Polemics Terms: Deconstruction
Deconstruction is a common tactic among many cults or sub-Christian sects. Common among the Emergent Church, Sectarian Minimalists and Restorationists in particular, the error is not confined to them and permeates the thinking of many who deny the validity of Historic Theology. Most post-modern theology engages in some degree of Deconstructionism.
Deconstructionism involves questioning and confronting the theology of the historic church, which has traditionally been defined and understood for millennia. Deconstructionism questions the values, principles, major tenets, and doctrine of a religious system in order to define terms in a new way, and reconstruct the religious system.
Deconstructionists deconstruct Christianity in order to reconstruct it to their liking. Once the religious “system” is deconstructed to its most base values or teachings and the historic or orthodox understanding of the church is cast aside, the Deconstructionist then reinterprets those values or teachings and creates an ostensibly new religion, with the name of the old religion.
Deconstructionism in the realm of religion is a post-modern concept originally developed by philosopher, Jacques Derrida. Although Derrida did not at first apply the principles of philosophical Deconstructionism to religion, a philosophically critical outlook that accentuates the difference between text and meaning. In other words, Derrida’s philosophical system sought to divorce terms or words from the “meaning imposed on them by history.” Chiefly, this means that Derrida held that words written centuries ago may not mean what we think they mean, if an artificial definition was imposed upon them over time.
While there might be merit to Derrida’s theory in terms of etymology and the evolution of language, Deconstructionism has been used by social progressives and those denying a Biblical worldview since the late 1960’s. The strategy is simple; while clinging to respected terms and definitions (culturally, in regards to “freedom,” “liberty,” or “equality,” etc…), claim that the terms have been misunderstood, change the definition to your liking, and claim that you’re the one really holding to the principles that these words represent. Less-suspecting and unaware individuals assume you are upholding principles they share, when in fact you simply use words with which they are familiar, but you’ve changed the meaning entirely.
Essentially, this strategy denies the importance of authorial intent and creates new definitions for words or interpretations of literary works that fit the age rather than being adequate representations of their original meaning. That is Deconstructionism. This strategy is what was used to greatly re-evaluate and reconstruct Western values in the latter half of the twentieth century. Perhaps the most prominent Deconstructionist was Frederick Nietzsche.
When applied to religion, Derrida’s Deconstructionism seeks to boil down Christianity to its most simple (and vague) principles or ideas, so that they can be redefined or reinterpreted and the religion be rebuilt to the Deconstructionist’s liking. Derrida’s Christian Deconstruction has been referred to as “religion without a religion.”
A Vinist (so-called “gay theology”) argues that certain generalities regarding God would affirm their sodomy. For example, they might argue that (1) God is love, (2) God wants them to be happy and (3) It’s “not good that man should be alone,” and if engaging in a sodomy-centered relationship would make them happy, God loves them by approving of it. To make the argument, the fuller context of Scripture would have to be ignored (as well as explicit Scripture texts) and generalized feelings about God would have to transcend the didactic nature of the Bible’s teaching. Finally, that strategy would have to deny the sum of Christian interpretation throughout historic theology, or at least place it as subordinate to the Deconstructed and then reconstructed religion of Vinism. This is what allows Justin Lee, Matthew Vines and other Vinists to claim to be Christians, all the while ignoring the vast sum total of Christian thought on the topic of human sexuality.
A Sectarian Minimalist seeks to question to orthodox and historic Christian church’s understanding of very basic terms that have rarely if ever been questioned in the course of church history, merely so they can redefine them. They ask, “What is a church, anyway?” They ask, “What is a pastor, anyway?” These terms have been defined and understood for thousands of years, yet the Sectarian Minimalist casts doubt as to whether or not these concepts are actually Biblical or at the very least claim that the terms are misunderstood by almost everyone for many centuries. Once doubt is cast on the definitions of “church” or “pastor,” the Sectarian Minimalist is free to define the terms however they want.
An Evangelical Feminist might ask the question, “Are you sure that God is really male,” casting doubt into the minds of the weak-minded and forcing people to do the work of explaining what has been universally understood within Judaism and Christianity for (at the very least) four thousand years, since God first revealed Himself in Sacred Writ. The question can be answered unequivocally and resoundingly in the affirmative, with the full counsel of God’s Word as an obvious testimony as his choosing to reveal all three of his Persons in the male gender. And yet, the Evangelical Feminist might cite a passage revealing God’s nurturing qualities or an allusion to a “hen, gathering her eggs” (Luke 13:34) or confuse gender with an anatomical sex organ and begin to reconstruct God as a female or as a hermaphrodite, with the foundations of Christian understanding now being made suspect.