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TaylorOtwell
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Joined: 2006/6/19
Posts: 927
Arkansas

 Orthodoxy/Orthopraxy - Exclusive or Complentary?

I have wanted to write a short message on this topic for some time, so here are my efforts.

[b]Definitions[/b]

[b]Orthopraxy[/b] - correctness or orthodoxy of action or practice.

[b]Orthodoxy[/b] - sound or correct in opinion or doctrine.

I have noticed a growing number of individuals who appear to emphasize one of these two areas of the Christian life over against another.

In an extreme example, one could emphasize orthodoxy over orthopraxy in declaring that as long as one is holds to sound, Biblical theology, it matters not if they completely neglect orthopraxy by becoming a mass-murderer. Likewise, one could emphasize orthopraxy over orthodoxy by stating that it matters not if a person is Buddhist, they will still enter the Kingdom of Heaven if they treat everyone with love and compassion.

It is my contention that to hold to orthodoxy without orthopraxy is damning. Also, it is my opinion that to hold to orthopraxy without orthodoxy is damning. Both orthodoxy and orthopraxy will be combined in the genuine Christian. It is also my contention that one cannot properly be termed "godly" if they only possess one of these two characteristics. A highly moral professing Christian who does not hold to orthodox theology teaches and believes ungodly things about God. Therefore, such a person practices ungodliness. A very sound theologian who hates his wife is also ungodly.

[b]One Area Unable to be Substituted for Another[/b]

A very high level of orthopraxy cannot "make up" for a lack of orthodoxy, just as a very high level of orthodoxy cannot "make up" for a lack of orthopraxy. As a case study, consider Charles Finney. By his own admission, Finney holds unorthodox views of the atonement of Christ and denies the concept of imputed righteousness. However, Finney was very zealous in religious work and personal devotion, therefore, he is often styled as a great Christian evangelist and hero. Yet, Finney's orthopraxy (if it may be termed such) cannot make up for his lack of orthodoxy. Therefore, it cannot be said that Finney was a "godly man", since his teaching was a grossly distorted interpretation of the Scripture. In Romans 10:4, Paul commends the Pharisee's religious zeal, yet states that they are damned for their misunderstanding of the need for imputed righteousness (a matter of orthodoxy).

Until we stop assuming that a high level of orthopraxy can be substituted for a low level of orthodoxy, we will continue to "defend" a vague and ambigious Gospel.

[b]Orthopraxy Impossible Without Orthodoxy[/b]

I further submit that without orthodoxy, orthopraxy is impossible to define, for all true orthopraxy must stem from true orthodoxy. Otherwise, how would one know what is right practice? If our view of the atonement, the holiness of God, prayer, salvation, sin, man, marriage, church, etc. are not shaped by sound, Biblical orthodoxy, we can make no absolute claims on what constitutes orthopraxy in these areas.

As an example, consider the problem of entertainment in the church. Entertainment in the church is bad practice stemming from bad theology. Furthermore, it is connected with a multitude of areas of orthodoxy, including often controversial areas of Biblical truth. Entertainment in the church and a denial of God's sovereignty in salvation are directly related. A denial of the position that God must sovereignly regenerate hearts (usually working through the means of the preached Word), logically leads one to assume that, given the right external conditions, salvation could be made more likely to occur in certain situations than others. It would be consistent with such a position to use all means possible to produce the salvation of souls, such as emotional music, dramas, videos, etc. Therefore, the Word of God is set aside while other means of "sharing the Gospel" are taken up.

[b]Conclusion[/b]

In conclusion, orthodoxy and orthopraxy must be combined in the life of the true Christian. There are examples in the Scripture of those who were damned because of a lack of orthodoxy (Romans 10:4), as well as those who were damned by a lack of orthopraxy (Matthew 7).

Also, it must be observed that, although I have spoken as such to make my point, it is actually impossible to [b]truly[/b] possess one of these characteristics without the other. If one does not have sound orthopraxy, it must always stem for an incorrect belief about God. Likewise, it if one does not have sound orthodoxy, their practice will necessarily contain error.


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Taylor Otwell

 2009/1/7 13:48Profile
HeartSong
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Joined: 2006/9/13
Posts: 3162


 Re: Orthodoxy/Orthopraxy - Exclusive or Complentary?

What we must "posses" is Christ - or rather He must posses us. It is in Him that these things are determined. It is by Him, and of Him. These things can not be determined by man, for man can not see the end of all things. Only through Christ can these things be known.


Quote:
Until we stop assuming that a high level of orthopraxy can be substituted for a low level of orthodoxy, we will continue to "defend" a vague and ambigious Gospel.


[b]VAGUE[/b], a. vag. [L. vagus, wandering.]
1. Wandering; vagrant; vagabond; as vague villains. [In this literal sense, not used.]
2. Unsettled; unfixed; undetermined; indefinite. He appears to have very vague ideas of this subject.
3. Proceeding from no known authority; flying; uncertain; as a vague report.



[b]AMBIG'UOUS[/b], a. [L. ambiguus.]
Having two or more meanings; doubtful; being of uncertain signification; susceptible of different interpretations; hence, obscure. It is applied to words and expressions; not to a dubious state of mind, though it may be to a person using words of doubtful signification.

The ancient oracles were ambiguous, as were their answers.



Certainly Someone that can not be seen could be easily determined to be both vague and ambiguous, however, in the revelation of Himself, He is most certainly neither.

These assumptions that you are making are based upon man's definition - or rather, you are trying to take God and fit Him into man's terms. It is man that needs to be fitted to God.

 2009/1/7 14:23Profile
TaylorOtwell
Member



Joined: 2006/6/19
Posts: 927
Arkansas

 Re:

Quote:
What we must "posses" is Christ



Friend, if we have no proper (orthodox) understanding of who Christ is, how do we even know we "possess" the Christ presented in Scripture?

With care in Christ,
Taylor


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Taylor Otwell

 2009/1/7 14:49Profile
Tears_of_joy
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Joined: 2003/10/30
Posts: 1554


 Re:

Quote:

TaylorOtwell wrote:


Friend,...



Dear Taylor, I don't think it is a proper thing to thread an elder sister, who could be your mother also, as a 'friend'.

1Ti 5:2 The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.

 2009/1/7 14:59Profile
TaylorOtwell
Member



Joined: 2006/6/19
Posts: 927
Arkansas

 Re:

Quote:
Dear Taylor, I don't think it is a proper thing to thread an elder sister, who could be your mother also, as a 'friend'.



Please forgive me (both of you), I wasn't aware that I was talking to an elder sister.


_________________
Taylor Otwell

 2009/1/7 15:03Profile
graceamazed
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Joined: 2008/11/3
Posts: 77
Tennessee

 Re:

Quote:
Dear Taylor, I don't think it is a proper thing to thread an elder sister, who could be your mother also, as a 'friend'.



I commend you Taylor for at least attempting to be polite in your addressing Heart_Song... I missed the section that explained everyone's age and status as well.

As for your original post, I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this relationship between orthodoxy and orthopraxy. This is a subject I've been meditating on recently. We must contend for our faith and hold fast to sound teaching. There are absolute, dogmatic, orthodox doctrines that we must hold unwaveringly to if we are to be considered "in Christ", yet, we (should) also recognize that none of us have a monopoly on perfect, coherent systematic theology. You made the statement,
Quote:
It is my contention that to hold to orthodoxy without orthopraxy is damning. Also, it is my opinion that to hold to orthopraxy without orthodoxy is damning.


My question is: if we recognize that we are justified before God, though they don't have a perfect orthodoxy and though our orthopraxy record is blemished, then where and on what issues of conduct or doctrine do we draw the line to say, "you are TOO FAR off course and therefore damned". This is not a leading question, I'm still wrestling with this myself and would be interested in feed back.


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Buck Yates

 2009/1/7 15:48Profile
TaylorOtwell
Member



Joined: 2006/6/19
Posts: 927
Arkansas

 Re:

Quote:
My question is: if we recognize that we are justified before God, though they don't have a perfect orthodoxy and though our orthopraxy record is blemished, then where and on what issues of conduct or doctrine do we draw the line to say, "you are TOO FAR off course and therefore damned". This is not a leading question, I'm still wrestling with this myself and would be interested in feed back.



This is a very good question, and really beyond the scope of my original post. I would be interested in discussing this as well.

My first thought would be that anything pertaining to the Godhead and Christ's salvific work would be a central issue. Paul certainly thought that of first importance was the Gospel of Christ. So, a proper understanding of Christ's work on the cross is foundational. What are your thoughts?

Generally, the Nicene creed has been used as a "test" of historic, Christian orthodoxy. However, that creed doesn't go into much detail regarding the atonement (perhaps because the Pelagian controversy had not yet occured?)


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Taylor Otwell

 2009/1/7 16:05Profile
HeartSong
Member



Joined: 2006/9/13
Posts: 3162


 Re:

Quote:
Please forgive me (both of you), I wasn't aware that I was talking to an elder sister.


It is not a problem Taylor. I do not expect you to know something that I have not revealed to you.

 2009/1/7 17:43Profile
HeartSong
Member



Joined: 2006/9/13
Posts: 3162


 Re:

Quote:
Friend, if we have no proper (orthodox) understanding of who Christ is, how do we even know we "possess" the Christ presented in Scripture?


May I be so bold as to recommend this series of sermons by Denny Kenaston?

The Divine Attributes of God

 2009/1/7 18:17Profile
graceamazed
Member



Joined: 2008/11/3
Posts: 77
Tennessee

 Re:

Quote:
My first thought would be that anything pertaining to the Godhead and Christ's salvific work would be a central issue. Paul certainly thought that of first importance was the Gospel of Christ. So, a proper understanding of Christ's work on the cross is foundational. What are your thoughts?



Certainly the issue of the Gospel message is what we are contending for and what we apply the word "orthodox" to. But, what is the "orthodox" view of the Gospel message? Do we say it is understanding the sinfulness of man, the holiness of God and the work of Christ in reconciling the two together? Even at that level, we argue amongst ourselves as to what the sinful condition of man entails - most hold to a doctrine of original sin, but not all do - so do we lose fellowship over this doctrine, or simply agree on the fact that man is a sinner and needs a Savior? Some Arminians claim those who hold to Reformed systems of theology are conforming to "doctrines of devils" and I hear just as much condemnation coming from the Reformed camps back at the Arminians. Even in the individual camps, we don't agree with one another on the operations, functions and semantics of Regeneration, Justification, Sanctification, Glorification, Atonement, Imputed Righteousness, Water Baptism, Spirit Baptism, etc.

I do have very strong convictions and beliefs on these issues and will defend them diligently, but I stop short of cutting off fellowship with others I disagree with, but whom I believe have truly been regenerated by the Spirit of God. I love John Wesley, as I do also Whitefield and Luther and I believe they all belonged to the body of Christ. Obviously these men had very different ideas of what "orthodox" beliefs were, and yet, there where common denominators that linked them together.

I have known Pentecostals, Arminians, Calvinists, Lutherans, even Roman Catholics that I believe have truly come to have a revelation of Jesus Christ in their lives and received a saving faith in our Lord and lived lives in service and devotion to Him. Is everyone's view of scripture correct...of course not. Are some more correct than others...yes. Is anyone's understanding perfect...no.

I've been coming to this conclusion: I should look on these believers as brothers in Christ, yet contend for the purest form of orthodox truth as I understand it from scripture. Sorry if I've been rambling a bit, just freely writing my thoughts down. I'm not a liberal or anything, just trying to take a softer look at this issue than I usually have.


_________________
Buck Yates

 2009/1/7 22:44Profile





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