On the first “Redefining Orthodoxy” post, a series of questions was posed to me: “Why is it so important to you to label yourself as ‘Christian’? You said yourself that your beliefs are atypical, so why the desire to label yourself with a label that means, and has meant, something other than what you believe for 2000 years? Why not just call yourself something different so there is no confusion?” Basically: Why redefine orthodoxy?
These are good questions. I felt the answers are important enough to have their own post. There are actually a number of reasons why I feel that this project is important, and why I continue to identify myself as Christian.
One reason has to do with personal history. I was raised in the Christian tradition. Historically, I identify with and relate to the concepts and values of Christianity. I also have a personal aversion to giving up or quitting just because things get hard. I’ve watched many friends do this. They began questioning Christianity. When an issue arose that they were unable to reconcile, they eventually turned their backs and rejected it. I didn’t want to do this. Christianity still has value and meaning to me. While I wasn’t always able to express this well, many of the principles never lost their significance, only their relevance, to my life. Basically, I didn’t want to get a divorce because we had a big fight. This is why I still label myself as Christian instead of abandoning the label in favor of another.
This brings me to my second point. Because I still identify with Christianity, yet my beliefs seem to conflict with popular understanding, I feel it is necessary to redefine Christian orthodoxy for my context. Reconciliation is perhaps the essential theme in Christianity. For me, the process of redefining orthodoxy is a process of reconciliation. I feel I am reconnecting with the tradition that has meant so much to me historically. I am rediscovering old precepts in new and exciting ways. In essence, the faith, once stagnant and dead, has been resurrected in my life. It has meaning, substance and purpose once again.
Lastly, I would debate whether Christianity has indeed meant the same thing for 2000 years. I would argue that it hasn’t. Our understanding and even basic definition of Christianity has evolved and changed over the past two millennia–shaped as much by history and culture as it has shaped history and culture. I don’t think that any of the previous understandings were incorrect. However, I think Christianity is a living faith. It grows, changes and reacts. This is a good thing, in my opinion. Christianity is not dead, stagnant or dormant. It is an interaction with an undefinable God, and as such, can never remain the same because our knowledge and experience of God continually grows.
For such reasons, I am seeking to redefine orthodoxy as an act of reconciliation and resurrection in my life. It’s been beautiful so far. I’m loving it.