Your eye is the lamp of your body.
When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light.
But when your eye is bad, your whole body is full of darkness.
—Jesus (Luke 11:34, CEB)
Your Paradigm Determines Your Experience
How do you experience time? Most of us would be unsure of how to answer that question, because we’re not typically conscious of how we are experiencing time. Time is just time, right? We’re simply living our lives!
But not everyone experiences time in the same way. The way we experience time is dependent upon our paradigm of time. A paradigm is a set of assumptions, concepts, and values that forms a way of seeing reality. Paradigms are stories, scripts, and constructs that determine how we understand and experience life. The way we experience time is dependent upon our paradigm of time. ... Paradigms are stories, scripts, and constructs that determine how we understand and experience life. Click To Tweet
British linguist Richard Lewis describes three ways that different people groups relate to time. In other words, there are at least three different paradigms of time:
- Linear Time (most of the industrialized, Anglo-Saxon West): prioritizes efficiency, planning, punctuality, schedules; work time seen as a limited commodity, to be used wisely, as a way to make money
- Multi-Active Time (Spaniards, Italians, Arabs): prioritizes what’s happening right now, relationships over schedule; the present event/relationship is more important than future plans
- Cyclic Time (Eastern cultures, e.g., Chinese, Japanese): time is abundant and therefore cannot be wasted, opportunities and potentialities will come around again; less focus on future planning
Thus our paradigm of time affects how we experience and perceive time:
- Can time be wasted? Depends on your paradigm.
- How important is it to plan for the future? Depends on your paradigm.
- Should I stay and enjoy my conversation with my present company, or hurry up and end this meeting to get to my next appointment? Depends on your paradigm.
- Is it okay to show up 20 minutes late to a meeting? Depends on your paradigm.
Once you can notice and name your paradigm for time, you can see that your particular way of seeing and experiencing time isn’t “just the way it is” but is instead culturally conditioned. This opens us up to appreciating other paradigms and perhaps even shifting our own paradigm.
Seeing Deconstruction and Reconstruction as a Paradigm Shift
To “deconstruct” our understanding of time is to see that our paradigm of time is culturally conditioned and ask questions about it. Likewise, to deconstruct our faith is to see that our paradigm of faith is culturally conditioned and ask questions about it.When it comes to faith, the experience of deconstruction is more than just changing our beliefs. It’s the experience of being able to notice and name our paradigm for faith and question whether it is still sufficient for our lives. Deconstruction is more than just changing our beliefs. It’s the experience of being able to notice and name our paradigm for faith and question whether it is still sufficient for our lives. Click To Tweet
This is important, because many of us carry around cultural lenses that are unnoticed—and therefore unexamined—that obscure and limit our understanding of the Scriptures and the Christian faith. When our cultural paradigms for faith stop working, it often prompts a faith crisis because the only way we’ve ever seen our faith is through the “lens” of our old paradigm.
We are going through a paradigm shift, but we misinterpret it as a loss of faith. It’s easy to confuse our paradigms with reality, to confuse what we’re looking through with what we’re looking at. It’s easy to confuse our paradigms with reality, to confuse what we’re looking “through” with what we’re looking “at.” Click To Tweet
Deconstruction Is Vital Work
In a December 2021 webinar conducted with Missio Alliance, we talked about many of the common reasons Christians go through deconstruction and suggested a few ways forward. Most of our work at Gravity Leadership focuses on how to navigate deconstruction and reconstruction centered on the love of God in Christ amidst the prevailing cultural, theological, and political challenges facing 21st-century Christians.
Deconstruction and reconstruction of faith is deeply biblical work: we see in Scripture how often God’s people go through a “loss of belief” only to find a deeper, more confident surrender to God on the other side. But it can be scary. What happens when you lose the faith that once seemed so sure? Deconstruction and reconstruction of faith is deeply biblical work: we see in Scripture how often God’s people go through a “loss of belief” only to find a deeper, more confident surrender to God on the other side. Click To Tweet
We believe deconstruction is often a vital step in an authentic faith journey, and we believe there is a way to reconstruct faith on the other side of deconstruction. Unbelief can become a doorway to a more resilient faith that thrives under a new paradigm.
Reconstructing a New Paradigm for Faith
But reconstruction of faith doesn’t happen automatically. As we name the old paradigms that aren’t working for us anymore, we also need to be able to clearly identify and test new paradigms rooted in how we see Jesus operating in the Gospels. In our new book, Having the Mind of Christ, we look at eight axioms that comprise a scaffolding for reconstructing a new paradigm for faith.
One foundational axiom is “God is always present and at work.” This represents a paradigm shift for most of us, because while easy to assent to as a theological concept, we don’t often act as if this is true in the way we live our daily lives.
For example, after a particularly meaningful time of prayer or worship, have you ever remarked to someone that “God showed up”? (We have too.) But if it’s true that God is always present and at work, God doesn’t “show up,” because God is already present among us. Saying “God showed up” reveals a paradigm in which the normal state is God’s absence and once in a while God finds a way to enter into our world and do God stuff.
To say “God showed up” is to implicitly deny that God is always present and at work. This is more than semantics. Every time we say, “God showed up,” we reaffirm a paradigm where God is sometimes present but usually not. Even worse, we suggest that there are certain activities we can perform, like fervent singing or sincere prayer, that will get God to “show up” or “come down” or “do something,” which is closer to how pagans use magic to manipulate their gods than how God’s people worship and relate to God (as an example, see 1 Kings 18)! To say “God showed up” is to implicitly deny that God is always present and at work. This is more than semantics. Every time we say, “God showed up,” we reaffirm a paradigm where God is sometimes present but usually not. Click To Tweet
The reality is God doesn’t “show up.” Rather, we awaken to the God who is already here. Jesus says, “I am with you always to the end of the age.” The consistent witness of the New Testament is that God is always present and always at work, in every situation. Often the Divine is right in front of us, but we fail to have eyes to see or ears to hear God with us.
The problem is not in God’s presence but in our perception. But there’s good news: we can train our perception to behold the Divine, increasing our awareness of God’s presence and work in our midst. We just need to “try on” a new paradigm, by acting “as if” God is truly present and working and see how it changes our perception of the situation we’re in. We can train our perception to behold the Divine, increasing our awareness of God’s presence and work in our midst. Click To Tweet
By critically examining our old paradigms and experimenting with new paradigms rooted in how Jesus saw the world, the possibility of gradually reconstructing a resilient faith after deconstruction opens up to us. It doesn’t happen all at once but rather step-by-step. As we delve with curiosity into the Gospels and allow them to reveal to us how Jesus saw the world, we will begin to reconstruct a more authentic and Christlike faith that transforms us.
Delve deeper into reconstruction after deconstruction by joining Ben and Matt on Wednesday, August 3, at 3:30 pm for the Missio Alliance webinar “Faith After Deconstruction,” hosted by Lisa Rodriguez-Watson. Register for free! (After the event, the download will be $4.99, but all registrants will receive the playback download for free.)