The church is living through some interesting and challenging times. In just about every church and every denomination, liberal and conservative alike, fault lines are developing which threaten to seriously divide the church. The major fault line seems to be between those for whom right belief is foundational (Orthodoxy) and those for whom right belief must always show itself through right behaviour (Orthopraxy). And the conflict between the two is seldom pretty:
“It is shocking how much vitriol, invective, and good old-fashioned abuse are being doled out in the name of the Prince of Peace, especially between his followers”
Introduction p xv
Author Ken Howard is a minister of the Episcopal Church in the USA. Among other things he has qualifications and experience in conflict resolution, which provide the seed-bed for the suggestions and recommendations this book.
He recalls a theology professor who,
“whenever he was asked his opinion about a contentious theological issue, would say “Some of my friends say………. and some of my friends say……….. Me? I agree with my friends.”
Introduction p xvii
Sadly, so often today we focus on the things that divide us rather than on our many points of agreement. Often what masquerades as a desire for right belief or practice turns out to be no more than striving for power and control.
In order to find a better way for the church to live with, and respect, a breadth of theological opinion and interpretation, Howard takes us on a journey, to discover why what has brought us to the place we are at today, a place that Howard suggests, is moving into a new paradigm of being church.
The book explores several old paradigms that have been part of our Christian world-view for a long time, and that are now dying…Christendom, Foundationalism (Enlightenment thinking) and Organised religion are all subjected to detailed scrutiny.
Further chapters explore some ‘might-have-beens’, approaches to following Jesus that were often pushed out of existence by the powers that be, in the pursuit of a homogenised faith. He devotes space to Jewish Christianity, Pauline Christianity, Martine Christianity and Celtic Christianity.
He suggests that even the term ‘orthodoxy’ has lost its meaning, as all parties consider their way of ‘being Christian’ to be orthodox.
The conservative way is Doctrinal-Propositional Orthodoxy, or Orthoproxy. The liberal way is Ethical-Practical Orthodoxy, or Orthopraxy.
He then maps out a middle way, that he refers to as Relational-Incarnational Orthodoxy, or Paradoxy, which is about embracing and celebrating a relationship with Jesus whilst appreciating that incarnate Truth will always be bigger than our ability to fully comprehend it.
The book finishes by looking at some practical ways this may work out.
As one who is constantly tired of the anger and bile generated by controversy between the two poles, I welcome a work that strives to demonstrate the desirability and reality of an alternative way to be a follower of Jesus today, and to create a more inclusive Christian community.
See what you think…