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Orthopraxy and orthodoxy

To sum up, some basic principles of orthopraxy discussed so far are:

1. Public confession of faith and witness

2. Grace-based practice of faith - spirituality and lifestyle based on grace; not only is salvation based on faith, but so is sanctification

3. Observing the sacraments or ordinances (baptism, communion / eucharist)

4. Observing spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, attending church, quiet times, reading Scripture

5. Love and fear of God

6. Love of others - believers and non-believers

The list above adds spiritual disciplines in addition to what was discussed in the previous posts. These are considered essential for a well organized, balanced spiritual life, are commanded in Scripture, and have a long history of importance and primacy in Christian practice throughout church history. I may be missing something important, but for now this will do as a starting point.

Now when we consider the basic tenants of orthodoxy, these principles of orthopraxy shoudl follow from them, and I think they do (maybe later it would be nice to formulate "six points of orthodoxy" and "six points of orthopraxy" (or however many), in a systematic way like the five points of Calvinism or Arminianism - only better, since these are bona fide biblical principles.

But I think there is a logical relationship between the points of orthopraxy and orthodoxy. From the key tenets of orthodoxy regarding who God is, his nature, his holiness, and who Christ is, the love and fear of God and love of others follow as a result. The tenets of orthodoxy regarding who Christ is, and regarding salvation by faith, if formulated to include the concepts of the covenant relationship between God and people, leads naturally to confession of faith, witness, observing the sacraments, and observing spiritual disciplines. Observing sacraments and spiritual disciplines follow as a necessary result of who Christ is, his death for us, and our salvation by faith.

So far I have been developing this concept of orthopraxy from scratch, within a sort of evangelical framework. This is partly because I am less familiar with the concept as it has been developed within the Catholic, and especially Eastern Orthodox, traditions. And it is also because evangelicals sometimes ignore issues of lifestyle in their logical theological systems, their worldview, their emphasis on faith alone often to the exclusion of correct practice of the faith, and their emphasis on religious rationalism. So this is kind of an entry point to orthopraxy for me as an evangelical.

But there's more to it. There has to be a purpose and goal to having orthodoxy and orthopraxy, a purpose that harmonizes and unifies these as related concepts, not just ideas to follow. The goal of all this in older, traditional Christian thought (namely, Catholic and Orthodox) is to attain greater spiritual illumination and closeness with God. Eastern Orthodox speak especially of phronema, or a type of spiritual mindset that is in alignment with God, so to speak; and they speak of theosis, or "divinization", becoming "God-like" (cf. 'Christ-like'). Catholics and Orthodox also speak of attaining union with God. These terms not mean of course becoming an exalted divine being of your own, as the Arians and Gnostics falsely taught (and were thus condemned as heretics by the Catholic and Orthodox churches). These refer to attaining a particular closeness to God, being "unified" in terms of a close, experiential relationship - like really experiencing God's presence, spiritual illumination, purging of one's sins, and such. It is not so different from the sort of spiritual ecstasy and Holy Spirit encounters that one sees in a Protestant charismatic church (assuming they are doing it biblically, not out of hollow emotionalism). In such a state, one encounters God in a way that is far richer, real, personal, and intimate than in normal religious life. But it is not just a one-time thing, a spiritual high, as in charismatic church experience, but a more stable, constant experience of God, without excess emotionalism.This also means transcending theology and orthodoxy as mere intellectual tenets and intellectual exercises, going beyond this to the intended purpose of orthodoxy and orthopraxy, which is a fuller personal communion and experience of God in a way that is powerful, real and life-changing.

For now, that wraps up this thread on orthopraxy. I've got a bit of work to do on this concept yet before I can blog about it further.


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