Monday, January 09, 2023

The Progressive Idea Re. Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy Is Philosophically Naive


                                                           (Foggy train, in Monroe)

Many progressive Christians complain that evangelicals spend more time being concerned with having right beliefs to the neglect of right actions. Supposedly following from this complaint, some progressives then diminish the importance of orthodoxy to the importance of orthopraxy.

Philosophically, I find this irrational. 

I think every moral action is undergirded (perhaps preceded) by a moral belief, whether that belief be explicit or tacit. This relates to something in philosophy called Action Theory. The agent's desires and beliefs (e.g. my wanting a glass of water and believing that the clear liquid in the cup in front of me is water) lead to bodily behavior (e.g. reaching across for the glass). In the simple theory (see Donald Davidson), the desire and belief jointly cause the action. (See the Wikipedia article on Action Theory. See also Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.)

While it is true that some do not act in line with their moral beliefs, this does not mean those moral beliefs are less important than actions. Such false reasoning looks like this.

1. John believes moral belief A is true.

2. John fails to act in accordance with moral belief A.

3. Therefore, moral belief A is of less importance than acting in accord with moral belief A.

The conclusion does not follow.

Further, how weird for John to act morally (e.g., feed the hungry) while having no undergirding explicit or tacit moral belief, such as It is good to feed the hungry. Hence, not only the importance of having right beliefs, but the essentiality of having right beliefs in relation to doing right actions.