O is for Orthodoxy

I am currently blogging, along with my daughter, all the way through the alphabet. Check out how the idea started, and get the rules here.

Don’t be afraid!  The word Orthodoxy probably scares a lot of people.  Orthodoxy is simply the state of holding right beliefs.

Sound in opinion or doctrine, especially in religious doctrine; hence, holding the Christian faith; believing the doctrines taught in the Scriptures; — opposed to heretical and heterodox; as, an orthodox Christian. [1913 Webster]

The older I get, and the further I go on my spiritual journey, the more this notion bothers me.  It is so obvious that it barely deserves mention, but I must mention this because billions of people are now living as if this is not true: there is no one, proven, universally acknowledged/understood/accepted way to live, believe, or understand holy scripture.

My leader and spiritual guide, Jesus, came to a people who thought they had all their theology down and showed them that their certainty was actually making it harder for them to see him for who he was and to hear him clearly.  The Christian religion sprung up, presumed to codify and clarify everything Jesus taught, declare that the Jews didn’t get it, and crown itself as the new group to which God had truly revealed himself.  Same ditch.  Other side of the road.  Proof?  The lives, behaviors, and practices of most people today who call themselves Christians.

This very certainty — this very sense that we get it, that we are the possessors of the correct understanding of God — surely must be as dangerous to us today as it was to the Jews 2000 years ago, or to anyone who presumes to have it all figured out.  This is the reason I do not engage people in theological debate on this blog.  It is not because I do not have my opinions on things and not because I do not know how to “defend” them.  It is because I reject the very assumptions upon which most of these debates are based — the ideas that a) the faith journey is primarily about rightness and wrongness of belief; b) someone else’s perspective on a Biblical issue can in some way “prove” that my perspective is incorrect (which is possible, of course, only if I accept and understand that person’s interpretation and assumptions upon which it is based); c) someone else gets to decide whether or not I “get it” and whether I’m really with God, based on their assumptions.  I don’t care to argue the details.  I’d love to argue the assumptions, but very few people are interested in doing anything with assumptions other than assuming them, taking them for granted, and then building elaborate systems of belief on them, precarious as they may be.  We can argue about details all day, but when we start dealing with the assumptions on which they are based, that’s where things start getting scary.

The state of theological debate in the Christian community reminds me of two lovers who stand yelling at one another, “I love you, dammit!”  “No, dammit, it is I who loves YOU.”  “No, I love you, dammit!”  “Ridiculous!  It is you who are loved by me, dammit!,” with each of them making lists of why their love should be self-evident to the other person and how they are therefore entitled to resent the other for not acknowledging/noticing their love more profoundly.  It is truly a ridiculous exercise and sure to lead to nothing but increasing hostility as each so loudly declares their “love” for the other.  Of course at some point one of the lovers says, “We should be arguing in love,” to which the other wholeheartedly agrees.  The furious debate commences now, only without use of the word “dammit,” as if it is merely the word and not the entire conversation that is without love.

What have you accepted as orthodox?  Who made that decision for you?

Where is God?

View Kyra’s O post

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. A request for me to defend some of my comments does not obligate me to do so.

  • Anonymous

    another thought-provoking post. nice.

  • Good article, and it rings true for many areas of life. (One great example on the Christian side is the conflict between the Irish Catholics and their protestant neighbors.)

    Other examples..

    James Clerk Maxwell was attacked and otherwise belittled for his ideas on electro-magnetism because they conflicted with the ‘orthodox’ scientific establishment.

    Both the various political and cultural groups bash one another over ‘right and wrong’ without being able to prove why they are more than simply different.

    etc etc etc

    • Absolutely. Great observation, Chris. It’s certainly not just among religious people that we see this.

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