Is there such a thing as faith deconstruction? I am continually struck by the phraseology bandied about today that picks up ascendance in conversation and social media. To be sure, words are weaker today than ever before. We live in an era of hyper-nuance where the effort to express a differentiated thought is increasingly difficult. Yet, even amidst this problem, a reality and simplicity have existed for 1000s of years and remains available to us if we can learn to hear it. What I find today is that those who mean to differentiate ideas are most times also trying to steer thought in a particular way instead of trying to communicate substance out of necessity. What do I mean?
The Apostle Paul used common words in his day but attached to them a differentiated meaning for a purpose. For instance, Ekklesia, in Greek, was a well-established word and meaning in Paul’s time. Yet, he used this word to mean a group of believers set apart from the world to hammer out the meaning of being God’s culture as differentiated from the culture of men. This example is just one of many concept swaps used in the New Testament. It also produced a dynamic consistent with what we read of Christ’s purposes in the New Testament.
In contrast, a movement afoot today hides nefarious ideals in words used to differentiate, which sound good but are devilish. It only creates division and confusion. International Marxism is steeped in this type of wordplay. This approach dupes many. The after-effects are stupendously diabolical. A particular element within religious circles also deals in this sort of wordsmithing—knowingly or unknowingly, I do not know. The outcomes are fairly devastating as well. In addition, there is no consistency to the New Testament, just constant controversy and questions.
Deconstruction According to the World
In a Wikipedia article, the subject of this article—faith deconstruction—is bounced around with a perfectly murky effect. We need to pay attention and learn to think because the devil is certainly in the details these days. What is wrong with these subjects is that truly purposeful, level-headed people glom on to these phraseologies and muddy the water, giving the subject lift. Still, most importantly, they do not provide hearers warning in dealing with the inherent confusion of such phrasings. Instead, they offer arbitrary commentary concerning the phraseology. Listeners then are left with a new thingamabob to throw around in conversation, either to sound hip or, worse yet, not sound ignorant. Little do people realize that they are involved in creating a fog that bears more danger than good.
Define Our Terms – What Is Faith:
Hebrews 11:1a tells us, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” From where does this “assurance” and “conviction” come? Is it worked up, given to us by others, absorbed by osmosis, or dreamed up? Fortunately, we do not have to lean on our own understanding. The Bible provides us illumination. Ephesians 2:8 tells us, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” The sentence’s grammatical structure tells us a good bit, IF theology does not get in the road. “It” is, as you know, a pronoun. A pronoun points to the noun-subject prior. In this case, “faith” is the subject. In short, this verse tells us that faith is a gift from God. It is not something we work up.
This understanding is further supported in Philippians 1:29, a Pulpit Commentary (verse 29) says, “On you, it was conferred (ἐχαρίσθη) as a gracious gift, a free, spontaneous act of Divine bounty. Faith in Christ is the gift of God, so is “the fellowship of his sufferings.” It is not a burden, but a privilege.” In the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary (Philippians 1:29) it remarks thus, “For—rather, a proof that this is an evident token from God of your salvation, “Because,”… it is given—Greek, “it has been granted as a favor,” or “gift of grace.” Faith is the gift of God (Eph 2:8).” Further, Romans 12:3 tells us, “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted (given) to each a measure of faith.
Now let’s look at Genesis 12:1-4. This text shows us a great deal. First, God reveals Himself to Abraham and tells him what He intends to do. Abraham obeys in verse 4 and goes in the way God showed him. Then we are shown in Heb. 11:8, “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he left, not knowing where he was going.” Then, the capstone is Hebrews 12:2, which says, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
These texts alone show us that faith is something God gives us that cannot be seen, but that is convicting and assuring, to which we can respond. Therefore, the phraseology of faith deconstruction is impossible. IF God has given us something, He controls what is between us IF we are in obedience. As such, deconstruction could only mean disobedience since faith is that which God gives us. Thus, if “deconstruction” and it is not disobedience—as few presenting this idea would admit to—occurs, something else is at play.
What is All The Hubbub About “Deconstruction”
So what is being toyed at by those either promoting or talking in the phrasing of “faith deconstruction”?
The concept various people are actually discussing is belief deconstruction.
What is a belief?
It is something that is held to or revered by a group of people. It has tenets, ideals, and perhaps even benefits or future rewards. But the point is belief is something we can take up that we must hold and is dependent upon us to stay true to. This assessment sounds a lot like “works” to me. Beliefs can be arbitrary, or they can be ultimate truth. But the key is that WE are the ones exerting ownership or hope in them.
Where do beliefs come from?
They are given to us by people, organizations, culture, and even family. They can even come from the Bible or some other religious book. They can contain a grain of truth or be entirely true. Theology is one form of belief. A statement of faith is another. Dominate cultural values are also beliefs. Concepts like “grace” or “rapture” also fall into this nomenclature of belief. The difference between faith and belief is that faith is something given to us that we respond to, and belief is something we hold onto and claim as valuable to us.
Let’s Get It Right!
Let us automatically swap the word “faith” for “belief” in phrasing. Thus, we are now talking about belief deconstruction. This construct makes sense. People struggle with beliefs because of some crisis. Since they are “working it” —doing the believing without conviction or assurance from God—there is nothing to fall back on because it is static and arbitrary. Some who were raised in a particular tradition or faith expression find out that either their view was limited or they found hypocrisy that cannot be explained away; then they are in crisis. Or say someone else finds something beyond their experience that it cannot embrace nor explain away; again, they will be in crisis. These situations are replete within the discussions of “deconstruction.” This is why “belief” or “beliefs” are weak. They depend heavily upon perspective and us holding on to them for them to matter. Faith is different.
But what about “belief” that is absolutely true things—the birth of Christ, God being eternal…?
Again, the operative reality in belief is the work we do: believing, clinging to the belief, hoping in it… We are the weak link in the equation of belief. Many times there are things within a belief in a belief that introduce stumbling points. According to their beliefs, people can expect something from God that can become an exposed nerve. Say a person “believes” that God will take care of them, but yet they fall into horrible problems? Did God fail them? Did they believe wrongly? Or is God testing them? Who can say? However, we can perceive that someone merely “believed” something, and there was no faith (conviction and assurance) given to them in which to walk in obedience.
Entire religious buildings are packed to the roof line with people who believe in all sorts of stuff. You can go to a place calling itself church and find the most horrific litany of trumpery and buzzwords people parrot back and forth, which does nothing other than differentiate one group from another. Discerning people can tell immediately that you are Dispensational, Reformed, Charismatic, Liturgical, Orthodox, or Catholic by the terminology you use. All this stuff is “belief” based. You are agreeing to an ideal. You are holding on to a view. You have hope that things will go a particular way because you “believe it” to be that way. God is just a borrowed notion in this situation, not the author and perfecter of your belief. No wonder people are walking away from “church.” No wonder people find themselves in a belief crisis.
Perhaps you have fallen into a “belief in a belief” where you are “working it.” Maybe you are deconstructing the beliefs you were handed or that you grew up in. Super! Welcome to the club. God had nothing to do with it. So don’t blame Him. Don’t toss God because He was obscured in some religious mumbo-jumbo you bought into. God is not mad at you, nor is He impossible to get to know for Himself. The problem is all the stuff you have to unlearn in order to see Him for who He is. Then, you must beware of religious people bearing their gifts of easy believeism or religious tomfoolery. Cry out to God. He hears the broken-hearted and the humble. He has no time for the arrogant or belligerent. Most of the people I hear talking in terms of “deconstructing,” a heavy note of sarcasm and condescension pervades their demeanor. What do you think that means? If that’s you, you need to get over yourself, or God will let you simmer a bit more over the fires of life.
We’ve allowed good-sounding baloney to occupy dialog for the rest of us. We’ve grown lazy in our communication and understanding to where anything means everything and certainly something different than it ever did before. We must challenge people who use these mixed-up constructs, to help them and us. If they are arrogant, belligerent, or condescending, let them just keep on stepping! We’ve nothing to prove, and their self-inflicted, self-perpetuating crises do not disenfranchise us. They are not out of God’s pond or His ability to seine them. Once we know where they are, we can conflict them with questions that will point them in God’s direction.
Part of the problem we face today is that the world and what calls itself church are a mixed mass. People think they can be part of the world and part of what God wants to do. Ministers have been on the leading edge of blurring the lines to fill seats, their pocketbooks, and to help build their own kingdoms. In order to do this, you have to sell out the truth and sell out God for beliefs that require nothing of people other than to be dumb acceptance. People collect and wear beliefs like jewelry. Thus, we need to differentiate from this menagerie. We do this by humble questions, by knowing God for ourselves, and not playing patty fingers with those who merely want to pose their beliefs and kite their values. Part of doing this is by being doers of the Word rather than hearers who are ever learning but never coming to the knowledge of Truth.
It will get interesting when people realize they cannot be belief collectors around us.
By Timothy L. Price