Thursday, November 04, 2004

Orthodoxy and Heresy

My good friend Brian over at The Faithful Skeptic has writen an interesting article about Defending Orthodoxy. He contends that concern over orthodoxy gets in the way of the message of the Gospel.

I think the inclination to defend orthodoxy is destructive to the mission of the church, because institutional concerns trump the ability of Christians to share Christ's radical message of love and grace.

Think of Martin Luther King Jr. Certainly his message was well outside "orthodox" for many southern Christians. But almost no one would argue now that people of color should be excluded from the church. Think of the movements within mainline denominations to allow women to participate in ministry. Again, outside of orthodoxy. But most Christians now would never think of denying women the right to be full partners in ministry.

I would argue that it all depends on how you define orthodoxy. What if MLK and women's ordination movements were not in fact outside of orthodoxy, but rather a reclaimation of orthodoxy, a fight against the pervading heresy of the dominant church.

I actually wrote a paper on this, called "Confronting First World Heresies," in which I accuse the church in the first world of the heresies of Individualism, Greed, and Blind Self-Righteousness. Now, I not a huge proponent of defending orthodoxy, but I don't think that we have to assume that we are on the losing end of the orthodoxy debate. If it is the spirit of the Gospel, then it should be orthodoxy. There is such a thing as liberal orthodoxy, and I think that we should consider ourselves a part of it.


Blogger Brian said...

I think you're absolutely right. I don't think I was particularly coherent. I think the point I was trying to make was that MLK and the women's movement wasn't really unorthodox, but those who had the most to lose thought it was. And imagine what the church would look like if the defenders of "orthodoxy" had prevailed.

I haven't read the book, but Brian McLaren wrote "A Generous Orthodoxy." I don't really know what it says, but I love the title.

I agree - we need to proclaim the "liberal orthodoxy." I love your phrase "a fight against the pervading heresy of the dominant church." I think the progressive Christian fight for GLBT rights is just that.

8:55 PM  
Blogger *Christopher said...

Personally, classic orthodox dogma has been a strength in my life as a queer person. The Incarnation and Resurrection are radical affirmations of the whole human person, and critique flesh-destroying ideologies wherever they may arise, even when they claim "orthodoxy".

10:40 PM  
Blogger david said...

Thank you for your insight, Christopher. I totally agree that there is liberating good news to be found in scripture and in the tradition. We just can not check out and let those whom we disagree with define our reality. We can't let only "evangelical conservatives" tell the world what Christianity is. We need to reclaim some of those names that have been frightened away from us so that we can move forward the Reign of God. I took just a glance at your blog, but the work you're doing looks really interesting. Thank you.

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