Tuesday, October 16, 2007
What is "Sound Doctrine?"
I’ve often heard the phrase “sound doctrine” used in church. Typically, “sound” means the opposite of “false.” So it amounts to the age-old right/wrong, true/false dichotomy. Of course, in this context “sound doctrine” equals accepted conservative beliefs on any issue. If you don’t agree, then your beliefs are unsound, wrong, and false. Along with the “law of silence,” this fallacious way of thinking needs to be debunked.
The phrase “sound doctrine” certainly is scriptural, but what does it mean? It is used, most notably, in 2nd Timothy and Titus. “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). The word “sound” comes from the Greek word we usually translate as “hygiene” or “health.” It is a medical term. So sound teaching/doctrine is healthy doctrine. What is the opposite of healthy? Unhealthy! Not false or wrong. The “unsound” doctrine being promoted on Crete was very conservative (Gentiles had to follow the Jewish law), but profoundly unhealthy for the body of believers. Paul’s view was liberal/progressive, but it was healthy or “sound.”
In the modern church, a lot of doctrine is unhealthy. Ultra conservative views about worship, music, marriage and divorce, woman’s role, leadership qualifications, etc. are radically sectarian, divisive, hurtful, and unhealthy for the body. This comes back to the questioned I’ve raised before: Does religion make people better or worse? If a belief or doctrine causes you to act less rational and less kind, then that belief is unhealthy. This is so ironic because some of the most unsound (unhealthy) doctrine I’ve ever come across thrives in church environments where they are constantly defending their “soundness."