"Practical" Orthodoxy

Orthodoxy is the interaction of the ancient creeds, the Bible and personal faith experienced in the company of other orthodox Christians.

-George Sinclair

Orthodoxy, as I defined it last issue, is Bible-based learning, worshipping, teaching, and living. The Bible is the foundation of all Christianity and all orthodoxy. True orthodoxy is more than simply a mindset. It is a way of living. It is a wholly practical thing. True orthodoxy gives you a truth-compass, a truth-resource, and a place to live out the truth. And it is not something for some of the time. Orthodox living encompasses our whole lives.

Someone I know once made a derisive statement about the ancient creeds. Allow me now to declare that the creeds are both true and useful. The Nicene Creed is the creed I'm used to using. It is the result of the Councils of Nicaea in the early days of the Church. All of the leaders of the Church got together and came up with a statement of faith that could apply to all Christians, was based in the Bible, and could be used to seek out heretics. If you want a quick declaration of orthodox Christian belief, here you go:

We believe in on God, the Father, the almighty maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ the only Son of god, eternally begotten of the Father. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.

Through Him all things were made. For us and for our salvation He came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit He became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered death and was buried.

On the third day He rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son He is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen. (Taken from Service of Holy Communion, Church of the Province of Kenya)

Im not getting into the theology of the Nicene Creed. I can assure you all that it is in the Bible. Send me angry e-mails if you disagree. The creeds are truth-compasses. If you feel like youre a bit wandering, check out the creeds. They will reinforce your belief, point you back on track. If someone says the Virgin Birth was untrue, you can feel your truth compass point you to the truth. If a church leader declares that the resurrection of the dead is not true, the truth compass will kick in, pointing you to the reality of resurrection. The creeds are completely practical. They are not just something in the back of a book somewhere, not just something a bunch of crusty old bishops wrote over a thousand years ago, not just something you might recite every Sunday. Being the truths of the Bible, they are just as dynamic today as they were back in the fourth century. Being the truths of the Bible, they are just as practical today as they were in the fourth century. The three creeds acknowledged by the Anglican Faith are the Nicene Creed, the Apostles Creed, and the Creed of St. Athanasius. For those of you bent towards what I call "Mega-Protestantism", "catholic" is an old-fashioned word for "universal" when you check out these creeds. And I recommend checking them out.

Martin Luther, whom I have quoted previously on this account, once said, "The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold on me." The Bible is more than just the basis of metaphysical, philosophical, theological, and moral truth. It is the basis of all Christian action. Want to know how to act in a situation? The Bible gives us practical truths to live by. Say you are afraid of people in some way. This may be a fear of mockery, judgement, stalking, theft, dislike, not fitting in, murder, mugging, a fear of not wearing the right clothes or reading the right books or listening to the right music or studying the right stuff or saying the right thing or telling the right joke or hanging with the right people or drinking the right beer or eating at the right restaurant or having the right job or getting the best marks or being at the right party or frequenting the right dance club or belonging to the right club or using the right computer program or renting the right apartment or having the right friends or watching the right TV shows or knowing the right words or speaking the right language or ANYTHING. These are all fears that are based on people and what people might do to us or think of us. The Bible says this about all these fears: The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted (Proverbs 29:25 NASB). Or you get angry easily: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for mans anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires (James 1:19-20 NIV). Wonder about swearing? Check this out: But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips (Colossians 3:8 NIV). The Canadian Bible Society prints a little pamphlet called "Where to Look in the Bible." It lists where to find certain stories and teachings. It also lists where to look if you are in a certain situation. Here a few of the questions the Bible helps with: Tired? Tense? Worried? Discouraged? Frustrated? Jealous? Bored? Bereaved? Too busy? Bearing a grudge? Becoming lack and indifferent? Staying awake nights? Lonely or fearful? Feeling rejected? Building a new home? Assuming more responsibility? Getting married? Establishing a new business? Facing a crisis? Planning a budget? The list goes on.

Orthodox living is based in the Bible. If we are to live as orthodox Christians, then we are to always, always, always go to the Word of God. I cannot stress this enough. The Bible tells us what to do. The Bible connects us with God. The Bible tells us how to lighten the load. The Bible tells us how to attain salvation. The Bible tells us how to get eternity in the instant. The Bible tells us about Gods love for us. The Bible tells us about Jesus, and if we want to know how to live, just look at him. The Biblical record of Jesus life reveals amazing things about him, and we cannot ignore them. He is the mercy man who did great miracles and saved us all. We cannot help but follow him.

The context of all orthodox living, defined by guidelines of truth and action, is within community. Humans are relational beings. We function through relationships. We function through being in contact with other people. One of the worst feelings in the world is being unloved, followed also by loneliness. No matter how smart you are, you can still cry yourself to sleep or bang doors in frustration if you feel like you have no friends. We have a deep need for community. So, something like our whole lives* must operate in the context of community. Thankfully, as orthodox believers, we already have a place to go to figure out what this community is. This community is the ekklesia. Ekklesia is a fancy Ancient Greek word for Church. I really am not getting into a massive discussion of the Church right here. The Church is the community of faith. The Church is the body of Christ. The Church is the assembly of all followers of Jesus from John the Baptist to Billy Graham to those not yet born. As far as those walking this earth, the Church is all Jesus followers alive today in all nations belonging to whatever denomination they belong. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all (Ephesians 4:4).

For Christians to grow in knowledge and love of God and their neighbour, they cannot live alone. I am a fan of the music of the artist Moby. I even have a quote of his in my little quotation book. But I do not agree with the way he chooses to live his Christian walk, because he is not a member of a local church body. It is imperative for us to be part of a group of Christians. Not only this, but as orthodox Christians we should consort mainly with orthodox Christians. I do not see my Christian walk being encouraged daily if all the Christians I spent my time with were liberals who didnt believe that Jesus actually rose from the dead. Sorry. Not happening. I have witnessed many Christians who slip away for a time or struggle immensely simply because they are not spending time in a church body. The church is the way we see the faith of the apostles lived out. It is in relationship that Jesus conducts his ministry. It is in the context of true communityliving with one anotherthat the early church existed. In the church, we have people to learn from, to teach, to pray for, to pray for us, to pray with, to worship with, to talk with, to confide in, to read the Bible with, to be friends with. God uses the Christians in our lives to help us conduct orthodox living and understand orthodox teaching. Let us not give this up.

Therefore, we must realise a few things. Orthodoxy is not simply a mental process. It is action, conduct, belief. Orthodoxy is not just a personal thing. It is an ancient thing rooted in the Bible, the ancient faith of the creeds, and the Church. It is a relationship thing that helps us grow in love of God and our neighbour by spending time with God and our neighbour in a church context and in a Biblical context.

*True community leaves room for solitude. Jesus lived in close community with twelve disciples, but he still found time for solitude (John 4, 6:15, Luke 22:41).

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