Considerations and concerns upon recently hearing a local pastor on facebook:
"As a Pastor I want to say to you, If you are in a season right now of deconstructing your faith, that’s good, I don’t think it's bad. I actually think you are going to do that at least three times in your life. I want you to know that deconstructing your faith is not a new thing, a new phenomenon, or a historical phenomenon, but a human phenomenon. You can even see that in Genesis where Adam and Eve in the Garden said “Did God really say?” - They’re deconstructing faith!”
Say what? Deconstructing faith is a good thing? Then you compare it to questioning the Word of God in Eden, ("did God really say?"), the very questioning that led to the fall and rebellion? Do you remember hearing about this when you were in Sunday school? Where did this whole deconstructing faith thing come from? From whence came such serpentine pastoral advice?
Rewind for a sec
When I was a student taking classes in literary theory, one of my primary textbooks was Terry Eagleton’s Introduction to Literary Theory. It was here that I was first introduced to the postmodern thinking of folks like Heidegger, Saussure, Derrida, Foucault, etc. It was in these classes that I learned about Structuralism, Reader Response Theory, and what has become hot-topic-jargon these days: Postmodern Deconstructionism.
So, what is deconstructionism? Well, at the root it’s a philosophical and linguistic development downstream from the thought and work of Neitzche, who claimed that “God is dead.” Deconstructionism assumes that transcendent or authoritative "structures" or "forms" of meaning are baseless because they are arbitrary social constructs.
The argument goes like this:
- God is dead—we have killed him by our own enlightenment and discoveries.
- Thus the transcendent unifying principle which allows us to presuppose order, structure, forms of meaning, and a meta-narrative is unfounded and therefore a lie.
Deconstructionism assumes that transcendent or authoritative "structures" or "forms" of meaning are baseless because they are arbitrary social constructs.
What are deconstructionists deconstructing? Well, their target has been any meaning or standards based upon foundations, authority structures, or transcendent unifying principles. Linguistically, deconstructionists found the whole concept of universal “meaning” beyond the scope of an individual's autonomous response to a text. Thus, the linguists determined, the whole endeavor for universal meaning was inherently problematic and rather likely a source of societal manipulation rather than an expression of truth.
If there is no meaning, then what is literature? Well, literature simply becomes a “power play” and a means of keeping your group's culture on top by asserting dominance, usually by expressing your group’s values. Since there is no transcendent meaning, “meaning” is simply an attempt by one group to exert dominance over another. You can see how this heads into the all too suddenly familiar territory of social-marxism.
These classes were a real yawn-fest back then and basically worked to ruin the way you would normally and naturally read a text. Talk about a kill-joy. It's hard to really laugh and delight in reading literature under the constant pressure of that kind of suspicion. It all seemed so non-intuitive and driven by angsty bitterness. I would never have thought that such an esoteric concept as deconstructionism would become common street-talk and I certainly wouldn’t have thought it would take on “Christian” parlance. But here we are.
Three rules for blowing up your faith
As I listened on to this pastor talking about deconstructing faith, I began to doubt that he knew what he was talking about. But then I noticed that his talk was basically in line with the tenets of deconstructionism. Consider his “rules” for deconstructing faith:
"Now I have some rules when it comes to myself on how I deconstruct faith, because I’ve done it wrong and I want to do it right. So one of the things that I say is this: If you're in a moment of deconstructing faith, don’t do it by yourself. Secondly, don’t just deconstruct with other people who are deconstructing. So as soon as you start to deconstruct faith you almost form these little clubs. But if you only deconstruct with people who are also deconstructing you’re going to tear down a lot more than you want to because you’re gonna channel their angst and their anger. Can I encourage you? Don’t just tear down things because you are angry. The third thing is this: deconstruct with mentors who will listen to you for the sake of listening. Here is what someone who is deconstructing is not looking for: someone trying to give them the answers; someone trying to advise them to maybe correct them.”
Rule one, don’t do it alone. Rule two, deconstruct with people who are not also deconstructing. Rule three, deconstruct with mentors who will listen to you without giving answers, advice, or correction. How about we deconstruct these rules? Can you tell me why they are or aren't arbitrary?
In these rules notice that deconstruction is a social practice. But notice there is zero appeal to any semblance of a “standard.” There is no inkling of: “As you are questioning your faith, remember to stay close to the word of God.” There is no hint of: “As you are deconstructing your religious views of things, remember that God gives his Church the gift of pastors and elders whose calling it is to protect the flock from error. Seek them out for advice and evaluate their advice by scripture.” Nope. Nada. Not from this pastor. Why?
How about we deconstruct these rules? Can you tell me why they are or aren't arbitrary?
Well, while I want to give this pastor the benefit of the doubt, this is completely in line with the postmodern concept of deconstruction. There is no standard. There is no meta-narrative. God is dead and how can a dead God give us a word that we can rely on?
Instead we have our social groups. We have our mentors who listen but do not correct, advise, or answer. Why? Because the postmodern narrative is all about self-autonomy. God is dead. Authority is arbitrary. Advice is arbitrary. Meaning is arbitrary. Anyone who gives you an “answer” is really just trying to control you or worse it's simply the outworking of their group controlling yours. So be very, very suspicious. That's postmodernism 101.
Instead we’re left with this gem:
"The Bible says it's a foolish person who tears down their house, and it’s a wise person who builds it up. You’re going to tear down some stuff when you deconstruct. That’s good, some of that stuff needs to go. But you want to look for people who have built their house up in a way that has brought shelter, protection, love, beauty, hospitality, and created a sense of flourishing and thriving. Those are the people you want to put around you because they're going to help you build the best stuff in your life.”
He’s quoting from the book of Proverbs when he speaks about the foolish person and the wise person. (By the way, Proverbs teaches that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord and, interestingly, Psalm 19:9 actually equates the fear of the Lord with God's Word itself. So here we have another case for the importance of appealing to a standard.) Interestingly, that Proverbs passage is about how a woman builds up her house. But we won’t get into why this gendering is problematic for postmodern folks, other than to say, perhaps that context was intentionally deconstructed out of the quote.
But a similar passage that conveys what it seems he’s getting at here is Matthew 7:24-27 that speaks about how the wise man builds his house upon the rock and the fool builds his house upon the sand. So what is the standard that defines what sand is versus what rock is? Go back and read the Matthew passage. The standard is the words of Jesus! The Word of God is always the standard that determines flourishing and goodness and beauty. But according to the tenets of deconstructionism, God’s Word is arbitrary and not transcendent.
So also, we see in this last quote that rather than appeal to scripture for how to navigate questioning your faith or “deconstructing” it, he makes an appeal to self-determined understandings of “shelter, protection, love, beauty, hospitality, flourishing and thriving." Each one of these words is a shell seeking a definition. Without an appeal to scripture, it is completely left to the autonomous individual to create their own definitions. That’s exactly where deconstructionism leads you: God is dead, so you are autonomous to determine your life.
Without an appeal to scripture, it is completely left to the autonomous individual to create their own definitions. That’s exactly where deconstructionism leads you: God is dead, so you are autonomous to determine your life.
Skip deforming and start reforming
Now, here is the deal. Perhaps there is something about this pastor's talk that resonates with you. I want to propose that rather than speak of deconstructing, we ought to understand the need for reforming. The opposite of deconstruction, (or de-form-ation, as I prefer to call it), is re-form-ation. Reformation looks at the mess and corrects it with the standard of God’s Word—the transcendent, authoritative, and unifying truth. This used to be called repentance.
Not only that, but to his Church, God also gives elders who preach the Word, exercise biblical authority, administer church discipline and are held accountable to God through the standard of his Word. The fact that this pastor is only sort-of paying lip-service to the Word while at the same time deconstructing it is indicative of a need for pastoral repentance. Why are you a pastor? Whose word do you proclaim?
Reformation looks at the mess and corrects it with the standard of God’s Word—the transcendent, authoritative, and unifying truth. This used to be called repentance.
Folks, we are not left without God’s Word and his Word, indeed, will not pass away:
 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,  since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;  for
“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
 but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
And this word is the good news that was preached to you. 1 Peter 1:22–25 (ESV)
Don’t believe the lie of deconstructionism. After all, God really did say.