Monday, June 05, 2006

No. 10: Orthodoxy

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I have been thinking about orthodoxy. Yes, it is a big, “five-dollar” word. But it is a word that every Christian should be both familiar with and comfortable using.

The word “orthodoxy” is built from two Greek words: ortho, which means right or correct, and doxa, which means thought or teaching. Taken together, these two Greek words simply mean “right thinking,” or perhaps more specifically, “correct teaching.”

Before I get too far down the pike with this exploration of orthodoxy, I should note that I purposefully use a small “o” when discussing the word. This is done so as not to confuse the reader with the Orthodox Church, which is one of many expressions of the Christian faith in the world, and some say, the most ancient, although my Roman Catholic friends would no doubt contend with that last statement.

Small “o” orthodoxy speaks of the core beliefs of our historical Christian faith. It is most often associated with the statements of faith found in the classical Christian creeds, particularly the Apostles Creed.

Christian orthodoxy is our first line of defense against false teachings and false teachers. Scripture warns us that throughout our lives, we will encounter our share of them.

"But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep." 2 Peter 2:1-3

We even find warnings about false teachers in the Old Testament (see Deuteronomy 13:1-18 and 18:14-22).

The benefit of Christian orthodoxy is that we are not left to struggle with our own, self-derived definition of God. This is because God has chosen to reveal and define Himself to us. He has not left us to guess who He is. (See No. 9)

Visit a college campus and ask the question, “Who is Jesus Christ?” How many different answers do you think you will hear? There are many Jesus’ today. To some He is the healer and the burden-bearer. To others He is a teacher, a philosopher, or maybe a really good example. To others still He is the liberator or the revolutionary.

Maybe we see Jesus simply as One who loves us unconditionally. That way we can continue to live in sin and still feel good about ourselves. Religious leaders of Jesus’ day rejected Him because He did not conform to their expectations.

Orthodoxy, or “right thinking” about the person and work of Jesus Christ, is essential for all who claim to be Christian. Without Christian orthodoxy at the center or core of our belief system, we are cheated of genuine relationship with the King of the universe, and we end up settling for a self-derived, faux-Christian spirituality.

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