About Mere Orthodoxy: A Christian Review of Ideas
We are a small group of young Christians who have spent the past 15 years defending word count and nuance on the internet while working out what our faith looks like in public.
Whether it is arts, movies, literature, politics (yup, we go there), sexuality, or any other crevice of the human experience, we believe that the Gospel has something to say about it and that “something” really can be good news.
We take our cues from our boys C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton, two of the most thoughtful Christians of the twentieth century. One of them wrote Mere Christianity and the other wrote Orthodoxy, and we like those books so much we stapled their names together and took it as our own.
But their thoughtfulness wasn’t abstract: it was rooted in the challenges and struggles that England was facing their time, and their mission was to demonstrate how a classically minded, creedally centered orthodox Christianity was an attractive and persuasive alternative to the ideologies of their day.
And they did it while writing poems and children’s stories.
What is Mere Orthodoxy?
Here’s what we hope you will discover within our writing:
- Scripturally rooted, but creedally informed thoughts. We know that it’s not enough to hang out saying the Nicene Creed and that the further we get from it, the more we’ll disagree on the particulars of how Christianity should play out in public. But we also think that getting to the Nicene Creed is a pretty good start for most Christians in our era, so that’s where we’ll put our baseline.
- Cheerfully contrarian when we have to be. We disagree with each other, and probably with you too (at least on something, right?). We think that’s part of what makes life and writing interesting. So we’ll make arguments, but hopefully in a way that is generous and kind.
- Eclectic. We could write about anything. So be prepared for that. Chasing our interests is the only thing that keeps us interesting, and being interesting is the one rule we have. Other sites may have a “niche,” and Google loves ’em for it. Our niche is the world and where our reflections take us in it. And we kind of like it that way (and hope you will too).
- Publicly engaged. We’re after the meaning and significance of things, the substance. Which means that we are after matters of public concern. And our hope is that you’ll think more carefully, more deeply, and hopefully more Christianly about our world and your place in it after reading us.
Starting reading, and poking around, and I’m convinced that you’re too thoughtful to be America. Fess up, who are the Britons among you? :)
Americans are the last true Englishmen, according to Burke. Don’t believe all the stereotypes.
Burke did say that, but in the late 18c. (I cant imagine what he would think of America today, or even in 1883 as opposed to 1783).
Keep up the good work, guys! But, please stop using the word ‘creedally’! It stuck in my ear the first time I heard it and we Christians seem to like using it. I’m ninety five percent certain that no such word exists in spite of it’s popularity. ‘Credos’ or ‘creedal’ are the correct words, I believe, in the contexts I see here on the ‘What we’re about’ page.
Have Orthodox Christians gotten mad at this blog name? Or are you guys part of the Orthodox tradition yourselves.
They are using the term “Orthodoxy” in the theological sense, not as the name of a church. The literal meaning is “correct doctrine/worship
I mean no disrespect or anger. But the Orthodox Church is “orthodox” in Christian regards, maintaining the Christian faith through two millennia. We are “pre-denominational.” God bless you in your life journey.
Benjamin, in some ways the Orthodox Church has held to “orthodox” theology. Unfortunately they have also added to that theology with tradition. Thus the Orthodox Church can not be called “orthodox” in the theological sense. You can check out a book I wrote for more detailed discussion. http://amzn.com/B00A6F032O
Caleb, what is the basis for claiming they have added to Christian theology? As history shows, Rome has a tendancy to add theology, Protestants a disposition to subtract biblical teachings. Well, and now we witness the Episcopalians and mainline churches adding substantial new theology with support for abortion, same-sex marriage, and so forth. God bless. journeytoorthodoxy.com
I do agree: Roman Catholics like to add stuff (since they embrace the teachings of the church fathers and all the popes’ traditions) while the Evangelicals/American Protestants tend to overly rationalize and minimize everything down to dank and mundane. It’s why I hold to the teaching of Martin Luther and am part of an orthodox Lutheran church body. We reject both the traditions and false teaching of Rome, while also rejecting evangelicalism and what the Reformed movement has done to the beauty of historic Christianity.
Hold fast to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. (2 Thess. 2:15)
Not all “tradition” is bad, Caleb, and btw which book of the Bible lists the canon– or was that determined by Apostolic Tradition? I’m a former Evangelical turned Orthodox, some 9 years ago.
You’re right, a lot of tradition is helpful and every church has their own tradition, but it’s not inspired. There is no one book of the Bible that lists all the other books of the Bible, if that’s what you mean. The canon was determined by early church fathers and I have no problem with that because the canon is not inspired either.
Caleb, the canon is not inspired? How do we know what books are inspired at all? Does the Gospel of Matthew say, “This is the inspired word of God”? Does it give us a test to perform to verify its authenticity like the false Book of Mormon? Here’s my point: we only know the inspired books by relying upon apostolic tradition (paradosis in Greek– that which has been handed down). The Church of Jerusalem had an epistle written by its first bishop, the half-brother of God, James, Iakovos. The Church of Rome had one Pauline Epistle, the Corinthians had two, as did the Church of Thessalonica. For all of these we rely upon a tradition to tell us their authors, and a tradition to tell us whether that particular book taught Christ’s Gospel or another gospel.
The Apostolic Church doesn’t just have their writings, it has their biographies, their spoken teachings, accounts of their miracles. These Churches even have their bones! To accept the authority of those works we consider to by the inspired canon is to implicitly accept the authority of the 4th Century Church which kept them, interpreted them, copied them, transmitted them– and excluded others. It would behoove us all to examine what else those Christians taught and believed, things that they also claimed to be Apostolic in origin: Liturgical worship (following the liturgical worship God had revealed to Moses), the Sign of the Cross, veneration of martyrs, etc.
One of the first people to list the New Testament canon in complete form is from the Alexandrian Church, which was founded by the Apostle (one of the Seventy, whose names the Apostolic Church has always known) Mark, at the behest of the Apostle (one of the 12) Peter: St. Athanasius the Great. This man of God not only knew which books were accepted by the Church as inspired, but he knew most of them by heart. He defended the divinity of Christ at the council of Nicea when he was only a deacon. Later he became the Bishop of Alexandria. He wrote a lot of things that he claimed were handed down by the Apostles– the Church he describes is the Orthodox Church.
Ok, sorry. I could ramble all day. I’m sorry, brother! I don’t want to win an argument– I just want you to look beyond the stereotypes that Evangelicals can have, owing to their revulsion toward Roman Catholicism and what they claim to be tradition.
These sorts of very important discussions are not, of course, our main focus around here. Please feel free to send each other an email and carry on that way. : )
All the best,
Apologies, Mr. Anderson.
Please. Don’t discourage this type of orderly, respectful discussion. Some of us out here need and want to read along and think.
This is an excellent well argued, factual, defense of the Orthodox faith. As a convert to Orthodoxy, I laughed out loud when I read: ‘I could ramble all day’. I am not alone!!!!
There is just so much to share with any willing listener. My poor listeners don’t ever receive such an eloquent and structured explanation as yours though.
The enormous body of (freely) available resources and evidence at our disposal in this day and age or stated differently, the enormous body of (readily accessible) documented Tradition (including history) at our disposal today is invaluable in this regard. Only those willing to commit the most extreme level of intellectual dishonesty remain unconvinced by when presented with evidence of the Truth.
Ergo, we don’t really know whether the books in the Bible is inspired or not.
If God did not protect the canon from error:
1) We have books in the Bible that should not be there (and they could be heretical)
2) We have books that are not in the Bible that should have been there.
Ergo, we don’t really know which book is Inspired if the canon is not inspired.
For all we know, maybe half of the Bible is inspired and the other half is not.
Do you see the problem in your statement?
i am in wonder at the thought ” we don’t know what book in bible’ are inspired or ither books outside the ( say Catholic) bible
are inspired. the church belongs to Jesus n he has given authority to apostles. period.
this is not true then there is no
authority n all is human nature.
Why be a cow ruminating on old
questions, long resolved, and instead be in flight with the grace given to the faithful?
the bible and the
living church ( tradition such as encyclicals ) are full body stuff full of received truth.
if Jesus is God, then why question old assertions that have resolved poor thinking
( which we seem to repeat presently, like the gnostic
‘ mystery’ stuff) ( whats real isn’t)
Bravo! I am also a convert.
Denomination is not “pre-denominational.”
I’d suggest to you you are not what the church was two millennia ago. The Orthodox church (denomination) has changed much over the years. And at the time of the Great Schism, the Eastern church, in general, had already changed and embraced practices and teachings that were not consistent with the early church, nor her fathers. Mysticism…why must ya’ll embrace mysticism?? The notion that, in Baptism, the person is lifted up to heaven…where do you find this in the Scripture? Baptism saves, absolutely, but it brings Christ to the penitent and covers the penitent in the righteousness OF Christ. This notion that believers don’t have to attend the Divine Service or “show up for church” because, by virtue of the priest’s work, they receive the benefits…silliness.
I think that the Confessional Lutheran church is much more consistent with the early church, and we’re far from the same. So…I’d dig into your theology a bit and ask a few questions.
Lutherans confess the Pope’s creed, not the church’s creed, and you have redefined Hades or Infernus to the point you can’t claim to confess the Apostles’ creed either. While Lutheran liturgy still recognizes that the church is lifted up to heaven in worship, not baptism, the ‘lift up your hearts’ deriving from the command to ‘come up here,’ to worship together with the church in heaven, you have decided that the church in heaven is ‘dead,’ and the ‘dead know nothing,’ so the Church in heaven and on earth cannot pray together. The Lutheran church only confesses it’s own confessions, and not much of that, much of the confessional teachings are denied, especially from the Large Catechism and the Formula of Concord are denied, or explained away. I was a practicing and studious Lutheran for about 60 years, these are the reasons I became Orthodox, the Lutheran Church is definitely not ‘confessional,’ not even the conservative Missouri Synod, and I shudder at the ELCA even calling itself christian.
Note that the blog’s name is take from a combination of C. S. Lewis’ (an Anglican) book title “Mere Christianity” and G. W. Chesterton’s (a Catholic) title “Orthodoxy”.
As Caleb notes in his comment, the term “orthodox” is commonly used in religious circles to mean orthodox, ie., correct, doctrine and doesn’t always refer to a branch of the Orthodox Churches. This has been very long the case, indeed for centuries, so the use is common, and unlikely to upset at least Orthodox clergy. While I suppose there may be examples, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Chesterton’s book title criticized for being named “Orthodoxy”.
keep up the good work, article in latest Christianity Today helped me find this most refreshing of sites, i.e. I am not alone after all.I refer to the THE NEW RADICALS article on Platt, Chan et al. What those fellows preach is exactly why I refused to be a Christian for many years….it’s all about me, what I do, what I believe, how radical I am, my stage, my band, my book….well you get it what about the Cross? What about families, i.e. read the application chapters in Colossians and Ephesians and it’s about the family, why we have so much social need in our culture? the annihilation of the family willingly aided by the U S Govt. My point: rich guys get on planes to fly to India to feed the poor and write a book about it and we feel guilty for living in a house in the suburbs. ?! Thank you, What about radical grace and radical work of the Holy Spirit for that see Jonathan Edwards and the RELIGIOUS AFFECTIONS.
I disagree. The article was a “mere” compilation of too many C S Lewis wanna-be words without the genius simplicity of his writing. Mathew Lee’s criticism of radical writings (which i believe were a much needed call to think and inspect our fruit) turned out to be based on the weak argument that Platt’s church has a large audience and a podium.
I think the church is finally getting a taste of what our sloppy lumping of ethics and theology has done. Looking at what secular theorists about sexuality its kind of a joke that the few voices we do have are pastors preaching sermons to laymen. Its no wonder the church isn’t perceived as on par.
As a painter I can the same to modern and abstract art done by those who can and cannot draw. Think anything you want to of Picasso but what is little known about that artist is that he could easily paint and draw lifelike objects. Even today I can see a Picasso-like painting and tell whether or not the artist knew how to draw real life as well. The “same” product with completely different substance is a massive difference!
In the same. The church has slacked on true theological and theoretical theory. “Homosexual lifestyle” and “don’t-have-sex-until-marriage,” or “sex-sex-sex-great-awesome-fun-married-sex,” just isn’t going to cut it in a culture systematically working in all spheres, from intellectual to laymen. The 10% of a sermon that the average Evangelical remembers is often a sub-par fraction of an already weak argument. The bones and structure of thought must be strong enough to stand as relevant when broken into the sound bites our culture will remember. We have not done so and thus suffer the consequences.
The western church could learn much from the eastern church. The western church has become so feminized that not many men attend on their own. The Orthodox church has always been a “man’s” church.
Why do you suppose that is? By what do you explain it?
I’m reading GK Chesterton’s Orthodoxy for the first time. On the one hand I can’t believe I’ve
waited so long to get to it. On the other hand, I’m glad I waited until I had
gotten to everything else first! I love this: “The real trouble with this world of ours is
not that it is an unreasonable world, nor even that it is a reasonable one. The
commonest kind of trouble is that it is nearly reasonable, but not quite. Life
is not an illogicality; yet it is a trap for logicians… It is this silent
swerving from accuracy by an inch that is the uncanny element in everything”
And it is in this “swerving” that I found Christ.
Or maybe it is more accurate to say that the Lord’s “swerving” found me… Oh the wonder of it!
Great point! You have inspired me to start reading Orthodoxy, as I’ve had it on my shelf for a long time. It sounds like a challenging book.
Not one of my favorites…just read most of his Heresies/part of Orthodoxy today. I would recommend a solid classic like JI Packer’s “Knowing God” or Hannah Whital Smith, William Gurnall, or Jeremiah Burroughs for solid classic writers…deep, but not dense and obtuse like some of Chesterton’s writing. Would get the modern updated writing of Gurnall though on “A Christian in Complete Armor” …a book that Charles Spurgeon said every Christian should have in their library after the Bible:)
Who are these authors you mentioned? Are they catholic writers? Ive read some of cs lewis’ books. He was an anglican bt he wrote like a catholic. While im opened to some protestant writers, I’m always drawn to catholic writers such as gk chesterton, hilaire belloc, christopher dawson, frank sheed, johm henry newman, and of course cs lewis who wrote like a catholic ;). I’m a catholic!
Just wanted to say I am super excited to have found this blog! It is a discourse I need and have been looking for.
[…] “About Mere Orthodoxy,” Mere Orthodoxy, https://mereorthodoxy.com/about/ (accessed September 2, […]
I lke your post about who said “The Soul has a body”.
I am not a “young” Christian, but this article is wonderful and gives me great insight into what the teens at my church struggled with in the late 90’s forward. There was definitely something amiss and looking back now, quite a few of the puzzle pieces fit into place after reading this. Many thanks.
Is it really possible that Jesus was a Buddhist?
I’m not a theologian but…
Is not the Catholic Church the original orthodox (right or true; established and approved.) church?
Then came the schism of Constantinople on the 11th Century, where the [Greek] Orthodox Church which now includes the Slavic ones as well.
I know of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church which insists [rightfully] on being true to Calvinism as opposed to the other presbyterians (USA, PCA, etc…)
I gather your name seeks to show you remain true to “original” (or basic) principles and to spread the Good Word in the public square without appropriating or usurping anyone’s Christian theology.
I happen to agree with your aims. The proof is in the pudding: Every Christian denomination which has sought to “update” its theology to accommodate the ‘modern’ times has lost parishioners and believers.
If one cannot tell the difference between going to church and going golfing, one will pick the latter on Sundays…
Where do I go wrong?
The great schism of 1054 was actually the Latin (Roman) Church Patriarchate leaving the other 4 Orthodox Patriarchates, not the Greek Church leaving the Roman church. I am newly Orthodox and I have seen the differences, such as in the Nicene Creed where the Roman church has added the filoque (…and the Son) and papal primacy/supremacy as opposed to the former ‘first among equals’ that was agreed on when they were one church with the Eastern Orthodox. The differences are not insignificant. I see that the Orthodox Church has not changed doctrines to appeal to the times, such as Vatican II sought to do and what Pope Francis is continuing. Forgive me.
Just listened to the Mere Orthodoxy:Politics. A good exchange forum but I think it would help listeners to engage if they knew what topics were to be covered and help if the format was rather more directed, perhaps an interview or panel discussion rather than coming over (to me) as a randomly progressing conversation. If there were a framework of trajectory then contributors could be better prepared to make useful contributions and to know when in the conversation it was best to introduce any particular points. You could even, and more easily, then have a summary at the end.
A few months ago I was sitting in church listening to a sermon based on II Tim. about the need for a church to be careful not to go astray. The elder giving the message mentioned several ways that a church could go astray, and then said that *this* church doesn’t need to worry about that. He went on to explain that the reason our church isn’t susceptible to this problem is because the doctrines of this congregation are all “orthodox”. They are orthodox because the elders approve of them, and they approve because men they trust wrote or spoke about them… and they agreed with them.
All *your* church congregations are susceptible, but mine isn’t! HA!
I have, for many years, been painfully aware of how culture continually affects the epistemologies, mores, and customs of Christians. Renewing the mind, acknowledging God in all my ways, walking in a worthy manner… those have always been important in my life. I don’t think I am saved by my works, but what am I being saved from if I don’t leave the sinful ways and perceptions behind to be like the person He wants me to be?
In the last ten years or so, I have become mre aware of the fact that Christian denomionations and even individual congregations have very strong cultural components. That should be obvious, but I hadn’t realized how strongly they influenced and even coerced members to simply absorb, not only doctrine, but epistemological values without examination. I listened to that sermon and gained a new fear of the word “orthodox”.
I think Christians are pretty culture-bound as a rule, and that affects our perception so that we often don’t even see what things we need to examine. That’s what culture does to everyone, but Christians I’ve talked to largely think it’s “other churches” that are vulnerable. If we learn a doctrine or stance as part of our church culture, that stance becomes protected in a sense from ever being tested and reconsidered. Now I’m beginning to see that the orthodox label is being used to magnify that effect — at least among the Christians I’ve been around.
I’m not trying to say anything bad about your blog. I haven’t read those particular books, and only know a small amount about the authors. Actually, I was happy to see a blog that seems willing to dig into issues and examine them. I just found it amusing that a group that wants to do that relies heavily on orthodoxy. That word seems much more squishy to me now than it ever did before.
Object of Contempt, I think the preacher was young and naive who said those things. I am reminded of I Cor. 10:12
“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”
When we start talking like this, we are in danger of falling so the “orthodox” man you cited should be very careful. Just today I heard of another pastor who fell into sin who thought himself “orthodox” or true to sound doctrine. The devil always works in subtle ways lifting us up in pride, giving ourselves excuses for sin, allowing the injuries we endure to sour our love for God, forgetting to commune with God, and so much more. Orthodoxy should lead you to the true doctrines (teachings) of the Church and lead you in a balanced growth of faithful living, relationship with God, knowledge of God’s word and genuine fellowship with believers.
So I love orthodoxy but I recognize just how sinful we are and how much I need a savior. Orthodoxy shouldn’t puff us up but it will lead us to cry “Father help me for I am unclean!” Orthodoxy isn’t necessarily the Greek Orthodox Church or any other church with that word in their name – “orthodox”. It is having correct theology, faithful living and a clear Gospel message in all your teachings.
Dear MO: How does one go about submitting articles or book reviews to you? Or do you accept submissions of these items? Thank you. CEM
I’m a fan of Mere Fidelity but I’ve been disappointed by some of the recent episodes which may have been interesting to trained theologians but are rather esoteric to me as someone wanting to apply faith to life and culture.
Please do your homework; Luther and the Orthodox Reformers along with free willer Wesley would SLAM C.S. Lewis as a heretic.
I am a Unitarian. We think god was too good to condemn people to hell. We were invented to prevent wars in religion by the king of Rumania.
It worked for a while. The USA constitution was based on tolerance. The background was to establish peaceful co-existance.
Although raised as Christian, taught by nuns, we have to get back to the best of the bible and the fact we live on one planet. Only by working together can we find the empathy to work to the common good.
[…] We take our cues from our boys C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton, two of the most thoughtful Christians of the twentieth century. One of them wrote Mere Christianity and the other wrote Orthodoxy, and we like those books so much we stapled their names together and took it as our own. Mere Orthodoxy […]