Christianity 201

June 26, 2021

Your Walk Should Match Your Talk

Discussions around the dinner table at our house this week centered on a church which does some rather odd things which appear to be out of character with the core values they say they uphold. The variance is often somewhat startling.

Four years ago we ran a blog post here which we called Doctrine and Behavior. At the time we linked to GotQuestions.org and an article they ran which used the proper theological terms, Orthodoxy (right beliefs) and Orthopraxy (right practices.)  They noted that,

…[C]orrect doctrine will lead to correct behavior, but the doctrine comes first. In Romans, Paul spends the first eleven chapters explaining correct doctrine. In Romans 12:1 he transitions to correct practice: Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. The word therefore means that the instructions that follow are based upon the doctrine that has just been explained.

In Ephesians we see the same pattern. Ephesians 1–3 explain correct doctrine, and chapters 4–6 explain correct practice. Once again, Ephesians 4:1 makes the transition: As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. In the first 3 chapters, Paul has explained the calling of the Christian in doctrinal terms, and now he calls his readers to live in light of that doctrine.

In Titus 3:8 Paul pulls orthodoxy and orthopraxy together in one verse: I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God [orthodoxy] may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good [orthopraxy]. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. He does the same thing in Ephesians 2. Verses 8–9 emphasize the orthodox teaching that we are saved by grace through faith apart from good works: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. Verse 10 completes the thought: For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Once again, correct belief comes first, and out of that flow correct works. We are saved apart from works; God’s purpose in saving us is that we do good works.

In fact, the relationship between orthodoxy and orthopraxy is so strong that, if a person does not perform good works, it is doubtful that he believes the right things. First John 2:3–6 explains, We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”

As a rule, while we repeat original material here, I don’t do a second re-posting of others material (although that was four out of ten paragraphs) so I wanted to add something else to the discussion today, which follows.

One needs to be careful however, as just looking up orthodoxy and orthopraxy leads to websites oriented to how this plays out in Islam and Hinduism. In a sense, while we can’t send readers to those pages, it is what you want in a faith community; you want people whose actions match their stated convictions.

Which brings us to some closing thoughts by Liv Walton which appeared at Mars Hill Newspaper, which is connected to Trinity Western University. Clicking the header which follows will take you there.

Orthodoxy Versus Orthopraxy

Contemporary Christianity is constantly confronted with societal transformation.There are times, however, where transformation becomes a point of conflict amongst the body of Christ. There have been and always will be instances when the trends of cultures appear to be maligned with biblical text or the values one is taught to hold. How does the body of Christ, both institutionally and individually, handle the grey areas? What happens when orthodoxy isn’t the answer and it’s not as simple as the Sunday-school phrase, “be in the world and not of it”? Though generally overlooked, orthopraxy can and should be used to provide clarity in the way the body of Christ interacts with society.

Orthodoxy is most simply defined as “right belief,” which consists of authorized or generally accepted theory, doctrine or practice. Orthodoxy is held with great importance in the Protestant-Christian church and other branches of Christianity such as Catholicism. While Protestant-Christians do not contend that salvation is found through doctrine nor practice, having faith is not enough to qualify “right belief.”

As Matthew 7 says, one will know right belief when good comes from their practices. This concept is echoed in James 2:14-26, as well, when the author says, “faith without works is dead.” It cannot be refuted that orthodoxy important in contemporary Christianity, however, orthodoxy can easily turn into idolatry. In some instances, the theology of the body of Christ restricts, or places too much importance on, the practice of orthodoxy to service. It is not uncommon for faith-based circles to heap shame on those who do not volunteer at their church or within their community, judging their faith to be dead.

Orthopraxy is defined as “right practice” yet this idea of practice is not about practicing right doctrine. Rather, when orthopraxy talks about practice, it is talking about gospel living. Instead of focusing solely on saying and doing the right things, one should focus on the holistic message of the gospel, which is to love God and love others. Additionally, orthopraxy puts emphasis on liturgy (worship) that extends beyond Sunday services. When incorporating orthopraxy, one’s faith becomes a testament to God’s love and puts every individual on the same level. Christianity is not about who can serve the most at church or witness to the most people, but rather how one can love those around them in a way that edifies and uplifts others as fellow image-bearers.

Orthodoxy and orthopraxy are not meant to stand alone. When one places all emphasis on orthodoxy, servitude becomes a false idol; and, when all the emphasis is on orthopraxy, the body of Christ and important practices such as communion can more easily be lost. However, when a balance of both is reached, believers are able to look at the world with more love. Grey areas and societal transformation become an opportunity for individual growth through God and the work of the Holy Spirit.

In the days ahead, ask yourself, ‘Does my walk match my talk?’


You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder (James 2:14–19).

July 21, 2020

Grace for People We Disagree With

Today we’re letting Eugene Peterson have the last word. And the first word. If you’re not a fan of The Message you can review the passage in a Bible translation with which you are more comfortable.

Earlier today someone wrote,

How would you respond to Christians who truly believe that the vaccine, masks, etc., are from the devil, and are end time prophecies? Would like your insight on this?

I very quickly wrote back,

It’s part of the larger question as to why Christians (especially conservative Christians; Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Charismatics; etc.) are driven to accept conspiracy theories [rather than accepting the science]. But arguing for science is seen as a slippery slope, if (as an example) the science points to evolutionary theory and the person is a young-earth creationist.

There’s some good teaching in scripture on the idea of “the brother who is weak in faith.” That one person’s faith compels them to believe/act one way while another believes/acts differently. And then Romans 14v4 says “To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.”

Believe me, I get to hear all the conspiracies. The NIV removed the deity of Christ. Rick Warren is trying to merge Christianity and Islam. Hilary Clinton is a reincarnation of Jezebel. Etc. Etc. You have to ignore a certain percentage of these. But with grace.

As I considered my own advice, I decided that the Romans 14 passage is very applicable for our times. Since some of you know sections of it from memory, I thought I’d let a very different translation arrest us in our tracks!

MSG.Rom.14.1 Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.

2-4 For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ’s table, wouldn’t it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn’t eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God’s welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.

Or, say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience.

6-9 What’s important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God’s sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you’re a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It’s God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other. That’s why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other.

10-12 So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I’d say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in Scripture:

“As I live and breathe,” God says,
    “every knee will bow before me;
Every tongue will tell the honest truth
    that I and only I am God.”

So tend to your knitting. You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God.

13-14 Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I’m convinced—Jesus convinced me!—that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it.

15-16 If you confuse others by making a big issue over what they eat or don’t eat, you’re no longer a companion with them in love, are you? These, remember, are persons for whom Christ died. Would you risk sending them to hell over an item in their diet? Don’t you dare let a piece of God-blessed food become an occasion of soul-poisoning!

17-18 God’s kingdom isn’t a matter of what you put in your stomach, for goodness’ sake. It’s what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you’ll kill two birds with one stone: pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you.

19-21 So let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don’t drag them down by finding fault. You’re certainly not going to permit an argument over what is served or not served at supper to wreck God’s work among you, are you? I said it before and I’ll say it again: All food is good, but it can turn bad if you use it badly, if you use it to trip others up and send them sprawling. When you sit down to a meal, your primary concern should not be to feed your own face but to share the life of Jesus. So be sensitive and courteous to the others who are eating. Don’t eat or say or do things that might interfere with the free exchange of love.

22-23 Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don’t impose it on others. You’re fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you’re not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe—some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them—then you know that you’re out of line. If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong.



Friday’s devotional here has been amended. It contained a link to a fundraising platform for one of our related ministries, but as the campaign reached its goal of $4,000 — for which are thankful — the information is no longer relevant.

Are you a giver? Many ministries are sustained by the generous and loving financial gifts of those whose ears are attuned to God when He prompts them to give. But the last several months have disrupted so many of our routines. Let me suggest that, if you are able during these unusual times, to consider how and who you might be able to help and encourage.

Do your giving
While you’re living
So you’re knowing
Where it’s going

September 2, 2019

Changing Your Convictions: The Positive Side

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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Today we’re back with Stephen and Brooksyne Weber at Daily Encouragement. Their online ministry reaches around the world (probably several times around!) and they do this full time along with being workplace chaplains in Pennsylvania. I want to start with a few lines from the devotional which appeared the day before the one we’re featuring.

“Thus He showed me, and behold, the Lord was standing by a vertical wall with a plumb line in His hand. The Lord said to me, ‘What do you see, Amos?’ And I said, ‘A plumb line.’ Then the Lord said, ‘Behold I am about to put a plumb line in the midst of My people Israel'” (Amos 7:7,8).

…The plumb line is an ancient tool dating back to biblical times used to determine vertical accuracy. Several Bible texts refer to the plumb line and Jesus very likely used a plumb line when he worked as a carpenter.

Everyone needs a standard that will keep them on the right track in life. Everyone needs a plumb line. The Word of God is a timeless plumb line for determining a center line in life…

…Indeed, for so many, truth is like an ocean wave. Paul used the wave as an illustration in Ephesians 4 writing of those who are tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine

From there, let’s jump into today’s reading.

Changed Convictions

Listen to our message on your audio player.

I was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.” (Galatians 1:14).

Earlier this summer a prominent writer and one time pastor announced that he had switched sides, abandoning his faith in Christ and joining the forces of the world. This made the news due to his prominence. This causes distress to some and it’s always sad to see this happen. But people have been abandoning the faith ever since Jesus walked on this earth (John 6:66) and the time of the apostles (2 Timothy 4:10).

That’s why there are so many calls to faithfulness in the Bible such as an early message from the apostolic church planters summed up as “strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith” (Acts 14:22). Hebrews 10:23 states, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering“.

In yesterday’s message we shared concerning convictions and the need to hold firmly to what we believe. Our convictions are our deeply held beliefs. But is changing our convictions ever virtuous?

Certainly! After all, when we are converted we change our convictions!

Saul, in his former way of life, had a deep conviction that he was serving God. In his testimony to the Galatian believers he speaks of his zeal, “For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (Galatians 1:13,14). At that time Saul surely was absolutely convinced he was on the right side.

But at his conversion to Christ on the Damascus Road Saul became a changed man. His convictions had a radical overhaul and even his name changed. We know him not as Saul but as the Apostle Paul. I find it interesting that a possible basis for this name change goes back to the Greek word “pauo”, a verb meaning to stop, restrain, quit, desist, come to an end. (We get the English word “pause” from this word.) The one who had been extremely zealous for the traditions of his fathers had a transformation in his convictions.

Yes, our deepest convictions can change both for good and bad. The late Dr. Bernard Nathanson was co-founder of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, one of the most ardent pro-abortion organizations in the country. For many years he was both an abortionist and a national spokesman for the pro-abortion cause, convinced that he was on the right side.

However in a widely reported 1974 article in The New England Journal of Medicine, “Deeper into Abortion,” Dr. Nathanson described his growing moral and medical qualms about abortion. “I am deeply troubled by my own increasing certainty that I had in fact presided over 60,000 deaths.”

He eventually made an about face and shared of his change of viewpoint in his book “Aborting America”. He became an articulate voice for the pro-life cause and went on to produce a video titled “The Silent Scream”, which powerfully demonstrates the horror of an early abortion. He states, “the other side, those who advocate abortion, have never successfully challenged the validity of the film”. Dr. Nathanson could clearly explain what led to the change in his convictions!

More recently Abby Johnson, the main character behind the movie “Unplanned”, made a similar change. She was the youngest clinic director in the history of Planned Parenthood, then a life-changing experience turned her into a pro-life activist. She eventually came to see the utter evil of abortion during her time at Planned Parenthood in Bryan, Texas where 22,000 murders took place over her eight year involvement with that clinic.

People’s convictions can change, both from the wrong side to the right such as Paul, Dr Nathanson and Abby Johnson, but also from the right side to the wrong such as the man mentioned in our lead paragraph. I consider politicians who once expressed a very strong pro-life stand but who have changed to the opposite side primarily due to political expediency. The same is true for other moral issues such as the constitution of marriage. Many of us can remember not that long ago when many politicians expressed their “deep personal conviction” that marriage was between a man and a woman only to make an about face.

Here’s the point. What is the underlying basis for a change in a conviction? Is there a principled basis for this change? Are you holding true to your convictions? If you do at some point change your view on a deep personal conviction can you provide a sound, principled, Bible-based defense on why you changed?

Be encouraged today.

July 15, 2011

Guard Your Doctrine

When you say your prayers at night you probably ask God to keep those close to you from falling into danger.  It’s normal for us to ask our Heavenly Father to keep us safe, strong and healthy.  And it’s equally normal for us to ask God to protect our spouse, our children, or perhaps our pastor or pastoral staff from wrongdoing.  Because we’ve all heard stories of people who fell into sin or into a pattern of sin.

But the Bible teaches us that in addition to guarding our actions, we need to guard our beliefs.  Never has this been more important than it is at a time when certain doctrines are under the microscope of challenge. 

1 Timothy 4:16
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

If someone were falling into negative behaviors, or addictive behaviors, or criminal activities, or feelings of despair or hopelessness, or dangerous thoughts; we wouldn’t hesitate to guide them safely back.  But what about when someone falls into a doctrinal belief that does not represent what the “church fathers” would have considered orthodoxy?

In another letter to Timothy, Paul writes:

2 Timothy 4:3
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

It’s not surprising therefore that it is also to Timothy that Paul writes the oft-memorized verse:

II Tim 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. (NASB)

Here’s verses 14 and 15 in The Message:

Repeat these basic essentials over and over to God’s people. Warn them before God against pious nitpicking, which chips away at the faith. It just wears everyone out. Concentrate on doing your best for God, work you won’t be ashamed of, laying out the truth plain and simple. Stay clear of pious talk that is only talk. Words are not mere words, you know. If they’re not backed by a godly life, they accumulate as poison in the soul.

 

To Titus, Paul writes:

Titus 1

 6 An elder must be blameless…. 7 Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless… 9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

We tend to think that someone in Christian leadership has failed when they have done something wrong, but clearly failure also happens when we believe something wrong.  Someone has said,

Collapse in the Christian life is rarely the result of a blowout, it is more often the result of a slow leak.

In a world of spiritual compromise we have to guard that our doctrine doesn’t ‘leak.’  Here’s our theme verse again, I Tim. 4:16 in The Message version:

Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don’t be diverted. Just keep at it. Both you and those who hear you will experience salvation.