The word orthodox, from the Greek ortho ('right', 'correct') and doxa ('thought', 'teaching', 'glorification'), is typically used to refer to the correct worship or the correct theological and doctrinal observance of religion, or other forms of intellectual activity shared by organizations or movements, as determined by some overseeing body. The term did not conventionally exist with any degree of formality (in the sense in which it is now used) prior to the advent of Christianity in the Greek-speaking world, though the word does occasionally show up in ancient literature in other, somewhat similar contexts. Orthodoxy is opposed to heterodoxy ('other teaching'), heresy and schism. People who deviate from orthodoxy by professing a doctrine considered to be false are most often called heretics, while those who deviate from orthodoxy by removing themselves from the perceived body of believers, i.e. from full communion, are called schismatics. Sometimes these occur together. The distinction in terminology pertains to the subject matter; if one is addressing corporate unity, the emphasis may be on schism; if one is addressing doctrinal coherence, the emphasis may be on heresy.
Derived from late classical and medieval Christian apologetics for orthodoxy, more specificity is often applied when defending a claim to orthodoxy or refuting heresy. Apostasy, for example is a violation of orthodoxy that takes the form of abandonment of the faith, be it for some form of atheism or for some other faith, a concept largely unknown before the adoption of Christianity as the official religion of Rome. The first well-known apostate is probably Julian, the last pagan emperor of Rome. A lighter deviation from orthodoxy than heresy is commonly called error, in the sense of not being grave enough to cause total estrangement while yet seriously affecting communion. Sometimes error is also used to cover both full heresies and minor errors.
Religions embraces conceptualization of the divine and practice of worship, and how adherents of all faiths represent to others how they perceive these things, both from within and from without. In each there is a degree of openness, and an extent to which these elements are non-negotiable, in all religions. Tribal religions may involve cannibalising non-believers, or may be very open to theological discussion; while monotheistic religions adapt themselves to diverse cultures in manifold ways while yet not relinquishing certain precepts. Issues of tolerance and syncretism are distinct; a religion may tolerate another, neither oppressing nor adapting to it; a religion may permit itself to be absorbed into another; a religion may be outwardly intolerant while yet absorbing some teachings from another religion. A religion may be more tolerant of others at a given point in time than at another. These forms of cultural interplay impinge upon the extent to which a religion may or may not appear to maintain a consistent stance concerning its theology and practice.
The concept of orthodoxy is the most prevalent and even inherently pervasive in nearly all forms of organized monotheism, but orthodoxic belief is not usually overly emphasized in polytheistic or animist religions. Certainly, orthodoxy still exists and actively governs belief within these traditions, but in a much more flexible and limited way. Often there is little to no concept of dogma, and varied interpretation of doctrine and theology is tolerated and sometimes even encouraged within certain contexts. Syncretism, for example, plays a much wider role in non-monotheistic (and particularly, non-scriptual) religion. The prevailing governing idea within polytheism is most often orthopraxy ("right cultic practice") rather than "right belief".
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