Thursday, August 24, 2006

People of Faith

Joel Belz has a problem with the term "people of faith." So do I.

Religious people are regularly referred to, especially in the media, as "people of faith." It doesn't matter if they're Christian, Buddhist, Mormon, Muslim, Hindu, pagan or Wiccan, the phrase "people of faith" is used to describe them. It might be said that "people of faith" have a problem with this or that legislation, or that "people of faith" have made the biggest impact in the rebuilding of tsunami-ravaged lands.

But what does it actually mean? That's the problem. Belz, in his August 5, 2006 article in World, says that the phrase is meaningless. The label is "both way too broad and way to narrow to be of any use."

He said, "Two critical questions have to be dealt with first. What's the purpose of the faith in question? And who's the object of that faith?"

In dealing with the second question, Belz writes, "People always answer that in one of three ways: 1. The God of the Bible. 2. Somebody or something else. 3. A combination of the God of the Bible and somebody or something else. Biblically and historically, Christianity has always declared that any fudging on this matter constitutes serious error. The Apostle Paul wasn't terribly ecumenical when he said flatly that if anyone came suggesting there was hope anywhere other than in Jesus, that person should be considered outside 'the faith.' Some such heretics came close to the truth, but still missed - and Paul didn't award them the fuzzy title 'people of faith.'"

Everyone has faith - faith in something or someone. In one sense (the broadest one), everyone is a person of faith. But in the narrower sense, the term is confusing and of very little use (especially in the Christian sense).


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