Encouragement

Why Evangelicals Shouldn’t be Afraid of “Deconstruction”

Whoa!! What a thought! Right now, many of you are thinking I have gone mad, while some of you are shouting for joy. 

The word “deconstruct” has become as taboo as “mask” or “vaccine” lately, so I wanted to shed some light on the subject. Just like masks and vaccines, there are good and bad variations – too much of anything is not profitable, but “all in moderation” or better yet “a time for everything” is what God would call us to participate in. 

When you think of deconstruction today, many conservative evangelicals will immediately begin a negative downward thought spiral that leads them to conclude that all who are deconstructing are going to hell and need to repent. This is wholeheartedly untrue and in reality the very essence of why a form of deconstructing is so important. The premise of this negative thought is derived from the modern narrative/action that is surrounding this concept. It is this modern takeover of “deconstruction” that we want to combat, while welcoming in the form that is working out our salvation with “fear and trembling.”

The modern word/idea of “deconstructing” came from 20th century philosopher Jacques Derrida, who was very heavily involved with postmodern ideologies. So of course, we look at that and think, there is no God in that.

However, let me bring something of utter importance to your attention: even though Jacques is attributed the term, the true method behind it has been around since the time of Eve in the Garden of Eden. In order for us to adequately find the true idea of deconstruction, we must first define it and then observe it.

Deconstruction – as stated by Jacques is a term that cannot actually be defined (gotta love philosophers). To define the word would actually be the antithesis of what the term is actually supposed to do – not define. Basically, it refers to the idea of thinking/analyzing – perhaps allowing yourself to think outside of the box. It is a way of analyzing something but without rules, since to give it rules or structure would then take away the purpose of the analyzing. But in the area of Christian thought deconstruction has come to mean to many – a pulling away from God/His Word. While it can unfortunately lead to that, for many who are deconstructing it has just meant a stepping out of the box, or a predefined construct of ideals, to find their personal beliefs. Reading Scripture and allowing the Spirit to guide you rather than allowing others to lead you to a meaning. Searching for themselves: context, history, translation, etc…to get the whole picture. This is not inherently a bad thing, but it can have its downfall like anything else. Like Jacques stated we need to look at “what deconstruction is not, or rather ought not to be,” and in the case of our relationship with God, we do not want it to lead away from personhood and sacrifice of Christ or the wisdom found in Him (John 14:6).

We must remember that God gave us minds to think, examine, learn and understand. He wants us to seek Him and know Him as He does us. Yet, we need to take into account that God says wisdom is both knowable and unknowable. His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways. There will be things we can affirm fervently and ones we cannot. In Proverbs, He says abundantly to seek out wisdom but wisdom is also folly. Sounds like circular reasoning, but what God is pointing out seems to be the idea that we are to seek and know Him to the best of our ability, by the power of the Holy Spirit through His Word, and trusting God for the rest. He set up for us many amazing examples of faith (Heb. 11). We need to step out in faith, faith of who we know God to be and what He ultimately calls us to do. We cannot get stuck into some system or structure (or popular thought) that becomes like the the veil to the temple. We have personal access to the Holy of Holies and we shouldn’t be afraid to venture unchaperoned there.

I will attempt to see if I can call your attention to both the positive and negative aspects of deconstructing and show you why it is important and Biblical to do such a thing.

First, lets grab some examples from the Bible itself:

Eve, in the garden of Eden (Gen. 2-3). Her run in with the serpent. The cunning words of the serpent, cause her to impart her own interpretation into what God has said to them. Her desires combined with the implications of Satan, cause her to deconstruct what God has laid in front of them and take actions for herself and then influence her husband (who apparently doesn’t think for himself and just follows suit). The result – a sinful world. 

David – his reign and that of his son’s  – resulting with the separation of Northern and Southern Kingdoms (12 tribes reduced to 10 and 2). Yet, ultimately ending with the destruction of both kingdoms after the attacks by the Assyrians and Babylonians, thus leaving only Judaism. (Super simplified telling here, but see 1 Kings and 2 Samuel for in-depth study).

Judaism vs Christianity – ok this is an obvious one and yes – this is deconstructing! Do you think it was easy for the Jewish people to see Jesus and follow him? In many cases, that meant being estranged from family and an enemy of everything they have known and loved. Paul is an amazing example of this!

Jewish Christians vs Gentiles – Many of Paul’s letters to the churches were addressing this very thing. Many Messianic Jews found themselves still bound to the law (look at Peter in Gal. 2) and many were frustrated that the Gentiles were included into God’s redemptive plan as they saw themselves as God’s only chosen people (prophecy fulfilled: Is: 8, 1 Peter 2). This created a divide amongst Jews and Gentiles that was difficult to unify. It took some deconstructing on both sides to get to right thinking about each other and the true power of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection.

Now let’s see what are other historical examples:

Hillel vs Shammai – The tensions between these two schools of thought during the time that just slightly predated and then overlapped the time Jesus was one that truly shaped the landscape of the religion not only then but today as well. If you do not know of these two “elders” of Judaism, I highly recommend a deep study. It is well worth your time – especially in the light of what is happening in modern evangelicalism. As well as, give more insight into the words of Jesus and His teachings. It is thought (not fact!) that Jesus was a student of Hillel (and don’t let this thought sway you from who Jesus was/is and ultimately who His words were from, but also remember that Jesus was fully human and had parents, teachers, and siblings). 

Orthodoxy vs Catholicism – the church ultimately split into two – some categorize this as, not really a split, but the continuing saga of the Jewish Christians vs the believing Gentiles. If you think upon it, it is not too far to understand their differences here and then ultimately why Catholicism (of which Peter is the “cornerstone”) is so ritualistic. For it was Peter who couldn’t let the works go. Truly it was the Catholic Church that deconstructed from what was called the orthodox church – or as people may refer to the original church (both claim originality). Yet both, in reality, are deconstructed versions of what the Apostles were trying to set up. Also, within this, take time to examine the battle of the Trinity that took place during this time (early 2nd and 3rd century AD) that eventually gave rise to the creeds. Major players of deconstruction here were Tertulian, and Arius, and the subordinationists. Arius eventually being excommunicated for his suborinationis beliefs and leading Athanasius and others to the mainline definition of the Trinity that we have today.

Catholicism vs Protestantism – Reformation. Obviously well known deconstruction!

Protestantism branching out to …..well too many to count. You get the picture.

There are so many times throughout history that experienced divides through deconstruction…some good and some bad. You may argue that many of these are not deconstruction – and yes perhaps, if you compare it to a post-modernist view, but I would argue (as history has shown us) that any analyzation that results in a demolishing and then reconstructing of beliefs/construct you live by is deconstruction. We are taking a set of perceived truths that shape our lives and analyzing them. This can either lead to a more focused and trusting perception to current structure or it may lead to a pulling away and reordering to what is now the perceived truth. The object here in Christianity would be to see what is truly knowable and what is unknowable and just “our best guess.” To say that we can attain a “20/20 vision” or an absolute knowledge would put us in equality with God. It would be to achieve exactly what got us in this sinful mess to begin with. Eve was convinced she wanted ultimate knowledge – the knowledge that God had that was out of her reach. So she reached for it. Let’s also not forget the Tower of Babel! Any time we decide that God is fully knowable, we are asserting that we can be God.  And so the opposite is true as well, if we ascertain that there is no truth, then we flounder in sin, unrest, and chaos.

We can all be deceived into sinful thinking and motives. This is where the right deconstruction meets wrong deconstruction. We always want to be analyzing our goals and motives in all things (Prov. 21:2). We want to look at what it is we believe and does that go along with what we know of God’s character. There are things that are knowable about God and we use that as the litmus test for everything else. 

Eccl. 2:26 tells us that “God gives to a man that is good in His sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy.”  We trust God to show us wisdom and knowledge and have faith and trust in God for that which we don’t understand (or disagree on).

Before we begin to shove everyone who is taking a step back to look at what they were/are taught into some pot of “unbelieving” “worker of Satan,” let’s give people the permission to see that it is in their right to do that for the sake of their relationship with God. If we look at the example of the reformation, we see that those who were taking a step back and saying, “hold on, this is not what God is saying here,” actually led to reformed perspectives of Christ’s sacrifice. Before this, people did not have access to read the Bible for themselves. Not just due to the lack of ability to print, or afford a copy, but also due to some in leadership deeming the laymen not having the ability to interpret Scripture correctly. Many would say today – look at what happens when people look at things for themselves. Yet, if we do not allow conversations and we only allow certain people to interpret, then not only are we limiting God and the Holy Spirit, but we are taking away the ability for people to have a true fulfilling relationship with God. We are ALL pieces to God’s redeeming puzzle. He gives to each of us a specific gift to enrich the body of believers, but if we are too busy telling everyone their thinking is wrong and only we are right, then we will never get to see the full picture of the portrait God is painting. God calls for humility and love, not staunch prideful wisdom (Eccl.).

I speak from experience here. Being entrapped into a certain kind of thinking constantly caused me to doubt God and my position in His family. I kept thinking that the things I was being taught could not be who God truly was because it seemed to go against His character. The entrapment of that thinking also led to a way of life that felt shackled and fearful. God gave us a spirit of freedom, love, grace and mercy. Yes, He calls us into obedience, but the most amazing revelation from my own deconstructing was the unwavering connection and love I now have with God; which then in turn has made me a willing, joyful, and excited child of Him to welcome His leading into Christlike obedience. I also have realized the most freeing thing about my obedience is it is not me that is doing it. The shackles I felt to have to be a certain person were so heavy I couldn’t move. I knew I could never be who I was called to be. Yet, Christ already is and through the power of  THE HOLY SPIRIT He is making me into what I need to be. It is not of me, should I ever boast of anything. 

Which leads me to another point of knowledge. Most people who assert to be “all knowing” and have the only real truth are saying this without an ounce of humility and with the utmost of pride. To be able to say that God has given you full and complete wisdom, is to put yourself in the seat of Christ. Yes, we have the Holy Spirit to help us discern, but we have to remember that we are STILL sinful human finite beings. We are incapable of knowing FULL and complete truth (Deut. 29:29; Rom. 11:33; Job 5:9, 11:7, 36:26; Prov. 25:2; 1 Cor. 2:11). God says there are mysteries that have yet to be revealed. We cannot be so prideful as to say we know everything when God Himself has yet to reveal it. 

This is why it is so important for unity within the body of Christ. God gave us all different personalities, perceptions, experiences, abilities! He did this so that each of us, in essence, holds a piece to the large puzzle; if we all work together we can discover the richness of Him, His attributes, His personhood, His will and desires for His people all while being able to bear up in faith and trust of the things we are not certain about. If we get so stuck as to look at everyone and just plainly say “YOUR WRONG, Repent!” or even just give a space for someone else to have an opinion, then how will we get anywhere but in an argument that leads to the separation of the church family (history shows us this over and over again). God wants unity, grace, love (thank you Francis Chan’s “Until Unity”). He wants us to come together and build up one another to His glory, not tear one another down in the name of pride. We have taken obedience (like the way of Shammai) and put it on the pedestal of God rather than allowing God and His mercy to reign. This is exactly what Satan wants. He did it with Eve and He is doing it today. We need to live in the reality that we live on this side of the resurrection! 

May we have the grace to sit with one another as brothers AND sisters in Christ and listen and discuss in a way that we hear and see! May we pray to have fully open hearts and that God would allow us to walk by faith in His grace as we discern what is profitable. May we learn to love with a unique and wondrous love that is an enigma for all to see and creates a desire for all to be apart of.

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