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Just How Important IS Sound Doctrine?

by Paul Goshorn

I think it would be safe to say that both sides of the current theological maelstrom would agree that the foundational issue facing the United Methodist Church (as well as other mainline denominations) is not homosexuality, but is instead the authority of Scripture, nature of revelation, etc. In other words, issues of doctrine.

There may be some who perceive doctrine as being just a small block in the structure of Christianity. I would disagree. The development of sound doctrine is vital to the establishment of a solid foundation upon which to build a faith that will withstand the ever changing winds of pop theology. Allow me to illustrate.

When I was in the Air Force, one of the first skills I was taught was how to shoot the M-16 rifle. Believe it or not, simply pointing the weapon in the direction you wanted to shoot and pulling the trigger would seldom result in an effective hit. In order to be effective with the rifle you first had to ensure that you had proper "sight alignment". This meant that the front sight & rear sight were properly aligned and centered on the target. Once you learned the proper sight alignment, you then made adjustments to the front and rear sights on the weapon so that, at 100 meters, you would be able to fire consistently into the bulls-eye. At 100 meters, moving the sight 1 millimeter resulted in the bullet impact being moved 1 inch. Naturally, being farther away from the target than 100 meters would result in a greater margin of error. Just the slightest misalignment could result in a person missing the entire target. Even at 100 meters. It was imperative that the sights were properly adjusted and properly aligned in order for the weapon to be of any use to the person firing.

I believe this illustrates the importance of sound doctrine. If a person does not develop a sound, doctrinally firm understanding of Christianity, there is a danger that that person will be so far to the left or to the right that they will miss the target altogether. This also shows the seriousness of even the smallest misalignment in doctrine. It does not take a major miscalculation to end up missing. A millimeter off now could result in missing the target by two or three feet.

The proper sight picture and sight alignment were revealed to us by Jesus Christ, the God-man. The doctrine of Christianity (by that I mean the essentials), as revealed through Scripture and Tradition, needs no adjustment. The attempts being made today to make those adjustments may seem like millimeters now, but it will not take long to see how far off target we will be as a result of those millimeter size adjustments.

In fact, I believe we are already seeing the results of adjustments that were made not even a century ago. We do not need to come up with new and exciting ways to explain the Gospel so that we may feel ourselves important. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is new and exciting without any help from us. It has been granted to us the privilege of communicating this Good News to a lost and hurting world. By making our "adjustments" we are not only in danger of missing the target ourselves, we are jeopardizing the ability of others to "hit the target".

Paul Goshorn is:

  • A Licensed Local Pastor in the West Ohio Conference
  • Currently the pastor of the South Salem Parish (Lattaville, Fruitdale, &
    South Salem UMC's)
  • Actively involved in the Emmaus & Chrysalis ministries
  • In the process of gaining a Bachelor's degree at Ohio University-Chillicothe
  • Husband of Lisa and father of Gabrielle 14, & Shelly 12.

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