For a long time, it remained a mystery to me as to why evangelicals have so much disdain toward the idea of deconstruction. After all, what could be so wrong with critically thinking through one’s faith? In general, evangelicals are not opposed to critical thinking, are they? Is it because most people who find themselves in a state of deconstruction eventually leave evangelicalism? Maybe it’s not as much about disdain for deconstruction itself as it is skepticism towards the evangelical tradition that accompanies deconstruction. Ignoring the results of deconstruction allows evangelicals to ignore the otherwise glaring problems within their worldview.
My deconstruction and eventual reconstruction began 15 years ago. It was a difficult time of ups and downs with regards to my faith. However, my perseverance through the phases of reconstruction made my faith more secure and more importantly, infinitely truer.
There were times during this process when I doubted that God had his best for me. There were times when I even doubted his existence. And, if it were not for Jesus of Nazareth, I might have remained in an infinite state of agnosticism. Ultimately, it is Jesus who is the connecting point between the concept of God and his relationship to the world.
There were many points of deconstruction for me, which lead me out of evangelicalism. The deconstruction of the Church, the Bible, Jesus, the Trinity, and Hell. Today I focus on the first two, the Church and Scripture. I am hopeful that you will find useful encouragement from my own experience.
Deconstructing the Church
Many evangelicals fail to appreciate the extent to which they have been misguided regarding the historic nature of their faith. For example, evangelicals believe their faith to be orthodox – built upon the foundation of the early Church and Church Fathers, when, in fact, evangelicalism’s origins are based on the Reformation of the 1500s.
One might rebut with something like this, “Was not the theology of the Reformers orthodox in the sense that it was based on historic Christianity?” No. In fact, the very foundation of the Reformation is based on a theological rebellion against what was orthodox. The Reformers were the progressives of their time. Both Luther and Calvin deconstructed their theology and reconstructed it as something that the Church of the time deemed heretical.
For example, Luther threw the books of Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation out of the German translation of the Bible just because they did not fit his theology. Can you imagine a theologian or publisher even suggesting that today? Calvin created a theological series called, “The Institutes of the Christian Religion”, based on his personal reconstruction. For better or worse, Calvin’s goal was to create what he viewed as a new orthodoxy based on his own perspective.
The misguided perspective of evangelicalism has created a false persona that is oftentimes displayed when debating them. I often hear evangelicals asserting historical authority for their beliefs. Although in some cases their claims may be true, it’s important to double-check most historical claims made by evangelicals (and anyone else as well.)
In the next section and subsequent articles that will follow, you will find historical claims that evangelicals make that are more modern than they proclaim.
I wrote an article in 2013 that nearly broke the internet. It was titled “The Bible is NOT the Word of God: A Polemic against Christendom”. It is one of the best things I have ever written. The article has been shared around 30,000 times and has been viewed around 100,000 times. This article was a product of deconstruction that I was doing at the time.
There was something freeing about understanding that the Bible is NOT the Word of God in and of itself. I still believe in its authority – that the Bible can become the Word of God through the illumination of the Holy Spirit. However, people’s insights into its spiritual meaning are contingent upon the power and insight of the Spirit.
The Bible that evangelicals use (regardless of preferred translation) is relatively new. That Bible (containing its current 66 books) was formed in the mid-1800s in Scotland. Bibles before this time contained 73 books. Fun fact: The additional books were eliminated because of money. The additional books were not considered as inspired (or inspired at all) as the other 66 books. The publisher decided to leave the additional books out to save money on printing costs.
My education in evangelical seminaries taught me that the issue of inerrancy is historical in nature. Most recently, Alisa Childers echoed this notion when she proclaimed in her book “Another Gospel” that the early Church Fathers held to the inerrancy of scripture. However, none of the early Church Fathers held this doctrine. The idea was merely eluded to briefly in a letter to Erasmus in the Middle Ages. It was not until the rise of fundamentalism before inerrancy really gets its teeth and becomes a part of Church doctrine. This is not my conjecture or even that of scholars within the progressive tradition. This information is from renowned evangelical historian John Woodbridge.
Evangelicals can get away with an overzealous methodology when it comes to biblical interpretation (hermeneutics) because they believe so strongly in inerrancy. The first problem with their overzealous hermeneutic is anachronistic interpretations. That is, evangelicals often interpret scripture from their context instead of allowing scripture to speak on its own terms.
An anachronistic reading of scripture often leads the reader to superimpose their world on the world of the biblical writers even though those worlds are radically different. This is often seen in the theological debate surrounding the issue of homosexuality. Many evangelicals assume that homosexuality as a practice was the same in biblical times as it is today. In reality, there was no “cultural issue” regarding homosexuality during that time – people (particularly men) leisurely participated in it. What became an issue were things like pedophilia – specifically pederasty (sex between men and young boys). In fact, the word “homosexual” does not appear in any translation of scripture until the 1940s and it was through an anachronistic reading of scripture that it was put in there, to begin with. To be clear, I’m not saying that scripture can’t address contemporary issues like homosexuality, but these issues are much more nuanced and complicated than evangelicals like to admit.
A Concluding thought:
If deconstructing my faith has taught me anything, it is that theological issues are rarely simple. We should begin with humility when approaching aspects of our faith; We should understand that those who came before us were fallible just as we are and they didn’t have all of the answers – just as we don’t.
A Great Resource: Are you or a friend going through deconstruction and you feel stuck. Our friend Keith Giles has an amazing organization that helps to mentor individuals going through deconstruction. Get a 75% discount when you sign up. Visit his website to learn more.
Coming soon: Deconstructing Jesus and Hell