I first heard about Christian deconstruction from an episode of The Babylon Bee podcast. The guest they interviewed, Alisa Childers, spoke on the importance of people understanding the reasons for their core beliefs, but was critical of the deconstruction movement for tearing apart beliefs without rebuilding their foundation1. My own examination of Christian deconstruction found that it is essentially an apostate movement; a justification for discarding one’s faith in Christianity. While I have no issue with people examining, testing and discerning what is and isn’t true2, many of the videos I’ve seen are people justifying migrating from their deeply held beliefs. Their revelations aren’t new or uniquely insightful. What I have noticed is that Christian deconstructionists are critical of their faith, while not being critical of the moral structures and belief systems they want to replace that faith with. They are often critical of the religion of their forbearers, without realizing the system they wish to replace it with, is also its own unexamined ideology.
Understanding The Ritual of Animal Sacrifice
Why did so many ancient cultures sacrifice animals? Is letting the blood drain from an animal, to offer to a deity, abhorrent? Is it more or less justifiable to kill an animal for food? Anyone who has spent time with both domestic pets, and farm animals, realizes the decision to eat one and befriend the other, is mostly arbitrary3. Someone might make a case that cats and dogs have a specific general intelligence, and personalities. However, those who raise chickens or ducks will often see those same characteristics. Within mammals, we see basic habits and some limited intelligence.
Although the intelligence of an animal will never grow past that of a human child, one must acknowledge that they have evolved the same fear of pain, and need of self preservation as we have. The act of killing an animal, in order for humans to eat, is a harsh one. I hypothesize that one of the reasons so many cultures created a ritual around animal sacrifice, was to justify and ease the horrors of taking another life in order to sustain our own. Some hunters and farmers may kill without thought, but others may need to believe it is to serve some purpose. The ritual brings the practice into the idea of the sacred, and gives the cruelty some degree of meaning beyond food and self preservation.
G.K. Chesterton, a Christian apologist and author, once discussed the importance of not taking down a fence until one knows why it was built in the first place:
“In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.” -The Thing, G. K. Chesterton (1929)4
The parable of Chesterton’s seems intentionally abstract. After all, what harm is there taking down a fence? A new home owner may take down an old rotting gate without much thought, and it would likely cause no harm. However, consider that you are a young attorney at a law firm. You see a contract filled with what seems like boilerplate, and you want to simplify it. However, that standard contract may have come about through dozens or hundreds of legal cases, where unspecific details landed clients or the firm in costly situations. Stripping out seemingly useless language, without understanding why it’s there to begin with, could open up parties to unexpected liabilities5.
A more concrete example may not be a fence, but a retaining wall. Imagine a region ravished by war, which becomes inhabited by a new group of people unfamiliar with the area. They may see walls in front of hills that seem to serve no purpose. The new settlers remove those walls in order to rebuild and expand, not understanding the engineering behind those walls and their original purpose. Things are fine for a few months as they build new structures, until a massive rainfall causes landslides destroying everything new and old.
In the 2010 book Sex at Dawn, the authors make an arguments for polyamorous relationships. Most of the arguments in the book are arguments from nature, focusing on animals like bonobos and chimps. When not examining nature, the authors focus on civilizations and cultures that are non-monogamous. However, the authors don’t seem interested in the fact that many of these cultures are either very old, small or underdeveloped. One can make an argument against the current size and benefit of our global societies. However, the case for polyamorism is not a complete argument without acknowledging that the vast majority of civilizations, that have led to our modern world, all developed some form of monogamous long-term pair bonding. Many polyamorous people seek to tear down the structures of modern relationships, or even modern families, without understanding all of the societal and evolutionary pressures which brought such structures into being.
Kristi Burke makes videos about faith and deconstruction. In Burke’s analysis on a sermon by John MacAuthur, she heavily criticizes the sermon’s view on deconstructionism and Christian apostates6. However, her insights are at an incredibly basic level. She doesn’t try to make a devil’s argument to challenger her own positions.
In one section, Burke says, “[Jesus] never gave a rule that said ‘don’t be transgender,’” in a response to part of MacAuthur’s sermon. It seems likely from this argument that Burke supports transgender affirming ideology. Earlier, she called out MacAuthur for using the “No true Scotsman fallacy,” in reference to him ranting about “defectors from Christianity.” This is an example of a disconnect; not acknowledging the many gender critical people who oppose transgenderism from non-theist or secular viewpoints. The idea that a man or woman can be born “in the wrong body,” is an argument in metaphysics and the nature of the self, not in objective observable reality. The only qualifier to being a “real Christian,” is to self-identify as a real Christian. In the same way, the neo-genderists want the self-identification of male, female or non-binary to be the sole factor in determining sex, removing a part of directly observable reality from having a name or distinction.
I will concede that John MacAuthur’s arguments were absolutely terrible in the sermon Burke analyses. He makes poor arguments, which will likely contribute to people leaving Christianity. However, Burke’s style of theological deconstruction is equally vapid. Her surface level readings do not attempt to understand why certain religious beliefs came into being. In a video describing the “manipulative nature of the gospel,” she criticizes blood sacrifices being used for forgiveness7, without first trying to understand why the practices may have started. She is not justifying her new beliefs, only criticizing her previous ones. She is ready to rip out G.K. Chesterton’s proverbial fence, unaware of the potential landslide of moral panic that could spread from it.
The Undeniable Impact of Christianity
Christianity, in many ways, was not very original. Stories of messiahs, arising from the dead and God dwelling among men can be found throughout history in many different cultures. Much of the Old Testament, before the story of King Solomon, has no basis in archaeological record, and is likely to be entirely fictional8. The stories of the Hebrew people, often justified the violence they used to establish their kingdoms. They believed God had chosen them above all others.
“Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” -1 Samuel 15:3 (NIV)
The philosophy of Jesus radically departs from the story of the Hebrew people. Instead of God giving the promise to a specific group of people; a justification for a superior culture—Jesus gives the promise to all people. The blessing of God was now open to all the people of the earth. It was no longer just the descendants of Abraham that were “made in God’s image9,”, but all human beings who accepted Jesus’s message. Christians don’t like to acknowledge earlier versions of this message led to crusades and inquisitions. Deconstructionists don’t like to acknowledge this message is the foundation of our belief in human equality.
“…I just think it’s absurd not to concede the fact that much of what we have in America, Britain, Canada is derived from Christian ethics [and] Christian ideas. Why deny that? I mean, you might not believe it, but you shouldn’t deny it, because it’s obvious. What are human rights, but a kind of derivation of a form of spilt Christianity? There’s no reason to have human rights. They’re not self-evident. So, I think you should just concede these things where they’re true, and even if they’re against your interests, and obviously an atheist is against their interests … and I also say it’s important to conceded this because you should try to work out … whether you want to engage in sawing off a branch of a tree that you’re sitting on. A certain amount of atheism does consist of that…“ -Douglas Murray10
The Romans didn’t see the value in individual people, had no qualms with abortion or infanticide, and made clear distinctions between citizens, non-citizens and slaves11. It was the Jews and early Christians that led the moral charge against abandoning or killing infants12. Many religions reinforced that their tribe or people group were special in some way, to justify their wars with others. Christianity said all human beings are made in the image of a creator God. That core belief is the foundation that distinguishes English Common Law from Roman Civil Law11. It is the ideology behind the founding document of the United States.
“…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…“ -Declaration of Independence13
Beyond the Fence
Postmodern deconstruction is not about building up society or beliefs. It is focused on tearing down the old. During the cultural revolution in China, Maoists sought to tear down the four olds: old ideas, old culture, old customs, and old habits. The destruction of culture creates a void. Where a culture can gradually grow and change over time, revolutions tend to create vacuums that are often filled with authoritarianism. If you remove a fence without acknowledging the thousands of years of history which created it, the floodgates can open for all kinds of untested and radical ideas.
I think it’s unlikely Christianity will come back to America and Europe in the way the revivalists or evangelicals desire. A rebirth of religion cannot replace what we’ve lost in Western culture14. Yet, deconstruction offers nothing in its place. Progressives want the ultimate equality of all human beings, when human beings are inherently unequal. They seeks to discard the notion we are all equal under God, as a religious justification for inequality; an “opium of the masses” as the Marxist would say.
Progressives like to focus on how America has used its soldiers in wars for resources, or how it’s justified torture against imagined enemies. They ignore the absolutely tremendous amount of freedom we have in America to stand up against those wrongs. Ignoring those fundamental freedoms and rights has led to the era of American political prisoners. Focusing on past racism and embracing victimhood, ignores that Christianity championed the growth in the moral belief that slavery was wrong. Academic environments in Universities seeks to distance themselves from religion, ignoring that Western higher education grew out of Christian institutions.
In my own personal journey, I left the Christian faith while attending University in the early 2000s. In the years since, I did grow apprehensive to the evangelism I once embraced. For a while, I went to events and meetups that discussed what’s now called the New Atheist movement15. In recent years, I’ve come to understand and appreciate the powerful mythos of Christianity and Western Culture, and the great changes they have brought to the planet. I doubt I will ever believe in Jesus and the saints and all the prophets again, but I do see beauty in the faith of the believers. I do not know what ideology will dominate the coming century, but I am not in favor of casting out the old so quickly and frivolously, without understanding the long and winding journey our ancestors took to get civilization to this precipice.
Alisa Childers On The Deconstruction Of Christianity And CCM. 24 October 2023. The Babylon Bee (PodCast) Mirror ↩
Philippians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 5:21 ↩
John MacArthur is Wrong About Deconstruction - Ex Christian Responds. 9 June 2023. Kristi Burke ↩
Genesis 1:27 ↩
Did Will Smith ATTACK Dave Chappelle?! Douglas Murray LIVE In Studio. Louder with Crowder. 4 May 2022. Mirror ↩
“As long as it’s healthy”: What can we learn from early Christianity’s resistance to infanticide and exposure?. 18 December 2020. Gosbell. ABC Australia. ↩