The Silence of Scripture (10)
Editor's Note: This article is the tenth in a series of articles dealing with the subject of Bible authority. The articles are short, as they first were printed in the local bulletin I edit. Feel free to reprint them if you find them helpful. However, credit must be given to Billy W. Moore's class book A Study of Authority, as the articles follow closely the material found in that good book.)
Consider the following scenario. A parent gives a child a ten dollar bill, and tells him to go into the store and buy a gallon of milk, and a loaf of bread. The child returns to the car with the milk, the bread, some change, and a candy bar. The parent tells the child, "I didn't say you could get a candy bar!", and the child replies, "You didn't say I couldn't!"
The child's statement is true, but he quickly learns that the parent's silence on the matter did not constitute permission to go ahead and buy the candy bar. From this example, we understand the principle that silence is not permissive.
The same is true with the word of God. Though it is a common sentiment expressed by religious people today, the idea that "if God has not explicitly condemned a practice He allows it", is without merit. In fact, not only does the logic in our example refute such a concept of authority, the scriptures explicitly deny the concept as well. This we will soon show.
It is not surprising that such an attitude is common today. The Catholic church has taken the position that the Bible is only one component of God's will, and has without apology added to scripture its own traditions. Martin Luther, perhaps the most influential man in the reformation movement, felt that Christians were at liberty to do anything that was not expressly forbidden in scripture.
When Thomas Campbell first expressed in the early 19th century the famous slogan, "We speak where the Bible speaks, and are silent where the Bible is silent," he established the signature attitude of the restoration movement in America. While it was a novel concept to those steeped in man-made traditions and worship, it was an expression based in bible principle.
In 1 Peter 4:11, the apostle wrote, "If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God..." Disregarding the need for expressed authority from God leads to many innovations. It is because of a misunderstanding of this concept of Bible authority that the Christian Church digressed by accepting into their worship the instrument of music, and into their work the Missionary Society. Both have their origin in the mind of man, rather than in the scripture. Concerning worship that originates in the mind of man, note the following statement from our Lord:
As this attitude toward authority developed, the Christian Church continued to add man-made innovations such as "fellowship halls", socials, women preachers, and myriad other things on the grounds that, "The Bible doesn't say we can't have them."
The same attitude has led to digression among churches of Christ in the last 50 years. When objections are made to youth recreational activities, the sponsoring church arrangement, and other modern day innovations, it is commonly stated "We do many things for which we have no authority." This is most assuredly so, but that by no means justifies such actions.
In Hebrews 7:14, the Hebrew writer clearly shows the restrictive nature of the silence of God. The passage reads, "For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood." The writer notes that in order for Jesus to serve as a priest, there would have to be a change of priesthood and the law. While the law did not expressly deny the right of one from Judah to serve as priest, its silence on the matter was in itself a prohibition. Jesus could not have been a priest under the old law. Imagine someone today claiming he could, saying, "Well, it didn't say he couldn't!"
Silence does not give consent. Silence prohibits! We can't know what God's will for us is, unless God reveals that to us (cf. 1 Cor. 2:9-13). To assume that God would be pleased is to presume to know God's mind beyond revelation. This no one can do, and it is an indication of great arrogance to claim such an ability. We are not to add to the word of God (cf. Rev. 22:18-19). The Bible supplies everything we need to serve God (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17). To add to the word of God constitutes will worship (cf. Matt. 15:9), and is unlawful (cf. Matt. 7:21-23). Let us be content with what God has revealed.