Question: "Deconstructionism - is it a valid way to interpret the Bible?"
Answer: Deconstructionism is a 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 their 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 deconstruction approach to interpreting the Bible comes out of postmodernism, and, as such, it is simply another denial of the existence of absolute truth, which is one of the most serious logical fallacies anyone can commit. The reason the denial of absolute truth is a logical fallacy of the greatest magnitude is that it is a self-contradictory statement. The deconstructionist or postmodern thinker who denies absolute truth cannot rationally make such a statement because to do so would be stating an absolute which is what he is saying does not exist. When someone claims that there is no such thing as absolute truth, we always want to ask them, “Are you absolutely sure of that?” If he says yes, then he has made a statement that is contradictory to his very premise.
Like other philosophies that come out of the postmodern movement, deconstructionism celebrates human autonomy and places the autonomy of man at both the beginning and the end of determining what can be deemed to be truth. Therefore, according to the postmodern thinker, all truth is relative, and there is no such thing as absolute truth. At the heart of this type of postmodernism and the deconstructionist thought process is pride and arrogance. The deconstructionist thinks that he can discover a personal or social motivation that lies behind what is said and therefore can determine what is “really being said.” The end result is a very subjective interpretation of the passage or text in question. Instead of accepting what it 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 results of the deconstructionist’s efforts would have to be deconstructed themselves to determine what the deconstructionist really said, and the endless line of circular reasoning is therefore self-defeating. When one thinks about how fundamentally flawed this type of postmodern thinking is, one cannot help but bring to mind 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 or a text in order to find out the meaning intended by the writer, but instead tries to “read between the lines,” so to speak, in order to discern the cultural and social reasons and motives behind what was written. The deconstructionist is really only limited in his interpretation of the passage by his own imagination. To the deconstructionist there is no right or wrong interpretation, and the meaning of the passage or text becomes very subjective and one that can only be determined by the reader.
The proper way to approach the Bible is to first recognize that each passage has only one correct interpretation (that which the Holy Spirit intended to communicate to the original recipients), even though it might have many applications. The deconstructionist, on the other hand, would attribute the primary meaning of the text to the reader, not the author. Therefore, there is no one right way of interpretation, and the reader’s cultural and social background will influence the meaning of the passage. One might imagine what would happen if legal documents such as wills and deeds were read this way. This approach to the Scriptures fails to recognize the fundamental truth that the Bible is God’s objective communication to mankind and that the meaning of the passages being studied comes from God and is not subject to man’s interpretation as to the truthfulness of the message.
Instead of spending time debating deconstructionism or other postmodern theories, we should try to concentrate on exalting Christ and emphasizing the sufficiency and authority of the Scriptures. Romans 1:21-22 sums up most postmodern thinkers who come up with and 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.”
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