Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Does orthodoxy always = truth?

Many times, people say that I am wrong in my beliefs because they dont strictly adhere to what Christian orthodoxy says(orthodoxy being the long established, and "approved" doctrines). And while I can respect such beliefs and their place in the church, I cant help but wonder why something should be deemed true, simply because it is orthodox or traditional?

After all, many things have been "traditional" or accepted throughout human history, that we now (generally speaking) deem evil or incorrect. Slavery is a good example of something that was accepted and practiced for hundreds of years, but now most would consider vile and disgusting(at least in our European countries). It was once traditional or orthodox to say that the earth was flat, even though we now know it not to be(though I guess thats not a perfect analogy, since thats something a little more observable and thus provable). But maybe on a more related note, many times in church history have we found things to be incorrect or untrue. The most famous of those being in the Reformation, when Martin Luther proposed that salvation comes to us via Gods grace, and not by paying clergy men or any other "work" we could do. If the so called "orthodox" opinion could be rightly challenged back then, why can it not be now? If traditional church opinions were prone to error even in its earliest of days, what makes it free from any error here in more modern times?

The consensus in Christianity seems to be that orthodoxy should be accepted on the merits that those who created it did so with "tried and true methods"(none of which, people seem to elaborate much on). But what began to disturb me about that, is that we are told to accept those orthodox traditions and ideas even when they appear to make the Bible seem contradictory.
If anything is "dangerous" I think it may be this line of thinking; that we cannot scrutinize the theories or interpretations of those who first proposed our core Christian doctrines. Almost as if our allegiance should be to the Church and its doctrines first, and then to God(if He falls in line with the established theology, of course).

But this seems ridiculous to me, first of all because our allegiance should first be to what we feel God is trying to show us personally. And secondly because the church has always had varying doctrines and positions on every conceivable matter since its birth. So just because a certain set of beliefs have been deemed "orthodox", it is only so because of a consensus at some point in history...not necessarily because it is an irrefutable fact. I like the way John Shelby Spong puts it,
"To be called Orthodox Christian does not mean that one's point of view is right. It only means that this point of view won out in the ancient debate."

With that said, our belief in what is true shouldn't be based upon a consensus or tradition, or even what any religious teacher says...but rather on the conviction that God gives us through the Christian scriptures and even just through everyday life. We dont have to have all of our theology spoon-fed to us, we have the ability to discern for ourselves, and I think that is what is meant by 1 John 2:27(WNT),
And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him remains within you, and there is no need for any one to teach you. But since His anointing gives you instruction in all things--and is true and is no falsehood--you are continuing in union with Him even as it has taught you to do

Even Jesus posed the question,
"And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?" Luke 12:57
Jesus wasnt talking to the religious "orthodox" teachers of the day, he was talking to everyday people. So whatever is truly "right", Im not sure that it neccesarily needs to pass through the hands of teachers and orthodox doctrines, to be interpreted as such. We can "judge for ourselves"

This is not to say, that I or anyone, should place ourselves as "wiser" than orthodoxy and its established conclusions. There is alot of value to be had in tradition and its ideas, but that doesnt mean we should negate our own abilities to interpret and study the evidence, Biblical or extra-biblical. We should consider what others have to say on such matters, but the ultimate conclusion, I believe, should be left to the Holy Spirit within...not man and its varying and conflicting doctrines.

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