- Separate articles treat Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Orthodox Judaism.
- For the book written by G. K. Chesterton see Orthodoxy (book).
The word orthodoxy, from the Greek ortho ('right', 'correct') and doxa ('thought', 'teaching'), is typically used to refer to the correct observance of religion, as determined by some overseeing body. Orthodoxy is opposed to heresy and schism. People who deviate from orthodoxy by professing a doctrine considered to be false are called heretics, while those who deviate from orthodoxy by removing themselves from the perceived body of believers, i.e. from full communion, are called schismatics. Not infrequently these occur together. The distinction in terminology pertains to the subject matter. If one is addressing corporate unity, the emphasis may be on schism; if one is addressing doctrinal coherence, the emphasis may be on heresy.
Apostasy is a violation of orthodoxy that takes the form of abandonment of the faith, be it for some form of atheism or for some other faith. A lighter deviation from orthodoxy than heresy is commonly called error, in the sense of not being grave enough to cause total estrangement while yet seriously affecting communion. Sometimes error is also used to cover both full heresies and minor errors.
Religion embraces conceptualization of the divine and practice of worship, and adherents of all faiths represent to others how they perceive these things. There is a degree of openness, and an extent to which these elements are non-negotiable, in all religions. Tribal religions may involve cannibalising non-believers, or may be very open to theological discussion; while monotheistic religions adapt themselves to diverse cultures in manifold ways while yet not relinquishing certain precepts. Issues of tolerance and syncretism are distinct; a religion may tolerate another, neither oppressing nor adapting to it; a religion may permit itself to be absorbed into another; a religion may be outwardly intolerant while yet absorbing some teachings from another religion. A religion may be more tolerant of others at a given point in time than at another. These forms of cultural interplay impinge upon the extent to which a religion may or may not appear to maintain a consistent stance concerning its theology and practice.
Claims to Orthodoxy
Various groups have laid claim to the word orthodox as part of their titles, usually in order to differentiate themselves from other, 'heretical' movements. Orthodox Judaism focuses on a strict adherence to what it sees as the correct interpretation of the Oral Torah, dating from the strict reforms instituted under King Josiah in 622/621 BCE. Within Christianity, the term occurs in the Eastern Orthodox, Western Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox churches as well as in Protestant denominations like the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
The Eastern Orthodox Churches hearken back to what they see as the original forms of worship; for example, the Nicene Creed is used in its form as revised at the First Council of Constantinople in 381, in contrast to the Roman Catholic church, which use the Nicene creed with the addition of the phrase 'and the Son' (see Filioque clause). This emphasis on the use of the original "creed" is shared today by all Eastern Orthodox churches.
The Catholic Church considers the Eastern Orthodox to be in schism and therefore not in full communion with the Holy See. The majority of Eastern Orthodox Christians in turn consider Roman Catholics to be heretics. Confusingly, the term "Western Orthodox" refers to both Eastern-Rite Catholic churches in communion with the Roman See, and to Eastern Orthodox parishes of the Orthodox western rite.
The Catholic Church considers Protestantism to be heresy; some Protestants are mutually hostile, and consider Roman Catholics, and sometimes Eastern Orthodox, to be heretics. In some cases the term apostasy is applied within mutual invectives. The Catholic Church, since the Second Vatican Council, has been working harder to effect rapprochement among diverse forms of Christianity; these efforts have been met with wide-ranging responses. Some religious groups are considered by all of the aforementioned to be unorthodox (or even cults, as they are commonly called in Protestant circles), including Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, Unitarians, and some of the more radical forms of liberal theology.
Inside each of these ecclesiastical communities there are issues that correspond to estrangement or refinements of perceived orthodoxy. For example, the Roman See often issues recommendations as to what practices it considers orthodox so as to curb excesses or deficiencies by its prelates. Some evangelicals are pursuing innovations that other, more conservative evangelicals consider unorthodox and term "neo-evangelical," "neo-pentecostal," or "fringe Charismatic."
In English, the term "Oriental Orthodoxy" is used to refer to non-Chalcedonian eastern Christians.
Last updated: 08-20-2005 22:58:38