Deconstructing: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD
It seems as though deconstructing one’s faith is all the rage. It is the subject of books, videos and podcasts. Among conservatives and evangelicals, deconstruction is viewed as a threat. Among liberals and many moderates it is viewed almost as an article of faith. We might, however, be well advised to define what faith deconstruction entails before discussing its merits or dangers. One source defines it as, “…the taking apart of an idea, practice, tradition, belief, or system into smaller components in order to examine their foundation, truthfulness, usefulness, and impact.” My friend, the late Rachel Held Evans, considered it as taking a “massive inventory of [your] faith, tearing every doctrine from the cupboard and turning each one over in [your] hand”.
I will say from the outset that I really see no danger in the exercise of the examination of what one believes. Indeed, for most believers I see it as a life long and essential task. To question, or even to doubt, is, I believe, not antithetical to faith. In fact, I consider questions and doubts to be essential stepping stones that eventually lead to a stronger, more informed faith. Such a faith, however, will likely be more nuanced and reflective. As Pope Francis wrote:
“We do not need to be afraid of questions and doubts, because they are the beginning of a path of knowledge and going deeper; one who does not ask questions cannot progress either in knowledge or in faith.”
There are, however, some attending guidelines in deconstructing one’s faith. There is a difference between carefully removing items from a cupboard and turning them over in your hand and taking the self-same items and throwing them to the floor where they shatter in a hundred pieces. That is to say, there is a difference between examination and destruction, just as there is a difference between questioning and unbelief. Moreover, even in the examination of what is believed, there are caveats. You see, faith and belief have theological underpinnings and, most usually, it is these theological underpinnings that are under examination. Yet, in that theology is an inter-related field with all of its parts appertaining to each and to all of the other parts, it leaves little room for revolutionary changes. Once again, therefore, our examination is nuanced, often rendered in shades of gray rather than black and white. In this regard, we might remember that the opposite of doubt is not faith. The opposite of doubt is certitude and, at its most dogmatic, absolute certainty is but a caricature of faith.
All this is to say, I think there is value in examining our faith and structure of belief.
As an example, such an approach and examination might allow us to hold seemingly different constructs within, for lack of a better term, the same cupboard. For instance, in the passion and death of Christ, which approach is correct, that of penal substitutionary atonement or the Christus Victor motif of Gustaf Aulen? In theological terms Eastern Orthodoxy tends to give greater weight to the Resurrection of Christ than we do in the West. Who’s right? +Michael Ramsey used the template of the Incarnation and the Transfiguration for his entire body of theology. Was he correct? How do we define what takes place in the Eucharist? Do we use the definition of Rome, or the Orthodox, or the Lutherans, or the Anglicans? You see, in deconstructing our faith, we might find that all these approaches are equally true, even while each approach contains varied strengths and weaknesses. All is not black and white. An examined faith allows us nuance, highlights and shadows. It allows for mystery even as it allows for faith.
It should be said, however, that deconstructing and examining one’s faith is not an end in itself. Once deconstructed and examined, the task is not finished. We still must reconstruct, keeping and using that which is precious to build.
I’m glad you addressed this as we get a lot of questions about deconstruction from readers.
I’m very comfortable with the topic as I think deconstruction and reconstruction is a ongoing, life long process.
The people most threatened by it are usually the ones who need to begin the process the most….
There is a difference between those who for whatever reason begin reexamining the items in the cupboard…and those who had someone else come in and throw everything on the floor, breaking most of that which was there.
Yes, there is a world of difference between deconstruction and destruction…
Michael and Duane…
Good points! Those who need it most are the most cricital of the designation and process indeed. I like to consider that now I am in the REconstruction phase.
PSA, EO, No, Memorial, Baptist.
This so easy. All clearly stated in Scripture 🙂
…And it is a continual process!
I think deconstruction has gotten a bad rap because a) the people embracing it publicly are famous Christians with a broad following, and b) the term has come to mean losing your faith altogether. I think we forget that a more normal Christian faith may wax and wane, but always returns to the foundation of a crucified Savior/resurrection/hope in the life to come. I think deconstruction might be better termed the ‘dark night of the soul” when faith seems lost, but wants to be desperately found again. Just my two cents before I wrangle 7 classes of fifth graders today.
I imagine that we could talk about that…😁
Nope, no talk needed. No reading, no thinking! None of that in my church, ever! 🙂
There are those who try to make deconstruction an end in itself (especially those with “followings”). They’ve missed the meaning of the exercise…
I think this is an insightful article, Duane, but for me, there came a time when I just had to “settle.”
As my friend Gandalf said, “He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom.”
I’m all for close examination… must less so for breaking.
No such thing as inherited faith, after all.
I’ve long since deconstructed my faith in — media, government, experts, science, big business, religion, presidents, preachers, pundits, politicians, and ‘prophets.’
But Jesus remains as Duane points out — mysterious, inscrutable, unimaginable and yet indestructible.
Good read Duane
Duane at 9:17 am (if I am coherent after 5 classes of very excited kids),
I deconstructed my fundamentalist background which was the first five years of my Christian experience. Something was wrong, and after a thorough reading/study of Paul’s epistles and “doubtful” things (which waswhat most of the rules were about), I realized it was Phariseism. Yes,there are commandments in the New Testament, but not the many volumes they have dreamed up. I truly found freedom when I realized that following Christ was much more than not attending movies or whether or not I wore shorts on a hot day. it never involved rejecting Christ; if anything, I was free to love and serve Him more out of a heart love vs a “keep the rules” kind of love. (too many loves in that sentence!).
After hearing the concerns of a Christian brother the past couple of weeks, I came to the Gospel of Luke in my daily private reading. Something caught my eye in a new way in Luke’s opening address to Theophilus:
“it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”
Luke, under the Spirit’s inspiration, wrote his Gospel to give his readers ***certainty***. He believed that one could and should have certainty regarding the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He believed that the written words of his Gospel were certain, could be understood with certainty by his readers, and could provide and sustain faith with certainty.
Therefore, while I think Christians should always grow in wisdom and knowledge of the Scriptures, and that there is always more one can learn, for those to whom the Spirit has granted faith and a true knowledge of the Scriptures, their growth is like building over a firm foundation, rather than living in perpetual uncertainty over the foundation itself.
I wonder if a lot of the uncertainty that people experience regarding faith, God or the Scriptures has to do with mysteries, which appear absurd, offensive or inexplicable to human reason. There are many mysteries in the Christian faith that I do not understand by applying logic or my human reason, such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, the virgin birth, the resurrection, Christ’s body and blood in Holy Communion, the sovereignty of God over human affairs, why when two people hear the same Gospel message, one believes while the other does not; but although I can not reason them out, I am called to believe these mysteries and adore the God who dwells in unapproachable light.
God does not explain everything to us here in this temporal existence. But He explains what in His perfect wisdom He has deemed pleased to reveal to us. He wants us to trust Him that what He has revealed to us in the Scriptures is the perfect quantity, quality and clarity of revelation to save us with.
The things we can be certain of are found in the early creeds.
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
“I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic* church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.”
Those things I am certain of…the rest I hold loosely.
I am persuaded of some things outside the creeds…but refuse to make them dogma for someone else.
To refuse to commune with others who hold to the creeds over other matters is blasphemous to me.
Some people, probably the majority of Christians in America don’t even believe in Holy Communion to begin with. Some might find that blasphemous. Either way, there is by definition no communion where there is no common understanding, both words sharing the same root word.
ἀσφάλεια – The main emphasis here is that one can be secure in what one has been taught.
That being said, we all have questions. There are questions to be asked about the nature of the Scriptures themselves, not to mention the doctrinal formulae which have developed over the course of 2000 years. I am, like Michael, a creedal Christian (although mine is the Nicene 😁). Now, were all the questions answered in the fourth century? If so, what do we say of Ephesus and Chalcedon? Are we then to be so arrogant as to say all questions were resolved and answered in the 16th century? I think not. At that time we did not even have a multi-sourced textus receptus. In any case, my faith does not rest upon all questions being answered and all doubts being resolved. “Now we look through a glass darkly…”
… Or, as I wrote in the article: “All is not black and white. An examined faith allows us nuance, highlights and shadows. It allows for mystery even as it allows for faith.”
“Either way, there is by definition no communion where there is no common understanding, both words sharing the same root word.”
I don’t use an English dictionary to do theology.
If we limit ‘communion” simply to those things in the creeds, all who call on the name of Christ can commune with each other.
When we expand the list to our hobby horses we divide the Body of Christ.
My table is open to all baptized believers.
Deconstruction fundamentally begins with many when they look at the Jesus of Scripture and compare Him with what they see demonstrated in the church.
One of the reasons I’m an Anglican is they major on the Incarnation…in modeling what Jesus modeled for us…which is a life of sacrificial love.
Love is the greatest commandment…and should be the center of any doctrinal or theological statement.
The statements won’t matter if the love isn’t tangible.
In my experience, most of the rules promulgated by fundamentalists are the product of their particular sub-culture, not scripture…
“In any case, my faith does not rest upon all questions being answered and all doubts being resolved. ”
The older I get the less the questions matter and my doubts are mainly about me…
I hear you brother…
“When we expand the list to our hobby horses we divide the Body of Christ.”
I agree. The issue is what is a man-made hobby horse?
Here is the statement on the Lord’s Supper from the largest Protestant denomination in America:
“The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming.”
The majority of Christians worldwide would call that at best a hobby horse, and would find no basis whatsoever for a communion.
I would gladly serve communion to Josh because no one can convince me that a good Baptist isn’t part of the Body of Christ.
The basis of communion is shared faith in Jesus, not a doctrinal statement.
The rest is sophistry.
Duane at 2:38 pm
I agree. I had nothing to compare it with until I went to college and met Christians who wore shorts, watched movies, and did o5her worldly things. They were spiritual, too, After getting over the shock, I started figuring out why I believed what I believed.
“The basis of communion is shared faith in Jesus, not a doctrinal statement.”
I agree with this too.
You mentioned Josh, so I will affirm that I would love to share communion with him and his wife. When and if we ever have a shared faith, I would expect the feeling to be mutual. The rub is that as far as I know we do not at present have a shared faith.
Two Christians can have a shared faith in, for example, the Nicene Creedal doctrines, without having a shared faith regarding what Holy Communion is. I would never question Josh’s faith in Christ, while respecting his unbelief in the physical presence of Christ in Holy Communion.
The shared faith is in Christ, alone.
“The shared faith is in Christ, alone.”
“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?”
I Corinthians 10:16 NKJV
There is only one faith to share…that is in Christ Jesus.
To say that one does not have a shared faith based on anything else is sin…fellowship based on opinion.
It is just dawning on me how awful this is…
You are condemning the majority of worldwide Christendom. Are you comfortable with that?
I am glad for this article Duane, as you alluded in the first paragraph, there have been a number of well-known believers who have “deconstructed”. Christian news rags like the Christian Post have picked up on these stories and the comments sections are filled with the most vile, virulent, and condemning opinions by a bunch of people acting like sharks circling their prey…in their opinion, if you are deconstructing, you are committing apostasy. If you no longer consider yourself an evangelical, regret voting for Trump, or whatnot, you are no longer a Christian in their minds. The readers at these news rags are just bloodthirsty baby believers who feel good about themselves only when they are putting down other believers. And of course I don’t expect any of these sharks to be here to see a more nuanced and balanced view because they are so stuck in their cesspool of poison.
I am condemning absolutely no one.
I accept all people who call on the name of Jesus as being of a common faith…faith in Christ.
Their position on the Eucharist is irrelevant to that.
Furthermore, none of the sects that believe in the real presence believe it in the same way…so I believe it is wrong to break fellowship over such.
Well said, Dan!
I think some who espoused “deconstruction” were those who were trying to reinvent the faith–to align it with post-modernist, progressive-minded writers, bloggers, influencers, pod-casters & so forth. While I haven’t condemned their process out of hand, I’ve listened and watched carefully. Rachel Held Evans was clearly held in high esteem in those circles, and was actually one of the more careful, deliberate voices. Many have chastised her for her feminist approach to the church, but I view her opinions as a fresh-faced view of egalitarianism.
thanks for a thoughtful, thought-provoking article
Dan’s comment on REconstruction is actually accurate from the mouths of many who were ardent deconstruction folks. The process didn’t take them where they thought or hoped it would, but found a vibrant, simplified faith that was more aligned to historic expressions of church–especially in the liturgy and orthodox family.
I would have to whole heartedly agree with you Duane. When I feel I need to re-evaluate one of my doctrinal beliefs, I first go back to the gospels and “reconstruct” from there. Ironically, even though I would call myself a protestant, doing this has moved me to something very close to Orthodoxy or Anglicanism in my understanding of scripture. Which I wasn’t even fully aware of until Xenia posted an overview of Orthodoxy a few weeks ago. Almost made me think about converting. I just can’t do the icons in good conscience. Too much protestant programming in me. Haha, though I suppose Anglicans don’t do icons, do they?
May it be blessed, Sleepisgood!
Part of the Anglican tradition embraces icons.
You can join with those who don’t. 🙂
I’ve warmed up to them considerably.
Anglicanism has a high regard for Orthodoxy…
“You mentioned Josh, so I will affirm that I would love to share communion with him and his wife. When and if we ever have a shared faith, I would expect the feeling to be mutual. The rub is that as far as I know we do not at present have a shared faith.”
Imagine innocently scanning through the comments and seeing this said about yourself.
I vow to never, EVER, be part of a Lutheran church. If that sends me to Hell, that is a risk I am willing to take, and you can all blame my damnation on Jean.
Duane and all, great article and discussion.
I don’t know that I have deconstructed/reconstructed my faith, although it probably is a necessity at this point in my life. However, there is much that I hold much more loosely than in my earlier Christian experience.
I’m thinking that every single person born and raised in the South will have to do some type of deconstruction at some point. We are all “Christians”, but there is also a large portion of folk religion that is tied in our upbringing too. We assume it is all Biblical faith, because after all, we saw good ole Granny do it that way.
At some point, we begin to examine some things and find them completely empty. Immediately the thought is, “Maybe Jesus is fake, too.” You really have to go through that though.
Duane, good article. I do have a question about the general trajectory in regards to deconstruction. You mentioned it’s a threat to some conservatives and evangelicals and to liberal and moderates it’s an artical of faith. With a statement like this, it almost has the appearance that the trajectory is a foregone conclusion and will always go in the more progressive liberal direction. However, if it is truth we are after, shouldn’t the process of deconstruction take us where ever it leads? For instance, I see many folks dectronstructing their fundamentalist background and leaving it for a more moderate position but I haven’t seen it go the other direction. As an example, I haven’t seen too many folks abandoning their understanding of evolutionary creationism for a more biblical literal 7 day young earth model. However a foundational understanding of scripture and the book of Genesis I would think should shape our worldview and its surprising to not see many converting in this direction. I’m kind of at the point now, that I really don’t think it’s possible to deconstruct our faith. We all have our presuppositions and no matter how honest we are with ourselves, I’m not sure it’s possible for us to remove our own biases. The best we can do is learn to be charitable to those we do not see eye to eye with and of course submit to God in our thoughts and beliefs the best we can.
“As an example, I haven’t seen too many folks abandoning their understanding of evolutionary creationism for a more biblical literal 7 day young earth model.”
Some of the greatest, most conservative theologians would disagree with the statement that a young earth is “literal” with vigor…including J.I. Packer, who literally wrote the book on inerrancy.
The reason you don’t see a lot of movement the other way is because a vast majority of people start in conservative, evangelical churches.
You do see some movement from very liberal churches to more moderate ones.
I’ve deconstructed a couple of times…and now am comfortable with being a permanent construction zone.
Steve, we see people leave liberal mainline denominations for evangelical churches every day. They may not call it deconstruction, but its the same thing. They found the church they grew up in lifeless and took on new, often more conservative beliefs.
I`m reminded that the late theologian R.C. Sproul switched to believing in a literal 7 day young earth later in life and I guess this is an example of deconconstruction that I’m alluding to after teaching many many years. This is an unusual change in direction but his rational for previously rejecting the young earth was to be more compatible with the dominate scientific understanding of the age of the earth and evolution, etc. After switching he stated that you have to do hermaneutical gymnastics to escape the plane meaning of scripture in Genesis 1-2.
Josh, I agree with you but I think at least some of these folks you are referring to never had much to deconstruct because they never had much of an established Christian worldview to begin with. They are just starting to lay the bricks. They leave to go somewhere where they can start to build that framework and find truth.
“After switching he stated that you have to do hermaneutical gymnastics to escape the plane meaning of scripture in Genesis 1-2.”
Genesis 1 and 2 do not even agree with each other, if one’s hermeneutic is that these chapters are providing a literal history of creation.
“I vow to never, EVER, be part of a Lutheran church. If that sends me to Hell, that is a risk I am willing to take, and you can all blame my damnation on Jean.”
I’m sorry but I don’t have that authority. You could also read the remainder of that particular comment.
When folks here talk approvingly of ecumenism and open tables, the opposite view does not call out “sophistry” or “sin” or make vows in response. But when, consistent with the majority of Christians worldwide, someone is a member of a church that takes holds a more historic, traditional and conservative approach to doctrine, why do the ecumenical folks explode?
Josh, if you were visiting a church (any church, but let’s say not a Lutheran church because of your vow), and the pastor said to you upon entering, “This morning we are serving the physical body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins at Communion; if you believe this please join us;” what would you do?
Jean,. R.C. Sproul is not a lightweight when it comes to biblical hermeneutics. I’m well aware of the differences between chapter 1 and 2. In fact one of my assignments in Pennstate University while taking an old testament course was infact to Debunk the entire story of creation as told in Genesis. Our teacher of course was not a believer but was Jewish and a Hebrew scholar. It was a pretty useless endeavor to try and debunk the entire narrative of creation as mythology. It didn’t work for me obviously.
I think the process of deconstruction is very individual and tends to be nuanced rather than the black and white of acceptance or rejection. In my own case, I have become more conservative in certain areas even as I’ve become more expansive in others. For instance, with reference to the OT I’ve been greatly influenced by Robert Alter’s work and his emphasis on its literary nature. At the very same time I’m much more conservative in my reading of the Fathers of the first four centuries. Additionally, my view of the Reformation era is far different than it was in the past. It is much more nuanced and less black and white. My view of classic Evangelicalism has probably shifted the most. Whereas I once considered it as a positive aspect of a continuing reform movement, I now view it as an aberration that has carried within its theology the seeds of its own destruction. I think we all go through a similar process…
“Josh, if you were visiting a church (any church, but let’s say not a Lutheran church because of your vow), and the pastor said to you upon entering, “This morning we are serving the physical body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins at Communion; if you believe this please join us;” what would you do?”
I would say, “Yes, that is what I teach and believe…” and if it was a confessional Lutheran church, I would still be barred from the altar…
First, I wasn’t asking you.
Second, the question specifically says it’s not a Lutheran church.
Third, are you also offended by the communion practices of a majority of worldwide Christendom? I thought maybe your knowledge of church history would give you insight.
I don’t know why many of you like to gang up on me. There are others here who have the same closed communion practice. There are a billion Roman Catholics and a quarter million EO who practice closed communion. Closed communion is not a Lutheran distinctive. It is not sin; it is not sophistry; it is historical and an ancient tradition. If it wasn’t, why do the two oldest traditions (we were reminded the other day) practice it?
I was just pointing out the obvious…
As to your third point, rather than offended, I would say disappointed. I remember a poll a few years back, however, that indicated that even among RCs, Anglicans and Lutherans, large percentages did not believe in the Real Presence. In my opinion, this has to do with the paucity of sound teaching on the subject.
“In my opinion, this has to do with the paucity of sound teaching on the subject.”
Article after article here tells that story. There is a paucity of sound teaching on just about every subject of Christian doctrine. Fortunately, there remain some sound seminaries, scholars, teachers and pastors.
One of the biggest problems in American Christianity is that churches have adjusted their teachings to what large percentages want to hear or not hear, believe or not believe. That to me is another disappointment.
Jean, you said we do not have a shared faith.
My faith is in Jesus.
You see me as a non-believer. There is no way around it. It is a very unattractive faith that you present. If it was the only Christianity available, I’d want nothing to do with it.
Steve, no one who has read Genesis 1 can honestly say that the days spoken of are the same as the days we have now. Impossible.
“Two Christians can have a shared faith in, for example, the Nicene Creedal doctrines, without having a shared faith regarding what Holy Communion is. I would never question Josh’s faith in Christ, while respecting his unbelief in the physical presence of Christ in Holy Communion.”
– Jean 3:51 pm
But Jean, if I never receive “The Means of Grace” how could I possible ever be saved? It just doesn’t make sense, it is ugly, and I have no desire to discuss it with you.
Just let me go to Hell peacefully. Shake the dust off your sandals. I am not worth your conversation.
How many means of grace do you think there are in Scripture?
If you believe, then by definition you must have received at least one of the means of grace.
In your religion, I am not a believer. Move on.
I speak for my religion and correct misinformation about it. Let’s move on.
Ecumenicism and open communion are the only choices love and humility allow me.
I refuse to further divide the Body of Christ over disputed traditions.
I simply cannot pick one teaching magisterium and shut my mind to all other expressions of the faith as being inferior or outside the faith.
I can honor those who I differ with as being full members of the Body of Christ knowing we see through a glass darkly.
I will let those in traditions with closed communion exclude me…but for me to reciprocate would be sinful and against my conscience.
Your mileage may vary…and I’m ok with that…until you use it as a hammer…
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
(Ephesians 4:1–6 ESV)
One faith- in Jesus
One baptism- in Jesus
If you’re in Jesus through faith…you’re family.
I hold to the tenets of The Apostle’s Creed as non-negotiable, up front, and on the table.
The rest of the stuff beyond that?
I pick and choose as my conscience sees fit.
For example, I now reject the doctrine of PSA (penal substitutionary atonement).
Here is an interesting illustration about adjusting to the changes that deconstruction can bring…
Yet another putrid display of sectarian ugliness from you know who.
I think we all do that…some of us admit it.
I wrestle with PSA…
Josh, you have a point about the days of creation not being the same kind of days we have today. The Sun wasn’t even created until day 4 and that is how we measure days with the sun rising and setting. However, the issue at hand is more of the extremely old earth of billions of years along with the idea of macro biological evolution and human evolution contrasted to the young earth being relatively young in the thousands of years with no human evolution coming from another species and a literal and not figurative man called Adam which we all decended from biologically.
Jesus said, “You’ll know my disciples by whether they practice closed communion.”
Well, Steve, that is a whole lot of different subjects, I only commented on the idea of “literal seven days”.
So if those days do not necessarily represent 24 hr segments, and it is clear that they do not, then it may be possible that those days look like billions of years when compared to todays time. Afterall, it is the process of time being born from eternity. Its only happened that once, no human was there, and we have no way of measuring it.
As to evolution, literal Adam…totally different subjects, not dependent upon our measuring of the length of the 7 days.
Obviously, I don’t believe closed Communion is sophistry. Good grief.
This topic is so crazy. For all the decades that I was Baptist/Calvary Chapel, scarcely a Sunday went by that the pastor didn’t condemn the Catholics, and by extension, the Orthodox, to hell. “Orthodoxy is not a system that leads to salvation,” I was told. And one of the things they hated the most was the doctrine of the Real Presence. Yet they howl when they are told they cannot participate with us in something they denounce as heretical.
There are Sundays when *I* cannot receive Communion at my parish, if I am not properly prepared. On every given Sunday, there are people who don’t go up for Communion because they don’t believe they’ve properly prepared.
“For example, I now reject the doctrine of PSA (penal substitutionary atonement).”
Good to hear! This will change how you see practically everything about the Gospel, and for the better! God bless you.
“For all the decades that I was Baptist/Calvary Chapel, scarcely a Sunday went by that the pastor didn’t condemn the Catholics,”
I haven’t heard anything of the like in decades of weekly attendance. Not once.
“and by extension, the Orthodox”
Baptist preachers have no clue what Orthodoxy is. They aren’t condemning it.
“Yet they howl when they are told they cannot participate with us in something they denounce as heretical.”
I am sorry that I howled. I could care less that I am not allowed communion at Jean’s church, or yours. I objected to his saying that we do not have a shared faith, a sentiment that you apparently agree with.
I have absolutely no clue why I come here, or why anyone would ever want to be a Christian.
I remember once asking a Baptist pastor, here in California, for directions to his house because he was loaning me a book. In his directions he told me to make a turn at the Synagogue of Satan, by which he meant the local Catholic Church. By the way, this man was the pastor of a Landmark Baptist church and the only people who could receive communion at his place were actual members of that congregation. I know this isn’t the typical Baptist practice, but I thought it was interesting.
All kinds of folks in the Christian world.
“I have absolutely no clue why I come here, or why anyone would ever want to be a Christian.”
I’m glad you come here…just as I’m glad that we have many traditions represented. I think the future of evangelicalism is in your hands…a younger man with a heart for God and people.
If we look at the numbers, fewer and fewer people want to be Christians…and I would submit the reason is our great love for tribal and political distinctions over the love of God and neighbor.
Its a really dumb club to join. Like a giant hamster wheel, and everywhere you turn you are never enough *something*. Always another hoop, always a different distinction.
The unconditional Love of God, and the unmatchable Grace of Jesus sound amazing, but are not practiced in what we call Christianity.
i think one of the main reasons today people are rejecting Christianity is because many people no longer believe in a supernatural world. They believe in a kind of atheistic scientism which sneers at a belief in a sky god and spirits. Also, for many reasons, which include propaganda from the educational and entertainment systems, many believe they are good people who maybe make a few mistakes and who certainly don’t need a Savior to save the from hell. The political stuff is certainly off-putting but I think many people use it as an excuse. They just don’t believe in anything other than atoms and molecules.
Part of my deconstruction was driven by being sick and tired of having to jump through an infinite number of hoops to be a better ______________ (fill in the blank), as well as feeling like, when I arrived at the chuch building, being given the impression that I had to do a bunch of stuff…set up chairs, watch preschoolers, attend this function, sign up for that seminar. There was no rest. This, along with the always futile culture war, was my main reason to deconstruct, so I know what Josh is speaking of.
There was no resting in Jesus. There was always another group to attend to “equip” you. Got tired of the rat race.
There will always be those who reject the Gospel for myriad reasons.
My concern is to remove the barriers that myself or the church in general put up that make the Gospel seem like bad news instead of the best news ever.
I don’t blame you…and I think you’re in a better place spiritually for having done so.
Michael @ 10:01. AMEN! ! !
What’s more, my former Baptist and Calvary Chapel churches would not accept baptisms from EO, RC, Anglican or Lutheran churches. You had to be re-baptized. However, most Orthodox churches will accept baptisms from Protestant churches, if they were done in the name of the Holy Trinity.
Josh, it’s not clear to me that the days are not 24 hour segments. Im not sure where your crystal clear clarity of that came from? I believe the days are different in one sense of our days today but not necessarily in the sense of length of time. Evolution and literal Adam are different topics as you stated but I believe closely related and therefore not totally separate. I say this because the predominate way scientists date the earth is infact making the assumption that evolution did occur and they use that assumption to extrapolate age. I know there is a lot of room for nuance with this but what is causing folks like yourself to outright reject 24 hours?
“One of the biggest problems in American Christianity is that churches have adjusted their teachings to what large percentages want to hear or not hear, believe or not believe.”
Jean, Amen to that. However this is much bigger than an American phenomenon. I say, follow the money. Multimillion dollar book deals I bet have a lot to do with what gets published and what gets tucked away to never be seen. It’s quite difficult at times to see through the consumerism when most of us are the consumers.
I don’t outright reject 24 hours, it is just not at all suggested in the text. If the sun was created on day four, how were those first days measured? Until Babylon (basically), days were measured by the sun rising. After Babylon we have the hourly format. To suggest that Genesis is captive to Babylon’s system of measuring time says a lot more about the book and its author than one means to say.
So again, if the sun didn’t rise on the first three days, what was the measurement of time? Was there a measurement of time? I am conservative on the Genesis account. I believe it happened exactly as the autor said, and so if the 1st three days were 24 hrs each, that is just random fact not stated in the scripture. They may have been one second each, or 14 billion years each.
And again, my units of “second” and “years” are also totally foreign to the text. I mean, if we stood with a stop watch now an observed the days of Genesis occur, it may appear on our stopwatch to have only been a second, or it may have been much longer. What we know is that it was a “day”, but we do not have defined how that day was measured.
Josh, God created light the first day so how ever long it was light for constituted the length of time of day. No one knows for sure. But scientists today measure time by things happening. I suppose it could be billions of years but the common scientific understanding is a lot was going on biologically regarding death and rebirth and evolution, etc and life wasn’t at a standstill.. Reading scripture, I don’t see anything dying until after man was created, he fell and the curse was put on us but this only after everything was created. So the billions of years seem like a stretch to push into the creation narrative. I’m sure in Jesus time on earth, they didn’t have such a big problem with the common understanding of how long a day was. Only until the theory of evolution became predominate in mainstream do you see this move to squeeze billions of years of living and dying of billions of different microbes into a single what the Bible calls a day.
You read a lot that I didn’t say into that, and of course, the text doesn’t say that either.
I’ll stick with Packer on this one…Genesis isn’t about “how’ but “Who”.
No question that Genesis is about Abraham and his decedents MUCH more than about creation. Creation through Noah is a short prequel to the story of Abraham’s family. Which is significant in that it leads to Jesus.
I should have been more clear…Genesis 1 & 2.
In my understanding, and indeed in the understanding of the rabbi with whom I studied the Talmud, the creation account is a literary narrative, not an historical/scientific record. Michael’s reference to “Who” rather than “how” is the point of the narrative.
That being said, deconstruction is about the examination of our own faith journey… not the faith journey of someone else. It might be wise not to reach into someone else’s cupboard and decide what should or should not be there… just saying…
Oh, I know. I was just riffing 🙂
Also true Duane. Great points.
” It might be wise not to reach into someone else’s cupboard and decide what should or should not be there… just saying…”
I agree. People need to be mindful of not only the literary devices (metaphor, simile, hyberbole, etc.) in Scriptures, but the literary types (narrative, poetry, history, etc.).
One must realize that the opening chapters of Genesis are say a different literary form that say, Numbers Chapter 1 (with all that census data) or any other list of items in the bible (items returned from exile for example).
Now, on the subject of open or closed communion, there are other issues to consider. If we practice open communion, i.e. all baptized Christians, does that include infants and children? While that is the practice in EO, it is not in the RCC, nor is it in the vast majority of Anglican or Lutheran churches. In the fourth century Apostolic Constitutions it appears to be the norm. Cyprian and Augustine wrote in favor of the practice.
Perhaps in our current situation of a divided Church, we should not be surprised if our communion practices are likewise divided and fractious. The Eucharist in the early Church, however, was meant to be a sign of unity. Perhaps it shows us week by week how far we have fallen…
I like the “who” rather than the “how” in the Genesis account. We certainly worship one amazing God who can easily speak creation into being with His Word.
Steve @ 1:54….. AMEN
So many really good comments tirn up on Michael’s site
I have people around me in various stages of deconstruction.
Sometimes they tear it all down and walk away.
Sometimes, they come back and sift through the rubble to see if they can find anything that works.
Sometimes they take side roads into unorthodox doctrine for a while.
Sometimes they stay in unorthodoxy.
My response to all of it is prayer and love…it’s a process and God loves them more than I do and can handle His business.
I answer what I can, but only when asked.
Prayer and love = good, good call
IMNSHO …… again
I have lately been convicted of my shallow prayers for my enemies in years past – also amazed at how many jump on, embrace, (false) gossip…..
“… a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench…”
“The Eucharist in the early Church, however, was meant to be a sign of unity.”
I prefer the stronger term “communion” (rather than “unity”, though that is not inaccurate), because the Lord’s Supper is even more than a sign of unity; it is, from the lateral aspect, a picture of the mutual self-giving that Christians in communion are called to.
“Likewise love is pictured in these signs and elements. First of all in the bread. For as long as the grains of wheat are in a pile before they are ground, each is a body separate for itself, and is not mingled with the others; but when they are ground they all become one body. The same thing takes place with the wine. As long as the berries are not crushed each retains its own form, but when they are crushed they all flow together and become one drink. You cannot say, this is the flour from this grain, or this is a drop from that berry; for each has entered the form of the other, and thus was formed one bread and one drink. This is the interpretation of St. Paul in 1 Cor 10, 17: ‘Seeing that we, who are many, are one bread, one body: for we all partake of the one bread.’
“We eat the Lord by the faith of the Word which the soul consumes and enjoys. In this way my neighbor also eats me: I give him my goods, body, and life and all that I have, and let him consume and use it in his want. Likewise, I also need my neighbor; I too am poor and afflicted, and suffer him to help and serve me in turn. Thus we are woven one into the other, helping one another even as Christ helped us.” – Martin Luther, 1528, Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper
“… our Saviour left the Eucharist to his Church as a symbol of her unity and of the charity with which he wanted all Christians to be closely united with one another…”
The Council of Trent
The Council of Trent? LOL
Granny says that Jean’s comment @ 3:12 was inappropriate!
“CANON XII.-If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ’s sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified; let him be anathema.” – Council of Trent
Do you know what “anathema” means?
The Council of Trent condemned more Christians to hell than any other council I know of.
Hardly a council interested in unity.
“Hardly a council interested in unity.”
Not like those open hearted Lutherans…
We gave it a shot with the Augsburg Confession.
I don’t know any orthodox Christian of any denomination who (a) is not sorrowful over the division of Christendom and (b) would love nothing more than a truly catholic faith and Church bound together in unity.
…And if I sign on to Augsburg, there’s another hoop to jump through… and another… and another…
I think some people may not understand what a confession is in this context.
When a Christian subscribes to a confession, he or she affirms that the doctrines confessed are an accurate interpretation of Scripture. When a church body shares a common confession, they are in unity in doctrine, that is, they have a shared belief in the meaning of Scripture as laid out in the confession. For example, the Lutheran confessions include 3 ecumenical creeds and a number of subordinate documents.
I don’t know if this is a good analogy, but back in the day, did Chuck Smith’s, Calvary Chapel Distinctives function as an informal confession for its pastors?
Filistine WAAAAAAAY back at 6:04pm today….My deconstruction, now that I think about it, occurred in waves. Perhaps it was pruning by our Father? Could be. A few times I was sure I was going to hell because I discarded such-and-such from my life. And today like you said, I want a more simple faith not clogged up with a huge “you must” or “to do” lists.
Some of us here very much understand… we just do not agree. It’s actually very simple.
That’s fine Duane. I don’t worry too much about a lack of unity, although it saddens me, because it’s Christ’s church not mine. IMV unity is not a condition I can create, even if I wanted to.
I can no more compel you to believe something than I can reject what I believe. Unity IMO is created and sustained by the Holy Spirit who calls and gathers believers together under Christ according to the Word of God.
The ELCA attempted to create a big tent denomination, one in which almost any belief is accepted. What happened is they drove out as unloving or narrow minded the vast majority of theologically conservative ELCA Lutherans. Now there’s little left in the institution that resembles the historic faith. So, unity for its own sake or as a human construct is not IMV a good objective.
Are you attempting to convert folks here to your denomination or thinking? There is obviously no way you are going to sway any one—especially Duane and Josh on this or other debated issues. So why not just let it go?
Let me remind you of what Augustine said,
“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”
It’s called discussion.
“Let me remind you of what Augustine said,
‘In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.’ “
I believe Augustine was wise. The question frequently comes down to what is essential? Is the view on Covid, masking or vaccines an essential for church unity? That, and one’s preference for certain politicians, appear to be current issues of what is essential for church unity.
In one church I previously visited, eschatology was an essential. Many churches consider the amount of water used in baptism and the age of the baptized to be essentials.
What about wine vs. grape juice in Communion? Women’s ordination and same sex marriage? For example, if you have unity but liberty in the matter of women’s ordination, what is a church member to do, who in liberty does not believe that women’s ordination is scriptural if on a Sunday morning a woman is installed and gets up to preach?
It’s easier to quote Augustine than for someone to follow his advice. Some of it has to do with habits and/pride, but some of it has to do with how interrelated one see different doctrines working together to achieve a common purpose.
One theologian distinguished between necessities and liberties. Things that are necessary would be essential for unity. A thing is necessary if Christ commands it or forbids it. Other things would be non-essential for unity.
Jean @ 5:06,
I think Chuck Smith’s CC distinctives are a bad analogy to a confession. I think they can be better interpreted more as part of a sole proprietary franchise club membership agreement.
“ A thing is necessary if Christ commands it or forbids it…” Agreed! I’s not what Jesus forbids or commands that is my concern. It’s how people interpret and apply what Jesus said that is of concern for me. I think He is pretty clear on he essentials. The other 2 can be negotiated—-and lived with.
I’ve never met a “church-goer” i could trust…. Across ALL denominational lines…
However, i never met a genuine God-fearing, born again soul that i couldn’t trust….
Too many attend church to look respectable, to make business contaccts…
It looks like the days of going to church = respectability may possibly be fading into the past? ? ?
Dunno, though, do i? 🙆
I don’t think the suburban “Church-goer” has been a reality since the late 60s…
Duane, it lasted here at through the 90’s. To have any sort of social standing, a local politician or businessman had to be able to tell which church he was a member of. Occasional attendance was expected, at the least.
Interesting observation, Dr. Duane…..
I grew up in the city, spent most of the 60s in Kansas. There everyone had a church identity. Moving to Seattle in the 70s, where they couldn’t care less if you “went” to church. In fact the neighbor, a public school teacher, spent her weekends drunk. She could not have held her job in Kansas….
In the South it is part of the culture…
Yes, but that too is fading. There is very little social gain to church attendance now.
Em, Josh, and Duane…just as an aside about church attendance…as a classic movie fan, I have noticed a number of films where (the presence of a ) church and church attendance were portrayed in a positive light. And I know these are just fictions, but it seems to reflect the culture back then.
Nowadays, on the other hand…
Yes, some of my conservative friends will tease me about “country club Episcopalians”. To which I reply, “Where are they?” They left the scene long ago…
I guess I missed the deconstruction fad. I quit paying attention to Christian authors and speakers quite some time ago.
As Josh said in the other thread, a deconstruction process is probably hyper individualized, as nobody has all the same religious experience, theological background, experience with the church and its people.
The more this process progresses with me, I am discovering that I don’t think I ever really knew Jesus, that I never really knew what ministry was, and there is the overwhelming weight of Christians and how the church acts. I was a product of many things I no longer believe. Example, I taught people to hate themselves, to beat themselves into submission, it’s how I interpreted the Christian walk of faith.
Here is the thing though, if god wants someone to unload the baggage, I have no doubt he can do it. That unloading can take on drastic forms, as it was and is for me. I destroyed everything, and renounced my faith, and actually fought god. If it had to be that way, it had to be that way. I don’t think deconstruction can be categorized. There is no biblical merit for it. The Bible is full of stories of bad people who turned into good people, very little of good people turning to bad, so to speak. Almost nothing on reconstruction.
I am reminded of Jonah who questioned and fought god on every last step, but god made it happen anyway. I view my process to be out of my hands at this point, because I have no idea where this goes. I don’t really believe it’s up to me either.