Orthodoxy (from Greek ορθοδοξία, orthodoxía – "right opinion") is adherence to correct or accepted creeds, especially in religion. In the Christian sense the term means "conforming to the Christian faith as represented in the creeds of the early Church." The first seven Ecumenical Councils were held between the years of 325 and 787 with the aim of formalizing accepted doctrines.
In some English speaking countries, Jews who adhere to all the traditions and commandments as legislated in the Talmud are often called Orthodox Jews, although the term "orthodox" historically first described Christian beliefs.
The historical Buddha was known to denounce mere attachment to scriptures or dogmatic principles, as it was mentioned in the Kalama Sutta. Moreover, the Theravada school of Buddhism follows strict adherence to the Pāli Canon (tripitaka) and the commentaries such as the Visuddhimagga. Hence, the Theravada school came to be considered the most orthodox of all Buddhist schools, as it is known to be highly conservative especially within the discipline and practice of the Vinaya.
In classical Christian usage, the term orthodox refers to the set of doctrines which were believed by the early Christians. A series of ecumenical councils were held over a period of several centuries to try to formalize these doctrines. The most significant of these early decisions was that between the Homoousian doctrine of Athanasius and Eustathius (which became Trinitarianism) and the Heteroousian doctrine of Arius and Eusebius (called Arianism). The Homoousian doctrine, which defined Jesus as both God and man with the canons of the 431 Council of Ephesus, won out in the Church and was referred to as Orthodoxy in most Christian contexts, since this was the viewpoint of previous Christian Church Fathers and was reaffirmed at these councils. (The minority nontrinitarian Christians object to this terminology).
Following the 1054 Great Schism, both the Western Church and Eastern Church continued to consider themselves uniquely orthodox and catholic. Over time, the Western Church gradually identified with the "Catholic" label, and people of Western Europe gradually associated the "Orthodox" label with the Eastern Church (in some languages the "Catholic" label is not necessarily identified with the Western Church). This was in note of the fact that both Catholic and Orthodox were in use as ecclesiastical adjectives as early as the 2nd and 4th centuries respectively.
Much earlier, Oriental Orthodoxy had split from Chalcedonian Christianity after the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451), because of several christological differences. Since then, Oriental Orthodox Churches are maintaining the orthodox designation as a symbol of their theological traditions.
Sunni Islam is sometimes referred to as "orthodox Islam". As of 2009[update], Sunni Muslims constituted 87–90% of the world's Muslim population. However, other scholars of Islam, such as John Burton believe that there's no such thing as "orthodox Islam".
Orthodox Judaism is the approach to religious Judaism which subscribes to a tradition of mass revelation and adheres to the interpretation and application of the laws and ethics of the Torah as legislated in the Talmudic texts by the Tannaim and Amoraim. Orthodox Judaism is split into various different movements and factions. They have different ways of interpreting and following the laws and traditions of Judaism, and include movements such as Modern Orthodox Judaism (אורתודוקסיה מודרנית) and Ultra-Orthodox or Haredi Judaism (יהדות חרדית). Orthodox Judaism is distinct from Conservative Judaism.
Orthodoxy is opposed to heterodoxy ("other teaching") or heresy. People who deviate from orthodoxy by professing a doctrine considered to be false are called heretics, while those who, perhaps without professing heretical beliefs, break from the perceived main body of believers are called schismatics. The term employed sometimes depends on the aspect most in view: if one is addressing corporate unity, the emphasis may be on schism; if one is addressing doctrinal coherence, the emphasis may be on heresy. A deviation lighter than heresy is commonly called error, in the sense of not being grave enough to cause total estrangement, while yet seriously affecting communion. Sometimes error is also used to cover both full heresies and minor errors.
The concept of orthodoxy is prevalent in many forms of organized monotheism. However, orthodox belief is not usually overly emphasized in polytheistic or animist religions, in which there is often little or no concept of dogma, and varied interpretations of doctrine and theology are tolerated and sometimes even encouraged within certain contexts. Syncretism, for example, plays a much wider role in non-monotheistic (and particularly, non-scriptural) religion. The prevailing governing norm within polytheism is often orthopraxy ("right practice") rather than the "right belief" of orthodoxy.
Outside the context of religion, the term "orthodoxy" is often used to refer to any commonly held belief or set of beliefs in some field, in particular when these tenets, possibly referred to as "dogmas", are being challenged. In this sense, the term has a mildly pejorative connotation.
Among various "orthodoxies" in distinctive fields, the most commonly used terms are:
The terms "orthodox" and "orthodoxy" are also used more broadly to refer to things other than ideas and beliefs. A new and unusual way of solving a problem could be referred to as "unorthodox", while a common and 'normal' way of solving a problem would be referred to as "orthodox".