Saturday, June 20, 2009

Orthodoxy vs. Orthopraxy

Orthodoxy: Right Belief

Orthopraxy: Right Practice

There seems to be some confusion today regarding orthodoxy and orthopraxy (or orthopraxis). For some, they are completely separated (both in licentious and legalistic circles). For an individual who believes that they can do whatever they want, with an "God will forgive me anyways" attitude then they are completely detatching orthodoxy from orthopraxy. Conversely, for the legalist who makes rules and laws that extend beyond the teachings of Scripture, there is a dualistic disconnect as well.

I have the privilege of speaking to thousands of people each year, which gives me the great opportunity of meeting many people from all over the United States. There have been many life-giving conversations, and unfortunately, several conversations that left me feeling confused and disoriented. I cannot even count how many times I have heard the phrase, "I'm not concerned about talking theology, but I think that..." For as many things that licentious and legalistic believers are in opposition about, this one phrase is a commonality from both groups. This is a severe error.

When we evaluate a person's practice (behavior) we must seek to understand their beliefs. Jesus was often concerned with the motivations of the people He interacted with, and we should be as well. Why a person does something seems to be more important than what a person does.

“This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:8-9 ESV, Jesus was quoting from Isaiah 29:13)

Now, you may be thinking, "Okay, Casey, but doesn't a person's actions reveal the true state of their heart?" Of course! However, it would be shortsighted (and lazy) to not seek to understand the motivation of why people do what they do. An example of this would be a rock band made up of Christians, but play in "secular" clubs. The issue here may be one of orthodoxy or it could be one of orthopraxy. I have had friends who are Christians and they played music, but specificially chose to play in secular clubs. Why would they ever do that?!? When I asked them, to seek understanding, they explained to me that they felt God calling them to be missionaries of the Light in a dark place. I originally had an issue with their orthopraxy, but after asking them with the intention of understanding (see Prov. 20:5) I agreed with their orthodoxy. We are called to be salt and light and Jesus was often criticized for spending time with 'sinners' (see Mt. 9:11-13, 11:19; Mk. 2:17, 5:32; Lk. 7:34).

What is the most upsetting to me is when individuals attack other Christians over issues of orthopraxy and don't even understand whether or not their motivations stem from proper orthodoxy. I have had several friends who were attacked by other professing Christians because they didn't like the behavior of my friends. Whether it was an issue of eating, drinking, watching, reading, listening, or visiting, they were not confronted in order to gain understanding.

How many more churches need to split over contemporary worship music or hymns? Or, projectors or hymnals? How many more youth pastors need to be run off because they see theological truths communicated well in movies that are rated 'PG-13' or 'R' (besides the Passion of the Christ, that is)? How many more times should we cause unbelievers or young believers to stumble because of the way Christians 'bite and devour' one another? When one's orthopraxy causes you to violate sound orthodoxy, then you are just as guilty and need to repent.

I may not agree with a church or individual's choices, but I must be careful to not 'break fellowship' with them because their practices are different than mine. Orthodoxy (Jesus Christ, the Son of God, lived a perfect life, died a death on the cross in our place, rose again, ascended into Heaven, and will return again one day, etc.) is worth defending. We need to be really wise with how we handle issues of liberty and orthopraxy, because if we aren't careful, we will find ourselves working against the Lord (see Acts 5:27-40).


Kris Rives said...

Amen! It is encouraging to hear a brother expounding upon the importance of the marriage of Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy. It seems as though we fall on one side or the other (for the most p art) though the scriptures never divorce the two.("But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." James 1:22) May God grant us mercy and grace to glorify Him both with our lips and with our hearts as we proclaim Christ crucified!

Steph said...

Great post, honey!