There is a difference between orthodox christian doctrine – the basic doctrine of Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, and eastern Orthodox churches – and christian fundamentalism. On the surface the more conservative voices of the orthodox position appear the same as the fundamentalists. Yet, the difference is a watershed difference. It is a difference of where the teachings lead and how Christians are to engage the greater culture surrounding them. As modern evangelicalism becomes more confused, we see traditional doctrines breaking down into statements of mere opinion while new doctrines such as inerrancy of scripture or creationism become binding on the intellectual life of the believer. Churches are trying to take a “pragmatic” approach to unity based on moral proposition taking.
The bugbear of liberal theology allowed orthodoxy and fundamentalism to close ranks against intellectual and moral relativism. The early 20th century saw nation-states as the solution to moral problems. When liberal theology collapsed christian fundamentalists became triumphalist and got down to business to undoing liberal theology and liberal policies using the same methods the liberal theologians and politicians used and in addition sometimes resorted to violence. These activities have given much of the West especially North America the surreal political climate that has absolutist ideologies fueled by fundamentalist theology and extreme interpretations of the world. Ideologies like creation science (and it’s descendant “intelligent design” theory), Christian Reconstructionism, and historical revisionism have grown up to insulate fundamentalists from reality. Such positioning has led to the observation that fundamentalists embrace technology while denying science.
Orthodox theology has never tried to hide from the world. It has suspicions of the world and engages in critique of it. While the church is in the process of being purified from sin, the world is still sinful; and that state will never change. Still, the world understood as a divine creation is basically good. This aspect is why orthodox theology engages the world rather than withdraws from it. Orthodox theology is suspicious of every major value the world holds dear – the accumulation of wealth, the desire for constant entertainment, gluttony, avarice, and even the seemingly good ideas of “pure” morality, justice, and honor.
Orthodoxy, unlike both fundamental and liberal theology, honors the history of the Christian Faith and acknowledges the struggles former generations endured to live, pray, and formulate doctrines that inform lifestyle and prayer. It also acknowledges (some times too slowly) that mistakes have been made. These mistakes are corrected by the same understanding of orthodoxy’s Christ-centered approach to the issue at hand.
The promise of orthodoxy is the continuation of Christ-honoring doctrine, practice, and lifestyle in the fellowship of the Christian Church. Our baptism and communion reflect that fellowship of Jesus-followers who are also sinners being purified and forgiven as we grow in and toward the grace of Christ.