This week, I was privileged to join my friend, Daniel Rogers, on his podcast “Exploring Faith, Pursuing Grace” to interview Bradley Jersak concerning his new book. Brad was gracious enough to send us a PDF copy of “Out of the Embers” so we could read it before the interview. (see links above for websites)

Full disclosure, I’m a Jersak fanboy. I’ve read his books on Christian Universalism, the character of God, the way of Jesus, and the inspiration of Scripture. Those books are excellent (to say the least)! But I was incredibly excited about this book because it is on a subject that is near to my heart: Deconstruction.

Hey, umm… What is Deconstruction?

Deconstruction, in the Christian context, is the process of critiquing and changing previously held religious mindsets, views, and/or practices. Sometimes to the point of non-belief. It has become somewhat of an Evangelical movement. Hence the reason Brad calls it “The Great Deconstruction” to compare it to other great Christian movements in the last several centuries (The Great Reformation, The Great Awakening, etc.). Reconstruction is the process of rebuilding one’s faith post-deconstruction. Not everyone sees the need for reconstruction.

Deconstruction is Something Near to My Heart for Several Reasons.

First, I have gone through (and continue to go through) deconstruction in my own life. As I have mentioned in other articles, I grew up in a denomination that thought they alone were the one true church of Jesus Christ (at least, that was the majority view). And any fringe view from the community standards was at best silenced, at worst railed against as damning heresy. I have questioned the norms of my Christian community from the time I was 15 or 16. To the point that it drove me to three years of agnosticism in my late teens and early twenties.

I love the heritage I grew up in. They love Jesus, they love people, they love the Bible, they love to serve, they loved me. They were sincere. However, they were also sectarian. They bound views and traditions where God did not. They did not accept my brothers and sisters who claimed Jesus as Lord with both their words and their actions.

I finally came back to Christianity when I was 20 or so. But I came back with the mentality to “test all things.” And honestly, I was bitter. I felt betrayed, lied to, and robbed. No wonder my faith was a house of cards. Still, I came back to my movement because I appreciated its roots. So, when I came back to Christianity, I was on the fringe of whatever “movement” of the faith I found myself in. It was (and is) exhausting, but I promise it was genuine. However, lately, I find myself having more and more days where I’m just ready to let it all go.

The second reason the subject of deconstruction is near to my heart is that I know so many in Evangelical circles (and especially from the tradition I grew up in) that are going through the same things, but they didn’t get to attend five Christian schools and get religious training like I was privileged to do. They weren’t ministers for 10 years and have the networking and jargon that a typical minister has. They are intelligent and thoughtful, but they focus their expertise on different areas of their lives and have children and a full-time job, and so on. Still, they are asking similar questions that I ask and have a hard time articulating and navigating all of that. It is terrifying for them!

Lastly, this subject is near to my heart because I know so many pastors who feel the same way I do. Know that your cries are heard. Know that my prayers are with you. I stepped out of ministry a little over a year ago. I’m not you, but I get it on some level. You aren’t alone. Keep preaching good news if you can. Give God your mustard seed and tell Him, “I believe; help my unbelief.” Give people hope. But if you can’t anymore, I’m right there with you in this season of my life. I’m here if you need a shoulder to cry on or a place to vent. This book will help you, it will help the layperson, and it has already helped me. Brad lets God speak through him in this book, where the practical and academic sides of deconstruction graciously meet.

Take Your Time!

Some of my readers will see this as lazy, but I legitimately think it would do a disservice to Brad and his work if I gave away too much of the book. The reason I say that is not because I think you won’t buy it if I give you too many details. No, the reason I say that is because this isn’t a book to read just for encouragement or information. This is a book you have to have a relationship with. Seriously! It is a book that you want to take your time with. There are some deep concepts, intellectually and emotionally. But there is also a deep emotional and intellectual context that you will have to wrestle with in yourself. And that will take time. The ending of this book will not have the same impact if you read it through too quickly or if you skip around. You need to take your time. As Brad says in the preface, deconstruction is part of the sanctification process, and sanctification is a lifetime journey (Rom. 8:38-29; 2 Cor. 3:16-18).

The Layout of the Book


In this section, Brad tells his own story of deconstruction and reconstruction. This section is very emotionally charged. However, if you’re like me, you’ll find that helpful and validating. Brad also mentions some current voices on the subject and encourages the reader to find balance in the deconstruction process. Unfortunately, so many people going through deconstruction make a lateral shift and think that it’s a progressive shift. They really leave one form of fundamentalism for another. They become legalistic in their liberalism. Hey, I’ve been there! I still find myself there occasionally. It isn’t really growth, though. It is the same person in different clothes. It’s the same song but a different verse. We tend to become the thing we hate. Brad affirms, validates, and even encourages deconstruction, but he warns against exchanging old idols for new ones. He says that Jesus is all about deconstruction. What do we think Paul means when he says, “I die daily” (1 Cor. 15:31)? “When home is a person, rather than a place, there is freedom in the journey” (p. 42). He goes on to say, “Traumatic events can’t be undone. But trauma narratives can be rewritten—my past can be retold as my unfolding story of redemption” (p. 49). In this section, we see Brad having the hard conversation where he acknowledges deconstruction as necessary while also encouraging us to be intentional and thoughtful on our journey.


Section two is focused on voices of deconstruction in the past. He speaks of what he calls the “seven sleepers” of deconstruction. Those voices of deconstruction include Moses, Plato, Voltaire, Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, and Simone Weil. Even some of the more pessimistic “sleepers” represented here discouraged “burning everything down” in unthoughtful cynicism. This section is meatier. I won’t give too much of it away here. You need to read it yourself. Some of you will love that it’s meaty, and others will have a hard time with it. That said, I encourage you to take your time with this section, as I mentioned above. See this section from a relational standpoint when you think of these sleepers instead of seeing it from merely an academic standpoint. See their world from their eyes. This section speaks to how God encourages continual de/reconstruction, how the Father of the “prodigal son” encourages and funds the deconstruction of the son, and how God is best seen in co-suffering love. The sleepers validate the process of deconstruction, and many of them teach us that if we persevere in agape love even when we feel abandoned, God will meet us there. Chapter 20 was particularly special. He says that selfless love IS salvation in THIS life NOW. Repentance is continual deconstruction, and salvation is continual reconstruction. It is a process where the journey is the destination. Jesus IS the door. He IS home (as mentioned above). Grand movements, even the “Great Deconstruction” will not save the world. “Instead, wherever ordinary people—as unholy and afflicted as we are—open our hearts to see the pain beneath another’s sin and shed a tear in humble solidarity, we become participants in God’s grace, agents in their salvation and in our own as well” (p. 208).


This section is the climax of the book. He combines the emotional validation and warnings of the first section with the philosophical and academic logic of the second section. This section is both practical and thought-provoking. And, if I’m being honest, it is no exaggeration to say that this section likely saved my soul from complete despair. Brad gave me hope here. There is hope after the ashes of deconstruction. God meets us there, even in despair.

“Inexplicable light shines in our darkness—and we didn’t light it. Inexplicable hope rises in very fragile people—and it’s not so easy to squelch. Inexplicable faith in God appears—when we’ve lost all reason to have it. Inexplicable love shows up—so sacrificial that normal people in real life become saintly. Inexplicable goodness emanates from people you don’t even believe are ‘Christians.’ This is awesome! After all that darkness, where does that light come from—transcending reason, evidence, nihilism, and despair? How is it getting brighter?…” (214).

I don’t want to spoil this section for you, so I won’t say much more. The outro teaches the reader the importance of having communion with self, then others, then creation, and then God. Where love and grace are, that’s where we find Jesus, that’s where we find reconstruction, that’s where we find hope, that’s where we find resurrection, and that’s where we find faith. He says that if that doesn’t count, “…then surely nothing counts, because God is not elsewhere” (298).


Now, if you’re like me, the subjectivity of that last section is unsatisfying. First, Brad acknowledges that. Second, maybe part of that is an “us problem?” Third, he makes good arguments in the concluding sections of the book that are more satisfying than I want to say here because you have to do the work for yourself. If you don’t know anything about Brad, then I can understand you rolling your eyes at that last statement. But, for those of you who have listened to Brad, watched Brad, and read Brad through the years, you know he has something to say to you here that is both pastoral and thought-provoking. As skeptical as I am, He gave me hope. I know this book will do the same for anyone who reads this book with a seeker’s heart. – Jesse

ALSO READ: Navigating Faith Communities During De/Reconstruction Part 1