The Deconstruction of Christianity, What It Is, Why It’s Destructive, and How to Respond

The deconstruction of those once claiming to be Christians is trendy and rapidly increasing, although people have been doing so since New Testament times (see eight examples in First Timothy alone – p. 61). Those in the deconstruction camp often fly under the banner of #deconstruction and/or #exvangelical (a term invented by Blake Chastain in 2016) (pp. 6, 30) and can be described more as an explosion than a movement. The authors believe many well-known former Christian celebrities have not only joined the explosion but are every bit as evangelistic in their attempts to persuade others as they were to proclaim the gospel in the past (pp. 14-15, 65, 71, 111, 192, 199).

By definition, deconstruction is “a postmodern process of rethinking your faith without regarding Scripture as a standard” (p. 26). Its “primary concern is leaving behind what’s characterized as ‘evangelical’ beliefs” (p. 28). While not identical to how the early French philosophers such as Jacques Derrida used the term as they birthed postmodernism (pp. xiii-xiv, 22, 152), the modern movement draws from their teachings. Postmodernism rejects universal, objective truth claims, seeing all such claims to authority as power plays used to manipulate others. Those who have deconstructed from Christianity believe that the Bible is used by evangelicals as a tool of oppression (p. 19) and that truth is subjective and individualistic (pp. 101-103). To them the Bible is declared wrong, especially if it does not match modern sentiments (pp. 115-116). Any doctrine that one deems harmful is seen as toxic (pp. 112, 139). In line with critical theory, truth claims are merely power plays (p. 142) to be challenged and rejected.

The reason for deconstruction usually involves a personal faith crisis, brought on by such things as suffering, doubt, politics, the purity culture, challenges to Scripture, abuse, and moral/toxic theology (beliefs in such cardinal doctrines as penal substitutionary atonement, hell, or complementarianism) (pp. 79-98, 184-185). Every act of deconstruction contains three basic components, the authors maintain:

1)      A process of deconstruction,

2)      A belief being deconstructed,

3)      A person deconstructing (p. 77).

Blake Chastain, himself an ex evangelical, offers a working definition for those using his #: Deconstructed Christians must leave behind a literal view of the Bible, a belief that women are to be submissive to men, a belief in the sanctity of heterosexuality/heteronormativity and a rejection of homosexuality as sinful, the assumption that the American way of life is best, and identification and partnership with political and social conservatism (pp. 33-34). The authors engage those points showing the misconceptions behind each (pp. 34-41).

The deconstruction movement is being fueled by social media influencers, the zeal of those who have already deconstructed, and the writings of Marxist, critical theory adherents, and postmodern thinkers (p. 154). Not to be missed, however, is the merging of Christianity and big business, while at the same time minimizing the teaching of the Word and the need for the local church. Childers’ transparent testimony of her life as a Christian entertainer with ZOEgirl and the aftermath is case in point (pp. 241-247). It was big business dressed up as Christianity, she claims (p. 244). To this day, she still struggles integrating with her local church (p. 247). While there are many factors energizing the deconstruction movement, more thought should be given to this final one. When Christianity is morphed into entertainment, even on a local church level, it loses focus as the pillar and support of the truth (1 Tim 3:15). And when that happens, Christians are ripe for deceivers and deception.

by Alisa Childers and Tim Barnett (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2023), 276 pp. + xv, paper $13.49

Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Southern View Chapel

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