Jul 11

Orthocogy may be defined as right/correct thinking.  It is a word coined by me to complement the words orthodoxy (right/correct creeds/beliefs) and orthopraxy (right/correct practice/behavior). The word “orthocogy” is most needed in the English language, as no other word fits the entity of thinking correctly. Besides, having an orthodox belief system does not guarantee that one thinks well.

I first realized the need for this word while reading the parable of the sower in Mark 4. After Jesus gave the parable, he later asked his disciples what they thought it meant. Let’s quote directly from Scripture…

Mark 4:10-13 (ESV) And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that
“‘they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.’”
And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?

It is easy for us to assume that we would have offered the correct interpretation to Jesus, yet the interpretation of Jesus would NOT have perfectly matched what a Reformed, Arminian, Anabaptist, Catholic, or heretic would have offered as the best interpretation of this Scripture. Jesus commented that orthocogy (right thinking) is necessary to understand not only this parable but all of his parables.

There does not seem to be much difference between orthocogy and wisdom, which in the Old Testament is the Hebrew word hokmah (chokhmah, חכמה) or Greek sophia (σοφία) in the New Testament. There are times when the Wisdom literature of the Old and New Testament seems contrary to sound doctrine, such as Job, Proverbs, the Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), or the book of James. People have wondered about whether or not the book of Esther should be in the canon of Scripture, as the book does not even mention God. Yet, I think there is a reason for its existence in the canon. As my dear friend Bob Case brought out in his commentary on Esther (reviewed previously by me), the book of Esther offers great wisdom in how to deal as a Christian in the world of politics. It’s a lesson easily missed.

I have oftentimes wondered as to why superb theologians make some of the stupidest errors in thinking. I recall how the Southern Presbyterian theologians Thornwell and Dabney both wrote passionate defenses for slavery. I recall how one of my heroes of the 20th century, JG Machen, was an ardent fan of one of our worse presidents ever, Woodrow Wilson. Think of those theologians who came out with vitriolic statements against Donald Trump, in spite of him making more Christian-like decisions than ANY other president who preceded him! Or, contemplate how so many “first-rate” theologians are woke, adhere to critical race theory, or have given in to the higher-critical thinking of biblical interpretation.

Orthocogy is very much like orthodoxy or orthopraxy; we all like to assume that we have it. Even though our behavior may change with time and our belief systems mature over time, it is quite clear that we all assume that we are the best examples of the three orthos. Dale Carnegie, in his hit book How to Win Friends and Influence People spends the first chapter of his book developing the notion of how even hardened criminals are convinced that they were right thinking and right acting in their crimes. He is correct. Orthocogy is not a trait that we boast about possessing, and if we do, we probably do not have it.

The wisdom literature gives you instruction as to how to obtain orthocogy.

Proverbs 2:6-7 (ESV) For the LORD gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
he is a shield to those who walk in integrity…

Proverbs 3:5-7 (ESV) Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.

Proverbs 9:10 (ESV) The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

Though Proverbs 1-9 is a focused treatise on wisdom, other Scriptures (especially the book of James) offer insights on how to gain wisdom (orthocogy). It is true that orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and orthocogy are inseparable features. One must behave well in order to think well. One must hold wisdom with the highest value and seek after it, seeking for wisdom and knowledge. To this end, one can not approach Scripture in a haphazard fashion and expect to be imparted with the grace of wisdom. Wisdom entails standing on the shoulders of other bright scholars, striving diligently for truth and correct understanding of things, ordering one’s life in accordance with the Scriptures, and being humble in one’s assessment of themselves.

Hopefully, the word “orthocogy” will become an established word in English literature. It is needed as a completion of the ortho triad and establishes a framework for thinking through the writings of any person. Are they living a proper life? Is their diligence in Scriptural accuracy right on? Do they think well in the matter of life issues? If any of those three questions is suspect, then the rest of a person’s teachings also become suspect. The three go together, and the exclusion of any one of three gives one an incomplete assessment of a person and their teaching.

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