Remember the First

Lately, my social media has been flooded with stories that present deconstructive re-interpretations of scripture. Easily skimmed, shared, and swiped away, the subtle influence of Instagram theology is becoming clear as more and more young Christians abandon doctrine and tradition to instead draw their convictions from social media soundbites. Although such posts may present genuine and accurate doctrine and exegesis, more often they generate secular suspicion toward any sort of orthodoxy, imitating the original deception: “Did God really say?”

Easily skimmed, shared, and swiped away, the subtle influence of Instagram theology is becoming clear as more and more young Christians abandon tradition and doctrine.

I could describe certain posts I’ve seen circulating at great length. What is more important, though, is to identify their common theme: the original deception of the serpent and the original sin of mankind.

As Christians, we do not have a faith without reason. We are called to deep thought and to give a rational defence—an apologia—of our convictions. However, we must be cautious in an era of deconstruction that we do not question ourselves and our foundational beliefs into oblivion. As usual, Chesterton has wisdom to offer:

“What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition and settled upon the organ of conviction, where it was never meant to be…We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table.”

GK Chesterton, “The Suicide of Thought”

Deconstructive ideologies are openly celebrated and promoted on social media, yet they are often not actively recognised for what they are: continuations of the serpent’s oh-so-convincing lie. When interacting with today’s trend of Instagram theology, we must remember the first deception, which was itself an example of deconstruction. We must be wary of posts that follow the pattern of “Did God really say…?” and offer exegeses that have neither been systematically supported nor traditionally tested.

We are called to re-examine ourselves and our preconceptions, and to humbly admit when we are wrong. Although we must consider our convictions carefully, we cannot deconstruct the very doctrine that defines and saves us. We must be on guard against the sneaky heresies of social media. Sometimes we must definitively affirm that yes, God did really say this.

One comment

  1. Good thoughts! I’m not familiar with the Instagram posts in question, but I’m certainly familiar with deconstructive ideologies (and a host of heresies; I did a senior paper on gnostic sects and texts, including the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Judas, and The Secret Book of John).

    The Chesterton quote reminds of (surprise!) C. S. Lewis in The Great Divorce:

    “Once you were a child. Once you knew what inquiry was for. There was a time when you asked questions because you wanted answers, and were glad when you had found them. Become that child again: even now.” The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis

    That quote summarizes the inquisitive mindset by which I try to live, and by which I strive to learn in my Christian faith. One of the reasons I love reading the Inklings (specifically C. S. Lewis, W. H. Lewis, and Tolkien) is to see their disagreements, their differences, and their (break of parallel alliterative structure) changing views over time. Warnie, for example, is honest about expressing some questions about hell and judgement, notably when Mrs. Maureen Moore (“Minto”) passed away. Minto suffered from mental and emotional instability, which got worse toward the end of her life and manifested in very mean behavior.

    “…how far can anyone be said to sin, who, so far from having even a suspicion of sinful conduct, is certain that she is without spot or blemish? ….It seems to me, having little theology and less moral sense, that if God punishes her (as opposed of course to reforming her) He – salve reverentia – reduces Himself to the moral level of the crew of a windjammer who in the doldrums used to catch and torture sharks – or the sin of being sharks. But these are deep waters, and one can but hope and pray.” – Brothers & Friends: The Diaries of Major Warren Hamilton Lewis

    Lewis, in “Is Theology Poetry?” (Weight of Glory), talks about how the Bible starts in the “clouds of myth and ritual” in the Old Testament becomes more grounded in the sand and dirt of history in the Gospels:
    “[The Christian story] is like watching something come gradually into focus; first it hangs in the clouds of myth and ritual, vast and vague, then it condenses, grows hard and in a sense small, as a historical event in first century Palestine.” (p.129)
    Not a Young Earther, Mr. Lewis, although he was certainly not a fan of Darwin either, as he makes very clear in his letters.

    Tolkien more or less agrees with “Jack” and admits in a January 30, 1945, letter:
    “I do not now feel either ashamed or dubious on the Eden ‘myth.’ It has not, of course, historicity of the same kind as the NT, which are virtually contemporary documents, while Genesis is separated by we do not know how many sad exiled generations from the Fall, but certainly there was an Eden on this very unhappy earth. We all long for it, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most humane, is still soaked with the sense of ‘exile.’”
    [Obligatory Madeleine L’Engle nod: I think Madeleine would agree with Lewis and Tolkien re: myth and early OT. Not sure if I do, but it’s a worthwhile perspective.]

    Those 3 instances, W. H. Lewis questioning whether it would be morally just to damn someone so mentally troubled as Minto; Lewis pondering myth-to-history, from OT Creation to Gospel Incarnation; and Tolkien coming to an acceptance of Eden on earth, on which he was once dubious, would all ruffle the feathers of the evangelical circles in which I grew up (apologies to feathers ruffled even now) and certainly would have disappointed me as a child and young teenager when my views could be described as fundamentalist.
    However, each Inklings’ views document the Christian journeys and lifelong of three different Christian men. (Owen Barfield, a fellow Inkling and Christian, believed in reincarnation…! Which led to a rather amusing exchange documented in W. H. Lewis’ diaries.)

    I don’t believe in reincarnation (surprise!); I’m not a Darwinist (less of a surprise?); I’m not a Young Earther today (not the most important issue to me anymore); I’ve asked the same questions as W. H. Lewis regarding hell; I think Lewis’ and Tolkien’s ideas of myth are very compelling overall and, where it particularly concerns the Old Testament, worth consideration.

    In conclusion, Jesus Christ is Lord, and to believe otherwise is to belong to a different religion; to be playing a different game with different rules; to be not on another coloring page, but in another coloring book altogether.

    “I will bring you to the land not of questions but of answers, and you shall see the face of God.” – C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

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