Deconstructing my deconstruction…

Can we talk? I need to vent for just a sec…

I have to be honest about this. I am tired of deconstructing everything. It is exhausting. It is exhausting to be constantly in flux. It is downright demoralizing to be enraged by every single thing that comes across my path. This is not about being close-minded, or unwillingly to think of things differently. I don’t particularly like the idea that a person is somehow morally or spiritually superior if he or she is in deconstruction mode. It seems that these days, if you have come to a place of resolve, it is implied that you are bigoted, close-minded, unloving, unable to think for yourself, etc. For all the lament in the progressive Christian (PC) world about the arrogance of conservative Christians (CCs), PCs have their own brand of arrogance. Some are proud of their uncertainty in a way that some CCs are proud of their certainty. They lord if over others and judge people based on how willing they are to question everything. I would argue that is not a biblical view – on either side – but rather a symptom of the spirit of the age.

I’m just mouthing off here, and generalizing to a certain degree. But firsthand experience of this very situation has me up in arms today.

This is my thought here – there is nothing wrong with doubts and questioning. I suppose because I was born with the natural inclination to be nosey, I have never shied away from asking questions. “Why?” is my personal favorite. I also have a (sometimes) annoying need to figure things out, to figure how things work. I am like a dog with a bone when something is confusing: I will not stop until I feel I’ve mastered it. I met my match when the Lord apprehended me – He is beyond knowing and He reminds of this daily. But I digress…

When I first went to college, my career objective was to be an investigative journalist. That questioning, inquisitive mind is just a part of who I am. And I take that into every area of my life. I thrive on learning and developing new skills and knowledge. It can get me into trouble for sure; I want to explore every new idea that I encounter. I want to dissect it and study it. I will analyze something to death and then resurrect it so I can analyze it more. Some people get caught up in fear of missing out; I get caught up in fear of not knowing all the things. Which isn’t exactly a “thing”, but it’s my “thing”, and it can make me crazy sometimes.

Although I did have a very distinct and emotional moment during what you could call my “conversion story”, I didn’t start there. I started where I start most adventures – researching and questioning. I grew up in church, but had essentially become an agnostic in college. A number of “coincidences” in my mid-20s led me back to a familiar place: church. So I started off by studying about the reliability and authority of the Bible. I researched how the Bible is translated, how textual criticism is used in the process, and how we got the manuscripts used in translation. I learned about translation philosophies, read treatises about the value of word-for-word versus thought-for-thought translation, and the role of interpretation in the translation process. The evidence I found gave me confidence that the Bible I held in my hand was reliable in what it said. Were all my questions answered? No. But that journey formed the basis for my eventual surrender to the truth of the Gospel.

I don’t say all of this to brag, but to point out something that many of the deconstructionists – myself included – out there seem to forget: Not everyone who believes in all these things we are busy deconstructing do so blindly or thoughtlessly. Faith has its reasons. It is reasonable to believe in Christ. But because our reason has limits, faith is required to accept the evidence presented. There are thoughtless believers who just want someone to tell them what to believe so they won’t have to work hard figuring it out. But there are also thoughtless doubters, who are seeking something to believe that is easier to stomach, or feels less constricting. I don’t want to be either. And we should not be so quick to assume that the only expression of authentic faith is one that glories in our doubting. Faith brings assurance, even when doubt exists.

I have begun reading a book called Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt and Certainty by Lesslie Newbigin. This particular quote is fantastic:

One does not learn anything except by believing something, and — conversely — if one doubts everything one learns nothing. On the other hand, believing everything uncritically is the road to disaster. The faculty of doubt is essential. But as I have argued, rational doubt always rests on faith and not vice versa. The relationship between the two cannot be reversed.

I love that. “If one doubts everything, one learns nothing”, but you can’t believe everything, so “the faculty of doubt is essential”. For doubt to have any meaningful end, it must rest on faith. Otherwise you live in a swirl of doubt with no hope to be found. In my view the question lies in what builds that foundation of faith upon which doubts can be constructively worked through. If everything is up for grabs, what is the centering point? What is the True North?

In this journey, I have left behind many things I have believed to be true that really are not. I have laid down certain convictions and sworn them off forever, only to pick them back up again after deeper study and reflection. I have been challenged by folks who believe differently from me to see things from a different angle, to consider another path. But if I had no True North, I would have no way to navigate those different ideas without losing my faith altogether. There is a sense in which I do not have a say on what “True North” is – the Christian faith is not simply a set of propositional truths, but there are certain truths I must affirm to rightly call myself a Christian.

There must be a rock upon which I stand, so that when waves of doubt and downright unbelief come crashing in, I will not be completely lost. So I must take a step back here and deconstruct my deconstruction. What exactly am I trying to prove? Is it healthy or necessary for me go through this practice, or am I doing it merely to prove how authentic I am (i.e., for self-centered motives that have nothing to do with truth-seeking)? Who exactly am I trying to impress and why?

Thank you for indulging me. Back to regularly scheduled programming soon…

Grace and peace…
m.

Reading (the Bible) is fundamental…

Over the years I have been a voracious Bible study student. I used to love to pour over a study guide; I suppose my Type-A love for filling in blanks had something to do with it. This has been the case since first becoming a Christian, when I would swing by the Family Christian Bookstore, buy a few study guides, go home and spend the evening looking up Scriptures, filling in all those wonderful blank spaces and praying. My hunger for the Bible was fierce; and although it has ebbed and flowed through the years since I was a baby believer, my love for God’s Word still burns in my soul.

Lately I have been less inclined to study the Bible, at least as I had traditionally done. I am not so enamored with study guides and video teachings. I am more enamored with just an open Bible, a journal, and Jesus. I’m not trying sound super spiritual or anything; but sometimes I wonder if the mediating presence of the Bible study author or the video teacher keeps us from fully engaging with the text. At least in my case, there have been times when I let the teacher do the thinking for me, versus engaging my mind as I interact with Scripture.

Right now, I am trying to make heads or tails of what I believe about women in ministry. I’ve started this adventure by delving into the nature of Scripture. I know – strange place to start, right? But I have this suspicion that a lot of the differences in interpretation have a lot to do with how one views Scripture. There are technical terms like inerrancy and inspiration, perspicuity and infallibility.  I might consider defining those words at some point; but what I’ve really wanted to do is just read. Soak in the Word and let it soak into me. I cannot tell you how nourishing this has been to my soul.

As much as I want to dig into the theology of the different views of women in ministry, this slow soak in the pages of Scripture is exactly where I need to be right now. To be perfectly honest, I’d like to just forget the entire enterprise altogether. To give up on the idea of thinking deeply of theological ideas and concepts. Perhaps the reason this is so hard is because I’m trying to fit my hopes, my wants, my desires into a space to which God has said no.

This is why reading the Bible is my fundamental need right now. I need to be grounded in His Word, and shaped and reshaped by it. Then I can go about the task of figuring out the rest with my feet planted firmly in soil of His Truth. We may not be able to know truth exhaustively, but I want to know as far as I am able. That is my life pursuit.

All of this started for me back in 2003 when I began co-leading a Singles Sunday School class at my church. I wanted to teach the Bible well. I recognized the significance of the task. I wasn’t teaching English grammar – I was teaching the Word of God! Even as a layperson, it was important to me to do it right. My love for the Scripture compelled me to go to seminary. And that’s when it all went sideways for me. How it all became so complicated and confusing is beyond me. I wish I didn’t know the “backstory” of most things that happen in the church. At times blissful ignorance sounds so appealing. But I’m too nosey for that sort of bliss…bless my heart…

So, as think about the myriad theological questions that I would want to explore, not the least of which is this issue of women in the church, I feel a tinge of nostalgia for those “innocent” years when it was all new and exciting to me. When my hunger for God’s Word was insatiable, and I let nothing get in the way of pursuing understanding and communion with God. When the light from the flame in my soul blinded me to any lesser pursuit than fellowship with Him.

I can’t reclaim that innocence of those early years of faith. But I do want to reclaim a simple love for Jesus and for the Word that points me to Him and that single-minded pursuit of understanding and fellowship with my heavenly Father.

More later…until then, grace and peace…

m.