Deconstructing Deconstructionist TikTok Videos – Part 1

To “deconstruct” something is to seek to take something apart and examine the parts that make it up.

In my Masters studies, one of my focuses was on “theological method,” which is a process by which you can deconstruct the implicit process by which people arrive at different theological beliefs or conclusions. (For more on Theological Method, click here)

#Deconstruction #Exvangelical

However, the word “deconstruction” is currently being used in popular culture in a way which is different from the scholarly usage of the term. People who were raised in Christian environments are deconstructing their faith, which means that they are questioning what they were taught and believed.

This is nothing new, people have been doing this for thousands of years, and sometimes it can be a very good thing. For example, it is helpful to go through the process of differentiating what about a belief system is culturally influenced, which parts are tangental or superfluous “chaff” which deserves to be shed, or at least relegated to secondary importance, and which things are core, essential beliefs.

It is also important and necessary for a person, as they mature, to make the transition from inherited or assumed belief, to personal and sincere, heartfelt beliefs. This is exactly what we see in the Book of Deuteronomy, for example, where Moses speaks to the new generation: their parents had been the ones who had experienced the Exodus and had seen God’s miraculous provision in the splitting of the Red Sea, water from the rock, and the fire on the mountain. This new generation had heard about these things, but had not experienced them personally, and in Deuteronomy – at the end of his life, Moses speaks to this younger generation and urges them that they must have their own faith, they can’t merely ride on the coattails of their parents’ faith.

In the process of examining what you believe and why, some people go through a process of deconstruction: a critical examination of what they were taught, what they experienced in the church environment, and whether actually believe those things themselves. This is always a precarious process by nature, but in a way, it is necessary for a vibrant, personal faith commitment.

Recently there has been a trend online, encouraging people to deconstruct their faith, but not necessarily for asking important questions which will lead to vibrant, personal faith – rather more for the purpose of influencing others to abandon their faith in Christianity.

Don’t Forget to Deconstruct Your Deconstruction…

In examining some of the videos and other materials that people have shared with me on this topic, what I’ve found is that many of these people, while they may be sincere, they fail to deconstruct their deconstruction.

Theological Method is, in fact, the true and greater deconstruction, because it has the capacity to not only deconstruct religious beliefs, it also has the capacity to deconstruct the reasons why people abandon their previously-held religious beliefs, or even why people reject certain beliefs altogether.

I describe what Theological Method is and how it works in this podcast episode: Theological Method: Why People Arrive at Different Conclusions about Faith and the Bible.

Theological Method: Sources of Theology and Why People Arrive at Different Conclusions About Matters of Faith and the Bible Theology for the People

In this episode, Nick and Mike discuss the topic of "theological method", which involves the study of how people arrive at theological conclusions based on how they use the "sources of theology" in relation to each other. We discuss the 5 commonly recognized sources of theology, explain different theological methods that exist, and how they relate to interpreting the Bible in light of our ever-changing world. Check out the Theology for the People blog site at nickcady.org

Let’s Deconstruct a Deconstruction TikTok

Recently someone sent me this video, and asked for my take on it.

This person comes across smart, winsome, and knowledgable about Christianity. There are some things she says which are correct about what Christians believe regarding the person of Jesus and his atoning death.

The problem with her argument, however, comes at the beginning where she lays out the basis of her premise. Her fundamental assumption is that God has established some completely arbitrary rules, and then punishes people for breaking those rules. Then, she claims that Jesus’ death was essential unnecessary, since it was just God appeasing his own unnecessary rules which he set up in the first place.

Her Assumptions: God’s “Rules” are Arbitrary, and Judgment is Unnecessary

This woman’s view of sin, is that sin = things which God forbids, or not doing what God commands. In other words, her view is that nothing is inherently bad or good, but God capriciously chooses what He thinks are bad or good, and imposes that standard on His subjects.

The problem with this view, is that it is NOT what the Bible actually teaches. What the Bible teaches is that morality is rooted in actuality: some things are actually good, and other things are actually bad – whether God says they are or not, and whether you believe in God or not.

In other words: Sin is not bad because it is forbidden, rather: Sin is forbidden because it is bad.

Sin is Not Bad Because It’s Forbidden, Sin is Forbidden Because It’s Bad

As Moses tells the Israelites in Deuteronomy: All of God’s commandments have been for your good always. (Deuteronomy 5:29, 6:24, 10:13). Since God loves, and since He knows more than you, He – as a loving Father – tells you what to do and what not to do, because sin (missing the mark, doing wrong) is destructive. It’s as if there’s a glass of water and a glass of antifreeze on the table, and God’s command is: “Drink the water, Don’t drink the antifreeze!” – and our reply is: “God is just making up arbitrary rules…” No, God loves you enough to tell you, based on his infinite knowledge, what will be best for you.

Furthermore, as God is the embodiment of goodness and love, morality is directly linked to his character and attributes. For this reason, to rebel against God is to sin, and this brings with it the natural consequence of judgment for those actions.

Interestingly, we live in a world today where there is an increasing consensus and belief that certain activities (racism, hatred, prejudice, etc.) are fundamentally, objectively wrong (whether you believe in God or not). It is widely accepted that to do those things is actually wrong and deserves some form of judgment. This is based on the belief that there is a standard of morality which is not arbitrarily defined by a cosmic deity, but which truly and actually exists. This is what Christians, informed and confirmed by the Bible, actually believe as well.

So, the premise presented in this video can be seen to be a gross misrepresentation of what the Bible teaches and what Christians believe.

Did Jesus’ Death Cause God to Change His Mind About Judging Us for Our Sins?

One final point: She claims at the end, that because of the death of Jesus, God “changed His mind” about punishing us for His own arbitrary rules. This is not what Christians believe, nor what the Bible teaches either – rather: the message of the gospel is that all of us have sinned and fallen short – not only of God’s standards, but of even our own standards of right and wrong. We have all done things and thought things which missed the mark, and the result of sin is death. However, the good news of God’s grace is that He came to us in the person of Jesus Christ to do for us what we could not do for ourselves: in life, death, and resurrection – in order to reconcile us to Himself without compromising His fundamental characteristics of justice and mercy.

If “justice” = giving someone exactly what they deserve, and “mercy” = not giving someone the judgment they deserve for the wrong things they’ve done, then justice and mercy cannot co-exist since they negate each other. However, as part of the definition of goodness, God, we are told in the Bible is BOTH just and merciful. It is only in His self-sacrifice that we see how these two seemingly incompatible characteristics can both be embodied by God at the same time – and that’s really good news!

Send Me Videos to Deconstruct!

Using this form, send me any TikTok videos you’d like me to deconstruct.

Hermeneutics: How Do We Correctly Interpret What the Bible Says?

This week’s episode of the Theology for the People podcast is a discussion I had with pastors Benjamin Morrison and Craig Babcock on the topic of hermeneutics and Biblical interpretation.

Hermeneutics is the method by which we interpret communication, particularly texts. Legal hermeneutics, for example, is the study of how laws, or the constitution for example, are to be understood and put into practice.

Biblical hermeneutics is all about how to correctly interpret the Bible, so that we can be doers of the Word, not hearers only.

The reason hermeneutics is worth considering is because different people, reading the same Bible, can come to differing conclusions about what it means. The reason that happens is an issue of theological method (see: Theological Method: Sources of Theology and Why People Arrive at Different Conclusions About Matters of Faith & the Bible) and hermeneutics.

It must be said that not all hermeneutics are equally valid. Some hermeneutics are better than others. Sometimes we even intentionally use a hermeneutics in order to properly interpret something, as we do with “Christ-centered hermeneutics” – in which we intentionally read all of Scripture as pointing to Jesus, which we do because Jesus himself told us that this was the proper way to read and interpret the Old Testament Scriptures (see Luke 24:44-48).

Other examples of good hermeneutics would be “biblical hermeneutics,” in which read the Bible understanding all of the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, meaning that each individual part of the Bible should be understood in light of what the rest of the Bible says. We might intentionally choose to read the gospels through a Jewish lens, seeking to put ourselves sin their shoes in order to understand the things that happened or were said.

Oftentimes, however, our hermeneutics are not intentional, and we may not be aware of them, and they do impact how we interpret and understand what the Bible says. How then can we become aware of the hermeneutics we’re unintentionally using so that we can determine if they are good or not?

In this episode we discuss this and other questions surrounding the topic of hermeneutics. You can listen here or in the embedded player below.

Hermeneutics: How Do We Correctly Interpret What the Bible Says? – with Benjamin Morrison & Craig Babcock Theology for the People

In this episode Nick Cady and special co-host Craig Babcock speak with Benjamin Morrison, lead pastor of Calvary Chapel Svitlovodsk, Ukraine and coordinator for City to City Ukraine, about the topic of hermeneutics: the interpretation of texts, particularly the Bible. Hermeneutics and biblical interpretation is the focus of Ben's masters studies at London School of Theology, Nick's alma mater.  What is hermeneutics, and why is it important? Can't we just read the Bible without having to worry about interpretation? As Ben shows us, everyone who reads the Bible has a hermeneutics and we are all interpreters, the question is: are you a good and faithful interpreter of the biblical text? If, as Ben points out, not all hermeneutics are equally good, then how can we determine which ones are better than others and how do we identify our own hermeneutics in order to examine whether they are good or not? We discuss these questions in this episode.

Theological Method and the Leaning Tower of Pisa

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Did you know that the Leaning Tower of Pisa is not the only leaning tower in Pisa? There are actually several leaning towers in Pisa as a result of the soft soil in that area.

Did you know that the Leaning Tower of Pisa originally leaned in the other direction? As the builders saw the tower beginning to lean, they built the subsequent levels with one side higher in an attempt to straighten it out by putting more weight on the one side. It ended up being an overcorrection which resulted in the tower leaning in the opposite direction, in which it currently leans.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa as a Picture of the Importance of Theological Method

In my studies at LST I have been studying the topic of theological method. Everyone who thinks about God or the Bible does so methodologically, although they do so with varying degrees of self-awareness and consistency.

There are 5 universally recognized sources of theology: Scripture, Tradition, Reason, Experience and Community.

The way in which a person orders these, the role they believe each of these play, how much importance or credence they give to each one, and how they believe each relates to the other are the questions that go into play in one’s theological method.

Basically: theological method is about the foundations of how we think about God and the Bible.

What we learn from the Leaning Tower of Pisa is that foundations are pretty important. And what happens if you build on a poor foundation, or don’t take care about the foundation you lay – the mistakes the builders in Pisa made – then you will likely end up with a faulty edifice.

Another thing that can happen if you don’t pay attention to foundations is that, like in Pisa, you will end up trying to save your edifice by trying to compensate or over-correct, in which case you may end up leaning in the opposite direction. As Martin Luther said, many of us are like a drunk man trying to ride a horse, who – upon falling off the one side, resolves not to make that mistake again, so he remounts, careful to avoid falling of on the left, and promptly falls off on the right.

A proper theological method will always be driven by Scripture. Reason is a God-given ability which helps us understand His divine revelation, but one which does have its limits in fallen humanity. Tradition is about recognizing the historic interpretations of the Bible by the Body of Christ, such as the Trinity. Again, tradition is not without its errors either, as it has humanity’s fingerprints on it, so this cannot be what drives our theology either. Experience is effective in confirming what we read in Scripture, but what about when we feel something that seems contrary to what the Bible teaches? In these cases, we are to interpret our experiences by the Scriptures, not the other way around. And our community obviously shapes how we read Scripture, but we are to apply the Scriptures to our times and places rather than changing our understandings of Biblical truths based on present cultural mores. Scripture, God’s revelation of Himself, is the proper foundation.

Here is a short video about the Leaning Tower of Pisa:

Wesley on Money

I’ve been reading a book on John Wesley’s theological method for my master’s course, and found an interesting section on his teachings and practice in regard to money.

Here’s an excerpt:

Wesley’s care for people extended beyond their spiritual well-being. In his time he was in the forefront of helping to alleviate the social ills of 18th-century England. His care for souls extended to the whole person, especially among the poor, the uneducated, the sick and the dispossessed – for example, slaves and prisoners.

The poor received special attention. He provided basic medical care and wrote simple medical manuals to help those who could not afford professional healthcare. At Kingswood school he set up a benevolent loan fund for people with immediate financial needs, the only stipulation being that they should repay the loan within three months.

Wesley preached what he practiced. Many sermons were intended to instruct on how to handle money. His best-known sermon dealing with money is entitled “The Use of Money.” In it Wesley exhorted Christians to “gain all you can, save all you can, and give all you can.” Wesley soon discovered that his followers were good at the first two principles, but ignored the third principle against surplus accumulation, which he considered the leading ill of Christian praxis. He was so concerned over the misuse of money and corresponding injustices that he published several sermons specifically warning about the spiritual danger to the person who does not give.

(Thorson, The Wesleyan Quadrilateral: a model of evangelical theology, 53-54)

Several stories are told about Wesley’s passion for good stewardship of money came about. First of all, he grew up in poverty. His father was a minister and John was one of 9 kids.

As a young man, Wesley was accepted into Oxford University. At Oxford, he had just finished paying for some pictures to decorate his room, when one of the maids came to his door. It was a cold day and she only had a threadbare gown to wear with no coat. He reached in his pocked to give her money to buy a coat, but he found that he had too little left after decorating his room. He asked himself, “Will thy Master say, ‘Well done, good and faithful steward’? O justice! O mercy! Are these pictures the blood of this poor maid?”

Starting in 1731, Wesley reportedly began limiting his expenses so he would have more that he could give away. He records that one year his income was 30 pounds and his living expenses were 28 pounds, so he had 2 pounds to give away. The next year his income doubled, but he still managed to live on 28 pounds, so he had 32 pounds to give away. In the third year, his income jumped to 90 pounds. Instead of letting his expenses rise with his income, he kept them to 28 pounds and gave away 62 pounds. In the fourth year, he received 120 pounds. As before, his expenses were 28 pounds, so his giving rose to 92 pounds.

Wesley felt that the Christian should not merely tithe but give away extra income. He believed that with increasing income, what should rise is not the Christian’s standard of living but their standard of giving.

With increased income, what should rise is not the Christian’s standard of living but their standard of giving.

One year his income was a little over 1400 pounds. He lived on 30 pounds and gave away nearly 1400 pounds.

Wesley encouraged Christians to “gain all you can,” meaning that it is good to make a lot of money. However, he added that in gaining all you can, Christians must be careful not to damage their own souls, minds, or bodies, or the souls, minds, or bodies of anyone else. He prohibited gaining money through industries that took advantage of others, exploiting them or endangering them.

Wesley outlined four guidelines for spending one’s income:

  1. Provide things needful for yourself and your family (1 Timothy 5:8)
  2. Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content (1 Timothy 6:8)
  3. Provide things honest in the sight of all men (Romans 12:17) & Owe no many anything (Romans 13:8)
  4. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10)

I was challenged and encouraged by reading about Wesley’s attitudes and practices with money. I hope you are too.

Let’s not stop with only being inspired – but may we be moved to action! Is there a change that needs to be made in the way you view or handle money?