December 11, 2019

Reconstruction

I AM A PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIAN because I believe that doubting, questioning and searching is a legitimate and mature expression of faith, and that for many Christians a season of deconstruction is a necessary and vital part of the faith journey.

I AM A POST-PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIAN because I believe a faith journey that terminates and exhausts itself in doubt, negation, and deconstruction will eventually lead to a loss of faith or to a faith that is functionally atheistic. Deconstruction must be followed by reconstruction, and while seasons of deconstruction will continue to play a vital and necessary role going forward, and dark nights of the soul always a live possibility, the reconstructed Christian experience should become increasingly characterized by positivity, joy, affirmation, praise, hope, and faithfulness.

Richard Beck, Post-Progressive Christianity (2)

“Deconstruction must be followed by reconstruction.”

For me, that reconstruction (as a post-evangelical, not a post-progressive) has come primarily…

Through moving from parish ministry as a pastor to serving as a hospice chaplain.

Through moving from the church world into the “ordinary” world of daily life in the community.

Through engaging in an ongoing process of trying to understand what the Bible is and what it is for.

Through moving from immersion in the culture of American evangelicalism to a less separatistic, more “religionless” Christianity (Bonhoeffer).

Through abandoning a more “missionary” mindset to practicing more of a “love your neighbor” mindset.

Through embracing a sacramental perspective, in which God is really present in his creation and we participate in the divine reality.

Through disavowing revivalistic or other deficient models of “worship,” and embracing the fundamentals of historic liturgy.

Through focusing on three primary areas of biblical study: (1) Creation, (2) the Gospels, (3) Eschatology. These foci have helped me construct (1) a robust sense of vocation, (2) a more Jesus-shaped mindset rather than a biblicist mindset, (3) an earthier future hope.

Through moving away from a primarily forensic view of justification to one more akin to theosis, in which the believer participates in the life of God through union with Christ.

As you can see from the many links above (and these are just a sampling), this reconstruction project has largely coincided with my time here writing at Internet Monk.

I have lots of areas where I’ve perhaps gone through the “deconstruction” stage without beginning to rebuild anything solid in its place. For our purposes here, the main one is…

I’m still, to some degree, in the post-ecclesiastical wilderness. When it comes to the institution of the church, I’m still somewhat of a “square peg.”

Comments

  1. Christiane says

    “(3) an earthier future hope.”

    ‘Salvation is created in the midst of the Earth . . . O God, O Our God, Alleluia ‘

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8Wwd4dSZJg

  2. I find the juxtaposition of the “Monday with Michael” post CM chose two days ago (https://internetmonk.com/archive/87125) with the two articles on Post-progressives very interesting.

    I’m casting around for the vocabulary to put my half-formed thoughts into words here, but there was some vague unease around the article and comments on the first post-progressive post.

    I have this thing about people “self defining”: “I’m a such-and-such type of person”. I don’t know why, but presuming to really know yourself seems like a lack of … humility, or something, to me. I have the same problem with people “knowing” what God would do (or worse – what he *should* do!).

    Maybe it’s because I’m just too post-modern or cynical, and certainty makes me queasy? But I think it’s more the unease with people confusing confidence with … the strength of their own opinions.

    And so, people opining on their current theological or spiritual progression, and what to call it, and how they are positioned in relationship to this or that school of thought, and who’s right, and who’s wrong, and why they’re more right than someone else. I don’t know, all of that is just too detached from what seems like real life to me.

    Michael’s article is much closer to what I think our reality is: we mostly haven’t got a clue, and we’re muddling through as best we can. We’ve taken enough knocks to no longer be naive about life and “faith protecting me from ever suffering”; we’re struggling with the ensuing cynicism, because though it eliminates the question of “why me? why this?”, it doesn’t help us with the fact that we are still suffering. And we’re struggling towards a faith-with-eyes-open that says (something like): “though he slay me”, “help thou my unbelief” and “to whom else would we turn?”

    I’m not sure I’m making sense here – and I’m definitely not taking issue with what CM is sharing about his own path through life. Maybe it’s just that given my own tendency to over-intellectualize, live ‘in my head’ and not fully indwell my own life, I am more sensitive to the same thing in others.

    What am I, in truth?

    More broken, lost and confused than conservative, progressive or missional.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > I have this thing about people “self defining”:

      Shared, mostly because it often involves people manufacturing their own meaning for terms. Like “post-progressive”, which clearly implies from this use that “Progressive” = “relentless and limitless deconstruction”. Which is a meaning I have never encountered. That bugs me.

      Language works when it works cooperatively; meaning a loyalty to shared meanings.

      Aside: I have come to suspect that many post-evangelicals retain a contempt/disgust for “liberals”, and that disgust sublimates itself through their deconstruction, seeking a way to re-assert itself.

      > And so, people opining . . .all of that is just too detached from what seems like real life to me.

      It seems akin to real-life to me. It is what people are feeling, and thinking. That’s real; regardless if I agree or not.

      > we mostly haven’t got a clue

      Why this site is so amazing; most people who write and comment here are in full recognition of haven’t-got-a-clue. We are sorting through the clue scraps we have managed to gather.

      > Maybe it’s just that given my own tendency to over-intellectualiz

      Been there. I am a recovering intellectual. 🙂

      • anonymous says

        “most people who write and comment here are in full recognition of haven’t-got-a-clue ”

        you got that right

    • I agree with you. To use another metaphor, this summary is meant more as an overview of the paths down which I’ve been led than a statement of absolute confidence about having arrived.

      Jason Isbell sings,

      “You thought God was an architect, now you know
      He’s something like a pipe bomb, ready to blow…”

      You never really know, but you can chronicle the sights along the way.

  3. Adam Tauno Williams says

    What a great summary.

    If InternetMonk were published as a book, this would be an excellent last chapter. [not implying anything is finished].

  4. > I have this thing about people “self defining”: Adam, if you don’t care for post progressive as self defining would you not also include post evangelical as you describe in your response ?

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      Post-Evangelical exactly describes itself; the meaning of Evangelical used in that expression [aka: actively affiliated with Evangelical institutions] is clear.

      I do not see Post-Progressive as so clear; perhaps because it is not being used in the same sense of affiliation [was there an active affiliation to be post-from?].

      • Rick Ro. says

        All this talk of Post-Evangelical, Post-Progressive, Post-This, Post-That, makes me think of the one “Post” that everyone’s missing…

        Post-Tribulation!

        (sorry. couldn’t resist)

  5. This is not so much a group movement as the natural course of each individual life. Perhaps he is speaking for a large number of people who are overlapping in these experiences at this time but anyone who follows Christ will inevitably go through the darkness to be reconstituted and transformed through the hell of it all. Some, multiple times. Some, less. Everyone to some extent. It’s a biblical promise. Garaunteed! The point is well made that transformation, ‘from glory to glory’, is the aim. It would be morose, self obsessed and self pitying to linger in the pain of that deconstruction and doubt if the time of renewing has dawned. All growth would be stunted.

  6. In Church history there have been times of deconstruction and reconstruction before. These times have usually been characterized by the participants as “getting back to the way the original Church did things”. I think the difference between those times and now is that “getting back to the way the original Church did things” is no longer an option.

    The hardcore conservatives will double down, convinced they alone are maintaining the “true way”.

    The “progressives” or “liberals” or whatever will flounder, caught between obligation to what was and commitment to what is.

    I think we all sense that something is in the process of dying. What we wonder is if something is in the process of being born?

    • Christiane says

      Stephen,
      I think the Body of Christ is experiencing a process of ‘re-integration’.
      It’s a process.

    • I was wrong to narrow it to an individual process. You’re right. There are larger, significant changes going on corporately and they require eyes of faith to appreciate. Nothing apparent seems particularly like the birth of something glorious. It seems more like contention and chaos.