Travel Light; Travel Long
Keeping it simple.
There’s a conversation among some Christians about “deconstructing their faith” and however you like or dislike the phrase, I do think it’s wise to look into what it is one is supposedly professing.
One of the most recent conversations I listened in on is between music artists Ruslan and Joseph Solomon, which I’ll link to at the end of the post. Essentially, where I want to land at is the idea of focusing on what’s core to Christianity. And though that may seem like it too will vary, it really shouldn’t.
Let’s first unpack the premise of this deconstructing notion, then take a look at three passages that together help unpack this idea of light travel mentioned in that interview.
Deconstruction of Faith
Just what does this even mean? Well, from what I’ve gathered across the board, it is the rediscovery (or questioning) of what the Bible actually says about salvation, Jesus, sin and its overall message God is delivering throughout history.
At the core, individuals are going back to the beginning of their experience with Jesus and the Church, what was taught, what the environment was like in light of the individual’s past or current experiences and finding glaring flaws and division among Christian practitioners, especially the divide between ethnic, racial or color differences.
It isn’t so much about someone walking away from the faith, but attempting to piece together everyday experiences with the call and reality of the Gospel.
For example, if someone is brought into the faith by a person that is later discovered to have a strong racist worldview, s/he not only questions the validity of the person who brought them to the faith, but the reality of the things they were taught by that person as well.
This deconstruction also calls into question “hard-line” doctrines and lines of theology that although seem to be so important, in fact only cause further burden upon the believer ends up being extra-curricular to the Gospel message and hope in Jesus.
A Necessary Way of Life
But even the message we’ve been handed down through the Bible is that those who follow God lead necessary lives. In other words, since the experience in this world isn’t the best God has to offer, we take what we need in order to reach our goal—Resurrection.
We’re talking about holding onto what is essential in being a believer—something that’s shared among all members of the Church. And the New Testament writers are clear on what those things are:
1 Corinthains 15:1-8
Now brothers, I want to clarify for you the gospel I proclaimed to you; you received it and have taken your stand on it. 2 You are also saved by it, if you hold to the message I proclaimed to you—unless you believed for no purpose. 3 For I passed on to you as most important what I also received:
that Christ died for our sins
according to the Scriptures,
4 that He was buried,
that He was raised on the third day
according to the Scriptures,
5 and that He appeared to Cephas,
then to the Twelve.
6 Then He appeared to over 500 brothers at one time;
most of them are still alive,
but some have fallen asleep.
7 Then He appeared to James,
then to all the apostles.
8 Last of all, as to one abnormally born,[c]
He also appeared to me.
Then Jesus spoke to them (the religious leaders) again: “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.”
13 So the Pharisees said to Him, “You are testifying about Yourself. Your testimony is not valid.”
14 “Even if I testify about Myself,” Jesus replied, “My testimony is valid,because I know where I came from and where I’m going. But you don’t know where I come from or where I’m going. 15 You judge by human standards. I judge no one. 16 And if I do judge, My judgment is true, because I am not alone, but I and the Father who sent Me judge together. 17 Even in your law it is written that the witness of two men is valid. 18 I am the One who testifies about Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me.”
19 Then they asked Him, “Where is Your Father?”
“You know neither Me nor My Father,” Jesus answered. “If you knew Me, you would also know My Father.” 20 He spoke these words by the treasury, while teaching in the temple complex. But no one seized Him, because His hour had not come.
Jesus Predicts His Departure
21 Then He said to them again, “I’m going away; you will look for Me, and you will die in your sin. Where I’m going, you cannot come.”
22 So the Jews said again, “He won’t kill Himself, will He, since He says, ‘Where I’m going, you cannot come’?”
23 “You are from below,” He told them, “I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 Therefore I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”
25 “Who are You?” they questioned.
“Precisely what I’ve been telling you from the very beginning,” Jesus told them. 26 “I have many things to say and to judge about you, but the One who sent Me is true, and what I have heard from Him—these things I tell the world.”
27 They did not know He was speaking to them about the Father. 28 So Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing on My own. But just as the Father taught Me, I say these things. 29 The One who sent Me is with Me. He has not left Me alone, because I always do what pleases Him.”
OK. Now, what Paul says he shared is simple: Jesus came according to plan and died on our behalf, to free us from slavery to sin because of death, that he was actually buried because his body became a corpse, was then raised to life by God the Spirit and then revealed himself to not one, not two, not even three people—but to at least 500 believers to lead the way into new Creation. The context in which he’s speaking is that the Resurrection is essential to the faith.
Next we jump to a scene in John, where Jesus is talking to the religious leaders of the day and at this point in the story told them multiple times who he is. Jesus says multiple times that he is the God of Israel; that he is Yahweh; that they’re eternity rests on accepting, trusting this revelation. It’s why he says in verse 24 that they are left for dead if they don’t believe that he’s God come among humans (and that phrase “I am he” in Greek is “I AM,” which is a callback to the revelation in Exodus 3:14.)
Then there’s one more place, where Jesus spells out just how this truth is supposed to impact our daily lives,
“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another.
This love that Jesus refers to is activity, doing for others, treating people with care, acts of building up and support.
So in a nutshell, what’s essential is receiving who Jesus says he is—he’s the only true God; what he says—love God and love neighbor; what he did—he came to rescue from sin and death all who would live according to trust in him and following in his footsteps in anticipation of the day when he will gather his people to himself and take this world in an entirely new direction. This is what’s essential according to Scripture.
What About Everything Else?
At the end of the day, if what is followed is extrapolation of the text
(however thoughtful) where matters don’t seem to be so clearly understood, that doesn’t mean that it is what the text is saying in light of its own context.
There are a lot of denominations and flavors of Christianity, preferences if we’re being honest about the situation (and we are). The traditions that many follow today are constructs of men, ways in which they sought to understand the text in light of the circumstances they were facing (take the Reformers focus on addressing certain things in regards to Catholicism, for instance).
But however helpful (or not) these systems of thought are, they shouldn’t replace actually addressing the text on its own terms, nor do they hold essential place within the Christian faith.
In the end, these systems of thought are all worth at least parsing through, because at the end of the day Christ Jesus is the foundation of the faith. Ideas and ways of thinking about certain matters may change, but Jesus remains (1 Co 3:1-23). Isn’t that what Paul in his letter is getting at?
Let’s not spend so much time getting caught up in the extra-curricular matters, but striving to live more and more of the essential truths that have been preserved for us. I believe that’s how we can go strong and long in our faith journeys and make it to the end. After all, Jesus himself said that his rope is easy and his burdens light. Live up to what is essential.
Fore-mentioned video: When Your Theology Fails You