This is Part 2 of a 3-part article. In Part 1, I introduced the YouTube phenomena known as Rhett and Link’s Christian deconstruction. Here, I will discuss their reasons for leaving the faith, and in Part 3, I will offer my response. I also have a video posted on my YouTube Channel.
Rhett’s Relationship with Religion
I wanna emphasize how big of a deal it was to me. It was a relationship, and I wanna say that because I’ve noticed that when I tell my story, often people kind of conclude that I was never a true Christian.
Rhett begins his 100 minute talk with an emphasis on the fact that he was a true Christian. He had a “relationship” with Jesus. They were in “conversation” with each other (don’t take this too literally – it’s just the way Evangelicals talk sometimes).
Rhett also admitted that he was a naturally skeptical person. Even in the midst of his relationship with Jesus, this expressed itself in doubts concerning the canon (contents) of Scripture as well as the fact of Jesus’ resurrection. However, he was able to look past those doubts because he knew of and read apologists (people who defend the faith) who said there were good reasons to believe these things.
However, once he began to study some things outside the Evangelical “bubble,” things began to look differently. Eventually these discoveries led to his (and to some extent, Link’s) abandoning of the faith – what they call their spiritual deconstruction.
This is my summary of Rhett and Link’s deconstruction talks. It is a high level flyby, but I think it hits the major points. To keep things simple, I am combining the two stories – first, because there is a lot of overlap and second because Link’s story is told in more personal, experiential way that does not lend itself to the kind of analysis I am interested in.
Step 1: Evolution + Old Earth + Historical Skepticism = Rejection of the Old Testament
Rhett spends the lion’s share of his “deconstruction apologetic” giving reasons that he now believes in evolution and has rejected the young earth interpretation of the book of Genesis (This part takes up the first 36/100 minutes of his talk and 11/16 of his references are to these topics). I am lumping them together because they share parallel evidence and Rhett gives no arguments for an old earth (he basically just cites Christian astrophysicist Hugh Ross and the book The Bible, Rocks and TimeThe Bible, Rocks and Time).
Rhett cites lists a couple evidences for evolution, namely Chromosome 2 and . He also briefly mentions to transitional forms, retroviruses, and vestigial organs but gives no support for his claims. He cites sBiologos (a pro-evolution Christian group) approvingly as well as The Language of God by Francis Collins (also Christian) over against the likes of Answers in Genesis / Ken Ham (a young earth / anti-evolution ministry).
Because he found the evidence for evolution/old earth compelling, it caused him to doubt the Genesis narrative which fueled his skepticism of the entire Old Testament. He asks some leading questions about the Exodus and Joshua’s conquest of Canaan implying that these are doubtful from an archeological point of view.
Now it is important to note here (especially for part 3), that although he does not mention it until later, Rhett clearly questioned the OT prior to this because in his “questions” speech, he asks why he should believe “that God ordered his chosen people “to slaughter men, women and children by the thousands.”
This doubt of the veracity of the Old Testament also affected his faith in the New Testament, since Adam and Eve, Noah, etc. are treated as real figures by NT writers.
Step 2: Gospel Issues = Rejection of the Jesus’ Resurrection
Nearly halfway into his 100 minute video, Rhett turned to the Gospels and to Jesus. His loss of faith in the Bible tied in to his loss of faith in Jesus’ resurrection. He devotes only about 10 minutes to this – the most paramount of Christian topics.
He cites “Jesus Interrupted” by Bart Ehrman and without really giving any details, he presents his conclusion:
But essentially in the end, by far to me personally, the most compelling and seemingly reasonable view was that the Gospels appear to be a mix of religious propaganda as well as actual history.
Why (the) Hell?
Revealing the more subjective side of his skepticism, Rhett then asks a series of rhetorical questions taking the general form of “If I don’t have to believe _____, why would I?” These include one on (I assume) the so-called Canaanite genocide, the religious experience of non-Christians, and the existence/appropriateness of Hell.
If I don’t have to believe that God ordered his chosen people to slaughter men, women and children by the thousands, then why would I?
If I don’t wanna believe that every religious experience of any person who is not a Christian is ultimately illegitimate, then why would I?
If I don’t have to believe that anyone who doesn’t have a relationship with Jesus – i.e., the majority of people who have ever lived are going to spend eternity being literally tortured in a fire experiencing never-ending pain and suffering then why, no pun intended, in the hell would I believe that?
And if I can somehow accept the idea that hell exists because of God’s holiness why would I believe in a God who would choose to create that particular world where people have no choice whether or not they’re going to be born but then once they are born, if they don’t adopt the correct understanding of God, he will punish them forever?
Why believe in that God if I don’t have to?
Skepticism, Atheism, Agnosticism
All of this was quite upsetting. not only were some of the most important issues of his faith being successfully challenged, but he lost faith in the apologists who seemed to be disingenuous with regard to the reasons he should believe.
He also experienced a loss of faith in Christian apologists like Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel who he had read in response to the things he was learning from not only skeptics, but even other Christians.
Due to his sense of betrayal by the apologists, he went from a skeptic to an angry atheist for a short time. Rhett then calmed down and settled for a “hopeful agnosticism” that he now professes in place of Christianity:
I lost my appetite for certainty, specifically certainty about things I don’t think you can be certain about.
As to God’s existence, for now he has concluded that:
I still think that belief in God is very reasonable I think that the idea that the universe is ultimately purposeful, it’s headed towards some ultimate purpose, not only is that comforting but it kind of feels again, it feels right to me.
Rhett spends the remainder of his talk discussing his personal morality with a focus on the fact that he doesn’t feel much different than he did before. He chides people for thinking that without Christianity, “anything goes.”
At numerous times in both Rhett and Link’s talks, they express disappointment in the way women are treated in Evangelical Christianity (implying that their lack of leadership potential is a product of ancient culture and not biblical teachings). They also assert support for the LGBTQ+ community and anger that the Church will not allow homosexual marriage. (Link spends far more time on this than Rhett.)
Conclusion (To Be Continued)
This is the general outline of Rhett and Link’s deconstruction. Obviously a lot more was said in the 200 or so minutes the shows covered, but the main points are, I think, fairly represented here.
In Part 3 I will respond to these issues. Although there was a time when I would have attempted a point-by-point refutation of these deconstruction stories (and many respondents have), I actually resonate quite strongly with many of Rhett’s complaints. However, I think these stories reveal a much bigger problem for many Christians than evolution or the exodus.
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