This is a phrase I have heard or read a lot recently. Often with reference to what I have written or to what others have written that goes against the fundamental grain. This comes from the warning in Scripture from Paul to Timothy that people would no longer welcome sound doctrine and from the same ‘apostle’ to Titus that he must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. To the Fundamentalist, sound doctrine must include such things as the in-errancy of scripture, a literal six day creation, and so on, and often the interpretation of their stream or denomination. But if each stream has a slightly different or vastly different doctrine which one is sound? What makes my views unsound and my friends sound doctrine so I get judged as being the heretic? What verses do we pull out that constitute sound doctrine? People talk about the measuring stick being Scripture and doctrine but what is the length, shape, colour, size of the measuring stick? What makes you a standard bearer for truth and me a teacher of error?
Sound as a Pound.
Paul does not come out-right and say what sound doctrine is but he does hint at what it isn’t. Paul criticises the false teachers for devoting themselves to myths and meaningless talk and for wanting to be teachers of the law. So from this we can conclude that sound doctrine is neither man made myths or religious law. In fact the more Paul expands on this you realise that sound doctrine has nothing to do with fundamental truths or even the preached word and more to do with the life of a Person. Paul calls it the glorious Gospel, and no I do not think he was writing about a sermon that has an altar call to get people to repent, it was a re-telling and communicating of the life of Jesus. ‘Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation — if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant’. Sound doctrine is a return to life and reconciliation to God. It is not the latest interpretation of Scripture or what the Greek says in Philemon or the Roman road or the Assemblies of God’s fundamentals, it is simply communication of life. Similarly when Paul writes to Titus and explains more about sound doctrine he talks about life issues and not belief issues. Not a list of written liturgy but releasing living that communicates life and release.
I think by having the words ‘sound doctrine’ we create a heavy sense of foreboding straight away. The whole ‘if you waver from this straight line you are in trouble’ teaching and pressure from others. That what I write can be written off while what you write is Gospel truth because you have interpreted it correctly. We are never taught that it can also be translated as healing instruction. Words of healing and wholeness. Words of life and freedom. It is less a corrective teaching and more a balm to apply. Less a telling off and rebuking and more a releasing and life affirming. A Gospel that releases all and has a place for all. Words that restore identity and reignite a desire for life. Good news of reconciliation and restoration for broken people and relationships, including our place with God. Healing instructions about our own divinity and wholeness. We use the interpretation of sound doctrine to exclude but healing instruction is inclusive.
Doctrine reduces the chances of entry to the select, correct few. Jesus came to reveal that the embrace was so much wider than doctrine and interpretation. He always stretched boundaries and widened the portal. Man’s doctrine excluded lepers and the unclean, His healing instruction embraced the leper and ate with so called sinners. He had a space at their table and not the other way around. The communion table was in the house of a tax collector not in the religious buildings where the teachers spouted their version of truth and doctrine. Like the Tardis the space inside is always much larger than we want it to look outside. If we would only allow our eyes to be opened to see. But we are always too busy to squeeze everyone into our own interpretation of doctrine instead of healing and freeing and embracing. We need to amplify our sound to allow it to heal and let our words be the balm that is needed not the narrow road we think it is all about. Sound doctrine and the desire to make me see your way, that is a lesser Gospel than the one Jesus released and lived for. It is more a question in my mind of do my words and actions heal and restore. Now that is healing instruction.
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