Outside Christian circles, deconstruction is not a new idea. There is a technical meaning and a popular meaning which are often different.
Much of an individual’s life is based on beliefs and learning from outside sources – both the influence of culture at large and your nuclear family. Who you are influences how you see the world. Deconstruction is a particular philosophy or worldview that provides a lens through which to see the world and a criterion for understanding what is true.
Philosophically, deconstruction focuses on power dynamics, marginalized voices, and hidden structures, motives, and agendas. Once these things are discovered, one can then “deconstruct” to see what is under the hidden power structures, motives, etc. It is a shift from looking at what is stated as truth and (based on who said it) seeking to discover ulterior motives behind the statement.
Deconstruction is a worldview based on suspicion.
How does deconstruction apply to Christianity?
Deconstruction has made its way into the church. People are often looking at the tenets of their faith through these same lenses of power and motives. But this happens for many different reasons. Let’s start by looking at deconstruction as an ideological phenomenon.
At its core, deconstruction revolves around believing in something because one wants to believe, not because of the compelling evidence in the opposite direction. Along this train of thought is postmodernism which claims there is not a correct singular way to view reality. This is a self-defeating statement.
It should not surprise us that most people reject Christianity. This is seen in the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13), where only one out of four seeds fall on good soil. Most of the seeds die and fail to produce lasting fruit.
People love darkness rather than light (John 1). The past few hundred years have been a unique time in Church history where the church has enjoyed overall acceptance by the culture. Those glasses are coming off, and the historical and biblical differentiation between the church and the world is becoming more apparent. The flip side is that the growing progressive/prosperity gospel movement appeals to the culture and unregenerate human beings. The biblical gospel does neither of those. The biblical gospel opposes the culture and the natural tendencies in humanity.
What about church disillusionment?
There is also a healthy kind of deconstruction that deals with an individual seeking out the truth in Scripture and coming to different yet more biblical beliefs than the ones previously held. This is oftentimes thought of as “coming to a knowledge of the truth” rather than deconstruction.
Many have been hurt by the church either personally or have issues with how social issues have been handled (i.e., slavery). For this reason, many have turned away from the faith. However, Christians are not called to place their faith in the church (a God-ordained and human entity). Christians are called to place their faith in Christ. If an individual is truly in Christ, that person will not need to deconstruct from that faith. Faith in Christ and faith in the church are two different things.
Where does authoritative truth come from?
Embedded in the framework of deconstruction lies the notion of entitlement to one’s own thoughts, opinions, and truth-claims all based on that individual’s ideas and life experiences. This leads to a narcissistic way of viewing the world.
From a biblical perspective, God alone has the authority to say what is true and false. This requires submitting our preconceived and naturally held beliefs to God as the ultimate determiner of right and wrong.
“But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt, save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garments stained by the flesh” (Jude 20-23).
Resources Mentioned: Joshua Ryan Butler: “4 Causes of Deconstruction”
Kevin DeYoung: “Postmodernism’s Revenge”
Josh Howerton: “Twitter Thread on Language and Deconstruction”
Matt Chandler: Twitter Clip
David Gushee: “The Deconstruction of American Evangelicalism”
Brittany Proffitt lives in Dallas, TX, holds a BA in Religion, and is a student at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. She is passionate about Scripture and how God’s Word impacts individuals’ hearts and lives.