Why I Changed My Mind about Deconstruction

Tim Barnett

I changed my mind about deconstruction.

When I first began looking into deconstruction, I quickly discovered that people were using the term to mean different things. For instance, when someone says, “I’m deconstructing my faith,” they could mean anything from questioning a tertiary doctrine, like young-earth creation, to leaving the faith altogether.

Attempting to bring clarity to the conversation, I thought adding adjectives to the word deconstruction (like healthy versus unhealthy, or good versus bad) would help. So, for example, I would say that while unhealthy deconstruction rethinks faith without requiring Scripture as a standard, healthy deconstruction corrects mistaken beliefs to make them align with Scripture. Problem solved, I thought. However, this approach assumes deconstruction itself is a neutral process. I don’t believe that anymore.

While writing The Deconstruction of Christianity with Alisa Childers, we discovered some fundamental beliefs that undergird the deconstruction process. Moreover, these ideas are antithetical to the Christian worldview. This helps explain why so many who deconstruct their faith end up leaving the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Here are three reasons why I changed my mind about deconstruction.

No Correct Destination

First, deconstruction has no correct destination.

A defining feature of deconstruction is that there's no right way to do it and no right destination. For example, Jo Luehmann, author of Decolonizing Traditional Christianity, expounds on this idea in a video titled Our Journey of Faith Deconstruction:

This is the thing with deconstruction that I really think it’s important to understand. Everyone lands wherever they land. There is no right place to land with deconstruction. Some people land away from faith. Some people land in a different type of faith. Some people become agnostic. Some people become a different type of Christian. Some people become atheists. And all of those routes in deconstruction are valid and to be respected.

Luehmann is not alone. “NakedPastor” David Hayward, who regularly creates social media content on faith deconstruction, puts it more concisely: “There isn’t a right way to deconstruct, nor is there a right destination. You do you.”

Why isn’t there a right place to land in deconstruction? The answer is that deconstruction is a postmodern process. What I mean is, deconstruction isn’t about objective truth. It’s about personal happiness. In one sense, the destination of deconstruction is like the destination of a vacation. Whether you end up in Hawaii or Jamaica or somewhere else, it’s all personal preference. It would be silly to say Hawaii is the “right” vacation destination for everyone.

Notice how deconstruction assumes there is no objective truth when it comes to religious beliefs. That’s why it doesn’t matter how you do it or where you end up as long as you’re happy.

Now contrast this with Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount. He says, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt. 7:13–14).

I want you to notice two things. First, Jesus mentions two ways. There is a narrow way and a broad way, a right way and a wrong way. Second, Jesus mentions two destinations. The right way leads to a good destination: life. The wrong way leads to a bad destination: destruction. According to Jesus, there is absolutely a right place to land, and he tells us how to get there.

No Ending

Second, the deconstruction process never ends.

Imagine you deconstruct your beliefs. Now what? Well, you construct new ones. However, once you construct new beliefs, you have to deconstruct those too. See how this works? There’s no finality to this process. Deconstruction requires a never-ending skepticism about your beliefs and the beliefs of others.

Deconstructionists understand this. For example, DC Talk’s Kevin Max has been open about his deconstruction. He tweeted, “Deconstruction > Reconstruction > Self-Destruction > Listening to Construction Work Next Door.” In response, former Christian music artist Derek Webb posted,

Agreed. The cycle of de & reconstruction is existentially exhausting. What I’ve found helpful is to simply stop constructing. ‘Belief’ is just too heavy a term. Other than maybe cause & effect, I’m done ‘believing.’ Hypothesizing in real-time + permanent uncertainty = a start.

Hayward agrees. While giving advice to those going through deconstruction, he says,

I recommend not reconstructing after you deconstruct because there is, in my opinion, no “after.” For me, deconstruction is a way of life…. So don’t reconstruct, because you’re only going to reconstruct into another theology that you’ll have to eventually deconstruct later.

Ironically, Hayward cannot follow his own advice. A few minutes of scrolling through his Instagram feed reveals he has, indeed, reconstructed into another theology—a progressive theology.

Again, contrast these deconstructionists with Scripture. In his last letter, Paul exhorts Timothy to “continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of” (2 Tim. 3:14). In addition, Paul explicitly warns about those who are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). He says, “Avoid such men as these” (2 Tim. 3:5).

No Biblical Authority

Third, deconstruction has no biblical authority.

In deconstruction, there is no external authority to tell you what your faith should look like. You are the ultimate authority. As one deconstructionist wrote,

I am not looking to adhere to any type of guidebook, any type of ‘how to,’ or any person telling me I must do it a certain way. I’m done being told what I must do to be doing things the *right* way.

Deconstruction isn’t about submitting to biblical authority; it’s about choosing to be your own authority.

This was clearly illustrated in a Facebook post from Chris Kratzer, a pastor and author of Stupid Sh— Heard in Church, where he writes about counseling a woman through her faith deconstruction. At one point, he realized that the apostle Paul’s writings about penal substitution were very distressing to her. Eventually, she asked him what he thought about some specific verses in Paul’s letters. And what was Kratzer’s response?

I told her, “he’s wrong.”

She replied, “I’m allowed to do that? It’s ok to say he’s wrong?” I could hear, over the phone, the shackles break free from around her heart and the monstrous god hiding under her bed was revealed as a fraud created by men. She started breathing for the first time.

Folks, this is what’s wrong with much of Christianity. All authority is given to a book and then given to church people who claim its authority for themselves. If you can’t say Paul is wrong, it’s going to be harder to say that they are wrong. That’s the design.

Kratzer’s post highlights a fundamental feature of the deconstruction movement: It’s a worldview rooted in the authority of the self, not the authority of Scripture.[1] And it goes back to the Garden of Eden.

I changed my mind about deconstruction. After researching this topic, I’ve come to see that deconstruction isn’t merely asking questions or a synonym for doubt. Rather, it’s a process with no correct destination, no ending, and no biblical authority. As a result, I don’t use words like “healthy deconstruction” or “good deconstruction” anymore. For me, that’s an oxymoron. Deconstruction is a fundamentally flawed process, and I don’t think that changes by placing a few positive adjectives in front of the word.

In our new book, Alisa Childers and I encourage Christians to take a different approach to examining their faith. Rather than deconstruct their faith, we urge Christians to reform their faith. For more on our approach to reforming faith, see The Deconstruction of Christianity: What It Is, Why It’s Destructive, and How to Respond.


[1] Natasha Crain said it better in Faithfully Different: Regaining Biblical Clarity in a Secular Culture: “Deconstruction doesn’t usually imply a deconversion to atheism, but it’s certainly a deconversion of its own kind—from a worldview rooted in the authority of the Bible to a worldview rooted in the authority of the self.”