What is neo-orthodoxy?
Question: "What is neo-orthodoxy?"
Answer: Neo-orthodoxy is a broad term, but it is mostly used in the sense of “modern contemporary theology” or “liberal theology.” Fundamentally, neo-orthodoxy differs from “orthodoxy” with its approach to the “doctrine of the word.” It is this departure from the orthodox view that has brought it under scrutiny.
The orthodox view holds that the Bible is the revealed Word of God, which was given by inspiration of God. By inspiration, both verbal and mechanical, it is meant that the Holy Spirit was in full control of the Bible writer, by either verbally dictating everything he was writing or by using the person as tool to work through. This doctrine of inspiration has the logic conclusion that the original manuscripts are without error or contradiction. Two Scriptures that are quoted in support of this view are 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 2 Peter 1:20-21.
Neo-orthodoxy denies this orthodox approach of inerrancy and inspiration, saying that inspiration was not given verbally or mechanically, but that the author interpreted the events or word of God, thus writing his own interpretation. This denies what God has revealed to us in the above passages, among others. Scripture in its original manuscripts is the very words of God in the words of men.
But neo-orthodoxy drifts even further away from the orthodox view by denying other elements of the doctrine of the word, which is alarming and worth looking at.
In orthodox circles the Bible is regarded to be the complete and sufficient revelation of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17, Jude 1:3). Neo-orthodoxy believes the Bible is a medium of revelation (while orthodoxy believes it is revelation). To the believers in neo-orthodoxy, revelation is therefore dependent on the experience (or personal interpretation) of each individual, making truth a mystical experience, rather than a concrete fact. Neo-orthodoxy would make a distinction between the “word of God” and the “revealed word of God,” calling the word of God (Bible) the “letter” and the revealed word of God the “Spirit-word.”
Neo-orthodox “truth” is therefore defined as that which is relevant to my experience, compared to the orthodox approach which states that truth is concretely stated in the word of God. Truth, therefore, becomes relative and not a concrete fact by which true Christianity can be measured. Neo-orthodoxy further teaches that Scripture is not the only form of revelation, but that revelation can be directly obtained from God, for God is still speaking / revealing at present. This explains the phenomenon known as the “prophetic ministry” which has become the norm in liberal churches.
If the church has come to a point where it believes that truth is relative to the interpretation of each individual or minister and that God is still declaring new revelation, then it is sure to lose the truth.
There is an interesting verse in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 2:25) that is particularly relevant. As Gnosticism was advancing in the early church and spreading throughout the church in Asia, God gave John instruction to write to these churches and tell them of the things that will take place shortly and warn them of God’s judgment that is coming unless they repent. He writes to one of the churches in chapter 2, “Hold fast what you have until I come.” You see the church had the truth, but it was in danger of losing it because of Gnosticism. We have the truth; it is revealed in the word of God. Let’s not lose it through new revelations and mysticism—the very foundations of neo-orthodoxy.
Recommended Resource: The Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns.
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What is neo-orthodoxy?