In Death to Deconstruction: Reclaiming Faithfulness as an Act of Rebellion, Joshua S. Porter appeals to a generation abandoning the faith, urging them to choose a more nuanced faithfulness instead of outright rejection of orthodox Christianity. He structures his book around five “great predators”: biblical illiteracy, the problem of evil, a politicized Christianity, hypocrisy, and self-denial, laying out paths forward within orthodoxy avoiding each.
Having gone through all five of Porter’s great predators, I want to spend my last six posts in this series reacting to the book and suggesting my own path forward. I want to start with a discussion of the definition of deconstruction. Porter considers deconstruction as a synonym of deconversion. He writes:
“At the time of writing, the term ‘deconstruction’ has become an umbrella term to describe a process in which someone who was once a Christian embarks on a quest to jettison their Christianity. Bailing out on God isn’t exactly a bold new concept; it’s been going on since the origins of Christianity and earlier, but the modern junk drawer term ‘deconstruction’ probably has some roots in something called critical theory, a philosophical tradition that ‘refuses to identify freedom with any institutional arrangement for fixed system of thought.’” (29)
I am fine with this definition—it works for the thesis of his book. However, this is not the definition I hear from my friends who self-identify as having undergone the process. In some ways, I consider myself to have undergone a deconstruction process in my twenties. Yes, I jettisoned some of the theology of my upbringing, but not once did I consider myself jettisoning Christianity. Instead, I saw it as a process of reclaiming an ancient faith—an ancient faith lost by twenty-first century American syncretism. American evangelicalism is not synonymous with Christianity. If we are to reconnect with the ancient roots of our faith, there is much of American evangelicalism that needs to be left behind. The mantra of the Reformation was “always reforming.” Deconstruction is an essential part of the Protestant tradition.
Are we willing to admit that some things in American evangelicalism are rotten and need to
I am willing to admit that, if it means getting closer to Jesus.
Michael Spencer was the first person I heard use the term “post-evangelical” back in 2007. This was back when blogs like this were all the rage. Spencer went by the moniker “The Internet Monk,” and his website offered “Dispatches from the Post-Evangelical Wilderness.” I loved it. Spencer wasn’t afraid to call out “Churchianity,” but he also offered a clear path forward for the church that was focused on Jesus. Sadly, Spencer died of a brain tumor in 2009 and the movement fizzled out. (Google “Internet Monk Evangelical Untouchables” for a lovely surprise.)
In the next five posts, I am going to outline my “post-evangelical” perspectives on Porter’s five great predators. The label “post-evangelical” is kind of pretentious—I don’t really like it, but someone already laid claim to the adjective “reformed,” and it doesn’t communicate what I want to communicate. What I mean by it is “Evangelicalism for people who grew up in evangelicalism, witnessed its strengths and flaws firsthand, and want to reform it to pass the tradition on to the next generation.”
It still sounds pretentious, but what are you going to do?
If you are an evangelical, what would you “fix” to pass the tradition on to the next generation? What needs to be deconstructed?