Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 26, 1961

The Silence Of The Scriptures

Roger M. Hendricks, Harlingen, Texas one will contend that a man may do the things which the Bible does not prohibit, merely because it does not prohibit them. We infer duties, not from what the Bible does not say, but from what it does say." (The Pioneers on Worship, p. 121).

The author of the above quotation was Moses E. Lard. It seemed incredible to him that anyone would contend that a given practice was authorized by the silence of the scriptures. Yet, this contention has been made for years by both brethren and sectarians in defense of nearly every innovation which man has tried to introduce into the worship and service of God which is not expressly prohibited in the Divine Word.


Some have attempted to justify the use of mechanical instrumental music in worship to God on the grounds that "The Bible doesn't say not to have it." Some have contended that the Bible doesn't say not to sprinkle babies as a religious rite. Others have cried, "The Bible doesn't say not to have pie suppers, leg shows, etc., for raising church funds." Again: "The Bible doesn't say not to burn incense or count beads as acts of worship." "The Bible doesn't say not to pray to Mary." "The Bible doesn't say not to have church sponsored recreational programs and socials." "The Bible doesn't say not to have 'sponsoring churches'." "The Bible doesn't say that churches of Christ are not to support colleges and/or human benevolent organizations." "The Bible doesn't say not to have the 'Herald of Truth' set up."

Thus, have men attempted to justify (or authorize) by the silence of the scriptures numerous practices. "Are we at liberty to do anything in religion which is not expressly forbidden in the scriptures, or are we bound by what is written?" (Keith Thompson) "Are we permitted to introduce into the worship whatever is not specifically forbidden?" (F. G. Allen) Can religious beliefs and practices be justified by the silence of the scriptures? I say that they cannot!

Must Have Scriptural Authority

Man must have authority from the New Testament (the expression of Christ's authority) for everything that he believes, teaches, and practices in religion. That which we believe must come from God. "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Rom. 10:17) That which we teach must come from God. "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God .... " (1 Pet. 4:11) That which we practice must come from God. "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus .... " (Col. 3:17) "In the name of the Lord Jesus" simply means by his authority. God must speak before man can obey. If God has not spoken, he has not authorized.

Forbidden To Go Beyond

We have been forbidden to go beyond the authority of Jesus Christ as expressed in the New Testament. "Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the leaching of Christ, hath not God .... " (2 Jno. 9 ASV) Paul admonishes us to "learn not to go beyond the things which are written .... " (1 Cor. 4:6 ASV) It is impossible to have an apostasy without someone first violating the authority of the Savior. But when men cease to appeal to God's Word and begin to appeal to the silence of it, the authority of God is disregarded or misunderstood and apostasy ensues.

Silence Of The Scriptures Condemns

I believe that we can establish the fact that, rather than authorizing a given practice, the silence of the scriptures condemns the practice!

The very fact that God has said, "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God," should be enough to convince us that we are not to assume the prerogative of speaking that which the oracles of God mention nothing concerning — about which they are silent. The fact that we are told "not to go beyond the things which are written" should teach us that "To warrant the holding of a doctrine or practice it must be shown that it has the affirmative or positive sanction of this standard, and not merely that it is not condemned by it" specifically. As brother Lard has said, "Either it must be actually asserted or necessarily implied, or it must be positively backed by some divinely approved precedent, otherwise it is not even an item in Christianity, and is therefore, when it is attempted to be made a part of it, criminal and wrong." (Ibid., p. 149)

The writer of Hebrews makes an appeal to the silence of the scriptures in chapter one, verse five. However, he does so, not to prove or authorize that which is under consideration, but, to the contrary, to show that it was not so. He says, "For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?" If the inspired writer were like many today, he would contend that God had so spoken unto the angels because the scriptures didn't say that He had not so spoken! The truth was that God had not said this of the angels (as was seen from the silence of the scriptures). He had spoken these words in regard to Jesus Christ (as was seen by the voice of the scriptures — Psalms 2:7).

"In every age of the world, from the Garden of Eden down, every act of divine worship had to be appointed of God." "God does not allow men to choose what they will worship, nor how they will worship, nor what they will dedicate to him in worship." "Are we permitted to introduce into the worship whatever is not specifically forbidden? He who thus affirms must accept all the impious innovations of Rome. For they neither, are specifically forbidden. There can be no end to the corruptions of the Worship on this principle. On this principle, no religion that God ever gave to men could maintain its identity through three generations." (Quotes from F. G. Allen)

It stands as a statement of truth that any act of worship or service to God must be authorized, either generically or specifically by Jesus Christ in the New Testament in order for it to be acceptable unto God. The silence of the scriptures is merely a manifest lack of authorization!

And that which is unauthorized is unacceptable