Three Tips from a Pastor to Care for Those Deconstructing

@marusso is back!

What do you say to someone who has suffered so much and has good reasons to leave the faith? Is this really the time to use apologetics? Or is there a better approach?

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Wise words. There are many with similar stories, and these three thoughts are a good place to start to show love;

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‘Do I bring up Alvin Plantiga’s theory of “Transworld Depravity”?’ There is no possible world in which bringing up the theory of Transworld Depravity is a good idea.

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I find our local world depravity more than enough. Let’s not start importing any more. :wink:

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And yet thanks to you (or I guess responsibility goes back to the article itself?) - there is at least one more google search hit now for that phrase, just to see what the heck that is. (Note for future enquirers - I think it’s safe to say … ‘there’s nothing to see here.’)

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Kind of hard to render apologetics when you’re listening and being compassionate, isn’t it?
Isaiah 40:1 comes to mind: “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God.”

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I had to google it and I immediately closed the browser tab once I saw the basic definition.

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The problem I have with the expression “deconstructing one’s faith” is that it doesn’t accurately reflect what happens in many cases. The problem is that it suggests a process that is proactive and deliberate, where you’re throwing out anything and everything, and being cheered on as you do so.

While some people do go down this route, for others, it’s a completely different story. It’s a story of being confronted – sometimes in no uncertain terms – with things that have forced you to re-evaluate a whole lot of things that you’d taken on board. Things such as losing your job, or losing a loved one, or getting into serious trouble as a result of putting things that you had been taught into practice, or discovering that people who you had trusted and looked up to as authority figures had been lying to you. It’s a painful process because while you still know and love Jesus as your Saviour, you no longer know who you can trust who speaks in His Name. You can see that there’s a whole lot of stuff you’re going to need to jettison, but at the same time you also consider it really, really important to avoid throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

The Bible has some different terminology for that altogether. It talks about your faith being tested. It talks about a refiner’s fire – making an analogy with intense heat melting all the things so that the impurities can rise to the surface and be skimmed off, leaving the precious metals behind. Personally I think that if we stuck with that kind of terminology, we’d make things a lot easier for people who are struggling in that way.

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I would agree that deconstruction is a bit different process, but the article does a good job of describing how to address someone having a crisis of faith, even though maybe not really deconstructing. To me deconstructing is the conscious process of no longer believing certain aspects that perhaps one has taken for granted. The building is disassembled one board at a time, and the problem then how to reconstruct or rebuild, or if the deconstruction will continue until the building is down. The crisis of faith one sees with some of these overwhelming losses is more like a a house fire or an avalanche hitting, where you wonder if there is anything left to rebuild.

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There needs to be yet another Google search. However, Plantiga comes up in Penner’s book. So, it’s all relevant.

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@jammycakes, I agree with you completely regarding the term “deconstruction.” It really is a technical term refering to analytical techniques applied to the logic of texts.
However it has found its way into common use and will stay there until colloquial English evolves a bit more, when it’s replaced by common users by some other term. We’re stuck with it for now.

Regarding the OP and article, this is good advice for anyone confronted by a person dealing with the disolution of their faith.

I have watched the end of the process in a college friend, decades ago. As @jammycakes said, it was not Bill deliberately dismantling his faith, but his work in literature and postmodern literary criticism, particularly in the areas of deconstruction, doing the work for him.

Bill, a pastor’s son, was looking for answers to questions no person of faith that he knew was able to process or was prepared to help him answer. His work in literature gave him answers he didn’t want, but that were truer than anything anyone else had to offer. The dear young man was completely unprepared for the suffering that accompanied the disolution of his faith as well as the continuing suffering that was probably the seed in the beginning of the process.

My husband and I were honored, yet baffled, when Bill showed up at our apartment and talked for hours and wept, while we packed boxes for the next move as grad students. We recognized then that Bill needed to pour his heart out, which he did while we made appropriate, mostly wordless responses. The best thing we had to offer him that night was the empathy/simpathy/compassion to listen and an invitation to join us and another couple in our plan s to eat at the local Chinese restaurant, which he did. That night friendship and dumplings were what he needed. None of it solved his problems, but it kept him alive to try again the next day.

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Do I bring up Alvin Plantiga’s theory of “Transworld Depravity”? My God you guys had really some gems in your apologetics team huh?

Also nobody is gonna stay in the faith by listening to them and saying “God is good” “God is love” and such.None of this petty talking will work trust me . Although i guess its an alternative rather than going down the road of apologetics

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That moved me to tears.

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I think that you are right–and that is the point he’s trying to make. If we’re really following what’s right, (as what we think Jesus would want), we’re not their friends to just get them in the church–we’re caring for them as Jesus would–because they are hurting. Well put. Thanks.

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LOL I see what you did there.

I agree to some extent. There doesn’t seem to be only one way of defining things. What I was trying to do was discuss one person’s journey and hope that it related in the broadest way possible. But you are right. Everyone’s journey and story is different.

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Thanks Mario. For what it’s worth I thought your article made some really important points.

In particular, I can’t stress the need for honesty strongly enough. People whose faith is being tested in this kind of way are often hypersensitive to falsehood and misinformation, and trying to pull the wool over their eyes – or even worse, to start demanding that they acknowledge it as fact and accusing them of “unbelief” if they don’t – will only accelerate the process and make things worse.

Being prepared to listen is also vitally important. One thing I’ve found is that some Christians just try to shut you off if you start discussing things such as science and faith, mostly out of fear of “controversy” or “divisiveness.” But if you’re already hypersensitive to falsehood and misinformation, that just comes across as dishonesty, and again, it will only make matters worse.

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Good to hear such love, wisdom amd humility in pastoral care.

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Point out where God has turned bad situations int good results.

I think there are many situations in our life experience that could qualify. Now, that is not to say the experiences were themselves good, only that good can arise from the bad experience. An example might be my daughter, who suffered an ectopic pregnancy and along with that was left infertile. We mourn the loss of that child and her infertility even now, yet she has blessed the lives of her adopted children.

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“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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