Thursday, February 17, 2005


We've been talking about orthodoxy and heresy on Beliefnet. Some days I think the Reformation was a bad idea. Bring back the Inquisition!

As a Lutheran, I'm more or less committed to the idea that orthodoxy can't and shouldn't be enforced. And yet, I think being a Lutheran also commits me to the idea that orthodoxy should be strived for.

My interest in Christian scholarship has led me to see that there are at least three distinct options: (1) Insist that my group and its historic/official interpretations of the Christian faith are correct, and everybody else is wrong, (2) Insist that no one's official interpretations are sure to be correct, and that I am therefore free to boldly assert whatever I happen to think is true, (3) Recognize that while my intepretations may not be perfect, I have a calling to seek the truth and I am best positioned to seek said truth within my community of faith.

Basically, what I'm saying is this: I belong to a community of faith. I have, for various reasons, accepted the faith of that community and am constantly in the process of making it my own. There are certain things that community tells me that I can't quite reconcile with my experience of the world, but because I have accepted the faith of the community, I do not simply reject these doctrines -- I take them under advisement and consider throughout my faith walk where they might fit in and what they might mean. My experience has been that quite often I do eventually come to understand these things in such a way that they become part of my own personal faith.

But this process is completely impossible if my community of faith decides to toss orthodoxy out the window.

In an interview on the Speaking of Faith radio show, Luke Timothy Johnson put it this way:

The function of tradition is not to live in the past; it's to secure the future. And when we play with these basic instruments of self-definition, when we say, 'Oh let's bring in these other texts, and we'll read these in the assembly' and so forth, or, 'Let's take the Lord's Prayer and call God Mother/Father' and so forth, we know what we mean, right? Because we grew up in the tradition, and it does us no harm, because we are actually troping a consistent fixed tradition. But the next generation will not know what it means, and so what happens is that we cut off the conversation with us. We are the end of history.
Save Our Tradition!

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