Introduction -- By: Jonathan Armstrong

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 12:1 (Winter 2003)
Article: Introduction
Author: Jonathan Armstrong


John H. Armstrong

The idea of orthodoxy has fallen on hard times since the middle of the last century, at least in the West. Modernism, and now postmodernism, have had a strangle hold on the faith of many prompting them to believe that orthodoxy is irrelevant, if not outright preposterous. Who really cares? What matters, many evangelicals now insist, is that you know Jesus. But a generation that doesn’t care about orthodoxy is a generation destined to soon lose the vibrant truth of life in Christ.

To be orthodox, in a religious sense, means to hold to right doctrine. The word has generally been used to express the opposite of heresy, a word rarely heard today except in intramural evangelical “food fights” that miss the meaning of the word. The word ortho means “straight, right or correct.” Joined with the word doxi the word conveys the idea of a correct praise (worship) or of sound doctrine. Though the word does not occur in the Bible, the concept is clearly revealed in the Pauline epistles (cf. Titus 1:9, 13; 1 Timothy 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:13).

The idea behind the word, in its earliest Christian use, was that a person who departed form orthodoxy was someone who held a private, original, or independent view that threatened the health of the Christian Church in its catholicity. The

heretic was the divisive person who insisted on his own opinion over the received historic faith of the whole Church.

The historic church soon realized that heretics who affirmed they were faithful to the Bible could be found everywhere. For this reason creeds were written to give the Church a clear and defined sense of the core of its faith. Departure from the early ecumenical creeds, especially the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed, was seen as constituting a departure from orthodoxy.

Since the Church is a living real fellowship of people, it is not surprising that orthodoxy grew in importance over the centuries. In time the word came to mean something akin to the general belief of Christendom. When the Reformers called the Church back to the Scriptures they did not do so in a vacuum. They believed the early patristic writers were closest to the core of Christian faith as expressed in the Bible and sought to apply the purity of this age to the Church again. The results, as everyone knows, was a splintered Church. Following the Reformation we now have terms like “Lutheran orthodoxy, “Reformed orthodoxy,” and “Catholic orthodoxy....

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