I am in a place of deconstruction and reconstruction of my faith. I have read a good deal and listened to many people who approach faith from very different perspectives. One of the most common in these perspectives is to tear down the fortresses of doctrine and dogma. They are struggling with these from varying points of view in an attempt to understand and redefine God.
But, they seem to miss one critical point in their attempts to redefine “theology” from whatever perspective that they are critiquing it from. Most are not doing the reconstruction and almost never seem to try to approach the mystery of God. It seems they are more interested in defining God than understanding God.
The deconstruction, unlike what many people would assume, is not an abandonment of faith. It is the stepping back and examining the many things about the religion that have been readily accepted as central and necessary to the existence of religion. Are they necessary for our faith? Do they hinder our faith? Do they make us better followers of Jesus, or is their purpose something different? Are our definitions of God correct, or do they represent something different? These are my questions for deconstruction.
Another part of the deconstruction has to do with trying to work within a theological structure that is different than my education. I work and live within the Anabaptist structure, but learned most of what I know about Christian religion in Calvinist and fundamentalist institutions. Their emphases of theology and religion are very different and thus need to be unlearned in order for me to move to deeper relationship with God.
My deconstruction does not include, is God real or is Jesus real, however. It does include an understanding that penal substitution is not necessary for following Jesus. The Anabaptist tradition does not require one to hold this singular view. My deconstruction does allow for all kinds of conversations with many wonderful people who doubt, distrust, and think very differently than I do. My work in deconstruction has also been freeing, allowing me to no longer participate in some of the oppressive structures that have overcome a significant part of the Christian religion.
This act of deconstruction has moved me away from trying to define God to a place of trying to see if I can understand God. The need to define God is something that many people who are deconstructing are engaged in. Maybe this is left over from a little too much emphasis on systematic (systemic?) theology by the evangelical community. People are trying to define God from all kinds of perspectives, like anthropological-sociological analysis, claiming they are doing theology. Others are continuing to use systematic theology, but using a highly selective reading of Scripture to justify their position. (This is something that has been done by some noted heretics in the past.)
What is missing in these deconstructions is the work of reconstruction, creating a new foundation of faith. What is being done, more than anything, are mental gymnastics, the rearranging of ideas to make them more acceptable to people who see where religion has failed. Many of the people I read who are doing this work I don’t know well, and cannot say if what they are doing is leading to any real world action. As much time as they have to write and defend their positions on social media, it makes me think that it may not.
Faith, is more than just saying I believe something, it needs to become a part of our lived existence. Faith and life are lived out together. That is where the reconstruction happens. This is where my deconstruction is taking me. By trying to do what Jesus taught, with others. In this activity, can I begin to understand who God is? Can i begin to know what God is like? Can I begin to know what faith really is? I hope I never fully know, so that I can continue to try to learn. In the process, I hope I can continue to accept the mystery that is God.