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Throw the Dirty Water on Sound Doctrine
by May Flowers
03/19/08
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Our children have often laughed when I have unwittingly managed to mix metaphors. Learning metaphors is one of those trivial details that seemed such a waste of time. Consequently, the fumbling for the right beginning and ending to an often meaningless saying had often been to the delight of family.

It has been amazing over the last several years how many Christians, including pastors, have these sayings down pat. So much so, that "we don't want to throw out the baby with the bathwater" and " I eat the meat and spit out the bones" have become sound doctrine. These are no longer mere secular sayings, but sound doctrine that overrides Scriptural truth. 2 Timothy 4:2-5 warned of those who would not endure sound doctrine but would turn to fables. When some have been asked for the Scriptural reference to these sayings, so that we also could claim them as Biblical truth, none have been forthcoming. That does not mean there are no sayings that do align to the Scriptures, because there are some. It means that we need to know that these ideas do stand the test of Scripture.


God said that His Word is perfect and from there we would learn sound doctrine. We see in 2 Timothy 3:15-17 we can learn about salvation and knowing, “the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” to teaching us the things which are, “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” The reason for them is, “That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

It makes sense then, that we should be able to put what we believe and teach to the test of Scriptural truth. One example is in Acts 17:11, where the Bereans, “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."

Let us look at the saying, "We don't want to throw out the baby with the bathwater."

Historically the saying came from a German poem from the fifteenth century and became a common saying for not throwing out the good with the bad. It came from the old practice of using one tub of water to bathe the family, starting with the father, with the baby being the last washed in what had become filthy, murky water. The fear was that babies would become lost in the filthy water and when the baths were completed, thrown away with the water. Some suggest once a year was custom for the bath, while monthly might have been a luxury. Regardless, we know man's wisdom rarely aligns with God's wisdom.

Perhaps the correct and Biblical response to not throwing the baby out with the bathwater is, "What is the baby doing in that filthy, disgusting water in the first place?" Simple hygiene dictates that the baby can and will become diseased and unhealthy if placed in filthy water. The purpose of the baby's bath is to make him or her come out different from when they went in. Filthy water does not clean, it makes things become muddy and unclear.

After finding no actual Scripture reference to this saying, one can then try to suggest a Scripture that means the same thing. Some suggest the end justifies the means. Is there a Scripture that means one should keep an un-Biblical or unsound source or teaching since there might be some good in it or some good will come out of it?

I recall a conversation with a person whose website very clearly renounced particular things. Yet, he promoted websites through his positive Links page whose authors were of that nature, "because some of their information was good." He quoted the baby/bathwater saying in defense, and when challenged to provide the matching Scripture, he took up the challenge. After one day, he wrote of having tried to find a supportive Scripture with the resulting conviction that there was not one. On the contrary, he was fully convinced of the Scripture, Galatians 5:9, "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump."

On the same vein is the saying, "I eat the meat and spit out the bones." Referenced countless times, it can be quoted to defend the teachings of favorite icons, who upon evaluation, are teaching far from the Word of God. They do have "truth teasers" in amongst those bones, so the undiscerning will partake and find that "meat" to validate their teachings. Supporters lay claim to the idea that no one is perfect and if they can glean one thing from an otherwise unsound teaching or writing, they will keep that meat and spit out the offending bones. They do not believe it to be unsound to be schooled in both doctrinal truth and doctrinal error and uphold the person who teaches in this manner.

There is a Scripture that some will attempt to use to validate this saying, which is no different in philosophy from the "baby" saying. That is, 1 Thessalonians 5:21 "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." Most will ignore the first part of the verse when defending their stand, and rather suggest that by spitting out the bones they are holding fast to that which is good. If one is to prove all things--meaning prove them to be of the Word of God, or not, and of the Lord Jesus Christ, then one need not partake of those who would teach falsehood. Holding fast to that which is good is holding fast to the Word of God and sound doctrine.

What many also ignore when "spitting out the bones" is the next verse to the passage, v. 22, “Abstain from all appearance of evil." If someone is of the Lord Jesus Christ they are not going to be presenting truth and error as a regular part of their doctrine. This is not talking about spiritual immaturity or lack of knowledge or even an error in understanding. This is taking, for example, the basics of the faith and perverting them ever so slightly so that Gnostic doctrines are viewed as palatable. Those in leadership have no excuse for not teaching sound doctrine. It is a requirement as seen in such passages as 1 Corinthians 4:1 "Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful."

That means being faithful to God and faithful to sound doctrine, which resides in Biblical truth.

Those that prefer to eat the meat and spit out the bones and that do not want the baby thrown out with the bathwater, label themselves as sound Christians. Yet, if one were to ask, if, while they are adhering to the meat and bones theology, do they also adhere to the Biblical responsibility of rebuking and correcting those who they willingly admit are teaching the truth and error which they partake of? Does it not appear as being double minded to say one stands by the Word of God and yet goes by secular sayings? God addressed that as well in James 1:8 "A double minded man is unstable in all his ways."

In 2 Timothy 1:13 Paul wrote," Hold fast the form of sound words.” Do we see an example of having to learn sound doctrine by ingesting truth and error? Paul said to hold fast to sound words, which he was inspired to give. Paul, nor the other Apostles, ever wrote a letter where one had to find the meat while spitting out the bones.

Paul speaks of learning sound doctrine as milk and strong meat in Hebrews 5:12-14. We see in that Scriptural passage that milk is for new believers as it contains the very basic principles of the faith that all must learn. Strong meat is for the more mature and leads one into the proper use and understanding of the Word of God, evident by their being able to discern good and evil and live a life in keeping with Biblical obedience. Not surprisingly, Paul does not speak of having to spit out the bones while ingesting the strong meat. If we are actually getting strong meat, which is sound doctrine, we will not need to discard most of the teaching used to obtain it.

The Word of God does not present error with a bit of truth thrown in. It is Truth. We are to hold it up as the standard and Jesus Christ is to be the foundation built upon, not false theology or religion. Unsound doctrine permeates thoughts and ideas just as the Scriptures teach that a little leaven does. Galatians 5:9, "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump." That leaven leads to hypocrisy in one form or another. It does not say that we can or should ignore the little error. Rather it says that little error will permeate all thought and doctrine. God's Word is our manual to discern truth and error, and is describes as a more powerful and sharper than any two edged sword in Hebrews 4:12. It is not the good found amongst the error that should have us wanting to be part of a group, or theology or uphold a particular leader.

One other saying that is grounded in falsehood is the one that "evil flourishes when good men do nothing," used by Christians and non-Christians alike. We did not see Jesus Christ or the apostles overthrowing Caesar or promoting the concept that all will be good if one removes those who disagree with whatever the definition of good and evil happens to be for the person touting the saying. Jesus said in Matthew 5:39, to “resist not evil.” Evil flourishes because of rejection of Jesus Christ. It will continue to do so until Christ returns. 2 Timothy 3:13 warns that, "evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” Verse 14, admonishes and encourages us to, “continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of”.

Christians are to reprove evil as shown, for example, in Ephesians 5:10 "Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." We are to act, but we are to deal with evil differently than non-Christians and for a different reason.

We are to speak sound doctrine (Titus 2:1) for several reasons. Titus 1:9 states by sound doctrine, we are able to “exhort and to convince the gainsayers."

A Christian’s responsibility is to discern truth and error and help our fellow believers grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Is it showing those Christian qualities to selfishly eat the meat, spit out the bones and never correct the false teaching, albeit to the detriment of younger or immature Christians who might not recognize the error? Do we have no responsibility even for the sake of the person presenting the false doctrine?

How many who favor old wives tales and secular sayings over sound doctrine, would adhere to the Scripture which states in Romans 15:13-14, “that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another”?

To admonish, which is not a bad thing, suggests earnest or friendly warning and counsel. It is a required Biblically sound doctrine that all are to participate in. How many would also claim the following in 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 14 and 1 Timothy 5:19-21 which speaks using action words such as “to know them”, “rebuke before all” and “observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.”

Paul charged in 2 Timothy 4:1-2 to, “2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine." And in Titus 1:13 “rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;” and warned of things that “turn from the truth.”

To reprove-to scold and or correct gently, with kindly intent, to express disapproval of something with the intent of causing change. To rebuke- sharp or stern reproof for the benefit of the person. To exhort- warn or give advice, incite by giving warnings or advice.

Notice that these action words are all Biblical words and necessary for growth. We as brothers and sisters in the Lord are to edify and encourage one another, and in that is the responsibility of helping those who may have erred from sound doctrine. (Romans 14:19; 1 Thess. 1:11; Ephes. 5:8-11) Those seeking to obey Jesus Christ and the Word of God will grow from edifying words. (Gal. 6:1; 2 Tim. 2:22-26)

If those teaching truth and error, and those teaching things such as old wives tales and secular sayings for sound doctrine, are not of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Biblical admonishment is likely to be refused. We are not to give up on being obedient. The point is we need to be sure that what we believe aligns to the Word of God. Jude 3 exhorts us to, “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints."

We are to test all things ourselves as well as share those things with our brothers and sisters in the Lord. 2 Peter 1:10 reminds us to “give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:"

God's Word is our defense, according to Ephesians 6:16. "Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:"

If someone proclaims to abide by the Word of God, it makes sense that the Scriptures are the basis for their sound doctrine.

*All Scripture Quotes KJV

© Permission to use with Proper Credit


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