Every day, it seems, there is a news article on faith deconstruction, focusing on individuals who have renounced or abandoned their Christian faith.
Perhaps you, or someone you know, are going through a deep season of doubt and introspection about faith.
I’ve had periods of doubting faith, wondering not only what I believed but why I believed it. Yet, when I learned to embrace these seasons, I felt that my faith grew stronger. I didn’t know it, but I was in the process of deconstructing and reconstructing my faith.
Here are a few things I’ve learned about Faith Deconstruction in the process.
1. There is no universally accepted definition for faith deconstruction.
In recent years, the term faith deconstruction has become synonymous with a critical rejection of everything connected to a once-held faith.
Because of this association, many in the church are reluctant to use the term.
But the actual practice of questioning one’s faith predates the deconstructing faith era by several millennia.
Moreover, the Bible documents this deconstruction and reconstruction process repeatedly through the stories of men and women of faith.
A significant portion of the Book of Psalms begins with the writers questioning their faith before finally acknowledging their renewed trust in God’s goodness.
2. A working definition is needed before we can discuss the issue. So how do we define Faith Deconstruction?
The Cambridge Dictionary defines deconstruction as the act of breaking something down into its separate parts to understand its meaning, especially when it is different from how it was previously understood.
I would define Faith Deconstruction as the act of breaking down what one believes in light of what one experiences.
Often there is a tension that is inherent in faith.
For most people, the catalyst for an examination of faith is often a crisis. For example, something terrible happens, and we question why God allowed it. Or we have applied what we believe to be biblical truth without experiencing what we think it has promised.
3. Faith deconstruction is frequently a reaction to a church culture that does not reflect the values that it teaches.
Pastors are to be servants to God’s people, not wolves who use their position of power to fleece the sheep.
A church should be known for its unconditional love, not its political views or public opposition to those who disagree with their faith.
The world is watching to see if our actions match up with our stated beliefs. So can you blame them for being skeptical?
4. Faith Deconstruction recognizes the importance of dealing with doubt.
Doubt is normal. Everyone experiences seasons of doubt.
According to BARNA, questioning what you believe about religion or God is commonplace for most American adults who self-identify as Christian (or have in the past) (65%). Just over one-quarter (26%) say they still experience spiritual doubt, while four in 10 (40%) say they have experienced it in the past but have worked through it. Only about one-third (35%) claim to have never experienced it at all.
Doubt is a part of faith. Faith involves trust, not the certainty of an outcome.
God is not surprised by our doubt. The Psalms often begin with a person questioning their faith and usually resolve by affirming God’s goodness.
A god who is too small to handle your honest and most profound questions is no god at all.
An unexamined faith is often worthless and easily discarded when tested.
5. Faith Deconstruction Examines the Basis of One’s beliefs.
Without a firm foundation, no building will remain standing. So, what is the foundation of our faith? Blind faith, tradition, cultural-based, intellectual, emotional, relational, or personal choice?
Our only secure foundation is the person, words, and life of Jesus.
6. A church can be a help or hindrance to those questioning their faith.
How we respond when people question their faith can be a source of help and comfort or a hindrance.
How we respond to people’s doubt also reveals something about our faith. Are we unwilling to ask honest questions of our faith?
Faith Reconstruction is the process of building or rebuilding an individual’s faith that has been damaged or destroyed.
7. For most people, spiritual deconstruction can lead to a stronger reconstructed faith.
Don’t be discouraged if you are experiencing doubt.
Barna notes that “Spiritual doubt can be a powerful and formative experience, strengthening and bolstering faith. For more than half of those who have wrestled with doubt (53%), the time spent asking honest questions about what they believe about their religion or God made their faith stronger. For another three in 10 (28%), it had no effect at all. About one in 8 (12%) lost their faith entirely; a small minority (7%) say they held on to a weakened version of their faith.”
Not everyone who has deconstructed their faith leaves Christianity. Instead, some individuals examine their faith, confront their doubts, and, in the process, rebuild their trust in God on a firmer foundation.
If you are eager for more on this topic, I recommend reading this article at Lifeway Research.