Deconstruction Reason #3 Humanistic Assumptions

Written by Mark Farnham

On February 18, 2022

The third reason I have seen Christians deconstruct is that they have absorbed and adopted naturalistic approaches to the Bible. I use the term “humanistic” in the title, because all the descriptors that can be used for this error—naturalistic, atheistic, critical, hedonistic—reflect the rejection of the Scriptures as God’s authoritative, inerrant Word, and subject it to criticism arising out of autonomous human reasoning. In other words, critics see the Bible through a lens that requires them to provide non-supernatural conclusions, because the Bible is essentially a human product, and therefore, not unique.

I use the word “absorb” because many deconstructionists don’t realize that their criticisms of the Scriptures and the Christian faith are subconsciously anti-supernatural. Without realizing it, they assumed the Bible could not be unique divine revelation because people were involved in writing and copying it. In their attempt to be “rational” people (always a dangerous ambition, considering how loaded “rationality” is), they accepted that everything must have a natural, purely physical or sociological explanation. In doing so they commit the fallacy of Scottish philosopher David Hume when he discounted miracles. Nothing would ever count as evidence as a miracle since he had already committed himself to the belief that everything could be explained naturally. Hence believing in miracles is irrational.

Deconstructionists have absorbed and adopted many such humanistic presuppositions. If something has a natural, material cause, they claim, it can’t also have a supernatural cause. This is mistaken because Christians (should) believe that God set in place the material causes (the laws of nature and the laws of thermodynamics, for example), and often works through secondary causes. So, the fact that a material cause for something can be identified does not negate God as the original cause. As Oxford mathematician and apologist, John Lennox, often says, understanding how an internal combustion engine works does not disprove the historical existence of Henry Ford.

In the same way, the fact that people were involved in the writing and preservation of the texts of Scripture does not mean that they are necessarily flawed. Note the deconstructionists assumption: if humans are involved, error must be present. Christians agree with that statement when the subject is any other book. But Christians believe, based on the testimony of the Scriptures themselves, that the Bible is a uniquely inspired book that was protected by the work of the Holy Spirit.

Another assumption found commonly in Old Testament studies is that if there are other texts (such as the Enuma Elish and the Gilgamesh Epic) that also speak of creation and the flood and bear some (vague) similarities to the biblical accounts, then the biblical accounts are of the same type of literature as these ancient Near East (ANE), namely myths. This misconception is bolstered by the fact that these myths date before the writing of the Torah by Moses (who, in their opinion did not write it anyways). Note the erroneous assumption: If the Bible has fantastic accounts of major events, then it must be mythical, because other ancient writings are mythical. And if these myths were written before Genesis was written, then the biblical accounts must be Israel’s own version of the myths, and therefore not historically true.

Of course, all these views ignore and reject any alternative explanations, because they begin with naturalistic assumptions rooted in a humanistic hubris that says, “We will decide what is true according to our human understanding” (which eliminates the possibility of divine revelation from the outset).

A better explanation for the relationship between the Old Testament and the ANE literature is the Reformed doctrine of Common Grace, summarized in three points: First, God gives good gifts to believer and unbeliever alike (Matt. 5:45), and so unbelievers can produce cultural works worthy of praise (Deut. 6:10) and which can communicate truth even if they are flawed (Acts 17:27-28); second, the Holy Spirit restrains unbelievers so they are not as wicked as they could be (John 16:8; 2 Thess. 2:6); and third, all cultures inescapably demonstrate the truth of God, no matter how flawed, because of the image of God in humans. Therefore, a better explanation for ANE similarities to Scripture (which are greatly exaggerated) is that the truth of creation and the flood stories were preserved in distorted ways since the time of Cain and were given pagan explanations that became the basis for pagan civilizations. This means that the timing of Moses’ writing appearing later than these account is inconsequential, because these were oral societies that didn’t need to have these accounts written to be preserved.

The list of critical, materialistic, naturalistic, and humanistic assumptions is manifold. Other examples include:

  • The belief that science is a neutral endeavor that has no bias or flawed methodology[1]
  • The belief that unless we have extra-biblical evidence for something the Bible says then it shouldn’t be believed
  • The belief that the text of the New Testament was intentionally corrupted, or ineptly preserved and that we have no idea what the authors originally wrote[2]
  • The fact that we share a high percentage of identical DNA with primates means that we descended from them
  • The idea that whether something makes sense to you determines whether it is true or not
  • The idea that something is sin only if it hurts someone else in some tangible fashion

All these and more are rooted in humanistic presuppositions that are easily dismantled when scrutinized with a biblical worldview. As I often say in seminars, there is no legitimate objection that can be raised against the Christian faith for which there are not good answers. Unfortunately, many who are deconstructing don’t know the answers, don’t want to know the answers, or won’t even discuss the possibility that there are answers. Some are honest seekers who don’t know where to look, but others are dishonest in their rejection of the truth. My hope is that the honest seekers will not stop pursuing answers until they hear the good ones.

In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.” (Psalm 10:4)

[1] See Del Ratsch, Science and Its Limits (IVP, 2000), John Lennox, Can Science Explain Everything? (Good Book, 2019), and J. P. Moreland, Science and Secularism (Crossway, 2018).

[2] See Peter Williams, Can We Trust the Gospels? (Crossway, 2018), and Elijah Hixson and Peter Gurry, eds., Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism (IVP, 2019).

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