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An Introduction to Deconstructionism

An Introduction to Deconstructionism

If you were at church three weeks ago, you may recall a brief aside Dan had in his sermon about something called “Deconstruction” that has surfaced in the last few years. However, while the word “deconstruction” may be new to the scene, understand that the practice of it is not. The sobering observation of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 1:10 speaks to this: “Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new’? It has been already, in the ages before us.” What confidence can this give us? The firm foundation to stand on is the same it has always been: Our faith rests “not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:5).

I will attempt to provide an introduction to what the modern idea of Deconstruction is, and what the practice of deconstruction looks like.

What is Deconstructionism?

Deconstruction arose out of the world of textual criticism. It has to do with the disassembly of a practice, tradition, belief, or system into smaller components. This is for the purpose of examining their foundation, truthfulness, usefulness, and impact.

That is how deconstruction started. And the concept can be extremely helpful! In many ways, we “deconstruct” a passage of scripture when we seek to understand its original grammar or syntax, it’s cultural and historical context, and therefore its original meaning and intent. When done in subjection to the authority of scripture, faith in God’s wisdom, humble teachability, and a preference to God’s good and objective truth over our ever-shifting subjective ideals, the “concept” of deconstruction can be praiseworthy.

But there’s a problem: What has happened is, modern “Deconstruction” has sold the magnifying glass it once used for observing the intricate craftmanship of God’s word, to buy a wrecking ball which is purposed to obliterate the pillars of God’s truth. And though it is not presented as such, it is presented as the distractingly shiny, impressive, expensive crane which the wrecking ball hangs from. “Look at all the new things we can do with this new tool!” This means, many who buy into Deconstructionism’s new blueprint for Christianity are often attracted to its modern design, but are oblivious to or in denial of the havoc it will wreak on a genuine faith when the wrecking ball is let off the hook. And please understand, both the ‘oblivious new guy’ and the ‘stubborn foreman’ exist in this realm. Therefore, believers need to graciously survey which type of person they might know. They then need to consider how to gently correct, train, and lead the ‘new guy’ who has simply been thrown into the mess; or how they may need to mercifully confront and call to repentance the frustrated foreman who knows better than to assume higher authority not his, but does so anyway.

Why do People Deconstruct?

In preparation for a recent message on Deconstructionism, I surveyed a dozen or more testimonies of those who have “deconstructed” their faith. I also began following two different podcasts put on by deconstructionists to hear their stories and reasoning. As a result, if I may be so bold to say, I believe there are several common denominators among these testimonies for why people deconstruct:

  • A low view of the Bible, emphasizing personal feelings over biblical mandate
  • Shifting the Gospel message from sin and redemption to things like social reform, social justice, equality
  • Taking offense at the doctrine of penal substitution—that all people are sinners with sin that can only be atoned for by that perfect substitute who is Jesus Christ
      

On the personal spiritual background front, the common denominators I observed among many Deconstructionists are also these:

  • Holding a faulty understanding of Christianity. People who say things like “Christianity will fix my life,” “I’ve always been around Christians, so I probably am one,” and “I don’t like doing the yucky things the world does, so it makes sense to be a Christian,” often have a weak, unstable foundation.
  • Using Jesus as a springboard to something else. The something else could be a peaceful life, success, acceptance among a community, a “fall-back” for when things get hard in life, or even a useful grid for understanding morality. People who expect Jesus to “work for me,” instead of worshipping him for who he is, will always be disappointed and will eventually start shopping again for something that “works better.”
  • Rarely confessing Jesus as Lord and Savior. More frequently, these people describe a vague sentimental experience of God in their life—a “presence” of God. When this experience goes missing, its absence is used as an easy out. But God is always right, whether we “feel” him or not.
  • Assuming that knowing a lot about God is the same as knowing God. People who make this assumption forget that the sign of one who knows and is known by Jesus is to do his will (Matthew 7:21–23).
      

What Does Deconstruction Look Like?

The deconstruction viewpoint is often compared to the remodeling of a house. As time goes on, and you’ve lived in a house for a given amount of time, eventually you find that some styles, designs, functions, and purposes of various appliances, trim, wallpaper, paint color, and even structure have become obsolete or “behind the curves and trends.” So, what do you do? You tear out, cover up, replace, and repurpose. Now what do you have? You have a house that other people approve of, feel comfortable in, praise, and possibly even desire to model their own homes after! But, possibly most importantly, you have a house that works for you and truly expresses “you.”

This is accurately descriptive of what the most “common” deconstructionist does with their Christian faith. Just take the idea of changing “styles and designs” to fit the trends, and apply it to the idea of changing “doctrine, biblical definitions, the call for holiness, and the fear of God.” And what are we fitting these to? Cultural demands, the fear of man, and the priority of self-actualization.

Who matters most in this philosophy of the Christian life? One article from Sophia Society, written by a deconstructionist, says (emphasis added):

"Ultimately, a person engages in deconstruction in order to see what of their faith is worth keeping and what needs rebuilding… However, if they determine that something is worth salvaging, they will then begin reconstructing from that foundation, rebuilding a faith that feels more authentic to how they perceive God. Because the faith journey is so personal, the choice of what to do after deconstruction is up to the person and no one else."
– Melanie Mudge, What Is Faith Deconstruction? at sophiasociety.org

The danger of this all is found in Romans 1 (among other places). The very problem with man is how he perceives God. Scripture and the Gospel have not been given so that we can build a customized god for our liking (or the culture’s liking for that matter). They’ve been graciously given so that we can read, “Thus saith the LORD,” and so that God can tell us “This is who I AM. Take all of me or take none of me.”

Conclusion

The goal of Deconstruction is to reconstruct the Gospel to fit one’s own experience better. But it cannot deliver on this goal. God alone possesses the right to decide what the Gospel should be. He is the divine architect, and his word is perfect. And in his timing, he will deconstruct this world and construct a perfect one. Revelation 21:5 says he will. Our forefathers believed this. They were “looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10). Jesus promises it (Matthew 25:34). Peter hoped in it (1 Peter 1:3–9).

Christian, regardless of the clash between Christ and culture we might often experience, let us not fail to believe what deconstruction fails to believe: In Christ, we already have the home we need.

Helpful Resources:

A Grand Illusion by David Young

Before You Lose Your Faith by Ivan Mesa

Another Gospel by Alisa Childers

An Overview of Deconstruction Sermon by Jared Millican

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