Monday, May 26, 2008

What is orthodoxy?

In all my gleanings from reading numerous postings on the internet re Anglican Communion troubles I think one big lesson I have learnt is to avoid using labels loosely. 'Orthodox' is one of those. Evangelical Anglicans know they have support on certain issues from (say) conservative anglo-catholics, so rather than a long description of the larger combination its tempting to say 'orthodox Anglicans'. By 'orthodox' is meant creedal, Scripture is authoritative, Trinitarian, believing in the Resurrection means the tomb was not empty, God answers prayers and works miracles today Anglicans. And the antonym of 'orthodox' in current contexts of controversy is often 'liberal'. Anyway the lesson I have absorbed is that a number of liberal Anglicans think they are also orthodox and would we mind not thinking they are not. (The point of difference being that we might only disagree on issues in human sexuality). In the course of these bits of the dialogue one can seek to sharpen up the definition of 'orthodox'.

But one can also reflect a little on what counts as 'orthodox'. One of the things I have been aware of lately is that if 'orthodox' is used of Anglicans who might also be described as 'conservative' then either orthodoxy includes heresy, or we have not got a tough enough definition of orthodox operating. Let me explain. In conservative Anglican churches one can work through a liturgy which is fully creedal, Trinitarian etc (tick for 'orthodox') and then hit a speed bump at the sermon. The 'prosperity' gospel, for example, in one or other of its forms fits into 'conservatism', but it is not orthdoxy. Yet lots of people who lap up such sermons would be aghast to be told their vicar was not orthodox. Such teaching, and related cognates are jolly good candidates for the label 'heresy'. Such pseudo-orthodoxy (being generous) can do untold damage to Christians. But do conservative Anglicans turn their guns on the prosperity preachers and their like with as much passion as on 'liberals'?

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