Jenga Block Faith: Are Your Beliefs About to Topple?

"Jenga Block Faith" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

“Jenga Block Faith” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

This cartoon is very personal. If you like it you can buy the original or a print of it HERE.

This is when my deconstruction really began. It was way back in seminary in 1983 when I was about to graduate from my Masters in Biblical Studies. My firm belief in the inspiration of scripture was pulled. Little did I know that this would start a series of collapses in the rest of my beliefs. My whole theology, over the many years, eroded to the point in 2009 I was ready to throw in the towel and give up altogether.

Then I had a dream that delivered to me the peace of mind I’d been searching for for decades.

Did I throw away the blocks?
Did I reject the meaning these symbols we call beliefs attempted to articulate?
Or did they alchemize into something more pure and true?

But I’m repeating myself. You can read about my journey in my book Questions are the Answer.

I facilitate an online community of people who have experience with this. I welcome you.


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15 Responses

  1. Dan says:

    David, are you familiar with the different theories of epistemology? There seem to be two prevailing views: foundationalism and coherentism.

    According to foundationalism, there are basic beliefs (at the foundations) from which all other beliefs are derived. The basic beliefs must be taken for granted. Foundationalists argue that without this basic set, beliefs are not truly justified. Coherentists argue that belief formation is not as simple as that. Instead our beliefs are connected like a complex web, which has some structure, but it’s often difficult to see how it’s working. Also, if you take a strand out of a web, the whole thing doesn’t fall to pieces. This is very different from foundationalism where everything is stacked on the basic beliefs, and easily topples when the foundations are removed. Plus, in foundationalism the basic beliefs are taken for granted–by definition they’re unjustified. Since everything is built on these unjustified beliefs, one could argue that for the foundationalist there is ultimately no justified belief.

    I think coheretist views better describe how people create beliefs. I don’t think people typically connect their beliefs in a clear and simple way back to some fundamental set. Anyways, your cartoon reminded me of these two views of epistemology.

  2. Thanks Dan. I wasn’t aware of those two views. Perhaps I’m a convert from foundationalism to Coherentism. Although even the word “belief” is problematic for me now.

  3. Dan says:

    Well, everyone has beliefs. Most beliefs have nothing to do with religion. I’m talking ‘belief’ in the normal, everyday sense of the word. You believe your wife loves you, that the sun will rise in the morning, that flipping a coin has a 50% chance of showing heads, that 2+2=4, etc.

  4. Denise says:

    My deconstruction occurred when I realized that Jesus’ end of the world predictions are all failed prophecies and that Jesus, if he existed, was nothing more than an apocalyptic prophet.

    Each generation keeps reinterpreting and projecting these failed prophecies into the future or some support Preterism in order to save the Bible from errancy and prove Jesus right (Preterism however, can be easily debunked).

  5. It’s interesting how diverse our deconstructions can be.

  6. Brigitte says:

    Denise, I think the consensus is here–if consensus is allowed in terms of being on their own journeys, even NP is leery of all beliefs–anyways, the consensus arrived at by Contextual epistemology, not Foundational, as it cannot be seen as a given, is that Jesus did not even exist, so hence he cannot even be a failed apocalyptic prophet. Or maybe, foundational epistemology is ok, when we are assuming scripture cannot be inspired, and prophetic predictions must all be discounted and Jesus is an endless variation of fraud. Whatever we do, let neither scripture nor Jesus sit in judgment over us, because we are going to sit in judgment over them. Pa, we’re not even going to do that, because we are done with reading it, quoting it, commenting on it, trying to see what it is saying. Just shred it and forget it.

    (I just was at a paper shredding place to get rid of a basements worth of business records. This was their motto: “better shred than read”.)

  7. Well… that sounds kind of fatalistic and nihilistic. I value the bible as a depository of a great story that attempts to articulate a great mystery. But mixed in with this attempt is the human appetite to organize and control people. So for me it’s a mixture of truth (as in mythology is true) and questionable motives.

  8. Caryn LeMur says:

    Love what Dan wrote! How interesting to see there could be 2 views: on like the Jenga block cartoon, and another like a Web.

    David: great cartoon by the way!

  9. Thanks Caryn. I didn’t realize what I was getting into when I drew the cartoon. That Jenga tower was hard!

  10. Brigitte says:

    It used to be “better red than dead”. Or was it “better dead than red”? No, the former. Take your pick.

    That was under communist dictatorship, for those here, who don’t remember dealing with that sort of thing. The Bible was forbidden, there, too. No “superstitions” are allowed, even now in Communist China. There could be a saying: “If the Bible is read, you are no longer red, and you might be dead.”

    Apparently, this prohibition is not working in China, as they can’t get a hold of enough Bibles, there, in spite of the forbidding of practices other than atheism.

  11. Brigitte: Anything persecuted usually thrives.

  12. Jordan says:

    I just thought of that jenga player who aimed for the lowest brick and chopped it out in one fast motion – and the tower still stood.

    Not sure if appropriate or not.

  13. Brigitte says:

    “At times” might be more it than “usually”. Christianity thrives in China, because Chinese are sick of atheistic communism. Christianity took soil in the Roman Empire because they were sick of the pantheon and all the associated cults and mystery religions–a great big mess. Christianity did not thrive were the persecutions were extremely violent and long-lasting, in systems were violence and harshness are glorified, and empires want to expand. The Romans were something like that, in some respects, but it was intermittent. Etc, etc… In any case, growing up in Germany during the Cold War, we always said that we need to memorize some songs and scripture because we might find ourselves in a situation where we had no books available to us. And indeed, the things I have memorized are a great treasure to me, of which I can’t be robbed. And it also is a treasure that is not diminished as it is shared, but increased. This is how persecution can grow a faith. Everything is driven deeper down and solidified.

  14. Caryn LeMur says:

    Brigitte: I think the deconstruction (or re-examination) of a faith-system is not really too easy when you are trying to survive.

    Have your read of Maslow’s Hierarchy?

    Christianity may be growing in Africa or in China, but it is dying in Canada and the USA.

    So, in my mind, the Jenga block cartoon is quite accurate for those that live in First World countries. Indeed, ‘test all things, hold to what is true’ is possibly a better line than ‘better red than dead’.