1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
— 2 Timothy 3:1–5
How have you heard the label “people of faith” used? We heard it a lot in the post–9/11 calls to community prayer services, etc. Now we hear it in the political realm as though all people of faith should all fall into ranks behind one policy or candidate!
Although it is meant to be helpful, it is not. As Joel Belz [WORLD magazine*] writes, I suppose it’s meant to refer to people who openly confess a sort of trust in some higher power. As such, it would include not just Christians (both Protestants and Catholic, both evangelical and liberal, both fervent and nominal), but Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Native Americans, and others too numerous and too diverse to mention. It is far too vague and ambiguous to be useful.
Let me draw out a few significant problems with this label, as inspired by Belz’s article and the Word of God.
THE LABEL IS TOO BROAD
This label is too broad in assuming all who would wear it have more in common than not. Do all people who believe in “some higher power” fit into a single category? Try an internet search for “people of faith” and see the huge diversity of those who use the label!
It should be narrowed by clarifying the key term, FAITH. Who is the object of this faith? And what is the nature of this faith? Of course, the answers given will show the inherent diversity of the group.
Christians must not shrink back from expressing their faith in the God of the Bible, who created heaven and earth and all that is in them; who exists as a Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is most clearly revealed in Christ Jesus and the Bible. (2 Corinthians 11:3–4, & 13–15).
Christians would do well to search in the NT for the phrase “the faith” and study it’s significance. Our faith is a system of doctrines and belief which stands on the special revelation of God to us in His Word.
THE LABEL IS TOO NARROW
Is not every human being a religious person? Belz writes, Everything we do is a sorting out of where different ones of us put our ultimate confidence. Are New Agers “people of faith”? What about people who devote their whole lives to the pursuit of material success? What of those who sincerely worship the gods of science or research or education? The faith of all these folks is often not just profound, but zealous.2
THE REASON THE LABEL IS USED
The label “people of faith” is used because it is vague. The public is so given over to “tolerance” and political correctness, that it does not desire specificity or precision in personal beliefs — such things do not matter, and are only divisive, we’re told. This vagueness is really a cloud aimed to diffuse or obscure the reality of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. His presence in the public square calls men to account. When Christians make Christ central to their fellowship choices, they will often stand alone.
So what shall we do? Christians should avoid invitations to “join with people of faith” on most occasions, which will only serve to blur the importance of the biblical faith we profess. If you do gather in common cause, do not profane your precious faith.
2 Timothy 2:8–9 —
“8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!.”
*ROOTS vs. SHOOTS; The “people of faith” label contains both poisonous and edible plants, by Joel Belz, WORLD, August 05, 2006; Vol. 21, No. 30.