Hermitico Christi, Part I: What is Orthodoxy?

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Read this, git gud!

I have been thinking a lot lately about the role that Orthodoxy (right belief) and Orthopraxy (right actions) play in properly experiencing Christianity as a religion. This semester has been very difficult for me to dedicate my mind to such thinking, but two projects have furthered this thought process: a research paper on the survival of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Alexandria and a senior level lesson plan on the Reformation. These two subjects dealt with Christian Orthodoxy and what it is.

Well, what is it exactly? That thought continues to cross my mind. For around 1200 years the Roman Catholic Church had a monopoly on what was orthodox and what was not (mind you to the exclusion of the Coptic, Greek, and other such churches). Then came the reformers, a varied bunch of (mostly) men that came about around the 16th century. Did they redefine orthodoxy? To answer that, we must define the things that loosely kept the reformers a cohesive group:

  1. Bible Only (Sola Scriptura): This idea deals with who and what had authority. The reformers all agreed on the importance of scripture and how all authority must be derived from it. In most reformers mind’s the priesthood and Papacy were unsanctioned authoritative powers.
  2. Christ Only (Solo Christo): This idea deals with where salvation lies. The reformers stressed that the Church as an organized establishment had no power over salvation and that only through the person of Jesus Christ does one have security in salvation.
  3. Grace Only (Sola Gratia): Similar to the above in that through God’s Grace alone, and not through any earthly works is one saved. Martin Luther himself would call the Epistle of James to be an “Epistle of straw” for its focus on good works.
  4. Faith Only (Sola Fide): The Reformers taught that salvation was appropriated by faith alone. Similar to Sola Gratia, only through faith and not through any action on behalf of the believer is grounds for salvation.
  5. God’s Glory Only (Soli Deo Gloria): The underlying, foundational doctrine of the reformers was that God’s Glory was the ultimate purpose of all things. They held that doctrines of God’s sovereignty, the efficacious call of God in salvation, and saw how these contributed ultimately to God’s glory rather than to man’s or to the church’s. To this end, the reformers taught supernaturalism and the necessity of a new birth from God.

These five points, though not mapped out fully at the time of the Reformation, bind together the separate movements. Together, they would epitomize the Protestant movement and variants of these five points makeup the majority of Protestant church doctrines today. It is imperative to remember that many of the reformers including Martin Luther were not trying to start their own church or religion, but simply to reform the already existing Catholic Church. This is the problem with Orthodoxy. The arguments that the reformers made regarding the injustices and spiritual bankruptcy of the Church have won over millions in the past five-hundred years. However, does that make it true? The Catholics are happy continuing on what they have been doing for nearly two-thousand years, and the Coptic Church has continued to do their thing even longer than that! So where does the onus of Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy lie?

A while back I wrote up an explanation of how salvation works according Methodism’s founder John Wesley. In that post, I best described what made most sense to me incorporating all that I know about salvation from the Wesleyan point of view while mentally taking into consideration the different viewpoints of other Christian theologies. However, that is only one very possible outline for salvation under Christian doctrine. According to John Calvin, a contemporary of Martin Luther and fellow reformer, the matter of Free Will is unnecessary in understanding salvation as God chooses, through his Sovereignty and predestination, those elect who will be saved. Is this Orthodox?

Some topics are too large for me to grapple with at this time, such as the Trinity and the nature of Jesus. However, I fully believe there are several small statutes and doctrines that I can tackle sufficiently, at least for my purpose of discerning the meaning of Orthodoxy.

This is will be a multi-part blog concerning my own personal devotion and religious understanding. I have dubbed it Hermitico Christi, a play on the Imitato Christi of medieval Europe. My hope is to find right belief and to then enact right actions through examining the walls of the Christian faith. This will primarily be done through a close analysis of the Councils of early Christianity, Protestant Doctrines, and my own Reason.

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