The weak in faith

January 30, 2012

I had this experience a few years ago, so I don't remember exactly how it happened.

It was after a funeral.  I was sitting with a couple who were visiting
our congregation, but it turned out they had connections with my
husband's church, so we began to chat.  And (here's where I get fuzzy) I
don't know how this came up or what I said exactly, but I must have
said something about "the historical view" or "the critical view" of the
Bible, and they both got this stricken, deer-in-the-headlights look, a
look that told me that they were afraid, very afraid of what I might be
implying with just a few words.  So I remember that I backpedaled, said
something innocuous until they looked a little more relaxed, as if it
was safe to believe again.

I had just gotten the feeling that they were, without words, telling me
"If you go any farther along this line, you will cause us to lose our
faith."  I don't know if this is true, but those were the vibes that I
got. 

The Bible is a dangerous book.  In many ways.

I just read something a fellow pastor wrote about those "Read the Bible
in one Year" or "Read the Bible in 90 Days" programs.  She said she was
not sure she wanted to do that again.  Last time she did, she lost a
couple of families.  Every time they turned around, they were reading
about wars.

I know there are people sitting in the pews every Sunday, reading along
with the Bible stories we read, and in their hearts they are saying,
"Give us permission to question, Pastor.  We want to believe, and we
want to question too.  Because, you know, some of this is hard to
believe.  And if we think we have to swallow it whole, we might just
lose our faith."

Yesterday's lectionary readings included a section of Paul's letter to the Corinthians. 
It's about a certain practice alien to us but intensely relevant to the
Corinthian church:  eating meat which had been sacrificed to idols. 
Some people think it's okay to eat, and some people have an attack of
conscience when they see other people eating.  Paul recommends
abstaining from eating if it will help those who are "weak in faith".

All of this might make your eyes glaze over.  It's just not something
that we care much about these days.  As far as I know, none of the meat
at the supermarket has been sacrificed to idols.  So, we're okay. 

But I can't help thinking about Paul's phrase, "the weak in faith."  Who
are the weak in faith?  I mean, these days.   Because the idea is not
to do something that will cause them to lose their faith. 

And these days, when I think about what will cause people to lose their
faith, one of the first things that comes to mind is how we read the
Bible.  Do we refrain from bringing up questions in and about the Bible
because it might cause some among us to stumble?  Or is it possible that
not bringing up questions is a bigger offense?

I will tell you that I lean the second way.  Because I believe that the
Bible is God's Word, in all of its puzzling complexity, with all of its
stories, strange or comforting. 

Still, it gives me pause.

Who are the weak in faith?

Originally posted at Faith in Community

Comments

I choose weak!

Thanks for your post and question. Mostly, on my better days, I feel weak in faith. At least weak, because I carry doubts and questions and try not to overpower others. I think about our image of Mother Teresa compared to the "reality" we now know. Didn't she appear strong? Wasn't she actually "weak" in her faith? My wife and I joke about how much we enjoy having a wimpy dog. Our golden retriever is not agressive at all...and we'd much prefer that to an overly agressive pet. I suspect good ole Paul struggled with his communities, seeing value in the "strong" and "weak," but being troubled by how easily the strong I'm-right group could intimidate the weaker I'm-not-sure group. It's an ongoing struggle.