Rethinking Orthopraxy

Many of us are familiar with the word Orthodoxy, but what is Orthopraxy? Orthopraxy comes from the Greek word for “right action”. Ironically, today and historically black church experience has been, in large part, about practice. There is great history in the black church experience of movements of holiness and miracles often declared to be revivals. Because of historic financial challenges in the community, it was acceptable for teachers of the church to have learned only by oral tradition what they taught as true doctrine. This method of audible dissemination was the best we had for that day. Troubling today is the fact that many leaders in the black church choose to continue in the same tradition.

We continue to teach congregants how to follow. It ‘s a dot-to-dot type of method, really. The leader declares a thing right or wrong and the congregants, if only mentally, are left to keep a growing list of what things are acceptable and what things are not. Following Christ then simply becomes reduced to following the rules declared by leadership of a particular tradition.

Leaders are not held accountable for study, and congregants are relieved of their duty of critical analysis of all things presented as God’s truth. In the typical black church, there is little, if any, reference to the ecumenical counsels of old, no regard to the accepted truth of the body of Christ at large, nor to the tradition and history of the Church.

Leaders then are free to teach opinion as fact, and fiction as new or special revelation of God. Where there is no standard, the people perish. The same lack of emphasis on orthodoxy, or right thinking, has lead to what can only be described as the hijacking of the black church. Intelligent and ambitious men and women have been exalted to a near God-like status. No one is to question the logic of their thinking or actions, and one dare not suggest that teachings of today’s preachers hold up in light of scripture and church history.

This problem is widespread and the machine is large. When we only give instruction and there is no given value to understanding, what do we really have? We end up with shallow Christianity, Christians tossed about by every wind of doctrine… Christians who are opposed to nothing. What good is the watchman in the tower if he sees all approaching as friends? One leader recently asked me, “if we don’t agree with another’s doctrine, why can’t we just leave it alone?” The very question is sad. This is not personal, never was and never will be. Our enemy is not the communicator of the error but the spirit behind the error.

Have we forgotten that our enemy is not flesh and blood? Have we forgotten?

If there is truth, then there is error. If there is error, then there is deception. And if there is deception, then there is death. We cannot sit by nonchalant and act as if the enemy has not invaded our camp. Nor can we be distracted by the personalities of deception. We must teach our brothers and sisters how to think critically, how to evaluate, how to know truth so well that whenever and where ever error arises, they instinctively know the difference.

Now, isn’t it true that right thinking leads to right action? Too many are serving God mindlessly. They have no assurance of what they believe, because they don’t know what they believe. They have no concept of the history of our faith, and no exposure to the thinkers of our past. They are easily pulled astray from the faith, thinking that the objections of their minds are new, never exploring the extensive answers prepared by those before us and preserved by history.

Our Christian faith has always been a faith carried on by thinkers. Jesus would often present truth in the form of a parable or riddle. Why? May I suggest, He understood the importance of his followers’ ability to think.

Hebrews 11:1 The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. 2 The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd. 3 By faith, we see the world called into existence by God’s word, what we see created by what we don’t see.

Somewhere along the line we have diminished faith to some mindless act resembling that of the three blind mice. Our faith can never be blind. We are called to investigate, evaluate, and come to a rational conclusion. We have so over-simplified things, that all one needs to do to be deemed a Christian is chant or recite a prayer. We celebrate this and then maybe encourage a micro-class, much to do about our organization.

What happened to the days of the converts class, the day when you were simply considered a new convert until you were presented the gospel in great detail? You were presented with having to confront sin in your life upon understanding that power of the gospel, given a firm foundation. And then in a glorious exhibition of your choice, you declared to friends, family and the public your rational decision and faith to follow after the ways of Jesus Christ.

God, help us to love you with all of our mind. Amen.

Please feel free to comment, let’s reason together.  Go ahead, scroll down and leave a comment, what are you thinking?

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2 thoughts on “Rethinking Orthopraxy

  1. Thank you for your comments. What you describe that is happening in the black church is happening in many. The one I belong to in fact. We are a Charismatic fellowship. I have the opportunity to preach on many Sunday evenings. Your thoughts are an encouragement to me. We have been taught for a long time that most everything from the mind is evil and that our spirit man should control our lives. That reasoning is not of the spirit, in fact some believe that Bible study is not that important as compared to experiences that we have. Knowledge of the Word is secondary to what we garner through the Spirit.

    I am a bit frustrated at times. I do recognize that just knowledge of what the Bible says apart from a saving faith in Jesus Christ is useless. I depend upon the Holy Spirit in my life and in my study of God’s revealed will in the Bible. I feel so not up to the task and ill equipped to preach most times. And now it seems what I keep doing is just bringing us back to the cross and the gospel. If we do not recognize and know who God is and what we are, our strivings are quite useless. So I just keep preaching about a Holy and Just God; man as complete sinners without any hope outside of the wonderful Grace that was shown to us in the cross when we did not deserve or ever will deserve it.

    I agree whole heartedly that we cannot ignore all of the saints before us, what they learned, understood and taught…there really is nothing new (although in Charismatic circles they seem always to see something completely new). Sorry to be so lengthy…God Bless you..TH

  2. “Our spirit man should control our lives” What does that mean? Yes, I grew up in a charasmatic church and I understand the culture.

    Well brother all I can say, is study, study, study.

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