There is nothing new and nothing particularly unusual about apostasy—about people who once professed the Christian faith coming to deny it. From the early church to the present day, we have witnessed a long and sad succession of people walking away from Christianity and often doing so with expressions of anger, animosity, and personal superiority.
Yet while apostasy is not new, the modern nomenclature is: Today it is often referred to as “deconstruction.” And the specific form it takes is new as well—people using social media to chart their rejection of the Christian faith and to join with others through shared apps, subreddits, or hashtags.
As we witness these new forms of an old issue, it stands to reason that we should have a new book to address it. That is exactly what Alisa Childers and Tim Barnett provide in The Deconstruction of Christianity: What It Is, Why It’s Destructive, and How To Respond. This is a book that offers the “prayerful observations, thoughtful analyses, and honest conclusions of two people who have spent a significant amount of time collectively—as a team—living, studying, eating, sleeping, and breathing deconstruction.” In their research, they listened to countless stories of deconstruction, read the books and Twitter threads, watched a host of TikTok videos, and even met with some of its foremost proponents. They made certain that they understood the issue before they addressed it.
Their book falls into three parts. In the first part, the authors identify and define “deconstruction” as “a postmodern process of rethinking your faith without regarding Scripture as a standard.” They show how it grew from a fringe movement to a popular one and tell of the experiences of some of those who have been very public with their own apostasy. They also grapple with whether there can be a positive sense of the term in which a Christian deconstructs their faith by simply closely examining it and ensuring it is sound. But here they conclude the word “deconstruction” comes with too much philosophical baggage and, therefore, with too much confusion. After all,
Deconstruction is not about getting your theology right. It’s not about trying to make your views match reality. It’s about tearing down doctrines that are morally wrong to you to make them match your own internal conscience, moral compass, true authentic self, or whatever else it’s being called these days. Yet the goal for all Christians should be to align our beliefs with the Word of God, despite our own personal feelings or beliefs on the topic.
In this part, they also look at self-proclaimed exvangelicals to consider the reasons they have left the faith. They identify five main reasons: A literal reading of the Bible; the belief that women are to be submissive to men; a belief in the sanctity of heterosexuality and the rejection of homosexuality; the assumption that the American way of life is best; and identification and partnership with political and social conservatism.
As they progress into the book’s second part, Childers and Barnett examine the details of deconstruction. “Every act of deconstruction contains three basic components: (1) a process of deconstruction, (2) a belief being deconstructed, and (3) a person deconstructing.” In other words, there is always a how, a what, and a who and in a series of chapters they address each, first pausing to show that deconstruction most often begins with some kind of a crisis, and often an understandable one—abuse, suffering, doubt, and so on. Yet they aptly show that such a crisis does not make deconstruction inevitable.
In the third and final part, they suggest ways to love and help people who are in that process of deconstructing their faith. They insist that it is okay to ask questions about the Christian faith and to wrestle through difficult issues. Yet they guide people in asking questions that truly look for answers rather than exits. They also offer wisdom to those who are grieved by a loved one’s potential apostasy and tell them how to stay engaged in their lives. They conclude with some personal stories and encouragements.
Some potential readers may wonder who this book is for. Though it could be a book you hand to someone who is deconstructing their faith and heading down the road of apostasy, that isn’t quite its primary purpose. Rather, it’s mostly meant for those who have heard of the phenomenon and are wondering what it’s all about or for people who have seen friends or family members waver in their Christian profession. In that way, it is a book of theology and discipleship more than it is a book of pure apologetics or evangelism.
The Deconstruction of Christianity is a timely book that has been written to address an urgent contemporary issue. If you have been wondering what deconstruction is or where it came from, if you have been grieved by those who have begun it or if you have been considering it yourself, this is exactly the book you need. It is kind and compassionate in its tone but also unwavering in its commitment to truth. It would be hard to recommend it too highly.