The Upside of Deconstruction

Deconstruction might not be the evil that some Christians may believe it is

Like many people, I suppose, I have been thinking about the phenomenon known as “deconstruction” since it has become popular to tell deconstruction stories in recent years. A deconstruction story is an “anti-testimony”; it’s a testimony of a journey from belief in the God of the Bible to non-belief in the God of the Bible.

Last summer, a high profile Christian worship leader and the guy who wrote the book urging Christians not to date (that created a generation of non-dating Christians) “deconstructed”. They walked away from their faith and publicly announced it, blogged about it, were interviewed about it and became celebrities of the walk away from faith movement.

Other notables come to mind as well, but I am not going to name them. That isn’t the point. I only recount these stories to demonstrate that “it’s a thing”, as my kids say.

Old timey religious folks used to call it “backsliding”. By that, they meant turning back to a sinful lifestyle, lured away by the temptation of sin. I remember people calling it “falling away”. By that we meant, losing faith, not being able to hold on to it.

Deconstruction seems to be a much more noble and honorable thing to do than backsliding or falling away. (I say that not without my tongue in cheek.) Deconstruction suggests that you had a hand in it. You didn’t backslide against your better judgment or let faith slip through your fingers; you rolled up your sleeves and dismantled your faith, and you found that it didn’t fit back together again.

It’s scientific, right? So it must be a good thing.

Deconstruction is popular, I believe, because skepticism is gaining in popularity. Scientists, like Neil de Grasse Tyson and pseudo-scientists, like Bill Bye, “the Science Guy”, have ridden that wave of popularity scaling away religious (and philosophical) ideas and replacing them with science, because (they say) science has all the answers.

Deconstruction is science, right?

I don’t buy it for a second that science and religion are incompatible, and neither do many scientists. I participated in a Zoom conference just this morning with a biochemist who is a believer. On the other hand, deconstruction might not be the evil that some Christians may believe it is. In fact, I think, deconstruction can be a good thing.

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Repentance from Dead Works

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, … and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance

depostphotos Image ID: 5379147 Copyright: Iurii

These are some of the most terrifying words in the New Testament:

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” (Hebrews 6:4-6)

For anyone but the hardest core Calvinist, these words are enough to make one shudder. No one wants to fall away. But we often do what we know we shouldn’t. The mind is willing, but the flesh is weak. Though we may be born again, the old man lurks incessantly beneath the service and around every corner. The struggle is real.

Most people, however, (me included) tend to read these words out of context. As an isolated statement, we might be strongly tempted to believe these words speak to sin, especially those nagging, habitual, ingrained sins that we have a hard time overcoming. We feel as if, one day, we will sin one too many times and will have fallen away – completely lost and irredeemable!

But the context speaks to something different than the direction our mind is prone to go.

The statement in Hebrews 6 quoted above is prefaced with the following introduction:

“Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God ….” (Hebrews 6:1)

What is the “elementary doctrine of Christ”? What are these “dead works” from which we must repent? This is the key to keep from “falling away”.

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