“Deconstruction” is a Christian buzzword of our time.
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Although the term is modern, the idea is as old as faith itself.
“Deconstruction” refers to a time of questioning, research, reassessment and sometimes suppression and/or reconstruction of what one believes.
For 2,000 years of Christianity, believers have gone through such periods.
The book of Acts is full of “deconstruction” of classical Jewish theology in order to embrace the New Covenant in Christ.
For centuries Councils of Church have met to debate, challenge, discuss, pray and search the scriptures, trying to determine “why” we believed what we did, suppressing some beliefs and reinforcing others.
The Reformation was a massive and widespread “deconstruction” of traditional Church teaching and practice.
Every current denomination began with a season of “deconstruction,” as people questioned the status quo and felt the need to start something new that was more in line with their emerging beliefs.
Although we have never used the term, anyone who has walked with Jesus for any significant length of time has likely gone through such seasons of testing and evaluation at one time or another.
Sometimes people stray completely from the faith, which makes some nervous about the term and trend, but deconstruction can also be a healthy time for those who remain Christians to re-examine ideas and challenge or suppress beliefs. unhealthy or unbiblical or anti-Christian that have arisen over time.
We who lead must meet people who go through such times with great grace. Jesus was never concerned about a person asking a sincere question, no matter how hard, and neither should we.
Some people are perfectly at peace where they are, and just don’t need such moments, and that’s more than fine.
But for others, it can only be honest and genuine to ask questions, to ask “why” we believe certain things, to question our assumptions we have been taught, and to see what sticks. , to hunger for more and to search intensely for the truth. .
And God knows there are things that are being taught and modeled in the Church that could bear good reconsideration, and if necessary, even withdrawal or replacement of our teaching and practices.
What follows are some thoughts on 7 of these topics that could benefit from a good deconstruction, from an Orthodox Christian who loves Christ and His Word, but who also loves to struggle and challenge faith.
God knows there are way more than 7 issues, but here are some thoughts on a few:
High Leadership. A dominant top-down leadership structure has filled much of the Church for generations. Pastors and rulers can be placed on ungodly pedestals, often as singular rulers, and their teachings and commandments must be followed, all in the name of divine submission and order. God has indeed appointed leaders in all of our lives, and I believe we are called to honor and follow them (Heb 13:17; 1Peter 5:5). But Christian leaders are meant to be a team mutually submissive foot-washing servants who shun rank and title, and who prefer the lowest place in the banquet and the last place in the procession (Mt 23:1-12; Lk 14:11; Jn 13:1-17; Ac 14:23; Ac 15; 1Co 14.9). When our Savior walked the earth, He did not rule it over others or have His own needs served, but instead He came to serve others, to live in the most low and to lay down his own life for his sheep; He made it very clear that His leaders were to do the exact same thing (Mt 20:35-38). Christ-like leaders act like Christ.
Holiness based on shame. Oh, the damage it did. The wounds and the weight that people have carried! Calling people to a righteous life via threats, guilt trips and other manipulative tactics that impose heavy burdens on souls without offering help or hope. Jesus would rebuke the Pharisees for doing just that (Mt 23:1-4). The Word of God calls some things sin and calls us to righteousness, and we who respect and follow His Word should indeed take this seriously. But “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8.1) – so God forbid, we never use condemnation and shame as motivation for righteous action. Jesus said those who love him would obey his commandments (Jn 14:15). Take-out? Love and devotion are better motivators than shame. Love the Lord, know Him, and obedience can really become joyful, something we want to do for him, not because we are guilty.
“Work harder” transformation. It’s more than exhausting. Jesus taught that the heart is the source and center of everything we say and do (Mk 7:14-23; Lk 6:45). Yet so often the Christian message has been, “Just work harder to be better.” Do more outward actions to be right and good. Failure to do so contributes greatly to the aforementioned shame that many Christians carry. Of course, action is crucial, but if we put more emphasis on a renewed, healed and purified heart, then outward actions would follow. We don’t really change by working harder; instead, we are transformed by the Holy Spirit from the inside out (2Cor 3.18; 5.17). Outer effort without inner change will inevitably exhaust itself and fall back into old patterns. Inner change leads to real and lasting outer change. So we seek the Holy Spirit and His filling, and the renewed heart He brings as He does His work.
A Christian life without Christ. Most Christian currents would have a strong theology of Christ. But what about really living like Him? How many times have unbelievers looked at us and said, “Why don’t you be more like Jesus?” As followers of Christ, we should never do anything outside of the character, life and teachings of Jesus Christ – period (1Jn 2.6). If we read the written Word without framing it in the light of Christ the Living Word (Jn 1.1; v.14), then we are simply doing it wrong. We can easily select scriptures to support our opinions, even if those opinions go against the life and teaching of Christ, and we can justify it in the name of “The Word says…”. But what about what Christ the Word says and does? Do we follow it or not? If our thoughts, theologies, practices, etc., do not resemble Jesus, then we have missed the mark as people who claim to follow Jesus. It is primarily about Christ; our actions, beliefs and practices submit to Him, and must change if they are not like Him.
Unbalanced Views of Blessing and Victory. By emphasizing this too much, we set people up for inevitable disappointment when real life doesn’t always deliver. We even add the shame of “You don’t have enough faith, otherwise your prayers would have been answered the way you wanted!” The apostle Paul believed in a life of victory in Christ (1Co 15.57). But for Paul, this victory in his life also included poverty, pain, betrayal, persecution, abuse, chains and ultimately death (2Co 11.23-29; Col 4.3; 2Tim 4.6-8). Yet he was able to find true joy and peace in it all. Life in Christ is not a promise of life without suffering or a life full of nothing but earthly blessings; it is God’s promise of peace, and his active grace and presence, even in the worst of suffering and even without earthly blessings, with an emphasis on the big picture of eternity (Phil 4:6-13). In his earthly life, even Jesus sometimes wept and hesitated (Mt 26:36-42; Jn 11:35). Why would we think we are better than him? Victories and blessings happen, all the time, and we are very grateful for them. But there must also be a place of welcome for tears, losses, lamentations, doubts, questions, weakness and struggle in Christianity, otherwise we have completely lost touch with the way of Christ.
Confusing world politics with the Kingdom of God. This has been explored further in a previous column, so I won’t repeat myself here, except to recap that Jesus and the apostles barely talked about earthly politics. They were too consumed by the Kingdom of Heaven to be consumed by worldly realms. To follow their example is to do the same.
Hell-centered gospel preaching. “Turn or burn!” This has been the joke/no joke cry of much of evangelicalism. By sharing the horrors of hell, we hoped it would inspire people to trust Jesus. Sometimes it was. But it could also be a manipulative scare tactic that has sometimes caused less than sincere “conversions”. The book of Acts shows us all of the early evangelistic efforts of the early church. Although judgment is sometimes spoken of, hell is not the focus of the gospel they shared. Although the Bible does talk about hell, and Jesus mentioned it regularly, the preaching of the gospel in Acts focused primarily on being forgiven and returning to God, starting now. here on earth. Eternity was not the primary focus, but rather freedom from sin, infilling with the Holy Spirit, and reconciliation with God at this time (e.g. Ac 2.38-39; 3.26; 13.3-39; etc. ). It’s a far cry from “If you were hit by a car on the way home from church today, where would you end up?” The preaching of the gospel that many of us grew up with. That’s not to say that hell shouldn’t be considered in our theology or preaching, but the heart of the early believers’ gospel message was far greater than just a fear-based warning. It was an invitation to reunite with God today, and we didn’t have to wait for eternity to experience it. Good news indeed!
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