Sunday, April 25, 2010

How Goes It With Your Walk With the LORD?

     Hyper-calvinists and some Calvinists are accused or taking it too easy on themselves because they believe they are the "elect". I do think some Reformed people major on orthodoxy and not orthopraxy--faith for them is to be defended above all and orthopraxy is secondary almost automatic. Certainly the seriousness of confession before communion in Reformed churches shows a concern for orthopraxy. But where is piety in all of this talk?
     I sometimes wonder where is the godly character in men (and women) who major on debate in Reformed circles? A person is not necessarily growing in faith by being able to debate the ins and outs of eschatology, Federal Vision, law and grace, cults and any number of issues. We can talk until we are blue in the face about Clark, Van Til, and become the best debater, but if we have not love we are a noisy gong or a clanging symbol.
     Perhaps where the rubber meets the road is something called piety. Before I was in a Reformed church, I was a member of another denomination. The early pietists in that denomination asked two questions. 1) Where is it written in Scripture? (orthodoxy) 2) How does it go with your walk with the Lord? (orthopraxy) That second question is very personal, you say, but don't we need that question? Don't we need to be bringing out the best in each other just because of Who we serve and our privilege to serve that almighty God?
     One blogger quotes John Calvin, but also writes: "Most of the Christian life can be broken down to a need of a love for righteousness and a need for self-denial. When one looks to the righteousness of God, one will be challenged to deny anything that is selfish and contrary to the character of a righteous God."* Alas, there are pietiests among the Reformed. They know that self-denial is not what gets them into Heaven, but they choose to live a godly life.
     How goes it?
*http://remissioned.com/2010/04/19/to-love-righteousness/

5 comments:

  1. I think you've identified a real problem but I disagree with the solution. The problem is that orthodox Calvinism tends to view God in abstract terms. God becomes a series of theological dogmas. Pietistic Calivinism doesn't really change that but starts directing people to search within themselves. The same is true with Pietistic Lutheranism or whatever brand of Pietism you are talking about. Pietism is completely subjective and if someone follows the teachings of Pietism and is completely honest with himself, he can only be led to despair.

    I think a better answer is found in orthodox Lutheranism. People are not directed to a series of dogmas or to search within themselves but they are directed to Christ. Through the law we are shown how bad of sinners we really are and we come to learn how amazing and unbelievable it is that Christ would die for sinners like us. We don't go searching within ourselves or examining our lives to determine if God loves us. We know that God loves us because God hung dead on a cross for us. We know that we are united to Christ because we have been baptized. Baptism is an objective thing that we can point to with certainty. We can objectively say that Christ feeds us with His body and blood.

    Children of God naturally do good works without even thinking about it. When Jesus speaks of the sheep on the day of judgment they are completely unaware that they have even done these good works. If we are not doing good works to attain salvation or to prove that we are real Christians it frees us up to serve our neighbor and allows us to act as little Christs to them.

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  2. I do not believe that the sacraments are the missing element. Hopefully those close to me will notice growth in godliness and not just greater theological knowledge. Dead orthodoxy needs to be offset by something, whether it is called orthopraxy or pietism or Scriptural obedience. I did not define pietism which I have come to realize has negative press because it can denote adding to the finished work of Christ. Maybe I tried to equate pietism with orthopraxy, the practice of faith as opposed to the orthodox doctrines. When someone asks me how is my walk with the Lord, I need to specify that the fruit of the Spirit is beginning to take hold in my life. This is separate accountability.

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  3. I think the problem is that dead orthodoxy is unorthodox. As long as theological doctrines are thought of abstract truths then the person is actually unorthodox in their thinking.

    Historic Christian orthodoxy as summarized in the Nicene Creed says that "for us men and our salvation" the Son of God "came down from heaven" etc. Historic Christian orthodoxy is fixated on Christ and what He does for us. Historic Christian orthodoxy is not interested in abstract dogmas. Historic orthodoxy is also not interested primarily in how another person's walk with the Lord is. When asked, "How is your walk with the Lord?" the orthodox answer is "I am a poor, miserable sinner. I sin all the time and am worthy of God's temporal and eternal punishment. But Jesus Christ died for me and paid the price for my sins." Only then can we do actual good works, when we are fixated on Christ and not fixated on our good works because whatever is done apart from faith is sin. And if we make our own walk the center of our theology, then we are no longer Christians but worshiping the idol of self. The same is true of those who turn the Christian faith into a series of abstract doctrines. They are worshipping their own brains.

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  4. I think we need definitions here. Godliness is not earned, but is for God's glory and leads to peace, not despair. Orthodoxy is not necessarily dead; orthodoxy is doctrine like the Nicene Creed, that sums up essential biblical truth; orthopraxy is practice that glorifies God. And we do in fact need to "stir one another up to love and goodworks" according to Hebrews; Paul's letters do just that: some of them start with doctrine and conclude with practice.

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