Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Thinking About The Orthos...

Spending time in the discussion going on recently on the Forum page got me to thinking about the orthos. Alan Hirsch is the one who got me started. His book ReJesus laid out three orthos, and the way he talked about them made a huge amount of sense to me. Here's what I got --

1) Orthopathy, the way of the heart: The Pharisees wanted to check Jesus out, objectify Him, line Him up against their understandings of the faith, and because of this they were judged for the hardness of heart, for holding themselves back from what God was doing in Jesus.

Without heart we cannot comprehend God. The heart can embrace what the mind cannot. In biblical Hebrew, in order to know something, one doesn’t observe it but one must come into contact with it. Closely allied with this way of knowing is the role played by passion or affection in spirituality. Passion requires participation, involvement, faith. “If passion is eliminated, faith no longer exists” (Keirkegaard).

We have to engage our heart to truly understand Jesus, but also to become like Him and to follow Him over the long haul. The emotional connection with God provides us with distinctive insights into God what cannot be gained from any other source.

2) Orthopraxy, the way of action: When we respond to God in actions done in His name, we meet Him in a new and fresh way. We are never alone when we do a holy deed because we partner with God in the redemption of the world. It is considered a sacrament, in the Hebraic faith, to act on God’s word, and by the prompting of God.

The key to this form of knowledge is obedience. “All right knowledge of God is born in obedience” (Calvin)

Caution!!!! Theoretical knowledge of spiritual truth is never commended in Scripture. The Bible always aims at responsibility and responsiveness toward God. It is part of the conditions of God’s covenant. The command to obey is not because God wants to have it over us, but because it always confers knowledge of God that cannot be gained by any other means.

Something goes seriously wrong with our capacity to integrate or even comprehend Scripture if we do not obey but just study it. Nowhere does Jesus call us to worship Him in the Gospels; what is clear is that He does demand obedience.

3) Orthodoxy, the way of belief: Right knowledge so that we have right belief is an essential element of any discipleship in the way of Jesus.

Putting it all together: It is in the nexus between orthopraxy, orthopathy and orthodoxy that a true and full appreciation of God is to be found. When one area is favored over the others...
a. Orthopraxy, we become tireless (and tired) activists, burning ourselves, and others, out while relying on our own efforts to please God

b. Orthopathy, we become impractical mystics or experience junkies, so focused on contemplation and personal spiritual experience that we become of no use in the kingdom of God

c. Orthodoxy, at our worst we are arrogant bibliophiles, no different from the Pharisees, worshiping our doctrine and our theological formulations over a genuine encounter with the Jesus revealed in scripture.

This is what the Shema aims at and what Jesus directly affirms as being at the heart of discipleship and knowledge of God. We are to love God with all our heart, mind, will and strength.

(I got the above from Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost from “ReJesus,” and Athol Dickson from “The Gospel According to Moses”)

If this post got you to thinking, please leave a comment and join the conversation

If this post got you to thinking, please leave a comment and join the conversation


  1. Hi joanne:
    Some interesting thoughts, gave it a quick read earlier today and tried to comment from my bberry but couldn't get it to work, so a quick thought here, but I will read it closer a bit later.

    On the first part, orthopathy, passion/emotion I think is necessary in the practice of repentance, but I think a calm heart and mind is necessary in discerning and interpreting sound doctrine

  2. I won't disagree. I think what "ReJesus" is getting at is that we as evangelicals have downplayed orthopathy and played up orthodoxy, and have lost out on the experiential knowledge of God.

    There is another fascinating section on step logic versus block logic that I might be able to post on in a bit

  3. Well joanne, it seems the pendulum has swung the full gamut of spiritual
    life as revealed in the bible. I have to wonder if the middle ground is desirable as well, I think Jesus called that lukewarm, neither cold nor hot.

    The Shema confession of old, is for sure to be our desire, but has anyone really ever accomplished it? I know I haven't, is it really possible to accomplish it? Could one honestly make that sort of claim?

    Never the less this post did make me think of relationship with God before biblical revelation came about.

    Also, Saul of Tarsus, how in the name of all thats holy could he go so long before recognizing Jesus??

    If the experience on the road to Damascus hadn't nocked him of his horse, would he have missed him completely?

    Well just some thinking out loud,
    a lot to think on in this post...
    Thanks for putting it up....

  4. I know, it seems incredible that any of the Pharisees would resist Jesus once they heard Him speak, and saw what God was doing, but...they did resist the Lord. Am so thankful that Jesus took hold of Paul! And that He took hold of you and me, too.

    I love the Shema; Jesus brings it out as the greatest commandement in the gospels, too. Yeah, I haven't been able to fully live it out, either, but I want to, and I know that with God, that is enough to begin with, as He takes us the rest of the way there...


Thank you for sharing your thoughts