If we come to the Bible with this as our goal: "What does this verse mean TO ME?" we are deconstructing it. This blog will look briefly at this topic and give a warning about the current and popular method of interpretation which has "me" at its center in finding meaning. We shall consider this concerning the Bible in particular, though we will briefly consider the implications of such deconstruction on the Western world. With regard to finding meaning in written texts, there are Two opposing views:
The Author's Original intent: They wrote what they intended to write, with a particular specific purpose and meaning in mind. Our goal is to learn that meaning. And that meaning remains the meaning, not something esoteric that I find in it.
Deconstructionism: Tears apart the literature, to find what it "means to me", and it doesn't matter what the author meant, what matters is what it speaks TO ME today. The author "must die" so that the reader "might live," so to speak.
Wikepedia says: 'Deconstruction (French: déconstruction) is a form of philosophical and literary analysis derived principally from Jacques Derrida's 1967 work Of Grammatology.
What this is in essence, is challenging the existing ways of interpreting the meaning of a text. The authority for determining meaning in a writing- moves from author's original intent, to a position that evens the playing field in interpretation- making another perspective equally valid in determining meaning. In this case that perspective becomes "me." It makes interpretation more fluid and less anchored to established norms (usually to what I want it to mean). Fundamentally, at its root Deconstructionism behaves or seeks to:
Devalue Western thinking and values - and their source documents. (There is nothing inherently right per se, in Western thinking except to the extent where it historically, was heavily influenced by sound reason, logic, and original intent).
Make texts outlive their authors' meaning and become part of a bigger present picture instead, no longer are they guiding forces behind that bigger picture, but are just one more part of that big picture. (ie...the Constitution's original meaning increasingly less relevant, the Bible is a storybook or anthology - but not a standard)
Undermine the relevance of Western Historical standards of logic, reason, and meaning, allowing them to be replaced with what is moving, free from reference points.
Attempts to harmonizes (legitimize) that which is illogical and even contradictory. That which is exaggerated or even dishonest becomes part of a larger unintelligible (yet considered to be viable) construct.
It is anarchy clothed as orderly disorder. No absolute truth. (Absolutely!) No right and wrong. No God. No ultimate meaning. How does this play out in serious ways for Western Culture, and more specifically (and importantly) in the Church?
Doctrine or clear Reference points for Truth become dogmas, and being dogmatic is evil - why? Because it is part of the hierarchy that needs deconstructed.
The Constitution: Deconstruction of a document such as the Constitution, allows the whims of the present day to dictate its meaning, rather than authorial intent. In short, this ends in no viable static Constitution, and the needed meanings of the day supercede those of the authors' intent. This may play out for example, in freedom of religion being replaced with a more necessary felt freedom from religion. The non stated rights of one group (homosexuality comes to mind in recent years) trumping the stated rights of another group (religious). Similar is the stated right of the pursuit of happiness, being replaced with the right to be happy, and the subsequent suppression of ideas or persons that make a group feel "unhappy."
The Bible: Here things turn more serious, but the proponents of Bible Deconstructionism are sometimes unaware of their behavior. One may go to a secular University and run into deconstruction head on, in such things as the Documentary Hypothesis- and it is obvious (or should be). But there is that which is more subtle. Have we ever sat in one of those Bible Studies and heard the following, "now what does this verse mean to you?" and around the circle it goes with mostly emotionally driven responses destitute of doctrine and context?
In truth, when it comes to reading & interpreting the Bible, it doesn't MATTER what it means to me. We should ask, what does the verse actually say, what did the Author mean when written in its historical context, and then, then perhaps...it can be asked, - if/as appropriate - how does that apply to me?
...and then we run into...that which was alluded to above....
"Oh that is such a Western way of thinking" Sometimes this is heard as a criticism concerning a given way of understanding the Bible & truth. The intent therefore is to deconstruct such a hierarchy and its position of dominance in the explanation of meaning. The literal historical interpretation has an "advantage" which must be deconstructed to allow other meanings. Simply put, your interpretation isn't the only valid one, especially since it is so "western". One might wonder, do they want us to use an Eastern concept? What then? Buddhist thought? Yin and Yang?
To keep the blog short, we summarize by saying, that the postmodern man (or woman) who celebrates and exalts human autonomy and intellect. He finds in all things a relativity that submits the search for meaning unto to the grid of his personal preference (what does it mean to me !?). Thereby to such persons no study of a text can end in a purely right or wrong interpretation, since its meaning is found to be in himself and his own personal construct. In short, he becomes the center and is pre-eminent. This is idolatry.
Romans 1:21-22 tells us "....because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools..."
Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said?