Reform Your Faith, Don’t Deconstruct It
I’ve had doubts about my faith. I’m guessing you’ve had them as well. No one is immune to wondering whether their convictions about Christianity are true. It’s a common human experience that is acknowledged in Scripture.
A Trendy New Approach to Doubting
Recently, however, there’s been a trendy new approach to doubting called “deconstruction.” It’s billed as an honest and intellectual exercise of asking questions about your faith and jettisoning some previously held beliefs. Many deconstruction advocates suggest that it’s simply about reforming your faith. They cite the Reformation’s cry of semper reformanda, which means “always reforming,” and claim their efforts are no different from what Martin Luther did during the Protestant Reformation or what Jesus did when he rebutted the unbiblical elements of the Pharisees’ faith.
There’s a fatal flaw with deconstruction, though. It should be disqualified from being a viable option for Christians because it’s missing an essential component: the standard of Scripture. Absent from the definition of deconstruction is the requirement to examine and adjust your faith according to a biblical standard. That’s why, despite some deconstructionists’ insistence, deconstructing your faith is not the same as reforming your faith.
The Standard of Scripture
Deconstruction is the process of rethinking your faith without requiring Scripture as a standard. By contrast, reforming is the process of correcting mistaken aspects of your faith by aligning them with Scripture. Notice the key element that distinguishes between the two: the standard of Scripture. That’s because change, absent of a standard, is not reforming. There’s no direction. You’re not moving towards a particular destination. Your movement can be in any direction. It’s just change for the sake of change. That’s not reforming.
If you want to reform something, you move it towards a standard. If you’re reforming employee behavior, you’re changing it towards the company’s policy standards. If you’re reforming a society — like Martin Luther King, Jr. did — then you’re moving it towards the standard of equality set in the United States’ founding documents. If you’re reforming your morality, it’s towards a standard of perfect behavior.
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In the same way, if you want to reform your faith, then move it towards the standard of Scripture. Without a standard, you’ll be susceptible to following society’s standards or simply your internal impulses. It’s no surprise, then, that many evangelicals who deconstruct their faith and eschew a biblical anchor find their theology drifts towards progressive Christianity (with views similar to society) or find themselves no longer identifying as Christian.
That’s why claiming Martin Luther deconstructed his faith is misleading. He witnessed abuses in the church, where doctrine had deviated from biblical teaching. His efforts were directed at nudging Christians towards the standard of Scripture.
Likewise, Jesus didn’t deconstruct. He saw man-made religious rituals and doctrines that had bloated the essence of the faith. He challenged those who had deviated from biblical faith to return to the standard of Scripture.
Pursue a Path Guided by the Word of God
Therefore, if you begin to wonder about your faith, it’s fine to ask questions. It’s okay if you experience doubt. The next step, though, is not to pursue a path devoid of a biblical standard — that’s deconstruction. You should examine your faith to make sure it’s biblical. Your path should always be guided by the Word of God (Ps. 119:105). Be like the Bereans who tested what they learned against “the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
Deconstruction does not develop your faith; it destroys it. Often, you end up with an unbiblical faith or no faith at all. Though it’s true the Christian Reformers did say, semper reformanda (“always reforming”), the quote is often taken out of context by deconstructionists. It was Jodocus van Lodenstein, a key figure in the Dutch Reformation, who wrote, “Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda secundum verbi Dei,” which means “The church is Reformed and always being reformed according to the Word of God.” Notice the key element: Reforming the faith is accomplished when it’s done according to the Word of God. That’s the standard. It was never about merely changing, but changing to line up your faith with the standard of Scripture. We want to be transformed, not by conforming to the pattern of this world, but by the renewing of our minds with the dictates that God has laid out in his Word (Rom. 12:1–2).
Alan Shlemon is an author and speaker for Stand to Reason. He trains Christians to share their convictions in a persuasive, yet gracious manner. He has been a guest on both radio and television, and has spoken to thousands of adults and students across the country at churches, conferences, and college campuses.
Article originally published at str.org. Reprinted with permission.