Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Our Collective Faith 14

posted by Scot McKnight

Heresies.jpg

The editors of  Heresies and How to Avoid Them: Why It Matters What Christians Believe finish the book off with an epilogue that reflects on heresy and orthodoxy, and it’s worth a good read. It will do well to finish off this excursion into how to avoid heresies.

It is an easy temptation to become focused on heresies (or heretics) instead of exploring the reaches of orthodoxy itself. Michael Ward discusses problems with being orthodox.

Hyper-orthodoxy is the desire to defend orthodoxy at all costs and in way one can find. Denominationalism tends toward this. These worry about liberals.

Hypo-orthodoxy is the belief that orthodoxy is bad and needs to be reduced to the lowest possible level. Nondenominational evangelicalism tends toward this. These worry about conservatives.

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But this isn’t simply about the via media. Michael Ward, a theologian and writer, argues not only for moderation in all things but also a moderation about moderation itself. Some times one has to take a radical stand.

Excessive balance, then, can be a problem: lukewarmness and an equally fierce rejection of heresy are both mistakes of excessive balance. (I wasn’t sure what Ward was getting at in this point.) One cannot, so it seems to be what he is saying, reject heresy with the same passion as one embraces orthodoxy.

The chief vocation of the orthodox is not to exclude the heterodox, so Ward argues. Excommunication was not always the result; death was very rare. Even Arius — and I didn’t know this — was welcomed back and Athanasius was ordered to reinstate him.

Orthodoxy is imitable and it can lead to hypocrisy; some say the right things but don’t believe them. Orthodoxy can lead not only to hypocrisy but to idolatry: allegiance to the creed can transcend for some the allegiance we owe to God.

Orthodoxy can also lead to barren intellectualism, and I believe the emerging crowd in some ways is responding to folks who say the right things and believe the right things but don’t always live the right things. In fact, apart from the importance — dead importance in fact — of affirming Trinity, I’ve met precious few who even know the implications of Trinitarian faith. Genuine orthodoxy, Ward concludes, is a matter of head, heart, will and deed.

“Truth, first and foremost, is not an ‘it’, not a proposition, but a person, who will always elude over-precise descriptions” (141).



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Ted M. Gossard

posted April 30, 2009 at 3:40 am


Interesting post.
Yes, many of us are tired of excessive line drawing and subtle and not so subtle exclusion of other Christians. We had just better be careful, though, that we draw the same lines Scripture does. Scripture does say that if any spirit (or spiritual utterance) denies Jesus came in the flesh, the same is an anti-christ. We’d better do the same.



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Ted M. Gossard

posted April 30, 2009 at 3:42 am


clumsy wording, and I should have proofread, but you get my point



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Marcus Goodyear

posted April 30, 2009 at 9:57 am


The Trinity has become so important to me in the past few years.
Ted, raises a good point about drawing the same lines that Scripture does.” As a former English and Literary Criticism teacher, I wonder if this is really possible. Although there are not infinite right answers when analyzing a text, there are multiple right answers sometimes.
How do we balance the fluidity of meaning in a text with our desire (and need) for orthodoxy?



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Jim Marks

posted April 30, 2009 at 10:58 am


To equate moderation with lukewarmness is a back handed way of espousing either hyper or hypo orthodoxy without the stones to stand up and say that’s what you want.



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Dan Martin

posted April 30, 2009 at 11:28 am


“The chief vocation of the orthodox is not to exclude the heterodox, so Ward argues. Excommunication was not always the result; death was very rare. Even Arius — and I didn’t know this — was welcomed back and Athanasius was ordered to reinstate him.”
Now that’s a pattern I can live with. I would love to know more about how Arius was restored to fellowship. . .and what interchanges may have happened there. Not because I wish for a milquetoast universalism, but because this side of the story could enlighten us all about how doctrinal disputes–even serious ones–can/should be handled.
Thanks again for this series, Scot!



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Mark Baker-Wright

posted April 30, 2009 at 11:49 am


This statement raised my eyebrows:
Hypo-orthodoxy is the belief that orthodoxy is bad and needs to be reduced to the lowest possible level. Nondenominational evangelicalism tends toward this. These worry about conservatives.
OK. I get the definition being set up here. But I don’t see the connection to nondenominational evangelicalism. In my experience, nondenominational evangelicals tend to be MORE conservative, not less. This sounds to me like a definition that might be better applied to mainstream denominations….
Thoughts?



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Scott M

posted April 30, 2009 at 1:11 pm


I had mentioned elsewhere that the first council hardly settled the matter of the Arian controversy. However, it’s overstating the historical case to imply there was some sort of reconciliation. Among the supporters of Arius was Eusebius of Caesarea and others among the Asiatic churches. Eusebius had influence with Constantine and after Nicea, the Eusebian party continued pressing Arius’ case. A few years after the council Constantine (possibly also pressured by his sister) recalled Arius from banishment. The Eusebian party was prepared to receive him back, but he died before he was reinstated. Socrates of Constantinople provides a pretty graphic description of his death in his church history. Those who supported Nicea attributed it to a judgment of God similar to that which struck down Herod in his arrogance. Arius’ supporters attributed his death to poison. Not long afterward, Constantine died, his son recalled the banished Arian bishops and Athanasius was banished for the first time.
The controversy raged through the empire for decades and Athanasius himself never saw its resolution while living. After his death, the great Cappadocian fathers continued the battle for the Nicene faith and the church’s traditional understanding of Jesus. When St. Gregory of Naziansus was called to Constantinople, only one small congregation was not Arian. It was his eloquent and persuasive sermons and teachings leading to his role in the second council that earned him the title Theologian. It was a long-reigning and thoroughly Nicene emperor, Theodosius the Great, who saw the heresy finally put to rest.
It was a messy and difficult period, but one that preserved a very important feature of our faith and knowledge and communion with God. But I don’t think it’s accurate to imply there was any sort of reconciliation between the Nicene Church and Arius. There wasn’t.



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Ann

posted May 1, 2009 at 1:53 pm


“Excessive balance, then, can be a problem: lukewarmness and an equally fierce rejection of heresy are both mistakes of excessive balance. (I wasn’t sure what Ward was getting at in this point.) One cannot, so it seems to be what he is saying, reject heresy with the same passion as one embraces orthodoxy.”
I see these two poles as existing on the plane of legalism. The way I interpret Scripture is that our only “escape” from being legalistic is to live the way of the cross. The way of the cross is the fulfillment of the law by loving others, dying to self (as Scot puts it, “the Jesus Creed”), rather than rejecting one another based on our understanding of the law as too strict, or as not strict enough. So, we hold to the Holy Law in the myriad and multitude of acts of loving one another, daily. One aspect of the truth in love seems to be that we really cannot understand/know what orthodoxy is unless we’re removed the legalistic plane by our participation in death and resurrection.
There’s a modern myth, IMHO, fostered by our educational system that we can “know” without the doing. The more highly educated we are, the higher the risk of un-applied and un-lived information. We can become authorities without walking the walk. White-washed tombs…



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