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In the late 1990s, I was asked by a professor at a local community college to teach a class on Christianity in their Religion 101 course. I agreed and spent nearly an hour explaining the reliability of the Bible, the claims and some of the evidences regarding Jesus, His life, death, and physical resurrection. Of course, it was just an overview. Only so much can be done in an hour. Before we finished, I invited questions. An adventurous student raised his hand, certain he was going to stump me with something I had never heard. He asserted, “You can‘t trust the Bible. It has been translated over and over, and it is full of mistakes.” I thanked him for expressing his concerns and proceeded to hand him my Bible, asking him to provide us with a few examples of the errors. He was caught off guard a bit and sheepishly responded that he hadn’t actually read the Bible. I asked how it was, then, that he was so sure it was full of mistakes? He replied that he had heard that was the case. I pressed a bit more for the source of his knowledge on this topic. He didn’t know. I followed up, wondering who he had heard it from. Again, he had no recollection. I then posed a different question.

“Doesn’t it concern you that you are gambling your eternal destiny based on information that you picked up from a source you can’t recall, and from someone who may or may not be reliable? Doesn’t that bother you even a little bit?”

He and the group became more animated as I began pointing to very popular  seeming inconsistencies in the Bible and demonstrated how context resolves the alleged contradictions. I don’t know if any of them have come to the faith since those days, but it was a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate that asking questions is a good thing – and that there are solid answers for those who will take the time to investigate honestly. I have recalled that opportunity many times over the years when I interacted with those who know little about the Christian faith, as well as many who had been raised in the church and walked away. Perhaps they had been in an authoritarian group led by a false teacher like Bill Gothard and their view of Christianity was skewed. Many times, when we have interacted with “Gothardites” who have left the faith, we have to start with, “Just because God and Gothard both begin with “GO” and end with “D,” that doesn’t mean they are the same person. In many of these cases, they are unwittingly rejecting a caricature of Christianity and not the biblical faith itself.

There are now several new and “cool” names for those who have abandoned the church and left the faith. They are presently “deconstructing” – and call themselves “#exvangelicals.” But what are they deconstructing from? That is unclear. Even answering that question is difficult because, as Alisa Childers and Tim Barnett point out in their book, The Deconstruction of Christianity: What It Is, Why It’s Destructive, and How to Respond, it could mean anything from someone trying to sort out the true from the false to those who reject the Scriptures entirely and look for a “personalized” faith separate from the Bible. The way Childers and Barnett describe it is:

Faith deconstruction is a postmodern process of rethinking your faith without regarding Scripture as a standard.1Childers, Alisa; Barnett, Tim. The Deconstruction of Christianity: What It Is, Why It’s Destructive, and How to Respond (p. 26). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Today, whole churches and even some denominations are engaged in deconstructing the “faith once delivered to the saints,” creating a whole new God who is more to their liking, and a gospel that suits their modern sensibilities. Jude writes:

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our own Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:3-5 ESV)

For those with genuine questions about the faith, we encourage them to seek answers. God has never opposed the idea of people asking questions. Abraham negotiated with God. (Genesis 18:16-33) Gideon asked God for a sign to convince him of God’s veracity (Judges 6:36-40), and to Isaiah, God said:

Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. (Isaiah 1:18)

Asking legitimate questions is very different than rejecting biblical teaching because you just don’t like what it says. As we read or listen to the narratives of #exvangelicals, the theme is often the same. They do not like it that the Bible teaches that God holds humans responsible for their rebellion against Him. Alisa Childers and Tim Barnett provide a few “angry portrayals” of God from #exvangelicals:

“I’m not going to derive my cosmology from four thousand-year-old legends of a jealous, bloodthirsty demigod.” #exvangelical

“If abortion is terminating a living thing you created that’s still in formation stages, doesn’t that mean god aborted an entire planet with the ‘great flood’?” #exchristian #exvangelical2Childers, Alisa; Barnett, Tim. The Deconstruction of Christianity: What It Is, Why It’s Destructive, and How to Respond (p. 29). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition

Childers and Barnett quote another exvangelical as saying:

“In abusive relationships, one person convinces another person that they are worthless and no one else could ever love them. That’s why people stay. This is also how the church operates.” #exvangelical3Childers, Alisa; Barnett, Tim. The Deconstruction of Christianity: What It Is, Why It’s Destructive, and How to Respond (p. 29). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition

We would like to offer a solution that could bring the deconstructors right back to their senses if they will only accept it. They should put aside their rage, ask God’s forgiveness, and call on the One who purchased and provided redemption for all of us at His own expense.

Deconstructionism is really just another version of an age-old story. It’s really the same angry conclusion that many ancient Israelites and Judeans followed:

Yet the Lord warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the Law that I commanded your fathers, and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets.”

 But they would not listen, but were stubborn, as their fathers had been, who did not believe in the Lord their God. They despised his statutes and his covenant that he made with their fathers and the warnings that he gave them. They went after false idols and became false, and they followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom the Lord had commanded them that they should not do like them. (2 Kings 17:13-15)

They would not listen… were stubborn…did not believe…despised His statutes…went after false idols. The difficulty for us as parents, relatives, friends and even church leaders is one of expectation. Our friend and Advisory Board member, the late Jhan Moskowitz would sometimes point out to apologists:

You might think that if you give the “right” answer, they will believe. But faith is an act of the will, not a function of information.

Many faithful Christians suffer from this same expectation when they attempt to bring the rebellious young back to belief. In our ancient “cool” generation of the 1960s, the problem was the same. Sadly, many of the “cool people” likewise refused to take God, their creator – and the one who seeks to gather them to Himself and save them from their angry rejection of Him – on His own terms. No one is forced to put aside their petulant hatred and acknowledge and accept God’s forgiveness, but it is so important to their own lives to do that very thing! Information is important, but it is up to each new generation to actually believe what the Scriptures teach. We cannot believe for them.

Over the years, God has given us the opportunity to help parents and other loved ones who have had someone they care about leave the church and embrace a cult, non-Christian religion, or no religion at all. In some cases, like the prodigal son, the one who abandoned the faith has also cut off their family and friends. First, we advise those who contact us to keep the door open. The one who has left may not respond, at least immediately, but God uses the knowledge that you love them and stand waiting to embrace them. We have seen God draw a son or daughter back to his family and in many cases, He has also drawn them back to the faith they left behind. But God forces no one, and we can’t either. We pray and seek to learn how to ask questions of them and give answers to their questions when opportunities arise. And to comfort ourselves, we can remind ourselves how many of our own rebellious generations left their angry doubts behind and returned to God. We pray that will be true of many exvangelists as well.Ω

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