Where the Bible is Silent (Part 6)
In addition to showing the difference between silence and implication, it might be helpful to more clearly define what we mean when we say "the Bible is silent" about a particular issue. I cannot improve upon the definition George Beals offered in his book ( How Implication Binds & Silence Forbids ) on page 76: "The Bible is silent on an action when there is no Bible passage or combination of Bible passages which explicitly or implicitly teaches that the action is forbidden (is a must-not-do), required (is a must-do), or permitted (is an option)." If an action is neither required nor permitted either explicitly or implicitly in Scripture, then it is not authorized. Some will object: "But Stephen, if the action in question isn't forbidden either explicitly or implicitly, then how can we know it's not permitted?" It's a question many ask, but we've already answered it. Actions for which the Bible is truly silent are actions that are forbidden, since they lack proper authority. This fits well with our understanding of Colossians 3:17.

Let us consider another example for clarity. Someone might suggest we start using white chocolate during the Lord's Supper, in addition to unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine, to symbolize Jesus' bones. What does the Bible say about this? The Bible is silent regarding using white chocolate in this fashion. The Bible authorizes two elements (unleavened bread and fruit of the vine), but says nothing about using anything else. Thus, since the Scriptures are silent on white chocolate being used at the Lord's table, what is the proper conclusion? What course of action should be followed? If the Bible is truly silent about the matter, there is no authority for the act either explicitly or implicitly. Therefore, this is a matter about which we cannot act "in the name of the Lord," and yet we are commanded to only act "in the name of the Lord" (Col. 3:17).

So, how should we interpret Biblical silence? Some affirm that God's word doesn't tell us how to interpret silence and we must simply choose what we think is best. However, if the Bible did not instruct us how to interpret silence, we would be wise to employ the "when in doubt, don't" principle of Romans 14:23. In other words, if the Bible didn't tell us how to interpret silence, we should all be compelled to doubt that Biblical silence permits. Nevertheless, we know that the Scriptures claim to be all-sufficient and complete (cf. II Tim. 3:16,17). Thus, they should be sufficient to equip us to answer this important question! The Scriptures prepare us for every good work. Thus, if the Bible does not address a particular work (is silent about it), then that work cannot be good. We must do only what we have proved to be good (cf. I Thess. 5:21). If we do that which is not authorized in the Scriptures, where all good works are found, we violate I Thessalonians 5:21 and sin in so doing. If we can't find Biblical authority either explicitly or implicitly for a particular action in question (in a general or specific way), then God's silence on that matter should be interpreted as intentional and prohibitive. In other words, Bible silence forbids!

We will conclude this series in our next lesson.