Friday, February 8, 2008

YouTube Discussion on Christian Orthodoxy

I posted the following:

And I got the following comment:
Before I ask anything I would like to state I am young, and inexperienced in theology, so I very likely will use the wrong terms. (gives you an apologetic glance)

My two questions are as follows:

Would you be working from the definition of Orthodox Church as: "the right thinking/opinion church?"
And you have aroused a certain sense of curiosity on this part: How does Eastern Orthodoxy fit into your discussion?

YouTube won't let me post my full reply, so I linked to this page in order to display it:

Hi Modest,

Thanks for the questions.

Of course arguing over the meanings of words can be tricky on a number of fronts. In this discussion, I feel that that it would be helpful to temporarily use the following paradigm: there are two categories of word meanings. There is first an underlying sense of literal or mere meaning to a term. We all basically agree in this case that "orthodoxy" means something like "straight", "correct", "true", etc. What we are discussing pertains to the second category of word meaning. In this case, we are discussing what can be labeled as "Christian orthodoxy".

Of course some people will use the phrase to refer to the "Eastern Orthodox" church, and I can't stop them. Nor do I want to - I like communication more than argumentation. When I sense someone using the phrase that way, I will communicate with them on their terms.

Of course other people will use the phrase to refer to the entire set of their own theological beliefs.

In this video I am choosing to use the phrase to refer to all that was decided in the creeds of the original ecumenical councils. And thus, since "heresy" was a term developed and used by these ecumenical councils to denote beliefs determined outside the councils - the word actually means "to decide for oneself", I am choosing to use the term "heresy" to refer to just that: doctrines determined outside those councils.

Is it always incorrect and/or dangerous to be heretical? Are there any doctrines that are true, which were not laid out in the councils?

My answers: no; yes.

It just so happens that I do NOT believe that the councils were divinely inspired as the canon of scripture was, and their creeds are therefore not immune to error. I also happen to think that there are at least a few errors in the original creeds.

An example of one would be the statement contained in the opening and concluding lines of the Athanasian creed, which basically say one must affirm everything in the Athanasian creed in order to be saved. I disagree with this claim on the basis of Biblical precedents like Abraham, Melchizedek, Rahab, Nebuchadnezzar, the thief on the cross, and others whose salvation is expressed or implied, or who are given as examples of faith in God, yet most likely did not have an Athanasian understanding of the trinity.

Given that I deny at least a couple claims found within the creeds, my orthodoxy is suspect, mingled with a little heterodoxy, or at least qualified (or, if you prefer, "my orthodoxy" is different than the "orthodoxy" found in the original creeds, although they overlap significantly; but it is easiest to stick with one definition of "orthodoxy", which I submit as "that which was affirmed by the ecumenical councils").

Since I believe that I am "saved" (as some call it), I am forced to believe that it is possible to deny particular tenants of orthodox Christianity (as defined here) and yet be saved.

To be clear: there are no doubt beliefs that are heretical, which are also false. No doubt some of these are also very dangerous to affirm. But the three qualities: "heretical", "false", and "dangerous" operate independently of each other.

In summary: I use "orthodoxy" to mean "that agreed upon by the ecumenical councils", and "heresy" to mean "that which was not". There are heretical claims that are true, and some that are false. There are false claims that are dangerous. Salvation is by God's grace through man's faith in Jesus for the purpose of good works for the glory of God. The Bible contains no false claims.

Either way, it is much more important that Jesus is God, died for our sins, and God raised Him from the dead. Praise God that all we need to do is trust in Jesus, and He will give us abundant life, starting today.

Thanks for the comment.

Love your brother in Christ,


  1. Wow, you really went in depth there, my dear man!

    I was rather running under the impression that orthodoxy was related in this context to E-O. But yes, this is very clearly stated, thank you so much. (This is what happens when you go to a Baptist college... you assume tooo much)

    I have a few more questions...

    "For the Christian, beliefs matter, but nopt all beliefs matter equally." - Riger Olsen

  2. Hey thanks for reading - sorry about the length.

    "I have a few more questions..."

    I would love to hear 'em...

    ""For the Christian, beliefs matter, but not all beliefs matter equally." - Riger Olsen"


  3. There is a distinction between "having to affirm all the orthodox doctrines to be saved" (in the sense that those who are not even aware of the doctrines would be condemned to hell) and "having to affirm Christian doctrines that have already been clarified to you as being orthodox, as one of the requirements of being a faithful Christian". It seems to me that the former statement is in itself heretical, and that the latter is actually more in line with what the popes and the bishops in those councils believed.

    Of course this doesn't excuse heretics who died before their heresies were condemned, but after all one can be ignorant of a truth without denying it. You can be ignorant of the Trinity without being anti-Trinity.

  4. that sounds reasonable to me


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