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Western Orthopraxy - Judaism, Christianity, Bibliography

action orthodoxy belief connection

Orthopraxy or orthopraxis (from Greek orthos, "correct," and praxis, "action") denotes proper action, particularly in a religious context. It is contrasted with orthodoxy (orthos and doxa, "opinion"), which denotes proper belief. The word orthopraxy is of relatively recent invention and has been used above all in connection with Latin American "liberation theology." It does not otherwise have a significant history of its own in the West. Because of its pairing with orthodoxy, however, it is useful for a discussion of the conflict between action and belief, works and faith, obedience to law, and commitment to creed.

There has been some limited use of the term orthopraxy in connection with Islam. Malise Ruthven, for example, in his Islam: A Very Short Introduction (1997), speaks of Muslim fundamentalists (a term he disapproves of), commenting that for Muslims opposed to modern secularism, the emphasis is on action rather than belief. "Throughout history," he writes, "Islamic rectitude has tended to be defined in relation to practice rather than doctrine. Muslims who dissented from the majority on issues of leadership or theology were usually tolerated provided their social behaviour conformed to generally accepted standards. It is in enforcing behavioural conformity (ortho praxy) rather than doctrinal conformity (ortho doxy) that Muslim radicals or activists look to a 'restoration' of Islamic law backed by the power of the state."

But in the West, the dominant debates on orthopraxy and orthodoxy (whether or not these terms are used) take place in connection with Judaism and Christianity. This article will examine the conflict in those two religions.

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