#UMOrthodoxy: Holy People, Faithful Church (1)

3c8ac922c338bc8374bc87c39ab4b27bThe introduction to my reflections on the conference can be found here. I want to make very clear that I was not an organizer of this conference nor do I speak for the UMOrthodoxy group. Much of what is said here are my reflections and extrapolations on what was taught and should be treated that way.

One of the many themes touched on during the weekend was of course orthodoxy, but also the orthodoxies that have sprung up beside it. David Watson listed three and in the question time a fourth was added. I have chosen to focus on the only orthodoxy that matters in my reflections, but will make brief mentions of the other “orthodoxies” that were mentioned as having arisen in the church.

First and foremost there is of course orthodoxy as we would recognize it. The great tradition of the church established by Christ, once and for all delivered, spread by the apostles and eventually coalescing into what we now call the church catholic (universal). That orthodoxy is, and has been, the expression of basic Christian faith since long before the Nicene, but was indeed codified by it. Don’t believe me? Read the epistles of John and see how he establishes a basic Christology and instructs those followers in his care to hold to it and not allow any other teaching on the matter as one example. You could check out the early polemics written expressing the same faith that would later be outlined in the Nicene as well. There is some rumor that the earliest Christians were allowed to think whatever they chose, but the examples of both the Bible as well as the history of the early church tell us otherwise. There is some thought that it was just a bunch of men who cast a vote, this is also not true. The Spirit moved, and I submit that if the Spirit in you does not recognize the same Spirit in the creed, the problem lies not in the creed. No, the whole expression of the Christian faith is not found here, nor is the entirety of what has been taught over the centuries, but the basics are here. This is the bare minimum. This is what a Christian believes. Is it harsh? Perhaps. Is it exclusive? Most assuredly and with no apologies. No matter the organization you belong to, there is an orthodoxy that one agrees to or quickly finds themselves out of bounds.

The question then quickly becomes why does it really matter? Numerous people have written outlines of how the Nicene creed is rooted in the scriptures and I have little desire to repeat those explanations here. A simply search can turn them up easily enough. The reality that it is rooted in, and a faithful and accurate understanding of, scripture should be enough. The fact that those closest to Christ started the process of teaching this same faith should be enough. The fact that through the centuries of the Christian church, it is the one thing that has remained constant should be enough. For some it is not, but interestingly enough, those who oppose the creed are most often, but not always, those who believe differently than it. Examine that for a moment. Individuals choose to, for numerous reasons including but not limited to, new scientific evidence (how that applies to the Nicene I do not know, but it has been used), an artificial divide between orthodoxy and orthopraxy that they invent then attack as a straw man, a works based theology where one must do this or that in order to be Christian, or most often some new idea or interpretation that indeed turns out to be a very old heresy already examined and discounted long before any of us were born. The church has always maintained standards of belief from the time of the apostles going forward. Today is no different. If you want to fall under that blanket of belief, then the creed is the starting point.

The other orthodoxies that have infiltrated the church are as follows. There is the orthodoxy of classical liberalism which recognizes that conflicting claims can not be true, but tends to rely on modernity, science and reason over faith, the church, and the Spirit. There is the orthodoxy of postmodernism that does not recognize any truth claim outside of the individual. Surely we can all be right even if we have different truths. Finally there is the orthodoxy of inclusiveness which is similar to postmodernism but takes it even further by saying that one must be inclusive of everyone and every thing at all costs. Anything contrary to that is sinful…including this post as I dared discuss the beliefs of the Nicene creed and claimed it as the baseline for belief in the risen Christ. These are all false and dangerous as upon examination they lead away from the historic truths of the church…they lead us away from the Truth of God through Christ expressed through the Nicene. These new orthodoxies are little more than modern day heresies that have their roots in ancient ideas and claims. Oddly enough those claims were rejected by the early church and are rejected again today by the gift of the Holy Spirit that we call the Nicene creed. Just in case it was not clear enough, if your faith is leading you away from the truth contained in the Nicene creed, then you are in a very dangerous place indeed.

Before wrapping up, there is of course always the claim that the creed is simply people being told what to believe and that we need to question things and the like. The amusing thing about that is that the Nicene is the answer to most of those questions. Who is God? Ask the Nicene. Who is Jesus? Ask the Nicene. What does a Christian believe? Ask the Nicene. The answers go on. Do those answers always explain the how it works part? Nope, and nothing can. There is mystery in faith, otherwise it could not be faith after all. If your faith is not the one expressed in the Nicene, then it may indeed be faith in something, it may even be faith in God to some degree, but it is either incomplete or improper. Depending on how far outside the Nicene it falls it may be heresy or faith in some other Jesus that the early fathers and apostles would not have known or recognized; some other god of your creation instead of the God of creation.

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