“He who boasts of his orthodoxy sins against justification by Christ alone, for he justifies himself by appeal to the truth of his own beliefs.”
– Thomas F. Torrance 1
The term “orthodoxy” gets used and misused a lot in Christianity today. A common label to throw around is that of “heresy”, warning others of what is wrong. But what is orthodoxy? That’s where so many theological camps differ from each other. One persons orthodoxy is another’s heresy.
An error in all this would be the assumption that orthodoxy is a set thing, not a fluid system. Orthodoxy cannot mean stagnant dogmatics. Orthodoxy, whatever it is, must be a fluid and mobile thing, because the way of Jesus is a journey, not a destination. We have not arrived, and the notion of stagnant orthodoxy implies that we have.
Orthodoxy, whether its protestant, catholic, or greek, undermines the justification of Christ alone when it becomes rigid, hard, and in opposition to the movement of Christ. Jesus is on the move, orthodoxy cannot hold Him down, and we must move with Him. This is not to say that truth is relative, but that the practical application of truth is always in question. We must not become rigid in our “orthodoxy” to the extent that we exclude all the possibility of movement or change. The moment we stop learning, growing, and exploring Christ is the moment we become a history museum, no longer a part of the River of Life.
In Christian theology, the attempt to discredit another because of “heresy” becomes irrelevant when you see orthodoxy in this light. I have found myself on a few occasions labeled a “heretic” to some, but at the same time “orthodox” to others. At the root of the issue, both orthodoxy and heresy are terms that, when divorced from the continual movement of the Spirit, can become stumbling blocks to the Justification of Christ alone.
We are not justified by our orthodoxy. We are not justified by our proper theology, or our good beliefs. We are therefore also not condemned by our heresy, or our bad beliefs. There are examples of those who have passionately said that you cannot be a “real” Christian if you deny this, that, or the other. In a protestant sense, many say that denying the doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement means that you are not a “real” “born again” Christian. 2
But I for one am glad to know that my theology does not save me. I am justified by Jesus Christ alone. I may not be “orthodox” to you, but my rightness or my wrongness does not make me more or less justified before God. Orthodoxy cannot be a claim for justification. We cannot attempt to justify ourselves by our Orthodoxy without first undermining the justification of Christ.
In plain terms, relax. Theology is fun. Theology is a fluid thing. Let’s continually grow, ask questions, and seek truth, together as a family. That sometimes means questioning our presupposed “orthodoxy.” Relax because disagreement is okay. In many ways, disagreement is healthy. It means that critical thinking is taking place. We are a family, and sometimes disagreement means that the family is alive.
At the end of the day, not one can boast in their orthodoxy. Neither will anyone be condemned for their heresy. We are justified by Jesus Christ alone, not our theology about Him. It is Jesus Christ the living and active person who is our justification.
So what do you think? Have you ever felt this way when it comes to orthodoxy? Comment below!
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- Reality & Evangelical Theology, 149 ↩
- For example, this video makes that claim ↩
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