Imagine a scenario where I take my wife to a restaurant. Some random dude walks up to her and forcefully embraces her against her will and says, “Hey, honey, why don’t you leave that dope and get with a real man?” Should I be jealous (the good kind, not the bad kind)? Absolutely!
Imagine a second scenario where some dude direct-messages my wife and writes, “I’m sorry to be so blunt, but I need to tell you that I think you’re absolutely beautiful. You are perfect, and I wonder if your husband even gets that? I don’t mean to pry, but you deserve better. I’m always here if you need someone to talk to.” Should I be jealous (the good kind, not the bad kind)? Absolutely!
I’ve been outspoken about what I believe to be the dangers of deconstruction and relativism within Christianity. Everyone that I know who has left Christianity in the last five years began with what he or she described as “deconstructing my faith.” It is an epidemic that some still refuse to acknowledge. A friend of mine texted me a few days ago and asked, “Why are you so brazen in your words about deconstruction?” Another comment I read online said, “John used to be so loving and now he sounds angry.” Please understand, I am not the least bit angry at people who don’t believe the way I do. I truly love them! Whether that means atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Buddhists, universalists, or any other spiritualist. And I am not angry at anyone who struggles with faith, has questions, or has deconverted from Christianity. I’ve got lots of love for you. I personally know many people who have lost their faith, and I have seen and felt the heartbreak. To be frank, it has broken my heart.
For the purpose of clarity and offering a warning to fellow Christians, let me be clear about what I am brazenly speaking out against.
There are people who have deconstructed, deconverted, and disavowed the faith and subsequently began a platform or brand or “ministry” (my word for it) where they attack core principles of Christianity, speak out against the Bible, and attempt to lead others into deconstruction. Some do this aggressively, like the guy hitting on my wife in the restaurant. Or, they may do it subtly, like the guy sending my wife the direct message. Either way, they are actively recruiting. They often do this by making videos of why the Bible isn’t reliable or why the God of the Bible is immoral, mean, or bigoted in some way. They mock — either aggressively or subtly — those who still adhere to the belief that the Bible is the unchanging Word of God. They seek out — aggressively or subtly — people who are struggling, sad, questioning, or having a bad day. Then they whisper (or scream) that it’s because Christianity is oppressive. This is what I have a problem with. And even though these people feign shock at my brazen words, are they being any less brazen?
To be honest, I prefer the guy in the restaurant to the direct-message guy. No spectator would be surprised at my jealous anger towards the dude grabbing my wife against her will. On the other hand, if I get too angry at the shady direct-message guy trying to win over my wife in a nice tone that suggests, “I’m the sensitive, accepting guy you can trust,” there will be plenty of spectators accusing me of overreacting. In fact, as we speak, some have accused me of overreacting. But I must sincerely ask, “Do you think it’s possible that you are under-reacting?”
This leads me to my warning for those in the faith. First, though, I want to provide a disclaimer: Some will disagree with my definition of deconstruction, and I do not wish to argue about terms. I will simply comment on a popular interpretation and then provide what I believe to be an accurate definition, explaining why I am so brazen about my warnings. Some say that the term simply means, “reading the Bible afresh and being willing to challenge your beliefs that may be based on traditional thinking.” This may sound harmless, and even virtuous, but there are two major distinctions that need to be mentioned: (1) There are those who hold a conviction that the Bible is God’s authoritative Word and, therefore, approach it with faith, allowing the Holy Spirit to guide them into deeper conviction of sin, a deeper love for Jesus and His perfections, and a deeper understanding of what is righteous and what is evil. (2) Then there are people who read the Bible afresh, but without faith and without a belief that the Bible is God’s authoritative Word. They consider the words on its pages of no greater or lesser importance than any other book, religion, or TikTok influencer. Rather, they use their own feelings and intellect to decide what they agree with and disagree with.
Do you see the danger in using the same word to describe both something very good and very bad?
In my opinion, “deconstruction” is not a good term to describe the first set of people. This option is, in fact, how we should always approach the Bible, and it leads to sanctification (the process of becoming more like Jesus). If someone wishes to call that “deconstruction,” I won’t put up a fight. Call it whatever you desire, but I believe that what people usually mean by the term is more like the second group’s approach, described above. Let me quote a definition to clarify the need for greater warning:
“Deconstruction” is the heading most recently applied to the process of questioning, doubting, and ultimately rejecting aspects of Christian faith. This is an application of deconstructionism, an approach that claims to dissemble beliefs or ideas while assuming their meanings are inherently subjective.”
Therefore, true deconstructionism leads to rejecting absolute truth, which is a core tenet of postmodernism. I fear the term “deconstruction” is being manipulated to soft pedal something into the faith that we should not allow. It is not a term that has been used historically within Christianity to describe reformation or doctrinal faithfulness. Whether or not we agree on the terminology, I believe it’s being used deceitfully by those who truly do wish for Christians to not only deconstruct their faith but also to deconvert. Many ex-Christian influencers subtly try to encourage deconstruction by offering an inclusive “space” to have doubts and ask questions. But the “space” is designed to do the second kind of deconstruction I listed. What they mean is, “It’s OK to question, it’s OK to doubt. You just need to forget everything you’ve been taught, become a blank slate, and start completely over. Maybe your faith will be more like a mixture between Christianity and Humanism. Maybe you’ll become someone who still loves Jesus, but Jesus won’t be defined by the Bible … because God is bigger than the Bible.” This is more like the aforementioned direct-message guy. Subtle, perhaps, but potently persuasive. These not-so-subtle arguments are poison, yet they are tempting to many Christians, because they fall in line with current popular culture.
Let me explain.
Does the “world” (non-believing culture) hate ex-Christians? Have you ever seen an ex-Christian influencer make the secular culture angry because of his or her stance on a culture war issue such as abortion? Of course not! Because ex-Christian influencers tend to align with everything culturally popular and acceptable. And you can bet whenever the next faux pas begins to have culture-tipping-point power, they will be on the “right side of history” (but the wrong side of the Bible) on that argument, too. Believe me, it is tempting to be able to be a “spiritual person-who-may-still-kinda-be-into-Jesus-but-not-really-but-sometimes-even-though-God-isn’t-real” person and also be embraced by the world.
My daughter will be going off to college soon. My hope is that as she is finding herself, growing into a mature woman, making her own daily decisions, that she still brushes her teeth. I know, I know, the deconstruction argument (as I am using the term) may say that she should find out how to live on her own. Perhaps teeth-brushing is one of those unnecessary rules or traditions that parents use to try to control kids. Perhaps dental care and gum health is code for “Western patriarchal colonialism.” Having healthy teeth isn’t necessarily good; it is simply what the reigning cultural hegemonic powers preferred, and so they declared it “good” as they dominated others with their oppressive belief in oral hygiene. On the other hand, maybe as my daughter goes into the world, she will believe — as a presupposition — that her parents love her and trained her with knowledge and wisdom to keep her safe, to help her thrive, and to choose things that bring life and not death. Perhaps she will continue to brush her teeth, realizing that wisdom passed down from generations is — wait for it — actually a good thing.
My sincere plea to those reading this is: No matter what you call it or how you define the term, beware of the second group’s approach, which I describe as true “deconstruction.”
As I explain in my book, “Awake and Alive To Truth,” the person who reads the Bible in faith will accept the things that are from the Spirit of God. On the other hand, the Word of God seems foolish to those without the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:11-16, ESV). In other words, it’s possible some who once believed the Bible was true, and have been blessed by reading it and implementing it, now approach the Bible with faithlessness; that same life-giving ook can, to them, seem like foolishness! “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12, ESV).
There is no other foundation to build your life upon that leads to life, other than Jesus Christ. His Word is forever, and His Word never fails. Beware of those who teach another Gospel, especially if they tell you everything you want to hear, and lead you toward ways of living and thinking that earn applause from the world. They are like the direct-message dudes. Just because they are subtle instead of aggressive does not mean it’s not a brazen attempt to lead you out of the faith.
If anyone reading this chooses to deconstruct without holding onto faith in the authority of Scripture as a conviction, I will still love and accept you just as I would love my daughter if she stopped brushing her teeth. Nevertheless, I would fear her teeth would fall out, just as I fear your faith will fizzle out.
“For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” ( 1 Corinthians 3:11, ESV).
John Cooper is best known as the lead singer of the Christian rock band Skillet. He is also the author of “Awake and Alive to Truth” and host of the “Cooper Stuff Podcast.” You can learn more about his work and ministry here.