Confronting the Trap of Deconstruction
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:16-17
Hello Young Believer! I want to come to this conversation with as much grace and understanding as possible so I want to start by sharing another little part of my story.
When I was around the age of 13 I was attending a non-denominational church that really became my safehaven from many of the struggles that were going on at home after my parents' recent divorce. I served on worship team, in children's church, in the nursery, and helped to build their youth group. At one point I did a tally and realized that 6/7 days of the week I was at church for one reason or another. This was the church I was finally baptized in and I loved the people there, but a few years into our attendance of this church the pastor began teaching extensively on the doctrine of Calvinism. The god that this pastor taught about to me sounded nothing like the God of grace who I had loved and followed now for eight years. This god sounded cruel, unjust, and distant. The question that rocked my faith was, Why would God create human beings who were doomed to judgement for sins that they were also doomed to commit because of a curse they had no active hand in? Why would God choose some to be saved and damn others to Hell without giving them the opportunity to accept His grace? The god this pastor taught about seemed to choose who would be saved in a duck, duck, goose kind of fashion and if you weren't chosen then sorry you have no chance at all at redemption.
I wrestled with this to my core! I researched who John Calvin was and what he taught, I searched the Scriptures, and I poured out my heart to God. If I rejected Calvinism I didn't want to set myself up for having an inaccurate view of God or for putting God in a 'me'-shaped box because I couldn't handle the truth of a God who absolutely has the power to create some for eternal judgement and some for salvation. Some of it I think was a kind of survivors remorse, "Why save me and not this person that I love?" I would ask God. "Why choose me?" Finally I came to the conclusion that I could not serve a God who would be so unjust that He would condemn some to eternal misery who never had any chance to fulfill the law because of the curse of their flesh and because they simply hadn't been chosen for redemption. Instead of destroying my faith in God, it was simply an acknowledgement that God is sovereign whatever His choice would be in this matter. When I did acknowledge this I also had a realization that the reason I was struggling so much with this doctrine and its distorted picture of God was because I do know God and I know His character! He is not capable of injustice because He is just, He is the fulfillment of the law on our behalf, and He would not have sacrificed so much to redeem us if His intent was simply to choose who would spend eternity with Him while choosing others to be damned.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” John 3:16-21
I want to be very clear that asking these kinds of questions and testing the doctrines taught by various churches is not a bad thing at all! We should all seek to understand who God is, what we believe, and how we should serve the Kingdom better. These type of questions, I believe come from that place of knowing God and having the strong foundation of faith built upon His grace and sovereignty.
Like me many have experienced churches who don't give them an accurate view of who God is or how they should seek Him. They don't have that foundation to fall back upon when their church begins to be pulled a part by bad doctrine, false teachers, sexual abuse scandals, emotional and physical abuse scandals, and conflict between the church and our post-modern culture. So the foundation they fall back upon is one of worldly wisdom, reason, and cultural virtue signals.
What is Deconstruction?
For this part of the post I did a bit of research to find out what deconstructionists say about their own movement, the questions they're asking, and the answers that they're giving to these questions. I'm going to link the main post I'm responding to here below, please read at your own discretion.
7 Questions to Ask When Deconstructing Your Faith by Angela J. Herrington
Something I have in common with this writer, is that I'm a random Christian content creator on the internet. Be wise in what you consume here! This is why I so strongly encourage you to find a healthy church and a strong Christian mentor because no Christian should be getting all their answers about these important questions from people on the internet with no other vetting process than enough money, talent, and time to set up a professional looking website. That being said, below I'm going to be placing the a few of the questions that Herrington asks us to consider and a summary of the answers given in the article along with my response to them.
Who am I?
Herrington - "God says you are a cherished and anointed child of the Creator who has been gifted with a voice, body, mind, and soul that are valued more than any cultural push to subjugate the female half of the world’s population."
The first point she makes is that toxic churches have twisted the view of who we are by telling us that we are sinful, broken, and untrustworthy. She especially takes issue with the women being told that they should be quiet and submissive to the patriarchal hierarchy.
Perhaps where we could come to some agreement is that absolutely God loves you and pursues you relentlessly that you would turn to Him.
-- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
Whether you are still living in sin or have accepted Christ's free gift of salvation it is without question that God loves you.
We could also come to agreement that your race, gender, or other box that culture has tried to push you into has absolutely no bearing on whether God loves you or whether you can be saved.
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise. Galatians 3:27-29
Here is where we're going to come to our first disagreement and that is that you are not a child of God if you are not saved. Before you are saved God's Word even goes so far as to call us enemies of God. It is only when we have accepted His gift of grace that we are given the right to be called His children!
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13
Our second disagreement would be that I absolutely agree with the church in that they teach we are sinful, broken, and unable to trust our earthly desires and emotions.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23
Perhaps we could come to some kind of agreement again in her dispute over the way male leadership in the church have abused the authority they have been given and distorted the role that women are to have in the church by taking portions of God's Word out of context to fit their will. However, I think we would still come to different conclusions on what the role of women in the church actually should look like and that is a conversation for another time.
The question I would gently like to pose to Christians who have come to the same conclusions as Herrington would be, if we are not broken and lost in our sin before Christ then what need have we of a Savior at all?
Who is God?
Herrington- "The real God, unaltered by toxic religion, represents all of us and isn’t in the business of suppressing half of us just to see if we are good enough."
In Herrington's view, who the church believes God to be today has been twisted by church leadership maintaining their power and influence, white supremacy, the patriarchy, and European colonization.
Herrington - "The authoritarian, unapproachable, hyper-masculine deity that modern Christians promote demands obedience and constantly tests our strength and loyalty with traumatic events."
This particular description she gives for the god that she believes modern Christianity promotes sounds earily familiar to the god I wrestled with in my testimony above. The fact that there are certainly some among church leadership who have most definitely distorted who God is to suit their own interests is maybe the only common ground we will find in response to the question of who God is. In fact, perhaps we could even agree that many so-called Christians define God in their own image instead of seeking to know God for who He is! However, from the sounds of her description she would probably debate my characterization of God as a masuline being at all.
In truth, reducing God to a set of pronouns and claiming that if you address God by masculine pronouns then that God no longer represents or belongs to half of creation is a gross oversimplification of who God is and misses an understanding of God's character altogether!
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:6-9
When you meet someone on the street or happen upon their social media profile, you might determine what that persons pronouns are especially if they've listed them for your convenience in their bio. However, is that where you stop? Is that the sum total of their identity? Or do you go on to find out what that person's interest and desires are? Do you find out if they are kind or cruel? Do see whether they are serious or love joking around? What do they value? What type of people are they friends with? What type of people do they refuse to associate with? If you wouldn't stop at the pronouns when getting to know another person, why would you stop there with God? Even if God chooses to identify himself by masculine pronouns does that make His grace any less powerful, His sacrifice any less astounding, His love for us any less worth accepting?
As for her point that this distant and unapproachable God tests us with traumatic events to know whether we are strong and loyal is heartbreaking to me. Certainly maybe the example you can point to in this is the story of Job who suffered greatly seemingly for no other reason than that God knew Job would remain faithful despite suffering and Satan bet God that He was wrong. Or we could probably point to the numerous times Jesus warned His disciples that the cost of following Him would often be great suffering and even death. However, I think to say that we go through traumatic events in order to entertain this authoritarian patriarchal god is a disgusting distortion of the God we find in the Bible. Who does indeed allow us to go through times of trial sometimes as discipline for unrepentant sin in our lives and sometimes in order to strengthen our faith and cause us to rely more fully upon Him.
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5
What is the Bible?
Herrington- "So the key thing to remember about this question is that the BIble is, and always will be, shaped by the people who translate it from ancient texts and preach it from pulpits every Sunday morning."
In my arguments above, I combatted several of Herrington's points with Scripture. I even acknowledged that Church leadership can certainly be accused of twisting who God is and what His Word says for their own gain. However, in doing so I probably have wasted my breath on those who believe as Herrington does because they do not accept the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, which is exactly what I believe it to be.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
We will certainly be discussing the history of how we got to the collection of texts that is considered the canonical Bible that we read today on this blog. We will also discuss the contraversies confronted by the Church throughout its history that have changed the way we view God and what it means to be a Christian as well as what we believe Scripture means when it calls Christ the Word that was with God in the beginning!
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5
Until we've been given the chance to explore that history more fully, I don't want to debate this point because I think that would do injustice to the concerns raised by Herrington and to the questions you might have by conceding that multiple authors, thousands of years, and many different translators with various motives may have indeed corrupted the text that we read today. Instead let's get back to the whole point of this post.
Confronting Deconstruction of Your Faith
Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. Colossians 2:18-19
The 2nd Century Christian Church faced a similar movement which claimed special knowledge of God beyond the Scriptures. They too saw God as some distant being who had created the world and then mostly left it to its own devices until He sent not His Son but some lesser being; an ambassador or emissary on His behalf to pay the debt humanity owed because of their sin and then to be glorified for his obedience. Those who believed this heretical doctrine could not believe that a God worthy of their worship would lower Himself into the messy filth of humanity to suffer and die on their behalf.
They departed from the Good News that had been brought to them because they underestimated the overwhelming power of God's love and grace for us despite our brokenes and sin. Today it seems we face nearly the opposite problem, church-goers today are departing from the Good News because they believe they deserve God's love, grace, and sacrifice on their behalf. They believe God owes them their redemption instead of believing without God's mercy they would be owed only judgement.
I pray that this post has been helpful to you as you look at your own understanding of these questions and any doubts that may be having as your newfound faith clashes with the culture of the world around you. I pray that God protects you from truly toxic churches that do more harm than good because of their distorted theology.
If you would like to explore the topic of deconstruction more deeply a great resource I would recommend is the YouTube channel by Melissa Dougherty where she shares her journey out of the Deconstruction movement along with great arguments combatting the teachings of this and other destructive false doctrines in the Church today. I will also encourage you again, as always, to find a trusted mentor in the faith who is willing to walk with you through any questions or doubts that you may be having. Someone who is willing to pursue God with you even when the subjects get uncomfortable or heated. This is one journey you were never meant to take alone!