Robust Faith

I attend a writer’s guild where each month we are assigned a short essay on a one-word topic.  The word for one month was “robust,” which seems to be an “in” word these days (along with starting answers with “so”). One seldom hears or reads a news story without reference to a robust debate on some issue. Other uses of the word I’ve come across recently include being physically, intellectually, economically, or flavorfully robust. Even the bread I buy at the grocery store claims to have robust flavor and texture!

Of course, “robust” is not a new word, although it seems it wasn’t used before the 1540s. To give one example from the more recent past, in 1965 J. Oswald Sanders wrote Robust in Faith: Men from God’s School. It provides brief biographies of characters (all men!) of faith in the Old and New Testaments. So is “robust” a biblical word?

Not in any translation I use. However, The Message, a Bible paraphrase, uses it 26 times, and the New American Standard Bible translates Judges 3:29: “They struck down at that time about ten thousand Moabites, all robust and valiant men, and no one escaped.” The International Standard Version uses “robust” to describe the coming Day of the Lord. There are a few (three in all, as far as I could find) New Testament references in other translations, all referring to robust faith (Rom. 15:1; Titus 1:13 and 2:2). Most translations use “strong” instead of “robust.”

Clearly—and as dictionary definitions confirm—“robust” is a synonym for “strong,” whether used for physical or intellectual strength or strong faith. What, then, does biblically robust faith look like? The Romans 15:1 reference in the classic edition of the Amplified Bible reads: “We who are strong [in our convictions and of robust faith] ought to bear with the failings and the frailties and the tender scruples of the weak; [we ought to help carry the doubts and qualms of others] and not to please ourselves.” The first of the Titus references (in the Weymouth New Testament) is a rebuke to Cretans who are “always liars … [and] idle gluttons.” Titus is urged to rebuke them so they may be robust (translated “sound” in the NIV) in the faith. Then in Titus 2:2 (also in the WNT), “aged men” are urged to be “temperate, grave, sober-minded, robust in their faith, their love and their patience.”

As other passages make clear, robust faith is thus the opposite of lying and living as idle gluttons. Rather, it exhibits the virtues of Titus 2:2. It is a faith that does not look down on others, but is full of love and patience as well as being sound in content, meaning all that is revealed in the Bible culminating in Jesus Christ as savior and Lord (Jude 3). Those with a robust faith are able to teach others (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:9), even to “fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Tim. 6:12), but to do so with humility, love, and patience, not pride and arrogance.

Discussion Questions

  1. What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “a robust faith”?
  2. Do you think you currently have a “robust faith”? Why or why not?
  3. The author suggests that a robust faith “does not look down on others.” How then would you characterize someone who is proud and arrogant in their faith?
  4. What are some ways we can help ourselves and each other strengthen our faith within our church communities?

 

About the Author

J. Cameron Fraser is a retired Christian Reformed pastor in Lethbridge, Alberta, who now concentrates on preaching and writing.

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