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Is Deconstruction a Good or Bad Thing?

February 15, 2022

I often have shared a story of my past without ever getting a single negative reaction from  anyone. This snippet from my youth is simply that I spent my young 20s moving every possible subject matter from the question column to the answer column. No matter what the topic was,  I would research and come to a conclusion. After a few years I had successfully figured out every aspect of Christian thought and doctrine, and so then I started all over again. Only this time, I started moving items from the answer column back to the question column. I always called this maturity, but in these days, some would label that as deconstruction.  

If I went back to everyone I ever shared my own story with and simply told them I had a period of deconstructing my faith, I would get a myriad of reactions. Many would be negative indeed.  Why would the simple labeling of the same exact action result in such differing reactions? It appears we have a terminology problem and are living in an age of words that get reactions.  One of the reasons these words or labels are such hot button issues is because they are left  open to wide individual interpretation.  

Ask ten people in the Church what deconstructing faith means and you will most likely get ten  different answers. Ask ten people who are actively deconstructing their own faith what that  means and you will also get a variety of answers. So what exactly is deconstruction then? 

Deconstruction, according to the dictionary, is: a method of critical analysis of philosophical  and literary language which emphasizes the internal workings of language and conceptual  systems, the relational quality of meaning, and the assumptions implicit in forms of expression. 

This concept became popular in post modernity philosophy, and although that might be useful if we were trying to understand the term itself, but we are not. We are trying to figure out what Christians mean when they talk about deconstructing. At the most basic level, I would simply  say they usually mean they are questioning things. This can range from questioning and  changing their theology to wrestling with doubt and identity.  

Many years ago you might’ve heard of a men’s group or a Bible Study with the title “Bereans”.  This mantra was used as a way to indicate it was a group that searched the Scriptures and  searched for what was true. It comes from the city that Paul and Silas went through: 

The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness,  examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

Acts 17:10-11 (ESV)

These Bereans were “more noble” since they examined the Scriptures daily to test what was being told to them. The Bible itself honors and values examination of things taught and said.  Questioning and searching for truth is a God honoring practice that has been central in keeping  the Church alive. The reformation was a practice in questioning certain doctrines and  measuring what was being taught with what the Bible said.  

Working in college ministry for many years, I would see students who were rocked in the classroom at times as their faith was challenged. Instead of being a Berean and testing this new information and examining Scripture, they at times would feel like they had been lied to or tricked, or maybe that Christians were just uninformed. No matter what the case may be, there was now new information that entered the equation and old thinking no longer computed.  There were also those who wanted to engage in behavior that they were taught was wrong. In order to be free from guilt or shame, they would denounce Christianity in order to pursue whatever it was Jesus might have been hindering.  

A separate category all together, though, is those who deal with doubt. Doubt is nothing new, the apostles had periods of doubt, John the Baptist sent his disciples to check with Jesus to see if he really was the messiah as even he wrestled with doubt. Being a disciple of Christ and carrying doubt are not mutually exclusive. In fact, many Godly men and women throughout  church history and today struggle with many uncertainties in their mind and soul. There are also those who do not doubt wether God is real or true, but maybe doubt wether he is good.  

Too many Christians were raised in a church where the gospel was not taught, but instead moralism was preached and passed on. Moralism, or a religion of do’s and don’ts leads to a crushing weight that eventually can ruin someone’s life all together. Living under guilt and shame while constantly failing is a recipe for wanting to cast off this weight of death and be  free. Ironically, in the ways that moralism is not Biblical we find the same renditions of  deconstruction too also not be.  

If deconstruction means you are rejecting or running way form something, I would argue that is not necessarily a good or Biblical thing, of course there are plenty of things taught in the church and practiced as well that we should reject and run from, but there is a marked difference between simply running away vs running towards truth. To reject a false gospel is fine, but if one does not search for the true gospel then they are stopping short of Biblical  deconstruction.  

Biblical deconstruction is being a Berean. Question, doubt, change your mind, research, reject the damaging, shaming, and false gospel teaching, but also examine, read, study, learn, pray  and discover the true gospel, the abundant life, a real relationship with Jesus that leads to  freedom and love. If you are deconstructing your faith and it is simply an excuse to be your  own god (meaning you get to decide what is good and bad, and you call the shots for your life  completely) than this is nothing new, but it is also not Biblical or Godly. However, if you are  simply asking questions and seeking clarity, well that is very honoring to God and he promises  in Matthew 7:7, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be  opened to you.” 

Deconstruction is not a badge of honor, not a license for sin, and not a scarlet letter. It is a hot button word that can mean many things, but I believe most are simply being disciples of Jesus, trying to find THE way. Good news, the Bible has other promises that should give all those on  such a wonderful path hope: 

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

James 4:8a

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would  draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

For anyone who has friends or family who are deconstructing their faith, it is not a time to roll your eyes or see them as sinners who are turning their backs on God, but instead encourage  them in this time honored tradition and trust that God can handle it.  

Wherever you are on your journey, I pray for the presence and wisdom of our loving Father to guide you. As a fellow seeker of truth and one who questions almost everything constantly, I  love that more and more disciples are asking and wrestling with deeper truths, and I am hopeful  it will lead to a healthier church that can be a greater light in this World.

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