And I was afraid. I was so scared I began to weep and fall to the ground. Even in my fear, I was somewhat relieved. God was with me.
In the time that followed I started reading my Bible. Yeah, my actual Bible. The book that is the Word of God. And all the doubts I had were being answered in the Scriptural texts. And I realized that these men whose hands I had put my faith were wrong. Not just wrong, but blasphemously false anathema teachers. I tossed a bunch of their books…but kept a few as reference material. Because I wasn’t going to sit back and be passive when I heard people reading books by these men (and now there are popular women authors, “pastrixes”, bloggers, and speakers deconstructing the faith too). They are dangerous and I want to help people run from them.
My faith today is stronger than it has ever been. When I hear of another deconstruction story, I weep for them. That’s the Apostle Paul’s challenge to us: If we aren’t weeping for these people, maybe there’s something wrong with us:
For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.Philippians 3:18-19 ESV
I still watch Good Mythical Morning with Rhett & Link. I think they are funny. I am interested in what their favorite foods are in a blind taste test. I like to watch them see if different foods can become a pop tart or are good deep fried. But I see them differently. I can see a spark of life gone from both their eyes. They look hollow inside. I wonder if they really struggled with the answers to their questions or if they knew they wouldn’t have popular celebrities like Terry Crews or Jack Black join them if they held to their orthodox beliefs. We have to remember, they have money now. They are popular and earn a great living making these videos. They aren’t pastors who struggle paycheck to paycheck and leave it all on the line out there helping people in their messy lives to see the Gospel.
One of Rhett’s big doubts was exactly this: would the apologetics authors risk their livelihood if they left the faith? Of course they would because no orthodox church would have them anymore…but I want to turn that around to all these popular speakers, authors, Christian celebrities, and even Rhett & Link: Wouldn’t you be risking yours too? If you held to the historic faith, you’d be giving up your livelihood, wouldn’t you?
I deconstructed. But thank God, I reconstructed. It was God and His Word that brought me back. It was good friends who helped me to heal. It was discernment podcasts who answered the tough questions and gave reasoned responses to what I thought were good arguments against the historic faith. I realized the deconstruction arguments were pretty flimsy and were responsible for trying to steal my faith in Jesus.
How dare they?! They had no right to do that to me and other vulnerable Christians out there. And I will not allow it to happen to others. So, today, I stand firm and will not back down in the face of liberal Christians and deconstructionists who would try and take another’s faith from them. They have no right to those souls that belong to God.
Let me encourage you that if you are doubting, find a solid minister to work through these struggles with you. They would love to have great conversations with you about your questions. Send me a message…I can tell you if an author is good or not. I keep up-to-date on these kinds of writers, pastors, bloggers, and speakers. Finally, put down popular books and pick up your Bible and read it more. You’ll find more encouragement there. God’s Word is living and active and will bring you answers.