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The following 20 quotes caught my attention as I read Trevin Wax’s superb new book The Thrill of Orthodoxy: Rediscovering the Adventure of Christian Faith (IVP, 2022). This book will fire you up for all the right reasons.
The church faces her biggest challenge not when new errors start to win but when old truths no longer wow. (1)
It’s boring to adapt the Christian faith to better fit people; what’s exciting is to adapt people to better fit the Christian faith. (8)
Doing nothing can result in movement. Unless you actively oppose the drift, you’ll end up somewhere you didn’t intend to be. (20)
Assuming orthodoxy is the path to abandoning orthodoxy. . . . As soon as you put fundamental Christian truths in the “of course!” category and then move on to something else, you make yourself vulnerable to currents that would pull you away from the truth. When we assume the gospel, it is a sign we’ve lost sight of the beauty before us. We wander when we lose our wonder. (27)
The best way to counter the drift toward heresy is with the thrill of orthodoxy. (32)
Fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith are more than just a backpack on the journey, something optional to carry along with us in case we need them. Instead, they’re more like the map that makes clear our destination, warns us away from dead-ends, and orients us to the landscape, helping us interpret our current moment and walk forward as faithful sojourners. (34–35)
The most rebellious thing we can do in a world that prioritizes nonconformity above all is to stand out from the crowd by deliberately conforming our soul, mind, and body to a truth bigger than ourselves and our desires. (37)
The greater adventure is in exploring something beyond the depths of our own heart. The greater adventure comes when we find something beyond the realm of my perspective and your experience—truths we didn’t invent or adapt to suit ourselves, but truths we discovered, to which we adapt. Discovering truth is a little like dealing with the weather. . . . You may have your preferences, but you don’t say my weather and your weather, because you’re not in control. (38)
Orthodoxy is like a blueprint for a building, a grammar for a language, a map to give us the lay of the land. The lines and boundary markers are not meant to shackle us but to free us. (44)
Short-lived will be the movement more passionate about hunting heretics than making converts. (62)
Carefulness regarding theology is an expression of love, not a distraction from it. (63)
The key phrase of the Christian is not “I create,” but “I confess.” What we believe matters. By confessing our faith, we are standing on something we know is true. In confessing our faith, we are saying not “I build a religion” but “I believe in revelation.” Not “I invent,” but “I receive.” (81)
Heresies insist on either-or, while orthodoxy freely embraces both/and. In orthodoxy, we see the coming together of seemingly contrary opposites, not in some sort of amalgamation or compromise, but simply affirming both in their fiery fullness. Our vision must be big enough to see truth from multiple angles, to see how truths connect and uphold each other. The orthodox keep their eyes wide open—to take in Christian truth in a way that honors its depth. Orthodoxy presents Christian truth in multiple dimensions. Heretics squint. (89)
Orthodoxy is more open-minded than the “freethinker” who, because of his materialism, isn’t free to acknowledge any supernatural occurrence. Orthodoxy is also more open-minded than the mystic or spiritualist who is duty-bound to believe in spirits, ghosts, or whatever miracle they say has taken place. We believe in both science and miracles. . . . Orthodoxy insists on holding together what heresy would split apart, on staying broad when the heretics go narrow. (97)
No matter how well error markets itself as broader than orthodoxy, it is always narrower. . . . From the outside, heresies always appear bigger than they are, and orthodoxy seems narrow. But from the inside, heresies are narrow slivers that multiply, and orthodoxy is the broad and overarching truth upheld by the God of the gospel. And no matter how much the would-be expanders of Christianity shrink the truth, or how fallible and frail the defenders of Christianity are in buttressing the walls, we can have confidence that orthodoxy will persist. The attempt to shrink the truth down to a more manageable size never succeeds in the end, because the church is on a mission, roaring down the hillside in battle against the gates of hell, and—led by the Spirit who guides us through the Scriptures—God’s people refuse to fall prostrate before fleeting fashions. (99, 103)
We are always tempted to challenge the constraints of orthodoxy at the pressure points where we most need those constraints. The thrill of orthodoxy means we adhere to a religion that refuses to embrace our error, no matter how sincerely we may hold it, no matter how passionate we may be, no matter how much we may think a certain accommodation would be best for the world today. (122)
The idea of exploring our faith is good when the focus remains on the faith; but too often the my in “exploring my faith” carries all the weight, and suddenly we’re back to “my truth” and “your truth.” Exploring my faith often means no longer confining myself to the boundaries of orthodoxy. Like fish saying, “The ocean is not big enough for me!” we muster up the courage to flop onto the sand. The good kind of exploring our faith calls us out into the deepest parts of the ocean; the bad kind takes us out of the water completely. . . . The spirit behind a question can either be faith seeking understanding or unbelief seeking justification. (166, 167)
The response to a world where doubt is celebrated should not be a church where doubt is condemned. (167)
Nothing robs a church of its wonder faster than the absence of new converts. (176)
When we move away from Scriptural teaching on a particular topic, it is we who are resisting the bigness and broadness of the church’s global witness. To reject a key Christian doctrine in the name of “broadness” is to confine ourselves to the narrowness of schism. Those who move away from what churches all over the globe have always and everywhere confessed do not grow bigger; they shrink into slivers and splinters. (179)
Matt Smethurst is lead pastor of River City Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia; editor at The Gospel Coalition; and author of Before You Share Your Faith: Five Ways to Be Evangelism Ready (2022), Deacons: How They Serve and Strengthen the Church (2021), Before You Open Your Bible: Nine Heart Postures for Approaching God’s Word (2019), and 1–2 Thessalonians: A 12-Week Study (2017). He and his wife, Maghan, have three children. You can follow him on Twitter.
Trevin Wax is vice president of research and resource development at the North American Mission Board and a visiting professor at Cedarville University. A former missionary to Romania, Trevin is a regular columnist at The Gospel Coalition and has contributed to The Washington Post, Religion News Service, World, and Christianity Today, which named him one of 33 millennials shaping the next generation of evangelicals. He has served as general editor of The Gospel Project and has taught courses on mission and ministry at Wheaton College. He is the author of multiple books, including The Thrill of Orthodoxy, The Multi-Directional Leader, Rethink Your Self, This Is Our Time, and Gospel Centered Teaching. He and his wife Corina have three children. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, or receive his columns via email.
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