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Debunking Myths about Sound Doctrine

By Jonathan Bland

Content Specialist, Discipleship Ministries

In the description of the early Church in Acts 2:42-47, sound doctrine is marked as being one of the key identifiers of the movement. Certainly, today, we would hope that our gatherings and congregations would be identified as sound in doctrine. We face a difficult task discipling and encouraging all generations to be rooted and built in the truth of Jesus Christ. False assumptions and damaging narratives slow our efforts. Here are four of the more common concerns facing the development of sound doctrine.

  1. Live your truth

In a postmodern world, the rise of sentiments like “speak your truth” and “live your truth” have become prevalent notions as a rallying cry for the individualistic nature of truth. More and more, these ideas are becoming common even in the church. We must be cautious, however, about the usage of such language. Inherent within a “your truth” structure is the deletion and objection to objective “Truth” – God’s truth. The unintended consequence of this structure is that we raise ourselves above scripture, placing our truth above God’s truth. Nevertheless, we all have a variety of experiences that shape our understanding of God and His truth. Our experiences are critical components in the development of sound doctrine. Things that we believe with our hearts and minds – that we have developed from our engagement with scripture – are proved (or tested) through our experience of life with God. Our experience should never trump scripture; rather, it should affirm it.

Perhaps it would be beneficial to also address the space available concerning personal conviction. Our interpretation of scripture, as it relates to our private devotional and moral life, must be balanced. Where scripture is not clear, or restrictions are not made, we must have grace and understanding for our brothers and sisters. Strongly held convictions must not be promoted as biblical mandate. That undercuts the truth and freedom of the Gospel, does not encourage sound doctrine, and edges us closer and closer to legalism.

  1. My Pastor will tell me everything I need to know

An important truth in the life of the body of Christ is that what happens on Sunday is not the most important thing happening each week. How could I argue that the gathering of believers is not healthy? How could I say that worshiping together is not meaningful; that the preached word of God is not life-giving? Certainly, those things are true, but our focus on Sunday has created an expectation that Sunday is enough. Preaching, singing, and teaching are all vital contributors to the growth of sound doctrine. They should encourage, equip, and train the believers; however, for the church to grow and thrive, individuals must be growing on the six days between Sundays. Being sound in doctrine doesn’t happen because of a weekly service; it happens because of a daily commitment to growing in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. That is where significant growth is happening.

  1. Doctrine is not for me

Maybe doctrine seems complicated. Maybe it seems unnecessary. No matter how we feel about it, doctrine is an essential part to our spiritual health. In the pastoral letters, Paul urgently encourages Timothy and Titus to maintain sound doctrine in their congregations. Without sound doctrine, we run the risk of being pulled back and forth by anything presented to us because we are unable to discern truth from falsehood.

  1. Doctrine is all that matters

Equally as damaging as the latter train of thought, we must be mindful not to elevate doctrine and beliefs higher than they should be. Doctrine that does not promote spiritual growth and health in the believer is un-useful. Doctrine that causes pride or arrogance is wasted. Doctrine that encourages cynicism and hardness of heart is empty. Doctrine that is un-livable is purposeless. We must live in the tension that exists between our actions and our beliefs: action without foundation can be toppled, and foundation without action will produce nothing.

Can you think of other “sound doctrine” myths we battle in the church?

3 Responses

  1. Steve Brown

    Good article Johnny

    The myth that doctrine is boring
    The myth that doctrine is not practical for everyday life

  2. J. Armin Wrape'

    Well said and much needed. These topics are not obsolete, but our society including public education preaches their obsolescence. Sadly anti-god thinking creeps into the church when we are not required to look beyond our present history, including church history.
    In our immediate-gratification-society, history has been relegated to only what has occurred within our lifetime and without some pressure to look beyond that (thank you fro this), church decisions and teachings will be effected by that thinking.
    Today, society teaches that both the pre-born and the old are considered worthless, but God commanded to honor parents and that the older should teach the younger, and that we are called before the womb, in other words God says the church is from conception to death, family, not just individual generations. Do we preach a church divided? Some are more valuable than others? Do our actions match our statements? What does the congregation “see” us saying with our actions?
    All of us would agree with my above statements but sometimes our actions are not examined to see “why” we are making the church decisions we are. What are the ramifications of separating parents from children in church services? Separating retired from younger families? Is this a practice from the Bible? Where are our examples? Have we considered if these actions lead to a church that Jesus prayed for or something else?
    Immediately, the temptations come to be like the world OR IT WILL COST US?
    Everyone preaches a “doctrine” even if they say they don’t. The bigger question is “whose doctrine is it, your’s, mine, or God’s?”
    Jesus doctrines repeatedly disagreed with what society in his day said was “good”, contradicting much of what the apostles themselves considered right.
    I agree with the previous comment by Steve Brown, that doctrine is relevant and therefore not boring, but I also believe it is actually desired by this generation.
    Sounds crazy, but the same young-generation that appears to be caught up in superficial entertainment, when they are really looking for substance or truth, is not looking for more of what they have found in science-fiction or video games, they are looking for something of substance….my point is that when the church decides its more important to look like the world to cater to the world, then we exchange the very essence that reveals that God has more than the emptiness of the world.
    Jesus did loose followers, but also gained those who were truly searching. Remember when he told the crowd to “eat my flesh and drink my blood”. Instead of catering to them, he confronted them, but those who were really seeking, were never turned away and only they received the real prizes.
    I want Holy Ghost power. When God shows up, its undeniable specially to the unsaved. But a great concert (I am a musician and not at all against good contemporary music) can be found outside the church too…its nothing special.
    God’s presence changes everything. And we only get that by being the church the way Jesus desired.
    Personally, I’m troubled about how many of us have thrown the baby out with the bathwater….by rejecting all of the formality of the past centuries. (I’m not advocating a church of the past…)
    Look, there is a revolution from the enemy to make everything “casual”… NOTHING DESERVES HONOR (post-modernism). With that mindset, prayer has been removed from school, many schools do not recite the Pledge of Allegiance any longer. So that now we have generations who don’t know the words of the Lord’s Prayer or the Pledge of Allegiance. RESULT=A nation who does not know their foundation, heritage, reason for existence, purpose.
    Just an example, but in the same way, how many charismatic or Pentecostal churches confess the “Apostle’s Creed”? Why did the church for centuries repeat this so that every person knew it by heart? It wasn’t just empty repetition. It was to combat false doctrines that had previously crept into the church and brought deception.
    As an example, I hear often the Holy Spirit spoken of as an “it”. Some church members don’t even know that the H.S. was in the beginning. I have even heard the Jehovah Witness doctrine of Jesus as “a son of God” confessed by church members. THIS IS NOT DUE TO BAD PREACHING but how many Sunday’s does it take to address all incorrect doctrines? There are not enough. I realize that this sounds like my own pet-peeve, but my point is that Biblical Doctrines are relevant, are needed, but sometimes might not be popular. Prayer in school, The Lord’s Prayer in school, The Pledge of Allegiance, are also not popular in an ungodly world, and so some Godly practices might also not be popular even in church, but might be needed.
    Our society is all about making people happy and not offending anyone, but Godly Doctrine is not concerned with any of that. Godly Doctrine is good and needed even if we might not like it.
    We definitely have generations who don’t know sound Biblical church doctrine, and sometimes, its because we, as leaders, don’t examine our own “doctrines”….Why do we believe what we believe? Is what we believe true? Is what we believe what the Bible really says? How do we know?
    Thanks for bringing this up. “If we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged” (1 Cor. 11:31)

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