Miguel Labrador has posted another thought provoking blog, entitled Theology Precedes Practice, Vice Versa, or Something Else?
In it, he states: “orthodoxy (theology) & orthopraxy (practice) are ‘simultaneous.’” I think he’s right, in the sense that we must seek to keep both in balance – our walk must match our talk, and our talk must match our walk.
Sometimes, however, the Lord allows one or the other – our doctrine or our practice – to be challenged in ways that force us to then adjust the other.
Regardless, it is important to keep them in sync, as much as possible, and not let one get too far ahead of the other.
Change Yet Balance
As a pilot, I like to think of orthodoxy and orthopraxy as the two wings that keep me flying. Generally, they must be kept level – in balance – to maintain altitude and stay on course.
However, there are times when God wants us to change course, and one or the other lifts just a little higher in order to turn us towards His new heading. Once on that new course, though, we need to return to level flight by keeping the two wings in sync on that new heading.
It’s the same way in my walk with the Lord.
My theology/doctrine definitely has changed my behavior at times. When my journey gets ahead of my theology, I heed the Holy Spirit’s nudge to go to scripture. As I then come to grips for the first time with a doctrinal truth that hadn’t been important or relevant to me before, or as God reaffirms in His Word some truth that I had been neglecting, I submit to that truth by adjusting my attitude and my actions.
Likewise, the reality of experience, as I apply my theological understandings in new situations and contexts, often causes me to re-examine, refine or even change my theology.
Although scripture trumps experience, seeing whether my interpretation bears good and truthful fruit is a valid criteria for judging whether my understanding of scripture is correct.
For example, I never focused much on confession by believers – especially one on one as a way to deal with deep seated problems in a person’s life. I thought that was just a “Catholic” doctrine and thus a not very scriptural.
But about five years ago I started getting involved in pastoral counseling with folks who needed healing from profound emotional hurts caused by past wrongs. See God Shows Up. It quickly became obvious to me that confession was one of the ways God allows us to expose and turn those hurts over to Him so that healing can occur.
All of a sudden Bible verses on confession took on new life. Those scriptures – now seen with a fresh perspective – also helped to refine my counseling techniques.
In essence, reality helped refine my theology, and theology then helped define my reality.
Theology and Discovery
I also have been willing to re-examined scripture in light of scientific discoveries. See What About Them Aliens? Christians through the ages have had to do the same.
For example, when scripture talks about the sun rising or standing still in the sky, it once was reasonable to interpret those passages as meaning the sun was moving. With the Copernicus revolution, however, and the understanding that it is the earth that moves in reference to the sun, we now interpret those passages as giving a true account, but from an observational perspective.
Theology is Never Static
Although I hold to the plenary authority of scripture, that does not mean my understanding of scripture is static. It sometimes can be illuminated by the light of experience and discovery, while also being used by God to constantly redefine my reality.
Maturity in the Lord comes from embracing both dynamics. As Paul wrote, we all must “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Phil 2:12-13