When Faith Falters
Not again, I thought to myself as I scrolled my news feed and read an article about a Christian leader “deconstructing” their faith. In recent years, several Christian leaders have boldly taken a stand for a message that is contrary to the gospel and in stark opposition to Scripture. I’ve also watched leaders and “Instagram influencers” claim Christ while also teaching a worldview that is the direct opposite of what Christ lived and taught.
As I’ve wrestled inwardly each time a news headline declares the downfall of a Christian pastor, the deconstructed faith of another believer, or the renounced faith of an evangelical leader, I’ve struggled to formulate thoughts about what is happening. Social media often amplifies voices that don’t edify or encourage the Body of Christ, and celebrates those who turn from the faith in pursuit of subjective “truth.”
So, where do we go from here? How do we live with spiritual discernment in a digital age? What do we do when Christian leaders change their theological stances or renounce their faith in Jesus altogether?
In 2016, our family was cruising down the interstate when a black truck in front of us slammed on its brakes, causing us to ram into his backend and the car behind us to crash into us. All I remember is the smell of burning rubber and the jolt of the airbags abruptly inflating to keep us in place. While the airbags were intended to protect us, they also caused us a bit of whiplash from the accident. In the coming days, I had seatbelt marks on my shoulder and a sore hand from shielding the brunt of the airbag releasing.
When I see or hear of a Christian leader departing from the gospel or the inerrancy of God’s Word, it feels like the impact of an airbag releasing during a crash. It’s like spiritual whiplash, and it takes a while to heal. I know I am not alone in this feeling, and I’m afraid that this jolt of spiritual whiplash is not being talked about enough. It is causing many believers to struggle in their faith secretly as they see people they once looked up to renouncing their own faith.
When author and pastor Joshua Harris announced his faith deconstruction last year, I felt shocked for days and even weeks. How could a man who faithfully followed God leave him altogether? What does that mean for me? What does that mean for others?
As I’ve processed and prayed through these shocking disclosures these past months and years, I’ve come back to four truths to anchor my thoughts, emotions, and reactions:
Our faith should not be in people but must be rooted in Jesus.
People will disappoint us. Even the most inspiring faith heroes inevitably fail in some way. There is no perfect Christian, only imperfect people who pursue the perfect One, Jesus. If the basis for what we believe about Jesus is reliant on another person, our faith will crumble when they doubt, disappoint, or dissent from what they believe. This is why it is so important that we know our Bibles rather than relying on others to spoon-feed us. We must know the Word of God in order to be able to discern whether what we read online and hear from the pulpit actually lines up with what God says.
The apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the church at Colossae, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:6–7). The foundation of the Christian faith is Jesus—his perfect life, death, resurrection, and reign.
Christ is the centerpiece of the entire Word of God. He is the ultimate Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). He is the promised Messiah spoken of in Genesis 3:15, he is the one the Israelites hoped for, and he is the fulfillment of God’s Word and plan of redemption. Any message that sways from Jesus, the Son of God, is not the message of the Bible.
When you hear of a faith leader saying something that deters from Christian doctrine, rather than doubting what you believe, go back and study, search, and sift through the Word for yourself. Let the Word interpret the Word, and let what you believe come from the Word Himself.
God’s Word doesn’t change, but people do.
When people change their views or leave their faith in Christ, ask yourself: What is this person now claiming? What caused them to change their stance? Then look back to God’s Word and to historical Christianity. What does the Word have to say? This means looking at God’s Word in its entirety, not picking and choosing verses to believe and others to discard.
Understanding the meaning of Scripture comes through studying passages in their original context. It is also vital to consider what the Church has historically confessed to be true. What are the core doctrines of the Church that are unchanging, just as God’s Word is unchanging?
Faith deconstruction usually begins with compromise, with shifting from the meaning of God’s Word to creating a word that appeals to our desires. 1 Corinthians 8:6 explains, “Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” The God of the Bible is clear—a God of order, a God of peace and not a God of confusion. His Word is for our good. Cultures change over time, but God’s Word transcends culture and is a stable foundation (Psalm 33:11; Isaiah 40:8).
Don’t reject what you know to be true because someone else doubts.
I’ll be completely honest here: I have been a Christian for twenty-three years, and there have been seasons of intense doubt in my life. At times I’ve felt so crushed I wasn’t sure I’d completely recover. Sometimes I’ve wondered if God really hears or listens or loves. But always, always, what I know to be true in the Word wins the war for my affections. People are fallible and life is hard, but God is good.
When I see an influencer renouncing the faith, I go back to the realities of the lives of those recorded in God’s Word. The Psalms beautifully, powerfully, and honestly depict the struggles of the human soul. They reveal that we are not alone today in our intense doubt, fear, or questioning. But the Psalms always point us back to the truth. They preach to the soul. They remind us of what we know when what we feel is contrary.
Don’t leave your faith in Jesus because of another person’s unbelief. Draw near to God. Fellowship with his people. Read books that deepen your understanding of the Word. And remember, doubt is not the end of your faith (Mark 9:24). Pray and seek Truth by seeking Christ in the Word.
Remember who God is.
As I see people rejecting the God they once claimed to love, some then turn instead to embrace a god they have created in the image of sinful man. But, the character of God is steadfast and unchanging. Malachi 3:6 says, “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” Hebrews 13:8 concludes, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
Isaiah 40:8 explains, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” God does not change. This is both a comfort to cling to and a conviction to hold on to when people share about a god that differs from the God of the Bible.
Unshaken in a Shaky World
In this loud digital age, I know there will be more announcements of leaders, influencers, authors, and everyday people leaving the faith. This won’t be the last time we experience spiritual whiplash, but the brunt of the blow will lessen the more we study God’s Word and seek to have a defense for our faith. Stand true to what you know. Pray for those who choose not to believe. And keep seeking the unshakable kingdom of God (Hebrews 12:28).
Below are additional resources for strengthening and defending your faith:
- Let’s Deconstruct a Deconstruction Story from The Gospel Coalition
- The Alisa Childers Podcast
- Another Gospel? By Alisa Childers
- Stand to Reason
- RZIM Ministries Just Thinking Podcast
- The Reason for God by Timothy Keller