Orthodoxy is having the right beliefs.
Orthopraxy is the right practice.
Which is more important? Which leads to the other? Does rightness come from the belief or the action? We might has well be asking which came first, the chicken or the egg. Theologians have been arguing about this for centuries.
It comes down to this – do you believe the right thing? If so, then you will carry it out in the right way. Or…
If you carry out the practice in the right way, then it will impact your beliefs mostly because as a human you are drawn to have your actions and your beliefs in alignment and to be congruent.
But which is more important?
The challenge for this question is that either can end up being a type of idol. In orthodoxy, we can end up making demands on people to comply with our version of orthodoxy and anyone who doesn’t fit in is damned. You end up with purity tests that people need to pass. You end up with the sins of certainty, pride, and being right. Relationship is considered secondary.
In orthopraxy, we can end up with a relativistic belief system that swings and sways in each moment, grounded in feelings that can leave us rudderless, and potentially left believing nothing and everything. You end up with an idol of works – who cares more than others?
So which is more important? Neither and both. I would argue that each informs the other. You can’t have just orthodoxy – or maybe I should rephrase that – you shouldn’t have just orthodoxy. When you only have orthodoxy, there is no movement to actually carry out what you claim to believe because it is secondary and not as important as what you believe. We see this lived out in religious circles and in politics.
At the same time, you shouldn’t just have orthopraxy. When you have only orthopraxy, the question because why are you doing what you are doing? What is the cause of the movement and action? What is the intent?
Instead, it is healthy to have both. One informs the other and the other informs the one. Our beliefs should inform our actions and our actions should impact our beliefs based on what we are experiencing. It is the marriage of theory/ideals with practice/reality.
As with most things in life, it is usually not a good idea to choose one option at the expense of the other. Typically there is a middle ground that taps into the best of both worlds. And it is in this middle place that I think orthodoxy and orthopraxy meet, impact each other, and allow us to better carry out our callings.