“Open Bible Study”
November 13, 2010
Does Bible Silence Permit or Forbid?
This present study concerns the subject of “Bible Silence.” On November 13, 2010 Mr. Jason Murray came to our church building with the assignment of affirming “Bible Silence Permits.” Mr. Murray is the preacher for the Draper Park Christian Church in Oklahoma City. The assignment was as follows: (a) When the Bible is truly silent about a doctrine, does that silence permit the Christian to proceed in teaching and propagating that doctrine? (b) When the Bible is truly silent about a practice, does that silence permit the Christian to proceed in participating in that practice? Mr. Murray agreed to affirm that Bible silence grants permission.
In his presentation, Mr. Murray never actually defined what constitutes silence. Because he never defined his proposition, the audience was bewildered. Keeping in mind that Mr. Murray’s assignment which he agreed to present was “Bible Silence Permits,” he made this statement, “there is nothing about which the Bible is truly silent.” So Mr. Murray agreed to present a position which he ended up denying. How can silence permit if there is no silence to begin with? Although Mr. Murray spoke for 30 minutes in his sermon and answered questions for 30 more minutes more, the audience left never knowing Mr. Murray’s position on these vital questions: (a) What constitutes silence? (b) Is the Bible silent about anything? (c) If there is Bible silence about a doctrine, is the Christian permitted to teach a doctrine the Bible never even implied? (d) If there is Bible silence about a practice, is the Christian permitted to participate in a practice the Bible never even implied?
Instrumental music was the one of several subjects specifically addressed by Mr. Murray. He stated the “silence” of the Bible concerning religious use of instrumental music was only partial silence at best. What that means no one really knows. The word silence means the absence of all explicit and all implicit teaching. How can the Bible be “partially silent” about anything? It is either silent or it is not silent. Mr. Murray later stated that when the Bible “speaks ever so softly” on an issue, it is still speaking and is not therefore truly silent. But his assignment was not, “If the Bible speaks softly on a doctrine, the Christian is allowed to teach the doctrine.” Nor was his assignment, “If the Bible speaks ‘ever so softly’ on a practice, a Christian may therefore participate in that practice.” Instead, the assignment which Mr. Murray agreed to present was this, “When the Bible is silent on a doctrine or practice, that silence permits the Christian to participate in propagating the doctrine or practice.” Mr. Murray failed in proving Bible silence permits.
In spite of the weaknesses in his material, we all found Mr. Murray a most pleasant and enjoyable friend. He was humble, and sincere, and best of all, he seemed to be open-minded. He admitted that many of the points presented by Brother George were new to his thinking and he promised to give more consideration to passages such as Genesis 4 where Cain offered to God a sacrifice which God had been silent about (unauthorized sacrifice). Who could ask for more than humility, sincerity, and open-mindedness? Our prayer is that Mr. Murray will truly consider the points discussed tonight and that one day he would come to embrace the true doctrine of scripture: Bible Silence Forbids.
After Mr. Murray made his presentation, Brother George Battey presented the counterview. Brother Battey is a preacher of the gospel and represented the Good Hope Road Church of Christ in this Open Bible Study. Brother Battey began his part of the study discussing Bible authority. He read Colossians 3:17 and pointed out that everything taught or practiced must be authorized by the Lord. In order for something to be authorized by the Lord, either the Lord Himself or one of His authorized representatives (the apostles – 2 Corinthians 5:20; 1 John 4:6) must authorize the practice under consideration. Neither Moses nor the prophets of the Old Testament may authorize instrumental music today. All authorization must come from either the Lord Himself or one of His apostles. Because there is no authorization for instrumental music in the New Testament, such music is forbidden by Bible silence.
Brother George defined what constitutes Bible silence. Silence is the absence of all explicit teaching and all implicit teaching. In other words, for instrumental music to be authorized, all Mr. Murray would have to do is point to one New Testament passage that merely implied instrumental music. But this could not be done simply because there is no such passage. In the question session Brother George applied this same logic to individual communion cups and other innovations (Bible classes, second-offering of the Lord’s supper on Sundays, etc.). Brother George showed there is scripture for one cup (1 Corinthians 11:25; Matthew 26:27), but there is no scripture which even implies a plurality of cups. Hence, there is silence about a plurality of cups in communion. Furthermore, it was demonstrated that the cup itself was symbolic of the New Testament (1 Corinthians 11:25). Since the cup itself has spiritual significance, it becomes all the more important to utilize only one cup as the pattern reveals (Mk 14:23; 1 Corinthians 11:2, 23-25).
About 110 people were gathered from various congregations to hear both sides of this topic discussed. The question session was orderly and everyone participating conducted themselves honorably. It was a true joy to have this public study with Mr. Murray. The singing was most beautiful and proved to all present that instrumental music is not needed to praise the Lord. A wise man once said, “When a piano is added to a group of bad singers, you end up with a piano and bad singing.” Those present at the Open Bible Study can truly testify to the fact that the members of the Church of Christ know how to sing and praise God with their voices alone. The word “sing” means to “make music with the voice.” That is what Ephesians 5:19 commands that that is what members of the Church of Christ truly do – they “make music with the voice.”
We hope everyone will enjoy both the speeches and the question sessions which are posted here. May the Lord bless everyone in the study of His wonderful word. The “churches of Christ” salute you” (Romans 16:16).