We live in an age that resists authority, dogma, and institutions. Those who challenge historic doctrines and practices are seen as heroic and courageous, as if there is something inherently attractive and exciting in being heterodox. To defend the faith, we must not merely rely on rational arguments in favor of orthodoxy but also display the beauty and power of Christian truth in a way that makes the appeal of heresy pale in comparison.
That is the summary for one of my talks at The Gospel Coalition’s National Conference earlier this month: The Thrill of Orthodoxy. The audio is now available here. Below are some excerpts from the talk.
On the Thrill of Orthodoxy
The church faces her biggest challenge not when new errors start to win but when old truths fail to wow.
Churches have not always done well in distinguishing different kinds of doubters. . . . There’s a difference between faith seeking understanding and unbelief seeking justification. The healthy church can spot the difference.
On Certainty and Humility
The New Testament authors, most of whom faced death because of their convictions, were certain about what they’d seen and heard. They knew the truth, and the truth set them free to declare it to others. They were not bound by false humility, but freed by true humility—the humility that comes from discovering truth that is outside oneself, independent of one’s feelings or imagination.
The New Testament authors and the early church fathers who went to battle on behalf of orthodoxy were not rationalist, Enlightenment modernists beholden to scientific notions of certainty. They were witnesses of the truth. They did not possess orthodoxy; orthodoxy possessed them. They did not create orthodoxy and then define it for the rest of us. They discovered orthodoxy and submitted to it, and then called everyone else to take the humble knee.
On Discovering Truth
At some point, orthodoxy means that we become more than truth-seekers. We become truth-finders. And then we become truth-spreaders.
The call to exercise a simple faith does not mean the faith itself is simple. The call to approach God with a childlike heart does not mean we are to satisfy ourselves with a childish mind.
On Error and Heresy
Error creeps in when people attempt to simplify the Christian faith by picking up one truth—a real truth that makes up part of the Christian faith—and then holding tightly to it while letting go of other important truths. Over time, that one truth, separated now from the rest of orthodoxy, gets called into action and becomes a weapon against Christianity’s other truths. One truth, divorced from all the others, becomes the unassailable foundation for a new creed, and then a new religion gets constructed upon it.
On the Narrowness of Heresy
Heresy is always more narrow than orthodoxy. Orthodoxy calls us to hold paradoxical truths (like the inclusive call and the exclusive claim) in our minds at the same time. Heresy would have us close our minds to one of the two. Orthodoxy calls us to confess our faith in Jesus as both God and man. The Arian or Docetic heresies tell us it must be one or the other. Orthodoxy allows us to believe in both science and miracles. The materialist tells us we can’t have a mind open to the supernatural. Orthodoxy lifts up a holy God of love and justice. Heresy would have us choose between God’s attributes.
On Challenges to Orthodoxy
We assume, because the church has been wrong in the past, the world must be right in the present. When the world challenges orthodoxy, orthodoxy must adjust. . . . The problem with this proposal is that it has the world challenging orthodoxy at the very point we need orthodoxy challenging the world.
One hundred years ago, people wanted Christianity’s morals without the miracles. Today, people want Christianity’s miracles without the morals.
On the Freedom of Orthodoxy
Heresies bind us to the movement of the current moment; orthodoxy frees us from slavery to the present day. The thrill of orthodoxy is that it’s real, that it’s alive enough to challenge the movement of the moment.
To listen to the audio of the entire talk, click here.