Friday, August 17, 2007
Who are the "Weaker Brothers"
I have always wondered about Paul’s references to “weaker brothers” in the New Testament, and how those arguments apply to the modern church. After a lot of reading, studying, and exegesis of 1st Corinthians and Romans 14 I am convinced that Paul is not talking about people who’d be upset that their narrow understandings were being violated. He isn’t speaking about them being offended. He’s addressing a very real possibility of falling away. They had come out of paganism. They remembered those pagan temples; they could recall the thrill of the meals; they still had memories of the way moral restraint was lifted in that environment. One smell of that meat might lead them down a road to their old lives. That's why he talks about their faith being "destroyed." The “strong Christians” might know that it isn’t a package deal; but these weaker brothers and sisters might be caught up into idolatry. It’s important to know what he’s saying. And it’s equally important to know what he’s not saying. These “weaker brother” passages have been used too many times to endorse the position of the person with the most narrow way. It has nothing to do with that.
Here is a very insightful comment from my favorite New Testament Scholar, N.T. Wright:
“Sometimes people from a very narrow background, full of rules and restrictions which have nothing to do with the gospel itself and everything to do with a particular social subculture, try to insist that all other good Christians should join them in their tight little world. But in a case like that the rule-bound Christians are in no danger of having their consciences damaged. They are not being ‘led astray.’ They are quite sure of their own correctness. Paul is dealing with a very different case.”