A Medley of Matters
The word sound is often used in the New Testament with reference to teaching, or doctrine. When thus used as an adjective, it means, "Free from flaw, defect, or decay; undamaged or unimpaired. Founded in truth or right, not fallacious or faulty" according t o Webster. Thayer says it means "true and incorrupt doctrine." Hence, the following expressions of Paul are found in the writings:
1. Some actions are said to be "contrary to sound doctrine." (I Tim. 1:10)
2. Timothy was admonished to "hold fast the form of sound words." (II Tim. 1:7)
3. Some people are not able to "endure sound doctrine." (II Tim. 4:3)
4. Elders are to "be able by sound doetrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers." (Tit. 1:9)
5. Titus was told to "rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith." (Titus 1:13)
6. Titus was instructed to "speak . . . the things which become sound doctrine." (Titus 2:1)
7. The "aged men" are admonished to be "sound in faith." (Titus 2:2)
8. Titus was admonished to use "sound speech . . ." (Titus 2:8)
This gives us a fair picture of the way the word is used in the inspired writings, but it is not alwavs used that way in the language of many brethren. Usually the other fellow is "sound" if he agrees with "us" and "unsound" if he doesn't! Disagreement with "us" is un-soundness" only when the position of "us" is sound doctrine" -- "true and incorrupt" (Thayer). Soundness consists of teaching, believing, or practicing the truth.
It is true that some brethren are "unsound," but sometimes those who cry "unsound" the loudest are just using a lot of sound to obscure their own "un-soundness." Some folks are all "sound"!!
Many time one's "soundness" is determined by where he came from: Nashville, or Henderson, Abilene or Searcy! This is an old "game," Jesus' "soundness" was once "determined" on this basis - "can any good thing come out of Nazareth." (John 1.46)
Some think they s h o u I d be considered because of their parentage. If one can boast of a long list of faithful preachers who have worn his last name, nobody has the right to question his "soundness." The Jews thought they were "sound" because they had "Abraham to their father." (Matt. 3:9) Thi,; carried no weight with John for he said God could transform dumb stones into children of Abraham. Jesus was considered "unsound" because he was "the carpenter's son." (Matt. 13:55)
Sometimes one is considered "sound" if he can boast of a long train of degrees on the back end of his name, in fact one is not sufficiently "sound" to preach for some churches if he can't do so! Of Jesus some folks asked, "How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?" (John 7:15)
With some brethren ones age determines his soundness. if young, one is unsound, if old, too sound! Paul warned Timothy, "Let no man despise thy youth." (I Tim. 4:12)
Some measures one's soundness by the amount of influence he wields. If he can "quarantine" thousands of his brethren by the stroke of his pen, or a lash of his tongue, he is sound. If one silently does his own work, opposes error where he finds it, and is never written up as a sensational promoter, or glorified sensational in the largest "brotherhood" papers, he is "unsound."
Many consider one sound on the basis of his ability to invent clever sounding epithets, and shout them from the housetops. In some circles he who can cry "hobbyrider," "anti" and "half -baked-sommerite" the loudest is considered the soundest.
Soundness, however, is not to be determined by nativity, ancestry, education, age, influence or inventive genius. Soundness in the scriptural sense does not consist of drawing the l.'ne of fellowship, but rather the line of truth. One can draw the line of fellowship without drawing the line of truth; one can lie out of fellowship with a group of people, and vet, be in fellowship with God (I John 1 :7 ). In most cases the drawing of the line of truth automatically determines the sound and unsound, and usually takes care of the line of fellowship.
W. E. Garrison, professor of the University of Chicago, once wrote an article for the Encyclopedia of Religion by Vergilius Ferm on "Churches of Christ." Among other things he says,
"Their extreme congregational independency does not admit any general organization (p. 174) (Emphasis mine, JPN)
At the time this article was written, this statement was, no doubt, true. What about it now? Does it correctly represent all the "Churches of Christ"? Haven't some changes been made? Isn't the very opposite true with some now? There are MANY "general organizations" admitted by MANY present day "Churches of Christ." Sometimes a "LOCAL" eldership becomes a GENERAL organization through which the "Churches of Christ" in general are to operate. Sometimes a private" enterprise or promotion manages to become a "general organization" through which the "Churches of Christ" at LARGE function.
Often we hear quite a 'squabble" over whether or not some have changed. A favorite expression with many is "I haven't changed, but believe, teach and practice what I always have." Either Mr. Garrison's statement misrepresented the people he wrote about then, or else it does now. WHICH??
The following quotation from Mr. A. T. DeGroot's little booklet Church of Christ Number Two, who, incidentally is a professor in a Christian Church College, will show what the digressors of the last division think about the present state of affairs.
"As to other avenues for fellowship certainly the Church of Christ Number One will offer no welcoming hand unless the Church of Christ Number Two will forswear instrumental music. They might not be obliged to renounce missionary societies, for Church of Christ Number One is developing the first forms of these very rapidly - one of which spends over $1,000,000 annually on broadcasting sermons. But fellowship with Church of Christ Number One would not mean unity, for that body is in many dis-fellowshipped fragments. In April, 1955, one Church of Christ (Number One) minister debated another at Lufkin, Texas, on the subject of Missionary societies which have emerged in Church of Christ Number One." (p. 10) (Emphasis mine, JPN)
Truth Magazine II:4, pp. 8-9