“Surely, we wish to be orthodox, but we must first learn what real orthodoxy is. Surely, we wish to be progressive, but we must first have a basis to progress from.” —Andrew Moody, commenting on the theologian, Cornelius Van Til.
“Orthodoxy”, according to a dictionary, is from Latin meaning “sound doctrine”. It refers to an authorized or generally accepted theory, doctrine, or practice. It also refers to the quality of conforming to orthodox theories, doctrines, or practices: writings of unimpeachable orthodoxy; dogma that can not be doubted or questioned.
In the above quote, Andrew Moody observes that what is essentially the first step toward being “orthodox” is figuring out what “real orthodoxy is”!!! Many theologians and theological students would scoff at this statement — and then proceed to tell you what their “orthodoxy” consists of.
Talk to a dozen theologians, and you’ll get a dozen different ideas of what is orthodoxy; talk to a dozen theological students, and you’ll get three dozen different ideas about orthodoxy!
If being orthodox means you’ve somehow hit the Mother Lode of “sound doctrine”, then apparently no one has discovered that golden lode — and very few seem to have mined it with any apparent degree of universality.
This calls into serious doubt the assumption with which Moody begins: “Surely, we wish to be orthodox…” If “being orthodox” is so little understood with so little universal acceptance, then the dream of one’s “being orthodox” is merely a pipe dream (which are the dreams brought on by smoking opium…)
The second remark is similar: “Surely, we wish to be progressive, but we must first have a basis to progress from.” Though the Bible is clear on this point, few theologians (and their offspring) recognize how simple is this goal. To progress spiritually (and thereby socially), we must have a specific basis from which to progress — a solid foundation upon which to build.
Which is directly addressed by Paul, the apostle to the gentiles, in 1Cor 3:
“You are God’s building.
“As a skilled and experienced builder, I used the gift that God gave me to lay the foundation for that building. However, someone else is building on it. Each person must be careful how he builds on it.
“After all, no one can lay any other foundation than the one that is already laid, and that foundation is Jesus Christ.” [emphasis mine]
NOTE: The “foundation” upon which to progress spiritually is not a theological principle or a systematic doctrine — no matter who wrote it. The foundation upon which to progress is not an idea, but a Living Person, able to be present in human lives by the ministrations of the Holy Spirit.
The only spiritual progress which can begin on That Foundation is the foundation of knowing the Foundation experientially — to know the Person of Jesus Christ and proceed as He proceeds. This truly removes spiritual progress from the hands of theologians and places it into the hands of any and all individuals who know Jesus Christ and, through the Spirit, are able to follow His leading now, daily, today in this new millennium.
This fellowship, this partnership in spiritual progress in referred to by Paul in Philippians 2.12:
“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed — not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence — continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, because it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”
So also John addresses this knowing God personally (not in the abstract or rationally or logically) and connects this knowing with Everlasting Life — in a declaration that almost makes it a definition:
This is everlasting life — that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom You have sent. [John 17.3]
The problem with “being orthodox” is not only that it’s impossible to pin down for everyone what is “sound teaching” or “pure doctrine” — and it’s useless in respect to one’s spiritual progress. What determines the reality of one’s spiritual progress is one’s personal, conscious (and unconscious) knowledgable Relationship with the One Who sets before us the Way in which we ought to live.