If you’ve been anywhere near Christian social media circles, you’ve most likely heard about “deconstruction.” To “deconstruct” something is to seek to take something apart and examine the parts that make it up. In my master’s studies, one of my focuses was on “theological method,” which is a process by which you can deconstruct the implicit process, by which people arrive at different theological beliefs or conclusions (More here on Theological Method).
However, the word “deconstruction” is currently being used in popular culture in a way which is different from the scholarly usage of the term. People who were raised in Christian environments are deconstructing their faith, which means that they are questioning what they were taught and believed.
This is nothing new. People have been doing this for thousands of years, and sometimes it can be a very good thing. For example, it is helpful to go through the process of differentiating what about a belief system is culturally influenced, which parts are tangental or superfluous “chaff,” which deserves to be shed, or at least relegated to secondary importance, and which things are core, essential beliefs.
It is also important and necessary for a person, as they mature, to make the transition from inherited or assumed beliefs, to personal and sincere, heartfelt beliefs. This is exactly what we see in the Book of Deuteronomy, for example, where Moses speaks to the new generation: Their parents had been the ones who had experienced the Exodus and had seen God’s miraculous provision in the splitting of the Red Sea, water from the rock, and the fire on the mountain. This new generation had heard about these things but had not experienced them personally. And in Deuteronomy – at the end of his life – Moses speaks to this younger generation and urges them that they must have their own faith; that they cannot merely ride on the coattails of their parents’ faith.
In the process of examining what one believes and why, some people go through a process of deconstruction: a critical examination of what they were taught, what they experienced in the church environment, and whether they actually believe those things themselves. This is always a precarious process by nature, but in a way, it is necessary for a vibrant, personal faith commitment.
Recently, there has been a trend online encouraging people to deconstruct their faith, but not necessarily for asking important questions, which will lead to vibrant, personal faith. Rather, more for the purpose of influencing others to abandon their faith in Christianity.
Don’t Forget to Deconstruct Your Deconstruction…
In examining some of the videos and other materials that people have shared with me on this topic, what I have found is that many of these people, while they may be sincere, fail to deconstruct their deconstruction.
Theological Method is, in fact, the true and greater deconstruction because it has the capacity to not only deconstruct religious beliefs, but also to deconstruct the reasons why people abandon their previously held religious beliefs, or even why people reject certain beliefs altogether.
I describe what Theological Method is and how it works in this podcast episode:
Let’s Deconstruct a Deconstruction TikTok
Recently, someone sent me this video and asked for my take on it:
@jjtalks4 #deconstruction #exvangelical #atheism #agnostic #christiantiktok #criticalthinking #SaveIt4TheEndZone ♬ Ice Me Out - Kash Doll
This person comes across as smart, winsome and knowledgable about Christianity. There are some things she says, which are correct, about what Christians believe regarding the person of Jesus and His atoning death.
The problem with her argument, however, comes at the beginning where she lays out the basis of her premise. Her fundamental assumption is that God has established some completely arbitrary rules and then punishes people for breaking those rules. Then, she claims that Jesus’ death was essentially unnecessary, since it was just God appeasing His own unnecessary rules, which He set up in the first place.
Her Assumptions: God’s “Rules” are Arbitrary, and Judgment is Unnecessary
This woman’s view of sin is that sin = things which God forbids, or not doing what God commands. In other words, her view is that nothing is inherently bad or good, but God capriciously chooses what He thinks are bad or good, and imposes that standard on His subjects.
The problem with this view, is that it is NOT what the Bible actually teaches. What the Bible teaches is that morality is rooted in actuality: Some things are actually good, and other things are actually bad – whether God says they are or not, and whether you believe in God or not.
In other words: Sin is not bad because it is forbidden, rather: Sin is forbidden because it is bad.
Sin is Not Bad Because It’s Forbidden; Sin is Forbidden Because It’s Bad
As Moses tells the Israelites in Deuteronomy: All of God’s commandments have been for your good always. (Deuteronomy 5:29; 6:24; 10:13). Since God loves, and since He knows more than you, He – as a loving Father – tells you what to do and what not to do, because sin (missing the mark, doing wrong) is destructive. It is as if there is a glass of water and a glass of antifreeze on the table, and God’s command is: “Drink the water; don’t drink the antifreeze!” – and our reply is: “God is just making up arbitrary rules…” No, God loves you enough to tell you, based on His infinite knowledge, what will be best for you.
Furthermore, as God is the embodiment of goodness and love, morality is directly linked to His character and attributes. For this reason, to rebel against God is to sin, and this brings with it the natural consequence of judgment for those actions.
Interestingly, we live in a world today where there is an increasing consensus and belief that certain activities (racism, hatred, prejudice, etc.) are fundamentally, objectively wrong (whether you believe in God or not). It is widely accepted that to do those things is actually wrong and deserves some form of judgment. This is based on the belief that there is a standard of morality, which is not arbitrarily defined by a cosmic deity, but which truly and actually exists. This is what Christians, informed and confirmed by the Bible, actually believe as well.
So, the premise presented in this video can be seen to be a gross misrepresentation of what the Bible teaches and what Christians believe.
Did Jesus’ Death Cause God to Change His Mind About Judging Us for Our Sins?
One final point: She claims, at the end, that because of the death of Jesus, God “changed His mind” about punishing us for His own arbitrary rules. This is not what Christians believe, nor what the Bible teaches. Rather, the message of the gospel is that all of us have sinned and fallen short – not only of God’s standards, but even of our own standards of right and wrong. We have all done things and thought things which missed the mark, and the result of sin is death. However, the good news of God’s grace is that He came to us in the person of Jesus Christ, to do for us what we could not do for ourselves – in life, death, and resurrection – in order to reconcile us to Himself without compromising His fundamental characteristics of justice and mercy.
If “justice” = giving someone exactly what they deserve, and “mercy” = not giving someone the judgment they deserve for the wrong things they have done, then justice and mercy cannot co-exist, since they negate each other. However, as part of the definition of goodness, God, we are told in the Bible, is BOTH just and merciful. It is only in His self-sacrifice that we see how these two seemingly incompatible characteristics can be embodied by God at the same time – and that’s really good news!
Originally published on Nick’s blog December 8, 2021