Tests of Orthodoxy: Deity of Christ, the Trinity, & Republicanism?

In the first few centuries of the development of Christianity, a person’s view on the deity of Christ and their understanding of the Trinity were used to determine whether or not that individual was an orthodox believer or if they were a heretic.  As the centuries have gone on there have been additional doctrines that have been added to the checklist for Orthodoxy/Heterodoxy.   Some of the doctrinal clarifications have been helpful and good, while others have seemed more myopic and intramural in nature, such as the Filioque Clause[1], yet have had massive historical ramifications.

In the late 20th Century, a new test for orthodoxy emerged (or perhaps more accurately described as orthopraxy) namely that of voting Republican.  As one of my colleagues at Media Rostra has pointed out this initial association with Republicanism, by conservative Christianity, is in large part due to being single issue voters.  However, this initial embracing of the Republican Party due namely to their stance on abortion has grown into a full-fledged agreement (for some or many) for all things of the Right.  In certain Evangelical circles it has become tantamount to heresy to criticize a Republican position on foreign affairs, economic policies, or taxation.  This is because for a large segment of Evangelicalism one’s view on abortion has a baptismal affect on every other policy position.  That is to say, since Candidate “X” is pro-life their views on trickle-down economics are probably morally superior to any view that advocates increased taxation for the wealthy.  (To be fair there are those that have thoughtfully come to their conservative positions, but I fear there are many that have defaulted to a particular political position without wrestling through the various issues).

As I reflect on my own experience within Evangelicalism, I can testify to being a part of prayer meetings where individuals asked God to help “us”—i.e. the Republican candidate—win the election.    I have had dialogue with individuals who find it unfathomable that any “true believer” could ever vote democratic.  I have watched as a dear friend, who happens to be an outspoken & devoted follower of Jesus, received ridicule and scorn from professing believers because he had the gall to run for Congress as a Democrat, a pro-life Democrat at that.  I can also attest to the strange looks and verbal attacks that I have received when I have said something positive about the current administration or offered a critique of the G.W. Bush years.

As someone who does not find themselves completely at home in the Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, or Tea Party camps I find this new test of Orthodoxy to be particularly troubling, near sighted, and unwarranted from both a biblical and historical perspective.   Somehow I can’t see where one’s belief in a modern political party would fit in the early apostolic confession:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,  the Maker of heaven and earth,   and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,  born of the virgin Mary,  suffered under Pontius Pilate,  was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell.  The third day He arose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven,  and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;  from there he shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit;   the holy catholic church the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting.  Amen.

Perhaps if those within American Evangelicalism can keep the main things the main things there will be more charity and thoughtful discourse on political issues.



[1]  Filioque means “and from the Son”.  This phrase became historically significant in the 9th century of the Common Era and eventually was part of what led to the schism between the Eastern and Western Church in  1054 A.D.  The Eastern Church claimed that the Western Church was heretical because they had changed the Nicene confession (originally agreed upon in 325 A.D. & further affirmed at Constantinople in 381 A.D.) to state that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and from the Son (filioque), whereas, the original creed simply stated that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father.

About Harold Simmons, Senior Associate Editor

Harold Simmons is Senior Associate Editor at Media Rostra.

Harold graduated from the University of Arkansas with a B.A. in Communication. While at the University of Arkansas he pursued playing professional basketball, but unsuccessfully sought to pattern his basketball game after Nick Van Exel. Harold lost his eligibility as an amateur athlete when he won the three point shooting contest at a Midnight Madness Event for the Razorbacks and in a Bobby Fischer type move, promptly walked away from a potential NBA career--although he is considering declaring for the 2013 draft. As his life journey has unfolded he has picked up a couple of graduate degrees in Theology & Organizational Leadership . He currently serves as the Global Director of Strategy for a manufacturing company where he combines his interests in technology and environmental sustainability.

Comments

  1. malconbassNo Gravatar says:

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  2. malconbassNo Gravatar says:

    WoW! I love this article. Im sharing this amazing website with my friends right now. Congratulations!

  3. Nick TaylorNo Gravatar says:

    Wow, I’m looking forward to where this goes.  It’s been a long time since I’ve sat in on these discussions with you and Ponder and Davies.  Life has diverged us different ways since then, but I’m looking forward to sitting in and commenting on it.  

    Politics are too little a thing to be wrapped up in Christianity or Christian brotherhood.  It will pass away to quickly for that.I’ve learned, probably later than I should have, that scripture draws a careful line around what God has chosen to voice his opinion on.  I have strong opinions on a whole host of subjects from politics to homeschooling to the foods I feed my family, but most of those things don’t fall within that line.  And because they don’t, they have no business being taught by the church (the pillar of the truth) or expected of all believers.  I could encourage you to agree with me politically, but I would be very remiss to tell you that God expected it.  That has become far to muddled in the teaching and practice of churches on both sides of the spectrum.

  4. Harold SimmonsNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Nick,

    Good to hear from you. It’s been too long!  Hopefully, this forum will provide a means for us to continue these type of discussions. 

    I think you make some great points related to Christianity and Politics being too tightly wrapped at times. 

    One of the points you made that I thought was particularly insightful has to do with issues that are really matters of conscience. I would put these in the Romans 14 type of issues.  (This is the passage where one believer has freedom to eat meat and one does not feel that freedom, but they are both supposed to eat or not eat with faith toward God).  I think that one of the principles for fellowship/brotherhood that is being implied is that true unity does not necessarily mean complete agreement in every detail of life.
     That being said, the political issues that are often times polarizing are that way because there is a lack of charity in seeking to come to terms with someone who may hold a different position. 

    Anyway, thanks for stopping by the website and commenting. Your comment with its astute observations is the kind of thing that I think can make this site a very enjoyable and sharpening medium.

  5. Harold SimmonsNo Gravatar says:

     Hi Malconbass,

    Thank you for stopping by our site to visit and comment.  Thank you for the comment on the article.  I am glad that you enjoyed it. 

    We are glad to have you as a reader and hope you continue to interact with us as we discuss various political, social, and cultural issues. 

    I noticed that you are based in Brazil.  It will be interesting to get your perspective on things as we post. 

  6. Nick TaylorNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks Harold.

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