One of the hardest things for me in writing this blog is the fear of orthodoxy.
So why am I afraid of orthodoxy?
Because it’s a division. Orthodoxy in itself is fine, I suppose; the quality of adherence to what is proper to believe is hard to dislike.
But orthodoxy is used as a club, and I don’t like it.
The problem with orthodoxy is that it’s basically a way of saying “What I say is right, and what YOU say is wrong,” no matter what the people in question actually say.
Even if one person says what the other does, the question of orthodoxy focuses on differences – so person #2 might be just saying what person #1 does, but they’re really not telling the truth, and they’re actually unorthodox.
It leads to sectarianism, witch hunts, proselytization inside the Body of Christ, and endless divisions.
To me, what’s important is what’s related to salvation. Period. All the rest is dressing. If the Eastern Orthodox Church believes in salvation through Christ, then… okay. All the rest is dressing. (And yes, I’m simplifying; there’re axioms I’m not summarizing, and I know it, and you know it.) If the Roman Catholic Church believes it, then… okay. The same goes for anything: protestant, catholic, whatever.
The core issue is and is ONLY Christ. All the rest is irrelevant, and yammering constantly about the protestants, catholics, or whoever the current target is, is counterproductive. It doesn’t help the target of ire, nor does it create an environment such that a target wants to be nearer to the attacker.
It’s natural for people for whom strict orthodoxy is important to question those for whom it is not, too. After all, if you aren’t orthodox, you’re not right.
Well… fine. I can live with that. The problem is that not only does orthodoxy lead to sectarianism and division, but it’s undefined.
It’s not undefined in the “I can’t find a definition” sense, because obviously a definition can be found – I quoted it above, remember? Scroll up if you don’t.
It’s undefined in terms of the “accepted,” “traditional”, and “established” faith parts. If you accept your faith, then it’s accepted, no? Except I suppose it means “generally” accepted. Even there, you’re talking about a nebulous definition, a moving and unclear target.
Same for tradition; our traditions change over time. Is this change wrong? It could be, I suppose, but many people don’t even realize changes have occurred; are they, then, wrong?
I say no. Traditions change because times change. The core issues of salvation and faith do not change, but the expression of praise and worship does change, and should change. We do not sing the way the early church does (and if you’re saying “My church does!” I’d bet you that you’re wrong.)
The early church wasn’t formal. It couldn’t be; it was an agent of change in and of itself. I do not think that the agents of change, largely uneducated and feeling their way along, would even begin to presume they knew enough to codify a standard for the rest of time.
So what is to be done? Should beliefs be tolerated because they’re believed? Doesn’t this open the way to true heresy?
I suppose so. First, though, let’s not use the word “heresy,” since it’s a lightning rod that’s not necessary; most incorrect beliefs are nowhere near as insidious as the term implies.
In my opinion, what one should do, when confronted with someone who believes something the Bible doesn’t support, is…
- Check the Bible. Maybe they’re right and you’re not. Be humble in Christ; just because it’s something you think doesn’t mean it’s something the Bible supports; after all, that’s what you’re thinking about their beliefs… maybe God thinks the same of your beliefs.
- Consider whether the incorrect belief is actually all that important. It’s easy to split hairs about transubstantiation, baptism through immersion, infant baptism, etc.
- Educate in love. This is the most important thing: if you instruct someone about how stupid they are for thinking something, then you’re not going to reach them, period. You’re going to turn them away.
- Accept the one you’re talking to. If they’re saved, then they’re your brother or sister in Christ anyway. If they’re not, then you’re a witness to and for them. Act like it, so that they can see Christ through your actions. Christ loved us, even while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8) and we should follow his example.
Orthodoxy is not bad, in and of itself; I suppose it can be considered a worthy goal. The issues around it, though, are that it’s easy to use it as a dividing line between the wheat and chaff, even among the Body of Christ (where all are “wheat,” as it were), and that orthodoxy is either very simple or very complex.
So, focus on the core issues and emphasize them, and if one instructs another, remember that of a teacher more is expected (James 3:1). Love one another, as James 2:8 says: and be mindful that if you are doing right by loving another as yourself, they are doing so as well.