“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37
Short answer: both are important--believing in truth (that is, right doctrine or orthodoxy) AND living it out (right practice, or orthopraxy). Orthodoxy AND orthopraxy. To dismiss one for the other is a man-made judgement--something that is never espoused by the Word of God.
Longer answer: Over the past few days I've heard several remarks in different venues that have rejected the importance of doctrine in favor of "just helping others out".
I can see where this paradigm springs from--it comes from a valid criticism of people who appear to be pious, church-going folks who are, well, mean and spiteful. They know their bible verses, and have their rosaries at the ready, but don't appear to be very kind and loving.
As St. Teresa of Avila said, "God save us from sour-faced saints!"
However, Truth matters. What you believe ought to be as supremely important as how you serve the poor and love your fellow man. In fact, there are some vile and sinister beliefs that will greatly affect how you love your fellow man.
I think that the picture below is a graphic representation of how what you believe can be very, very dangerous.
(Warning: offensive picture)
One cannot embrace a contemptible doctrine, and still say, "Hey! It doesn't matter what I believe because I help out at homeless shelters!"
Because Truth matters.
Of course, this is an extreme example. But it illustrates how what we believe is indeed important.
In response to the above example, some folks may say, "I think that as long as you love God and love your fellow man it still doesn't matter what you believe. And the people at the Westboro Baptist Church clearly don't love God, therefore, our premise is still correct. As long as you love God and whatever you believe makes you good and happy, it's fine!"
I would answer: but which God are we loving? The God who has revealed that the pope is the vicar of Christ? Or the God that says that the pope is the anti-Christ? The God who says that Jesus is really, truly present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Blessed Sacrament? Or the God who says that worship of a wafer is an abomination? The God who has revealed that Jesus is God Incarnate, or the God that says that Jesus was just a holy man who came to preach the Golden Rule?
Contradictory beliefs cannot both be true at the same time. Either Jesus is God or he is not God. Either the pope is the vicar of Christ or he is not. Both cannot be true at the same time. It can't be, "Well, it's true for you. You can believe whatever you want, as long as it makes you happy!"
Another example is this hypothetical: let's say there was an adult who believed in Santa Claus. This belief made her happy. And it made her try to be a kind and good person.
Naturally, we would not encourage this false belief, even if it made this woman happy, kind and good to believe in Santa. No one would tell this poor, hapless woman, "Hey, knock yourself out! Believe whatever you want, as long as it makes you happy!"
Because Truth matters. Not just whether we're happy and good, persisting in a false belief.
It's like the story of the Emperor's New Clothes. He was parading around in "finery", happy in his delusion, yet the reality was that he was completely naked. His belief made him happy.
But I don't think any person would encourage this type of delusion....because Truth matters.
It's also important to point out the corollary: If one embraces all the doctrines yet never lifts a finger to serve others, then, this, too, is incompatible with the Gospel.
As GK Chesterton said, "Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair".
The proverbial Catholic both/and applies to all of us! Both orthodoxy (truth) and orthopraxis (practice) are part of the Good News of salvation!
For more in-depth study visit these websites:
"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15