Author: Matt Robison
I have been contemplating a question that often seems to divide brethren; 'Is the silence of scripture restrictive or permissive?'
You know all the old arguments....'Can we have a basketball court?' Some say 'Yes, the bible doesn't forbid it!' Others say, 'No, the Bible doesn't mention it!' and round and round we go. Two groups, equally sincere, equally interested in following Christ's command to reach the lost, equally desirous to be found in Him; at odds with each other over this question.
What is the answer? The obvious answer is, 'THERE IS NO ANSWER!!!' That's why the debate is endless. It is shocking to some, obvious to others, that sincere people can look at the same bible and come to different conclusions about things. So now you say, 'Oh, ok, eddie...I see now, you're one of those post-modernist who doesn't believe in absolute truth!' No, you are wrong. There is absolute truth, and much, if not all of it is contained in the Bible. But we're not talking about truth here, we are talking about silence, and humans will ALWAYS fight over what it means.
I think the important thing for us to realize in this debate is that we are asking the wrong question! 'Is the silence of scripture restrictive or permissive?', no matter which side you stand on, is a question that makes a wrong assumption. This question assumes that the Bible is a rulebook; and this is wrong, wrong, WRONG! The Bible is not a law book. Have you seen law books, like at your lawyer's office? They are huge volumes that dictate laws that attempt to cover every possible situation. And still, even these are debated every day, in every courthouse in the world. Man cannot agree on laws, so why would you think that our God would be so foolish as to give us a law book?
The truth is, the Bible is not a book full of rules. It is a story. If you want to be fancy, it is a narrative. The problem for many of us, is that a story, or narrative is so much more subjective than a rule book. This is terrifying to many 'conservative' brethren. But what is so terrifying? To say that it is a narrative does not strip it of the absolute truth that God has invested in it! To say that it is a story is not to say that there aren't commands to be followed and examples to be examined.
We follow the story of the Christ. A story that begins before Genesis 1 and has yet to end. In the Bible, a written record of a portion of that story, we find principles and themes to build our lives around. Does the Bible tell me, specifically, not to take cocaine? no. Well is that permissive or restrictive?? NEITHER! I don't take cocaine because one of the fundamental principles of Christ's life and teachings is self control and devoting myself, body included, to the glorification of the Father!
To get back to our original example above. I don't worship at a church with a basketball court, but it's not because I think the silence of the Bible forbids it! I wouldn't want one, because how does that fit into what was important to Jesus? If I read the Bible and listen to it's principles and themes, where does a gym, or stain glass windows, or any of these other extravagances fit into the simple walk of my Savior and those that followed after Him and wrote of Him?
The truth is that if we try to make the Bible a rule book we fail no matter our position. If we try to be restrictive, we paint ourselves into corners and are forced to 'ignore' or explain away(usually with complicated, convoluted arguments) certain passages that don't fit into our world view. If we try to say that we can do whatever we want, we are ignoring the truth of the Bible that it is the standard by which we should live our lives! Neither position is tenable.
Christ calls us to walk a third path; His path. A follower of Christ will be, at times, more conservative than the conservatives, and more liberal than the liberals! We follow a Christ that called his disciples to have a greater righteousness than the Pharisees, and yet he often rejected their traditionalism! Let us all follow Christ and His word to the best of our ability!
Eddie Legg is the author of Simple Life in Christ, a blog about the simple life of a Christian. Also expect some random meanderings about what it's like in Australia!