My colleague and Think Biblically co-host, Sean McDowell, has a new book out on deconstruction. Check out this quick interview and consider getting a copy of his excellent book (with John Marriott).

Scott Rae: Why did you personally decide to address the topic of deconstruction in the church?

Sean McDowell: This is the book I wish someone had given me when I was a young Christian. I went through a painful period of questioning my faith and then ultimately rebuilding it. Fortunately, there were some amazing people in my life that guided me through it, but many young Christians are lost adrift today without help. My co-author and I simply hope to be that guide for other young Christians desiring to follow Jesus amid questions, disillusionment and other cultural challenges.

Rae: What makes your approach to the topic unique?

McDowell: There are a lot of good books about the phenomenon of deconstruction in the church. In fact, Alisa Childers and Tim Barnett have an excellent book coming out early 2024 called The Deconstruction of Christianity. And my co-author, John Marriott, has written a number of books on this phenomenon including The Anatomy of Deconversion. Our book is uniquely written for young Christians who are either going through a period of deconstruction or who simply want guidance in building a lasting, biblical faith. We share from both research and our personal experience.

Rae: The term “deconstruction” seems to carry a range of meanings. How do you define the term?

McDowell: Very important question! We do not use it in the postmodern sense of analyzing and dismantling a text. And we don’t use the term as being synonymous with deconversion, which involves rejecting the historic Christian faith. Rather, we define deconstruction similarly as Michael Kruger, who says “it simply means that we should ask hard questions about whether the version of Christianity we are following is consistent with the Scriptures, or with historic Christian beliefs through the centuries.” I agree with Kruger that there is a difference between total deconstruction, which is deconversion, and reforming deconstruction, which affirms historic Christian beliefs but recognizes the need for individual and corporate reformation.

Rae: Why are so many young people deconstructing their faith?

McDowell: There are many reasons young Christians might deconstruct their faith. Sometimes they are confronted with intellectual challenges to the faith, and it unsettles them. Many times there is disillusionment or hurt from either the church or another Christian. Sometimes they experience a tension between Christian teachings and culture. The key is to get to the heart of the issue. Proverbs 20:5 is often my guide: “The purpose in a man's heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.”

Rae: How can leaders best help young Christians who are deconstructing their faith?

McDowell: First, don’t overreact. My father did not freak out when I told him I was doubting my faith. Rather, he listened, assured me of his love, and simply encouraged me to follow truth wherever it leads. Second, commit to the long-term. Seasons of deconstruction can sometimes last for months, years, or even decades. Third, ask how they are personally doing. Deconstruction can sometimes be painful, which is why Jude said to “have mercy on those who doubt” (1:22). Finally, if you are looking for a book to help walk alongside a deconstructing Christian, Set Adrift might be helpful.

Check out Sean’s latest book with John Marriott: Set Adrift: Deconstructing What You Believe Without Sinking Your Faith.