We looked at four issues with arguments from silence previously. In this we will build upon those and discuss a few more issues with them, and delve more into why formulating belief on them is a risky proposition.
When we make an argument from the silence of Jesus, we essentially force Him, as well as the gospel writers, into our context to speak to an issue the way that we want to, in an affirmative manner. As we talked about before, Jesus was a first century Jew speaking to first century Jews and Gentiles. That doe snot make what He says any less relevant today, but it does mean that we need to understand it as it was said then, and not as we want it said now. Let me try to break it down a little better. An argument from silence forces the gospel writers to be speaking directly to us in this time instead of to their contemporaries many years ago. Jesus was not thinking of us when He was speaking to people during His earthly life, nor did the gospel writers think of us when they recorded it. An argument form silence changes the context of Jesus and the gospel writers entirely. When we change the context with an argument from silence, we also change the language and meaning of words. Once we have placed Jesus firmly in our modern context, it is simple to have him speak our modern language, not the language He spoke, or the language it was recorded in. We also ignore the Old Testament again, as Jesus often quoted directly, or echoed things found there. In a very real way, we have exercised authority over Jesus forcing Him to say what we want Him to, instead of submitting ourselves to His authority. That is a dangerous place to be spiritually. Before you know it, all of the sudden we have, using an argument from silence, rewritten doctrine either intentionally or not. That is a large part of why it is important to counter arguments from silence with truth.
This is a little bit beyond the original scope, but it bears mentioning here as it relates to arguments from silence. If we focus our arguments on upon what Jesus said, we turn him into a talking head pundit for whatever cause that we want. By doing this we give Jesus all the authority of a cable news personality. We make Jesus a democrat telling us to support social welfare programs or we are not faithful. We make Jesus a Republican who says that every civil law must conform to Scripture. We make Jesus into a Libertarian who doesn’t try to force anyone into doing anything.. o wait, He didn’t do that…hmmm….obviously I am making a bit of a joke here. It’s ok to laugh. We make the Jesus we want who says what we want instead of the Jesus who is that says exactly what He says. We need to keep in mind that the Old Testament was the scripture that Jesus had to work from. We ignore it at our peril. Jesus certainly did not. We have the added benefit of the New Testament as well. We ignore it at our peril. We are quick to say that Jesus is Lord, but if we focus on only what He said, He is still Lord, but we try to be the power behind the throne. Whether or not we argue from the silence of Jesus, or we focus on only what Jesus said (many use a combination of these two things), We ignore a whole lot of what explains what Jesus thought. Remember the Old Testament was the scripture in Jesus day. What He teaches is directly taken from there.
I want to be clear about one more thing. Jesus was silent on a great many things. It’s ok to ask and ponder why that is. That is a part of growth I think. The question is not the problem in the least. The problem is when we assign meaning to His silence. I would also like to add that in all of the examples we have of Jesus speaking, some of which are in a debate type of exchange, we never see Him use an argument from silence, at least not that I recall at this moment.
Proper apologetic use is becoming increasingly important with the rise of a hyper-individualized faith that says all that matters is what I believe. It is increasingly important to counter poor arguments with truth. More than ever Christians need ot be well versed in the scriptures, church history and tradition, the early fathers, etc. More than ever, it is those who are ‘properly educated’ who are assaulting the historic Christian faith. In my personal life it is not uncommon to find myself in discussions of an apologetic nature with those who possess higher education, and there I am, just some guy who loves Jesus and the Church He founded trying to defend the Bride until the Bridegroom comes for her. I suspect that as time goes on, it will become more and more necessary for each of us, especially in the West, to be prepared to do the same. How often have we countered the Jesus never said argument? How often has it been accompanied by a poor understanding of some common passage? How often have we been told well Jesus said all we need to do is love God and love people, and if we are loving people, we are loving God, or something vaguely similar? Each of these instances is an opportunity to defend the church and her teachings. Here is a probably poor example from some of my earlier writing countering a common argument. These are the types of things that I fear that we will need to be prepared to do, more than ever. going forward. Whatever church you are in, so long as it conforms to the historic faith, we are going to be in agreement over nearly everything but the details. Defending the historic faith is about more than one denomination, it is about defending the Bride of Christ herself, until His return. That isn’t an argument from silence by the way.