Dead Orthodoxy — Dead Orthopraxy

Lately I have been thinking about the easy-believism that is so prevalent in American churches and their general disconnect between faith and practice. I generally see this occurring on two fronts, each of which is equally dangerous, yet one has been largely ignored as of late.

A Dead Orthopraxy

The first front is made up of liberals and emergents; theirs is a gospel that radically alters the lifestyles of those who embrace it yet it ultimately lacks sufficient doctrinal content to truly be considered a biblical gospel. While they may in many senses be considered orthodox in praxis this movement’s impetus is a set of social concerns and not the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ and as such their orthopraxy is a dead one. To phrase it simpler their gospel restructures their lifestyle yet it fails to transform their belief structure. This movement has received prolific critique lately and as such it is not the focus of this post. If you are unfamiliar with the emergent church then I would recommend the following link (here).

A Dead Orthodoxy

The second front has largely been ignored recently and as such presents a far subtler danger. This second front is comprised of some conservatives and fundamentalists; theirs is a gospel that radically alters the doctrinal beliefs of those who embrace it yet it ultimately lacks sufficient doctrinal content to truly be considered a biblical gospel. While they may in many senses be considered orthodox in belief this movement’s impetus is a set of truth claims and not the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ and as such their orthodoxy is a dead one. Again, to phrase is simpler their gospel restructures their belief structure yet it fails to transform their lifestyle. While these churches will affirm the basic tenets of “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” their conduct argues to the contrary. I think several examples of this will suffice to prove my point.

  • They deny the manifold glory of God by failing to teach and laboring to learn the deep things of God (Mark 12:30; II Peter 3:16-18)
  • They deny the lordship of Christ by endorsing the salvation of countless voluntarily inactive members (Hebrews 10:25).
  • They deny the sanctifying work of the Spirit by failing to discipline members in sin (Matthew 18:15-17; I Corinthians 6:9-12).
  • They deny the efficacy and infallibility of the Scriptures (Isaiah 55:10-11) by failing to shepherd the flock (I Peter 5:1-5) and by refusing to engage in biblical counseling and “referring” their church members to secular psychologists (II Timothy 3:16-17).
  • They deny the fundamental essence of the church by allowing inactive and sinning members to continue in membership (I Peter 2:9).
  • They deny the interdependent nature of the church by failing to exhort the congregation to hold one another accountable (I Corinthians 12:12-13; Colossians 3:16).

These churches have been given a pass for far too long. Their verbal assent to the doctrines of Scripture apart from the proper practice thereof is far more than institutionalized hypocrisy, it is a false gospel.

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7 thoughts on “Dead Orthodoxy — Dead Orthopraxy

  1. At what point is an aspiring church member sinless enough to actually join a church? I have always understood that all people, regardless of how mature they are in their faith, are still sinners this side of death. Is it really appropriate for people to wait until they are no longer sinners to become proactive in their faith?

  2. No doubt, Keith, you’ve hit on the great balance we all need to pursue. Some pursue doctrinal correctness to such an extent that they know how to draw every line but they have still left their first love. Witness the Ephesian church in Revelation 2:1-7. Others are so intent on being relevant and making the Scriptures fit with society that they change lives, but not for the better. Witness the Laodicean church of Revelation 3:14-22.

    We need to have faith to teach the Gospel of Jesus, surrendering to it in entirety and trust that it will change lives for the better.

    Very good and timely warning.

  3. Josh,
    I completely agree. We will always battle with sin this side of death. What I am referring to is habitual pattern of sin. For example I John uses present tense verbs to contrast walking in darkness and walking in light, in reference to one who presently, i.e. habitually, walks in either darkness or light. Even in the first chapter of I John it is clear that we are sinners and yet John expects us to display a habit of walking in the light. The verses cited in my post point to church discipline not as a means to punish sin but to help members of the church overcome sin. That is what it means to be interdependent; we must use our spiritual gifts to minister to one another. My concern is that many churches do not do this; they do not care about the spiritual state of their members and therefore allow them to fight against their sin alone. Man was created in the image of God and an aspect of that image is man’s ability to have relationships, which is why God exclaims, “It is not good that the man should be alone.”

  4. Dude … great post. I love it.

    All biblical counselors agree that it’s OK to refer your members out to secular psychologists in certain cases, but assume what you mean is that pastors have REPLACED biblical counseling by making these referrals instead of doing biblical counseling?

    Bradley

  5. Oh yeah … what I really wanted to add is this: I believe our category of “orthodoxy” is missing some of the most important doctrines, and this makes it easier for people to be “orthodox” without loving God or their neighbor.

  6. I just find your examples of the second type too limited. I’d have listed more examples like remembering the poor or being transparent and forthright about individual finances. (I guess that’s sort of listed under accountability). Just a thought.

  7. Theophilogue,
    I definitely agree with your second comment.

    JTapp,
    I agree that the second category is too limited; I didn’t take the time to bring up examples of mission, charity, and various other things. But I think those are critical points that need to be considered. A church that does not seek to fulfill the great commission, fails to care for those less fortunate, or has a narcissistic understanding of personal finances would not be orthodox/orthoprax, depending on the situation. I don’t think we look at these things or give these things serious consideration. I often hear pastors give the example that their congregants should examine their checkbook to see where their passions lie; the same should be required of churches. If a church spends more time and money on building maintenance or the pastor’s salary than it does on missions and mercy ministry then your priorities are backwards.

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