Running Away from the Faith

Apostasy (“the willful turning away from the truth of God”) has existed in the Church from its beginning. The Apostles regularly alerted believers that this turning from the Truth would never go away, but would get worse at the end of the Church age. Paul told Timothy that “the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1), and later added that “the time will come when they will not endure sound (healthy) doctrine…” (2 Tim. 4:3). Such times are here. In recent decades the Church has witnessed a steep decline in the solid teaching of God’s Truth, and now we are reaping the harvest of biblical illiteracy and malnourished believers. Too many pastors and leaders focused on increasing numbers, and this was done by bringing in all kinds of religious experiences, at the expense of teaching biblical doctrine. Churches became centers of religious entertainment and not places where believers were built up in the faith. As a result, we have our smoke machines, dazzling lighting, overpowering music, and a myriad of other sensory experiences.  What often passes for real worship is not because it is not done according to the Truth, which Jesus says is necessary (John 4:23). Many sermons are like the beer that “tastes great but is less filling.” It initially pleases the taste buds but has no real and lasting value. And often the sermons are quite diluted so that they will be “culturally relevant” and not offend people.

Today there is a strong and growing movement, particularly within evangelicalism, of the “deconstruction of Christianity.” It is likely part of the end times that Paul warned about. The battle has always been for the mind, and the Enemy understood this starting back in the Garden of Eden. The Apostle was clear about the believers’ responsibility to be mentally alert: “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Everyone who loves God’s Truth, must be alert to this deconstruction of Christianity” movement, simply because it is now everywhere infecting churches and families. And you might be mistaken if you think that it is not seeping into your church or your family. What exactly is this deconstruction movement?  

A Working Definition. Deconstruction is the dismantling of one’s beliefs. The idea is not new. The word was coined by a French philosopher (Jacque Derrida) who described it as the dismantling of our excessive loyalty to any idea or learning. In the church setting, deconstruction of the faith (D) has the idea of questioning your faith but not using the Scriptures as the standard for any evaluation. [Note: podcasts by Alisa Childers might prove very helpful in understanding this movement as well as “progressive Christianity”]

Cultural Pressure and Influence. What we are seeing is the impact of cultural thinking on the church. D is simply the post-modern way of thinking. As we regularly observe in our culture today, reality is what I believe to be true. There really is no outside standard for truth. At the very core of D is the rejection of the authority of Scripture. As one well-known pastor proudly said: “I no longer say ‘the Bible says’”. There is now the freedom to say that “Paul was wrong when he said that…” The Bible is seen as flawed, somewhat archaic, or simply in error. It is not the authority any more. Self is the authority.

The Faith or My Faith.  It is essential to see that there is a body of truth given to the church that must be defended. Jude 1:3 says that we are “to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” This truth, this faith, is not “my truth” and but is “THE truth.” Faith in the D movement is really the personal preferences of the individual. When one listens to many in the D movement, it becomes apparent that they often do not understand some biblical doctrines. They are responding to ideas that the Bible really does not teach. The Barna group, which for years has tracked the views and opinions of “evangelical” people, reveals the terrible decline in biblical literacy. Most people in evangelical churches are very poor theologians. (For example, 40% of today’s evangelicals do not believe in the deity of Christ). This is the result of weak pulpits and the diminishing of healthy doctrinal teaching. It is, therefore, not at all surprising that many in D movement are rejecting ideas that really are not biblical ones, though they think so. For example, it is sometimes said that Christianity is patriarchal; that it teaches that women are to submit to men and women are, therefore, inferior. The Bible does not teach that. Submission (which has nothing to do with superiority or inferiority) is simply recognizing God’s order and placing oneself under that. And it applies to the home and the church, not to life in general. Another example, is the rejection of the doctrine of original sin. This is seen as a “toxic” doctrine because it damages the person’s self-worth. But the Bible teaches that people are made in the “image of God” which is why they are so valuable, and why Jesus went to the Cross to give them back what God wanted in the Garden of Eden. But because they are sinners, they need a savior. To see people as good (as in culture and the D movement), impacts the need for a savior, and negates what Jesus came to do which was “to seek and to save that which was lost.” 

The Truth of God and the God of the Truth.When writing to the churches of Galatia, the Apostle Paul made a critical point. He rebuked some there for “deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ for a different gospel” (Gal. 1:6). Some were being influenced by a false teacher who added the Mosaic Law to the gospel. This teaching was contrary to the gospel of grace that Paul had taught them. Paul does not say that they were “deserting the truth” (though they were), but rather that they were deserting God Himself. To leave the truth of God is to leave God. Those in the D movement who claim that they still love God while departing from His truth are deceiving themselves. That cannot be done. Jesus said that He was “the truth” (John 14:6). To leave the truth would also mean that one leaves Jesus. The D movement is more than a departing from the Scriptures, it is departing from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Evidence or Heart. Often those in the D movement state that Bible believers need to present more evidence to prove their position. But the issue is not an evidence issue but a heart issue. Matthew 12 illustrates this. This chapter records the moment in Jesus’ ministry when there was a formal rejection of Jesus by the religious leaders. They said that Jesus needed to present clear evidence if He was the Messiah. Jesus had literally healed thousands of people, raised the dead and performed amazing miracles. The problem for the leaders was not more evidence but a needed change of heart.

Freedom: True and False.  Many in the D movement proclaim their sense of being free, now that they left evangelicalism and/or Christianity. But this is a mirage. It initially might seem like liberty because they left some negatives in their church. However, in Romans 6:16-23, the Apostle declares that we will either be slaves of Jesus Christ or we will be slaves to sin. There is no other possibility. Their “freedom” is a mirage and mirages appear to have substance until one gets up close and then they evaporate.

The Place of Negative Experiences.  Most everyone in the D movement is reacting to bad church experiences. And the church can generate plenty of those. Perhaps they were put down by church leaders who saw their questions as a challenge to their authority, or maybe some sort of abusive was experienced. Perhaps they were raised in the bondage of legalism, which kept them in fear for their souls. Perhaps there was significant moral failure by those who were the “spiritual” elite. Maybe they experienced the malicious words of graceless, unloving Christians. Any of us, who have been around the church for any length of time can give testimony to the bad behavior or hurtful comments of those who should have known better. But the reality of this is not an excuse to abandon our relationship with Jesus Christ or to become an enemy of the church. Remember that the church is the “bride of Christ” and that He loves her (Eph. 5:25-32). It is a mark of self-centeredness to enter the D movement. 

The Power of Social Media. A turning from the truth has been going on for millennia, but what makes the D movement unique is social media. It is the social media platforms that have enabled D to spread like a wind driven wildfire. There are literally hundreds of millions of “hits” on websites devoted to D. On social media people share their bad experiences; their dislike for the church (especially the evangelical version); and their distain for all those “toxic” doctrines which have hurt them. Many “influencers” are doing a first-class job of influencing others who have been hurt and disappointed by the church. And their influence is clearly growing, particularly among younger people.

The End Game of Deconstructionism.  There is no end-game in the D movement. It is a movement that is continuously skeptical and intent on casting doubt on the Scriptures. Those in the D movement often claim to now be “free,” but as Peter noted centuries ago, “promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves to corruption”(2 Pet. 2:19).  With Self in charge, things will not go well and “freedom” is an illusion.

Satan as the Father of Lies. We must never forget that Satan is the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4) and he is focused on keeping the truth about Christ and the gospel from mankind. Ever since Eden, he is the one behind the attacks on God’s truth. Jesus said that Satan “does not stand in truth because there is no truth in him (John 8:44). Human beings are not the originators of falsehood. It is, therefore, important to keep some admonitions in mind. Peter states that we must be able to articulate our faith clearly but to do so “with gentleness and respect” (2 Pet. 3:15). Paul adds that we are to be capable of stating the truth but “with gentleness, correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth…and escape from the snare of the devil” (2 Tim. 2:24-26). How should a believer respond when someone says that to speak against same-sex marriage or to deny a woman’s “right” to have an abortion is hateful, bigoted, and archaic? We must know the truth and speak graciously.

The Demas Phenomenon. Demas was once a ministry companion of the Apostle Paul (Phile. 1:24), and apparently had a ministry to the Colossian church (Col. 4:14). But Demas is best known because of Paul’s heartbroken lament about him. In Rome and facing execution, Paul said:“Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me” (2 Tim. 4:10). Demas had willfully turned from the truth of God (“apostasy”) and instead had embraced the world (culture). What took place with Demas in the 1st century has accelerated here in the 21st century. Today, there are Demas-type people everywhere. Jude 1:20-23 gives us direction on how to respond. “But you beloved, building yourself up in your most holy faith (personal responsibility) praying in the Holy Spirit (filled and directed by the Spirit), keep yourself in the love of God (by being obedient), waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life (prophecy gives us perspective). And have mercy on some who are doubting (cannot be passive or indifferent with this movement). The spiritual war goes on and we must be sure that we are wearing the “belt of truth” (Eph. 6:14).