Should the “Law of Silence” Divide the Body of Christ?

For more than 150 years Christians have divided over what we call the “rule of Silence.”  The following problem has divided us over a multitude of aaaaabible2differing things.  One group says, “Since God is silent on the subject therefore God forbids it.”   The second group says, “Since God is silent on the subject therefore God allows it.”  As a result of our difference on how we deal with this “law” brethren have continued to divide and go their separate ways over a multitude of differences.

What does Scripture say about the “law of silence?”  Honestly, God does not address this subject at all.  As a matter of fact, God does not even mention the “law of silence”.  This law has been devised by man to  prop up the arguments we make in determining our interpretation of Scripture. 

If one holds the prohibitive view of the “law of silence”, then one would use this view of the “law” to prevent anything they did not approve concerning interpretation of Scripture.  If one holds the  acceptance view of the “law of silence”, then one would use this view to allow particular views they wanted approved when interpreting Scripture.  If this sounds confusing there is more.

It is difficult to apply this man made law with consistency.  Those who hold the prohibitive view of the “law of silence” find it a convenient law when disallowing such things as clapping or instruments in worship.  This law has been used to prohibit spending money out of the church treasury for such things as the support of institutions not authorized specifically by Scripture.  This has prevented church support of colleges and even orphan homes.  God did not authorize it therefore we cannot do it.  Yet it has been difficult to apply consistently.  We have no authorization for paying the bills for utilities, song books, or for that matter a church building  from church funds.  For even the most stringent prohibitionist  we readily accept that the above mentioned items  are necessary even though they are not specifically authorized or addressed in Scripture.   The prohibitionist has used this rule to prohibit clapping and instruments in worship but allows singing with  four-part harmony, a song leader, and announcements even though there is no example, command or inference for these items.  Our problem with the “rule of silence” is in application.  How do we decide if our determined understanding is an aid and when our determined understanding is an innovation?

Let me ask a few questions I consider to be   more basic along these same  thoughts.  Should the church divide based on the application of a rule made by man?   Should rules made by man determine fellowship?  Should Christians divide?  Maybe we should ask, “Does Scripture allow or authorize the withholding of fellowship based on the law of silence?  All of this brings us back to the original question, “Should the Law of Silence divide the body of Christ?” 

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15 Responses to Should the “Law of Silence” Divide the Body of Christ?

  1. mattdabbs says:

    Good looking blog…I will certainly be back.

  2. Wayne McDaniel says:

    Dell, I am glad you have raised this question, and the answer is clear. Whoever the man was that coined the phrase, “the law of silence” should have been reading his Bible, instead of trying to control others with his reasoning. Coining the phrase expressed his pride, unlikely to pray, “God, be mericful to me, the sinner.” The Restoration that began in 1801 by conviction of sin, today has some who trust in themselves that they are righteous, and set all others at nought.

  3. Jere says:

    I don’t think you seriously believe that God does not address the subject of the “law of silence.” There are many occasions in both the Old and New Testaments where the law of silence applies: the eating of clean meat vs unclean meat, God specified the clean meat that could be eaten He did not list the meat that could not be eaten; God said the priests were to come from the tribe of Levi –that means the priests were not to come from any other tribe—Paul makes reference to this silence in Heb 7:14. In the New Testament: baptism is to be an immersion– that outlaws anything else. He didn’t say not to sprinkle. The Lord’s Supper is another one: God said the fruit of the vine. Does that means He also had to say no apple juice?
    The “law of silence” is very much a part of scripture. The problem is when or how does it apply. Make that a subject of a future blog.

  4. Jere, I do seriously believe God does not address the “law of silence” as we apply it in our process of hermaneutics today. We make application of this “law” we have created from a purely intellectual process. Unfortunately for us God doesn’t declare us righteous through a strictly intellectual process. God declares us righteous because of our faith in something we can’t intellectually wrap our head around. We are declared righteous because of our faith in a God we have neither seen nor intellectually understand. According to Jesus words in John 5:39-40 Scripture says , “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” In a way eerily similar to today the pharasees thought that by an intellectual grasp of the Scripture they could obtain eternal life. They were placing their hope of salvation in their ability to diligently study the Scriptures. As a result they missed the Christ. The “law of silence” is a man made concept intended to allow us the opportunity to also diligently study the Scriptures.
    All Scripture is inspired by God, the law of Silence is not. If it were we wouldn’t have the tremendous problems we have with consistency in its application.
    With the above being said, the question simply put was this, “Should the ‘law of silence” divide the body of Christ?”

  5. 1 Middle Man says:

    As with everything else, the “law of silence” needs to be subservient to the “law of love”…

  6. Judy says:

    I have never heard of a “law of silence.” Is that why there’s no organ music allowed? Because it’s not mentioned in the bible to use or not use a musical instrument?

  7. Should the ‘law of silence” divide the body of Christ?

    I’m afraid your question has come about 150 years too late, Dell.

    No, it should not. But it has.

  8. Keith,
    We can’t undo what has been done in the past but we can certainly do a better job with the future, don’t you think?

  9. Don Morrison says:

    What is big enough to warrant division? Unity is the essence of reconciled relationships. How can we be reconciled to God without being reconciled to one another? And when we separate ourselves from one another, how does that reflect on God, the Reconciler of all things?

    We should know that scripture only speaks of a few things that define “who is in and who is out:” faith in the divine and exclusive nature of the Creator; the divine origin and nature of the Son; and the more subjective teachings about penitence from immorality. About all other doctrines, we should each be convinced in our own minds while trusting that God will make us all stand.

    Perhaps my list is not exhaustive.

  10. Wayne McDaniel says:

    Don, I rejoice to read your words that reflect the Lord’s Spirit and wisdom.

    We could employ Paul’s words in Eph. 4:4-6. Unfortunately, some twist those words to flatter themselves, excluding (in their mind) from the one body, some who reflect the trust that confesses sin. “For we are not bold to number or compare ourselves with certain of them that commend themselves: but they themselves, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves with themselves, are without understanding.” – 2 Cor. 10:12

  11. Keith Brenton says:

    Dell, I try to remain optimistic. But the folks I talk to who are sold on the law of silence (especially the law of silence-as-prohibitive) only ignore or avoid the questions I pose, even when I try to answer theirs. It’s hard to have dialogue on only one party’s terms.

  12. Keith I have faced the same problem. Unfortunately if we are going to make a difference in this old world we have to get past this. I’m not sure how but, we must change this view.

  13. Wayne McDaniel says:

    Perhaps the following words by Edward Fudge will be helpful in viewing the “law of Silence”. This gracEmail by Edward is one of over 1,000 indexed at his website.

    LAW OF SILENCE
    A gracEmail subscriber heard a sermon condemning instrumental music in Christian worship based on John 14:31, in which Jesus says that he does just as his Father commands. The preacher said that if we do just as God commands we cannot have instrumental music since the New Testament does not specifically command it. He called this “the law of silence.” What should we make of this?

    I appreciate your preacher’s desire to obey God exactly, just as Jesus did. When it comes to the subject of instrumental music, however, exact obedience leaves the door wide open. God does not require us to use it and he does not prohibit us from using it. It seems clear to me that God approves of instruments since Paul tells believers to be Psalm-singers (Eph. 5:19) and several of the Psalms specifically call on God’s people to praise him with instruments (Psalm 150 is a notable example). Further, the word “psalm” itself includes a song sung to musical accompaniment. The Temple, which early Jewish believers (including the Apostles) frequented, used musical instruments, and Revelation freely harps in heaven.

    The “law of silence” approach, which assumes that anything is wrong unless it is specifically authorized, is itself not stated in the Bible. I suppose that means that the person who truly tries to follow that approach should reject it. Even if it is followed, that approach does not forbid instruments for all the reasons set out above. Finally, nobody consistently follows that approach, since to do so would require the Lord’s Supper meetings to be held at night and upstairs, those details having been specifically noted by Scripture with no alternative examples given.

    Most of all, the gospel and the New Testament are not about some pattern of external worship details, as Jesus makes clear in visiting with the Samaritan woman in John 4. What is important is that we worship truly from the heart, motivated by the Holy Spirit and with faith in Jesus Christ (“in spirit/Spirit” and “in truth”). The Mosaic covenant included Leviticus, a book of detailed regulations for worship. The new covenant under Jesus contains nothing like that, a contrast implied by the author of Hebrews (9:1). – Edward Fudge

    For more about using the Bible, click here.
    For more on true worship, click here.

  14. mattdabbs says:

    Keith,

    I have noticed the same thing among many who argue from an extreme conservative perspective. I listen to what they are saying and respond. But rarely does it seem they listen to my questions or comments. I don’t expect anyone to think I have anything valuable to say, but as you said, at least it would be nice to actually have an intelligent dialog on these matters.

  15. Jan says:

    We have been taught SO MUCH about the pattern of how to worship God and SO LITTLE about the spirituality of worshipping God. Our realtionship with the Trinity is the key. If our relationship with God, Christ and the Holy Spirit is right, our realtionship with our fellow man will be OK too. If you get married and never put an effort into making the realtionship grow, the marriage will probably not last. You went through the act but never worked on the realtionship. The same is true with Christianity!
    Good post Dell!

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