Thursday, March 10, 2011

Phooey On Your Newness

Your new ideas look exciting but:
a) They aren't near as exciting as the Bible's ideas.
b) They aren't even new.

"People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy."

-- G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

(Of course, a few sentences later the Catholic Chesterton lists Calvinism along with Arianism as examples of heresies, but let us cling to what is good here. :-)


Gabe said...

Chesterton had much good to cling to indeed.

Bob Spencer said...

It brings up, though, the loose way we use this term, orthodoxy. This word turns out to be like all the others, endlessly malleable, personally redefined by every user. That's not orthodoxy, someone shouts, referring to a Biblical interpretation with only, say, a thousand year provenance, rather than one going all the way back to Augustine at least. Chesterton's is one "orthodoxy," while this or that interpreter of Calvin has another, then again the modern Lutheran's definition is somewhat different than Luther's (before whom no one was orthodox!), and then there are a few hundred other definitions lurking under that great big leaky theological umbrella called Evangelicalism. And yet the word is used as a kind of trump--"that's outside the bounds of orthodoxy!"--as if there was widespread agreement as to just what the o-word really stands for.

Jared said...

Bob, I'm not sure i agree. Chesterton was pointing at the creeds, esp. the Apostles' Creed as the standard of orthodoxy, which I think is a good standard. He may have applied them differently -- and there comes the malleable part, finding Reformational predestination not in comprt with them for some reason -- but the standard is the same.

I would go back to the same councils he would in considering the issue of universalism and the like. This is not new. The early church fought over this, considered it, and declared it a heresy. I think it's arrogance not to keep holding up "new" teachings to the Scriptures but I also think it's arrogance to think the early church maybe didn't know what it was doing in calling this stuff heresy.

But you and I, Luther, and Chesterton would agree that the creed(s) is a good place to start for orthodoxy.

If we can't know what orthodoxy is, after all, we can't know what's orthodox. Might as well chuck the Trinity and open up the bounds for modalists, tritheists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and perhaps even Hindus.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Well, the Orthodox have ideas on what that entails. There are reasons Protestants have started talking about "small o" orthodoxy. :) Protestant/Orthodox dialogue has only begun in the last few generations. If we only think of the Catholic/Protestant debates we don't have more than one third of the debates within Christian thought, maybe even less than that.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

I'd say that if the Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox actually agree on something (i.e. the Trinity, the Resurrection, etc) that's still a basis for defining what is or isn't in the pale of orthodoxy. That doesn't seem like a lot to people who want us to have firmer agreement on what is orthodox but as someone who hopes that Christ and the Spirit will continue to bring greater unity to God's people I would say that even the apparently minimal points of agreement are still something to be grateful for. We may not agree on Calvinism but we'll agree that Nestorianism and Docetism are really, really bad.

Bob Spencer said...

Hey, Jared, I'm with you in wanting to limit the term to the early creeds--or at least wishing that it were so limited--but in actual usage it's all over the place. No one can dictate how people are going to use a word, of course, although we can always bemoan the decline into meaninglessness of once brick-like words.

Then again the word "orthodox" is also used with a political intent, so that to label someone un-orthodox is to strongly imply they're not legitimate Christians. Or, more bluntly, not saved. In fact, this is the kind of usage that I find most common these days. Is this not the rather smug implication of Piper's "Farewell Bell" tweet (and isn't Twitter just a playground for smugness anyways?).

Anyway, thanks for letting me indulge myself here. I'm out.