If you have been watching and listening to the religious discussions in our country today, you probably have heard the word “deconstruction” being used to describe the process of analyzing and breaking down a person’s “faith”. From well-known names, to the individuals we live in community with each day, many are growing weary of failings of churches and leaders across our country as a signal that their own religious beliefs are insufficient and in need of change.
My first reaction is that we might not all be starting from the same definition of faith. The Bible, which I believe is God-breathed and authoritative for a believer’s life (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21), says that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). So, I first want to make sure I have an understanding of God’s definition of faith, not man’s.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1 (ESV)
The Christian faith is first believing in the good news of Jesus being the substitutionary lamb who conquered death/sin on our behalf and then agreeing and trusting in that belief. We keep walking by faith as we hold to the hope of things promised in Scripture and being thoroughly convinced to live in obedience for the joy set before us. Faith is acting on belief.
If our faith is in the person of Jesus Christ, the foundation of faith and chief cornerstone of the Church, how can we claim to deconstruct “faith” itself?
True Faith Defined
We are warned in 1 Corinthians 3:10-11 about how and what we build upon the solid foundation laid by Christ and built upon by the apostles and prophets.
According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
No foundation can be laid other than Christ. He alone is the way to having a relationship with the Father. Christ is the head of the Church and He loves His bride, so we need to be careful about what we are attempting to “deconstruct”.
While there is, and will always be, failings within the body of Christ, many have failed to remember who the Church is and the words Christ spoke to Peter about nothing prevailing against it…that includes those wanting to deconstruct truth and dissenters of pure faith. While Christ has a standard for our moral conduct and dealing with others, believers battle the flesh daily. Some refuse to battle and seek to glide into godliness, leaving room for sin to derail them. Some abuse their authority. And some even misuse Scripture to promote selfish gain. Reading through the Bible shows us examples of all of these things, yet we are never instructed to walk away from Christ or stop trying to be a functioning member of His body. I believe this is why Scripture repeatedly teaches us about bearing with one another, forgiving one another, and striving for peace together, because God knew it would be hard to live in the unity intended. Is it impossible? No. Is it worth seeking? Yes. Will it, at times, cause frustration and fatigue? Yes. Will it also be a mirror of the beauty of Christ in human form? I have been blessed to witness it imperfectly many times when I stopped beholding everything with a critical eye. It’s even commanded of us to love in this way, especially those of the household of faith. Ever heard of forgiving 70 times 7?
True Faith Examined
In a way, I understand the frustration and have seen it festering for a few years now. I have witnessed the cynicism and disillusionment growing. To be honest, the intertwining of political and faith-based teachings has caused me to fight against discouragement myself. It feels like faith has become a means to an end instead of a driving force for spreading the gospel and loving as Christ does.
My complaint, however, is against man and not God. My faith is not dependent upon any works of man, including myself, and therefore is not something I can or should try to tear down.
At one point in my life, I experienced a deep loss that left me questioning the things I had grown up learning about God. I wrestled in my grief toward understanding, but I never sought answers outside of Christ and the truths of Scripture. The only place to take my pain was to God. The only place I could find truth was in His word. Over a couple of years, I grew in my relationship with God and asked for wisdom, and I saw where I had twisted parts of Scripture to say something soothing that wasn’t true: if I was faithful, I would never suffer here on earth. If I asked in faith, no loss would be felt. Once I began reading my Bible faithfully, I saw that this was not a promise. The Bible is filled with statements about enduring in suffering. So, my preconceived ideas about how God works was “deconstructed” by the Spirit and input of truth.
At first glance, the word deconstruction seems like a fulfillment of the command to examine ourselves, study to show ourselves approved, and to be renewed by the transforming of our minds. But large quantities of people are taking it further as the philosopher, Jacques Derrida, coined the word to critique literature and its meaning. Many today are using this idea to make Scripture less authoritative than God says it is, leading young people who claim true faith in Christ to doubt its reliability. There is also much criticism of the Church as a whole today that is causing many to flee for a more private way to practice their faith. But is this the direction God would desire for us to take? Do we disobey God’s commands to live in community because we see humans failing to live on the narrow way?
Here is an example of a proclaimed believer choosing to deconstruct the foundations for a wider way than what Christ presribes:
“I moved to a more mystics-based faith. The biggest shift was I changed how I believed. I found a spiritual path where the divine was wider, deeper and more inclusive. And Celtic liturgies, Taizé, and contemplation, meditation and silence became spiritual practices for me. I am now in a place where I am open, growing and going deeper without the trappings I had before.”
I hope you can see that this is not the same thing as biblical evaluation or “working out your salvation” (Phil. 2:12). These particular deconstructionists are creating a God of their own making and not searching for who He is unless it aligns with their cultural desires for an acceptable divine source of their worship. They are changing how they believe and the Bible is clear on how one comes to faith: I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).
Restoration through Repentance
Is there cause to examine the body of Christ? Absolutely. As a member of that body, I know I need to confess often and turn my heart back to God, so the answer will always be yes. There are many portions of the New Testament where God rebukes, corrects, and calls to repentance those failing to live in honor of the foundation Christ laid through the Church.
We have all seen many sexual sins on large scales that were not called out but pushed under the rug. I have met people deeply wounded within the walls of a church by people proclaiming to love God. Women are not always esteemed as co-heirs in Christ with their own spiritual gifts and callings. Racial issues have caused divides in the place it should be honored the most. God tells us to not let sexual sins be named among us…not even once! Should all this be examined and repented of? A resounding yes!
It begins with each individual in humility before God and then moves into each local body to examine themselves to protect their witness for Christ in the world.
Throughout history, Scripture has been twisted to fit the political and economic climate of the day. Slavery, women’s rights, child abuse, spousal abuse, immigration, and other contentious topics have often been shielded in places meant for worship all over the globe.
The blaring hypocrisy of what Scripture commands of His people and what is lived out creates dissonance in the hearts and minds of us all. This is why God tells us to keep our eyes fixed on Him and not man (Hebrews 12:2). I don’t think there is any among us that could claim perfection in this area.
The prosperity gospel has permeated many members causing doubt and dissatisfaction in the hearts and minds of believers who feel the deep divide between reality and platitude. It is not borne out by truth. It is a false “gospel”. It is not the way of the cross. This message is also nothing new and will always be among us. This is why each of us has a responsibility to search the Scriptures and study to show ourselves approved before God.
Discussion over Deconstruction
As I have grown up attending church my whole life, I have felt the fear of discussing such issues. I imagine there are many wondering and struggling silently with doubts and questions. Discussion can lead to greater understanding and wisdom through applying truth. Allowing people to process these things with safe people is a quicker way to strengthening faith than chastisement. I am talking about sincere inquiry not those whose goal is division and strife.
As people are doubting and questioning is the time to enter in, not shut them down. They are wrestling inside whether we allow the words to verbalize or not. Building up and practicing patience with those searching is loving. They will find someone to listen and those with a firm faith in Christ should lead the conversation.
Our words hold power and if we use certain words, we need to know how it is being perceived in our culture and how to reframe things toward truth.
While deconstruction itself can be applied to a Christian’s battle between flesh and Spirit, that is not how most are using it in this present conversation and debate.
Those speaking it the loudest want to dismantle truth and the firm foundations of faith that Christ laid. While no one can destroy it, they can lead people to fall away and seek their own. They can do much damage to others who are desperately needing truth. There is a big difference between letting go of legalism, manmade traditions, and sinful habits than seeking to destroy the good news of Christ and His words to us.
One of the main causes of doubt is from looking outward at the disappointment between what we see and have been told to believe instead of looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Circumstances don’t shape our theology about God. God shows us who we are as we draw near to Him (James 4:8). Witnessing others who claim Christ falling leaves many feeling like faith isn’t so strong after all; if they can’t “succeed”, why even try? Sadly, our culture is weak on truth, small on faith, and easily tossed about by the winds of change. They are building on a shaky foundation.
How can we avoid these pitfalls?
Drawing Near to God through Remembering Truth
We can’t draw nigh to God while disconnecting from His Church. They are inseparable.
We can’t accept the truth of the gospel for salvation and deny the truths we disagree with.
We can’t allow our human intellect to pridefully exalt itself above the Word of God.
We can’t deny truth because we can’t comprehend all truth. God is mysterious and only as knowable as He wants to be. We see in part.
What does God, through Scripture, ask us to tear down?
Idols – anything in our lives that steals the affections due to God (Colossians 3:5-11).
Strongholds – incorrect thinking patterns – through the Spirit and the Word piercing to the thoughts and intents of our heart. Our hearts are wicked and our foundations can’t be built upon them. (2 Cor. 10:3-4)
Pride (James 4:6)
Sexual immorality/lust of eyes and flesh (1 John 2:15-16)
Arguments and every presumption set up against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Fellow Christian, we must be careful in how we discuss this topic and what exactly is being deconstucted. Let it not be the enduring word of God. Let it not be the body of Christ. Examine yourselves to see if you are really in the faith and then live in obedience to it (2 Cor. 13:5). Be faithful to the Church and seek to build up the body instead of tear it down. Avoid letting preferences keep us cynical to honest, imperfect fellowship with other believers. Expose evil when necessary but always for the purpose of restoration and greater witness in the world.
If anyone thinks they have been enlightened to new truth and that truth leads to self being glorified over God, they have been deceived. The Bereans in Acts 17:10-12 were not scrutinizing God’s words but those who spoke the message. In this way, we let the Spirit help us discern what is true.
Life is hard; growth is hard. We come to faith hearing how simple the gospel is, and because of grace, that is true. But I believe that message has translated to many hearers as the Christian life is tension free. Many have been inadequately taught the Scriptures and have failed to search for themselves, leaving them bound in manmade chains. Others have followed humans instead of the Savior.
Living out truth in a crooked world is difficult. Sometimes we lack knowledge and discernment and our thinking is incorrect. We often forget to ask God for wisdom and seek our own way. Self-examination is important, but we can trust the Spirit to lead us toward righteousness and truth. When we are convicted of a wrong belief, we should, in humility, acknowledge and confess it. He is so faithful to forgive and to call us as sheep who know His voice. And His grace, mercy, and power provide the strength we need to face all the battles.
If anything/anyone is calling you away from the heart of God and the beauty of Scripture, that is not the voice of God. He has promised that when you draw near, He will draw near to you.
Whatever needs to be deconstructed will begin at the feet of Jesus and through the Spirit working in the hearts and minds of true believers, according to the Bible, will lead us into closer relationship and greater peace with Christ. If we are going to use the word, let us reframe it with truth and lead people to draw near through repentance and be quick to give an answer for the hope that is within.
Do you see the difference between the biblical idea of examining, proving, and deconstructing for the purpose of building up from the worldy idea of deconstructing a new, enlightened path to spirituality?