Orthopraxy is Postmodern?

Great insight by J.K. Smith about how people pit orthodoxy vs orthopraxy, and see the former as modern and the latter as postmodern:

So this is why I think the distinction between orthodoxy and orthopraxy is a moot point. Any community of practice is going to have both. It’s not doxa or praxis that’s at issue; it’s the ortho! On my account, the Christian community can’t avoid defining the ortho because no community of practice can be without standards of excellence.

(Permit a digression: I’ve never understood why some think that orthodoxy is hopelessly “modern” whereas orthopraxy is sexy and postmodern. Have folks not read Kant’s Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, or his Critique of Practical Reason? The latter is a pretty classic “orthopraxy” it seems to me, to the point that Kant really doesn’t give a rip about the specifics of orthodox dogma, as long as you’ve got your orthopraxy in place. [Sound familiar? See any 15 popular “emergent” books of your choice.] Do we really want to suggest that Kant was a proto-postmodern? Or does this show us that those who make this doxy/praxy distinction are still locked within a modernist paradigm? Indeed, at the end of the day, isn’t it the ortho that they really resist?)


Feeding on Flesh

In John 6: 53-54 Jesus causes controversy and confusion by explaining that redemption comes through feeding on him: “So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.'”

Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising in light of Exodus 29. There we read that Aaron and his sons are “baptized” into the priesthood. When they offer sacrifices, they will be eaten: 31 “You shall take the ram of ordination and boil its flesh in a holy place. 32 And Aaron and his sons shall eat the flesh of the ram and the bread that is in the basket in the entrance of the tent of meeting. 33 They shall eat those things with which atonement was made at their ordination and consecration, but an outsider shall not eat of them, because they are holy.

The priests must eat of the flesh which ordained and consecrated them for their calling, so must the royal priesthood which the victorious Lamb redeems.

Childlike Faith

What is called for is not at all a form of infantilism, but the repetition of the eternal Son’s loving readiness to obey the “command” (mandatum) of the Father: we must persevere, together with Christ, in fleeing to the Father, in entrusting ourselves to the Father, in imploring and thanking the Father. The model for all of this is Christ at the highest point of his maturity and responsibility with regard to his mission. And the more we identify ourselves with the mission entrusted to us, in the manner of the eternal Son, the more thoroughly do we become sons and daughters of the heavenly Father: the whole sermon on the Mount testifies. In the figures of the great scenes the truth is crystal clear Christian child likeness and Christian maturity are not in tension with one another. Even at an advanced age, the Saints enjoy a marvelous youthfulness.

-Hans Urs von Balthasar, Unless You Become Like This Child

The Childhood of Jesus

In Unless You Become Like This Child, von Balthasar reflects upon meaning  and nature of the childhood  of Jesus.  He notes an evident tension that arises: How is it that the eternal Son of the Father sent for us and our salvation can learn and develop a sense of vocation as the son of Mary? He explains:

It may be difficult for us to bring both things into harmony: on the one hand, the presence, from the beginning, of the full mission in the small Child, who can envision it in its totality in a genuine, even if childlike, manner; on the other hand, the human process of maturing ever deeper understanding of this totality, until the total mission is obtained,within the adult human consciousness, the plenitude that will allow its autonomous responsible execution. Actually, it is at this final point the real difficulty begins. How can this assumption of full, personal responsibility for what one does and decides to do be reconcilable with the abiding childlike attitude toward the Father that makes Jesus say in John’s Gospel: “The Son can do nothing on his own initiative; he does only what he sees the Father doing (Jn 5:19)? “He who sent me present with me, and has not left me alone: for I always do what is pleasing to him.” (8:29) “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me… for I do not speak on my own authority.” (12:44,49). And yet: “My testimony is valid, even though I do bear witness about myself; because I know where I come from, and where I am going.” (8:14)… The Son, then, as child, has his room for play, and as the wisdom of God he can “play in his presence continually, play throughout the wide earth” (Prov 8:30f.). But it is the Father’s good pleasure that wholly fills this room for play, so that the Son always does what pleases the Father and  “exactly fulfills his command.”