I am often enthralled and disgusted at the sight of self-declared weak faith waved about as a weapon to fight change. It is akin to the simultaneous wonder and horror of watching a python engulf a favourite pet. With nothing short of pure astonishment, I have witnessed church leaders brandish it like a katana, slashing away at any attempt to convince everyone to try a little something new. Self-declared weak faith is a weapon of last resort brought out when the first defence of cultural theology crumbles before the advancing hordes of critical thinking and sustained scrutiny.
Cultural theology – a term used by a friend to describe the common practice of coercing the Bible into signing off on the validation of the culture of the “good old days”. At times, verses are massaged into the vacuous cavity between a romanticised past and unfamiliar present but often, the Bible’s mangled corpse is left lying with inked quill in hand while hearty Amens swirl around the signed validation of culture (whatever that is). I am hardly qualified to deliberate on cultural issues but I will say that I have seen cultural theology buckle beneath the weight of sustained scrutiny. The reason is simple: it is culture (whatever that is) masquerading as the Gospel and masks are notorious for their vulnerability to steady tugging.
Enter self-declared weak faith (SDWF). When it becomes apparent that Deuteronomy has awful little to say about the trousers in the ladies’ section of the store and that nobody in the Bible wore a suit and tie, SDWF flies out of its scabbard. When it turns out that Sabbath is not kept from the ankles up and the wading-good-swimming-bad rule stands on shaky ground, the SDA in Speedos might find his skin nicked by SDWF. When it turns out the dancing in the Bible is not another word for flute, SDWF cuts off the legs of those who would dare boogie in church. SDWF goes like, “Your points are strong but let us remember the weaker brethren.” Romans 14 & 15 are the texts that are blindfolded and held at gunpoint to justify it all.
To be sure, Paul does say that those without trifles should bear with those who do. What he does not say, however, is that those with weak faith should run about the church, screaming, “You can’t do that, I have weak faith.” One mark of spiritual immaturity is reading the Bible and applying it to somebody else. With Ephesians 5:22-6:4 in tow, husbands try to make wives submissive, wives try to make husbands more loving, parents try to make children more obedient and children try to make parents less provocative. Similarly, leaders read 1 Peter 2:13 and try to make their followers submissive while followers read 1 Peter 5 and try to make leaders more humble. The Bible wasn’t given to us to hold hostage. Read it all but apply it to yourself.
Those with weak faith should seek to strengthen it. Weak faith is not a badge of honour and fares dismally as a weapon too. Real life is deadly to weak faith and those who cling to the good old days, refusing to engage with present changing reality tend to spin out of control when the winds of change chip off the thin veneer of piety. The good old days were not that good and are gone anyway. Truth is progressive. Maturity requires that we pick out what is eternal from the past and let go of the disposable. Maturity also requires that we try not to leave anybody behind. God doesn’t lead faster than we can follow but He does lead so we must follow.
In the end, nobody’s belief makes them better than anybody else. Jesus is the hero; it is His faithfulness that will save all those who trust Him. With Him, our best days are before us. We all desperately need to grow up.