Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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In the News: Guardians of Doctrine

Image On Thursday, the Catholic Pope released a text giving his view of who should be selected as Catholic bishops as the Catholic church goes forward in the 21st century. Of course, the Catholic church’s concepts of how bishops are to be selected, what their qualifications are, and the nature and extent of their rule are all contrary to what is revealed in the New Testament. In this short article, however, it is our intent to examine one aspect of the Pope’s message. Consider the following quote, taken from a report on the document:

In a nearly 3,000-word text to the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, Francis tells the office they should not look for bishops based on any “preferences, likes, or trends” and likewise should not seek prelates who are mainly concerned with doctrinal matters.

The church, writes Francis, needs “guardians of doctrine not so as to measure how far the world is from doctrinal truth but to appeal to the world to charm it with the beauty of love [and] to seduce it with the freedom bestowed by the Gospel.”

“The church does not need apologists of its causes nor crusaders of its battles, but sowers humble and confident of the truth, who … trust of its power,” the pontiff continues.

Francis’ words Thursday, made during the congregation’s weekly meeting, mostly reaffirm themes the pope has touched on over the past year when speaking of the role of bishops around the world.

(National Catholic Reporter).

The words are subtle, but the Pope here seeks (as the columnist notes) to deemphasize the importance of doctrinal matters in the appointing of bishops, as well as the work they are to do. This complements his many homilies on the subject of unity. It is, however, a false and misleading view of how unity is obtained.

First, note that a primary work of the bishop in the Lord’s church (an office far different from that found in Catholicism) is to defend the doctrine of Christ. Men are to be appointed who are, “…able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers…” (Titus 1:9-10). We do need men who are both apologists and crusaders with regard to the truth, precisely because of the error than men seek to promote.

Second, note that the way unity is achieved is not be deemphasizing doctrine, but by emphasizing it! Paul contended such when he called the Corinthians to “all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10). While the world (and many religious leaders) claim that doctrine is unimportant, the faithful knows otherwise. The more attention we give to a study and understanding of the doctrine of Christ, the more militant and steadfast we are in defending that truth against error, the more likely we will be to be of “the same mind.” The popular notion of how unity is attained is simply not true.

The pope’s view of doctrine and unity is characteristic of the age, and unsurprising. Unfortunately, it is a fact that many Christians have been unduly influenced by such worldly trends. Too many want to deemphasize doctrine, and are critical of those who defend truth. May it not be so among us!