Deconstruction

WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) – became a popular christian slogan.

I enjoyed the similarly titled book, namely, What Would Jesus Deconstruct.

It is so much safer to leave these saying as popular slogans and not give them any serious thought … for one of the things Jesus would surely do today, is deconstruct our ideas about the scriptures. He did so when he walked this earth … and is still up to the same mischief today!

Imagine being part of a skeptical audience addressed by Jesus.

Jesus begins his message by quoting from the scriptures: “You’ve heard it said …”

After quoting the scripture he continues: “But I say to you …”

Excuse me! Did he just elevate his own words above scripture?

This might be enough for most audiences to leave.

Jesus deconstructed scripture … and introduced us to a whole new way of understanding them.

We began a journey of deconstructing popular ideas about the Bible a few weeks ago. Deconstruction is not simply a destructive process, it is a necessary step for opening up new creative possibilities. Today I want to bring some of those thoughts to their conclusion before we start the second half of our journey – a reconstructive one.

In the second article, The Error of Inerrancy, the definition of inerrancy was clarified. Now I know that there are a few who are able to carefully interpret the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy in such a way that they are still able to accept contradictions in Scripture. However, as we have travelled to believing communities in many countries, it has become clear that what inerrancy means in practice to ordinary believers is simply this:

  • Every statement in scripture is true and correct;
  • For it has one author – God – and as such every statement is the inerrant word of God;
  • Therefore there cannot be any faults or contradictions.

One cannot blame people for such a simplistic view of inerrancy as a plain and literal reading of the doctrine of inerrancy says exactly that.

With the rest of the series up until, When God disagrees with Scripture, my aim was to show why I cannot, in honesty, hold to a doctrine of inerrancy any more.

In, The Vulnerability of Scripture, I showed how my relationship with scripture matured. Below I have summarized how my view of scripture now differs from an inerrantist point of view.

Before After
One author, one voice Many authors, many voices
No contradictions Many contradictions
Factually correct Factual errors
Historic factual perfection Historic Philosophy
Original perfection Chaotic story moving towards a beautiful conclusion
One-dimensional monologue Conversation – dynamic dialogue
Authoritarian relationship Friendship of vulnerability (which carries more authority than an dictatorship)
Every statement is God’s word The whole narrative, with all its characters, voices and flaws is part of God’s conversation with us.
The Word that was in the beginning with God, was God … and became the Bible! The Word that was in the beginning with God, was God … and became flesh.

As many are making this journey in their relationship with the scriptures, I sometimes hear people say: “ … but does this not complicate the Bible … how will I know when God is speaking and when people are speaking …”

This implies that an inerrant view of scripture would make it easier to understand. Ironically though, among those who agree that the Bible has one author – God Himself – and that it is inerrant in everything it states … you won’t find two who agree as to what the Bible actually says. It seems that the only thing they agree on is something you cant find in the Bible – the doctrine of inerrancy!

Certainly a maturing relationship with scripture does open up a whole new dimension in the same way a meaningful conversation requires more participation than listening to a monologue. Yet such conversation brings more clarity to the message not less. Recognizing many voices in the scriptures, makes the voice of God more distinct, not less. How to distinguish will be explored in upcoming articles.

Acknowledging the contradictions in scripture also allows me to honestly listen to each author … instead of enforcing a predetermined meaning on every narrative to make them all say the same thing. It actually makes things much simpler if I don’t have to force Luke to say the same thing as Matthew.

They contradict one another.

Once I got over that, I could listen more carefully to their individually unique messages.

Acknowledging errors, faults and imperfections … allows me to see even more clearly that these authors were people just like us. Just as God chose to speak to us most clearly through a human being just like us – Jesus – the book He often speaks through is also fully human. The Bible as the word of man, makes it uniquely relevant to humanity. The imperfections in the text do not give ground for accusation or distrust, rather, as with all intimate friendships, vulnerability becomes a key ingredient to a growing relationship.

I trust that you are starting to see the positive possibilities that open up when the doctrine of inerrancy is abandoned for what I consider to be an altogether more honest approach to scripture. As we venture further into the reconstructive half of this series, it is important to clarify what that means and what it does not mean.

The intention with the deconstructive phase was not simply pull apart long held beliefs and expose them as false. Neither is the purpose of the reconstructive phase to build a new structure of correct beliefs. Rather, deconstruction is an ongoing attitude in which we remain mindful of how our thoughts and beliefs are structured. And even in the reconstructive phase there is an ongoing process of replacing unconscious assumptions with conscious conclusions.

Reconstruction is not building a new perfect doctrine in the place of the old deconstructed one. Rather, it is equipping us for an adventurous journey – one filled with risk and danger. This journey has no guaranteed destination. For as we follow the pioneer of our faith, we discover that true faith shows itself most clearly, not in the certainty of how right we are, but in the midst of difficult … impossible situations. The goal is not to teach you exactly what to think and believe about the scriptures, but rather how to explore and how to think – how to find yourself inserted into a living narrative.

Has anything changed in the way you approach scripture?

12 Responses to “What Would Jesus Deconstruct? Part 7 in The Scripture Series

  1. Bobby Kendall on

    Thank you Andre! It’s true that when we realize that the scriptures are evidence of a vulnerable, interactive, human account of our experiences with and thoughts about God, we begin to view the experience as ongoing and even more tangible and authentic. Thank you for your thoughts and I’m excited about reading what’s to follow.

    Reply
  2. Nick on

    Good stuff Andre. Some have said the Bible reveals the struggle of religion with revelation. Religion in the sense of a violent, score-keeping, imperialistic diety vs the revelation of God’s true character as self-sacrificing and self-abasing for the good of all.

    Reply
  3. Deborah Henry on

    Philosophy; assumptions and conclusions; structuring approaches…..time-consuming methods and dialogue. Reality check! Realize who you are In Christ and the interaction we have one another and experience God in your daily moments daily by listening and praying better with God and one another.

    Reply
  4. Richard Olafson on

    As always Andre, your shovel is ever digging into the truth of scripture. This conti nually points me to the truth, that is Jesus. I so appreciate your untiring and relentlessly beautiful pursuit of His person. Happy trails!

    Reply
  5. Rachel on

    Some might think – how ridiculous to believe all those things written in the bible as literal or true about God but just like a child bought up in perhaps an abusive home – you just kind of thing that’s normal and still have a relationship with person. A child like trust, that doesn’t question. It’s only later that something might trigger you to begin to question things in the bible. For me I questioned but was appeased with the answer that the violence and atrocities all happened before the cross, but then one verse in particular always used to bug in particularly more as I grew in my relationship with God – it was in Samuel, stating that God had closed Hannah’s womb. I just couldn’t get my head round that, I thought it must be translated wrong or something! It’s funny that I only got stuck on that really. Anyway it’s good to now realise that scripture isn’t perfect, I’m really enjoying the deconstruction and some of the books recommended , looking forward to more. Thank you for writing and in such a clear way.

    Reply
    • Andre Rabe on

      Thank you Rachel. So many of the statements and stories become clear as we realize the bias of the authors. …so much more to come.

      Reply
  6. Esse on

    In the past year, MUCH has changed in the way I approach scripture. I always got “drunk” in the study, but this is a whole otha LEVEL. To approach scripture this way is deep calling unto deep; pulling on faith; enriching and requiring intimacy; throwing us headlong in the trust that God is able to reveal shifting sand from solid rock. It has to be a relational experience. Otherwise, the Bible is a sea of words and with Peter I sink right in. Something of the mystery has been restored. There’s so much to say, but I’m just rejoicing both in the fear and trembling as well as the deep assurance that Christ, the person of Truth, is in it with us, and that’s the way He always intended it to be. Hallelu.

    Reply
    • Andre Rabe on

      How beautiful to find the source of our trust in a mystery deeper than the correctness of text. The text itself find new value when we don’t expect the impossible from it, but simple explore it for what it is … an insight into our own humanity.

      Reply
  7. Andrea on

    “The Bible as the word of man …” What a daring thing to say, and yet so liberating! The Bible used to be the Word of God for so long in my life – yet it ended up becoming stale, even condemning… There were times where I wondered what exactly the difference was between Christianity and Islam. The Holy Qur’an is held to be the inerrant Word of Allah, given to man from heaven directly. Comparing the two books left me questioning the supremacy of the Christian God. Honestly, the God of the Old Testament seemed to be pretty much like the Allah God. Both Gods required mankind to believe and do good things. Well, of course Christians could be sure of their salvation because of the blood of Jesus. And they would love and turn the other cheek, in contrast to what Islam teaches. But this would leave me with the desperate assumption that soon the whole world would be taken over by Islam. What a relief, what a joy, what a hope for me to venture out on this path of discovery with you all. Thank you, Andre, for helping us along!

    Reply
    • Andre Rabe on

      Such a joy to do this journey with friends! Exploring and discovering together … and finding an Abba more trustworthy than any language or story can accurately convey.

      Reply

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