It is no secret that I have very little patience for people who are “deconstructing” and have no intention to reconstruct but want there to be no shift in our relationship. They are just now a person whose faith “means a lot to them.” by which they mean they like to think fondly on some warmer fuzzier times before things got real. God made demands of them, and they didn’t like it. For these kinds of people they have a firmer faith in William Ernest Henley than in the sovereignty of God. Which on the face of it is ridiculous. You are the master of your fate… Forgive me while horse laugh. Most of the time when someone says they are deconstructing and we should be gentle or kind or winsome (Beelzebub what what a useful word) what they really mean is, “I want to sin, and I want to do so not only without you calling me to repentance but I want you to affirm it because it is part of my beautiful journey.” My patience runs thin because I am being lied to, we both know it, and they want me to lie back to them.
While I sincerely believe that the above is the vast majority of deconstructors. I will grant that there are a few who think they are but instead are going through a process of sanctification that is ignored by the happy clappy type of evangelical. The kind that is “too blessed to be stressed.” But this process though painful discipline.
It is usually thought that discipline is something that you do to subordinates or authorities do to you. And to an extent that is true but it is not the full picture, discipline is something that is taught, it is something that you have. Dr. Samuel Johnson defines it thus in the first english dictionary
“1. Education; instruction; the act of cultivating the mind; the act of forming the manners.” – Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language
It is not until the sixth definition that Johnson uses the word to mean punishment. The end result of discipline, is the possession of self-control. Which is one of the Fruits of the Spirit. The end of all discipline is the Fruit of the Spirit as opposed to lawlessness or the Works of the Flesh.
It is our flesh, our sin that calls to us, that so easily entangles. Hebrews 12:25 admits that sin is pleasurable for a season, it is the bait that leads to destruction. Most deconstructors take that bait hook line and sinker because of the lure of pleasure as opposed to the discipline of God. They are a short sighted people. They could be easily described by Peter O’Toole’s T.E. Lawrence, “A little people, a silly people, greedy, barbarous, and cruel.” But for those who God loves he disciplines.
“Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.” – Hebrews 12:3-17
The tragedy is that the deconstructor wishes to be a bastard child. They are doing what Lewis would call in The Problem of Pain as asking for not more of Gods love but for less. They wish to be far from the presence of God, they will not say “Thy will be done,” because they do not fear hearing the ultimate, “thy will be done.”*
I recently listened to a sermon out of Philippians 4 on how Paul had learned to be content no matter his circumstances. And the pastor was frustrated that, in his view, Paul didn’t give instructions on how to be content. I would submit that Paul gives those instructions in the preceding verses 8-9
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” – Philippians 4:8-9
Paul did these things while he abounded and when he was brought low, when he had plenty and when he had hunger. They key was his theology, “think on these things” worked out in his obedience, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things.” (emphasis added)
Paul’s legitimacy as a son was revealed by his obedience in the low points of life, the trough periods. Many going through deconstruction bail because they don’t want to obey. They wanted an Almighty god to pave the easy way for them. But let us not forget, “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”** The legitimate son takes up his cross and follows Christ, when he can see the Celestial City and even when he can not. And this is how God separates the two, the sheep and the goats, the bastards and the sons. We may not like it, but,
“You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” – Romans 9:19-20
As counterintuitive it may sound I shall give Screwtape the last word here:
Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs—to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. We can drag our patients along by continual tempting, because we design them only for the table, and the more their will is interfered with the better. He cannot “tempt” to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.
*Lewis, Mere Christianity
**Screwtape, Letter XII