The Problem With ‘Deconstructing’ One’s Faith

The Problem With ‘Deconstructing’ One’s Faith

What does it mean “to deconstruct”? In general terms, it means “to take apart or examine (something) in order to reveal the basis or composition often with the intention of exposing biases, flaws, or inconsistencies.” So, can it ever be intellectually helpful and spiritually healthy to deconstruct one’s faith?

In the view of the conservative Christian website “Got Questions,” the answer would appear to be no. That’s because they understand “deconstruction” to be “the heading most recently applied to the process of questioning, doubting, and ultimately rejecting aspects of Christian faith.”

In other words, “deconstruction” is just a nice term for a bad practice, just the latest way of describing why people who once believed the Bible in a certain way no longer do today. 

In this view, deconstruction is rooted in skepticism, cynicism, and even outright hostility to the point of mocking one’s former faith. “I have deconstructed!” we believers are told. “I’ve left those old myths behind.”

At the same time, Got Questions recognizes that, “Not all challenges to faith come from a point of antagonism. Some come in the form of curiosity. Some come in the form of skepticism. Some come with intense personal pain and complicated histories. For those reasons, believers should provide [a] ‘safe space’ for others to express concerns and doubts (Romans). Those who “fall away,” even when lovingly treated, don’t reflect a weakness in the truth of Christianity (1 John). No one should replace sincere seeking with the attitudes connected to the modern deconstruction movement.”

This, then, brings us back to our initial question: Can it ever be intellectually helpful and spiritually healthy to seek to deconstruct one’s faith?

The answer is that asking sincere questions is not the problem and wrestling with deep doubts is not the issue. In fact, in many cases, the only way a person can develop strong faith is by asking probing questions and dealing honestly with their doubts. How else can we be sincere with the Lord if we are not even honest with ourselves?

The issue is the way in which we go about asking those questions. Do we do it in sincerity, really wanting to learn and really desirous of the truth, or do we do it with arrogance and swagger, eager to demolish what we once held to be true?

Are we patient learners, recognizing that it can take years (or even decades) before we can master a particular field and that watching a few YouTube videos does not make one an expert?

Are we going on our journey with humility, understanding that millions of people far more learned and spiritual and devoted and courageous than we have embarked on this same journey, yet these people are strong Bible believers today?

And do we understand that some things come by way of revelation rather than information?

Paul famously wrote that, “Knowledge puffs up but love builds us” (1 Corinthians), and for many of us, just a little knowledge puffs up a lot. God, for His part, is not impressed with our knowledge. But He does appreciate our sincere love.

That means He would be more likely to reveal Himself to a humble street cleaner who cared for the homeless than to a brilliant but selfish scientist who was filled with pride. As Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.” (Matthew)

So, the cultivating of a right attitude is often more important than the seeking of information and facts.

Are we really so sure we can figure it all out on our own? Are we totally confident that we know better than others? And to the core of our being, can we honestly say that if our investigation ultimately reinforced the truthfulness of the Scriptures, we would say, “God, I accept Your Word and bow down to You as Lord”? Are we positive that there is no rebellion or love of the world or desire to be accepted or addiction to the flesh that is driving our deconstruction?

On a personal level, I am all for asking serious questions.

After all, our ministry is named AskDrBrown, and we pay for airtime on the radio so people can call in with their questions. On a regular basis, I invite skeptics and cynics to call in along with believers struggling with their faith.

In one recent book, I devoted a whole chapter to the subject of “Permission to Doubt,” and in that same book, I explained that in all my academic studies, from my Bachelor’s degree in Hebrew to my Masters and Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures, I never studied with a professor who believed what I believed.

All my studies were in secular universities, and a few of my professors were downright hostile to my faith. And while the vast majority of my teachers respected me as an individual and appreciated my devotion to learning, they were anything but affirming of my beliefs. Far from it.

On a regular basis, for many years, I was presented with challenges to my faith, either by the rabbis who befriended me as a Jewish believer in Jesus or the professors who taught me in my classes.

How did I respond to those challenges? Did I cover my ears and shout out, “God said, I believe it, and that settles it!”?

To the contrary, I often said to myself, “That’s a great question, and I don’t have an answer. But I am going to seek out the truth with all my heart and mind and then follow the truth wherever it leads.”

That’s one reason I’m such a strong believer today. I love God with all my heart and all my mind. The truth has set me free to love and believe.

And there are people far more learned than me – historians and philosophers and linguists and archeologists and scientists and ethicists and biblical scholars and others – who worship and love the God of the Bible, who honor the Scriptures as His Word, and who have found redemption and new life through the cross.

So, before you discard the Bible as a bronze-age book of fairy tales, think again. If you ask the right questions with a right spirit, you might just end up stronger in the faith than you ever were before. Your deconstruction might lead to reconstruction.

Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. He holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University and has served as a professor at a number of seminaries and is the author of 40 books. Connect with him on FacebookTwitter, or YouTube.

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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