In the study of religion, orthopraxy is correct conduct, both ethical and liturgical, as opposed to faith or grace etc. This contrasts with orthodoxy, which emphasizes correct belief, and ritualism, the use of rituals. The word is a neoclassical compound—ὀρθοπραξία (orthopraxia) meaning 'correct practice'.
While orthodoxies make use of codified beliefs, in the form of creeds, and ritualism more narrowly centers on the strict adherence to prescribed rites or rituals, orthopraxy is focused on issues of family, cultural integrity, the transmission of tradition, sacrificial offerings, concerns of purity, ethical systems, and the enforcement thereof. Typically, traditional or folk religions (paganism, animism) are more concerned with orthopraxy than orthodoxy, and some argue that equating the term "faith" with "religion" presents a Christian-biased notion of what the primary characteristic of religion is. In the case of Hinduism orthopraxy and ritualism are mixed to the point that they become a single identity.
- Etymology 1
- Eastern Christianity 2.1
- Judaism 3
- Islam 4
- Hinduism 5
- Jainism 6
- Taoism 7
- Neopaganism 8
- Polytheistic Reconstructionism 9
- See also 10
- Notes 11
- References 12
From the Greek orthos "straight" + praxis "action", first used in 1851
There are two versions of the term: "orthopraxis" and "orthopraxy". "Orthopraxy" is the older and more common term, and is parallel to "orthodoxy".
Though traditionally Christianity is seen as primarily orthodoxical (as in the Nicene Creed's "I believe in ..."), some Christian denominations and leaders today, from Roman Catholic to Evangelical Christians, have started to describe their religions as both orthodoxical and orthopraxic. The premise is "correct belief" compels "correct action," and incorrect action is caused by incorrect beliefs.
Taking this combination of "correct belief" and "correct action" a step further, Prosperity theology, found in charismatic and Pentecostal traditions, teaches correct religious belief and behavior receives material reward and physical healing, in addition to being a necessary component for accepting God's Grace. Prosperity theology is a concept known as reciprocity when discussing traditional or ethnic religions such as that in Ancient Greece, but is limited to correct behavior over any one theological idea.
The purpose of Divine law is disputed among Christian denominations. A minority are Torah-observant, sometimes called Jewish Christians, and at the other extreme are antinomistic and anarchistic views. In between, most Christians believe that some or all of the Ten Commandments are still binding or have been reinstituted in the Law of Christ. For the teachings of Jesus on the subject, see Ministry of Jesus – Teachings, Sermon on the Mount, and Counsels of perfection.
Orthopraxis would include attendance of church services which are designed to benefit the practitioner of the Eastern Orthodox faith. It refers to accepted religious practices and may include both ritual practices as well as interpersonal acts. The Orthopraxy ties into the concept of Phronema and is meant to work together toward the goal of theosis.
The Jewish religion attaches primary importance to the practice of the mitzvot, and that each act of daily life comply with the ethical and ritual teachings of the Torah. However, these gestures are intended to be motivated by the system of values and ethics of which they are a part, so that orthodoxy is not seen as simply a way of thinking according to established dogmas.
Moreover, some laws of the Torah require the acceptance of certain basic beliefs, such as the first and second Positive commandments in Maimonides' Sefer Hamitzvot, which mandate the belief in God and His indivisible unity, or the recitation of the Shema. Maimonides' codification of Jewish law even contains a section entitled Yesodei HaTorah which delineates the required beliefs of Judaism. Thus, it is not accurate to describe Judaism solely in orthopraxic terms.
The Five Pillars of Islam fundamental to Sunnis prescribe Islamic practice, while Shahadah (profession of faith) defines Islamic belief. Generally stresses Orthopraxy over Orthodoxy, but since the practice is held to come from doctrine, this is essentially orthodoxy applied to practice.
In the case of Hinduism orthopraxy and ritualism are conflated. Emphasis on ritual vs. personal salvation (moksha) was a major division in classical Hindu philosophy, epitomized by Purva Mimamsa vs. Uttara Mimamsa (Vedanta).
Ritual (puja) continues to play a central role in contemporary Hinduism, but the enormous complexity of ancient ritual (yajna) only survives in a tiny minority of Shrauta practitioners. Even Hindus who diligently practice a subset of prescribed rituals are called orthoprax, to contrast them with other Hindus who insist on the importance of correct belief or understanding. The correctness of one's interpretation of the scripture is then considered less important than following traditions. For example, Srinivasa Ramanujan was a well-known example of an orthoprax Hindu.
In terms of "proper conduct" and other ethical precepts within the Hindu framework, the core belief involves the divinity of each individual soul (jivatma). Each person harbors this "indwelling God (divinity)"; thus, conduct which unifies society and facilitates progress is emphasized. Self-centered existence is discouraged as a result of this jivatma concept. Interestingly, it's the Uttara Mimamsa philosophical school which seems to explicate this concept so eloquently. Moreover, within the context of Uttara Mimamsa the role of puja (ritual) also involves bringing the individual jivatma closer to the Paramatma (the Transcendent Divinity or God). Individuals who have attained this merging then become the spiritual guides to the community. Later developments within the Hindu religious and philosophic tradition thus try to unify these concepts of ritual, proper conduct, and personal salvation instead of leaving them in mutually conflicting terms. The movement inspired by Pandurang Shastri Athavale termed Swadhyaya seems to be one manifestation of this syncretism. However, other movements within the contemporary Hindu scene are also moving towards this union of external activity and internal development.
Jain orthopraxy is based on two factors: Jain siddhanta (teachings of the Tirthankara) and kriya (practices prevalent at the time of the Tirthankaras). According to Jains, the Tirthankaras based their teachings and philosophy after knowing the realities on this universe (like dravya and tattva). Based on these realities, they propounded true and eternal principles like ahimsa, truth, karma etc. that govern the universe. Jain rituals were codified on the basis of these principles to give effect to the teachings of the Tirthankaras.
- Shorter Oxford English Dictionary 3rd ed
- Oxford English Dictionary
- See also: John 5:1–18; 8:13–19; 10:24–33; 11:45–54; 18–19:16 (Demonstrates how correct/incorrect belief causes correct/incorrect action from a biblical perspective.)
- SilverWitch, Sylvana (1995). "A Witch in the Halls of Wisdom: Northwest Legend Fritz Muntean Discusses School, Theology, and the Craft", in Widdershins Vol. 1, Issue 3 (Lammas 1995).
Polytheistic Reconstructionism, such as Hellenismos, provides a stark contrast to popular Neopaganism, being more conservative in nature. These movements seek to revive traditional pre-Christian religions adapted to the modern world, but with an adherence to the values and ethical systems of the ancient cultures, loyalty and reverence toward specific pantheons, and by promoting traditional interpersonal obligations associated with the family, community, and society. Reconstructionist religions make full use of orthopraxy, defining their practices as a lifestyle, and identifying "correct action" as living life in accord with specific ideals and principles, rather than focusing solely on ritual or promoting a single cosmology, metaphysical idea, or theological theory as absolute truth.