Thursday, July 14, 2011

In Defense of Orthopraxy in Times of Doubt

[from Greek orthos correct + doxa opinion, idea, doctrine]
correctness of [religious] belief

[from Greek orthos correct + praxis deed, action]
correctness of [religious] action or practice.

I think it is only human to sometimes have questions, or doubts, particularly in an area so delicate and personal as faith. For many of us, our faith directs our worldview, and if a piece of it comes into question then  it may feel as though a house of cards is falling (or about to fall).

What then are we to do, when we feel uncertain about something? My conclusion is that we should study, certainly, and try to sort things out. But in the meantime, we should go on living according to the things that we have believed--or have been taught--to be correct.

I can hear the arguments: "But isn't it living a lie, to do it if you're not sure?" In short, no, I don't think so. To do it if you were certain it was wrong, that would be a lie. But if you're not sure, then either path (to do or to not do) could be equally valid. And to do will, in my estimation, be the more productive of the two.

If any man will do His will, 
he shall know of the doctrine, 
whether it be of God, 
or whether I speak of myself.  

Scripture teaches clearly that we can find truth in the practicing of behaviors. A more modern take on this concept might be to "fake it till you feel it." I'm not advocating that anyone be dishonest with themselves about anyone else. If you feel strongly about an issue, then by all means follow your heart. But if you simply have questions, or feel unsure or confused about something, then I think the answer is to live orthopraxically until you have the feelings or understandings that will allow you to believe orthodoxically.

And if you do not ever find your mind settling into orthodoxy, I think orthopraxy is still a valid option. At the moment I find myself thinking about certain gospel topics in some relatively unorthodox ways...and yet overall I still want to be part of the active *LDS community. So I am orthopraxic; and whatever may be going on inside my head (or on my blog), I am still doing all the things I've been taught to do. Where my head may end up I don't know. But my actions will keep me right here.

*When I say "LDS Community" I am referring to the formal church organization headquartered in Salt Lake City, and not to the larger Mormon world (which includes those who are mormon in culture, heritage, or beliefs, but may not be baptized/active members of the LDS church).

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