The Silence Argument

By Wayne Jackson

One of the strongest arguments against the use of instrumental music in Christian worship is the “silence” principle. This is the concept that when God is silent about a matter, man is not at liberty to “presume” &>, and so to act without divine authority. There is no New Testament authority for the use of instrumental music in Christian worship.

Is the “silence” argument valid? Yes it is. On many occasions in the Old Testament period, the Hebrews were prohibited from engaging in various forms of worship which God had “commanded not” (cf. Lev. 10:1; Dt. 17:3; Jer. 7:31).

Additionally, the writer of the book of Hebrews plainly says that Jesus could not function as a priest while on earth (Heb. 8:4), because the Lord was from the tribe of Judah, and the law “spake nothing” (i.e., was silent) regarding priests from Judah (Heb. 7:14).

For many years the Independent Christian Church has ridiculed this argument. These folks allege that silence is not prohibitive. One of the leaders of the movement is Given O. Blakely. In a recent issue of Banner of Truth (July, 1996), Blakely addressed the matter.

God’s silence is not a governing factor in matters pertaining to life and godliness. The whole idea of ‘silence,’ as those of the anti-instrumentalist position have used the term, requires the interpretation of fallible men. If God did not say it, then how can we be sure that men have said what He meant, but did not say? How dare mortal men to take upon themselves to thus unauthorizedly speak for God?

Here is Blakely’s point. We cannot use the “silence” argument, because God is silent about the silence argument. If God is silent about this form of argument, then it is unauthorized, and we dare not use it. That is the epitome of inconsistency.

What shall be our response? In the first place, as indicated above, God has not been silent about the “silence” principle. One must not go beyond that which has been written (1 Cor. 4:6; 2 Jn. 9).

Secondly, what sort of logic is the gentleman using? If one dare not employ the “silence” argument because the Scripture is silent about this sort of reasoning (and thus it is unauthorized) then, by the same token, one dare not use the instrument in Christian worship, because the New Testament is silent concerning the instrument, and thus it is unauthorized. Surely our friend needs to reconsider his position regarding the “silence” principle.

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.