What is biblical orthodoxy, and why is it important?
Nicholas Perrin: Orthodoxy means “straight thinking,” and biblical orthodoxy means “straight thinking on the basis of the Bible.” At Trinity, we define biblical orthodoxy on the basis of the EFCA’s Ten Articles of Faith. What that means is we do not go beyond the Ten Articles. We don’t start adding rules on top of them like, “we have these Ten Articles, and you have to have voted for this presidential candidate, be an environmentalist, or think a certain way about capitalism.” That’s not what we are about. We are about very foundational, Ten Articles of Faith. This is so important because church history is littered with wreckage stories of denominations, churches, and seminaries that have gone off the rails because they have given up on their commitment to orthodoxy. Once you give up on those core Articles of Faith, you begin to look a lot more like the culture, and eventually become absorbed into it. Eventually, there is a point where their message is no different than the mainstream message. In contrast, we want to be vessels of a redemptive message, and that message has to be biblically rooted. Wayne Johnson: The President mentioned our Articles of Faith, which are important. Furthermore, how those are fleshed out is critical. We must know who God is: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We must know about how God saves us: the centrality of Jesus’s death, his resurrection, his second coming, becoming part of God’s family redeemed by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. The authority of Scripture is also essential, as is the calling to know, obey, and integrate it into our lives. This is an important practical aspect of biblical orthodoxy. It does not lead us to a dry intellectualism, but it does lead us to inculcating one another, to spiritual formation, to a relationship with God through the Holy Spirit, and to become part of God’s redemptive mission in the world. It is essential that we not let these things slide away through passivity or through inattention. Trinity really emphasizes these things because they are so central to who we are and what we are called to do in the world.
Wayne, do you have any principles you would recommend to our alumni for navigating the spaces and places that are shifting on core gospel issues?
WJ: First and foremost is the question, “what kind of person are you?” Are you a person who is in relationship with God, walking in step with the Spirit, and manifesting both a loving and charitable engagement with people? Oftentimes where people go wrong, particularly in our current world, is that they take on the role of culture warrior without really caring about other people. They forget to demonstrate Christlikeness, humility, and the ability to listen and understand well. If we want to stand firm in a context that is sliding in directions it should not go, you have to follow Christ in gentleness, humility, and care of other people. No matter how much you faithfully stand up for orthodoxy and Scripture, if you don’t care about people, you are not going to be doing any favors for anyone.