I was listening to a father the other day at a restaurant (OK, it was McDonalds!). His kids and wife were ranged around him, and he was having a good time. “I’ll have the cheese burger,” he declared. “Cut the cheese.”
I know it was corny. The looks on the kids’ faces told me they had heard this joke before … several times! It made me think of some questions:
* Why were the Old Testament priests drawn only from the tribe of Levi? Did scripture specifically forbid priests from, say, the tribe of Judah? “For it is clear,” the Hebrew writer declares, “that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe, Moses said nothing about Priests” (Hebrews 7:14).
* Why do you come to a complete halt at a stop sign? Does the sign specifically forbid looking both ways and rolling through if clear? Try that reasoning with your local law enforcement personnel!
* Why does the pharmacist not add several creative elements to your doctor’s prescription? Does the prescription specifically forbid the addition of other medicines according to the pharmacist’s whims?
The fact is that we use the “argument from silence” all the time in every day life. An appointment made for nine in the morning is considered broken if I turn up at eleven! When the instruction (or command, if God is the one giving it) is given, that instruction naturally excludes as well as includes. You can’t have priests from Levi and Judah both and fulfill the Law of Moses’ specific instructions. You can’t stop at a stop sign and roll through it all at the same time. This is not deep philosophical mumbo jumbo; it’s not tricky theology; it’s plain, common equestrian reasoning!
There are many things that the New Testament does not mention. Hymn books and church foyers, air conditioning and Bible class workbooks aren’t mentioned. The argument from silence, however, derives from those commands that God gives in his word. God’s command includes what he commanded, and, if it is silent on alternatives, it is a silence we should respect.
“Now brothers I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, ‘Do not go beyond what is written.'” (1 Corinthians 4:6).
By the way, a cheese burger must have cheese on it, or it’s something else altogether!
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