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Essay donated by James B. Gray

Part 2 of 2: On Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy:
(correct belief and correct behavior)

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This topic is continued from Part 1

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Behavior as a subject to research and learn about is something that D people tend to lack an interest in—for the simple reason that they tend to believe that human behavior has no deterministic element but, rather, is a matter of choice. Given this, what’s the point in attempting to find non-existent "laws" which explain human behavior? P people do not deny that humans have "free choice," but also recognize that regularities can be observed in human behavior—which fact suggests that human behavior is subject to scientific (i.e., empirical and theoretical) study. P people would add, however, that given their orientation to what they regard as "proper" behavior, they are especially interested in discovering and learning facts relative to behavior that relate rather directly to their particular orientation.

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Proper Behavior:

D People derive—or say they do!—their notions of what sorts of behaviors are "proper" from the Bible. However, their notions of what is "proper" tend to relate more to behaviors that should not be engaged in rather than behaviors that ought to be. Therefore, insofar as "sin" is a part of their vocabulary—which it is!—their orientation is more to sins of commission than omission. Furthermore, they often assert that sinful behaviors are a result of Original Sin (which they connect to a "sinful nature" that we are alleged to have been born with)—thereby not perceiving that they are changing the "ground rules," given that this view is in conflict with their assertion of free will. Paradoxically, D people seem to believe that sinful behavior is inevitable, despite the "fact" that people have free will. And that because sinful behavior is inevitable, police are necessary (especially for the purpose of apprehending offenders, rather than preventing sins from occurring in the first place), a court system with lawyers and judges are needed for trying the accused, and jails/prisons are needed for incarceration of those found guilty—the purpose of incarceration being not only to prevent those found guilty from harming others, but to punish them ("an eye for an eye"). How this view of the purpose of incarceration relates to their (confusing) views as to the basis of human wrong-doing is not clear.

An important category of improper behavior for D people is verbal behavior—whether oral or written—that denies the truth of beliefs that D people hold dear, or is regarded by them as blasphemous. D people denounce such offenders as heretics or blasphemers, and tend to believe that they are justified in attacking such people—not only verbally, but physically. Indeed, the killing of such people is often regarded as within the realm of permissibility by D people—whether or not such killing is against the civil laws of their society. Thus, there are some in our midst who, because the Bible declares killing is sin, and that the killing of a fetus involves, well, killing, they have God’s permission to bomb abortion clinics—despite the fact that that might involve killing its occupants! It’s not clear what theory guides such behavior, but an "eye for eye" one must somehow be involved.

The orientation of P people is to behavior that they regard as desirable, and because "desirable" may be interpreted variously, herein I will confine my comments to my personal views on the matter. As I state in "Worship" (on this site), "desirable" behavior is behavior that contributes (directly or indirectly) to the well-being of one’s fellows and/or the survival of species—including our own! They therefore engage in direct actions to help others, attempt to influence the voting of legislators, work with members of their church (or organizations such as Habitat for Humanity), etc. They may relate their planning and actions to the Tradition I refer to in "Worship," some other "theory," or simply to, e.g., the Golden Rule.

P people recognize that some people, for a variety of reasons (or because of a number of different factors), engage in behaviors that detract from the well-being (or even lives) of others, and therefore agree with D people that there must be police officers to not only apprehend offenders, but deter offenses from occurring in the first place; a court system; and jails/prisons for incarcerating those convicted. However, P people tend to perceive offenses as the result of a faulty societal situation rather than individual defect, so that on the one hand they support measures designed to prevent offenses from occurring; and favor programs for those incarcerated that are oriented to treatment/restoration rather than punishment.

P people recognize that when it comes to religious matters the views that they hold are not shared by all others. In fact, some P people suspect that the specific views of any given person are unique to that person—so that it would be wise for one to recognize that one’s own views are "merely" subjective. So that one should not only try to avoid "pushing" one’s own views on others, but should strive to be tolerant toward others; that, indeed, one should welcome learning about the religious views of others, for this might help one make one’s own views more mature. Thus, the attitude that P people tend to have regarding the religious views of others often differ sharply from those held by D people—which fact has consequences rather different from those associated with the attitudes of D people.

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Criticisms: Of D People Regarding P People:

For D people it is obvious that the (Christian) Bible is "God’s Word," and therefore not to be taken lightly—one’s soul being in danger if one so does (i.e., one runs the risk of spending eternity in a very warm place). D people look at the Bible as having authoritative character, and therefore believe it essential that what they say and do is authorized by the Bible. Given their belief-system, they take offense at the treatment of the Bible that they perceive on the part of P people—people who lack sufficient reverence for the Bible, even to the point of not giving it much attention at all. They may therefore accuse P people of living by man-made rules, rather than God’s laws—which fact they may find deeply disturbing. What may especially bother them regarding P people is that they perceive them as having an ambiguous, amorphous concept of God—if, in fact, they even believe in God. Thus, D people find it easy to think of P people as either agnostics or (Heaven forbid!) atheists; and because they believe D people are headed for Hell, believe it their obligation to warn P people of the danger they’re in, and try to convert them. If P people resist these attempts, D people—because they may perceive P people as a sort of pollution (!)—may feel it as their duty to rid the world of this form of pollution.

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Criticisms of P People Regarding D People:

P people tend to be much more tolerant than D people, but this does not prevent them from being critical (although not vociferously, usually) of D people. They may argue that:

bulletD people are very selective in their use of the Bible—using only passages that support their preconceived opinions.
bulletD people use the Bible to authorize views and/or behaviors that they prefer, rather than viewing the Bible as a book whose basic thrust can be determined—so that one can then allow the Bible to "author" one’s life (to use terms borrowed from theologian Delwin Brown).
bulletD people fail to recognize that a variety of concepts of God are present in the Bible, which fact can be interpreted as giving one permission to arrive at a concept of God that one finds reasonable.
bulletD people fail to recognize that the basic thrust of the Bible is a valuing of universal (human) well-being, and that the Bible can be perceived as a partial record of a well-being Tradition—a Tradition that began before Bible times, and has continued after Bible times down to the present. So that, given this perspective on the Bible, the point is for one to become a part of that Tradition.
bulletP people may even come to conclude that the reason people are attracted to the D "philosophy" is that they want to live by the society’s dominant secular values (i.e., greed, materialism, and selfishness), yet do not want to admit this, either to others or themselves. The D philosophy is, then, attractive to them because it enables them to live by the society’s secular values while pretending to live by Biblical values. Therefore, D people are either people who have fooled themselves (and others) as to the basic thrust of the Bible, or are hypocrites who know full well what the Bible is "about," but want to make others believe that they are "Bible-believing" folk.

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It is my considered opinion—as one who has done extensive reading in and about the Bible, and who is a Senior Citizen who has been "churched" virtually all his life—that the Bible strongly supports the orthopraxy position. Yet, it seems that most Christians in the United States are either in the D group, or a group with the D philosophy and P one sharing honors. If NeWFism (see my essay "Worship: An exercise in revisioning"" on this site) were to develop and expand, the situation might change. Let us hope that this happens!

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Originally posted: 2007-NOV-13
Latest update: 2015-JUL-11
Author: James B. Gray

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