In Christianity, we are often fond of talking about the importance of adhering to “sound doctrine,” a biblical concept to be sure (1 Tim. 4:6; 2 Tim. 4:3; Tit. 1:9; 2:1, NASB). Unfortunately, we often regard the word “sound” to be synonymous with the word “correct.” While I would certainly advocate correct doctrine over incorrect doctrine, the word “sound” implies something much more.
The word “sound” is a word that refers to health, fitness, well-being, and stability. For instance, we talk about sound horses, sound minds, sound footing, and returning home safe and sound. It is my conviction, then, that the terms “sound doctrine” and “sound theological reflection” refer primarily to healthy doctrine; in other words, doctrine which produces life and health.
Paul clearly has the idea of health in mind in 1 Tim. 4:6 where he instructs Timothy that “if you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourished by the words of the faith and the good [sound] teaching that you have followed” (CSB). If our doctrine or theological reflection is sound, it will produce life and health. If your doctrine or theological thinking produces bitterness, divisiveness, or arrogance; if it produces prejudice or superiority; if it leads us to coerce or manipulate others into our way of thinking and being, it is most certainly not sound or correct, but toxic.
On the other hand, if it produces love, peace, patience with others with whom we disagree, and with the slow progress of their own journey (which is doubtless similar to the slow progress of our own journey); if it produces humility and the ability to empathize and see as others see; if it produces greater trust in God even when we can’t figure out what on earth he’s doing, then it is most certainly sound.