THE MYTH OF ORTHODOXY
The Scriptures are full of all kinds of truths. Of course the foundational truths are those which expose redemption. The non-negotiable truth is that man is sinful, Jesus died for our sins and resurrected from the dead, and only through faith in Jesus can a sinner receive eternal life. That is called the gospel.
But within the true body of Christ there are groups which have decided who is orthodox and who is not. Let us agree that there are many heretics today who deny any number of redemptive truths. Some deny the exclusivity of Christ or the substitutionary death of Jesus or even the bodily resurrection. And many in the orthodox crowd pick up their doctrinal billboards and parade them as if they are God’s exclusive spokespeople. The word “orthodox” has come to mean a handful of truths which people must embrace. The virgin birth, the deity of Christ, the bodily resurrection, the inerrancy of Scripture, and others comprise the platform for orthodoxy.
But here is where orthodoxy as defined by those same men comes up painfully and Scripturally short. Can you be orthodox and not love sinners? Can you be orthodox and not deny self? Can you be orthodox and not be observably humble? Can you be orthodox and join hands with unbelievers for political purposes? Can you be orthodox and complain about persecution or the economy or liberal politicians or the gay agenda? You see, this business of orthodoxy has been molded and shaped to a small checklist while many other unscriptural speech and attitudes are given license. That is not orthodoxy, that is open disobedience.
So what this all boils down to is a short doctrinal list which overwhelmingly requires no observable deeds which substantiate the claim that we believe them. What deeds undergird the belief in the Trinity? If I say I believe in the Trinity how can you tell by my life? If I say I believe in the virgin birth how which deeds substantiate my belief claim? But if I say I believe the Scriptures command us to minister to the poor there are deeds which can substantiate that belief. If I say I love sinners there are deeds which can provide some kind of proof that I do love them. But somehow those tenants of the faith are not included as being “orthodox”.
But therein lies a major problem with the modern version of the faith. In the so called orthodox community the teachings about meekness and love and feeding the poor and being clothed with humility are electives and not part of the foundational fabric of what is called Christianity. And it has become very popular and very comfortable to present a set of doctrines and call them “orthodox” but without any observable proof that we actually believe them. And in this process we have minimized and in many ways ignored many New Testament doctrines but as long as we can nod at these few we are called orthodox.
But let us examine just one of these orthodox doctrines we call hell. This word represents an eternal place of torment where unredeemed souls go for all eternity and endure conscious suffering forever. Do not just gloss over those words. The doctrine we call hell which is a vital and non-negotiable part of any orthodox doctrine teaches that unredeemed or lost souls spend a conscious eternity in great distress and suffering. How terribly easy it is to write or say those words. They roll of the doctrinal tongue with great ease and articulation. And many theologians have presented a Biblical basis for this doctrine and with that have earned the moniker “orthodox”.
But how can we say we believe that doctrine and yet live as we do? Of course Calvinism presents a wonderful cover since believers have little part to play in the work of the gospel. If people are not reached no one will wind up in hell who wasn’t inalterably headed there anyway. It’s all part of a grand script which God wrote long ago and He is just watching it happen just the way He has written it. So not only does God only offer redemption to a select and miniscule few but He also makes them believe. And yet that is considered "orthodox"?
But most of the church has the existence of hell in its theology. Imagine a man sits in his living room watching football. His neighbor has come to watch the game with him. The neighbor points to a bunch of papers the man has on his coffee table and asks what they are. The man says that they clearly show that a large bomb will hit this house and destroy it sometime in the next few minutes. The neighbor is astounded and alarmed, but because he sees his friend relaxing and watching football just as he is doing it comforts him. After a while the neighbor is once again fully relaxed. He does not believe a bomb is going to hit the house and because his friend seems so at ease he assumes he doesn’t believe it either.
So when the world see believers climb into their cars on Sunday and “go to church” and have a good time and return home to pick up where they left off they assume that religion is a part of some people’s lives but that the doctrines of eternity have little if any effect on them. And when an unbeliever is presented with the doctrine called hell he rejects it because even those who say they believe it live without the passion that such a doctrine would surely create. The doctrine of hell is so profound and so startling and so unnerving that to actually believe it in your heart and not your statement of faith would revolutionize a person’s life. In fact, he would have to reign in some areas because that person would have a tendency to become a raving lunatic.
But a raving lunatic who spends countless hours on the street corner warning people about hell is much closer to believing the doctrine than the millions upon millions who claim they are orthodox. The entire set of truths laid out in the New Testament are mind boggling when taken at face value. Just take one truth for a moment. Any sinner who believes on Jesus will spend eternity in heaven and any sinner who does not will spend eternity in hell. Pretty elementary stuff, no? But if we truly believe that then what in God’s dear name are we doing? Like a person who claims he is a vegetarian but eats a thick steak every night so is the church that claims to believe in eternity but lives for the temporal every single day.
But in the end we can claim we are orthodox. And if someone questions us we can always show them our creeds and doctrines. You see our faith is now about living creeds instead of living deeds.