From Disillusionment to Deconversion

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Reading Jonathan Leeman’s book, The Rule of Love, I agreed with how he summarized the spirit of the age. He wrote, “We won’t admit this to ourselves, but what we really want from the preacher and small group leader isn’t a God who asks us to make much of him, but a God who makes much of us”. When this kind of self-expression dominates our lives there has to be destructive fallout. What happens when the things around us fail to give us our self-expression?

The result is a deep feeling of disillusionment. It is a strange awakening of sorts, though it is less enlightening than it first appears.

The awakening is that a career or a church or a spouse has failed to live up to our expectations for self-expression. The power of this disillusionment knocks the sovereign ‘self’ off-balance. But sadly the awakening does not necessarily lead to spiritual enlightenment. Rather disillusionment leads to various decouplings from spouses, careers, friends and churches. These are the entrances and exits which can be taken so ‘lightly’ as Leeman described. The self must be expressed and no one will stand in its way.

This kind of disillusionment has led some professing evangelicals to abandon their confessions and go through a ‘deconversion’. In a self-expressive culture, it can be a unique badge of honour to be a hashtag #exangelical. But when self-expression ceases to find an outlet in Christian faith, it looks for a different channel for its ever-flowing stream to run through. No damming of the self will be permitted again.

Jesus knew all about disillusioned people. He dealt with them all the time. Mostly they were disillusioned with him. They thought he would be more conservative when it came to Jewish traditions. Or they thought he would institute more social justice. Or they thought he would be more loyal to his closest friends and give them seats ‘one at the right hand, one at the left’. But more than anyone Jesus was his own man.

Even on the road to Emmaus after Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, there were still people who were disillusioned with him. But he patiently explained the biblical testimony to them, that it was in fact about him. He had risen from the dead according to the prophecies.

People are still disillusioned with Jesus today. And many others are disillusioned with a false Jesus that is promoted by a civil religion’s priests. But the sovereign self will not bow to the true or the false Jesus. It will only bow to itself.

Pray for the so-called deconverted. Maybe they’ve never understood who the true Jesus really is? Pray that their illusions would be shattered and they would be humbled in faith before the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ. At the cross, a blessed disillusionment about the self gives way to glad faith in Christ. This is the deconversion the exangelicals need.

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