Have you heard the phrase ‘deconstructed/deconstructing faith’? It is a modern movement in evangelical Christian circles where people are questioning what they believe – do they believe what they were taught to believe. You may be on that journey yourself, or maybe your older teens are starting to talk this way.
I heard deconstructionism defined as: the conscious process of identifying and acknowledging the constructed nature of the tenets of belief.*
I appreciate this definition because it helps us see what is going on, it guides our own journey, and it helps us, as parents, help our kids. To be honest – we all need to go through this process – we all need to review what we believe at times, and check its foundations.
What do we believe and why?
Does it line up with God’s word?
Do my actions line up with what I believe?
Generally speaking people start thinking about what they believe and if it is what they want to believe after some sort of interruption to their life – grief, frustration, overwhelm, confusion – and our beliefs are found lacking in those circumstances. So we start to question and doubt what we believe.
My concern with the deconstructing narrative that we hear is that people are reviewing their faith based on the actions of other people, and more often than not, the church they grew up in. That is to say, they have been disappointed, hurt, confused by the actions of others and they are now questioning God.
I want my faith to be based in God – not people, not even people who say they know and represent God (the church).
As I read different people’s stories of their own deconstruction journey I realise that I have deconstructed my beliefs many times. My story doesn’t stop with deconstructing – each time I have then reconstructed my beliefs – and each time the foundation of those beliefs is my faith in God.
I grew up in a church that was steeped in the Shepherding Movement – which was an offshoot of the early Charismatic movement. If you are a younger person then these words may mean nothing to you – let’s just say it was a mix of fundamental, evangelical, pentecostal with a big dose of control and manipulation. The independent church imploded when the leader was exposed for immoral behaviour – but equally as significantly for me and my family (and many others) we started to see the control and manipulation that we had accepted.
Breaking out from this type of thing is one of those interrupting situations where we have to deconstruct our beliefs. What do we believe about church and family, what do we believe about order and government, what do we believe about education, tithing, birth control, alcohol, the list goes on.
This is where that definition of deconstructionism comes in – we started to see many of the beliefs and rules we were following as constructs of man.
The thing that remained true was our faith in God. God was still God, still true.
Asking Questions, Finding Answers and Growing
Over the years that followed we continue to question what we believe, what we are taught. What do we believe about women in ministry, what about headship and covering, what about ministry, what about choice, what about morality, what about marriage, what about race and what about refugees.
Questioning these things doesn’t mean we doubt God, it doesn’t mean that we ignore the Bible or become liberal. It means we look at what we believe, ask ourselves why we believe it. We research what the Bible says and we check whether what we practice lines up with what we see Jesus teach.
This process of questioning and proving our faith is a mark of maturing. We need to always be growing in our understanding of who God is and how he wants us to live.
I am thankful for the people around me who both challenge me to think and listen to my thoughts as I process. And I want that for my children too. I taught them to think for themselves, to glean from other people, but to always think it through.
I appreciate this glimpse into a New Testament people: Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Acts 17:11
In a sense this is what those who are in the process of deconstructing their faith are doing. But my big question is: are they starting with knowing God? People can question the things they were taught as they grew up in the church – but the first question they need to sort out is – who is God. Who is God without the church telling me who He is.
This is the key for me – if we answer what we believe about any issue or question of life we face without knowing what we believe about God – then we are starting at the wrong place. If we don’t start with knowing that God is true then we are building our beliefs on our feelings and on the beliefs of other people.
We must start with asking: what do I believe about God – is He who He says He is?
Then we ask – what else do I believe?
What do I believe about me, my weaknesses and my strengths?
What do I believe about life here on earth and the ever after?
What do I believe about the people in my community, my neighbor (locally or globally)?
What do I believe about social, political, economic issues?
What do I believe about church life?
What do I believe about what I’ve been taught in church?
Help as a Parent
There are many public profile Christians who are declaring they are deconstructing their faith and even then saying they are no longer Christians. This is a concerning trend and one that has possibly impacted your young people.
Unfortunately many people on this path of questioning their faith say “Deconstruction is simply a term used to describe the process that someone undergoes when the doubts and questions result in a dismantling of their previously held beliefs.”**
I believe we can ask questions and still believe in God.
Still believe in the saving grace of Jesus.
Still believe in the transformed life as we walk in obedience to the Holy Spirit.
I share these thoughts with you to encourage you as a parent, to
- Learn how to ask questions and study the Bible for yourself
- Grow in your confidence that God will speak to you, guide you, teach you (this is why Jesus sent the Holy Spirit).
- Teach your children to ask questions and study the Bible for themselves.
- Teach your children to see the implications of what they say they believe, and to question their beliefs and actions
- Be okay with questions. Be okay with your kids questioning their beliefs.
- Be ready to have an answer for your own faith, and if you don’t have answers, be ready to ask questions, find answers, and share your journey
As our teens grew into young adults and as they forge their way in their 20’s we have encouraged them to voice their questions about issues the world faces. We have been okay with them not knowing, with having doubts and uncertainties. But the first conversation has to be about their faith in God, not the questions about certain issues.
We want them to have a faith in God that is relevant and true in today’s world. There is no doubt that a faith in God is likely to be at odds with things that society believes – but we need to decide – am I a follower of Christ and then we talk about what that means.
*definition of deconstructionism https://joshdekeyzer.com/faith-deconstruction/
**definition of deconstructing faith https://p2c.com/students/articles/lets-deconstruct-deconstruction/
How to Respond when Teens Question their Faith: When teens question their faith don’t take personally. They are just asking questions – and they need good answers. Be careful how you respond.
I had Faith, now it is up to my Kids: When parents make decisions with faith we need to pray that our children will have the faith to walk in the consequences of our faith.
Christian Parenting is about Discipleship in the Family: Christian Parenting is about discipleship in the family. As Christians we are called to make disciples; and our children are the first people we are to teach.
How to Teach Kids who live in a Christian Home about Jesus: For kids who grow up in a Christian home they need to know that being a Christian is relationship with Jesus – it isn’t about doing good.
Over to you:
Have you questioned things you’ve believed over the years?