A Brief Treatise on Faith Deconstruction

In his sermon titled, The Sequel to Divine Sovereignty,[1] the “prince of preachers,” Charles Haddon Spurgeon[2] declared, “No doctrine in the whole Word of God has more excited the hatred of mankind than the truth of the absolute sovereignty of God.”

For what it’s worth, I happen to concur with Spurgeon. But I want to take his bold assertion a step further. Not only does Spurgeon’s asseveration about God’s sovereignty ignite the “hatred of mankind,” but also the indignation of many professing Christians, particularly with regard to the role of God’s sovereign autonomy in salvation (Jn. 5:21).

Although numerous Scriptures attest that faith in Jesus Christ is a divinely monergistic act (1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 2:8-9), we nevertheless like to think that we have a role to play in our spiritual redemption. But if, in fact, we do play a role in the faith we claim to possess—which is completely antithetical to what Scripture teaches (Jn. 6:44a)—it would also stand to reason, would it not, that we would inherently possess the right to manipulate, alter, and customize that faith so that it comports with our own subjective construct of what “my” faith and “my” truth is and means?

But as the nineteenth-century Puritan Horatius Bonar reminds us in his book The Everlasting Righteousness: How Shall a Man Be Just With God?:

Faith is the acknowledgment of the entire absence of all goodness in us, and the recognition of the cross as the substitute for all the want on our part. Faith saves because it owns the complete salvation of another, and not because it contributes anything to that salvation. There is no dividing or sharing the work between our own belief and Him in whom we believe. The whole work is His, not ours, from first to last. Faith does not believe in itself, but in the Son of God. Like the beggar, it receives everything but gives nothing. It consents to be a debtor forever to the free love of God.”

Faith in Jesus Christ is not a matter of cultural, sociological, philosophical, or anthropological invention or derivation. Faith originates with God, and therefore cannot be “deconstructed,” as if what God sovereignly accomplished could somehow be improved upon.

The saving faith that God grants—if indeed that faith is genuine—is a faith that God Himself supplies (Rom. 10:17). And whatever God supplies to His people is inherently perfect in both its essence and efficacy and, consequently, cannot be enhanced, enriched, or advanced by human knowledge or effort. Consider that in light of the statement below, which I posted in a tweet on December 20, 2022:

“Many professing Christians who claim to have “deconstructed” their faith forget one thing: your faith is not of your own doing. You can’t deconstruct what you didn’t construct to begin with. True faith is a gift from God and therefore isn’t subject to philosophical genuflecting.”[3]

The point I’m making in that tweet is that, fundamentally, faith is a divine construct, not a human one. That theological fact is what the vast majority of professing evangelical deconstructionists overlook, whether it be deliberately or ignorantly. Faith is a spiritual reality that originates in the eternal mind of God (Eph. 1:4-5). That is precisely why God, not man, must be the starting point of any discussion about faith in any biblically orthodox context.

Evangelical deconstruction is a dialectical mirage.

It is a philosophical phantasm.

I say that in light of these words from the noted French Reformer John Calvin who, in his theological magnum opus The Institutes of the Christian Religion, said:

All the [church] fathers with one heart execrated and with one mouth protested against contaminating the Word of God with the subtleties of sophists and involving it in the brawls of dialecticians. Do they keep within these limits when the sole occupation of their lives is to entwine and entangle the simplicity of Scripture with endless disputes?

The very term deconstruction, particularly as it is employed by progressive (woke) evangelicals, is merely verbal camouflage to disguise what is really going on within their hearts and minds, which is nothing less than a wholesale rejection of the authority of Scripture (biblical worldview) in favor of a secular worldview that is more culturally governed and, as such, fits more comfortably – and conveniently – with their own subjective interpretation of the world. The twentieth-century Welsh theologian D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones traced, and rightly so, I believe, such misguided thinking to a rejection of the authority of Scripture, saying:

There can be no doubt whatsoever that all the troubles in the Church today, and most of the troubles in the world, are due to a departure from the authority of the Bible. And, alas, it was the Church herself that led in the so-called Higher Criticism that came from Germany just over a hundred years ago. Human philosophy took the place of revelation, man’s opinions were exalted and Church leaders talked about ‘the advance of knowledge and science’, and ‘the assured results’ of such knowledge. The Bible then became a book just like any other book, out-of-date in certain respects, wrong in other respects, and so on. It was no longer a book on which you could rely implicitly. [Source]

Faith must never be construed as or confused with worldview. The two are not the same thing. It is the conflating of those two ideas which, to a great and unfortunate extent, I believe, has contributed to the traction that the concept of deconstruction has garnered within the evangelical church in recent years. Nevertheless, I am grateful for godly men like Dr. James N. Anderson, the Carl W. McMurray professor of theology and philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary, for providing some much-needed clarity on this matter, saying:

A worldview is an overall view of the world. It’s not a physical view of the world, but rather a philosophical view, an all-encompassing perspective on everything that exists and matters to us. A person’s worldview represents his most fundamental beliefs and assumptions about the universe he inhabits. It reflects how he would answer all the “big questions” of human existence: fundamental questions about who and what we are, where we came from, why we’re here, where (if anywhere) we’re headed, the meaning and purpose of life, the nature of the afterlife, and what counts as a good life here and now. Few people think through these issues in any depth, and fewer still have firm answers to such questions, but a person’s worldview will at least incline him toward certain kinds of answers and away from others.[4]

Conversely, Dr. John MacArthur, pastor-teacher at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, says:

A worldview comprises one’s collection of presuppositions, convictions and values from which a person tries to understand and make sense out of the world and life. A worldview is a conceptual scheme by which we consciously or unconsciously place or fit everything we believe and by which we interpret and judge reality. A worldview is, first of all, an explanation and interpretation of the world and second, an application of this view to life.[5]

It should go without saying, as followers of Jesus Christ, that our faith should inform our worldview, not the other way around (Rom. 12:2; Col. 2:8; 2 Tim. 3:15; 1 Jn. 2:15-17). But our faith must be informed by sola Scriptura—Scripture alone—and nothing else. As the nineteenth-century pastor and theologian Archibald Alexander (A.A.) Hodge[6], said:

Whatever God teaches or commands is of sovereign authority. Whatever conveys to us an infallible knowledge of his teachings and commands is an infallible rule. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the only organs through which, during the present dispensation, God conveys to us a knowledge of his will about what we are to believe concerning himself, and what duties he requires of us.[7]

Dr. W. Robert Godfrey, professor of Church History and President Emeritus of Westminster Theological Seminary in Escondido, California, adds:

We should not be surprised that there are divisions in the church. Christ and His apostles predicted that there would be. The Apostle Paul told us that such divisions are useful. He wrote: “No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval” (1 Corinthians 11:19). Differences should humble us and drive us back to the Scriptures to test all claims to truth. If we do not accept the Scriptures as our standard and judge, there is indeed no hope for unity.[8]

The faith God grants to His elect is a faith in Jesus Christ that is unto salvation; and once God grants saving faith to a genuinely repentant sinner (Rom. 10:9), he or she never loses it—ever (Jn. 6:38-40; Heb. 7:25). Faith that is unto salvation is a faith that is not only imparted by God but is sustained by Him (1 Pet. 1:3-5). It is a truth that is unambiguously affirmed in the Canons of Dort, which state:

So it is not by their own merits or strength but by God’s undeserved mercy that they neither forfeit faith and grace totally nor remain in their downfalls to the end and are lost. With respect to themselves, this not only easily could happen, but also undoubtedly would happen; but with respect to God it cannot possibly happen, since his plan cannot be changed, his promise cannot fail, the calling according to his purpose cannot be revoked, the merit of Christ, as well as his interceding and preserving, cannot be nullified, and the sealing of the Holy Spirit can neither be invalidated nor wiped out.[9]

That same Confession further states:

The elect in due time, though in various degrees and in different measures, attain the assurance of this their eternal and unchangeable election, not by inquisitively prying into the secret and deep things of God, but by observing in themselves, with a spiritual joy and holy pleasure, the infallible fruits of election pointed out in the Word of God — such as a true faith in Christ, filial fear, a godly sorrow for sin, a hungering and thirsting after righteousness, etc.[10]

That any professing believer in Christ would have the prideful temerity to boast that he or she (because there are only two genders) is “deconstructing” their faith is quite arrogant when you think about it. Such a self-exalting heart attitude suggests to God who, of His own compassionate volition, saved you from His wrath that the faith He graciously and mercifully imparted to you is inherently deficient in either its substance or its efficacy.

That is precisely why I so dogmatically assert that, contrary to what evangelical deconstructionists might admit, what is actually happening is not so much that their “faith,” as they define it, is being “deconstructed,” but that their worldview is becoming less informed by the authority of Scripture.

That is truly what is happening in evangelical deconstruction.

And those who identify with that ideological camp would do well to simply admit it, instead of attempting to hide behind what is essentially a Marxist dialectical smoke screen.

This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. – James 3:15 (NASB)

SDG!

Darrell


For further study, listen to this episode of the Just Thinking podcast, titled Evangelical Deconstructionism.

[1] https://www.spurgeongems.org/sermon/chs3284.pdf (accessed 12.21.22).

[2] https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/blog-entries/who-is-charles-haddon-spurgeon/

[3] https://twitter.com/D_B_Harrison/status/1605366440428654592?s=20&t=QLm-j5bO9sy5yNIYDDjNLg

[4] https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/what-worldview

[5] https://www.gty.org/library/questions/QA520/whats-your-worldview

[6] https://banneroftruth.org/us/about/banner-authors/a-a-hodge/

[7] https://www.monergism.com/sola-scriptura

[8] http://www.the-highway.com/Sola_Scriptura_Godfrey.html

[9] Canons of Dort, 5.8.

[10] Article 12: https://prts.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Canons-of-Dort-with-Intro.pdf

Image credit.

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