Screaming Jesus wrote:Joesax, you think it is possible to identify an "orthodox" mainstream of Christianity, and have that be an objective observation rather than a statement of faith (or just a simplifying convenience). I disagree...
All right, the first two councils would give us the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, whose beliefs would be accepted by well over 90 percent of claimed Christians...
But the smaller or newer religions have a different sense of where the "mainstream" lies. Who's to say which is right? A believer could, but an outsider?
I think that smaller or newer religions/Christian demoninations are quite clear that they are not part of the mainstream, indeed perhaps that's one of their selling points. Why start a new branch if it's exactly the same as something that went before?
You seem to deny the utility of historically contextual biblical and theological scholarship. That seems a pity to me, since thinking Christians with scholarly integrity seem for the most part to me to be more tolerant and open-minded than, say, a Christian who only believes (swallows whole, without contemplation) what his leaders have told him/her.
But you are still holding onto the idea that I believe that 'orthodoxy' is something good and that unorthodoxy is bad. I say this clearly; I do not believe this and have not said that I do.
Insofar as some new, small religious movements may not have developed theologies and may not give much importance to contextual biblical study, then there may be a slight correlation between 'orthodoxy' and what I would deem better religious practice; that is thinking, conscientious study and practice.
But there are many great aspects of religious movements of all sizes and I repeat that if they help people live their lives in a useful way then what could possibly be wrong with that?
P.S. Regarding a useful (as opposed to completely objective, which as you have said would be very difficult) formal definition of Christian orthodoxy I would have to reread and read anew what others have written on that but yes, the first two councils would seem a good place to start.