On the definition of “orthodoxy”

A general note on the definition of the words orthodox and orthodoxy as used in the articles at Gnostic Sophistries…

First and foremost these words are not used in specific reference to the Eastern Orthodox faith. In my articles these words refer to general ideas of correct doctrine, correct dogma or correct theology as held in mainstream Christianity.

Moreover these words can have a different context depending on the time in history, whether the time in question is before the Nicene Creed (c. 325) or afterward. Before Nicea the orthodoxy of the Catholic church fathers was defined more often in opposition to Gnosticism and also to a lesser extent against Monarchianism (e.g. Tertullian, Against Praxeas and Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, 9:5f., 10:13). Whereas Nicene orthodoxy is more concerned with refuting the doctrines of Arius, and establishing the doctrine of the Trinity against the Monarchians. To summarize briefly the doctrines of Arius and the Monarchians: Arius insisted that Jesus was not equal to but lesser than the Father and did not share the same essence with the Father. The Monarchians insisted that the three persons of the Trinity represented the supreme Being manifesting himself to man in three modes: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and that any difference between the three was merely apparent. In reference to both these supposed errors Nicene orthodoxy established that 1) Jesus’s status and essence are equal to the Father; and 2) but also maintain that Jesus and the Father, and the Holy Spirit, are separate and distinct beings.

Prior to Nicea the church fathers are more often seen as defining correct theology, orthodoxy, against the Gnostics and Marcionites. In this context “orthodoxy” means that the two testaments of the Christian Bible originate from one God, who was also the Creator of the universe. And, that Jesus was born into the world in literal flesh and was resurrected in literal flesh. Whereas the Gnostic and Marcionite movements insisted that the Old Testament came from the Creator and the New Testament came from an unknown, higher God who alone was Good. And, that Jesus appeared merely in the likeness of flesh and was not resurrected in the flesh (viz. 2 Cor. 15:50).

The definition of orthodoxy, viz. the context, as most often used in my articles is in reference to that as set forth in the preceding paragraph. Not the controversies involved in the Nicene Creed but the earlier controversies that revolve around the theology of the New Testament, and in the ideas of orthodoxy that first appear clearly in the writings of the church father Irenaeus (i.e. Against Heresies, c. 180). Moreover this definition would also include non-Nicene orthodox sects such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the theology of which is closer to Arius and the Ebionites, as the JWs reject the Trinity doctrine and the Nicene Creed. But at the same time the Jehovah’s Witnesses do insist that the Old and New testaments came from the Creator and that Jesus was resurrected in the flesh, just as Irenaeus and other early Ante-Nicene Fathers also insisted. But again, judging by the later Nicene Creed, the Jehovah’s Witnesses would be condemned as heretics.

Hopefully my comments here will clear up any confusion, especially from Eastern Orthodox Christians who may read this blog.

Blessings –jw

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