The Missing ‘Only’

I have a theory. My theory is that legalistic Christian thought is absolutely, incontrovertibly “right” … if you’re allowed to insert the word “only” wherever desired in scripture.

And if you’re allowed to ignore or explain away any other scripture which contradicts you.

Because if you insert the word “only” into a scripture, it can become the sole criterion for something to be true; the singular condition upon which a logical progression can be made.

And the genius of legalistic Christian thought is that the word “only” doesn’t even have to be expressed as part of a verse being quoted or a logical constructed being built … it’s assumed.

All thanks to the doctrine of the silence of scripture: Anything not expressly commanded is implicitly condemned.

Want to exclude the active, current, present role of the Holy Spirit in faith? Quote Romans 10:17:

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Because the verse is silent on any other way by which faith comes, there is no other way. Faith only comes by hearing. (Of course, you have to ignore or explain away 1 Corinthians 12:9 and Ephesians 2:8, but those are relatively minor inconveniences.)

The problem, of course, is that the word “onlyisn’t there.

And most legalistic Christians would be quick to point out the condemnation attached to this passage:

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll. ~ Revelation 22:18-19

“Faith comes only by hearing” is just one example of “the missing only” fallacy. I’ll bet you folks have encountered lots of others.

Share a few!

10 thoughts on “The Missing ‘Only’

  1. The thing about the whole silence of scripture issue is that scripture is silent on the issue. Makes me kind of crazy that the one hermeneutical approach that has been consistently enforced defeats itself based on its own principles. Kind of mind boggling.

  2. What is the distinctive plea of the church of Christ?

    It is primarily a plea for religious unity based upon the Bible. In a divided religious world it is believed that the Bible is the only possible common denominator upon which most, if not all, of the God-fearing people of the land can unite. This is an appeal to go back to the Bible. It is a plea to speak where the Bible speak and to remain silent where the Bible is silent in all matters that pertain to religion. It further emphasizes that in everything religious there must be a “Thus saith the Lord” for all that is done. The objective is religious unity of all believers in Christ. The basis is the New Testament. The method is the restoration of New Testament Christianity.

    Keith, evidently you do not adhere to this, this has been the church of Christ, since I can remember.

  3. Repent and be baptised and this is the only way you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This verse is used to argue that those who had infant baptisms and came to faith later (obviously – you can’t come to faith as a baby! duh ) are not saved as (1) they got the order worng and (2) infant baptisms don’t count.

  4. this makes me think of another motto of the c.o.c.: “we are silent where the bible is silent, and we speak where the bible speaks.”

    i have heard a new twist to this well known and oft quoted saying: “we are silent where God speaks, and we speak where God is silent.” this new derivation comes from the freedom we have through Christ. does anyone agree, or do you think i am way off?

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