When we think about communicating the truths of scripture to one another, and especially to the outside world, we often focus on only one of the three modes below, and probably the easiest and least effective – that of Orthodoxy.
Teaching orthodoxy means teaching the ideas and precepts of the faith. This, of course is easiest because (a) it doesn’t require us to actually embody or practice said truths, (b) we are easily fooled into thinking that because we know something, we are doing it, and (c) it appeals to our sense of superiority to be able to know something and teach others (knowledge puff up 1 Cor. 8:1).
But orthodoxy, or dogma, are important and useful if not mishandled – they give us a plumb line of principles that have been tested by generations of spiritual men and women who have thought about and refined the ideas through practice. While orthodoxy periodically requires a big shift, such as in the Anabaptist or Conditionalist movements (the latter of which I am part of), more typically, it is a trusted ally in the spiritual life.
Orthodoxy mainly appeals to the mind, and though important, is perhaps least impressive to those outside the faith. And at the very least, we need to have what Joshua Harris rightly calls Humble Orthodoxy.
Orthopathy is what we learn and teach through experience – that is, our emotions. Many people start off the faith journey, not merely with a mental conviction, but a conviction of the heart and soul – one that involved realizing the love of God, and experiencing an inner shift. Without emotional, heartfelt engagement, our faith is merely powerless head-knowledge.
Not only do we need full engagement of our inner mind and heart, but others need to see genuine enthusiasm also – not forced smiles or cult-like fervor, but deep, peaceful enjoyment in the way we have found.
We teach and learn what is most important in our actions, our obedience that speaks of true conviction, not just our words. This is where we ought to measure our true spirituality – it’s where everyone else does. And in fact, so does scripture:
But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. ~ James 1:22-25
So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? ~ James 2:17-22
So let’s ask ourselves – how is our Orthopraxy? Does it exceed our Orthodoxy? Let’s make it so.