2002-04-03 - Orthodoxy or Heterodoxy
1 Timothy 6:3-5 If anyone advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing. But he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.
There are some terms that every Christian should know; these are two of them. The word orthodox comes from the Greek word ortho, which means "right," and "doxa," which means "opinion" or "doctrine." So when we say, as Christians, someone is orthodox, we are saying that they have correct views regarding their interpretation of Scripture. Heterodox comes from the Greek, hetros, which means "other," and "doxa" again. So when we, as Christians, refer to someone as heterodox it means that they have views that are other than what Scripture teaches.
In the United States, these terms were widely used in the controversy involving the Congregational Churches, mainly in New England, in the 1800s. Those churches which had become Unitarian, (denial of the Trinity) were labeled as heterodox and those which upheld the Trinity were called Orthodox. In Galatians 2:14, we read of those who "were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel." This is what is in mind in these two terms. There is truth and it is found in the Word of God, but some pervert the truth for their own gain, or simply because they, sadly, have not had their eyes opened by the Holy Spirit.
Many years ago, in 842 AD, they started a Festival of Orthodoxy, which was held on February 19th of each year. We missed this year and I am not a big holiday type, but once in my life, I would like to attend a Festival of Orthodoxy; what a concept. Several writers have keyed into this concept. Euthymius Zigabenus wrote a work, "The Theological Armor of the Orthodox Faith." Nicetas Acominatos wrote "The Treasury of Orthodoxy." There are many others.
Orthodoxy has a nasty way of becoming rationalism, as it did with the followers of Melanchthon after Luther died. We need a living faith. We require a faith that is not dead formalism. The reason we don't hear these terms today is because we are afraid of offending a fellow brother or sister in Christ. But we can encourage each other in love, and if there is a fellow Christian who is heterodox, it is our obligation to love them and attempt to show, from Scripture, what God says. This is part of the fellowship of the saints here on earth. This also protects the purity of the church. It must be done in love and we must be willing to find that we might be wrong ourselves. "Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another," Proverbs 27:17.
Seeking to be orthodox is an exercise of humility. It requires the admission that we don't have all our ducks in a row and that we are still learning. Saying we are orthodox is an exercise of arrogance. To say we have all our theology in place is simply to fall into pride. We are ever growing, always learning, and the older we get, it seems, the harder we have to work because there is more stuff escaping out of our heads than going into them.
Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation 1 Peter 2:2.
Soli Deo Gloria,