It is no small sign of respect to have a blog named after you.  In Mere O’s case, it is a sign of respectful concern that prompted the author of Mere Devotion to so name his blog.  As he wrote recently:

I understand where Mere Orthodoxy gets its name, but the name troubles me. Orthodoxy alone is just not enough for me. Doctrine did not die on the cross for my sins. If God should find it in His good pleasure to allow me into heaven, doctrine will not be the first thing I go running to find. Ultimately, I do not believe orthodoxy is the first thing God wants to find in me either.

The royal command is to love God with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul, with all one’s mind, and with all one’s strength. The requirement is to love, not to indoctrinate or to have all the orthodox views.

In truth, I believe that if one genuinely loves God and is fully devoted to Him, the doctrine will come on its own.

As the namer of Mere O, to that I can only say “Amen and amen!”  The name “Mere Orthodoxy” was never intended to exclude the life of devotion.  Indeed, we do so to our own peril.

But that is not to suggest there is no value to orthodoxy.  As Dr. Sanders writes (though not, I believe, in the post to which The_Burning_Bush refers), Paul prays for the Colossians that God might give them “the gift of good theology.”  He frames the response well:  “Two equal and opposite dangers: untheological devotion, and undevotional theology. To avoid them, strive for a theological devotion which will by its nature simultaneously be a devotional theology.”

We started Mere O to be a place where we could engage ideas from a conservative, classically oriented Christian vantage point.  But in doing so, we wanted to engage the minds of those God lead to Mere O, the minds that house ideas.  Satan not only tempts our will:  he deceives our mind and attempts to keep us from the knowledge of God.  One of the most potent lies within the evangelical church is that the mind does not matter.  It was this lie, primarily, that we wanted to expose by showing how ideas intersect with our whole lives.  While we may have failed at this vision, it is what keeps us blogging.

Ultimately, the division (which is too strong a word) between Mere Devotion and Mere Orthodoxy is short sighted and doomed to collapse.  Orthodoxy needs devotion as much as devotion needs orthodoxy.  The doctrine may “come on its own” to some, some of the time, but as we engage in spiritual disciplines within our devotional lives and so open ourselves to the Spirit, who comes on His own, we must include our intellectual life within those spiritual disciplines.  If the mind and heart are torn asunder, then neither can survive for very long.

Mere Devotion and Mere Orthodoxy must someday meet and be friends, and when they do it will be a powerful and potent combination (so powerful, in fact, that it will need a new name).  Until then, there is room enough for both, especially as they acknowledge the necessary role of the other.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.


  1. I always assumed (my fault) that “Mere Orthodoxy” was just a sort of portmanteau title of last century’s two great Christian classics.

    On its own terms, however, I took it as a sign (intentional or not, I don’t know) of the sort of charitable and critical ecumenism exemplified by the blog.

    But even if orthodoxy is defined narrowly as “doctrines” rather than as merely (or maximally) “the faith”, Sayers reminds us that after all the dogma is the drama — and devotion?


  2. Nobody,

    Yo0u were right. It is a melding of “Orthodoxy” and “Mere Christianity.” And we definitely try to find the “mere” in the orthodoxy and to be as charitable as possible.

    When we conceived of it, though, it was primarily an ideas place, and not as much a “devotional” place. Such a distinction can’t be maintained for long, but if it is, that’s the side we err on (as I think our blogging history amply proves).

    Your point about Sayers is spot on, I think. But the same would be said about Chesterton and Lewis, neither of whom would have wanted to divorce theologizing and the spiritual life.


  3. makelovehappen May 30, 2007 at 6:40 pm

    A well-written post. You seem to accurately describe the place where he is coming from. He seems to have a lot of respect for you and your writings here -as do I.

    Matt, I fully agree with you that good doctrine is important and even, I would say, a requirement. Like every other divine requirement, I would say, it hangs on the two greatest commandments -though not the other way around.

    When it comes to the task of makinglovehappen, I see it as far better to enter heaven suffering from autism or mental incapacitation than to be a Jeopardy champion or a legendary scholar and not enter it.

    The same cannot be said in the world of spirit. One cannot truthfully say, “It is better to enter heaven with a bitter or lukewarm spirit than to not enter it.” The undevoted one simply does not enter life.

    You say, “We must include our intellectual life within those spiritual disciplines.” Certainly as a man thinks, so is the man.

    What is this intellectual life you refer to? I can only conceive of two possibilities: either it is puzzle-solving trivia knowledge or it is the possibilities one considers in choosing. It takes one sort of strength to stand on one foot and recite a proof. It takes a different strength to repent and believe.

    Although Mere Orthodoxy and Mere Devotion may someday form a potent combination (perhaps in someways they already do), I do not see how any power under heaven can combine these two very different types of intellectual life. I ask myself about the style I take up -in the spirit of self-examination- lest I serve idols while professing Christ.

    May the Lord continue to guide you in all your ways,


  4. makelovehappen said, “When it comes to the task of makinglovehappen, I see it as far better to enter heaven suffering from autism or mental incapacitation than to be a Jeopardy champion or a legendary scholar and not enter it.”

    Peter Kreeft mentioned, quoting Aquinas I believe, that a autistic or Down Syndrome person who died and entered the Kingdom of Heaven would see God more clearly than a philosopher, because “purity of heart’s the thing.”

    I agree with this. One easy mistake to make, however, is to conclude that philosophy actually makes one impure of heart. This is not the case. Rather, purity of heart is difficult (or rather, humanly impossible) to sustain, so, when they fail, intellectuals fail intellectually, leaders fail politically, fathers fail relationally.

    Let us be pure in heart, and philosophize. Let us love, and know. “Philosophia” is the love of Wisdom, after all.


  5. Mere Devotion’s sight looks fantastic, though. Very ruddy.


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.