Deconstructionism - is it a valid way to interpret the Bible?Question: "Deconstructionism - is it a valid way to interpret the Bible?"
Answer: Deconstructionism is basically a theory of textual criticism or interpretation that denies there is any single correct meaning or interpretation of a passage or text. At the heart of the deconstructionist theory of interpretation are two primary ideas. First is the idea that no passage or text can possibly convey a single reliable, consistent, and coherent message to everyone who reads or hears it. The second is that the author who wrote the text is less responsible for the piece's content than are the impersonal forces of culture such as language and the author’s unconscious ideology. Therefore the very basic tenets of deconstructionism are contrary to the clear teaching of the Bible that absolute truth does exist and we can indeed know it (Deuteronomy 32:4; Isaiah 65:16; John 1:17–18; John 14:6; John 15:26–27; Galatians 2:5).
The deconstructionist approach to interpreting the Bible comes out of postmodernism and is therefore simply another denial of the existence of absolute truth, which is one of the most serious logical fallacies anyone can commit. The denial of absolute truth is a logical fallacy because it is a self-contradictory statement. No one can rationally deny absolute truth because to do so one is forced to state an absolute—which is what he is saying does not exist. When someone claims that there is no such thing as absolute truth, ask him, “Are you absolutely sure of that?” If he says, “Yes,” then he has made a statement contradictory to his very premise.
Like other philosophies that come out of the postmodernism, deconstructionism celebrates human autonomy and determines truth by the intellect of man. Therefore, according to the postmodern thinker, all truth is relative and there is no such thing as absolute truth. At the heart of postmodernism and deconstructionist thought is pride. The deconstructionist thinks that he can discover a personal or social motivation behind what Scripture says and therefore can determine what is “really being said.” The result is a subjective interpretation of the passage in question. Instead of accepting what the Bible actually says, the deconstructionist is arrogant enough to think he can determine the motive behind what was written and come up with the “real” or “hidden” meaning of the text. However, if one were to take deconstructionism to its logical conclusion, then the findings of the deconstructionist would themselves have to be deconstructed to determine what the deconstructionist “really” said. The endless circular reasoning is self-defeating. When one thinks about how fundamentally flawed this type of thinking is, one is reminded of 1 Corinthians 3:19, “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, ‘He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness.’”
The deconstructionist does not study the Bible in order to find out the meaning intended by the writer but to attempt to discern the cultural and social motives behind what was written. The deconstructionist is only limited in his interpretation of a passage by his own imagination. To the deconstructionist there is no right or wrong interpretation, and the meaning of the text becomes whatever the reader wants it to be. One might imagine what would happen if legal documents such as wills and deeds were read this way. This approach to Scripture fails to recognize the fundamental truth that the Bible is God’s objective communication to mankind and that the meaning of the passages comes from God.
Instead of spending time debating deconstructionism or other postmodern theories, we should concentrate on exalting Christ and emphasizing the sufficiency and authority of the Scriptures. Romans 1:21–22 sums up most postmodern thinkers who hold to such theories as deconstructionism: “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools.”
Recommended Resource: Inspiration and Authority of the Bible by Benjamin Warfield
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