Good Faith, Bad Faith, True Faith, False Faith

Cover of "Finding Faith"
Cover of Finding Faith

Osama Bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaida, died yesterday. The responses to this have interesting. Some take on a party like celebration. On the other extreme are those who vow vengeance. Some look at the killing as a case of justice, others an ideological battle, and still others as a geopolitical contest.

At has been noted by some the Bin Laden was fairly mild-mannered and pleasant. For those who wish to demonize, this seems strange. Pictures of him laughing and enjoying his son’s wedding years ago led to confusion for those that see bad in terms of horns and pitchforks.We don’t like complexity in our friends or our enemies. The confusion regarding Bin Laden can be PARTLY explained by the extreme dehumanization he seemed to apply to those who did not share his religion. He could be kind to “his own people” while loathing those who weren’t.  Historically, it is common for Group A to demonize Group B and Group B to find Group A revolting. Still, with cultural and ideological interaction most people generally start to realize that people of other groups have both good and bad traits (just like our own group).

A couple of famous quotes seem quite relevant.

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction.” –Blaise Pascal

‎”Zeal without knowledge is always less useful and effective than regulated zeal, and very often dangerous.” -St. Bernard

Another way of summarizing these quotes is to say that Bad Faith leads to bad behavior, and False Faith leads to bad behavior.

But isn’t Bad Faith the same as False Faith?? I would say that False Faith is definitely, on some level, Bad. And Bad Faith is, on some level, False.

However, I find that Brian McLaren‘s definition of Bad Faith somewhat useful (from “Finding Faith“)


  1. Bad faith is based solely on unquestioned authority.
  2. Bad faith is based on pressure coercion.
  3. Bad faith is often the result of a psychological need for belonging.
  4. Bad faith appeals to self-interest and base motives.
  5. Bad faith is arrogant and unteachable.
  6. Bad faith is dishonest.
  7. Bad faith is apathetic … producing nothing (or nothing good)
  8. Bad faith is a step backward….A faith that makes me less loving, mature, wise, alive, or responsible.
    <Bad Faith does not have to have ALL of these qualities to be Bad>


  1. Good faith is humble, teachable, and inquisitive.
  2. Good faith is grateful.
  3. Good faith is honest.
  4. Good faith is communal.
  5. Good faith is active.
  6. Good faith is tough.
  7. Good faith is relational.
      <Good faith, on the other hand, should have ALL of these qualities.>
There are different beliefs regarding what is good faith. As a Christian, I believe that good faith conforms to Biblical revelation and to Christ’s example. I know many people would not necessarily agree to this. But there is a much higher amount of agreement that Bad Faith is … bad. And Good Faith is … on some level… good.
While I am not a follower of the Islamic Faith, I cannot say Bin Laden is living out his faith (regardless of whether it is true or false). Rather, Bin Laden allowed his faith to go Bad.
Reveling over the death of a creation of God is not consistent with Good Faith. May our Faith be both True and Good.
But Bin Laden is gone… what about us? Are we going to let our faith drive us to the the same bad thoughts, emotions, and actions (on a smaller level perhaps) as him?

One thought on “Good Faith, Bad Faith, True Faith, False Faith

  1. Pingback: Why do I think faith so important? « GOD ROCKS MY SOUL

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