If you opened this article because you were appalled at this title and wanted to rip it to shreds, I get it. Up until pretty recently, I’d have done the exact same thing. “Deconstruction” has become a buzzword, but more than anything, it’s become a scary word. You can say “I’m having a few questions,” but if you say, “I’m deconstructing” get ready for the deer-in-the-headlights afraid-for-your-salvation look in response. This intense reaction is because, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve limited salvation (in our minds) to only people with doctrinal precision.
A helpful podcast that is worth your time as you ponder (or go through) deconstruction is the Dirty Rotten Church Kids podcast. They describe deconstruction as redecorating your house. If you’ve ever moved, you probably have furniture from all sorts of people. Say you have your mom’s couch, your dad’s lamp, and your grandpa’s old bookshelf. All of these may be wonderful, but they may have snuck in there without you taking the time to see if it fits the space…or you. So the process of deconstruction is taking everything out of the house and examining each piece of furniture. If you decide you love your mom’s couch and want to keep it, go for it! Feel free to put it back in. But now it’s in the house because you chose it. You looked at it and said, “yes, this goes in my house.” The process of putting furniture back in the house is “reconstructing.”
I feel even as I write this the tensing of the reader’s shoulders as they read a good little church girl’s words about deconstruction. This all actually started with going to a church of another denomination as I was wrestling with what my upbringing said doctrinally vs. having the freedom to actually think about what is true. I’m a really enthusiastic, all-in kind of person. I had to ask, “Do I have strong beliefs because I actually agree with my upbringing? Or because I commit to where I’m at?” This started the dangerous but important journey of looking for what I truly believe.
However, this came with immense shame. All of a sudden, I was not fitting the mold I’m supposed to, or people would think I’m not following God with my whole heart, etc. I heard a quote from Rob Bell (gasp! She’s quoting Rob Bell?!) that said “Doubt is often a sign that your faith has a pulse, that it’s alive and well and exploring and searching. Faith and doubt aren’t opposites, they are, it turns out, excellent dance partners.” This was so encouraging for me. When I brought these fears and worries to my counselor, she said, “The God that I see in Scripture is one who is gentle toward those who are seeking Him, and harsh toward those who think they have it all figured out.” This has been such a balm to me. God is gentle with those pursuing truth. And doubting or unlearning things that are not true of God is a good process to go through.
Reformed Theology & Beliefs
I also want to say something specifically to those who consider themselves adherents to Reformed theology. Protestants of any kind should champion ecclesiological deconstruction; it’s what the reformation was. I talked to someone recently who is legitimately writing 95 theses against modern day evangelicalism. We should champion this. The reformation happened because we wanted to hold the church leaders accountable. We should always embody that spirit of reformation. Always be willing to hear what people have to say. Also, just how the reformation made a way for people to read the Bible for themselves instead of having it told to them, I think we need to rechampion that as well. Many pastors talk a big game about “challenge me on this. Be in the Word so you can tell me if I’m wrong.” This is good, but do they embody a spirit that welcomes disagreement, or is the disagreeing party left to feel guilt and ostracized? Spiritual leaders do not have the monopoly on biblical interpretation. They can be good and helpful, but we are exploring too. And we may come to different conclusions as we ideologically and theologically “redecorate.”
Also, if you adhere to the reformed beliefs, you believe that once we are saved “nothing can snatch us out of God’s hand.” When you respond in deep fear that people will leave the faith, you are not really following through on your belief that salvation belongs to the Lord, that the saints are preserved. This isn’t to say we can’t speak to people’s questions, but let’s listen well and be consistent.
Establish a Firm Foundation
So here’s what I’d say, if you haven’t looked at the furniture in your ideological house and been willing to take it out, I’d recommend it. As I’ve told people what I’ve been thinking and working through, many have said, “That’s scary. Foundation shaking.” And I agree. I won’t lie. It’s scary to rethink everything. But it has also been so freeing. My knee jerk Christian answer isn’t good enough for me anymore. I get to explore. And I hope that it will produce a foundation that won’t shake as much when under scrutiny. This isn’t to knock Christianity at all, it’s just to say that my foundation is shaky because I took everything at face value. We shouldn’t be afraid to explore. We’re looking for truth, for God. My friend once had a professor that said, “As you’re turning over rocks, you’ll never find something bigger than God.” So go, turn over whatever rocks you wish. We’re all out there looking for truth. And I believe that God actually encourages our pursuit of knowing truth.