Over the past few decades there has been an overwhelming exodus of young people from churches in the United States. A large percentage of Millennials (and Gen Z) who grew up in the church are leaving their evangelical roots and turning to post-modernism. These people are often referred to as “deconstructionists.”
I have heard countless Christians discuss this issue with genuine concern, wondering what the cause might be and how to fix it. Many reasons are given. Cultural changes, carnal living, abuse, and the radical way that technology has transformed the landscape–as well as a number of other factors–can contribute to a person’s walking away from religion. However, I would like to suggest another reason that is often ignored. Many deconstructionists are leaving the church because of bad teaching. I believe it is a valid complaint. Let me give two examples.
One of the biggest criticisms voiced by deconstructionists is that the church mistreats homosexuals. The Bible is clear. Homosexuality is a sin (Rom 1:26-28). However, there are two popular teachings within Christendom that bother Millennials. First, many churches teach that homosexuals are all going to hell unless they turn from their lifestyle. Second, Reformed theology, which is a popular perspective within Evangelical churches today, teaches that if a homosexual “truly” believes, they will no longer have same-sex attraction. In other words, this view teaches that once a homosexual is saved, they automatically become heterosexual. Both teachings are unbiblical. The Bible is clear that eternal life is a gift that is offered to everyone, including homosexuals (John 3:16). Turning from a homosexual lifestyle, while good, is not required for salvation. No one receives eternal life by cleaning up their life (Eph 2:8-9).
There is no promise in the Bible guaranteeing that once a person comes to faith they will be impervious to sin. Someone can be saved and still struggle with same sex-attraction, just as a heterosexual person can come to faith and still struggle with pornography. Sadly, these truths are often not taught today. If a gay person grew up in a church that taught that homosexuals were all going to hell, and/or that if they were truly saved, they would not have those desires, then they were trapped within a hopeless system. Either they were left to question whether they could be saved, or they struggled silently, too afraid to seek help from their church, fearing its condemnation. Without a clear understanding of salvation and discipleship, many were left adrift. Thus, with no alternative but hell, many gay people and their friends reject Christianity. It was not the culture that failed them. It was the church.
Another complaint deconstructionists have with Christianity involves the popular depiction of eternity. I recently watched a video of a young woman who had deconstructed. She grew up in a Baptist church and was so passionate about her faith that she decided to go to seminary. While there, she started to question the Bible. She received her degree, but no longer believes in a literal God. God is only a concept. In this video, she argued that if the God of the Bible is real, and He created this incredibly complex planet and universe, then the Christian depiction of heaven is too limited. She said that the way most Christians see eternity–everyone is the same and floats on clouds–contradicts what we see in the world, which is full of unique and diverse people, nations, and animals.
While this woman was clearly confused, and horribly influenced by liberal teachers at her seminary, her complaint about the majority view of heaven is valid. The majority view is wrong. We are told that when the Lord returns, He will make a new heaven and a new earth (Rev 21:1ff). There will be differences within the kingdom because He is going to reward people, depending on their faithfulness (Lk 19:12-26; 1 Cor 15:35-41). In addition, there will be a difference between the Nation of Israel and the Church. There will be different nations (Rev 21:24). Paul says we can’t even image the complexity of what the Lord has planned (1 Cor 2:9).
Many churches have failed to teach these truths, which has led many people who grew up in the church to view eternity as boring and unworthy of their attention. Bad theology failed this young woman.
As a Millennial, I acknowledge that my generation has a lot of issues. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the spiritual baggage that many are carrying. However, I think it’s important to keep an eye on the real battle. Some deconstructionists may be delivered from falling away if they are taught sound doctrine. This is where FG people have a unique opportunity. We can step into the divide, responding with grace and sound teaching. The battle for this generation is not done, and we have the privilege of being a beacon in doctrinal darkness.