Summary: The dangers of and antidote to lightweight Christianity
As a building surveyor, one of the services that I offer is the preparation of building drawings. Being a thoroughly modern surveyor, I do this on my computer with a computer aided design software package. The industry standard for computer-aided design or CAD software is something called AutoCAD. The standard software package is very expensive, at about £4,000. So in order to make the product more available and widely used, the company have produced a slimline or economy version called AutoCAD ‘Lite’. This sells for about a tenth of the cost, and needless to say this is the version that I have. It doesn’t have all the features and capabilities of the full version, but it is a good deal less demanding on the pocket. Part of the idea of course is that the manufacturers hope that you will upgrade to the full version in due course. Indeed, if you want the full capabilities, and manufacturer support, very often the only way to achieve it is by upgrading. Those of you are familiar with your computers will know that this isn’t limited to AutoCAD. There are all sorts of software packages that have a ‘Lite’ version.
The idea of AutoCAD ‘Lite’ can be just as well applied to matters of faith. There is absolutely nothing to stop you having Christianity ‘Lite’. And indeed there are many aspects of current religious thought that promote the idea of spirituality ’Lite’. What do I mean by this? The sort of thing I have in mind is the kind of faith which relatively simple, relatively undeveloped, certainly fairly undemanding, and still gives you a warm glow inside. That there is of course absolutely nothing wrong with a simple faith. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the undeveloped ness of the faith of somebody who has only just come into a relationship with God. But just as AutoCAD Lite has certain drawbacks, Christianity ‘Lite’ is also liable to a number of weaknesses.
The dangers of Christianity ‘Lite’
You see, the expectation, as with computer software, is that Christian faith will be continuously upgraded. That is to say, there is an expectation that the Christian life will be a life of growth. You will remember in Hebrews, where Paul writes about the need for progression from spiritual food like milk to spiritual food like meat. ‘ Let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity’ Heb 6:1. Just as children need a changing and developing diet to enable them to grow properly, Christians need a changing and developing diet in order to reach maturity. For without maturity, our children will be weak both physically and in character. They will be easily pushed over physically, and easily pushed about emotionally. And this is the danger with Christianity ‘Lite’. Christians who are undeveloped are at risk. Paul, in Ephesians 4, talks about ‘children being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles.’
This is something of the situation to which Paul was writing his letter to the Colossians. Colossae was a bit like the Ribble Valley. It was a prosperous place, in a prosperous area. It was close to Laodicea, which you will recall had a Christian community which was rebuked for the lukewarm nature of its faith. One of the problems at Colossae was members of the Christian community were being drawn away from the faith by heretical doctrine. We see this in chapter 2:8 where Paul says ’ see to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit’. We don’t know exactly what this heresy was. We get pointers to it in the letter but it isn’t clearly stated. In a sense it doesn’t matter. Because what to matters is Paul’s approach to dealing with it.
The antidote to Christianity ‘Lite’
So what is Paul’s antidote to the dangers of Christianity ‘Lite’? First of all, we see that Paul has been praying for the Colossians to have Fullness of knowledge. One of the reasons that many Christians have difficulties in dealing with Jehovah’s Witnesses when they come to the door is that their knowledge of the faith is poor. So they are easily confused. Just as our children have to go to school to learn fairly basic knowledge about the world in which we live, so there is the need for Christians to spend time in learning the facts of the faith.
However, facts and knowledge by themselves are not enough. And so Paul prays for the Colossians to have Fullness of wisdom. He prays for wisdom and understanding. Wisdom is insight, and discernment, whereas understanding is about the practical application of that discernment. So what Paul is praying for is that the Christians may understand the great truths of Christianity and may be able to apply them to the tasks the troubles and the decisions that face them in everyday life.