Archive | Orthodoxy

Six Views on What it Means to Be Orthodox

orthodoxy

Have you ever been called a heretic? Have you ever had someone say that your faith is “unorthodox”? Have you ever wondered what it meant to be “orthodox”? No, I don’t mean Greek Orthodox or Eastern Orthodox. I am talking about orthodoxy which carries the meaning of “straight or right teaching and worship.”

The answer is not easy. For some people, “orthodoxy” is a shallow word meaning that you agree with them. For others, it means you agree with their particular denomination or local church confession. For many, it is a meaningless heavy handed designation that should no longer be used.

What does it mean to be orthodox in your beliefs?

There are really six primary views that I find represented in the church today. I am going to try to explain these views using both established and original terminology.

1. aOrthodoxy. Belief that there is no such thing as orthodoxy as a set of “right beliefs” or, at the very least, Christianity should not be defined by our beliefs except in a very minimalistic way. This view of orthodoxy takes a very pessimistic view of the Church’s need and ability to define truth, believing that orthopraxy (”right practice”) is the only thing that should be in focus. This pessimistic approach is influenced by the belief that defining the “boundaries” of Christianity according to beliefs has brought nothing but shame and unnecessary divisiveness to Christianity. This is illustrated most in the bloodshed of the inquisition, Crusades, and wars among Christians. To be labeled “orthodox” or “unorthodox” to the aOrthodox is an arrogant power play that is oppressive to the cause of Christ. Orthodoxy, therefore, is a contextualized subjective “moving target” that cannot be defined.

Primary Adherents:

Progressive Protestants (formerly known as Emerging Christianity)

Strengths:

  • Sees the importance of orthopraxy.
  • Understands the difficulty of defining Christian orthodoxy.

Continue Reading →

Ambient Orthodoxy

I am toying with something here and would love to see some discussion.

Ambient orthodoxy: those beliefs that enjoyed common confession throughout the history of the church, but have not experienced any serious challenge. These matters are normally not found in the creeds and may even be lacking from some extended confessions. In other words, they may be part of historic church doctrine, but they are not part of historic church dogma.

In order to qualify for “ambient orthodoxy” as I am suggesting, the confession must not have any history in a 1) Creed, 2) Council, 3) or Controversy.

Hang with me here (as I am theologizing out loud!). Try to think of orthodoxy in three categories:

1. Dogmatic orthodoxy: These are those issue that the church has defined through an ecumenical creed such as Chalcedon or Nicea. Examples:

  • Existence of God
  • Doctrine of the Trinity
  • Doctrine of the hypostatic union
  • God’s almighty unity
  • Christ’s death and resurrection
  • Christ’s virgin birth

2. Doctrinal Orthodoxy: These are those issue that became a part of the church confession due to local councils, creeds, and controversies. However, unlike “Dogmatic orthodoxy” some of these will not be shared by all Christians of all time, everywhere.

  • Universal sinfulness of man
  • Atonement made to the Father
  • Sola Scriptura
  • Sola Fide

Nevertheless, these issues can be thought of as a part of the great tradition of Christianity due to their universal acceptance, though it may be an assumed acceptance.

3. Ambient Orthodoxy

Eternal nature of God: Though this is not written in any creed or confession, the history of the church has always believed that God’s nature exists in an atemporal transcendence. (Although the “openness debate” may qualify to have graduated this from ambient orthodoxy.) Continue Reading →

Six Views of What it Means to Be “Orthodox”

Have you ever been called a heretic? Have you ever had someone say that your faith is “unorthodox”? Have you ever wondered what it meant to be “orthodox”? No, I don’t mean Greek Orthodox or Eastern Orthodox. I am talking about orthodoxy which carries the meaning of “straight or right teaching and worship.”

The answer is not easy. For some people, “orthodoxy” is a shallow word meaning that you agree with them. For others, it means you agree with their particular denomination or local church confession. For many, it is a meaningless heavy handed designation that should no longer be used.

What does it mean to be orthodox in your beliefs?

There are really six primary views that I find represented in the church today. I am going to try to explain these views using both established and original terminology.

1. aOrthodoxy. Belief that there is no such thing as orthodoxy as a set of “right beliefs” or, at the very least, Christianity should not be defined by our beliefs except in a very minimalistic way. This view of orthodoxy takes a very pessimistic view of the Church’s need and ability to define truth, believing that orthopraxy (”right practice”) is the only thing that should be in focus. This pessimistic approach is influenced by the belief that defining the “boundaries” of Christianity according to beliefs has brought nothing but shame and unnecessary divisiveness to Christianity. This is illustrated most in the bloodshed of the inquisition, Crusades, and wars among Christians. To be labeled “orthodox” or “unorthodox” to the aOrthodox is an arrogant power play that is oppressive to the cause of Christ. Orthodoxy, therefore, is a contextualized subjective “moving target” that cannot be defined.

Primary Adherents:

Progressive Protestants (formerly known as Emerging Christianity)

Strengths:

  • Sees the importance of orthopraxy.
  • Understands the difficulty of defining Christian orthodoxy.

Weaknesses:

  • Christianity loses any distinction.
  • Follows a self-defeating premise by establishing a new minimalistic orthodoxy of its own.
  • Unjustifiably follows a “guilt by association” premise. Just because others killed in the name of orthodoxy does not mean that those who seek to define orthodoxy will do the same. In fact, most have not.

2. Scriptural Orthodoxy. This is the belief that Scripture alone sets the bounds of orthodoxy without any aid from the historic body of Christ. This should not be mistaken for sola Scriptura—the belief that the Scripture is our final and only infallible authority in matters of faith and practice—but as a radical rejection of any other sources of authority such as the church, tradition, natural revelation, etc. It is often referred to as solo Scriptura or nuda Scriptura. Here, there would not be any authority derived from the body of Christ, historic or contemporary, as an interpretive community that either fallibly or infallibly has the ability to define orthodoxy. Adherents would often be found saying, “No creed but the Bible.” Continue Reading →

Theology Unplugged: How Long Should Your Doctrinal Statement Be?” – Part 3

Sam Storms has joined the Theology Unplugged cast! Here is our second installment of a three part series called “How Long Should Your Doctrinal Statement Be?”

Other ways to get TUP:

  • RSS
  • iTunes
  • Get TUP on the new theological toolbar (along with a lot of other great podcasts)
  • Theology Unplugged (with Sam Storms): How Long Should Your Doctrinal Statement Be?” – Part 2

    Sorry, forgot to post this Friday. Part three will be posted this Friday.

    Sam Storms has joined the Theology Unplugged cast! Here is our second installment of a three part series called “How Long Should Your Doctrinal Statement Be?”

    Other ways to get TUP:

  • RSS
  • iTunes
  • Get TUP on the new theological toolbar (along with a lot of other great podcasts)
  • Theology Unplugged (with Sam Storms): How Long Should Your Doctrinal Statement Be?” – Part 1

    Sam Storms has joined the Theology Unplugged cast! Here is our first installment of a three part series called “How Long Should Your Doctrinal Statement Be?”

    Other ways to get TUP: 

  • RSS
  • iTunes
  • Get TUP on the new theological toolbar (along with a lot of other great podcasts)
  • Heresies: Gnosticism – A Divided World

    “I can’t wait to get out of this body and off this earth to live with Jesus forever.”

    “The things on earth are all evil. Material possessions, earthly relationships, and concerns about your health are all worthless compared to what we will experience in heaven.”

    “Death is freedom for the soul.”

    “Christ was a divine being in a human shell.”

    “The real you is not physical, it’s spiritual. We all must find the divine spark within us.”

    “In heaven, there will be no more time.”

    “In heaven we will be able to do anything we want. If you want to fly, you can fly. If you want to transport instantly from one place to another, you can. Heaven is a place where the rules of logic and science do not apply.”

    I have heard all of these statements before. In fact, I have heard all of these statements from Christians. In many cases I have heard them from the Evangelical pulpits. They have even made it into our hymns. They have become an assumed part of the way we think. The problem is that they come from an ancient Hellenistic (Greek) philosophical system that is decidedly non-Christian in almost every respect. It is often referred to as Gnosticism. While the characteristics of Gnosticism are complex and varied, it is founded on a dualistic worldview that drives many of its conclusions. It is upon this characteristic that I want to spend our time.

    Dualism:
    “Early philosophical system which sees the universe in terms of two antithetical forces which are continually at odds. These two forces are responsible for the origin of the world. Often the dualist worldview produced a metaphysical separation between the spiritual and physical, with the spiritual being good and physical being evil. Christianity has rejected all forms of a dualism yet its assumptions often find their way into the church.” (Source)

    The key here is that Gnostics believe that the physical world and all it contains is evil, or at least of far inferior quality. Whether it is the rocks, trees, human inventions, the human brain, or physical bodies, these are all of secondary value to the spiritual. The spiritual is that which transcends the physical. The spiritual is that which is most like God. Therefore, the spiritual is that to which we must attain. Continue Reading →

    Heresies: Nestorianism – A Divided Christ

    Have you heard something like this: “When Christ was in the Garden of Gethsemane asking for relief, it was the human side of him speaking.” Or how about this, “When Christ said that he did not know the day or the hour of his coming, that was the human person talking, not the divine.” Or even better: “When Christ was forsaken on the cross, it was simply his humanity that was forsaken, not his deity.”

    All of these statements, to some degree, represent an early Christological (concerning Christ) heresy called Nestorianism. Formally, Nestorianism is a belief first attributed to Nestorius (c. 386–c. 451), Archbishop of Constantinople. Nestorians believed that Christ existed after the incarnation as two separate persons, Jesus the man and the Son of God. Although there is quite a bit of debate as to whether the issues involved in this controversy were legitimate or linguistic and political (and as to whether Nestorius himself truly held to such a view), this doctrine was condemned as heresy at the Council of Ephesus in 431 and at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. The orthodox Christian position was that Christ exists as one person with two natures.

    Christ cannot be divided. When we assume that Christ can speak from his humanity or from his deity, this often evidences that we don’t have an orthodox view of the hypostatic union (the union of the two natures of Christ). Christ is not two persons, but one. Christ is not two consciousnesses, but one. Therefore, every time Christ speaks, he speaks from his single personhood. Continue Reading →