Questions for the Audience

Some things I’m curious about:

Was the “Law of Prohibitive Silence” created from the motto “We speak where the Bible speaks; we are silent where the Bible is silent” created by the Restoration founders?

What name(s) can be credited with its first phrasing and defense? (Surely – unlike Topsy – it must have be borned rather than just growed.)

Was its use initially or primarily to refute instrumental worship, or was its early use just as often dedicated to refuting cooperation among churches, multiple communion cups and sundry other items termed “innovations”?

Has anyone done a scholarly study of any elucidations of the “Law of Prohibitive Silence” regarding the amount of inductive reasoning compared to the amount of deductive reasoning used?

By the way, I don’t know the answers to these questions; I am honestly asking them.

It just seems like the answers would be enlightening.

9 thoughts on “Questions for the Audience

  1. I would have to think about the prohibitive silence argument. It is related to pattern theology and ‘authority’. But I am fairly certain the “speak where the Bible speaks…” is a paraphrase of a line in Thomas Campbell’s “Declaration and Address”And I looked at that document for just a minute and found this:5. That with respect to the commands and ordinances of ourLord Jesus Christ, where the scriptures are silent, as to the express time or manner of performance, if any such there be; no human authority has power to interfere, in order to supply the supposed de-ficiency, by making laws for the church; nor can any thing more be required of christians in such cases, but only that they so observe these commands and ordinances, as will evidently answer the declared and obvious end of their institution. Much less has any human authority power to impose new commands or ordinances uponthe church, which our Lord Jesus Christ has not enjoined. Nothingought to be received into the faith or worship of the church; or bemade a term of communion amongst christians, that is not as old as the New Testament. 6. That although inferences and deductions from scripture pre-mises, when fairly inferred, may be truly called the doctrine of God’sholy word: yet are they not formally binding upon the consciences of christians farther than they perceive the connection, and evidently see that they are so; for their faith must not stand in the wisdom of men; but in the power and veracity of God–therefore no such deductions can be made terms of communion, but do properly belong to the after and progressive edification of the church. Henceit is evident that no such deductions or inferential truths ought to have any place in the churchs’s confession.

  2. This paragraph also seems relevant, Tommy:“First, to determine expressly, in the name of the Lord, when the Lord has not expressly determined, appears to us a very great evil: see Deut. xviii–20. ‘The prophet that shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak–even that prophet shall die.'”It’s no wonder that some who favor the all-law all-the-time hermeneutic have repudiated ties to Campbell.Thanks for seeking with me.

  3. Keith,It must be another of his or Alexander Campbell’s writings that is almost directly on target with that phrase. I will try to look it up later. It is of interest to me HOW MUCH their thoughts influenced people which down the line still drives people’s thoughts. My mother is so in line with much of this stuff yet when you ask her about them…”they were close but they will not make it” Meaning will not make it to Heaven.

  4. Tommy – and anyone else who is interested – the quote is indeed Thomas Campbell’s; he is generally credited as originating it.The sources I’ve found for it date it between 1807 (when he came to America) and 1809 (when he convened some fellow believers to discuss such matters). His phrasing is: “Where the scriptures speak, we speak; and where the scriptures are silent, we are silent.”

  5. The earliest diatribe against instrumental worship I can find is < HREF="" REL="nofollow">Alexander Campbell’s 1851 article<> in the <>Millennial Harbinger<>. It quotes no scripture nor refers to the “speaking/silent” motto.The next I find is < HREF="" REL="nofollow">Moses Lard’s 1864 article<> in <>Lard’s Quarterly 1<>, which claims that instrumental worship insults the authority of Christ, and deems the one who introduces it as “as a defiant and impious innovator on the simplicity and purity of the ancient worship.” It also quotes no scripture, nor the motto.By 1873, < HREF="" REL="nofollow">David Lipscomb’s<> article in the <>Gospel Advocate<> proclaimed: “The New Testament is at once the rule and limit of our faith and worship to God . . . Our rule limit man’s worship to the exercises approved from the Bible.“Prayer, praise, Thanksgiving, singing and making melody in the heart unto the Lord are acts of worship ordained of God. Yet no authority do we find for the instrument . . . Again, if we open to the door to expediency, where shall welcome it? Why the stop at the organ? If we can make an inanimate object as the organ answer as a substitute for singing. Why will not one do for praying? Counting beads is the same character of a substitute for praying that the organ is for singing.” Since I cannot find the full article, I don’t know if “our rule” refers to the motto, but it seems to fit. It may be the first connection of the motto and the issue.But what I can gather from brief histories of the Restoration Movement generally, other dividing concerns – including slavery, the Civil War, and missionary societies – were already at work at denominationalizing the factions within it. (See Tom Olbricht’s < HREF="" REL="nofollow">1995 article<> as an example.)

  6. Thomas Campbell didn’t originate the silence of the Scriptures idea but received it from his Reformed background. Many Presbyterians of the 18th century held to a prohibitive doctrine of biblical silence. This emphasis, in turn, goes back to Zwingli and the Swiss Reformers who said that nothing could be done by the church unless specifically called for in Scripture. I don’t recall the provenance of the ideas from the Swiss to Scottish Reformers.Allen and Hughes, by the way, touch on this issue in <>Discovering Our Roots<>.”

  7. Thanks, Milton; I was hoping there’d be someone out there with a much deeper background than my B.A. in journalism!I appreciate you pointing me in the right direction.

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