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Where hypocrisy comes from

Recently, a blog reader questioned the “orthodoxy” of a quote I mentioned in one of my blogs. To his way of thinking, I was advocating faith without anchoring it in doctrine. I responded by saying, “The practice of our faith must be based on the strong foundation of sound doctrine. Of course our …
By Seth Barnes

Recently, a blog reader questioned the “orthodoxy” of a quote I mentioned in one of my blogs. To his way of thinking, I was advocating faith without anchoring it in doctrine. I responded by saying, “The practice of our faith must be based on the strong foundation of sound doctrine. Of course our belief must be grounded, or it is purely subjective. But what is faith really? Faith is spelled R-I-S-K. It is a muscle that is exercised, primarily in the realm of human interaction. When we trust people, we take a risk that they will abuse that trust.” 

And he and I are still carrying on about this issue of right belief vs. right living. Here’s why I care:

Given the fact that hypocritical behavior by Christians is one of the biggest reasons that, according to Barna, 53,000 people a week are leaving the Church, it’s amazing that we don’t seriously discuss the issue more. There’s a hole in the Titanic, and the band just keeps right on playing.

The irony is that hypocritical living has its roots in a desire by religious professionals to believe the right thing. But there’s a balance – lose the balance and you may find yourself opposing Jesus. We need right belief (known as orthodoxy) or we stand in danger of heresy, and we need right living (orthopraxy) or we stand in danger of hypocrisy.  

The religious scholars have always been the guardians of right belief, but Christianity was founded in part as a rebuke to such guardians, people whose head-knowledge had outrun their heart-knowledge.

Yes, Jesus was a student of Scripture, but he was righteously appalled at the gap between the orthodoxy and orthopraxy of the religious scholars. In the scathing 23rd chapter of Matthew, he gives them their due, “You must do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”

As James would argue, if you say, “I have faith,” I say, “show me your works.”

In America, we in the religious establishment engage in far too many pointless debates instead of asking the Holy Spirit what he’s up to and how we can join him. If Jesus hadn’t made skewering the religious professionals such a huge issue, it would be easy to be a seminary professor or someone else who majors on the orthodoxy side of the equation. All this squabbling about orthodoxy has got me wondering: If we give orthopraxy short shrift, perhaps we’re not orthodox, after all.

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