Most of you know that I’m currently working on my Masters of Divinity. While I love the cohort that I’m having discussions with, I’d love for some of those conversations to be continued in a larger forum, so occasionally this year I’m hoping to repost some of my thoughts here for your reflection and interaction. Enjoy!
This past week we had a discussion on orthodoxy (right belief) and orthopraxy (right action) and how/if they interact. We read a variety of articles that I reference…hopefully the essence is still conveyed even though you’ll be missing some of the context.
Question: Can we really do without orthodoxy or orthopraxy? If not, what is their relationship? If we can, what would that look like?
I would affirm that orthodoxy and orthopraxy are fundamental elements of our faith. However, a few things that this week’s reading reminded me of and shed new light on were that they are not so easily separated, that we must take care in how we use them, and perhaps they’re a bit more mysterious than our systematized preferences would desire.
First, to separate out belief from action would seem to miss the point of having the right belief in the first place. McLaren explicated this well in his introduction. Oden as well seemed to unintentionally intimate this idea as well when he stated that “(Heresy) implies choosing one’s own personal will over and against the truth.” By employing your will, you are putting ideas into action. The problem of heresy isn’t just a wrong belief but how that belief ends up playing itself out in your life. Having orthodoxy without orthopraxy is like having the trail map but staying at the motel down the street. You’re missing the adventure.
If this is true, may I suggest an alternative word: orthoproxy. Proxy is the action of representing something, in both word and deed. We stick with ortho because it implies the rightness of this representative duty we’re taking on. Further, this reminds of us our responsibility as imago dei. Finally, It’s also a nifty combination of doxy and praxy and it’ll keep me from having to continually write out both in the rest of this conversation, when I strongly believe that both are to be employed together.
Second, some people seem to think that orthoproxy is bludgeon with which to beat those who disagree with them into submission. They use their pious acts or lofty language to belittle rather than build up. True orthoproxy ought to be magnetic, though, in the same way that the person of Christ was/is magnetic, in the same way that truth is magnetic. It doesn’t mean there will be automatic agreement, but it will engage people rather than distance them.
This hammer versus the magnet, in some ways, is what the conversation between Oden and Mudge represented to me. From my vantage point, Oden seemed more intent on using the term heresy as an opportunity to exclude, whereas Mudge wasn’t averse to the idea that there are such things as heretical beliefs, but would rather draw people toward Christ than exclude them.
Finally, continuing along the lines of humility, we must keep in mind that there is great mystery in orthoproxy. Orthoproxy must be approached similarly to Dr. Brunner’s suggestion of how we study Christian history: with humility. I greatly appreciated McLaren’s statement that orthodoxy is “”what God knows, some of which we believe a little, some of which they believe a little, and about which we all have a whole lot to learn.” Yes and amen…I have much to learn.