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 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).

September 6, 2016

Kingdom Incarnate

I’m currently reading a book scheduled for October release by California pastor Brian Loritts, Saving the Saved. I decided to see if he had anything online and discovered his blog and this article. Click the title below to read at source.

The Kingdom of God on Your Street/In Your Apartment Building

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said that if a Christian moved out of their neighborhood and no one felt a sense of loss, he wondered if that person was ever legitimately saved? Strong words, I know, but sobering.

Our family is settling into our new Northern California neighborhood, and all that comes with it—meeting new neighbors, figuring out grocery stores and vetting potential barbers. Amidst all the newness plays an old familiar question in our souls as we walk the sidewalks, “How can we bring the kingdom to this rustic neighborhood populated by old Victorian homes?” Of course this question leads to another more essential one, “What exactly is the kingdom?”

Jesus shows us in Matthew 9:35, “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.” In this one verse, we see the kingdom is both preaching AND healing; it addresses the physical AND the spiritual; the body AND the soul.

We Christians have made this simple, comprehensive question of the kingdom so complex and messy. Someone once said the mark of brilliance is the ability to make the complex simple. Well, if that’s true, then the mark of idiocy is the ability to make the simple complex. Historically, the church hasn’t been too bright. During the fundamentalist/modernist split of the early 20th century, the fracture took place over this very question of the kingdom with one side saying it’s essentially preaching, and the other countering with the kingdom being more about the body and issues of justice and care. During the civil rights movement, it was the church who marched in the streets, standing up against injustice, and it was the church who sat in the pews, at the same time, listening to truth and giving altar calls for people to get saved. A few years ago, there were some aspects of the church who were content to sit in bars, smoking a cigar and dropping a few expletives in jest as they took a break from reading the latest Brian McLaren book to form community with “pre-Christians.” While at the same time, hoards of Christians chose the cognitive route, rediscovering Calvin, and trying (and mostly failing) to make their way through his Institutes.

What is the kingdom?

As is often the case, Jesus presents us a third way, a way not marked by an either/or scenario, but a both/and posture. The Jesus of the gospels would’ve called people to repentance in church on Sunday, then jetted out the back door to march for voter rights in Selma. Jesus would go to the backyard party over my neighbor’s house, miraculously cause cases of the best wine to appear, blessing everyone there, and then proceed to preach an extemporaneous sermon inviting people into the joy of the kingdom.

Body and soul. Physical and spiritual. Feeding and proclaiming. This is the kingdom.

So what does it mean for us to bring the kingdom to our neighborhood? A few thoughts come to mind:

1. Mindful. I need to be mindful that God has planted our family on that block for a much bigger reason than a good investment, or safety and security. What if God wants us to be the chaplains of our street? I need to be mindful of this.

2. Presence. The house we bought doesn’t have a garage, and I’m kind of glad about that. It makes it much easier to interact with our neighbors. Already our family has taken long walks, and on the way we’ve met some people and had some great conversations. There’s just something about being out among the people. Jesus modeled this well.

3. Seek. What if Korie and I started to seek for tangible ways to bless others in our neighborhood? Gifts. Invitations. Cookouts. Help. All of this is in the category of Jesus healing and feeding.

4. Pray. While we’re helping to get the mail of our neighbors who’ve left town for a week, why not pray for them and others that God would save their souls.

5. Proclaim. Picking up mail is part of bringing the kingdom, but to do so without proclaiming how their deepest needs are met in the person of Jesus Christ is only half the story. Yes we need to be careful here. We don’t want to do the old bait and switch and make people feel as if our kindness is setting them up for a punch line. But people need to hear the good news. I want my street to come to know Jesus. How can they come to believe without hearing?

Check out Pastor Bryan’s messages on ALCF’s iTunes podcast