Beliefs Before Practice

A common characterization of the difference between Mormonism and Evangelicalism is the idea that Evangelicals emphasize orthodoxy (right belief) and Mormons emphasize orthopraxy (right action).  If you ask an Evangelical and a Mormon “what is more important a correct understanding of God or the proper mode for baptism?”  you will most likely get different answers from each.

As much as I appreciate how pragmatic Mormons are, I think it’s impossible to truly put orthopraxy over orthodoxy.  Even Mormons place a higher importance on right belief over right action, they just may not realize that they are doing it.  The “cart” of practice is impossible to put ahead of the “horse” of ideas.  The idea that “the proper mode of baptism is of highest importance” is first an idea before it is a practice.  The belief that “the appropriate priesthood is required” is first a belief before it is a practice. “How you behave matters” is a doctrinal position.  “Right practice” being shaped by “right ideas” is inescapable. Correct ideas matter to Mormons, they simply must or there is no right practice to emphasize.

The Mormon restoration narrative supports this.  If practice is more important than belief, then why did God not simply restore the priesthood to the apostate Christian church?  Why was a correction of Biblical translation and interpretation necessary?  I don’t want to dive too deeply into Catholic apologetics, but they can demonstrate an uninterrupted priesthood lineage.  So unless “abominable creeds” are not an issue I don’t see how the proper priesthood authority was not alive and well in the 19th Century.  Something more than the lack of priesthood must have been driving the restoration.

A further support for this is the Mormon institution’s approach to correlation.  Mormons who have been excommunicated for false teaching have been told that it is fine to believe anything a person wants, the problem arises when you start teaching other people those false ideas.  I’m confident that this April, if a General Conference speaker left their script and encouraged exclusively praying to Heavenly Mother or posited the idea that temple work is no longer necessary, that person would soon find themselves in a disciplinary counsel.  There would not be Ensign articles the following May praising that Elder’s proper use of the laying on of hands despite his heterodox teachings. If orthodoxy were not important there would be no correlated teaching manuals.  Local leaders would be encouraged to teach whatever the Spirit directed them to teach and no one would mind if the church was widely diverse.

Mormons may object that their real issue with “orthodoxy” is how an emphasis on it may exclude people from enjoying God’s presence based on speculative theories and interpretations.  I think this is both hypocritical and a straw man of Evangelical thought.

First off, there is plenty of speculative interpretation involving Mormon orthopraxy.  Do a search of “Mormon ‘hot drinks‘” and you’ll see what I mean.  As long as the “Word of Wisdom” is used in Temple recommend interviews it is a speculative obstacle to freely enjoy God’s presence via temple ordinances.

Second, the Temple recommend interview requires people to express a belief in basic Mormon truth claims.  Failing to acknowledge the LDS church as the real and true restoration of God’s one true church will keep a person from a temple recommend.  If it was merely about the correct priesthood authority and the proper methods for performing ordinances, the LDS church would open its temple doors wide to believers and unbelievers alike.  This would ensure as many people as possible had these important rituals performed in this lifetime.  Scoffing and ridicule during the ceremonies wouldn’t matter as long as the proper priesthood was there and every gesture was performed correctly and every prayer was recited precisely.

This idea that orthodoxy is used as a barrier to God’s presence totally distorts Evangelical thought.  I can not name a single Evangelical who thinks there is a theology exam given out at the pearly gates. No one believes that the ability to precisely describe the doctrine of the Trinity is a requirement for an indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  God always (and exclusively) reveals himself to people with false ideas.  Evangelicals do not believe we hold the keys to who does and does not have God actively living in their lives.   We do not believe that only the doctrinally pure will receive the Kingdom.

We certainly have a strong emphasis on orthodoxy.  As the LDS church does, we recognize it as a way to determine good fruit.  Because beliefs form practice, we evaluate teachers and preachers based on it.  It is useful in evaluating teachings, but it is never used as a barrier to God’s presence.  In Evangelical theology there is no place, behavior or thought that can keep God out of someone’s life. He is an untamed lion that speaks to and moves through anyone he desires.

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32 thoughts on “Beliefs Before Practice

  1. I am struggling to understand how Mormons teach that correct practices come before, or are more important that, correct doctrines. I cannot think of a single instance when I have been taught that this is true, nor can I think of a place where I have read anything about this is idea.

    The church teaches that there are correct practices, and that the practices are essential, but the church also teaches that there are correct beliefs, and that the understanding leads to action. My understanding of Mormonism is that both are essential. It is setting up a false dichotomy to pick one over the other.

    Also, Tim, you start off discussing the differences between orthodoxy and orthopraxy, but then your entire post is on orthodoxy. I’m not really sure where you are going with all this.

  2. I can not name a single Evangelical who thinks there is a theology exam given out at the pearly gates.

    Aaron S.

  3. “A common characterization of the difference between Mormonism and Evangelicalism is the idea that Evangelicals emphasize orthodoxy (right belief) and Mormons emphasize orthopraxy (right action).”

    Why is this characterization made and who is making it? I think it is important to look at the function of this characterization. What work is it trying to perform?

  4. I agree it’s a false dichotomy. My point was that those who wish to escape orthodoxy can not nor does the LDS teach that that orthodoxy is truly unimportant.

  5. I like the thought behind your post Tim, i.e. that God works through whom He chooses.

    I think both systems of Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy can tend to put God in a box that He doesn’t fit in. That is because, according to both Evangelical and LDS belief, (as you say) nobody is ever going to behave 100% correctly and nobody is ever going to really have a perfectly correct understanding of God.

    When God shows up in a big way in the lives of active, devout Mormons it really shouldn’t give Evangelicals pause, and vice versa. Of course many in both groups often behave and think as if you just can’t really “get” God. Either because the out-group members are too steeped in heresy or without the gift of the Holy Ghost.

  6. I think the idea that some Mormons have that evangelicals care more about orthodoxy can come from conversations like the following. (CARICATURE ALERT: The following represents the way a stereotypical LDS person might portray evangelical beliefs in a stereotypical way. This isn’t meant to accurately portray the beliefs of any evangelicals participating in this conversation.)

    Mormon: What must I do to be saved?

    Evangelical: Confess your sins, believe that Jesus is the Son of God and accept him as your savior.

    Mormon: Oh, good. I’ve already done that.

    Evangelical: It doesn’t count for you.

    Mormon: Why not?

    Evangelical: You believe in a different Jesus.

    Mormon: Really?

    Evangelical: You don’t believe the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are of one essence, so therefore you can’t be saved.

    Mormon: But if I accept the correct Jesus as my savior and then become a serial murderer, I’m still saved, right?

    Evangelical: That’s correct. We’re saved by grace, not by what we do.

    From that caricature it would be easy for an LDS person to conclude that evangelicals are more concerned about orthodoxy than practicing one’s faith.

    Similarly, an evangelical aware of our belief that there will be kingdoms of glory for Muslims, Protestants, Catholics, Hindus and so on, or who might be aware of various other aspects of our faith, could easily conclude that we care more about orthopraxy.

    But I agree that for both the Mormon and the evangelical, belief and practice aren’t so easily separated. Certainly, both of us see a value in gaining a correct understanding of God and of the plan of salvation, and both of us believe that we are called to imitate Christ, and that involves a change in behavior. Those two aspects of faith relate to each other, so, like Tim says, it’s a false dichotomy.

  7. “My point was that those who wish to escape orthodoxy can not nor does the LDS teach that that orthodoxy is truly unimportant.”

    Tim, I agree with your point generally, although I’m somewhat confused about who would disagree with something that seems to me to be quite obvious. Here are a few thoughts to flesh out some of the details.

    Technically speaking, it isn’t a false dichotomy to say that some religions “emphasize” certain elements more or less than others. It would be a false dichotomy to say that it must be one or the other but not both, when the reality is that two religions have both elements but may have inclinations or tendencies to emphasize one over the other. I’m not necessarily saying that is the reality here, but merely pointing out that false dichotomies arise because of an either-or fallacy, not because of emphases among co-existing elements.

    In addition, I think reducing orthodoxy to “belief” and orthopraxy to “action” is somewhat problematic. It is true that at a behavioral level, human thought and action are connected. So, taking this reductionist approach is a great way to argue your point because it makes perfect sense that humans cannot pretend that they only act without thinking and only think without acting. By the same reasoning however, one can argue that humans don’t think or act without some modicum of emotion. One of the disagreements that I’ve seen among LDS and Evangelicals is the role of emotion in religion where some may argue that emotion has no role in ascertaining or judging truth, emotion is bad, emotion leads to falsehood, the heart is deceitful, etc. But what human can cognitively disconnect emotion from their nervous system and live an emotion-free life and can completely isolate “emotion” from adjudicating the world around them?

    It is probably the case that orthodoxy is code word for “systematic theology” and orthopraxy is a code word for “liturgy” or in Mormon parlance “priesthood ordinances.” But it doesn’t make any sense at all to say that theology and ritual have no relationship whatsoever. So, to say a religion can either have theology or liturgy but not both, that would be closer to a false dichotomy, and just at an empirical level it would defy what we know about religion. However, to say that some religions emphasize ritual or liturgy and others emphasize a systematic theology, could be accurate and isn’t necessarily irrational on its face. Again, it could be inaccurate too (could be just that the kind of theology and kind of liturgy are different). It depends on the facts and it also depends on why people are saying these things in the first place. Are they saying this as an apologetic for why their faith tradition does or does not do something? Are they saying this as a boundary-maintenance mechanism or to assert a unique religious identity? Are they saying this by way of observation?

  8. Aquinas said:
    orthopraxy is a code word for “liturgy” or in Mormon parlance “priesthood ordinances.”

    I’d like to add that it also includes other behaviors such as the Word of Wisdom, tithing, missionary service, etc.

  9. To clarify, I said “It is probably the case” because I’m still not sure who you are referring to that is using this term. Judging from comments left by others in the past, I’m guessing you are referring to comments made by Seth. But it will depend on who is using the term and why they are using it.

    I wouldn’t include the Word of Wisdom, tithing, or missionary service into the category of “liturgy.”

    Orthopraxy, it would seem, it sometimes understood to refer to “right living” “practical Christian living” “right behavior” “right lifestyle” or “sound living.” Some Christian blogs seem to use the term to refer to practical Christian living in contrast to some ivory-tower like theology that isn’t very practical. Latter-day Saints may prefer that kind of positive definition. On the other hand, some may consider orthopraxy to be a negative term akin to a kind of legalism, all those nit-picky things that one is told to do or has to do or must do.

    Others may understand Orthodoxy to refer not to some complicated, abstract and elaborate theological system but to “right belief” or “right teaching” about God. Here, I’m merely trying to understand how the term is used in internal discussions on Christian blogs and as it might be used here where other dynamics are at play.

    The point is that orthodoxy can have positive and negative connotations and orthopraxy can have positive and negative connotations. It all depends who is using the term and why they are using it. It would seem that Mormons and Evangelicals might very well agree that Mormonism tends to emphasize orthopraxy (but they might have completely different images in mind; may agree but for different reasons). In some ways, I fear the concept tends to collapse into a traditional faith vs. works kind of paradigm in which case it isn’t clear whether the terms actually serve to advance understanding.

  10. I just don’t like using technical definitions of poorly understood theological data points as the touchstone for who is or is not essentially a part of your religious tradition.

    The idea that your opinion on whether, for example, God was once a man who became God or whether he was always eternally in his present position, should matter to whether you get to be a “Mormon” or not is distasteful to me.

    Nor does it jive with my experience of people who actually sit in the pews at church.

    Most people who go to church – any church – are not theologically careful or sophisticated. So it rather irks me when some try to capitalize on technical theological points in a debate setting.

    For instance – insisting that I – as a Mormon – must adhere to what they consider to be the “correct” orthodox Mormon position, or stop calling myself a part of that tradition.

  11. I wouldn’t include the Word of Wisdom, tithing, or missionary service into the category of “liturgy.”

    Ah, sorry. I meant that I would classify liturgy as well as the Word of Wisdom, tithing and missionary service all as elements of Mormon orthopraxy.

  12. Seth, but honestly who has ever made this request to you personally? Have you ever had someone in a leadership position in your ward make this demand of you? It just seems to me that this is a hypothetical situation that just doesn’t happen.

  13. I think it’s about who gets to be in the club.

    Generally speaking, you can be in the Mormon club if you’re orthoprax (pay your tithing, keep the law of chastity, obey the Word of Wisdom, etc.), even if you have heterodox views — but if you openly break the Biggie Commandments, you’re seen as outside the club.

    On the other hand, evangelicals tend to in-group and out-group based on beliefs more than practice.

    Again, these are broad, sweeping generalities.

    I expect we’re both running into this issue because we’re so used to dealing with Internet Mormons and Internet Evangelicals. Internet Mormons have beliefs that are often outside the mainstream, but insist that because they’re orthoprax, the church still accepts them. Internet Evangelicals want to outgroup Mormons, so they place extra emphasis on orthodox theology than an Evangelical in the pew probably would.

  14. This discussion (orthodoxy vs. orthopraxy) has a lot of relevance to some major debate issues in the Hellenic Polytheist community. As a general rule, the understood maxim is that ours is a religion where correct actions are more important than correct beliefs. However, Tim is exactly right in pointing out that orthopraxy can’t exist without some measure of orthodoxy beforehand, because in order to have right practice you have to have an idea of what right practice is, which is a measure of orthodoxy. Furthermore, “no orthodoxy” does not necessarily mean “you can believe absolutely anything you want.” There may be no one right answer, but that does not mean there are no wrong answers.

    Among Hellenic Polytheists the issue is central to one of the core questions in the community, which is to what extent is Hellenismos compatible with Neopaganism and New Age beliefs and practices. The argument actually mirrors a lot of Mormon/Evangelical dialogue, as the primary issue seems to be what is Hellenismos and what is not Hellenismos.

    If it’s orthopraxy and no orthodoxy, then supposedly as long as you pray the right way and make your offerings and libations the right way, then you can believe anything you want about the gods with no consequence. But that’s not really true, because it beliefs dictate practice to a certain extent, and if your beliefs are so far afield that they begin to affect practice, then suddenly it turns out that right belief really does matter at all, or at least not-wrong belief. And in the end, that actually means that behind the right-actions there is a set of right-beliefs that they are based on.

    So there is a Hellenic orthodoxy after all, it’s just a flexible one, and not one that attempts to dictate correct belief in relation to everything.

  15. Aquinas, I don’t get this from people inside the LDS Church.

    Usually I get this from Evangelicals who are resentful that I’m not complying with whatever they think the Mormon orthodoxy ought to be – by which they seem to mean a narrowly defined and rigid set of theological parameters.

  16. Seth, you are saying that Evangelicals are telling you that you can’t be Mormon because of your beliefs? Can you give some example?

  17. Aquinas, attempting to marginalize and bracket certain Mormons as “internet Mormons” or “apologists” is a pretty common tactic in certain Evangelical quarters. Are you really asking me to name names here?

  18. Seth, I’m just trying to get a handle on what you are talking about. If someone is calling you an “internet Mormon” or a “Mormon apologist” what does that have to do with people who claim you “must adhere to what they consider to be the ‘correct’ orthodox Mormon position”?

    The example of calling someone an “Internet Mormon” is sometimes used by people who just want to feel like they can ignore Mormons who don’t fit into either their conceptions of what Mormons are like or who don’t fit their experience of Mormons they have met in the past. But that can hardly be considered using “orthodoxy” as a touchstone for religious affiliation.

    It it true that there are those critical of the Mormon faith who don’t want to talk to someone who is actually informed about their faith and when Latter-day Saints who are articulate about their faith want to comment, they are told “Well, you don’t count. I don’t want to hear from scholars or people who have written books, or people who have actually thought about these issues, or people who use the Internet. I only want to hear from typical ignorant Mormons. My approach only works on them.” But why confuse that with the entirely different issue of the role of orthodoxy and orthopraxy in religious traditions?

  19. Aquinas, you bring up some good points, and perhaps this needs to be re-thought a bit.

    Perhaps it would be more useful, in response to the accusation from some that thoughtful Mormons are mere “Internet Mormons” (and therefore, can be safely ignored), to point out that the Evangelicals making these accusations most loudly could equally be dismissed as “Internet Evangelicals” and equally unrepresentative of their own congregations.

    Of course, this is really a retaliatory sort of thing to do.

    It would be far more useful if we’d all just drop the practice of using the label of “Internet” as an excuse for ignoring a definite valid set of viewpoints under the theological and scriptural frameworks of our respective traditions.

  20. Seth, my point is that there is probably a category confusion here. In my view orthodoxy can only be imposed from within the faith community. It just seems really odd and confusing to posit that orthodoxy is regulated from outside the faith community. That doesn’t make any sense to me.

    If there are people who don’t want to listen to what you have to say, I think the appropriate response is to just not talk to them, rather than respond by arguing that “Mormonism is more concerned with orthopraxy, not orthodoxy, so listen what I have to say.”

    Unfortunately, if someone is determined to ignore a view point they are going to do it no matter what. Even if they dropped the “Internet” label, they would just find some other reason. As Polemarchus told Socrates “But can you persuade us, if we refuse to listen to you?”

  21. Katie said: “Generally speaking, you can be in the Mormon club if you’re orthoprax (pay your tithing, keep the law of chastity, obey the Word of Wisdom, etc.), even if you have heterodox views — but if you openly break the Biggie Commandments, you’re seen as outside the club.

    On the other hand, evangelicals tend to in-group and out-group based on beliefs more than practice.”

    I can’t see that this generalization plays out in practice. I think this view distorts both Mormon practice and belief and Evangelical.

    As Katie have pointed out quite a bit, people with differnt beliefs feel very marginalized not because you they follow the rules but because they believe differently.

    I can’t imagine that an LDS Bishop is going to get into less trouble for starting to introduce divergent ideas into his congregation than an Evangelical pastor would.
    If a LDS Bishop started saying that the Book of Mormon was not literally true or if there was no pre-existence he would be yanked real quick, no matter if he paid his tithing and didn’t drink coffee. Mormons are very concerned about what is taught in their churches, even though they accept that some members may not believe all of the doctrine. Sure, on the margins you can have all kinds of divergent beliefs, but this seems to be even more the case among Protestants.

    I can’t see how this would be different than Evangelicals, I think that even if I expressed my doubts about whether God was a trinity and that I thought he was an exalted man that an Evangelical church would not accept me as a member if I was trying to be an active part of their community and agreed not to preach my errant views. Tim, you can correct me if I am wrong.

    Likewise, when an Evangelical pastor sleeps around or has a drinking problem I would think that he could be removed from his position, probably for less than that.

    I just don’t see how the Orthodoxy vs. Orthopraxy explanation really explains much about the Mormon Faith and its differences with Evangelicalism, and I think Tim’s posts shows this. The post shows that he is puzzled by the explanation and is trying to show that it doesn’t make sense really. And I agree that it doesn’t make sense and I don’t think it is a good description of the difference.

    Tim, maybe you can help on this but this may be as much of a distortion of LDS thought as it is of Evangelical.

  22. In my view orthodoxy can only be imposed from within the faith community. It just seems really odd and confusing to posit that orthodoxy is regulated from outside the faith community. That doesn’t make any sense to me.

    aquinas, I think you are absolutely right, but that doesn’t stop people from trying to do it anyway. I cannot count the number of times someone has tried to tell me what my faith community “really believes” – as if they know more about it than me. This is absolutely an example of someone outside the group trying to regulate the orthodoxy of the community.

    It is a lame, lazy, and irresponsible way to approach dialogue. If I make a valid point, and even cite authorised sources, the other person will dismiss it anyway, claiming that it is not a part of my orthodoxy. Therefore, they don’t have to waste any time considering the point.

    I think it happens especially with the LDS community because some people outside the community do not understand that our belief in continuing revelation means that something taught 150 years ago as orthodoxy may not be a part of the orthodoxy today.

    Sometimes these outsiders will go further, though, and do what Seth has said, and simply say, “Oh, well, maybe ‘Internet Mormons’ believe that, but if you were to ask the ‘general memberships’ you’ll find that they believe what I said they believe.” Come to think of it, this seems, from what I understand, to be the driving force behind certain counter-cult ministries.

  23. Jared,

    I think you’ve got it exactly right. Some churches have membership interviews but they are not all that different than LDS baptism interviews. There are people with all kinds of divergent beliefs sitting in the pews of my church. I’ve only seen church discipline practiced because of the way someone behaves. A foreign idea may keep a person from becoming a leader but never keep them from being in full activity. People with heterodox ideas are one hundred times more likely to become uncomfortable and leave on their own than be disciplined in any way. I’m sure those ideas may get confronted but no differently than they would in an LDS Priesthood session.

    To the larger topic:
    When a Mormon says they are more concerned with how a person is baptized over whether or not God was a sinner, they are not really saying they prefer orthopraxy over orthodoxy. They are saying their doctrine has more to say on the specifics of baptism over the eternal holiness of God. Both are doctrinal positions which work themselves out in practice.

    Katie said
    I expect we’re both running into this issue because we’re so used to dealing with Internet Mormons and Internet Evangelicals. Internet Mormons have beliefs that are often outside the mainstream, but insist that because they’re orthoprax, the church still accepts them. Internet Evangelicals want to outgroup Mormons, so they place extra emphasis on orthodox theology than an Evangelical in the pew probably would.

    I’m glad it was a Mormon who introduced the term “Internet Mormonism” into this discussion and not me.

    Evangelicals do indeed go on the attack over doctrinal issues. But that is because that is where our greatest and most significant differences are found. As much as a great number of Protestant denominations are founded on stupid things like pianos vs. guitars, Evangelicals recognize that it is doctrine not practice that separates them from Mormons.

    As far as “Internet Evangelicalism” goes I’m not sure you’re really describing “Chapel Evangelicalism” all that accurately. I discuss Mormonism with “Chapel Evangelicals” probably a lot more than any Mormon. LDS doctrine is always the first thing people ask me about. The questions of “what is a sacrament meeting like?” or “what do Mormons wear to church?” are non-existent in my conversations.

  24. “I cannot count the number of times someone has tried to tell me what my faith community “really believes” – as if they know more about it than me. This is absolutely an example of someone outside the group trying to regulate the orthodoxy of the community.”

    Alex, what you describe clearly does happen, and I can see how someone might perceive this to be an example of a “group trying to regulate the orthodoxy of the community” but it simply cannot such an example, because such behavior by definition cannot be understood to be connected with an imposition of orthodoxy qua orthodoxy. I can’t stress this enough.

    What is actually going on is that there can often be a wide discrepancy between the Mormonism depicted in traditional counter-cult literature, and the experience of some Evangelicals, and the views held by many Latter-day Saints. One of the reasons many Latter-day Saints dislike the depictions of Mormons in this critical literature is that they simply don’t recognize themselves in it.

    Dr. Blomberg spoke about the criticism that followed in the wake of How Wide the Divide (aside from complete outrage): “There were three very clearly recurring themes mostly at Stephen but to some degree at me. The first was: this doesn’t sound like any Mormon we’ve heard. Stephen’s lying. He’s not telling the whole story. This is a dangerous book because it misleads people as to how close Mormonism is to historic Christianity. The second slightly more generous response was: Dr. Robinson may well be telling the truth about his own views, and he’d better be careful because he is probably about to be excommunicated, but it’s still a dangerous and misleading book because his views aren’t representative; they’re idiosyncratic. A third view was more generous still among the critics and that was: No he is probably telling the truth and yes we have read enough of very recent Latter-day Saint literature to recognize that he does represent directions the church would like to go in and increasingly is going in . . . but as admirable as such conversations are . . . it’s not the type of thing you publish because again it misleads people, any time you focus on what you agree on and not just on what you disagree on, you make people think that the differences aren’t all that crucial.”

    After the book was published, Dr. Blomberg shared his experience that “All kinds of Evangelicals here, in local Churches, in my neighborhood . . . came out of the woodwork saying, You’re experience with Dr. Robinson exactly matches ours. We’ve got a Mormon friend, we’ve got a co-worker, we’ve got a bishop who lives in our neighborhood, this sounds like him, this sounds like her, we have never quite figured out why the counter-cult books don’t acknowledge this breadth of perspective within Mormonism. Thank you for doing what you did. And there were people who did the same in Stephen’s church for him.”

    What is really going on is that there are different responses to this information about Mormons who don’t fit the mold provided by the counter-cult literature (or even the experiences of some Evangelicals) as Blomberg outlined. Many Evangelicals simply compare the literature with reality and conclude the literature is wrong and inaccurate or incomplete. Others however, take a different path and prefer to see any discrepancy as an anomaly. Or they try to educate Mormons and explain to Mormons how they are supposed to believe according to the counter-cult literature.

    But all of this has more to do with perceptions of Mormonism by those outside the faith, and not with the regulation of orthodoxy by the faith community itself. While related, these are two completely different concepts. In my view, to confuse these categories is merely to invite more misunderstanding.

    Generally speaking and irrespective of denominations, those in the faith are interested about orthodoxy because they hold that right beliefs can improve their relationship to God and man and bring peace into their lives. If God imparts teachings unto men, then those teachings are important, not come other teachings.

    By contrast, what is the motivation by Evangelical critics of Mormonism make sure that Mormons conform to a certain mold? Is it because critics of Mormonism think that the Mormonism they are most familiar with really is the best and true teachings of Mormonism and that it should be considered orthodoxy because only it has salvific power? If you can convince me this is the case, then I will be more likely to concede that what they are doing is “regulating orthodoxy” and then I would be more likely to accept this as good example of someone regulating orthodoxy from the outside. But I don’t think that is the case at all, and this is why I don’t accept this as a good example.

    One of the purposes behind the criticisms, evident in Blomberg’s talk, is that of avoiding confusion, to avoid being “mislead.” Keeping a clear and standard distinction between the God of Mormonism and the God of the Bible is vintage counter-cult methodology. This is why Evangelicals who dialogue with Mormons are often criticized by counter-cult ministries, because they are diluting and obfuscating boundary maintenance measures. Traditional counter-cult measures seek to depict Mormonism as so far removed from anything resembling traditional Christianity and say “Way over here is Christianity, and way way over there is Mormonism. See the difference? Don’t get them confused.” The tension is that interfaith dialogue is perceived as bringing Mormonism closer to Christianity. “All this time we thought we were so different, and all the books told us we were so different, but as we actually talk with each other we learned we actually are closer than we had thought.” This explains a great deal of the tension and conflict among Evangelicals who disagree as how best to approach the Latter-day Saints.

  25. Pingback: The Public Eye Continues To Glare, Palin Not Serious, and more… | Article VI Blog | John Schroeder

  26. Since no one knows the heart, but God, the whole ‘fruit’ thing is quite dubious as a guide for faithfulness.

    What are the real motives behind the ‘fruit’? Fear of punishment…or hope of reward?

    Is that really ‘good fruit’?

  27. I have been reading N.T. Wright’s new book – After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters (2010).

    Check it out, guys.

  28. Tim,

    Granted, I don’t know much about Mormonism, but I think you have a misunderstanding about orthopraxy. It is a hard concept for some people to wrap their mind around, but in your analogy (for a orthopraxic religion) it is ‘correct practice’ that is the ‘horse’ which pulls the ‘cart’ of ideas, not the other way around. Basically, in an orthopraxy it is correct action which brings us closer to correct thought… closer because no one can know the whole of Divine Truth. In an orthodoxy, correct belief is presumed to lead to correct action.

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