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May 15, 2007

Right Beliefs or Right Conduct

A while back I overheard the conversation of two Christian women. One was telling her friend about a man she had recently met who was “such a moral and upright guy” and, by the way, was also a wiccan. Upon seeing her friend flinch, the woman continued, obviously seeking affirmation, “Well, I think what’s important is how one lives.” Her friend wasn’t buying it.

Their conversation reflects a growing attitude among many in the church today, especially among those attracted to the “emergent” movement: that the correctness of one’s beliefs is superfluous as long as one lives a moral life. If you’re interested in my take on this issue, check out my latest BreakPoint article, Orthopraxy over Orthodoxy, and then share your thoughts with us.

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The problem is that it is not how good we are that makes us equally yoked. It is how good Jesus is on our behalf and what we believe about walking in His way. You are right that this is a problem for American churches. We traded in truth as the our foundation for fellowship, and ended up with behaviors as our common ground.


I've read some of the emerging church movement. What I am unclear on is this. Does orthopraxy over orthodoxy extend to all areas of doctrine...say the diety of Jesus...or the virgin birth? It seem to me that these are quite fundimental to our faith and that without them there is litle that diffrentiates followers of Jesus from other religions.

Hearty Heretic

Personally, I'm in favor of heteropraxy. There are lots of sound worldviews out there that were rejected by orthodox Christianity that could help one live one's life in a caring and compassionate way and have a relationship with the loving and forgiving God that Jesus proclaimed. Pelagius, for example, lived an exemplary life.

jason taylor

Their are several problems with heteropraxy. One is simply that it sounds to good to be true. However that is not really evidence. Though I might call it intuition if I am pretentious. Also there is another part of us that wants orthadoxy to be true-as long as we can be sure we are orthadox.
Another problem is that it strains at the Law of Non-contradiction. Different beliefs do in fact contradict each other.
Furthermore right belief really is necessary for right action. The Aztecs believed their god was a monstrous tyrant who would destroy their crops if not given a continuous diet of properly tortured human flesh. Therefore they followed their beliefs to their ultimate doom.
I myself hope Catholic style inclusivism is true. It does seem a little hard that a good and pious Jew should be damned-especially as folk wickeder then him are saved. And yes I know "works aren't enough" thank you. On the other hand as God can save at the last mini-second if someone's heart is willing(I know free will vs. election-don't start anyone), so perhaps the difference between exclusivism and inclusivism is only theoretical. In any case God has more imagination then I do so presumably He knows.
Both belief and behavior are important. They affect each other and neither can be rejcted.

Anthony Perkins

Let's take a poll and see just how many people today think that what they "Believe in" is in any way wrong. Most folks are so conditioned by input from media sources they would be reluctant to say anything bad about anyone's beliefs or actions. It would be difficult if not impossible to convince anyone outside of (christianity?) of the notion of absolute right or wrong, forget orthodoxy. Relativity is the new pagan anti-religion. People believe what they experienced growing up, and acclimate to the environment and people they are exposed to now. Just look at the "environment" and it's hard not to see pigs and dogs(created in God's image, nonetheless). From my experience, the closer you think your gonna get to God, the more "wrong" you see. I really, really hate sin.

jason taylor

That's fine. Just make sure you don't hate the sinner.

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