Orthopraxy is the application of orthodox beliefs in the form of rituals and customs. Approved practices are all orthopraxic. I’ve been told (and I can’t unsee it now) that most Protestant groups focus on orthodox requirements often at the expense of orthopraxic requirements.

Examples of Mandated Practises commonly ignored

1. Head covering

1 Corinthians 11:5, 6: But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.
King James Version

1 Corinthians 11:6: For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head.
English Standard Version

1 Corinthians 11:10 For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.
King James Version

Two commonly ignored orthopraxic commands of the Bible involve wives. These are not followed by most evangelical denominations. In our Word of Faith denomination, as best I can remember, it is said that the text in 1 Corinthians is in reference to harlots. This is given as the reason why wives do not need to cover their head.

2. Rules on clothing and adornment

1 Peter 3:1-3: Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel.
King James Version

Mark 15:24: And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take.
King James Version

In the Word of Faith denomination, many members believe in prosperity. Yet our denomination does not actually have a problem with wearing much gold (as one from the outside might imagine). A watch and a ring are common on the most wealthy. In certain groups, there is a very common tradition of what I characterize as over- or under-dressing not just for church but in all things. I’m not necessarily referring to expensive clothes either.

Why do so many Biblicaly literalist Protestants disregard this verse? I’m aware of Pentecostal Holiness groups who do not do even wear makeup because of this verse and I’m equally aware that Jesus wore a very nice set of seemingly ordinary clothes and that he now wears a large gold band.

3. Changing practises over time

Romans 12:2: And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
King James Version

1 Corinthians 13:4: Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.
King James Version

In general, why do Protestant evangelical Bible literalist Christians allow things like venue and peer pressure to override orthopraxic practices as described by the Bible? In this case I’m referring to the command on love from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 which is the orthodox passage that describes orthopraxic commands.

There’s an idea, it seems to me, that when I start being paid I should stop making an effort to always follow my beliefs. I do understand that certain actions, such as witnessing, might be deemed to be stealing from your employer’s time, but I see no real reason to explain a lack of compassion. (And even for witnessing, breaks are common.)


  1. Why do so many literalist Protestants disregard the rulings on clothing and adornment in 1 Peter?
  2. Why is the command to be loving not followed in business contexts? How can venue, circumstance, and peer pressure override a Biblical commandment?

I am well aware of the explanation that the Bible is out of date or out of touch and written for another culture. However, I’m looking for an answer from a literalist perspective which accepts that the Bible is accurate for today as well as yesterday. I’m also already aware of the idea that Christians don’t have to do anything as they’re already going to heaven.

  • lol... "I’m equally aware that Jesus . . . now wears a large gold band."
    – Jas 3.1
    Jun 24, 2013 at 23:46
  • 2
    I think you're asking some interesting questions here, but this is really too much to cover in one Q&A for this site. Please post each question separately so we can get you some useful, direct answers.
    – Jas 3.1
    Jun 24, 2013 at 23:48
  • 1
    @Jas3.1 i tried posting it separately and people thought I was attacking them: not always practicing Christians
    – user4060
    Jun 25, 2013 at 0:19
  • 4
    Your other question asks if Protestants have a Biblical basis for sinning and not loving people... I can see why that might come off as an attack. Try posting a question about the Protestant interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11, for example, or a question about the Protestant perspective on which verses are normative.
    – Jas 3.1
    Jun 25, 2013 at 0:24
  • 1
    @Jas3.1 if this question is closed again i will split it up
    – user4060
    Jun 25, 2013 at 0:27

3 Answers 3


The biblical phenomenon which you are referring to is Pharisaicalism. If you are asking for example why someone could be a stickler against someone else's sexual vice, but be ruthless in business, Jesus addressed this in Matthew 23:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence."

It is condemned. It has been condemned in a lot of historical Christian writings, (Luther's Explanation to 7th Commandment in Large Catechism, Bunyan's "Mr. Badman"), although it has become more controversial recently with prosperity gospels.

Part of your difficulty may be in confusing actual "Protestant biblical literalism," undeniably a good thing, with the actions of people who claim that label. In all seriousness, when someone sees a bunch of biblical hypocrisy, that person may be right to start another reformation.

  • I'm not sure I understand what you're answering here. Who's views are these? I don't see an identifiable perspective here. Is there a theologian you could quote who shares these views?
    – wax eagle
    Jun 25, 2013 at 0:46
  • Fair enough. Do you want citations of those who decry paternalism in discussion of business ethics?
    – pterandon
    Jun 25, 2013 at 10:19

Short Answer

Hebrews 11:6 says this:

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

It does not say this

..must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who do the right things.

Likewise, John 14: 15 says this:

15 “If you love me, keep my commands.


If you keep my commands, I will love you.

1. Orthodoxy over Orthopraxy is distinctively Christian

I would argue the primary distinctive (beyond the obvious claims that Jesus rose from the dead) of Christianity above and beyond just about every other religion is that Christians are more concerned about Orthodoxy (right belief) than Orthopraxy (right action).

As a simple exercise, go look at Islam.SE and Judaism.SE. There, most of the questions are about "How do I correctly do X?" Is it halal? Is it haram? These are the common fodder. And, in a works-based religion, this would be the focus.

2. Grace is central to what we believe

In contrast, Christianity has been typified by its concern for Orthodoxy from the beginning. Having realized that even "our righteousness is as filthy rags" (Isa 64) in the sight of a God whose righteousness is not even comprehendible by man (Isa 55), Christians understood early on that it was only God who could "make us stand in His presence, blameless with great joy" (Jude 24).

When Paul makes grace the central focus of the Gospel (Eph 2:8-9), when Jesus says "apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5), and when he says that you cannot enter into the Kingdom "unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees" (Matt 5:20), it leads many to suspect that God ultimately desires "mercy and not sacrifice". That "sacrifice of obedience" is a free will act of violition - not action. As such, grace truly is, as the song says, "greater than all our sins".

3. Jesus hated Pharisees

The opposite of this tack truly is, as others have said, the central issue that Jesus had with the Pharisees. They would "tithe mint and cumin" (Mat 23:23) and neglect what Jesus himself declares "the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former." Jesus hated these people. He called them hypocrites and vipers, and said of them "You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are!"

All of this is fine Sunday School fodder, but what most people forget is this - Pharisees were good people. They really did observe the law. They really did help the widow and the orphan. They really tried to be good. But they couldn't. They were fallen human creatures in need of grace.

4. Conclusion: If you want Orthopraxy, Go be a Pharisee, or a Muslim. But if you want the Good News, Be a Christian

I'll say it plain - If you care more about what a person does than what a person believes, then you should be a Muslim. They are far more observant than most Christians.

But we have a Savior who declares us good. We are not only not good at doing good, we are dead in our ability to do good. As Paul wrote in Romans 7:

Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death.

The very Good News of Scripture is this:

While we were yet sinners, God died for us.

That I (and all Christians who believe in Grace) believe is the central tenant of the Bible. God who is all powerful saves. I, as his fallen Creature cannot. If I believe this, then what can I do to make God love me more? What can I do to make him love me less? Nothing. As such, what I do is irrelevant. What He does is everything.

  • John 8:11 (KVJ): "And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more." Hmmm.
    – Chelonian
    Jun 25, 2013 at 18:31
  • As above - If you love me, keep my commandments. I'm not saying a Christian shouldn't strive to have right action - I'm saying of the two, right belief is more important Jun 25, 2013 at 18:38
  • those who do not keep do not love -1
    – user4060
    Jun 25, 2013 at 19:29
  • also the pharisees were not good people they hated Jesus because he healed people. they did not keep the law they kept their traditions.
    – user4060
    Jun 25, 2013 at 19:31
  • also faith without corresponding action is dead orthodoxy by itself is worthless
    – user4060
    Jun 25, 2013 at 19:35

1 Corinthians 11:13 and 11:16 indicate that this was an issue for the Corinthians specifically. "Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?" Most Americans would say "Huh?" While the Corinthians would say, "Well, no." 11:16 says "We have no such custom, neither the churches of God". In other words, this issue was specific to that culture.

1 Peter 1:3 is seen as an admonition to decorate the inside, and make that the top priority, not a prohibition against decorating the outside. I would say that Biblical literalists would enjoin the admonition of modesty, which culturally changes from venue to venue. 1 Corinthians 6:12 states that "all things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient." So these are seen not as specific prohibitions to be followed but as specific applications of an overall rule of modesty and prioritizing the inward person over the outward appearance.

If you take Peter straight, then your females have to be prohibited from "putting on of apparel"; they will have to go naked. :) Thankfully, 1 Timothy 2:9 clarifies this when Paul says that women "adorn themselves in modest apparel". So the rule is modesty, and the examples given were not modest in that time and culture.

Tell a woman to dress modestly, and she will know what that means in her culture. What is immodest in American culture? Dresses too high, too low-cut, too suggestive, too gaudy. Excessive jewelry, not jewelry altogether. Makeup in America is irrelevant to modesty in most cases. But she already knows this.

Conclusion: If you tell her to dress modestly, you are helping her focus on the inward person. If you tell her she can't wear this or that, or she has to wear this or that, then you fall into the same trap of focusing on the OUTWARD person when the Bible passages you cite are trying to get your women to focus on the INWARD person.

That is why Biblical literalists don't make rules governing what women can and cannot do on the outside. It would negate the inward focus of the passages in question.

  • dude your totally missing the point of verse 16 other translations say "If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice--nor do the churches of God." it doesnt say do whatever you want -1
    – user4060
    Jul 16, 2013 at 2:04
  • Check the Greek: "we such a custom have not". Not a hard and fast rule to argue over. The point is to adorn the inward man, and to apply modesty to the outward appearance and not be offensive in your appearance to the culture you are in. The focus is applying the inward spirit of modesty to the outward appearance in your cultural context. Making a set of rules for women to wear or not wear is focusing on the outward things which is contrary to the focus on adorning the inward person.
    – rguy
    Jul 16, 2013 at 2:40
  • if the Bible makes a rule about what women or men should wear or not wear we should follow it and I checked like 20 different translations and none of them have your view of the greek your just making things up
    – user4060
    Jul 16, 2013 at 3:25
  • Nestlé's Greek Text with a Literal English Translation by the Reverend Alfred Marshall D. Litt, first edition 1968 published by special arrangement with Samuel Bagster & Sons, Ltd, London. From the Zondervan Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, copyright 1975. How did you miss Nestlé's Greek text???
    – rguy
    Jul 20, 2013 at 2:43
  • The Strong's numbers for the phrase are 2249,5108,4914,2192,3756. The literal rendering is "we such a custom have not" followed by "neither the churches of God." This supports the AV reading and matches the Greek behind the AV 1611. Both Greek texts (Nestlé's and Receptus) are identical. What Greek reading doesn't say it? The plain meaning is that this was not a universal custom or rule of all the churches but rather an application of modesty specific to Corinthian culture where head coverings had cultural meanings. "do whatever you want"+"making things up" misrepresents what I wrote-why?
    – rguy
    Jul 20, 2013 at 4:18