Orthopraxy means "correct practice" or "correct behavior" and refers, in Christianity, to how a believer acts or performs, rather than how they believe.
What is the meaning of orthopraxy / orthopraxis?
Orthopraxy is sometimes contrasted with orthodoxy, which is "correct teaching" or "correct doctrine." Think of it this way: orthopraxy is how a believer acts; orthodoxy is what a person believes. Orthopraxy is sometimes used to more specifically refer to correct performance of religious rituals. Some theologians and philosophers place the two on opposite ends of a scale. In some religions, having the right ideas is emphasized and doing the right things seems to matter little. In other religions, certain rituals or works are considered more important than one's beliefs. Biblically, both orthodoxy and orthopraxy are important.
The Bible teaches that correct doctrine comes before, and informs, correct behavior. Without correct beliefs, we cannot have truly correct behavior. If we truly have correct beliefs, our behavior should align with those beliefs. The New Testament clearly presents salvation as being a gift of God's grace, apart from our works; yet it also calls us to do good works as a result of our salvation. Christianity is not a religion based on performance of rituals, but it is a belief system that affects the way we live.
In Romans, Paul spends the first 11 chapters writing about doctrine, then transitions in Chapter 12 to practice. He writes, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship" (Romans 12:1). The "therefore" indicates that the behavioral fruit Paul advocates in Romans 12:1 is a result of the doctrine he has explained in Romans 1—11.
Paul does the same thing in the book of Ephesians. The first three chapters discuss doctrine, then the final three are about practice. Here's the transition: "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:1–3).
While some emphasize orthodoxy or orthopraxy more, they are best understood as going hand-in-hand. If a Christian simply believes the right things, but that belief doesn't translate into proper behavior, it is doubtful they truly believe. If a Christian simply does the right things, but doesn't believe, is that person truly a Christian?
Paul wrote, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:8–10).
Paul also ties orthodoxy and orthopraxy in Titus 3:8: "The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God [orthodoxy] may be careful to devote themselves to good works [orthopraxy]. These things are excellent and profitable for people."
John also binds orthodoxy and orthopraxy in 1 John 2:3–6: "And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says 'I know him' but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked."
See how the belief of a believer is shown by the action of a believer? This is foundational to Christianity. James summarizes the relationship in his book. James 2:14–19 says, "What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, 'You have faith and I have works.' Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!"
Orthopraxy and orthodoxy must be intertwined in a Christian.
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