Is discipleship a religious way to glorify conformity?

“We covenant to follow Him, not passively, blindly, or sheepishly.”

Gerrit W. Gong

Is being a disciple an act of strength or is a weakness? Is discipleship like an apprenticeship, a period of time one passes through in the process of becoming like the master? Or is discipleship something to aspire to become, not merely a phase to pass through? Are disciples people who conform easily? Is a disciple just another way to put a positive twist on someone who conforms, who is easy to manipulate, and who is submissive?

My husband and I have different views on how to define blind faith. He views blind faith as an act of strength, I think blind faith is an act of weakness. We use to have lengthily discussions trying to convince the other that they were wrong, until one day I finally asked him what blind faith meant to him. It turns out that we actually share a very similar view on blind faith, we just define it differently.

To him, blind faith is being “obedient” to something not knowing what the outcome will be, with no guarantee of reward or safety or immediate blessings and still choosing to move forward with “obedience.”

Okay, first let’s talk about the word “obedience.” It can carry negative or positive connotations. I’m using quotation marks on the word obedience, because I’m not sure how I feel about the word. Like the word “blind faith” it carried a variety of meanings, and depending on how you view the word, it may or may not be the right word for the sentence. In some ways I think obedience is an act of weakness and with other meanings I see it as an act of strength. So for now, obedience gets quotation marks giving it the benefit of the doubt that it is being used with positive meanings and not negative weaker meanings.

Al see blind faith as being “obedient” to a law or commandment with no guarantee of a positive outcome. It’s the person who prays for their sick child, but their sick child never gets better. It’s the person who pays their tithing faithfully, but still has a hard time making ends meet financially and has to find extra work to put food on the table for their family. It’s easy to be “obedient” when the results are swift and favorable. But to Al, it’s an act of strength to move forward with blind faith, not being able to see what the outcome will be and not knowing if things are going to get better.

In Al’s view, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego acted with blind faith when they “refused to bow down and worship a golden image set up by the king, and a furious Nebuchadnezzar told them that if they would not worship as commanded, they would immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace (Dennis E. Simmons).”

“If it be so [if you cast us into the furnace], our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand. But if not, …we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up (Daniel 3:17-18).” 

“Our God will deliver us from ridicule and persecution, but if not. … Our God will deliver us from sickness and disease, but if not … . He will deliver us from loneliness, depression, or fear, but if not. … Our God will deliver us from threats, accusations, and insecurity, but if not. … He will deliver us from death or impairment of loved ones, but if not, … we will trust in the Lord. Our God will see that we receive justice and fairness, but if not. … He will make sure that we are loved and recognized, but if not…  Dennis E. Simmons.”

That “but if not” kind of faith is what Al defines as blind faith. And I agree with him, that kind of faith is an act of strength.

I define blind faith differently.

The way I see blind faith, is being “obedient” to a law or commandment or being “obedient” to authority without using your own judgment in discerning if that thing is a good thing to do. Blind faith is handing over your thinking to someone else and giving them the power to tell you what to do and what is best for you. This is an act of weakness, furthermore it stifles individual development and makes them weaker, not stronger.

Discipleship is the same. It depends on how you are using the word. Discipleship can be an act of moral courage, an act of strength, and an act of virtue. Or Discipleship can be an act of weakness. It gets complicated when we say that discipleship is always an act of strength or when we praise actions and behaviors that lack virtue and call it good.

When our discipleship is borrowing wisdom and the wise use of our agency to learn from others. Discipleship isn’t about turning over our thinking to another person, it’s pushing ourselves to make wise decisions while learning from others.

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: “Anybody who is wise and wants to act with wisdom is going to be open to valuable or wise input from others. If you want to make good choices you’re going to be looking to others that have gone before you that have wisdom to offer.  But ultimately you don’t go along with whatever they say because you want to be a accepted or valued or seen good by them or others or the community. If you align your actions with what they said it is out of integrity and good judgment. Having a strong sense of self means that you’re willing to really consider their view, consider it against your own sense of right and wrong, and then discern and make a choice out of that clarity. Choosing to act upon their advice is about choosing and taking responsibility for your decision to act upon their advice. It is good to gather wisdom and good input to know if you’re making a good choice.” 

“You know it would be dumb to never borrow wisdom from people that have gone before us, but that’s very different than a dependent position which is I’ll do whatever you say just love me, just think I’m a good person, or just letting them do the thinking for you and essentially saying “I’m just going to not think for myself, I’ll just do whatever you think is right,” that’s a weak position. Considering their views is an act of strength if you’re not changing your view just for their approval. But if you’re changing your view because you want to have a positive impact, and you see wisdom in their view, then that is an act of strength.” 

August 19 & 20, 2019

Time on this article: 1 hour

Total time writing on this blog: 8 hrs 30 min