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Orthodoxy, Orthopraxy and Orthopathy

By admin | November 17, 2008

Yesterday, we began a new series in our adult Sunday School–a study of Louis Berkhof’s Summary of Christian Doctrine. The teacher for the day was one of our first year students, Jason Walter. Jason did a very fine job of covering the first chapter of the book, ‘Religion.’ Beginning with a discussion of the common sense of the word, he moved into an excellent description of the nature of true religion.

Along the way, he used a term I had not heard before: Orthopathy. Jason argued that true religion includes right doctrine: Orthodoxy; right practice: Orthopraxy; and right affection: Orthopathy. It is a matter of the mind, the will, and the heart; it reaches to every one of our constituent parts.

This doctrine if often misunderstood. Affections are not, strictly speaking, to be equated with emotions. In the older theological discourse, ‘affections’ was a term used to describe holy and godly movements of the soul such as love, reverence, honor, righteous anger, etc. God’s affections are communicable attributes, and when we properly express them, we show forth God’s image. If orthodoxy is the right belief of the truth, and orthopraxy is the right implementation of the truth in the life of the church and the believer, then orthopathy would be the righteous expression of these Godly affections, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the life of the church and the believer.

Jason did not claim to have coined the term, but his use of it was especially appropriate. Curious of its origin, I checked the Oxford English Dictionary and did not find it. But after Googling it, I found that my esteemed friend Dr. Michael Haykin wrote a blog entry using the term a few years ago. Maybe we need to begin to employ the term so that it will become a part of theological discourse. Greek and Latin terms are always useful in doing theology!

Sadly, it also seems to be a term used by Quacks to describe a kind of natural hygiene therapy. If you’re interested, just Google the term and look at the results. I don’t know if this use of the word would argue against a theological use–I wouldn’t want to give the idea that we support quackery!

It is an interesting term, and describes a really basic truth–that genuine faith does have an important relationship with our affections. Thanks Jason. It was a great lesson, and an enlightening idea.

Topics: Church, Doctrine of God, Doctrines of Grace, Law and Gospel, Means of Grace, Pastoral Ministry, Scripture, Worship | Comments Off

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