I have been involved in a discussion on Steve Sensenig's blog Theological Musings. Steve had been discussing the right understanding of orthodoxy on another post when the question was raised whether or not Mormons hold to orthodox Christian doctrine. Here is where our differences began.
Before I continue, if you are unfamiliar with Steve or his blog, you need to be. His loving and generous spirit are models all Christian bloggers need to emulate. You can disagree with him and though he can be passionate, he is never accusatory or hurtful and his tone is always moderated with grace and wit. At the end of the discussion, even if lines are drawn, Steve will still call you brother and invite you to join another discussion. I like that about him.
That being said, I desire that my readership offer their understanding of orthodoxy as well. I began with a case study of the pastoral epistles in the comments section of Steve's blog as a defense of sound doctrine. I was not as elaborate in the comments section, not feeling it appropriate, but will air my understandings here, a more appropriate venue, without being too laborious at Steve's blog.
I have no problem with using either the word orthodox or unorthodox. There must be an established set of doctrinal parameters to detrermine what is “sound” and “unsound” doctrine. I shall take the pastoral epistles as a case study.
In 1 Timothy 1:3-4 Paul warns Timothy about wrong doctrine and to guard against it. He sought that Timothy might “remain in Ephesus that [he] may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, neither give heed to fables…”
In 1:10 Paul wrote that the law is against all that was ungodly and contrary to sound doctrine.
In 4:1, there is a doctrine that arises from demons and not from God.
4:6 shows us that Timothy was told this: “If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.”
4:13: Paul told the young minister “Till I come give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.”
4:16 is an additional exhortation to “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them and you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”
The young pastor was to give himself to sound doctrine. It necessarily follows that if Paul is commanding Timothy to take heed to good (orthodox) doctrine, then it necessarily follows that there must be bad (unorthodox) doctrine. I do not see this as imposing anything artificial on the Word of God or erecting barriers around it, not when the formulation of holding orthodox, acceptable doctrine is clearly stated.
In 5:17, the Apostle counts the elders (read, shepherd, pastor) as worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.
6:1 teaches that bondservants are to count their own masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and His doctrine not be blasphemed.
6:3 warns of the futility of wrangling with men who hold unsound doctrine and even recommends that those who ascribe to the words of our Lord Jesus Christ (as sound doctrine) withdraw from those who are unsound.
So, I think then that Paul is having Timothy devote a large amount of time in his ministry to the formulation of orthodox doctrine, to training men in that doctrine to teach it to the congregations entrusted to their care, and then to propagate that doctrine as what is true and correct and that it should be accepted as sound.
I think the qualifier Paul uses to describe doctrine in 1 Timothy 1:10, hugiaino, sound, speaks to orthodoxy. It speaks primarily of one who is in good health but can also be applied to one’s teaching and that it can be unhealthy; laden with error. The Greek word is also a verb (present active participle), which I do not think it is a stretch of the exegesis to say that sound doctrine is an active pursuit of the Christian.
Paul commends the green pastor in 2 Timothy 3:10; "But you have followed my doctrine..."
The locus classicus for the inspiration of Scripture, 2 Timothy 3:16, teaches that "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine..."
What is Timothy to preach? "The Word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching." The word used for teaching is a synonym for doctrine, the Greek word didache, which simply means teaching, but has the technical meaning in the New Testament of that which is taught in the religious assemblies by Christians.
2 Timothy 4:3 is a sober warning to the local congregation that "there will come a time when they will not endure sound doctrine." Again, it goes without saying that Paul assumes that there is a such thing as unsound (unorthodox) doctrine.
Paul also had much to say to Cretian pastor Titus as well about sound doctrine. Like Timothy, Paul left Titus in Crete with a job to do. The church there too was given to old wives' tales and fables. 1:9 instructs Titus in his duty of appointing overseers in the church "that [they] may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and convict those who contradict." Again, a simple exercise in logic proves Paul was concerned about unsound teachings at the Cretian church.
In 2:1 Titus is commanded to temper his speech with "the things that are proper for sound doctrine."
In 2:7 Titus' doctrine is to show integrity, reverence, and incorruptibility.
Finally, Titus 2:10 is a command to bondservants that Titus is to pass along that they prove themselves well-pleasing in all things so that they may "adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things." The conclusion is clear in that God is pleased with those who hold sound doctrine and they are an adornment of Himself to the world.
Orthodox would mean, then, an established set of doctrine, accepted by the church as fundamental and necessary to faith in Jesus Christ. A departure from accepted tenets indicates a departure from the faith and a holding to unorthodoxy or departure from orthodoxy should affect fellowship. I would not call someone who is unorthodox in their beliefs about Jesus Christian, though I think this statement needs qualification.
For a Mormon who has come to Christ, I understand there is going to be a time where that new believer must grapple with their new understanding of the faith found in (the true) Jesus and there may be some mixture of error in their faith system. However, I am confident that the Holy Spirit is capable enough to stimulate a love for and a pursuit of sound doctrine in the regenerated believer. So, as a new believer wrestles with these things, he may hold some beliefs that are unorthodox while at the same time believing orthodox beliefs.
And the question of accountability? It goes without saying that the unorthodox are accountable to God, but how so that the unorthodox one is kept from misleading others, the reason why Paul had Timothy remain in Ephesus and Titus in Crete? I think it falls in the hands of the spiritual leadership of local churches, as Paul advised Timothy, as Paul handed that responsibility over to Titus, as he advised the church in Galatia, as John warned the church in Pergamos (specifically addressed to the church’s “messenger” or pastor) for holding to the doctrines of Balaam and the Nicolatians, and as Jesus admonishes the church in Matthew 18. This I believe also applies to the deacons of the church in that they are to hold to the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience and have great boldness in their faith (1 Timothy 3:8-11).
I have not included what I believe is orthodox nor a rationale for my beliefs in this post for the sake of brevity. If you would like you can go to the first post I wrote to get an idea of where I am coming from.
In conclusion, sound or orthodox doctrine means teaching that is true to the Bible and uncorrupted. There are doctrines that are taught that are contrary to the Scriptures and can mislead many. In the pastorals the church is given direction in how she should operate, emphasis on the propagation of orthodoxy (which leads necessarily to orthopraxy), how to deal with the unorthodox, and the praise God has for those who are orthodox.