Vol.XV No.IX Pg.4
November 1978

The Silence Of God

Robert F. Turner

From Christians Only," by James DeForest Munch, we quote: "As Thomas von Imbroich stood in the court in Cologne, about 1556 he declared, "The Scriptures cannot be broken, nor shall anything be added to or subtracted from the Word of God which remains in eternity." ...Dick Phillips wrote in his Vindication: "From these words it is evident that whatever God has not commanded and has not instituted by express command of Scripture, he does not want observed nor does He want to be served therewith nor will He have His Word set aside nor made to suit the pleasure of men."

"Express command" is a bit presumptive here — God expresses His will in other ways — but the scriptures are certainly the media for His expressions, and the quotation shows that completeness of the scriptures was a cardinal principle in reformation.

Later, when Thomas Campbell framed his 'Declaration and Address," that principle was stated in what became a motto for restoration efforts: "Let us Speak Where the Bible Speaks, and Be Silent Where the Bible is Silent". "Silent where the Bible is silent is just another way of saying we must not go beyond that which is divinely authorized.

Brethren sometimes sing a short hymn at the beginning of services: "The Lord is in His holy temple; Let all the earth keep silence before him" — as though this meant, "keep quiet in the church building." That is not the point. The hymn is from Hab. 2:20, and means: God is on His Throne, He will do the talking, and his creatures should shut up and listen. The same principle is set forth in Rom. 9: 20-21 where Paul says, "Nay but, 0 man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?" Job 28:28 reads, "The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom." We must respect both His voice and His silence; for the later indicates our trust in the former as being complete and adequate.

"Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish from it, that ye may keep the commandments of Jehovah your God which I command you" (Deut. 4:2). One who does what God says — plus things in religion which are without authority, has not been obedient unto God. Failure to respect God's silence may suggest that we have done what He has commanded only because we felt this was a good thing. We are unwilling to rely upon God's wisdom — to concede that what is written is adequate to produce faith, and lead us to eternal life (Jn. 16:13; 20:30-31; 2 Tim. 3:17).

And even when the principle of being "silent where the Bible is silent" has been accepted, its application is often distorted by our prejudices. In 1809 when Campbell presented this principle, a brother Munro observed, "then there is an end of infant baptism." At this a brother Acheson was emotionally upset, and left the room defending his pet with "that blessed saying: suffer little children to come unto me —" to which a brother Foster replied, "That scripture has no reference whatever to infant baptism." Applications can be painful. (continued on next page)