The last few decades have seen major critiques of christian faith from every angle – historical, philosophical, ethical, internal consistency, etc.
A decade or two ago, there was strident criticism from vocal atheists. But in recent times, it seems a lot of the critiques have come from within the christian camp. For many christians, this has been part of a process of faith deconstruction and, sometimes, reconstruction.
What is “faith for the future”?
Christianity can be seen as a set of facts to believe, or a relationship with God or with a christian community, or a set of practices and rituals to follow, or a social and political identity …. and probably other things as well.
Some atheist critics and some christians who deconstruct see it as all or nothing – either it’s all true (which they don’t accept) or nothing is true.
But clearly it’s not that way for many.
For example, you can decide that evolution is true and Genesis 1 is a myth, and therefore that the Bible isn’t literally inerrant, yet still believe in Jesus, or enjoy singing hymns, or benefit from a close and caring christian community.
So many christians find themselves reconstructing their beliefs and practices, letting go those things that they consider no longer true or helpful, but holding on or reconsidering those things they feel are still true and helpful.
They (hopefully) end up with a faith that will stand up to questioning, provide encouragement and comfort, and will go with them into the future.
How to get there?
Some manage the transition quite easily but some struggle to work out what is important and what isn’t, what theological, social and ethical beliefs to hold onto and what must be modified or let go.
I believe there is a logical way to approach all this. I don’t suppose it will be the same for everyone, but here is one approach.
- Look after ourselves. Deconstruction can often include leaving a church or community, sometimes in less than pleasant circumstances. It is good to be at peace in ourselves before we take the next steps.
- Become comfortable with doubt. We don’t have to have all the answers. We can learn to ask good questions and see doubt as a gateway to a new understanding.
- Can we still believe the core beliefs of christanity? Before we answer some of the thorny questions, it is good to be sure about the core. If we can answer questions like …..
• Is there a God and does he love me?
• Was Jesus really the son of God?
• Is the Bible truly God’s word?
….. then we are well on the way to satisfactorily reconstructing our faith. (Or deciding we can no longer believe.)
- Things we don’t have to believe any more. From this foundation, we can re-assess all sorts of doctrines and ethical questions without feeling too threatened.
Get some ideas to help along the way
I’ve written a 32 page booklet covering all these 4 points. It includes reasons to believe, ideas on how to re-think theological questions like how to understand the Bible, hell and the mission of Jesus, and practical questions like patriarchy, church and gender.
It is free to download.
If you download it, please let me know what you think.
Photo: Ohan Badur