Orthodoxy Is Not Optional

Written by Barton J. Gingerich |
Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Whenever voices make a push to make orthodoxy optional, the faithful have a choice: to relent or to fight. And, if they fight, they will inevitably be painted as Big Meanies. When Christian colleges fire liberalizing faculty members, or when denominational authorities uphold church discipline against pastoral officers who violate ordination vows via heretical teaching or unrepentant sin, they are the ones cast as villains.

Richard John Neuhaus (1936-2009), the conservative Lutheran-turned-Catholic cleric and writer, originated what would become known as Neuhaus’ Law. Deeply aware of social dynamics and theological truth, he claimed, “Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.” As our own culture continues its unsettling spiritual trajectory, Neuhaus’ Law keeps playing itself out over and over again in church bodies and other Christian institutions.

Now, there are many voices that insist otherwise. What we need, they say, is some kind of expansive tolerance. In days gone by, this meant downplaying the historical accuracy and certain theological claims of the Bible in favor of what Friedrich Schleiermacher would define as true piety, which was a religious feeling of absolute and utter dependance on God. As long as someone felt and expressed that inner feeling communally, he could entertain all sorts of doubts about the Bible.

Of course, these days, the target for skepticism has shifted to the moral realm, where one finds different variants of “inclusive orthodoxy.” Rather than scoff at the historic creeds, members of the clergy and laity alike express ambivalence or outright reject biblical teachings on sex. These are the majority of today’s revisionists.

Read More

Previous ArticleNext Article