Weakness Or Wisdom? Fundamentalists And Romans 14.1–15.13 -- By: Mark A. Snoeberger

Journal: Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal
Volume: DBSJ 12:1 (Fall 2007)
Article: Weakness Or Wisdom? Fundamentalists And Romans 14.1–15.13
Author: Mark A. Snoeberger

Weakness Or Wisdom? Fundamentalists And Romans 14.1–15.13

Mark A. Snoeberger1

A couple of years ago I found myself embroiled in an online discussion of Romans 14 and its applicability to today’s fundamentalist milieu. A number of the participants in the discussion were convinced that many fundamentalists, because of their penchant for strict standards of behavior, fit into the category of “weak brothers.” One participant noted that since “the biblical description of the weaker brother is the one with stricter standards of living,…most of fundamentalism is [made up of weaker brothers]. That’s not an insult…just an attempt to wake us up to who we are.” Another concurred, affirming that to the extent that fundamentalists implement “strictures that go beyond Bible boundaries,” they are, by biblical definition, “weak.” Another chimed in, adding that anyone who adheres to standards more strict than what Scripture explicitly demands is ipso facto evidencing weakness.

I was astonished by these comments. Taken to their logical conclusion, they implied that the most restrained and self-denying of believers are in fact the very weakest, and, contrarily, that the most libertine and self-indulgent of believers are actually the very strongest. Something seemed innately wrong with this conclusion. Is this really what Paul is suggesting in Romans 14? On the heels of exhortations for believers to arm themselves against sin and to “make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Rom 13:12, 14), is Paul now suggesting that any attempt to restrain the flesh that exceeds the explicit dictates of Scripture is to be dismissed as an evidence of “weakness”?

I am convinced that this is not the case. Indeed, Paul’s point seems very nearly the opposite. Paul is instructing us, instead, that the “strong” believer most clearly evidences his strength of faith when he adopts strictures that exceed explicitly biblical boundaries for the sake of his own spiritual health, and more specifically, for the sake of the spiritual health of his weaker brothers.

The Identity Of The “Weak” And The “Strong” In Romans 14.1–15.13

A positive identification of the “weak” (ὁ ἀσθενῶν, 14:1, 2; ὁ ἀδύνατος, 15:1) and the “...

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