I'm wondering if anyone else has concerns about the phrase "faith formation."
Some of us discussed this at a recent classis meeting. Many thought it was vague and would have preferred a confessional or biblical phrase. My concern is that its ambiguity might encourage or reinforce non-confessional ideas about the role of the sacraments.
"Formation" can either indicate the act of creating or the act of shaping. "Forming" a committee suggests creating something that didn't exist before. "Forming" play-dough suggests shaping something that already exists.
In a discussion of the interaction between sacraments and faith (which is a focus of the "Faith Formation Committee", for example), only the second use of forming is appropriate in a confessional denomination. Both the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism are clear on our agreed understanding of what the Bible teaches: the Holy Spirit creates faith through the Word, and afterward shapes it through the sacraments. When discussing what the sacraments do for faith, the Belgic uses the words "nourish" and "sustain" (Article 33), and the Heidelberg uses "confirms" (Q&A 65) — all words that are clear that faith already exists when the sacraments have an impact on it. But "faith formation" doesn't have that same clarity.
And this confessional clarity has practical benefits. Not only does it steer us clear of the dangerous idea that the Holy Spirit ordinarily accomplishes the salvation of the elect without the preaching of the Word, but it prevents our theology of infant baptism from getting mangled in a certain way and helps us navigate through questions about children at the Lord's Supper.
Certainly the work of the Synodical Faith Formation Committee is important, and the discussions in this forum can be very helpful. But, in the interest of clarity, would it be better to use a different phrase or split the discussion into a few parts?