Unsung Virtues 2 – The dangers of orthodoxy.

The Da Vinci CodeFiction and Truth in the the Da Vinci Code by Michael GreenOK so I read a bestseller, does that make me a sellout? I thoroughly enjoyed the Da Vinci Code for its sheer balshy sideswipes against religion, and for its pace and intrigue.

But I went one further – I read Dr. Michael Greens evangelical response, “The Books the Church suppressed : Fiction and Truth in the the Da Vinci Code.”

The first third I was somewhat annoyed at his criticism of a great page turner, the second third I sat back and acknowledged that Green was a far better scholar that Brown, and then just when I was about to award him the prize for believability, Green went and put his foot in it. I’m now going to let both these men stew in their own juices.

So Dan Brown is a hypocrite, big deal. He doesn’t want to be accountable to history. Let it be known you can put it off, but history WILL judge you, your own words will be played back to you, one day. Dan Brown is a rich man, and he has chosen to have his reward now rather than later, enough about him.

So why was I affronted by The Books the Church Suppressed? Essentially for its cold, hard, unbending orthodox position. I want to respond now, and what follows is a summary of my newly defined heterodox positioning.

What I am more concerned with is the hypocrisy of “defining” truth. Attempt to define truth and it’s not long before you are in error yourself.

The word orthodoxy, from the Greek ortho (‘right’, ‘correct’) and doxa (‘thought’, ‘teaching’), is typically used to refer to the correct theological or doctrinal observance of religion, as determined by some overseeing body.

Let’s start off by seeing some strengths of this approach.

– Historical correlation. It is important align ones beliefs with history, inner truth and experience need to have a fair degree of correlation.
– A place for tradition. Tradition is not all bad, there are fine, mellowed traditions and smelly, stinky ones.
– Learning from history. Presumably those creating orthodox positions have reflected a good deal on the past, in their construction of their position.
– The “Jesus event” was special and needs to be given a sacred space; orthodoxy helps to create this. OK you might not feel strongly about the short life of a carpenter at the start of the Common Era, suffice to say, the life of Jesus warrants a lot of attention
– Orthodoxy is valid and can be helpful, if it remains subject to life.

And that is where we need to start becoming a little critical.

– Orthodoxy does not honor nor create a framework for imagination and creativity. These qualities are about becoming, unfolding, and the ongoing act of creation. Orthodoxy, focusing on the past, says “It is finished. Think no further.” A more creative, future oriented approach says “It is not finished and we co-labor with G-d to complete it.”
– Orthodoxy  can easily be infected by ideology, and various unexamined elements like the urban suspicion of the rural (in its condemnation of Paganism) or the fear of the feminine (in its condemnation of the feminine divine). It can be easily confused with a cultural consensus, including the current 21st century one and that of the 1-2 Century. No culture is absolute but Orthodoxy attempts to make it such.

– Orthodoxy is an attempt to define a finite framework for truth which is obviously infinite… An inappropriate wineskin, to use the New Testament metaphor.

– Orthodoxy can address history and attempt to evaluate the Jesus event, but can say nothing about metaphysics and spiritual life. It can address the Logos (reason, written truth), but not Eros (truth as sensual, intimate and creative) or Rhema (spoken oral truth). It is a science and a tool, and needs to operate like any other tool at the service of revealed truth.

– Orthodoxy must be subject to life, not visa versa.

And so in conclusion, I would like to evaluate the effect of Orthodoxy such as that of Michael Green’s, on the Unsung Virtues.

Curiosity / Awe – Orthodoxy undermines awe, or at least prescribes what should be considered awesome.

Imagination – Orthodoxy is against that which is imaginative, often branding it heresy.

Generosity – Orthodoxy closes down and shuts out, is anti-generous.
Humor – Orthodoxy tends to honor sincerity over humor.
Paradox – Orthodoxy stands baldly against this.
Subversion – Orthodoxy silences subversive voices and disposes of subversives.

Sustainability – Orthodoxy may add to this by helping us understand what has been sustainable in the past. However to the degree that Orthodoxy has been infected by the industrial status quo which believes in fallacies of endless economic growth, it will militate against this.
Curiosity – Orthodoxy will stifle this.
Play – Orthodoxy gives a framework, but not enough freedom to sustain this virtue.

Score? Heterodoxy 8, Orthodoxy 1.
Fweep. Penalty to Orthodoxy; Heterodoxy is being ungenerous and somewhat dogmatic, subtract one point for hypocrisy.
Final Adjusted Score Heterodoxy 7, Orthodoxy 2.


  1. liquidlight said

    you make numerous compelling points here Nic – and i like it that Heredox Utd scored 7, to Ortodox Hotspurs’ 2.

    for the sake of this comment, i’d like to coin a term – “eso-orthodox” – to honour those within orthodoxy who experience, expressed & at times defended it’s heart. are we not in a sense trying to wrestle orthodoxy back from the orthodox, or at least those who believe it needs to be unbending, macho/counter-feminine, heirarchical, the last word, intolerant, literal-materialist etc.

    if right teaching/orthodoxy, as taught by Christ, was more akin to what our hearts & souls intuit the Mystery to be, then can we not say, “hey, from my perspective, I’m orthodox and your rejection of paradox, imagination, the Divine Feminine, uncertainty etc looks heretical to me!” – let us do this gently, firmly & peacefully.

    then let them work it out.

    to me, orthodox theology looks a lot like newtonian physics, before Einstein, Max Planck and various other heretics turned the status quo in it’s head with the mystery of quantum wierdness. i mean, how can we embrace uncertainty on the physical level and yet banish it on the metaphysical?

    may G-d present us with uncertainty & mystery, into Eternity.

    to me, hell = groundhog day, where everything is described, explained, predictable, repeatable in the lab, white coated, empirical sans soul!

  2. naturalhigh said

    Well, in all fairness, Brown did not purport to produce a scholarly book, nor does he neccessarily exemplify the best of heterodoxy. Nevertheless, I enjoyed your reasoned analysis, especially this statement: “Orthodoxy can easily be infected by ideology”. Very much my core objection to Orthodoxy.

    And liguidlight-

    “hell = groundhog day, where everything is described, explained, predictable, repeatable in the lab, white coated, empirical sans soul!”

    That’s brilliant!

    Great read overall. Thanks

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: