A thought before bed..

Orthodoxy: correct understanding and belief.

Orthopraxy: correct doing.

Doing the right thing without a proper understanding can be damaging. I can give to the poor with self-righteousness and pride, and while it is the right thing to do, my heart would not be in the right place. Conversely, I can understand that giving to the poor is right, but if I don’t do it, what good is that understanding?

Where are you in this synergy of understanding and action? Do you know what to do but don’t do it? Or do you do things with the wrong heart?

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4 thoughts on “A thought before bed..

  1. I don’t think we should get too wrapped up in either, because to believe that you have either one, or both, means you’re lacking understanding. Nobody has absolutely correct understanding, neither is anyone absolutely correct in what they do. We are all human, all flawed, all imperfect – and we continue to be so until we die. So it’s possible to have good understanding, without it being “correct”? Likewise it’s possible to do some things with good intentions, though done imperfectly.

    I’m reminded of something my zoology teacher in college said when I told him I didn’t know if I was as passionate about zoology as he said we needed to be. He said, “Jeremy, if you’re not highly passionate about this stuff, then what you need to do is fake it and pretend like you are so that you work hard and get good grades, and eventually you will be passionate about it.”

    I’ve never forgotten what he said, and interestingly enough it’s a theme that I’ve heard many Christians talk about – even C.S. Lewis. If you don’t love someone, act as if you do and eventually you will.

    The reason I brought that up is because I think it ties to James 2:22 in which Abraham’s faith was made complete by what he did. I think the two sides (belief and practice) go hand in hand, and complete each other, because both individually are naturally imperfect in all of us. We’ll never always make the best decisions, and we’ll never even know if the decision we think was best was in fact so. And we’ll never have perfect understanding because an eternal, infinite God is too big. But with what we do understand, albeit somewhat imperfectly, that’s enough to influence what we do. And likewise, we won’t always get it right with how we live our lives, but the struggle to do so, and the good and bad decisions both, help to inform and complete our faith and understanding.

    So, I believe that neither are attainable in the manner of “correct” understanding or practice, but both work together in their imperfections to provide you a complete faith.

  2. Jeremy, I do think you should get wrapped up in both. It is imperative for the believer to pursue a correct understanding of God. Through a correct understanding of God comes obedience to what He has told us to do. We can never give up pursuing knowledge of God, and indeed we will never attain a perfect understanding.

    I think where you perhaps assume I meant something I did not is; that we can have complete orthodoxy and orthopraxy. By no means am I saying that anyone can have completely correct understanding and correct action. That is reserved for Christ, and Christ alone. He is the only one who both is completely correct in His understanding of God and the Law, and is completely perfect in his obedience to God. I am not implying we can attain that state this side of Heaven. However, that is our mandate, in the study of God’s word and community of other believers to pursue righteousness. IE The Great Commission, the Great Commandment. See also: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
    (Heb 10:24-25)

    There is indeed a synergy between doing and being. Generally, doing flows out of being. I do various things because of who I am and what I believe. I don’t generally believe certain things because I do them, but that is not a truism. As a sinful creature I do not love naturally. That does not let me off the hook to obey God to love Him completely, and to love my neighbor as myself. I agree with you there that though my heart is not in the right place, I must DO it to get my heart in the right place.

    But, is it really me who makes my heart love someone? Am I changing my heart towards someone, or is the Holy Spirit changing my heart? He may use my obedience to change my heart. He may even just change my heart through no action or initiative of my own.

    The point of my post was not condemnation or legalism, but to observe our hearts and see where we are. Are we pursuing a right understanding of God? Are we obeying Him?

  3. I guess what I was trying to say wasn’t that they aren’t important – they are. But the definition of both words suggest that you don’t just have “knowledge” – you have CORRECT knowledge. And that’s the part I was talking about more so – because we can’t have fully “correct” knowledge in this life.

    When you said that through correct understanding of God comes obedience, that was kind of what I was talking about. Even people who have a somewhat incorrect understanding of God can still obey Him. And I was simply saying that we all fall into that category – we all have imperfect understanding, and imperfect practice as well – but both work together to provide you a complete faith, as in James 2. I was agreeing with you that there is a synergy and connection between the two, but cautioning against the semantics.

    I also agree with you towards the end of your response, that it is not US that moves us and increases our knowledge – it it the Holy Spirit indeed.

    I understand the point of your post was not legalism. You were drawing a black and white picture though, and I was trying to point out that I see more gray in it than that.

    In answer to your original questions:
    – Do you know what to do but don’t do it? – Yes. Often.

    – Do you do things with the wrong heart? – I’d like to think that I don’t, but probably I do more than I think.

    – Where am I in this synergy of understanding and action? – Like most people, I have more understanding than I do action. But they do inform each other in my life, and I have benefited greatly from the Holy Spirit enlightening me to situations that I encounter in life and how they relate back to Scripture, and vice versa – Scripture has helped me know better how to live my life. To put that on a spectrum where one side is I’m doing everything wrong, and the other side is doing everything right – I’d say I’m somewhere in the middle, and I expect to be there for a long time.

    Thanks for writing a thought-provoking post!

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