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The idea of faith deconstruction ontinues to be a hot button issue within the greater evangelical Christian world. In the past month alone, I’ve heard deconstruction mentioned at church, in a new song by the Gettys that was introduced at Sing! 2023, and even on Reddit. There’s also the increased media spotlight on IBLP with books written by Jinger Duggar Vuolo and Jill Duggar Dillard (which I read) and the Amazon Prime documentary Shiny Happy People (which I watched). Shannon Harris (the wife of aclaimed author Joshua Harris who wrote I Kissed Dating Goodbye and has sinced renounced Christianity) also recently released a memoir.
It’s been ten years since I finished writing about my own experiences leaving “legalism” and the IFB. TEN YEARS. When that was happening, I felt like a lone voice. This movement is nothing new (people have been leaving the faith systems of their youths since the Bible times), but the movement of doing so publicly before an audience is definitely unique to my generation. That said, I feel like there should be a t-shirt that says “I deconstructed before it was cool…”
I put the word “legalism” in quotes for a particular reason: I am starting to really dislike the word because it has come to mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people – so much so that it has lost meaning. Even in good churches like mine, it can easily be slapped without nuance on anything that seems even the least bit restrictive. Don’t like tattoos? Legalism. Don’t drink? Legalism. Wear skirts? Legalism. Prefer the King James Version of the Bible? Legalism.
I don’t have the time or the energy to get into these kinds of debates here. I bring it up because it’s pertinent to this other word blanketing evangelicalism: “deconstruction”
If one thing is abundantly clear, it’s that there’s no clear definition of deconstruction.
What Does ‘Deconstruction’ Even Mean? by Jon Bloom at Desiring God
What is deconstruction? by Got Questions?
What Is Deconstruction? by Lizzy Haseltine at Lifeway Research
The Most Dangerous Form of Deconstruction by Russell Moore at Christianity Today
Deconstruction: A look at a popular and polarizing concept by Subby Szterszky at Focus on the Family
I’m not going to attempt to straighten out an issue that even experts can’t agree on. No one is begging me for my own definition of deconstruction. But, I do feel it within reason to explain my own use of the word in my past writings.
Deconstruction as an imperfect metaphor
I can’t remember when I first heard the word “deconstruction.” Not only did I “deconstruct” before it was cool, I “deconstructed” before anyone was using the word. (Hence, you won’t find it in my original blog series.) Somewhere between 2013 and 2019, it became a word more and more people were using. I tacked the word onto what I was doing, without all that much thought, in a post from 2019 about Joshua Harris and compost piles.
At the time, LEGOs were scattered all over my basement floor. Building metaphors suited this phase of my life well.
I often spent hours sorting LEGO pieces into bins, arranging them by color. It was a true exercise in futility, but that didn’t stop me from trying. Within our LEGO bins were tiny pieces of another sort: the knock-off Make-It Blocks™ from Dollar Tree. Now, Make-It Blocks are compatible…ish…with LEGO. I say “ish” because they fit well enough that you can substitute them for LEGO in builds. BUT, the quality of these blocks leaves much to be desired. Also, the way they connect with one another (and with LEGO) often is not nearly as secure as when building a structure just with LEGO. In 2020, I ended up having a lot of buyer’s regret after most days in the month of December ended in meltdowns as my boys attempted to put together an advent calendar of rescue and construction vehicles of with JOYIN brand blocks, another knockoff.
If you build a structure with half LEGO blocks and half knock-off blocks, eventually, it’s going to fall apart. When it does, you have to sort through the rubble. You have to sort through the blocks, examine them, determine which ones are LEGO, and discard the rest. Then, you can rebuild according to the instructions.
In this metaphor, LEGO = truth, with God being the Master Builder. As stated by Rich Powell in his book 7 WORDS that can CHANGE YOUR LIFE, “The very concept of something being right assumes a standard. This is the question of humanity: is there a fixed, absolute, unchanging standard of what is right?”
That’s one of the great things about LEGO. You may not realize it if you have looked at LEGO blocks recently, but every. single. dot. on every. single. LEGO. brick. is inscribed with those four letters. L-E-G-O. That is the standard that makes the knockoffs very easy to spot.
Such it is with truth. Initially, my “deconstruction” may have started with dismantling and throwing out things I felt didn’t fit the structure I was trying to build. Thankfully, and but by the grace of God, I quickly realized why those pieces didn’t fit – because they weren’t truth. They were truth-ish, knockoffs, often having their origins in truth but being twisted into something else.
When I looked at the structure that remained, I was disheartened. I knew it couldn’t stand, but I didn’t know how to rebuild. That’s where truth came to my rescue. I began to find the pieces of truth that fit perfectly into all those empty places. Why? Because that’s how the Master Builder designed it to work.
I didn’t have to look far: the truth had been there all along. I just didn’t see it, because all of the other knock-off pieces had been given to me AS truth.
God’s truth was written on the table of my heart at the moment of my regeneration. That may seem like a big, scary religious word – but the doctrine of regeneration makes up the bulk of the pieces that were missing for my faith structure. Once I found the box labeled regeneration and began to examine those pieces, I saw how it all fit together.
I am a partaker of the Divine Nature:
“There is life here that God has generated in the believer…and there is a fundamental difference at the core of the believer’s being.”
“The new spirit that God gives you, the regeneration, it is the sperma of the parent it is the nature of the parent handed down to the child – which means that at the core of your being you have life that is sinless. And it’s planted there…now you are regenerate. Newness exists in you. Life exists in you in a way that it never existed before.”
Seven Words That Can Change Your Life – Week 8: Regeneration – Adult Bible Fellowship, Grace Bible Church, Rich Powell, 2017
I likened this to a kind of spiritual DNA:
This is another way that biology class came in handy. We did a few units on genetics, during which I watched some videos on genetic mutation and strides being made in the field of genetics when it comes to healing disease by literally reprogramming or repairing mutated DNA. Science is literally using viruses to REWRITE and REPROGRAM every strand of DNA in every cell of our body – which then go on to code for different proteins and cells with different functions.
That is what God is doing in our souls with the process of regeneration. He is rewriting our spiritual DNA. He is changing and transforming us – enabling us to fulfill our purpose and design.
DNA is in every cell of our body, just like LEGO is inscribed on every dot of every LEGO piece. It is a marker that identifies who we are.
When we lean into who we are, surrendering to Him and yielding to His Spirit, God’s spirit within us beareth witness of God’s truth:
(1 John 5:6)
God’s spirit bears witness with our spirit, and we can rest certainly in our spiritual identity:
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
God’s spirit guides us into all truth:
Resting in our spiritual identity, fear falls away. Bondage is broken. And God’s commandments are no longer grevious (1 John 5:3).
As we pick up the pieces of a faith structure in ruin from, we do well to examine each piece. Look for the logo – the one that agrees with God’s truth, God’s Word.
I personally know how hard that can be, particularly when you have had Scripture twisted and misused against you. That said, we can’t afford to throw pieces out because we don’t like them.
I love what Rosilind Jukic (formerly influenced by IBLP) had to say in her response to the IBLP Documentary:
Deconstruction is not the only way!
There is another way!
I am grateful to say that my sister and I had a good example of this in our parents.
As we came home from the training centers we served at, wounded and confused by our experiences, our parents guided us through to a healthy place.
We took each teaching and experience and lined it up with God’s Word.
That which was taken out of context was put back into context and held on to.
That which was extra-biblical, man-made doctrine and another’s personal conviction was thrown out.
Deconstruction and reconstruction in the hands of the Master Builder
Reconstruction of a faith in ruins is possible, as long as three things are understood:
1) Our structure must be built on the right foundation.
The “LEGO Corner” in our house is a carpeted section of the basement. Carpeting is wonderful for little knees and bottoms that spend most of their time on the floor, but it makes an awful foundation for LEGO structures. Which is why we invested in so many brand-name base plates.
Deconstructionists – are you walking away from a solid foundation?
According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:10-11
2) We must surrender all of our pieces to the hands of the Master Builder.
The LEGO Movie is a favorite in our home. Its poignant encouragement towards creativity (as opposed to rigidity) makes a great metaphor for many things (especially for perfectionists). But when it comes to faith, it ought not be so.
We are not all “Master Builders” who “have the ability to build anything out of bricks without using any instructions.” (source: The LEGO Movie Wiki) Rather, as “masterbuilders” (the Greek word used in this verse is where we get our English word architect), we must look to the Supreme Master Builder and His blueprints. Our Master Builder is “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).
When we grasp the enormity of who God is, our response should be surrender.
3) We must follow the instructions.
Unlike the rigid, overbearing “Man Upstairs” in The LEGO Movie who wants to micromanage and kragle (superglue) us into submission, our Master Builder only does what is right, just, and good (Genesis 18:25 and Psalm 145:17). He wants what is best for us in every situation. Which is why He gave us “the instructions.”
Those who “follow the instructions” aren’t mindless, generic nobodys like Emmet Brickowski. God allows us to flourish in our uniqueness, as He made us all different. But we flourish best when we live within His loving boundaries.
When we toss the instructions, start adding knock-off pieces, trying to build on another foundation, and try to do the work of constructing our faith on our own – we will fail, our faith will crumble, and we will be disillusioned.
But…what about my pain? What about my abuse? What about my feelings?
It is undeniable that people have been hurt, abused, and misused in the name of religion. The past decade has done much to bring these sins to light. But where deconstructionists fail is when they only see the abuse in their specific corner of the church, or with religion as a whole. Oh, it’s there. It’s not just the IFB. It’s the IFB, the SBC, the Catholic church. But it’s also in sports, in business, and within families.
It’s not unique to our time either. The annals of history are full of stories of people with power abusing those under them. Why?
In opposition to those who might say “not all men” or “not all churches,” I’m here to say the capacity to abuse and harm lies within all of us.
Because it is in our nature to throw out the instructions and push against God’s loving boundaries. The reason there are abusive pastors, abusive leaders, abusive coaches, abusive bosses, and abusive teachers is caused by the same root of sin that caused Adam and Eve to fall. They questioned God’s goodness, rebelled against His word and His boundaries, and took that which was not theirs to have.
Leaving your current abusive denomination or organization may be necessary or even recommended for your phsyical, mental, emotional, and spiritual safety. Some denominations or subgroups within denominations (such as IBLP) may be more riddled with abuse and need taken down before they harm others. Sin should always be brought into the light.
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.
But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.
Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.
See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
But you may find that where you go next has the same problem because we are all sinners. We must also look within to see the areas in which we are questioning God’s goodness, rebelling against His word, and trespassing His boundaries.
In no way do I want to downplay the experiences and feelings of those who have been abused. The things I have spoken here are hard truths, and a decade ago I would have probably resisted them too.
I hope and pray that posts like this one and others on my site make their way to those teetering on the edge – or, to keep with the deconstruction metaphor – those with the sledgehammer in hand. I’ve been in that place – wondering if it was time to set the dynamite, blow the thing to bits, and walk away. I know people who have made that choice. I thank God that I didn’t.
I plan to continue writing about these issues, and I hope to give some practical advice for those considering deconstruction.
In the meantime, please refer to the following posts:
- Grace: How a Recovering Legalist Moves Forward in Faith
- Advice for those leaving Christian fundamentalism or an abusive church
- 4 Reasons Christians Lose Their Faith by Rosilind Jukic
- How Do I Know Which Bible Teachers to Follow? by Rosilind Jukic
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