Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What the Bible Does Not Say

I am convinced that what the Bible does not say is as important as what it does say and that it is wrong to add to it. (Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:5,6; Revelation 22:18,19). But part of our problem is we can start by framing a question apart from Scripture and then expect Scripture to answer it. Now there are occasions where this is legitimate. If I am facing a particular moral dilemma that Scripture does not address directly, it is appropriate to look for principles that pertain to the situation. A book that addressed every obscure moral question would be too cumbersome to use, so I believe God wants us to apply principles to dealing with issues. But it is one thing to do this in unusual situations and another to add as clear-cut commands something the Bible never said. But the real problem can come from framing theological questions and straining for some Biblical basis to supply an answer, when it should have been obvious if God thought it was important.

A good example is the question of what way Christ is present in the Lord's Supper. The Scripture never directly addresses this question. The only question is what the word "is" means, and it is putting too much of a burden on this word in any language to claim it must mean "is physically" or some other specific meaning (Revelation 17:18; Isaiah 5:7; Hosea 10:11). Now I am not claiming this proves communion is symbolic. I am merely claiming Scripture does not say. Now I do not forbid the individual to speculate on it, but I have a problem with being dogmatic on something and dividing over it when Scripture does not clearly teach about it. (Notice that 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 is about the practice of the Eucharist and not the theory of it. Turning it into a drunken feast where everyone brought their own food and drink and nobody shared was disrespectful no matter what your theory of the Supper is.)

Other good examples are church government and the order of the worship service. While there are general principles given, there is no detailed description found (1 Corinthians 14:40; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Hebrews 13:17). However, there is a detailed description given of such things in the Old Testament. I can only conclude that if God did not include such things in the New Testament, it is because He did not intend to. Therefore, we have freedom as long as we stay within the principles.

I am convinced that God is not shy and that what He intended to say, He said. Now He may not have spoken on every obscure issue; to deal with all of them would make Scripture impossible to use. But I do not believe He left any critical issue to be ferreted out by reading  between the lines.   


  1. "Therefore, we have freedom as long as we stay within the principles."

    I like that Mike!

    I have wondered for some time how communion went from an intimate last supper to people standing in line for a cracker and a sip. Seems to totally miss the point.

    1. I am not sure I know all the steps but my understanding is that people abused it (see 1 Corinthians 11) and people ended up throwing out the baby with the bath water. Also I think there was so much sanctity attached to the elements and to the clergy there grew up the idea that ordinary people (who are the ones God calls saints) should not handle the elements any more than necessary. I agree with you that this was going the wrong direction.