Deconstruction has certainly been a common term for a while, with its hashtags often heralding an exit from the Christian faith of the Scriptures. This article from The Gospel Coalition claims that there are 4 reasons for Deconstruction:
— “Church Hurt,” a term that I believe diminishes the significance of the atrocities that are taking place in churches.
— “Poor Teaching,” saying, “Today’s deconstruction allows bad teaching to have the last word.”
It depends, I suppose, on how the deconstruction takes place.
— “Desire to Sin,” saying, “It’s a bummer if someone’s dealing with church hurt and you hand him a stack of apologetics books to read. Those same books will be useless if, beneath the surface, he really just wants to justify his sin.”
It would be almost unbelievable to me to think that a stack of apologetics books would be useful for someone dealing with betrayal by the church if it weren’t that this is TGC. (But of course, we dare not be empathetic, lest we encourage him or her in sin, right?)
— “Street Cred,” saying, “Doubt is hip.”
But doubt about what you’ve always been taught can be and usually is a very, very important part of the faith journey.
For some, “I’m deconstructing” means, “I’m deconverting” or “I’m walking away from the Christian faith.”
But when you look at the real meaning of the word, you’ll see that it means taking something apart (in this case, teachings) brick by brick, as it were (the “construct” part of the word), even down to the very foundation if necessary, in order to see if the structure is sound. And “soundness” would have to be soundness as compared to . . . something.
So, for others, like my husband and me, it can mean, “I’m reexamining the structure I grew up in, which called itself Biblical Christianity. I’m removing the bricks, brick by brick, all the way to the foundation, and seeing how the bricks line up with the Word of God.” (We would add later, “And with the Christian life promised in the New Testament,” but that didn’t happen at first.)
If we look at it this way, then I would agree with others who have said that this is exactly what Martin Luther did with his Roman Catholic faith before leaving the Roman Catholic religion completely.
Back when Tim and I were going through this process, we didn’t think of it as “deconstruction”; in fact, the term “deconstruction” wasn’t around (just as social media wasn’t around). All we were trying to do was understand who God was and what His Word actually meant.
So it took us a while to see that what we had gone through did match with the actual meaning of this term.
My journey was slightly different from Tim’s but complementary, and as we both progressed, we discussed what we each were learning, so that we definitely were making the journey together. Here is our story, told from Tim’s perspective.
The culmination of my deconstruction might best be pictured with my head in my hands, practically tearing my hair out. At that point I had realized we could never return to the comfortable circles in which I had grown up—or even back to the less comfortable circles of Rebecca’s family. I was sure both groups would now reject me for my beliefs.
This condition was particularly complicated by my enlistment as a pastoral intern at a church we’d moved to New York to be involved with. Indeed, we were very involved, me especially in teaching and discipling people with the pastor’s blessing. He was an old friend who’d asked us to come help, and we had hit the ground running.
But as I studied and taught more week by week, a doctrinal rift was opening. It became ever wider as those in the church reacted to what I was teaching with either enthusiasm or skepticism. The divide deepened until an influential elder sat down with me and sadly informed me that one of us would need to leave the church. Of course that ended up being us.
But the roots of this inevitable eventuality had begun years before.
Deconstructing legalism and focus on “don’ts”
Both Rebecca and I grew up in conservative Baptist churches. Her upbringing was much stricter than mine, but my youth was spent under the teaching of my dear father, a pastor. To differing degrees, both of us were well versed in cultural reactionary legalism. By definition, this meant that we, as Christians, would not do what the world did. The to-don’t list typically included smoking, drinking alcohol, dancing, going to movies, and listening to rock music. For my wife, the list was longer, and for her parents, longer than that. Things such as the use of only the King James version of the Bible near the top.
We met at Bob Jones University—my parents warning that the college was too strict, while Rebecca’s mother worrying that it had compromised in significant ways. Honestly, neither of us was fully convinced of all the points of BJU’s cultural reactionary legalism, but we were willing to go along for the ride to receive our education and early job opportunities after graduation. We were willing, for a time, to stay inside the bubble.
In the early 80’s, before we met, I had worked a summer plus some breaks at Disney World. Though they were hardly identical, I noticed that both institutions had similar cultural rules: hair standards, dress standards, and most importantly, an emphasis on proper stage presence. After discussing the phenomenon with some peers at BJU, I came to the conclusion that both places were catering to basically the same demographic—white, middle class, conservative, suburbanites. The goal? To create a sort of perfect world, where nothing bad could happen (as these people would define it). Both places maintained their “magic” by keeping unpleasant things out of sight and mind. Appearances were paramount, and the “customers” were the parents.
Though I couldn’t have put it into words this clearly at that time, this observation was an unsettling one that stayed with me.
A willingness to let go of anything but God’s truth
When it became apparent that we needed to leave BJU and Greenville, we ended up in beautiful southern Indiana and settled on a small Mennonite church in a rural community called Bean Blossom. They were loving people, with fewer rules than you might expect—and the ones they did have were different, like no earrings or makeup for women. Huh?
I started teaching the youth as I had done in Greenville, then soon graduated to team teaching the adult Sunday School class.
The book of Galatians tells us that Paul spent three years in the wilderness relearning the meaning of Scripture under the teaching of the Holy Spirit. Rural Indiana served a similar purpose for me.
We had left Greenville with no warm feelings regarding any of the fundamentalist influences in our lives. I knew I believed the Bible and trusted Jesus as my Savior, but I was pretty sure Christianity wasn’t supposed to look like that.
And as a beginning freelancer without much work, I had a lot of time on my hands.
So in my mid-thirties, with no deadlines or required papers or assigned reading, I began reading whole books of the Bible, especially the New Testament, reading them over and over. My goal wasn’t to memorize (which always got me on a different track of getting everything in order, etc), but to deeply understand the book.
I read, and then I meditated as I walked through the countryside, or as I rowed across the lake and into the wild creek beyond it.
The meditation on the walks and lake rows involved wanting to understand the Scriptures I had been reading and studying. It also involved the fact that I didn’t know the big picture of God’s plan, and I wanted to know it. (We had been presented with long charts up front of church that claimed to present us with the big picture in 7 complicated stages, but by this time both of us deeply doubted that perspective.)
I used commentaries and other Christian writings very little, seeing them as a resource but not authoritative. I read the Bible.
As God’s Spirit opened my eyes to its truth, God’s Word became clearer. As a result, my teaching for the adults of this little church became deeper. They were not only attentive listeners, but they asked deep and thoughtful questions, which made me feel even more responsible to them. I read and meditated more.
Seeing that the problems were on both sides
As much as we loved this church and these people, there were some problematic liberal theologies within the Sunday School literature—and I prepared to address them. But in doing so, I had an epiphany.
As I mapped out the problems in liberal theology, I saw that there were just as many problems on the conservative side. Finding the truth was not a matter of rejecting one side and favoring the other, nor of finding the middle, but rather it was rejecting the errors that either side misrepresented as God’s way.
Taking away from God’s word and adding to it both have harmful effects. The Pharisees, famous for their own brand of legalism, were Jesus’ main adversaries during his years of earthly ministry. Many modern legalists distance themselves from that charge by saying, “The only real definition of legalism is believing in salvation by works.” But they then proceed to quantify sanctification by a list of works (mostly a to-don’t list, accompanied by several significant to-do’s).
I even volunteered to preach a sermon on it—the only one I’ve ever been asked to repeat to the same church. Ultimately my meditation and teaching, and their reception in the church, led to a sense that I was called to the ministry.
But I still hadn’t come to the point of nearly tearing my hair out. I was deconstructing, brick by brick, but I hadn’t yet realized the implications of what I was doing.
No, that happened not in Indiana, but in the beautiful Hudson Valley of New York, where we went in 1995 for me to be an assistant to the pastor, an old friend of mine. This is the place where, two years later, we were essentially asked to leave.
How did something that started off with such high hopes end so poorly? And yet, it brought us to a place where we were more assured in our faith and better equipped to understand and explain the Scripture.
Deconstructing an entire system of theology
Something else needed to be deconstructed in order for us to see the big picture of God’s plan of salvation. Ultimately that was an understanding of the agreement He had made with us as his own people—the children of God under the New Covenant.
But we came into that understanding through the back door of eschatology—the study of end times. By then, I was planning to be a pastor, which I figured meant going to seminary, and I realized I had to determine my eschatology before making that decision. We had definitely put this one on the back burner, because how the world was going to end didn’t seem that important to us. But now it was brought to the front.
So I had to read the different views directly from the perspectives of the people who believed them, with my growing understanding of Scripture as the lens through which to interpret those perspectives.
We were both raised in Dispensationalism, a view of Scripture that features the Old Covenant nation of Israel as always preeminent in God’s plan. It considers the Church a temporary stand-in until national Israel is brought back to the forefront of God’s attention. According to Dispensationalism, aspects of the Old Covenant are still unfulfilled, unfinished in God’s work. So in some way, the Law of Moses is still in power for the people of God?
Of course, this Old Covenant-dominant view strengthens the legalist influence upon the lives of Christians. And it raises questions about what Christ’s relationship is to Jews who reject Him, as well as Christians who are not Jews.
Thankfully, the New Covenant fully answers all those questions, but if our idea of God’s plan is presupposed otherwise and used to filter a reading of these explanations, these Scriptures can become clouded and confusing. Thus, Dispensationalism resorts to many “experts” to explain their various complications of the Scripture. It never set right with us that God’s plan would be so complicated.
I’d read the filtered explanations, the charts, and the many proof texts taken out of context.
This is when I came downstairs from my study with my hair askew. “I can’t believe this anymore,” I said to Rebecca. “It just doesn’t make sense.”
“Great,” she said. She had been doubting it since her teen years, so she was ready to move on.
“You don’t understand. We’ll lose everyone in our lives. We’ll lose our friends.”
“We’ll make new friends!” she responded glibly.
Little did she know how hard it would actually be. But I pressed on, since my paramount desire was to understand. I was looking for a perspective on the Scriptures that simplified, and glorified, the Scriptures that I had been reading and meditating on for years.
Constructing a new system of theology
With the help of a few teachers who shed light at pivotal moments (like the teacher at the John Bunyan conference who said to read the Old Testament in light of the New), we ultimately came to an understanding of a more linear concept of God’s plan—one in which the Old Covenant with all its physical stipulations was completely fulfilled in the New Covenant in far greater spiritual ways. It gave our reading of the Bible greater unity and unfolded God’s plan in a fully Christ-centered manner.
The temporary purposes of the Old Covenant Law and its people—most who lived in various degrees of fleshly “obedience” or disobedience without true faith—fell away in the bigger picture of God’s purposes for his believing New Covenant children (from every tribe and nation) who live by faith, guided by his Spirit.
The implications are huge, but perhaps are most manifest in God’s work of sanctification—His work in bringing his children to maturity by the work of the Spirit through faith. The strength and determination of our flesh is simply insufficient, even though it might be a handy tool for manipulative guilt wielded by power brokers in spiritual garb.
Believers live in the light and power of the Spirit, not the shadows and weakness of the Law. Even as Jesus said, “This is the New Covenant in my blood.” As Hebrews says, it is a better way, a better agreement, to make for himself a better people.
But obviously, this new understanding didn’t set well with many, including the Dispensational church where I was interning and could no longer agree with their view of eschatology, or the covenants. So at age 40 our circles would have to change once we left the church where I’d interned. But where would we go from there?
Trying to find where we belonged
If we weren’t Dispensational, we reasoned, we must be Reformed. Because there are only two choices, right?
Because we believed that our Covenant could be entered only by faith in Jesus Christ (and not by being born to Christian parents), we knew we couldn’t be Presbyterian, so we must be Reformed Baptist. Process of elimination, right?
We were wrong, but that’s how we proceeded.
A painful year in a Reformed Baptist church with its own peculiar brand of legalism [more about that here], with an angry pastor who was eventually arrested for embezzlement, led us to several years of wandering in the church wilderness.
At the same time, I was very active on the internet forum called Baptist Board, trying to convince Baptist pastors of what had become so evident to me in the Scriptures: the New Covenant was the final covenant, and it was better than the Old.
Their responses were the same. They had been to seminary and I hadn’t. They were pastors and I wasn’t. Who did I think I was? Their responses, combined with the response of the elder at the church we had to leave, combined with the rejection and even scorn we experienced from others, left me deeply discouraged for a time.
As we continued to study, we finally learned that what we believed did have a name, though there didn’t seem to be many proponents of it: New Covenant Theology.
We had deconstructed legalism as having anything to do with our faith. We had deconstructed from the system of theology we were raised in. We had built a new belief system, as much as we were able, entirely on the foundation of Jesus Christ. And through the years, we have continued to learn the Word of God and get to know Him.
There is hope in Deconstruction. It’s found in taking each part of the system you were raised in to the true God, through His Word. “Tell me who You really are. Tell me what is from you and what isn’t. Show me your glory.”
And even though the Christian Deconstruction journey can be arduous at times, what we see when we see the Big Picture is beautiful.
The beliefs that we settled on became part of the statement of faith that I posted at this website.
Both deconstruction & reconstruction are important for spiritual growth.
At least examining the teachings we were raised with, yes, even if we find them sound and don’t have to deconstruct them.
Thank you for this article. I picked up a new term, “cultural reactionary legalism”.
As for deconstruction, an aircraft engine is torn down to its pieces regularly, inspected and rebuilt.
What a great observation.
Bryan, there are certainly historical reasons for cultural reactionary legalism—and many of their precautions may be prudent. However, Christian liberty in many of these areas must be maintained, and holding to lists tends to stifle true growth in the Spirit.
I have been doing this for the past several years but didn’t have a name for it! I started from scratch weighing everything I was taught my whole life against the scriptures. I used Greek and Hebrew translations and reread the bible many times and prayed for the Holy Spirit to help me understand. Like you and Rebecca, I found there aren’t many willing to listen or accept the truths I have found, but there is no turning back. God be glorified! So grateful for this ministry.
What a testimony, Deb! That’s beautiful.
In light of this faith journey to the New Covenant, what kind(s) of local church(es) have you joined in recent years?
Well, to be honest, I kind of wrapped up the article for Tim quickly and neatly (simply because it was getting really long). The fact is that it hasn’t been neat; it’s been messy. We are currently in a PCA church that we can’t join because we have a completely different view of the covenants than they do, and that affects everyday life. But they seem to be a sweet and kind group of people.
We have more or less accepted our status as outsiders.
So, did Tim go to seminary?
Oh goodness no
Robert, I investigated going—but wasn’t convinced it was the best way to spend so much time and money while being expected to graduate in agreement with whatever positions the seminary held.
I’m at the same place at the moment.
It’s been difficult to get used to being an outsider, after being raised in church—with mostly good memories. Now my Christian fellowship, and general friendships take place away from church.
I enjoyed reading your article! It puts to words, many thoughts and difficulties I have had with churches. Currently, am not participating in any, because pastors, church leaders, and members have no heart for people. Total disconnect from what is said, and what is done. More interested in leaky roofs, doctrines, and keeping a hierarchy, than showing compassion and love to those who those who hurt and struggle.
Well, here we are on a blog that calls out this very kind of heartlessness over and over. I agree with you, Deb.
Thanks for posting that. For my husband and me, the deconstruction has been more about church structure, that the ekklesia (the assembly, the word Jesus uses for “church”) was never meant to be hierarchical. We are currently in a church with elders and no senior pastor, and that has an emphasis on home fellowships as the foundation of the church. I personally think that a great deal of legalism and various, differing theologies came about because of hierarchy, power structures, and authoritarianism. If the whole Body is ministering, everyone has a voice and call, and humbly serves and builds up each other, we are less likely to end up being dogmatic. We are still drawn to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, aren’t we? We want to know, to have it all worked out! There is so much we don’t know. But we can rest in the arms of the One who sees all and did all for us, so that we can walk a beautiful life with Him.
This is the kind of church I would greatly prefer if we could find one here locally. Yes.
This is the kind of church group we meet with (not too far from you), but there are still issues where the understanding of certain issues seems shallow or based on the “typical” views, and there isn’t much understanding of spiritual trauma at times. It is still good to fellowship with believers who are open to new ideas and are trying to be faithful to the scripture. We are thinking of starting an online group specifically for those who have experienced spiritual abuse or are in the process of “deconstructing” to some degree.
I’ll be interested to hear how it goes! Of course you have the advantage of online connections far beyond the forums, which were the only social interaction available when we were in the process.
Unfortunately, it seems much of both church structure and doctrine are built to reinforce a power structure.
“the New Covenant was the final covenant, and it was better than the Old.” Can you explain how is this different from what Reformed Baptists believe?
At least in the branch of Reformed Baptist we were in, they believed that there was one covenant with two administrations. Here’s a blog post that talks a little more about the Reformed Baptist church: https://heresthejoy.com/2014/08/finding-that-elusive-sabbath-rest/
Read the article and another one that was linked and I commented on.
Ok. So yes there is a group of Reformed Baptists who interpret their LBC through the Westminster and they have a similar Covenant Theology as Presbyterians, but that group misunderstands their own Confession.
The Particular Baptists, another group of Reformed Baptists would say that the Covenant of Grace is the New Covenant and the Covenant of Works is the Old Covenant. I’m a little fuzzy about CT but I think this latter group would agree with that statement I asked about? I think. That’s why I asked because I was in a reformed Baptist church and that statement sounded good to me so I was surprised that that was an issue in RB churches. I was thinking that the point of disagreement with the Particular Baptists is elsewhere.
Interesting. I looked up the Reformed Baptist view of Sabbath. https://reformedwiki.com/sabbath-colossians I was wondering how they get around Colossians 2:16-17. Their article is not too convincing. Like Jesus said, the Sabbath is for the people, not the people for the Sabbath.
I haven’t read that yet, but yes.
Noemi, as far as I know, all reformed theology sees far less difference between the two covenants than we’ve come to believe the Bible teaches. Baptists do hold to believer’s baptism—which is certainly a part of the New Covenant, but they still cling to many other beliefs that tie Christians into obligations of the Old Covenant—all works which have been finished in Christ. If any speaker ever declares, “We’re just as bad as the Israelites of the Old Testament . . . ” then he misunderstands the difference between the covenants, and most likely diminishes the work of the Spirit, particularly in sanctification. That was certainly our Reformed Baptist experience.
I also don’t understand (and would love to hear) how this New Covenant differs from mostly-Presbyterian teaching on the covenants of works, grace, etc., that are taught best (in my opinion) from guys connected to Westminster California.
The New Covenant is one of my favorite topics on this blog. I’ve written about it many times, so maybe some of those might help show the difference.
Long ago, I developed a chart to explain the differences and similarities—hopefully Rebecca can find it and post it here (it’s also printed in Untwisting Scriptures, Patriarchy and Authority)
That’s right! In that book, Book #2 of Untwisting Scriptures, I devote a whole chapter to explaining the difference between the Old and New Covenants (and the NC’s superiority). This is in response to the teachings of Doug Phillips, erstwhile head of Vision Forum and former relentless proponent of “Biblical” patriarchy. I don’t have a blog post about that (I don’t think), but the book is only $2.99 on Kindle: https://amzn.to/3a7Lq7w
I have all 3 of your U.S. books, but haven’t read all of them, ahem. I’ll look for that chapter. Thanks!
I’m trying to figure out what my “deal breakers” are. I’m currently in a Primitive Baptist church and while the theology preached from the pulpit is sound, there are a lot of legalistic beliefs especially among the women in this group. I still believe they have the Holy Spirit but they’re under a deep deception. It is the “cultural reactionary legalism” as someone else in the comments put it. My marriage is finally healing from my husband’s six years of porn use and I am struggling with PTSD. The people in our church love and respect me and my husband but don’t understand at all where we’re coming from. They love the Pearls and company. I am in a season of prayer that they will come to know the truth about God’s heart for marriage and that he does not value the institution above the people in it.
Chelsea, I’m so thankful they love and respect you, and I’ll be praying that the Lord will open their eyes and lead you in the right path. I wrote about Michael Pearl here: https://heresthejoy.com/2017/06/dear-michael-pearl-this-is-what-righteous-anger-looks-like/
Your last statement that God does not value the institution of marriage more than the people in it is such a vital and powerful truth that has so impacted my life!
So many church leaders and teachers in my past, which was rife with a long history of family of origin abuses and then an “escape” marriage at a young age to another abuser-common among abuse victims, knew about the abuses because I went to them for help. But all of them always seemed to IDOLIZE marriage as well as “family” MORE than the people/victims of abuse in them. That idol worship-type of teaching over and over kept me in bondage to a violently abusive toxic family and then to a violently abusive spouse much, much longer than I believe the Lord would have wanted or advised!
After much help with desconstructing that and other false teachings (forgiveness, reconciliation…), I am now free of all the abusers and seeking Jesus as my Good Shepherd and Healer of the many scars left.
But I am without not only any family after the response to my cutting off contact with my abusive family was a mass targeting and shunning by the total sin-enabling large clan (well-explained in Matthew 10 by Jesus) but also without a church that I feel safe in and can trust. So the Holy Spirit and some good pastors’ blogs speaking truth about abuse within the Christian church are my Teachers. Other than the isolation dilemma-how does one make new friends at retirement age when everyone already has their friends and family pretty set with no room for outcasts? (Covid has made most people even more “closed” to outsiders.) I keep reading blogs and hearing Christians say that the Bible says we are meant to be in “community”, and that it’s the ONLY way trauma victims can heal. And it’s probably best and healthiest, and I’ve prayed about it and left it with God to open doors if He wills, but I see no way to make that happen without a safe, truth-telling church and its community.
But, blessed be the good Lord, I’ve been married to the best man ever for 25 years so at least we are isolated together! And maybe that’s how God wants it? I want no one in my life that the Lord Himself hasn’t sent! He sees the hearts of people and dangers ahead that I don’t see. So I will trust in Him.
I think it’s limiting God for anyone to say something as an absolute that He doesn’t say in the Bible. So I agree with you that the elusive “community” they talk about is not the only way to heal. A loving husband is more community than a lot of people have, sadly. And when everyone else fails us, Jesus alone is enough community to heal. I have heard others bear witness to this.
I’m so thankful for what the Lord has provided for you, Zee, in the midst of much heartache and loss.
Thank you, Rebecca, for that confirmation that Jesus is enough always. And that His “good and perfect gift” of a loving, supportive husband IS a community. Thank you, too, for the enormous impact your ministry has had on my recovery. Your “deconstructive” writings untwisting all the false teachings I had and your counseling ministry have been huge blessings from above for me!
Praise God, and much love to you.
Thank you for this post! I finally don’t feel alone or crazy. Being an “outsider” to the church is confusing. Thank you Rebecca & Tim. God is using your ministry & testimony to comfort & soothe my tired, anxious soul.
Mentioned in the article:
(We had been presented with long charts up front of church that claimed to present us with the big picture in 7 complicated stages, but by this time both of us deeply doubted that perspective.)
Is this referring to Schofield’s system? I do believe I was raised on the same complicated acrobats of eschatology.
Would you please share more on this?
Thank you again, from the heart.
God bless you both abundantly!
It’s referring to the 7 dispensations of Dispensationalism.
This is really good! I started deconstructing my faith about 10 years ago, especially areas that dealt with patriarchy and women’s acceptable roles. I am closer to God than I’ve ever been, and I’m stronger in my faith than ever before. Deconstruction has led to tremendous spiritual growth in me!
I had no idea that “deconstructing” was what I was actually doing for years. Now, it seems like deconstructing is popular for people turning and renouncing their beliefs altogether or for people looking for excuses to sin. Thank you for writing about your journey.
Yes, well, it wasn’t a term at all until about 10 years ago or so, and it has definitely been gaining in momentum since then.
Deconstruction is a dangerous journey. I would say that I am deconstructing also. It is a lonely and dangerous place to be. If you advocate for victims, and it smacks of “the world” in any way, you can count on accusations of backsliding, becoming apostate, compromising biblical principles, or in outright sin. It is dangerous because there are few like-minded Christians to help keep you in check as you pick through the myriad of church errors and worldliness. The world holds no godliness, the godly are often errant in understanding and applying scripture. But the truth is, the world has some legitimate criticisms that we’d do well to consider and compare to scripture. And sometimes, those ideas can actually line up with scripture.
Thank you for your wisdom, Lisa. This is so, so true.
What a fitting word to end this post– beautiful. The beauty of Jesus is overwhelming, and His sufficiency covers every aspect of our existence. Praise God for His guidance over your lives!
Guess you and Tim were ” tearing down walls” long before you helped Dale Ingraham with that book …. PLEASE KEEP DECONSTRUCTING all things twisted for us!!!!❤️❤️
Ha, I guess so. But ours were only in our own lives, not in a church. In the churches, walls were being put up against us. So here we are. And it’s okay, because we wouldn’t go back.
And thank you, friend, for your encouragement about the untwisting. My daughter asked, “How many of those books are you going to write?” I said, “I could probably do a few dozen, but I might stop with 5.” We shall see.
I like the term “cultural reactionary legalism”. One thing that does frustrates me about Christian conservatives is that whenever there is a trend in secular culture, they create a superficial knee-jerk response and grab whatever Bible verses they can proof-text rather than asking God what He thinks and feels about it and then responding based on what He reveals.
Also I’ve never felt like I fit in church cultures my whole life. While the churches I’ve been to weren’t legalistic in terms of having correct theology, their emphasis on welcoming as many people to the church and sharing your faith as much as possible did create some unbearable expectations. I struggled with emotionally abusive people in my life which included family members, friends, co-workers, and even fellow church members and I’ve struggle with the whole “love, love, love, grace, grace, grace” message.
It wasn’t until the past few years (a few decades after I gave my life to Jesus) where passages about foolishness, evil, separating from certain people, reprobates, boundaries, etc became more relevant to me. For so long, I’ve tried to cope with emotionally abusive people more than I should of that it has really affected me mentally where it’s held me back in all areas in my life.
This made it very difficult for me to feel close or included with many of my church friends. When I try to explain my situation they don’t understand what I’m dealing with, play it down, or offer bad advice.
Online ministries like yours have been a great help for me and while I will make time to fellowship with other believers that I can really connect with, I believe regardless of whether or not I’m a member of a local congregation, I will always be part of the Body of Christ.
Thank you Rebecca and Tim for what you’re doing and may Jesus continue to walk with both of you through this process!
Thank you so much, Terry, and God bless you.
Thank you for the article….I started deconstructing out of my questions about Patriarchal and Authoritative teaching that has left me in unhealthy, unsafe places. I am finding on my journey that it is a very personal journey about my relationship with Jesus and who I am to and in Him and with Him…I am just starting out..( I feel like a frightened child afraid of believing the “wrong” thing). I realize this fear puts me in a vulnerable position to possibly allow someone else to be the authority in my life….this is a tricky place. I love the Lord and I am taking one step at a time and seeing where He leads.
Very wise. I certainly don’t want people seeing ME as an authority either (even though I’ve written a book about Patriarchy and Authority that I think is pretty good, lol). We can read what various people say, but ultimately we have to take it back to the Word of God with the Holy Spirit as our guide. God bless you on your journey.
Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts. As another commenter said, it is nice to not feel so alone. I too have ‘tried’ many of the major denominations, and eventually concluded that I do not agree with the hierarchical, authoritarian structure of the Institutional Church. So not only am I still in the process of deconstructing and reconstructing my faith, but find myself unable to integrate into any local church, with their power structures, legalism and self-claimed authority to dictate what is and is not orthodox.
I am curious about your decision that you are ‘New Covenant’. My experience with that terminology was in Reformed circles, and I’m not sure they meant the same thing you perhaps do. It seemed to me that this was their means of reintroducing the Judaistic belief in ‘chosen people’ theology. Believing in predestination, they used Covenant Theology to convince themselves that their children were obviously ‘elect’, much as national Israel believed that all who were circumcised and followed the Law of Moses were God’s people. I am not sure that many mothers would otherwise swallow the TULIP theology that asserts limited atonement for a select few.
Yes, “Covenant Theology” and “New Covenant Theology” are quite different. “Covenant Theology,” says that there is one covenant with two administrations (Old and New), so any distinctions tend to be very muddied. We say that they are radically different covenants, and that the OC people of God were physical people (entering by physical birth), and the NC people of God are spiritual people (entering by spiritual birth). There are many more implications to this statement that I expand on in chapter 6 of my second Untwisting Scriptures book, Patriarchy and Authority. It’s available here for just $2.99 on Kindle: https://amzn.to/38AILCQ
Thank you for this post, Rebecca and Tim. I echo it in the exact same way, but yet differently. My faiith is stronger now than it has ever been. The roots are dense and deeper than ever. I am so grateful, even though it was and is hard … it’s not “bad.”
I love what I unshakably know now theologically and in Whom I trust. It’s different than the lifestyle acceptance and osmosis of much the same truths I absorbed over decades with. I am sure. many good intentions….
Perhaps, Rebecca and Tim, you will supplement this journey’s tale a little more and share some of the nuances (and more about getting clobbered) along the way. It’s been a sobering and defining journey for me.
We still have many friends — but there’s a restriction of conversation and understanding that is sometimes difficult to bridge, because many conclusions are so vastly different now. Yet I am thankful the process was started.
Defining terms is pretty important. Thanks for differentiating between Deconstruction and Deconverting. I find the Deconstruction to be a healthy exercise if the motive is right and sincere. I have heard of many who use it as an excuse to separate from organized/institutional “religion” — I didn’t realize TGC was primarily painting it as a one-way destructive road.
At least they did in that particular post, yes.
I love how you stated this about the roots being dense and deep.
“Perhaps, Rebecca and Tim, you will supplement this journey’s tale a little more and share some of the nuances (and more about getting clobbered) along the way. It’s been a sobering and defining journey for me.”
You noticed that the last 20 years were covered in one paragraph at the end–that’s because I needed to wrap it up for Tim, partly because it was getting so long, and partly because the last 20 years have been so difficult for him in finding spiritual connection with others.
It’s been hard and good, sobering and defining, as you said.
My husband really enjoyed this post with me. We were so riveted- we wanted to hear more.
Your story parallels ours so much- we wish we could have you over for dinner.
In all seriousness, we have a spare bedroom in our home in Costa Rica and we would welcome you both for a relaxation visit if you ever feel the urge….❤️
Thank you so much, Amy. If we decide we need to escape U.S. craziness for a bit, we may just jet on down there, haha.
And about hearing more . . . I’m thinking about writing a post from my perspective, filling in some gaps and such. And telling about when Tim said, “I think God might be calling me to be a pastor,” and I said, “I never wanted to be a pastor’s wife!” heh.
I was sitting in Sunday school class in my old church and the Sunday school teacher quoted a verse in kjv and said that sometimes when people decieve themselves and refuse to repent that God gives up on them and decides to decieve them himself. I was horrified. Does God actually decieve people? I recently left my church and denomination and am rethinking almost everything I was thought ( I still love Jesus) and my family and in laws think I need to repent which made the whole thing worse.
No, God doesn’t deceive people. The Bible says He cannot lie. The Bible also says that Satan is the father of lies. There is nothing in the Bible to indicate that God every deceived anyone–that is a representation of a false god. No wonder sincere people get confused about who God is when they’re presented with a god like that one.