Deconstructing/Reconstructing faith is like tearing down/building a building. If I were to tear down my house, it would not take long. With the right tools (like a bulldozer or excavator) and a little time, I could pull the whole thing down in less than a week. If there are particular elements that I want to preserve, that would require more precision, but not much prior knowledge. Grab a sledgehammer and get to work. That’s why many who do kitchen or bath remodels choose to the demolition work themselves.
But what about rebuilding? If I were to rebuild my house, it would take a great deal more time than it did to tear it down. The average house takes at least 7 months (or more) to build. I would need to consult with a variety of tradesmen (carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc) to help plan and execute the whole thing. I cannot rebuild myself even if I have the right tools because it is nearly impossible for me to know every facet of what is required to build. I can tear down pretty easily on my own, but building back up is a whole other process that takes much longer and requires special knowledge I don’t have.
Deconstruction in faith is often a necessary task. Many have been handed foundationally faulty beliefs and visions for the Christian faith that need to be re-examined, audited, and often deconstructed altogether. This can be a painful and emotional process. Tearing down, though, doesn’t require knowledge OF something. You tear down because you no longer that which was there. What it requires is the tearing down of those faulty or harmful beliefs that I need to abandon. Truth be told, though, that work of tearing down is often in service to (and in hopes of) building something else in it’s place.
What is much more time consuming is the process of rebuilding. The one who has deconstructed does not want to make the same mistakes which led to painful deconstruction in the first place. There are often some trust issues that need to be worked through (and rightly so). And, frankly, it is not a clear of a process as tearing down and rebuilding a house. Many times the person deconstructing is building while tearing down, tearing down too much while keeping some unwanted things, etc. It’s a messy, somewhat unclear process. It will take greater care and time to build. This is where the analogy of tearing down and building a house is perhaps most helpful. What do we most need to rebuild?
First, we need to have a clear vision for what we are hoping to build. Like an architectural rendering, we get a snapshot of what it is we are seeking to build. The vision is not the work, but it is informed by vision and the goal of the work to be done. Many leave their faith because they do not have a clear sense that anyone is actually living out Christianity with integrity and faithful to what God’s Word says. This is a sad statement on what many experience in churches. But, abuse of a good thing doesn’t negate good use of a good thing. We need a vision of the Christian faith that works and build toward that. While every person is sinful and broken, we can look to the many faithful Christians who lead lives of integrity and repentance in a way that is honest, humble and dependent on God. These are the people who will help us get a vision for what to build in our own lives. We invite them to build with us and in us. Some call this discipleship.
We need more than vision, though. Rebuilding will require knowledgeable, skilled tradesmen who can assist. This may be in certain areas like apologetics, theology, counselors, or faithful pastors. But how do you choose those skilled tradesmen? Just as when looking for a good painter, carpenter, or electrician you look for recommendation from trusted friends, we will need each other to find the right people to help us rebuild. This doesn’t protect us completely from poor builders, but it gets us further than trying to do it ourselves or choosing a person blindly.
My point in writing today, is to say this: many are deconstructing, but I hope the same care goes into reconstructing. Because, at the end of the day, that is the critical tasks. We will live somewhere when it comes to our beliefs about God, faith, church, etc. We do not have a choice on that. But, what we do get to choose is what we will build upon. At the end of the day, either our faith will stand or will be deconstructed for us. That is what Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:10-17:
10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. 16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.