Christianity,  Culture,  Theology/Bible

Don’t Deconstruct

I posted a few sentences on social media a day or two ago that seem to have kicked the proverbial hornet’s nest. Here’s what I wrote:

If you think deconstruction is just another name for reformation or revival, you don’t know what deconstruction is.

Reformation dispenses with the bad but holds on to the good. Deconstruction tries to destroy both the good and the bad.

Don’t deconstruct.

Since writing this, there have been a string of fairly harsh denunciations. Just read the the “quote tweets” of what I wrote, and you’ll see what I mean. The basic objection I’ve read is this. “Denny, you don’t understand what deconstruction is. Deconstruction has many different meanings, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing but a good thing. You’re just showing your white male privilege in denouncing deconstruction.” Stuff along those lines. You get the picture.

Just a quick response for those who might be helped by it.

My tweet was short, but it obviously stipulates a definition of deconstruction that is consistent with deconstruction’s ordinary meaning. For that ordinary meaning, you don’t have to pick up a philosophy textbook. Just read American Heritage:

A philosophical movement and theory of literary criticism that questions traditional assumptions about certainty, identity, and truth; asserts that words can only refer to other words; and attempts to demonstrate how statements about any text subvert their own meanings.

I am well aware that some Christians are trying to use the term “deconstruction” in a qualified way and that many don’t even know who Derrida is, much less have they read him. They are simply commending some qualified form of deconstruction as a useful tool for pruning the Christian faith. My point is that even among those trying to use “deconstruction” in the qualified way are often aiming their deconstruction not merely at that which is false and destructive but also at that which is true and good. That is not a path to reform. That is a path to apostasy.

If there are some using the term deconstruction to refer to a thoroughgoing commitment to God’s truth as revealed in his word and a resolve to repent of any belief that is contrary to his word, then I would say that they are using the term in a rather novel way. Deconstruction typically refers to a mode of interrogation that attacks everything, not just the bad. But if that’s not what someone means by the term, great. I would still question the wisdom of using such a misleading term to describe what Christians have traditionally called “faith” (holding fast to the good) and “repentance” (shunning what is evil). In any case, it is unwise to adopt a term like deconstruction, which has its roots in Foucault and Derrida and which is likely to evoke their viewpoints whenever the term is used.

I would also simply remind Christians that it is okay to ask questions about our faith. Faith seeking understanding is good and healthy. But it is never right to deconstruct truth in the hopes that some spiritual renewal will rise from the ashes of unbelief. Any system of interrogation that teaches people to disbelieve God’s truth is a false and destructive system. To argue otherwise is to urge people, “Let us do evil that good may come” (Romans 3:8). That is never the answer.

For more of my thoughts on deconstruction, read here.

UPDATE: For those who are interested, here are the kinds of responses I read that inspired this post.