November 22 – Why Orthodoxy Matters

“Theology enables God's people to think correctly and live rightly. What we do always flows from what we believe, and a sound theology helps us think clearly, rightly, and, most importantly, biblically about God.” – Dan Akin “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” – George Santayana “I hope you never lose your sense of wonder / Get your fill to eat and always keep that hunger.” – LeeAnn Womack

Why Theology Matters The knee-jerk Christian response to theological language and discussion is almost always negative. Christians tend to enjoy living in the Spirit without knowing who that Spirit is. Christians tend to worship God without knowing well enough who the Sovereign God is. We follow a Christ that is ridden in our minds by heresies and misconceptions. What, then, can we do to combat this? The answer is simply that we should know. One of my favorite theological readers is entitled Know the Truth (Bruce Milne). We most certainly have the truth, but we are irresponsible as Christians if we do not know the truth. Knowing the truth is not merely brought about by an indwelling of the Spirit (although those who believe that the gifts of tongues and prophecy are still active would disagree); it requires careful study and meditation. We as Christians should not be averse to doctrine—we should most certainly be wary of faulty doctrine, but we should be, as the apostle Peter said, able to give account of our faith when questioned. Friends, this is that important. Defense of the faith can only be well-achieved if we know the faith which we defend. Our faith has been pressed from every side, both externally and internally, and almost all matters of the faith have been challenged. Every book of the Bible has been popularly misinterpreted at some point in history. Orthodox scholars, theologians, and church leaders have been nearly executed for holding views that were right yet not popular. The amazing thing, though, is that over the years, orthodoxy has won out and heretics have been silenced. Over the next few days, our readings will be about different heresies and their influence today. Although orthodoxy has been established time and time again, heresies still run rampant today, and that is directly caused by an ignorant, irresponsible Christendom that hates doctrine. That, my friends, is why knowing the truth is so important. A Brief History of Orthodoxy: The Ecumenical Councils Ever since the death of Jesus, there have existed heretics who have tried to corrupt the true Gospel. The apostle Paul mentions numerous times people who have tried to preach against the true Word—and, I’m sorry to report, those people (Paul refers to them as

“antichrists”) have not gone away. After the death of the apostles, Christians had to start thinking critically about the Word they had (that is, Scripture) and the correct way to interpret that Word. Two major schools of Biblical interpretation formed. The first was the school of Antioch. Recall in the Acts of the Apostles that the Christians were first called Christians in Antioch. Antioch was also the “home base” of Paul’s missionary journeys. The second was the school of Alexandria (getting tired of “A” names? sorry, there’s only going to be more). Alexandria, located in Egypt, was the intellectual bastion of the Alexandrine Greek Empire, and its library was among the best in the world. Below is a diagram of the locations of the two cities in either corner of the map.

The school in Antioch was mostly concerned with the literal interpretation of the Bible, the humanity of Christ, and the importance of the current life. The school in Alexandria was, conversely, mostly concerned with the allegorical interpretation of the Bible, the divinity of Christ, and the temporality of the current life. As you can imagine, these two clashed quite often, and heresies abounded from within them. Throughout the next few days, we’ll be studying heresies that plagued these two schools. Tomorrow we will start with the basics, discussing Arianism and Docetism, the two main (as I like to call them, the “mama and papa heresies”) heresies in the early church. These heresies were mainly snuffed out during the councils of Nicaea, Constantinople, and Chalcedon, and we will discuss them and their offspring in the coming days. What is important to remember is that the councils listed above were those that shaped Christian orthodoxy, and these are the councils from which we get a majority of the “big words” and concepts that we discuss in theology today. What happened almost 2000 years ago is still relevant and important today, and should not just be looked at as history but as a warning against further heresy and disobedience.

“I Hope You Never Lose Your Sense of Wonder” When Mark Twain wrote his semi-autobiographical work Life on the Mississippi, he showed a definite change in perspective from before he was a steamboat driver to after. Before, he saw the wonder of the river, the magic of guiding a majestic steamboat through the narrow twists and tight traffic of the Mississippi. Afterwards, he realized that his wonder was all reduced to a science, a series of switches and turns that were more methodical than wondrous. He lamented in his work that he had ever become a steamboat driver, as he lost the very magic that drew him to the river in the first place. As theologians (aye, that is a term I will use to describe learned Christians—we don’t have to be professional theologians to be theologians), we should be careful to not turn out like Mark Twain. We need to study theology—it is only natural for us to study the God that set us free from our sin—but we should not study theology just to study theology. We should study theology and orthodoxy with God’s wonder and majesty in view. I’m just theorizing here, but I feel that the reason God keeps certain things about Himself from us is to keep us from losing our wonder—to keep us from knowing it all (since, of course, that was the very first sin—trying to know it all and be like God). We should know what we can know, but what we do learn and know should only serve to bring us closer to the God that saved us. Study theology and orthodoxy—but never lose your sense of wonder.