The Truth about Deconstruction

The Truth about Deconstruction 

Article by Brian Hughes
The word “deconstruction” is thrown around in today’s culture. Usually, when it’s talked about in the world of the “Church,” it carries a negative connotation, while when used in our cultural moment outside of the church, it carries a sense of freedom. As a Pastor who spends a lot of time on the campus, where these ideas and topics are freely discussed, I’ve found myself in various conversations centering on the truth about deconstruction.

I think the problem that we’re finding ourselves in regarding this conversation (and many others in our current moment) is we don’t define terms when using them. We can be flippant with defining things, and clarity gets thrown out the window. Instead of promoting a healthy deconstruction, we never allow ourselves and those we’re engaging with to ask the hard questions about doubt, truth, history, and tradition.

Because here’s the truth, all deconstruction begins with doubt. Both a healthy deconstruction and a dangerous one. It begins with a moment of questioning.

Sometimes the Church has presented a Christian faith that cannot doubt if it’s genuine, which is false. As Richard Sibbes stated, “nothing is so certain as that which is certain after doubts. Shaking settles and roots.”

Everyone wrestles through various questions of their faith and deals with doubts. Sibbes is saying that often our doubts are what lead us to a greater faith and deeper trust in Jesus when we wrestle with Him, not against Him. It’s through that wrestling with doubt and hard questions that lead to a firmer foundation in what we really believe.

Doubt isn’t a something we need to run from, but an invitation to a deeper committed faith in our King who isn’t afraid of our questions and doubts.

So, I want to quickly highlight the healthy deconstruction and the dangerous deconstruction to give all of us greater clarity regarding this often misrepresented and undefined topic.

Dangerous Deconstruction
This could also be entitled — a deadly deconstruction. These tend to be the stories people hear most around this topic. When doubt is left unchecked by Scripture and Jesus, it leads us to disregard historical Christian truth. Truths that have been core to the Christian faith for the past 2000 plus years.

This process can begin from many things. Whether it be experiencing Church hurt. Maybe it’s a friend who comes out as gay. Maybe it’s the overwhelming sense of injustice they see in our culture towards minority brothers and sisters. Or here’s a major factor I’ve seen, a desire to do something that they know is sinful but wanting to do it anyway. These beginning places, if left unchecked, lead to a growing spirit of distrust towards the Church as a whole, Scripture, and orthodoxy or truth.

What’s happening is their doubt, which is legitimate, is being wrestled with alone. They aren’t seeking the wisdom of other brothers and sisters in the faith. They aren’t doing the hard work of research on various topics. They don’t dig into the truth of God’s Word and allow it to transform their hearts. All of this usually culminates in a disregard or rejection of Christianity altogether. Or it leads to a version of Christianity that isn’t biblical historical Christianity at all, but one that embraces all that they believe it should.

Healthy Deconstruction
As I mentioned earlier, there is a healthy kind of deconstruction because all of us deal with doubts that can lead us to a more firm and rich faith.

The truth is, this kind of deconstruction begins with the same kind of doubts I just mentioned earlier, like Church hurt, injustice, desire to sin, etc. 

What’s different is that this person doesn’t run from Jesus and community when wrestling but runs towards them.

This person does the hard work of study and hard conversations. This person spends time reading the Scriptures to meet with the real Jesus. This person digs into the historical, 2000-year-old Christianity.

What ends up happening for this person is instead of rejecting core truths of the Christian faith, they simply reject or unhinge themselves from various cultural expressions of the Christian faith that aren’t biblical in and of themselves while holding firm to the historical Christian truths. Examples of cultural expressions that I’ve seen rejected are the style of worship music, the relations between faith and science, the Church and injustice, Christianity that is united only with a political party, etc.

My hope is that we can begin to do the hard work of wrestling through the various hard questions that those around us are asking about our faith and how it is meant to interact with our current cultural moment. If someone is reading this that is really beginning to walk through doubts stemming from hard questions and hard relationships around them — I hope you can see doubt as an invitation to a more firm and steady faith on the other side.

One final thing — this conversation is nuanced and often takes time. It’s going to take many conversations, a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, a humility in our theology, and a patient and listening posture.

But to encourage you: Jesus isn’t afraid of hard questions and doubt. He’s inviting you into a deeper trust and faith in who He really is.

Brian Hughes

Pastor of CollegeLife
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