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What is confessional orthodoxy?
The word "orthodox" derives from the Greek words "orthos" which means ‘straight or right’ and "doxa" which means ‘opinion’. Orthodoxy are those beliefs that generally accepted by the Christian church.
In this website, we use the term "confessional orthodoxy" to refer to those doctrines and teachings that the church has always believed or held.
D.A. Carson has stated that our confession and practice must proceed from the particularities of Christian confession as given in God’s historical revelation in Christ and as unfolded in the history of the church’s response to that revelation.
Erik Thoennes describes four categories of importance into which theological issues can fall:
- Absolutes: Define the core beliefs of Christian faith.
- Convictions: While not core beliefs, these may have significant impact on the health and effectiveness of the church.
- Opinions: Views or personal judgments generally not worth dividing over.
- Questions: Currently unsettled issues.
Confessional orthodoxy is essentially the first category. The core beliefs of the Christian faith are those beliefs that are common to Protestants and Roman Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox church and Evangelicals, Lutherans and Anglicans.
Central to the gospel are the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ (incarnation) and the atonement (the cross as saving sacrifice for sins). Also included are salvation by grace through faith and Jesus’ and our resurrections by the power of God. These are necessary beliefs, insofar as they are known and understood (however dimly), for being “Christian.” Part and parcel of the gospel is that God has come to us and for us as the Father of Jesus Christ and that Jesus Christ is God and savior and that the Holy Spirit is the personal power and presence of God in resurrection life.
If you reject confessional orthodoxy, you are likely not a Christian in the historic and biblical sense of the word. To disavow any of the major tenets of the faith is to risk being seen as outside the faith by God.
Is confessional orthodoxy all that we need?
We understand that faith in God is embodied by works of mercy: true religion works itself out practically in our daily actions and life, not simply in what we say we believe (Jas 2:14–26).
No amount of confessional orthodoxy is enough to save anyone. Being a dyed-in-the-wool believer of the Bible is not the same thing as trusting in Christ for salvation. We cannot skirt the new covenant reality that the true people of God are meant to live as those who have the Spirit and love God and neighbor from the (new) heart.
Jesus and the writers of the New Testament focused on the inner life of the follower of Jesus which manifests itself in our behaviour. Early Christianity was behavioural and not creedal in nature.
Confessional orthodoxy is simply a way to judge false doctrine or heretical teaching. We hold to God's word, we live by the faith of the Son of God, we adhere to the law of Christ and we stand united with our brothers and sisters on the basis of confessional orthodoxy. We live a life of love based on faith in Jesus Christ. Confessional orthodoxy merely describes the core beliefs of the Christian faith, beliefs that the Christian church has always held.
- Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, eds., Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).
- D. A. Carson, “The Emergent Church—Part 2,” in D. A. Carson Sermon Library (Bellingham, WA: Faithlife, 2016).
- Roger E. Olson, Must You Believe in the Doctrine of the Trinity to Be a Christian?
- Robert W. Wall, “James, Letter Of,” ed. Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids, Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), 558.
- Brian Vickers, Justification by Grace through Faith: Finding Freedom from Legalism, Lawlessness, Pride, and Despair, ed. Robert A. Peterson, Explorations in Biblical Theology (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013), 161–162.