Over the last few years, there has been much talk about people who have “left” the Christian faith and in fact, have come out publicly admitting that they no longer believed in what they once held to. This “Theology & Culture” (T&C) blog is aimed at tackling the issue of what has become a prevalent buzzword among many, “deconstruction.”
Jon Steingard, former lead singer of the Christian band “Hawk Nelson” is one of those who has renounced their Christian beliefs. Add to that Josh Harris, former pastor and author of “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” He also has taken the road of deconstruction.
People who once claimed to be followers of Christ but have now headed down the road of unbelief cite many reasons. Within this camp are those who point to the horrible scene in Canada connected to a Catholic school (closed in the 1970’s) where they believe unmarked graves of indigenous children were found. This was used as a field day by the media and of course, anyone connected to anything Christian came under attack.
And sadly, much of the information released regarding what was found across Canada as more graves were found in our northern neighbors did not tell the entire story behind what had happened but we are not here to discuss that. The point we are making is this was simply an illustration of what people will use to turn their back on Christianity.
Then there were the Crusades from centuries ago in which European “Christians” went to the Holy Land to take back Jerusalem and other key cities, going to war with the Muslims. But a little history clarification is in order here. Yes, the Crusades were religious in nature, but it was often Popes and people of wealth who pushed for these conflicts.
No doubt some Christians were involved but as a whole, believers who were true to the Word of God did not participate in the Crusades. But that does not stop people from using that time in history as a reason to question their involvement in the Christian faith.
Or the idea that the God of the Old Testament was bloodthirsty and ruthless when He told Israel to drive the other nations out of the Promised Land. “Who could worship a God like that?” someone who is a deconstructionist might say.
It is interesting to see what events people will use or claim that have led them to “deconstruct” their belief system. Sadly, the Christian church has made its share of mistakes over the centuries, but to completely say “good-bye” to what someone claimed to once believe in because of failures by some is, to me, the same as saying that all doctors are bad because we may have had one that was less than competent, it seemed, at their job.
In this part one of two blogs, we will discuss the issue of deconstruction. It is in some ways elusive because people define it differently and it is used in various ways. We will do our best to explain what is meant by this word and we will also give a response to those who have chosen this route.
Jon Bloom describes “deconstruction”, when it comes to how it is being used by some in the church as, “Deconstruction is a critical dismantling of a person’s understanding of what it means to be an evangelical Christian, and in some cases a refusal to recognize as authorities those perceived as occupying privileged evangelical institutional positions who “supposedly speak for God.”
The first part of Bloom’s definition is where we want to land. It is important to understand that when we talk about deconstruction in our T&C blogs, our focus is on those who have chosen to dismantle their understanding of Christianity, questioning one’s own beliefs based on various reasons and circumstances. This is seen, for example, I believe, in the growing belief of Theistic Evolution (TE), where the story of Genesis 1-3 is being questioned as whether it is in fact historical. Did Adam and Eve really exist? Did God actually create everything?
You will discover that many who hold to TE have other theological differences from the evangelical worldview as well. The point is, science has, in the minds of some, led to a change in what they have believed and why they believed it.
Our focus, though, will be on those who, in using the idea of deconstruction, have abandoned the Christian faith in total. Some have turned to atheism or have bought into the beliefs and values of the culture, whatever the issue may be. In some cases, besides what we saw earlier in the blog, people who have been hurt by the church, or been in toxic, legalistic churches, have used these situations to lead to their decision to deconstruct their belief system. These are just two examples.
To be honest, the reasons behind their decisions are theirs, of course, but in some cases they were not willing to put in the time and effort to examine historic Christianity and its claims and were also unwilling to recognize that not all Christians are hypocritical or looking to hurt others by control, etc. I have seen this firsthand, a person’s decision to jettison their former beliefs as found in Scripture.
A former high school and Bible college acquaintance has completely walked away from what he said he used to believe. He is vocal and to read some of what he has written, hostile. It became very difficult to discuss things with him. His mind is made up and instead of conversing, he attacks. My heart goes out to anyone who has chosen this approach of acting out their deconstruction. Not all who have made this decision are angry. My point is that he was unwilling to converse, instead choosing to attack anything and anyone who tried to interact with him.
As we come to a close in part one of this blog, let me share a thought on how we should respond to those who have chosen this route in their life. In some ways, people who are of this mindset remind me of Demas in the New Testament. His name is mentioned in three verses in the Bible. He is seen serving with Paul in Colossians 4:14. In Philemon 24 he is noted as a “fellow worker” of the Lord’s.
Sadly, in 2 Timothy 4:10 Paul tells us that Demas had left him, literally abandoning him, because he decided that living in the world meant more than following Christ. For whatever the reason, Demas chose to leave behind what he believed and knew and pursued life without God.
Now, back to some thoughts on how we should respond to people who tell us that they are leaving Christianity, or re-thinking whether they can accept it any longer or not. The following are not all my thoughts on this. I have gleaned from others ideas on how we can respond. We will only cover one thought as we close this blog. In our next T&C we will continue the discussion.
Let’s start with this. When someone says they are abandoning the faith, we need to show grace. Now before you think that this means we simply let them go their way, that is not what we mean. In Ephesians 4:29 we are told that what we say is to “fit the occasion” and “give grace.” Sometimes that means being tender, other times it means being tough. We are not to get belligerent with these individuals because that will do no good. How to respond requires praying for wisdom in what to say and when to say it. We will build on this in Part two of our look at “Deconstructionism.”