The Myth Of “Orthodoxy”?

There has been a thought rolling around in my head for several years now, one that I have shared in various settings a few times before, but never here, at the blog. A topic that is near and dear to my heart is found in Ephesians 4:2-3 (ESV), which reads:

with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace

The maintenance of the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace has become something of a personal rallying cry. It bangs away on the inside of my soul with great profundity. I look in so many different directions, being in fellowship and contact with so many different believers and saints, all from many different locations and local churches, each with unique backgrounds and testimonies of how God intervened in their lives and brought them out of darkness.

And when I attempt to look at and ascertain what it is I see, I realize that what I see is that not one single saint of the Most High actually agrees on much of anything, in terms of their personally held beliefs and convictions regarding the Holy Scriptures.

To be sure, there is great overlap between people, and many agree in a lot of various ways, on some things. But I know of no one who agrees with someone else on everything. In a way, this is to be expected, as we are all growing and maturing and coming to grips with primary, secondary, and even tertiary doctrines. In other words, it’s normal.

But what I didn’t expect to find, when this idea first began resounding inside my heart, was that such DISUNITY could be created between brothers and sisters, friends, and colleagues in the Lord, in the face of such expected normalcy.

It is surprising to me that people who love the Lord and desire to serve Him to the best of their ability, who are sincerely attempting to trust and obey Him, can be so callously driven away from each other by one or two simple disagreements.

Now, I am not speaking of disagreements between say, a die-hard Roman Catholic and a fiery Evangelical Protestant. The disunity created between two such groups is common.

But within the same faith, among brethren of the same experience, of the same mutual fellowship, who have known each other for a long time, have served together, prayed together, have evangelized together, have cried together, and otherwise have gone the proverbial extra mile together, can so easily become disloyal and distant towards each other the moment it is realized that they don’t agree about something.

I know for a fact that there is no one I know who believes everything I believe, who prioritizes their beliefs the way I do, who considers various beliefs to be central in comparison to others, and etc.

Not even my wife and I see eye to eye about everything the Bible contains or teaches!

And yet, my relationship with my wife is no worse off, hasn’t been under any additional spiritual attack, or has ultimately, come to end, simply for not believing the same things about every thing God or the Word of God, has to say.

But you say, “Yeah, but that’s your wife. You’re married to her. You made a promise to stay together, no matter what. You have to weather all the storms and disagreements in order to keep the covenant you made together before the Lord going strong.”

What the above is actually saying is, “You’re stuck, so you have to stick it out. You don’t have a choice now, no matter what you may disagree on now.”

To which I respond, “Yes, this is true. I agree 100%. But why isn’t it this way between brothers and sisters in the Lord?”

Hear me out. The Church is the Bride of Christ, correct? This means, that collectively speaking, in a figurative, spiritualized way, we are all “married” to each other. We have given ourselves over to the Lord unconditionally without restraint. In effect, we have promised ourselves to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in so doing, by being members who make up the Body of Christ, we have promised ourselves to each other, just as much. We are stuck with each other. Entering into covenant with God causes all of us to, in equal measure, covenant ourselves to each other.

True, the nature of a marriage is different in many ways compared to the nature of a brother to brother or sister to sister communion. This is obvious. But the underlying principle and chief goal of marriage—to become one—is the same chief goal of being bought with a price: to become one with Christ Jesus and the Father, and so, be made one with each other.

The fact that this unity appears to be dissolving all around us leads me to question whether or not the idea of orthodoxy is legitimate, or rather, if such an idea is merely a myth. For anyone who is reading who isn’t sure of what orthodoxy means, it signifies, in its most literal sense: right/correct beliefs.

The main idea is that there are a set of beliefs inherent to the Christian faith that are right/correct. And in order to be in the faith, one must automatically agree to and practice these beliefs, or else one isn’t a Christian, i.e. in the faith.

On the surface, let me reassure anyone who is reading, I agree wholeheartedly with the principle just enunciated. There is a point in which one either is, or is not, “in Christ”, as the Biblical phrase goes.

But how that plays out and is universally (or not) applied in the real world is a completely different thing as compared to the theory and principle of the matter. I mean, do we all need to become thought police and go through each other’s checklists before we can agree to commune together in the presence of the Lord?

Do I have to meet your personal set of criteria for fellowship before you will accept me the way I am? Do you need to meet my set of criteria to do likewise?

If so, tell me, how is that “bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”?

Many, if not almost every, local church has a charter detailing their core beliefs and/or tenets of the faith around which they form themselves. The founding members, or those who inherited the reins of the local assembly, have all agreed to agree on a basic list or set of bullet points, usually beginning with the Bible and the nature of God and ending with a statement either about the church, end times, or finances, with something about Jesus, sin, salvation, the Holy Spirit, the ministry, and etc. sandwiched in between.

Is this why God sent His only begotten Son into the world? Is it really what Jesus died for? For a statement of faith? Some church’s statements are a mile long quoting so many verses of Scripture they might as well save everyone the time and simply say “We believe the Bible. Period. End of Story.”.

If only it was that easy!

More and more I am finding that the idea of “orthodoxy” while beautiful and necessary in one way is completely untenable and just about a waste of time in the other. You are never going to have perfect insight and knowledge about me and what I believe. I will not have that about you, either. No one will about anyone. Only God knows the heart.

So then, we can agree upon what?

  • That God exists?
  • That there is only one God?
  • That Jesus is the Son and Christ of God?
  • That Jesus was crucified for our sins, that He was buried, and that He was raised from the dead by God the Father three days later?
  • That in order to be saved, we must fully trust in and rely upon Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior?
  • That we must confess and repent of our sins before Him?
  • That we should pursue baptism in the name of the Lord?
  • That we are free to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit as a promise from God the Father as a seal upon our hearts proving that we have been adopted by Him?
  • Anything else???

That looks like a pretty good list, that most everyone, I think, would agree with. So, we CAN be orthodox after all! Not so fast. Sure, we all agree that God exists, but in what way? Yes, we can quote Holy Scripture and say there is only one God, but what does it mean, exactly, for God to be “one”? What does it mean for Jesus to be the Son of God? The Christ of God? And right on down the list.

See, once the details of all these supposedly agreed upon statements of Christian orthodoxy become exposed, we find that all the agreements we claimed to have between ourselves suddenly begin to disappear.

So, where do we go from there? Disband all allegiances to one another and cast each other out as heretics and children of the Wicked One?

Do we raise up councils of people we allegedly trust and ask them to be the doctrine-makers so we can go to them regularly and affirm our commitment to whatever they say is the truth regarding God’s Word?

Do we appoint specially trained clergymen to tell us what to believe in all points concerning our religious beliefs so we no longer have to worry about ever forming our own convictions?

Do we decide to let doctrinal chaos reign and “every man to his tents, O Israel!”?

How about this?

How about we realize that we’re not all of us always going to agree about everything, and decide we will be okay with that fact?

How about we concede the fact that someone else may understand any number of Bible topics or doctrines better than we do, and decide we will be okay with that fact?

How about we patiently and lovingly remember first that we are all of us in covenant with God through Christ, and so, we are all of us, sons and daughters of the Most High? And in remembering this, we acknowledge that this makes us a family, and that brothers and sisters don’t get to disown each other if the Head of the Family has not disowned one of His own?

How about we humbly and with contrition and repentance, admit to the preconceived ideas, prejudices, and critical condemnations we’ve secretly held in our collective hearts toward those brothers and sisters we know don’t believe exactly like us?

How about we come together as a family and talk through our differences, without malice and condescension, and find out why we all believe whatever it is that we believe, that causes us to not agree with each other, deciding we all might learn something new?

And finally, instead of copping out by “agreeing to disagree”, and using that as a cover to begrudge one another just so we can justify any form of mistreatment we might think to use against anyone who doesn’t conform to our system of beliefs and convictions, how about we actually find a way, with the help of the Master Himself, to, for once and for all, actually, with all humility and gentleness, and with patience, bear one another in love and become eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace?

Perhaps I’m just an eternal optimist, but I think we can do it. Do you?

Peace and God bless,

The Votive Soul


~ by votivesoul on 12/12/2016.

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Mark Showalter's Blog

Always seeking to know God more

Theo-sophical Ruminations

A collage of theological and philosophical musings

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