Which comes first, orthodoxy or orthopraxy?

I bring this up because I’ve been reading a book that insists that orthopraxy (right actions) are more important than – and will eventually lead to – orthodoxy (right belief). The author posits that this is the predominant attitude among many religions, with the Jewish community serving as the example she cites the most. Basically, fake it til ya make it.

On the other hand, a good portion of the Christian population, especially Protestants, would argue that right belief is more important, and that orthodoxy will eventually lead to orthopraxy. Believe first, and the good works will follow as fruit of your belief.

In the Catholic community outside of CAF, I’ve heard Catholics argue both sides. Just wondering what the Catholics at CAF thought. As of right now, I’m personally undecided on the issue.

I think right actions matter more. Right belief is nice, but actions are what count. Someone can always change their mind, but actions once done cannot be undone.

Orthopraxy came first. It was first in both chronological order as well as priority. Only with the late advent of ‘dogma’ did the innovation of orthodoxy as the priority come about!

And this, to me at least, is a paradox within Judaism. On the one hand, as you point out, orthopraxy is more important than orthodoxy according to Judaism. But on the other hand, Judaism also holds that insincere action is the lowest form of charity, although better than no action, as for example in the case of helping the poor; and are also, at times, unacceptable in the eyes of G-d since there is no faith attached to them, as in fasting on Yom Kippur simply out of habit but without offering prayer and repentance.

It sounds silly, but it did sell a book. Scripture, and an increasing body of medical evidence seems to suggest that the human heart is in greater control of things that were thought to exist only in the cognitive realm. So, right belief (the heart) rightly precedes right action (body). However, the results of actions can also teach or change the heart. Orthopraxy allows for right actions based on both right or wrong belief. There is a dissonance there, is there not?

Then again, the Church believes in Lex orandi, lex credendi (loosely, as we pray, so we believe). From the Wiki:

The principle is considered very important in Catholic theology. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "The Church’s faith precedes the faith of the believer who is invited to adhere to it. When the Church celebrates the sacraments, she confesses the faith received from the apostles - whence the ancient saying: lex orandi, lex credendi (or: legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi, according to Prosper of Aquitaine). The law of prayer is the law of faith: the Church believes as she prays. Liturgy is a constitutive element of the holy and living Tradition.

Interesting concept. But, at some prior point, it almost becomes chicken and egg. In the case of a revealed religion, correctness is first received and then put into practice. In a fabricated religion, it can go wither way.

Right action, right deeds, right words, are more important than right “beliefs”.

“Belief” are constructs of a deeper Truth that many times are difficult to vocalize or put down on paper…right actions, words, deeds are the means where we “incarnate” our internal spiritual life in this world…beliefs don’t necessarily reflect Truth…actions, words and deeds can and do reflect Truth or falseood.

Have a good fast. If your fasting.

I am, Celtic Maiden, and thank you.

Hmmm this reminds me of the chicken and the egg. :wink:

Catholics would say both are equally important, and you can’t have one without the other. I mean obviously you can’t act rightly unless you know what it is your supposed to do. But then the more you act rightly, the more natural the beliefs become, and the easier it is to believe. Personally, I like the way the CCC puts it:

There is an organic connection between our spiritual lives and the dogmas. Dogmas are lights along the path of faith; they illuminate it and make it secure. Conversely, if our life is upright, our intellect and heart will be open to welcome the light shed by the dogmas of faith. (CCC 89)

Both inform and fuel each other, both are necessary.

Isn’t this just the old ‘faith vs. works’ debate, but with Greek works instead of English?

I guess you could look at it that way. But that wasn’t meant to be the spirit in which I asked the question. I mean, it wasn’t meant to be a thread that pitted Protestant against Catholic again. I was trying to tackle it from a broader point of view.

Can you perform a deliberate right action without a right belief?

Is not the action driven by thought first?

My natural inclination is to agree with you. But then how do we explain both C.S. Lewis (Protestant) to Mother Angelica (Catholic) advising people to fake it til they make it? I’ve heard it from both. And they made good arguments, from what I recall. Also, the CCC does mention we believe as we pray, which would seemingly put orthopraxy first. This is why I’m on the fence, myself, and thought it would make an interesting topic for discussion.

Best I can come up, from the answers given thus far, is that they both must exist in balance, and maybe we don’t get one and then the other. Instead, maybe we have both from the beginning, and one just gets “activated” so to speak before the other, depending on the individual. After all, God makes us all unique…

I’m not sure you’re pitting Protestant against Catholic, the only Protestant to give an opinion went for works, while Catholics seem divided. :wink:

As for me, I’d say the two go hand-in-hand, you can’t have one without the other. Certainly you can go through the motions of either one, but you won’t truly have either.

I agree, recognizing that neither is possible without grace.
So, grace always comes first.



It is this grace that brings any and all goodness we do. Our Creator being the one responsible for any and all good. Never on our own, alone.

Then what do you think makes you fake it 'till you make it?


Where does motive come from then?

Belief. Regardless of whether the motive is right or wrong, we are motivated because of what we believe - I believe I am hungry, therefore I must eat. Would be a simple example.

The fact that I am striving to do something means that there is something driving me.

But yes, it is a very interesting subject and I believe that they are both incredibly tied together.

How about something in the middle of orthopraxy and orthodoxy?


Even if I don’t fully believe something but I want to strive for it in the event I am wrong about my unbelief. My actions then preceed that which I don’t fully understand enough to have full orthodoxy. Then my orthopraxy helps it?

I think we can hope with full belief and without full belief.

But like Jon said - that seed of grace precedes any actions we may take. And that seed plants belief first.

Good post! Hopefully we don’t get into a works/faith argument and can keep it for what it is: a mystery of faith :wink:

Well said. All of it. :slight_smile:

Very well said, Jose.

Both equally. Cop out I know.

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