Orthodoxy is “right belief” or “right opinion.” Many of us still sing a song called the Doxology because in its four short phrases it states some of the most fundamentally held beliefs (God is the source of all blessings; the Creator of all; all creatures owe Him their worship; and we worship a Trinitarian God.)
How did our generally accepted beliefs that have become codified into our current Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (and its predecessors from 1963 back to 1689 and beyond) come to be---orthodoxy? ---By constant interplay between the pulpit and the pew. ---By a proclamation of, reading of, and study of the Word of God, and this happening over the decades and centuries. Then why isn’t everybody on the same page concerning every belief such as salvation, the nature of Christ, the role of the Holy Spirit, the end times, etc.?
The Moravian Brethren have long had a saying borrowed by many faith traditions: "In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; and in all things, love." While most of us would give assent to that statement, the rub comes when you try to separate what is essential and what is non-essential in terms of our beliefs. Broad and deep ideas like the origin and purpose of evil and suffering, the existence of heaven and hell, the transcendence and immanence of God we tend to leave to the theologians and philosophers to iron out with the excuse “I don’t think in those realms, that’s that stuff they talk about at seminary and Bible institutes.” Your orthodoxy (beliefs) and orthopraxy (right practice or conduct) feed off of and reinforce each other. You may not be able to pronounce the big terms like hermeneutics (biblical interpretation), eschatology (study of last things), but your conduct is largely predicated on what you believe. Is the Lord’s return soon? Does every person deserve to hear the Good News of the gospel? Is God some distant deity uninterested in our human affairs? All of these questions are important, and your answers to them reveal your “orthodoxy,” your set of beliefs by which you conduct your life.
I long to see theological education in our churches and not reserved for seminaries. If your pastor only preaches sermons of coercion (you ought to, you ought to, you ought to) but doesn’t deepen your “orthodoxy” and “orthopraxy,” demand it of him. Have the integrity to dive into God’s Word yourself so you can contribute to the ongoing discussion and dialogue. I constantly learn from our pastors, podcasts, personal time in the word, perusing commentaries, listening to the Lord and wise counsel He brings my way. Baptists too often are content to wear the label “people of the Book” but are not prepared to labor in its pages to make our lives conform to His Word. Some of us treat the Bible like it was a lucky charm, and the more I have on my shelf, the better, like a jangly bracelet with all those charms jingling away, and that will somehow protect me. The Word doesn’t say to accumulate copies of it, but to hide it in our hearts (Ps. 119. 11), and that takes time and effort.
This and many other reasons are why we offer in the fall and spring our Basics For Ministry classes on Thursday nights. They are for any and everyone who desires to have a deeper understanding of the Bible and acquire the tools for lifelong self-study of its riches. We do surveys of the Old and New Testament, this past spring we completed a Basics Doctrine Series; we explore the Word together in all its wonder. It is my desire that our members of our associational churches, once they decide to follow Christ, move beyond the decision and become disciples of Him. Pastors, staff members, deacons, Sunday School teachers would all benefit from this time of instruction done by myself and area pastors.