Deconstruction Zone

Over the past few years my theology has been undergoing major deconstruction. I’m no philosopher, but the little philosophy I have been exposed to through my theological pursuit, has shed invaluable light into how I understand things. My college experience and the years following my studies has, in a nutshell, been successful in complicating everything. Everything. I have lost the ability to give simple answers. I am not sure any simple answers exist. This, at least elementarily, is deconstruction. It’s an acknowledgement of all the underpinnings that uphold our beliefs. Deconstruction essentially reveals the vast network of scaffolding holding up our understanding of truth. Take away that scaffolding, or if a piece or two goes bad (ie. is revealed as “false” or “misunderstood”) suddenly there is major upheval above.

I am currently in a major period of deconstruction in my theology. I don’t know that I am in crisis mode, but I think it is pretty serious. I am in no place to complete a “doctrinal quetionarre,” – I’d probably leave alot blank. Indeed, much of what I was taught in my formative years of faith, I have come to doubt. This leaves a void. If not this . . . then what? I have spent a lot of time with the “if not this” part, but have failed to purue the “then what” side sufficiently.

In the coming weeks, and who knows, maybe months, I intend to set out blogging relfections from this deconstruction period in my faith. Perhaps the above explanation or link doesn’t offer much help for you trying to grapple what I’m referring to here. Let me try this example as a beginning.

I grew up in a small Church of Christ in northwestern Ohio. I have so many stories from this dysfunctional church that I ought to start a dysfunctional Defiance Church of Christ blog (I bet the domain is open through blogspot), but anyway. One of the “doctinal formulations” that was ingrained in me there had to do with the extent of salvation. I was taught directly and indirectly, that salvation was merited only to those who worshipped the correct way (read: sung unaccompanied with instruments, partook communion weekly, in an orderly service), had received the correct baptismal immersion for forgiveness of sins of those beyond the “age of accountability”, and, I probably could add a host of additional tenets. Essentially, in my pubescent mind being formed in faith at this church, salvation, as I understood it, was limited to members within Churches of Christ.

Let us begin the deconstruction (Note: by commenting on deconstruction here I am not claiming that the process is over; quite the contrary, the process is ongoing):

It began before I even left Defiance. My mom and others that I was close to in my faith development helped me wrestle with God’s grace and the understanding we had of salvation. We believed that salvation came to those who did things this way, but couldn’t God’s grace transcend that? Our rataionale went: couldn’t a group of believers in God forsaken Europe uncover a Bible, study it and come to the same (right) conclusions. The door suddenly crept open, slightly.

I remember my freshman year of college going to a Promise Keeper’s Rally in Indianapolis, IN with a pastor of a Christian Church (you know, the instrument worshipping ones?) We had a great conversation from Defance to Indianapolis and back. This was the first experience of many I began having of those from “other” churches who displayed the same experiences that I had of the fruits of the spirit . . . wait a second, how could they display these fruits without the Spirit? The door swung open through my experience.

Now we have Jewish friends who display the fruits of the Spirit, I have met Indian Buddhists who exude fruits of the Spirit . . . and suddenly the door is about to fly off the hinges . . . deconstruction strictly through experience is a scarey thing

But there are other modes as well . . .
The exclusivist model of salvation seems more and more illogical and inconsistent with a rational reading of Scripture, especially in understanding the Old Testament. Melchizedek shows up as a priest . . . outside of the bounds of God’s called out nation/lineage, Ishmael and Hagar bolt from the biblical narrative under the protection of God, Jonah cries salvation to Nineveh, a city outside Israel, and on and on the picture is getting bigger and bigger in the text.

An honest study of God’s grace leaves serious problems with the restrictive understanding of salvation I was taught early on. If God has displayed himself in all creation as Paul said he did in Romans 1, why would God condemn the Native Americans for finding the Great Spirit in their Native American land? Seems to run counter to the understanding of grace presented in the text.

I’ll address this in detail later when I come to the topic, but for now, I just wanted to give an idea of the approach I’ll take in the coming weeks. Comments will be appreciated as I do this, because one of my fundamental ideas that continues to be reaffirmed to me is the importance of community and this is something we’re made to do in the midst of conversation and discussion. So let this discussion commence.

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2 thoughts on “Deconstruction Zone

  1. I wonder how close you are to find God where ever you want to find God and you’ll be OK. I understand your thoughts about “exclusivity” as it relates to various Christian denominations. However, I don’t think you can take salvation outside Christianity. Does Christ himself not say “No one comes to the Father except through me.”? If there are other avenues to salvation, why was it necessary for Christ to die? I don’t think it is exclusivist to believe that Christianity (not denominationalism) is the path to salvation. It is simply faith in your religion. If we don’t believe in the superiority of Christianity, how can we carry out the great commission? Why did Paul go on his missionary journies if it is possible to find God in another form? We have to believe in that which we preach, otherwise there is no point in preaching it.I also know lots of people who exhibit fruits of the Spirit. I know people of no religious affiliation or a very loose affiliation who exhibit fruits of the Spirit. I can’t help but think of Cornelius. He received the Spirit and afterward was baptized. I don’t say this to emphasize baptism, but to point out that it was still important for Cornelius to identify himself with the other Christians rather than continue in his own faith of his choosing.It does seem harsh to be of the mindset that salvation is only for Christians. Maybe even exclusivist as you say. But Jesus’s blood holds the redemptive power. As to Melchizedek and the others that you mentioned, I think they simply foreshadowed what is taught in Hebrews and the rest of the New Testament: God’s love is not just for those who have a birthright into a nation, but for all who become Abraham’s descendants. Hebrews makes it clear that we become such descendants through Christ and not some other “great spirit.”I understand that we should understand postmoderns if we are to ever reach them. But you can’t swing so far that you buy into the subjective truth doctrine. If you believe in subjective truth, you believe in no truth at all.

  2. When you strip it all down, when you gut away the “drywall” (pardon my reference to Louisiana) and all of the moldy things that we attach to the construction, somewhere back there, you find the skeleton of your faith. It isn’t a lifeless skeleton of bleached bones, but a complete framework of studs, joists, girders, and the like, which are a lot stronger than what was attached to the framework. I believe we attach all of those things to what we should believe, because they make us feel “secure” or make us feel “comfortable.” Not all of it is necessary.But you’ll notice the things that are necessary by asking yourself how you would live without them. If I live in a house without any load-bearing walls, I am in for a disaster, just like the parable of the man who builds his house on the sand.The studs of faith are intended as a support framework for our lives. There are things which may cause us to question the integrity of the studs in our framework, and some of what we thought was supportive may need to come out entirely or be replaced with better wood.In your search for the supporting framework, consider 1st Corinthians 2:1-5.

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