The Process of Reconstruction

     Reconstructing one’s worldview is no simple task, but it’s nevertheless a project set before the feet of countless individuals. The problem is that in the wake of deconstruction, the process towards reconstruction is seldom clear or straightforward. One wonders in times of doubt whether they could ever hold on to another set of beliefs again. One wonders whether from the depths of their skepticism another structure of commitment could ever emerge. And while this is an admittedly complex dynamic of the way in which one shapes their view of reality, I'm convinced there is a way forward.


     In order to begin the process of reconstruction, I argue that we need a revelation of sorts—one from which we can obtain a set of attainable aims. The revelation is that deconstruction can exist in service to reconstruction. This becomes clearer as we delineate the two principle tasks of philosophy: the critical task and the constructive task. Essentially, these readily map onto the ideas of deconstruction and reconstruction respectively, and they’re both necessary for developing and amending one’s worldview. 

     The critical task helps us understand how certain ideas are misguided, but if we’re always only critical, then we’ll likely end up doubting everything and accepting nothing. On the other hand, the constructive task helps us arrange our experience and understanding of the world, but if we’re always only constructive, then we’ll likely be too willing to believe anything—too willing to just latch onto something that helps our existing system instead of facing difficult truths. Therefore, both the critical and constructive tasks, or both deconstruction and reconstruction, are needed to create and sustain one’s view of reality. Far from eliminating the possibility for fresh constructive commitment, deconstruction can actually help one begin to reconstruct.


     Consider it like this: worldviews aren’t built merely upon what is denied, but upon what is affirmed. We can’t articulate our view of reality merely by what we don’t believe but rather by what we do believe. And if we attempted to define it by what we don’t believe, we’d soon find our doubts to be resting on a bed of positive assumptions anyway.

     What I mean is that we rarely just cease to believe something, rather we begin to believe something else. This marks practically every journey of deconstruction. One doesn’t doubt a literal reading of the opening of Genesis out of nowhere, but because they believe in the accuracy of scientific research. One doesn’t doubt the existence of hell for no reason at all, but because they believe either that people don’t deserve it or that God is such that his love precludes its existence. Behind nearly every denial of a claim lies the affirmation of another—behind our doubts lie other beliefs. Once we understand this, the set of attainable aims of which I spoke begins to come into view. There are at least two primary ways one can approach reconstruction.


     This is a process of discovering the assumptions that lie behind our doubts, like how an affirmation of God’s love lies behind a denial of hell. This is very significant for worldview development because it reveals how though one might be submerged in deconstruction, one is nevertheless committed to a matrix of assumptions. What follows is an investigation of these implicit assumptions and affirmations, which may themselves need to be deconstructed. This leads to the next aim.


     This is in one aspect a shift of attitude and in another a project of research. It’s a shift in attitude in that one must start to focus on how to begin forming fresh commitments rather than focussing on what one refuses to believe. It’s a project of research in that one begins to develop their worldview through evaluating, and then either rejecting, accepting, or synthesizing, new arguments and perspectives instead of unwittingly relying upon implicit assumptions.


     If one begins a process of reconstruction with these aims in mind, there is something they mustn’t forget: both the critical and constructive tasks are still at work. New ideas have to come under the scope of a critical eye, and yet beliefs that once began the process of deconstruction may themselves need to be deconstructed. For example, one’s belief that people don’t deserve divine justice for their sins might have begun a process of deconstructing the idea of hell, but on his or her theological journey one might discover that the belief that people don’t deserve divine justice is itself a falsity that needs to be deconstructed.

     One also mustn’t forget that through deconstruction, one’s present beliefs can be verified rather than dismissed. Some convictions, when brought under deconstructive questioning, actually withstand—deconstruction can surprisingly become a refining process. And this refining process is simply the result of how deconstruction can exist in service to reconstruction.

     John Raines is a Master of Arts in Theology student at Fuller Theological Seminary, co-host of the podcast Reconstruct, and blogs at Profitable Discourse. He lives with his wife in Seattle, Washington.

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