Sunday, October 20, 2013

Enduring sound doctrine

I was confronted this morning with this:
Just in case you can't read that,
  1In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge 2Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction.3For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.  ~ 2 Timothy chapter 4
I've probably had this text thrown at me a few times.  I have a bad habit of tuning that stuff out (Brain nearly full, must purge information to acquire new knowledge).   I read this from the lectern this morning.   As I was preparing to do so, I laughed and said "Now let's argue about what that is"...  that being sound doctrine.

Yes, Paul, I'm gonna say that things haven't changed much in 2,000 years.    I've had the preceding passage thrown at me more than a few times as "proof" that scripture is inerrant.
 14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the servant of Goda may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The only problem with not taking this passage as advice to a friend of the apostle Paul and learning from it for what it is, is that at the time Paul wrote this it wasn't scripture.  The other problem is that you can't use a document to prove it's own authenticity, but I digress.  Let's get back to this 'people will not endure sound doctrine' thing.   I'm guessing a lot of folks go straight to "People will not endure old fashioned preaching with fire and brimstone and scary God stuff because they always forget God is scary" line.

I'm going to say that anybody who tells you that God will make you rich if you just hate the right people is a liar.  Anybody who tells you that God is a magic candy man who will give you what you want if you just pray hard enough and follow all the rules is a liar.   Believing in God will not make you rich.  Believing in God and having a relationship with him will make your life richer---but not always in a money way. The Prosperity Gospel is not sound doctrine.   The idea that God hates the same people you do is not sound doctrine.  The idea that God is always on America's side even when America is wrong is not sound doctrine. The idea that God favors the rich and hates the poor because they're "lazy" is not sound doctrine.  The idea that poor people's lives should always suck because they're poor is not sound doctrine.  The idea that God is a white American man who speaks English and goes to a church on Sunday is not sound doctrine.  The idea that Jesus, who lived an unconventional lifestyle by any stretch of the imagination, is only for married straight people with children is not sound doctrine.  The idea that God hates people because they aren't Christians or because they don't have the right beliefs or because they're dirty or they follow a different religion is not sound doctrine.

I know people like to hear all those things and have itching ears for them, but they are simply not true.  The Kingdom of God is at hand.  In other words, it is HERE.  We are supposed to bring it in HERE.  On Earth.  Now.  Period.   No pie in the sky.  Christianity is not about where you're going to spend eternity.  Yes, I said that.  I actually said that knowing Jesus isn't about going to heaven.  It's really not.  It's about understanding that God loves us, all of us, and he sees us, really sees, and that we can know him, and love him, and in that love, transform the world around us to make it a better place.  That can actually happen.

But no one wants to hear that.   I'm sure a lot people will fixate on me saying Christianity is not about getting into heaven.  I believe in heaven.  I am sure that I have friends there.   But it's not the point.   It's really not the point.   The point is the Gospel.   Change your ways because the Kingdom of God is at hand and you have work to do.  Quit being a selfish prick.  Reach out your hand to help your neighbor.   God came to Earth in the form of Jesus Christ  and Jesus actually did things that helped people.  He healed people's illnesses and restored them to their place in the community.  He fed people.  He blessed babies and talked to hookers and government thugs (tax collectors) and healed people who were possessed by demons or mentally ill or both.  He wasn't just a preacher  or a rabbi but a man who did things for people.   He taught his disciples to do things for people.

There's a fine line between rocking the Prosperity Gospel theology and fixating on the afterlife instead of the here and now style of Christianity.  They're both wrong.  Both two different ways of putting the emphasis on something other than what Jesus was actually getting at.

People will not endure sound doctrine sometimes, but that doesn't mean we get out of preaching it.


  1. Exactly. My son was formerly in a band that did Christian Punk/Heavy Metal music - not too many bands of that genre. The band was called All Eyes East. They would enter band competitions, and were hired to play at several bars in the Atlanta area. Hmmmmmmm --- a Christian band playing at a bar and being well-received...sounds like they were following in someone-we-know's footsteps.... Even if they helped change one person's life, it was Heaven Sent...

  2. :) That sounds like they were quite good.

  3. There will always be people who wield power over others that misuse religion for their own ends. The general test of whether or not something is "sound doctrine" in any religion is to ask yourself if what you are being told to believe or practice diminishes or expands human dignity. If it diminishes human dignity, then it isn't sound doctrine. If it expands human dignity, then it is sound doctrine. You can read through the myriad of religious texts from various traditions throughout the world and you'll see this revealed very clearly. It isn't "hidden" knowledge, it's right there in print. People are supposed to expand human dignity by dethroning ourselves from the center of our world (stop being selfish, self-centered, self-interested, egotistical, etc) and put others there. The people who benefit from the misuse of religion call this thinking "radical" and even "heretical" and make claims of a "hidden" knowledge/wisdom. Would you expect anything else from such people? I've studied a lot of religions and I find it strange that so many people focus so much attention on the afterlife when the religions they claim to practice spend so much time on this life right here on earth and our interactions with each other (how we treat each other). Thank you Leslie for rehighlighting the Truth.