Orthodoxy and Orthropraxy

Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy are important theological terms with an even more important application to how one lives their life. It seems that there is a major disconnect in American Christian culture between these two.  One, Orthodoxy, is what we ought to believe. The other, Orthopraxy, is what we ought to do. Even as I write that statement what I hear screaming from my computer screen is, “How dare you tell us we ought to do something, legalist! We have Freedom in Christ!” While there is truth in that statement, I believe that we fall into legalism primarily when when divorce our doctrine from its proper roll of defining our practice. Lets look to the text of Scripture, I believe that James chapter 1 addresses this issue for us.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:22-27 ESV)

We must both hear and do the word. We hear the word, using James’ example, which is orthodoxy ( ie. We are to love and serve the church) and then we act upon that hearing, so as not to be hypocrites, which is our orthopraxy (ie. Visiting and caring for the widows and orphans). I believe that when we divorce orthodoxy from orthopraxy, we fall into one of several possible errors.

The first would be Liberalism. Often times what I see from people in this camp is that theology doesn’t matter, only action does. The problem is that they fail to see the truth in Romans 14:23 b. Right action is meaningless in God’s economy without faith in Christ.

The second problem with the divorce of orthodoxy and orthopraxy is the opposite of liberalism. I believe that this is best described by the term Antinomian, I see people who don’t care about doing the right things, as defined by the law of liberty. These people will function in such a way as to convey to the rest of us that because they have the right doctrine their actions don’t matter, because they believe the right things. Paul also addresses this issue in Romans 6:1-2.

Finally, there is the issue of Legalism. One form of legalism is to say that because of one’s practice one is more holy than others. The divorce here is a bit more subtle, in that the right doctrine of salvation has been separated from the right doctrine of sanctification. This is a bit more of a specific situation, however, it is clearly an inconsistency within orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

We must keep our orthodoxy in line with our orthopraxy. This isn’t legalism, it is liberty.

About Ken Cook

Ken Cook has written 15 post in this blog.

I agree with the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, am married with two sons. I am finishing my Ordination here shortly. I have worked for Carm for a bit more than a Year.

2 Responses to Orthodoxy and Orthropraxy

  1. 3rdclay says:

    The battle between doers of the word and hearer of the word always is there. Or I should say that this is a delusion from the evil one since the beginning. I have found that a core question is whether the one who believes in Jesus Christ has the Spirit of G-d. Many believe that they have. Indeed, they believe what they believe. Then, the demons believes in G-d as well. However, they are trembling. why? they have no the Spirit of G-d. Therefore, debating of the understanding of the Word will not help those believing Christians be “His disciples” at all. Pray for those who have not the Spirit of G-d to have the Spirit of G-d.
    From my own walking with G-d, I know that a true follower of Jesus Christ not only believes, but does the will of His Father in Heaven. Keeping battling on the salvation issues is like keeping people around the start line, it is the delusion from the Satan to keep many out of the kingdom of G-d. Sanctification is so vital for every Christian life and is preached or divided poorly.
    “I am Holy. No one can see me unless he is holy.” If I may, how many “Christians” today can proclaim that he/she is holy before the Lord? If the present time is at the beginning of the ending time, how foolish shall we be if we know not that a soldier in training even in recruiting does not fit for any real battle? May the Lord have mercy on all of us.

    • Pete says:

      A mega Pastor like Joel Osteen said in an interview Mormons are Christians even though they have different essentials on the Plan of Salvation and on what Jesus did to insure one’s salvation. There is a show on Near Death Experiences called I Survived Beyond and Back on the Bio Channel where most all report going into a peaceful heavenly light with God regardless of their admissions of drug use or a godless lifestyle and when someone left a comment to give what the bible really says about it they get labeled judgmental or unChristianly.
      The problem is most Christians seem to not know what is written in their bibles and essential Orthodox teachings on the bible!
      Those who know that book and thoroughly know the tenets of the true Christian faith are called everything under the Sun but a child of God.

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