Friday, March 25, 2011

The evolution of Orthodoxy

It struck me this morning. The definition of what a Christian is has changed significantly over time.

The Apostles Creed is this,

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;

He descended into hell.

The third day He arose again from the dead;

He ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost;
the holy catholic church;
the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body;
and the life everlasting.


This creed has long been the very basics to claim orthodoxy. If we were ecumenical in this, and made this our basis for communion, we could really claim to believe in "the holy catholic church." As it stands, each of us, and especially institutionalized bodies, add to this creed their own bits. And then they make the claim that these additions are essential to the whole matter, and their understanding is the one true understanding which is "biblical" and authoritative. And in doing so, they're already disposed of the belief in the "holy catholic church."

It may be anything here. I'll just provide a few examples from my own personal experience.

  • The bible is inerrant and infallible
  • Biologic evolution is incompatible with faith
  • Marxist economic theory is contrary to Scripture
  • American Conservative political ideology is godly (I've literally heard someone say, "I'm not a Democrat, I'm a Christian.")
  • Women must not have authority over a man in any way
  • "Big bang" cosmology is demonic
  • The Trinity is hierarchal
  • God must not be addressed with a feminine name or virtues
  • You must receive the gift of tongues
  • Baptism is fully submerged, and never of a child
I'm sure all of us can add in things to this list. My point is that every tradition includes their own demands to be included in orthodoxy, essentially cutting the holy catholic church into bits.

I know a lot of people who don't really "go to church" anymore. They're not withdrawing from the church, they're being pushed away. They don't fit into the pastor's agenda, their beliefs are toxic, or they voted for the wrong person. Maybe they watch movies with the wrong MPAA rating, or listen to the wrong kinds of music. Maybe they want real fellowship instead of kowtowing to the agenda of the church expansion plan.

They're making it harder to enter the Kingdom of God. By including so many litmus tests, we're preventing people from fellowshipping with us, adding schism into the body in place of unity.

The irony is, Jesus made it hard to enter the Kingdom of God, telling those who would enter it to "count the cost." Yet his litmus test was to love God and love others, in a sacrificial way. We're turned this around completely, and we make it hard because others aren't sacrificing enough for us.


Nicole said...

But somehow we are heretics for not believing that second list of things...

Jen Martens said...

great point Steve. Thanks