Thursday, February 18, 2010

Glimpses...part 1

In the first post on this deconstruction/doubt topic, I talked about how I’m in a state of deconstruction, with only glimpses of what a reconstructed faith would look like. In this post, I would like to talk about some of those glimpses, i.e. what are characteristics that we comprise a reconstructed faith. Think of it as puzzle pieces. At this point, I’m not sure how the pieces will come together and what the reconstructed faith will look like. Here are the glimpses:

A Continually Deconstructing Faith – Whatever the reconstructed faith looks like, it will always be subject to further deconstruction. Sounds oxymoronic, but it’s true. Even after my faith is reconstructed, that doesn’t mean I’ve arrived and finally have it nailed down. As I said previously, there are always human constructions that are built up around our core (relationship with God, others, self) that inhibit the full expression of love in those relationships. Some call it sin, missing the mark, whatever. To continually allow the Other (God, others, self-reflection) to challenge our core is the path towards wholeness.

A Post-Foundational Faith – Previous to my deconstruction, the Bible acted as the foundation of my faith; or stated more accurately, MY interpretation of the Bible acted as the foundation of my faith. I believed that “the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it”. I believed that the Bible had the last word on all matters, including science, sociology, psychology, etc. As I began to re-evaluate this, I discovered that I was operating under what philosophers call Foundationalism. It is a belief in an indubitable (beyond question and self-evident through reason) foundation that all other beliefs are built upon. I think this understanding of the Bible is a product of the Enlightenment and would be foreign to the original writers/hearers of the Scriptures. Coupled with postmodern interpretation theory and the role of community in interpretation, the indubitable foundation of the Bible and my individual interpretations is no longer valid for me. Much more could be said about the tie between Enlightenment rationality, individualism, and it’s affect on interpretation, but that will suffice for now. My foundation is God’s love (but…even that needs to continually be deconstructed….what is Love? What does it look like? How would the oppressed hear the message of God’s love?)

A More Holistic Faith – This sort of ties to what I said above about the Bible. After studying the cultural, historical, and generic understandings of the Scriptures, I now see that the Bible is a very mysterious, sometimes paradoxical, sometimes violent, beautiful collection of stories, laws, poetry, myth, etc that details the God/human interaction throughout history and during specific cultural and historical settings. It’s not the final word on all matters of science, psychology, etc, nor was it intended as such. When I say holistic, I mean a faith that sees all truth as God’s, whether it comes from science, sociology, literary theory, etc. I’m still processing through how the Bible fits with all that. Some, like Wesley, used a quadrilateral of scripture, reason, tradition, experience…with Scripture being primary. Others, like John Franke, use terms like “norming norm” for the Scriptures in light of culture, tradition, reason, etc. Not sure where I land on this yet. If the Bible is to be primary, or the mediating source (which I’m not convinced of at this point), how is it to be so? Is it based on the story it tells, the authority of it (a whole other can of worms), something else??

A Move from Believing the Right Things to Believing in the Right Way – Stole this one from Peter Rollins, but I like it. It’s a move from rationality and mental agreement with doctrines to how what I believe affects me. Does what I believe make me more loving towards God and others? If not, then no matter what the “doctrine” is, I am not believing it in the right way. It is believing with a humble open hand instead of a dogmatic closed fist. It’s moving from either/or dualistic thinking to both/and thinking.

Four is good for now. More to come. Thoughts anyone???

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Quote about questioning...

I thought this quote was appropriate to these latest posts. I just received Brian McLaren's new book in the mail yesterday. While I probably won't be able to dive in to the book until some of my class reading is done, I did come across this quote at the beginning of the book. It's Brian quoting someone else:

Never accept and be content with unanalyzed assumptions, assumptions about the work, about the people, about the church or Christianity. Never be afraid to ask questions about the work we have inherited or the work we are doing. There is no question that should not be asked or that is outlawed. The day we are completely satisfied with what we have been doing; the day we have found the perfect, unchangeable system of work, the perfect answer, never in need of being corrected again, on that day we will know that we are wrong, that we have made the greatest mistake of all. - Vincent J. Donovan

Monday, February 8, 2010

Doubt part 2

As a follow-up to my previous post about doubt/deconstruction, I thought I would address a question I got from a trusted friend. How far is too far when it comes to deconstruction? or stated another way, is it possible to go too far?

For me, the answer is no, it's not possible to deconstruct too far. Let me qualify that though. If one's intention is to: know and love God deeper, know and love others deeper, know and love oneself (and how we were uniquely created) deeper, and know and love God's creation deeper, then no, you can not desconstruct too much.

If one believes, like I do, that our thoughts about God, others, ourselves, and creation are shaped by culture, context, history, etc, can we also agree that those thoughts are human constructions? Even if we talk about revelation, we still have to say that revelation is mediated through our humanity. No one has the God's eye view of truth. It's amazing how we can think we finally have God nailed down. The church throughout history has thought that, and I would offer that they were/are wrong. Right about things? Yes, of course. Beyond and above deconstruction? No, of course not. And, this finitude (the condition of our humanity) is not something that is a problem, but it leads to a plurality of truth (Thanks John Franke for exploring this topic!).

So if our ideas and thoughts are human constructions, my contention is that they are always open to deconstruction. And, in fact, deconstruction should be the normal way of life for someone on the path to an integrated spiritual wholeness. Deconstruction is allowing the voice of the Other (God, another person, another culture, another lens to view things, etc) to be heard and embraced.

Next post - I talked about glimpes of a reconstructed faith in the first post about doubt. So, in the absense of clarity, what are some of the characteristics that will be part of a reconstructed faith?