The expression, “Christian Orthodoxy” has come to take on an almost sacred connotation in the minds of many church members. Somehow the notion exists that what the preacher or the denominational hierarchy defines as absolute truth is indisputable, especially so to the extent that it is “orthodox”. The opposite of orthodox is heretical, not in accordance with generally accepted beliefs. Heretic, heresy, and heretical are examples of the emotionally loaded terms which can be so effectively leveled at anyone who dares to question the “status quo” represented by Orthodox Christianity.
If one were to make even a casual study of the roots of orthodoxy, he or she would find that these “indisputable” beliefs were debated by so called early church father, originally documented by different church counsels in various creedal statements, and then revised and supplemented by every denominational group to satisfy their sense of distinctiveness.
There is no evidence that this process was God ordained or God sanctioned. It was merely the work of men who appointed themselves as the sustainers of God’s truth. The professional clergy have always relished this same role, thereby assuring that so called orthodoxy retains the aura of authenticity. The fervor with which the clergy suppresses any questions concerning clearly questionable doctrine is the real reason why orthodoxy remains largely unchallenged in our day. The primary function of many in church ministry is seen as combating erroneous teaching. For those of this mindset, orthodoxy becomes the main reason for existence. If orthodoxy cannot be maintained, I am out of a job.
So what orthodoxy amounts to is a collection of church traditions, which has gone largely unquestioned through the years because to question is supposedly sinful and eternally dangerous. This reluctance to evaluate and question serves to insulate both the clergy and their congregants from any need to reason about their faith and its ramifications. If the clergy cling to traditional teachings because it makes their life easier, the average church membership reinforces the religious intransigence by threatening dismissal for any clergyman bold enough to introduce anything new. The status quo can be so comfortable, when the alternative challenges so much of who I am. If ignorance is bliss, then never having to face a challenge to my traditions is intoxicating. Maybe so, but it is also stifling.
Jesus had a little to say about religious traditions in his day, and it wasn’t very flattering. The Jewish religious leaders were experts at developing elaborate legal requirements for others to follow and then binding them on everyone but themselves. Sounds a lot like the way orthodoxy has been developed and maintained in the church. If Jesus condemned Jewish traditions, what would he say about our sacred orthodoxy?