People I like and respect, and even people I usually agree with, sometimes repeat this idea that a certain theological doctrine is important or correct or true or good because it will protect us from... (insert atrocity here, bonus points if it involves Nazis). The version of this argument which pops up most frequently in the circles I navigate is the one about Barth, Barmen, and the Confessing Church in Germany.
The story goes like this: liberal protestantism, infected with natural theology, a loose-cannon Holy Spirit, romantic progressivism, the relics of christendom, (or your favorite theological punching bag), sold its soul to the national-socialists and contributed to the Holocaust. Barth in a stroke of unmitigated brilliance saw the doctrinal roots of this problem and courageously spoke against it, helping to write the Declaration of Barmen and thus nipping that problem forever in the bud.
The moral of this story is that if your theology is not Barthian you are a Nazi (or will soon become one).
This is not a new story. It is the same story that has always been used to command doctrinal orthodoxy. If you don't hold the right ideas, you will be responsible for disaster x. The church has spent the past two millenia, for the most part, doing exhaustive historiography to support this idea. Every bad thing that has happened, ever, has been explained somewhere by a champion of all that is pure and noble as stemming from heterodoxy. Orthodox doctrine could protect us from all of this, they allege. The question which never seems to get asked is, "does it work?"
I mean, according to the orthodox, the right doctrine has been available for a long time and it hasn't changed. It's been out there. People have believed it. Lots of people. Did it work? Did it protect them from... whatever it is this stuff is supposed to protect us from?
Orthodoxy certainly hasn't succeeded in eradicating heresy. Every heresy the church has ever named is alive and flourishing today. There are probably more Arians and Unitarians in the USA today than Chalcedonians. There are definitely more semi-pelagians around than "saved by grace through faith" reformed-types. Orthodoxy doesn't eliminate or diminish heresy - it's the opposite actually. Orthodoxy is the ground-of-being for heresy and vice-versa. They can't live without each other.
Even if orthodox doctrine could somehow "protect" us from bad ideas - and there are plenty of bad ideas out there - so what? Who made it a priority to be protected from the intellectually inane and the logically laughable? Besides that isn't what people claim. People claim orthodox ideas can actually save us from life-threatening catastrophes like the holocaust. So show me, in practical, non-ideological terms, how orthodoxy has accomplished this in the past. How many Jews did Barth save because he had the correct theological insights? Where are the concentration camps that would have existed if it hadn't been for his courageous opposition to the heresies of German liberal protestantism?
Honestly. I'd love to see the proof. Show me how orthodoxy protects us from something deeply and obviously harmful. You can't use Hell, either. Why? Here's why: if you don't finish reading this sentence a meteor will fall out of the sky and crush you where you sit. Aren't you glad you read that sentence now? I just saved you from a terrible fate you can't ever prove wasn't going to happen if you hadn't done as I commanded. Be grateful.
For the most part, ironically, I am a pretty orthodox guy (yes in my own estimation the same as it is with anyone else). But I'm really tired, in theological discussions, of everything being cast in apocalyptic terms as if the consequences of disagreement were really anything other than the usual social awkwardness of realizing that reasonable people frequently come to different conclusions, and yes sometimes those conclusions are downright wacky. Wackiness, however, is not a credible cause of genocide.