A recent phenomenon has hit evangelicalism. People who grew up attending church and expressing faith early in life are walking away from their previous professions. The inevitable result is young millennials either completely rejecting Christianity or severely wavering in what they still believe. The movement is called faith deconstruction, the process of unpacking, rethinking, and reexamining previously held beliefs. With such a significant shift taking place in our churches, how should Christians respond?
Christians would be wise to first consider good aspects of deconstruction. If faith deconstruction means taking our traditions, presuppositions, and presumptions to the scrutiny and authority of Scripture, then Christians should celebrate this process. Paul calls Christians in 2 Corinthians 13:5 to “test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” The Christian life ought to be one of self-examination against the perfect standard of Scripture.
However, if deconstruction means rejecting and renouncing the Christian faith, then we should respond more thoughtfully. The popularity of diminishing and rejecting Christianity ought to lead Christians to consider why this is happening and what ought to be our biblical response. Though reductionistic, we should consider three reasons and responses to faith deconstruction.
1. Deconstruction reveals false faith.
In some situations, deconstruction reveals the lack of genuine faith. For some who deconstruct, the overwhelming evidence is that they never truly knew Christ. Jesus talked about this propensity in the parable of the different soils in Matthew 13. While the first and last soils were readily discernible, the middle two were not. The rocky and thorny soils represent hearts that initially responded positively to the Gospel, yet eventually left the faith. John describes this phenomenon as, “they went out from us, but they were not really of us,” (1 John 2:19). Emotional responses to the gospel early in life do not guarantee genuine faith later in life. Faith deconstruction proves false faith exists.
2. Deconstruction reacts to failure.
Perhaps the most repeated reasoning for deconstruction is church failure. While the church has been called to be the holy bride of Christ, churches often fall short. When sin is tolerated and permitted within God’s people to any degree, Christ is reproached, and people’s faith is hindered. Public moral failures, hypocrisy in leadership, and double standards in the church all can lead to deconstruction. Christians are to “take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them,” (Ephesians 5:11). We are to rebuke and restore anyone entangled in sin (Galatians 6:1-2). Furthermore, biblically deficient teaching produces people ill equipped for the difficult moral and ethical problems of life. When churches fail to teach the whole counsel of God’s Word and neglect to apply clear commands, we should not be surprised when people walk away from the blatant deficiency and hypocrisy.
3. Deconstruction can lead to restoration.
Though deconstruction can lead to the loss of faith, God can also use it for beautiful, biblical restoration. Deconstruction is not always a death sentence for faith but can be an opportunity to see the true Jesus. Even after seasons of painful sin, the psalmist could still confidently cry, “restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit,” (Psalm 51:12). Though the reasons for deconstruction are myriad, the answer is always the same—Jesus. Instead of looking to fallen humans, the one deconstructing must look to a perfect Savior. Instead of platforming a dynamic leader, churches should hold Christ as the standard. Yes, the road of deconstruction is hard, but in the end, Jesus is more than enough.