by Al Maxey

Issue #455 ------- September 10, 2010
There are grammatical errors even in his silence.
Stanislaw J. Lec {1909-1966}

It Never Entered My Mind
The "Law of Silence" and the Trinity of
"Proof-Texts" from Jeremiah's Prophecy

The very first of the Ten Commandments that Jehovah gave to Moses to give to the people of Israel is: "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me" (Ex. 20:3; Deut. 5:7). The Lord further declared, "You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God" (Ex. 20:5; Deut. 5:9). Moses was commanded to inform the people of the following: "Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God" (Ex. 34:14). Throughout His many dealings with His people, God made it abundantly clear, in both word and deed, that He would not tolerate anyone who "followed the nations" in worshipping and serving false gods. Along with such veneration of idols came the abominable practices of the pagan idolaters themselves, practices which were not only despicable, but also deadly. Acts of sexual immorality, drunkenness and even human sacrifices were not uncommon among those peoples who had given themselves over to their many false deities. Sadly, and even in spite of countless commands and warnings against such apostasy, the people of Israel repeatedly embraced the godless excesses of their neighbors. It would prove costly time and again.

The Lord sent prophet after prophet unto His people to warn them against the folly of idolatry. Although there were indeed several times when the people listened and repented, even initiating periods of strong religious reform, yet for the most part they ignored their God and continued their affair with the deities of their neighbors. High places were constructed within the land, sacrifices were offered to these idols; the worship of the Baals, and other local deities (too numerous to even count), became a tragically common occurrence. One prophet in particular was so distraught over the sins of his people that he stated: "Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people" (Jer. 9:1). They had progressed so far into the abominable excesses of their idolatrous behavior that even God Himself expressed incredulity -- "Never did it enter into My mind that they should do such a detestable thing!" (Jer. 32:35). Twice more He mentions that such a thing was the farthest thing from His mind (Jer. 7:31; 19:5). God was not only talking about idol worship here --- which was abhorrent enough --- He was talking about the burning alive of children as offerings to these pagan deities!! The Israelites were actually embracing this horror as an act of worship to these idols. God was appalled! "So abhorrent was this practice that the Lord by a strong anthropomorphism says that it had never entered His mind that His favored people would stoop so low" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 586].

One of the more popular deities requiring the sacrifice of children was Molech, one of the national deities of the Ammonites. "Precisely how Molech-worship was conducted is uncertain. It is usually assumed that children were thrown into a furnace or fire as part of a ceremony ... The rabbinic writers described a bronze statue, human in form but with an ox's head, hollow within and heated from below. Children were placed inside this structure and immolated while drums drowned out their cries" [International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 3, p. 401]. The cruelty and barbarism of such an act is virtually incomprehensible to a rational mind. King Ahaz "sacrificed his sons in the fire, following the detestable ways of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites" (2 Chron. 28:3). King Manasseh did the same -- "He sacrificed his own son in the fire" (2 Kings 21:6). Such actions clearly did NOT come from the Lord God. He had never commanded His people to offer up their children as burnt offerings to idols. Indeed, on three occasions in the prophecy of Jeremiah, the Lord makes this point exceedingly clear.

The above three passages seem pretty clear, do they not? They simply declare God's extreme displeasure over the wicked actions of His people, and they make it abundantly obvious that these evil acts did NOT originate with HIM. He never commanded that His people (or anyone else, for that matter) worship idols, and He certainly didn't command that they offer their children as burnt offerings to such pagan deities. Such monstrous acts are unthinkable, both to God and rational men! The wording of these three passages, however, has captured the attention of the legalistic patternists, who have forced them into service as "proof-texts" for their fallacious "Law of Silence" dogma, a hermeneutical position which states: if the Bible is silent about something -- if God never said anything about something -- then it is by virtue of that silence forever prohibited. This is also known in some theological circles as the "Law of Exclusion." In these passages God states He never commanded these child sacrifices ... He never mentioned them ... He never even thought of them. Thus -- SILENCE. The theory, then, is that these sacrifices are forbidden, and are sinful, BECAUSE God was silent about performing them. Thus, silence = prohibition!! Point made ... position proved ... case closed.

The problem this position has, however --- and the legalists hate it when I point this out --- is that God, within the inspired Scriptures, has NOT been silent about these very sacrifices mentioned in the Jeremiah passages. Indeed, God has SPOKEN to this abomination very clearly!! Thus, it is not His silence that prohibits, it is rather His specificity, in which He declares quite emphatically that such actions are sinful in His sight. "This heartless worship was clearly proscribed by the Law of Moses" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 433]. This seems to be a fact the legalistic patternists have overlooked. God is not silent on the matter; He has spoken!! The Lord said DON'T DO IT. "Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the Lord" (Lev. 18:21; see also: Lev. 20:1-5). Were these sacrifices prohibited by God's silence? NO. They were prohibited by His specificity. When God SPEAKS, there is NO divine SILENCE. Thus, it is the former that prohibits, not the latter. God commanded His people NOT to make such sacrifices. Thus, as is pointed out in the writings of Jeremiah, no man can ever declare that such a practice was prescribed by God. He issued NO such command; they got their direction elsewhere. HIS command was: "Thou shalt NOT ..." Once again, this has nothing to do with biblical or divine silence. Thus, to try and use these passages as "Law of Silence" proof-texts only shows the ignorance, and even the desperation, of these legalistic patternists as they seek to defend an untenable interpretive approach.

Down, But Not Out
A Study of Divorce and Remarriage
in Light of God's Healing Grace

A 193 page book by Al Maxey

One Bread, One Body
An Examination of Eucharistic
Expectation, Evolution and Extremism

A 230 page book by Al Maxey

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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in West Virginia:

Dear Brother Maxey, Thank you for writing, and for sending me a copy of, your first book Down, But Not Out. Please send me three more copies (my check is enclosed). One of these three books will be for our preacher, and another will be for the woman he told needed to leave her husband of 33 years because this was her second marriage. I told her that he was wrong, but she has stopped attending church here because of what he said. Once again, thank you for your book. It is an answer to prayer!!

From a Reader in Arkansas:

Dear Brother Al, I'm a long-time reader of your weekly Reflections. I also purchased your book Down, But Not Out some time back. I loaned it out to someone, but I never got it back (and I can easily understand why). So, I would now like to purchase two signed copies of this same book from you. I will be keeping one for my personal library and then donating one to the church library. In addition, while I am at it, would you please send me two signed copies of your newest book One Bread, One Body. I've the same purpose as above in mind for these two copies. I have enclosed a check to cover the cost of all four of these books. Thanks, Al, and also thanks for your ministry. I appreciate so much your good work.

From a Reader in California:

Brother Maxey, Enclosed is my check for a signed copy of your new book One Bread, One Body. I already have a copy, but am ordering this one for my son-in-law, so please sign it to him personally. You have done an excellent job in this book writing about the One Body. I am ashamed of what I used to be. But, with my Lord's help, I will spend the rest of my days trying to be a loving brother instead of a legalistic stumbling block! Thank you, brother, for your continued good work in the Lord's kingdom. May God continue to bless you and your family.

From an Elder in Wyoming:

Dear Brother Al, First of all, let me thank you for sending me a copy of your new book One Bread, One Body on such short notice. I enjoyed it very much, and it made the long flight to Papua New Guinea go much more quickly. The way you approached this whole subject really made me stop and think. Now, with regard to "Legalism's Twin Proof-Texts" (Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16), you've correctly pointed out that they have nothing to do with a "worship service." I had a brother accuse me of using the "new hermeneutic" when I pointed out this same fact to him. Thank you, Al, for addressing this subject so openly. Keep up the good work! We love you, brother!

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Bro. Al, Enclosed is a check for a signed copy of your new book One Bread, One Body. Thank you! Also, I love all of your Reflections. I am starved for this kind of teaching!! I know from my Dad's experiences (about whom you wrote in Reflections #392 -- Kenneth Carl Moser: A Powerful Voice for Grace) just how hard it is to be on the receiving end of all the flak that comes from preaching Truth. How sad. But, don't despair. We need men like you!!

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Brother Al, I just read your latest Reflections concerning the twin proof-texts of the legalists. Al, I do not think that I have ever read a better exegesis of these two passages!! I have been a member of the a cappella branch of the Churches of Christ for 50 years. I had heard, and also accepted as truth, all the arguments that good men made in their effort to prove that a cappella music is the ONLY "acceptable" music for worship. And then, like you, I opened my Bible and discovered that the reasoning I had bought into for so many years regarding the prohibition of instrumental music in worship was simply wrong and could NOT stand up to the light of God's Word. So, thank you, Al, for being honest enough to state so concisely the truth regarding this issue which has unnecessarily separated us from other Christians for far too long!! My hope is that every truth-seeking person within our fellowship will read this issue of Reflections. Al, again I thank you for having the courage to stand outside the box of traditionalism with your feet firmly planted in Truth.

From a Reader in Florida:

Brother Al, "Legalism's Twin Proof-Texts" was a GREAT Reflections. I only wish people would honestly read it and pray about it!!

From a Reader in Mississippi:

Brother Al, Your article on "Legalism's Twin Proof-Texts" was a great one! You hit this one out of the ball park!!

From a Reader in Georgia:

Brother Al, Excellent presentation in your last article! I hope you don't get your house "toilet-papered" because of it! People don't like it when you mess with their beloved traditions. Control is hard to obtain, and you are taking it away from them! Keep it up, brother! Honestly, things are finally changing for the better!

From the Creator of the Cartoon Series Theophilus:

Brother Al, Just wanted to let you know that Theophilus likes your article "Legalism's Twin Proof-Texts." Love and blessings from both of us.

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Brother Maxey, I have not emailed you in a while, but I just wanted to say Thank You for all of your Reflections articles! I especially enjoyed your latest one that you sent out today ("Legalism's Twin Proof-Texts"). I have some relatives that I wish would do more study on this subject. But, they have their minds made up that they are right. Thus, they will not even consider further study on the subject. Their attitude is that the traditional stance on instrumental music is what they have always been taught, therefore it HAS to be the "correct" biblical teaching. May God continue to bless your ministry!

From a Reader in New Jersey:

Brother Al, It has been a while since I have responded back to you, but please know that I faithfully read your Reflections. I must say that you have hit the nail on the head with your most recent one. By the way, I have been sharing some of your Reflections with a very faithful elderly sister (among many other people, as well), who upon reading them has wept with relief. She informed me that she had reached the point, based on teaching she had received from some One Cup preachers, that she believed one needed to earn their salvation. In fact, she'd become increasingly worried that she might not be able to DO enough to make it to heaven. The last time I shared your Reflections with her, she gave me a great big hug!! In addition, Al, your Reflections have really opened my own eyes, have made me think, and have helped me to grow closer to God. Please keep up the good work, brother; it is not in vain!!

From a Reader in Ohio:

Brother Al, If we are indeed to determine our practices for today based upon historical precedent, then we have a real dilemma on our hands! Apparently, from the discourses recorded in Acts 15 & 21, the NT church of Jewish believers, including the apostles, continued to practice many of the rituals of the Old Covenant, while excusing the Gentile believers from these rituals. So, whose "pattern" do we follow in our worship practice today?! Do those of us who are Gentiles practice one pattern, while those who are Jewish believers practice another?! And what if I'm part Jewish and part Gentile?! Oh, how we all need a Savior, not another sect. May God bless and perpetuate His Truth, and thank you, brother, for being willing to do your part!!

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, I just got through reading your article on the legalist's "twin proof-texts." I too grew up believing that these texts taught only what I was told they taught. As I've studied, what I find interesting is the following insight into 1 Cor. 14:7. I believe an argument could be made for the use of instruments in the assembly from Paul's statement (given the context). The harp and flute are primarily "indoor" instruments, whereas the trumpet command would be for the battlefield. Thus, I really believe an accurate rendering of this verse (with respect to message) could be: "If the flute and harp do not play with a distinction of notes, how will any of us know what tune to sing to our songs, just as on the battlefield how can the army know where to go and when or how to act if the trumpet does not make sounds that can be understood?" Doesn't this verse seem to suggest (given the context of this chapter) that they were familiar with the use of instruments within their assembly? Bro. Al, I love your constant work for the Lord and your love for knowledge!

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, Thanks so much for your thoughts in your last Reflections. Your statement, "Paul is discussing guiding principles of daily living among the disciples of Christ!" is most assuredly the very point Paul desired his readers to understand from the two passages in Ephesians and Colossians. When my daughter was getting ready for her wedding vows, I was charged with finding an appropriate "blessing" to be used at the end of the ceremony. Using various Internet sites for research, I found one site that referenced Col. 3:15-19 as a great wedding blessing. Upon reading that text I knew that I had indeed found my blessing. After all, who can beat the very words of the Holy Spirit? Furthermore, I was ashamed for not having previously perceived the true intent of this text, which isn't a "proof text" against using instruments, but rather is a charge from Paul about daily living to encourage one another.

From a Reader in Connecticut:

Brother Al, It is obvious that you have your finger on the pulse of what is surely the failing heartbeat of many within our brotherhood. Your observation, "There are many things the early church didn't do or didn't have, but this is hardly the foundation upon which to build one's theological practices," is truly irrefutable. I believe legalistic religion has driven more people crazy than any amount of alcohol or drugs ever could. There is a deep psychological anguish when one finally realizes that those things he/she had held sacred and dear, and had regarded as fact and truth, are nothing more than false, mistaken or even deliberate fabrications of men and sects. One feels betrayed and disillusioned. I was recently chatting with someone who was caught in the web of the legalistic patternists. I could see the hurt and angst in his eyes (much like you probably saw in mine several years ago). I knew exactly how he was feeling: disgusted, sickened, tortured and terrified all in one. A good pint of your Reflections, along with a pound of prayer and an ounce of humility, is just the "cure" for such anguish! Keep up the great work, Al. I'm forever in the Master's service and your debt.

From an Elder in Florida:

Dear Brother Al, Your mention of F. L. Lemley caught my attention. I knew him when he was preaching in Arvada, CO and I was preaching in Englewood, CO in the early 1960s. I saw him get kicked out of the Arvada congregation and then take his ministry to the more controversial Wheat Ridge Heights Church of Christ (which is where he was when he wrote the article you mentioned in your last Reflections). Years later, when we moved to the New York City area for our Mission Outreach to leadership level professionals from all over the world at the World Trade Center, Bro. Lemley moved with his first wife to New Shrewsbury, NJ, and we were able to share some very sweet fellowship and ministry together. His first wife died and he moved to southern Missouri where he met his second wife, who herself had been recently widowed. His second wife was the new bride of the evangelist (Bernell Weems) at Jay Street Church of Christ in Lakewood, CO when I was just seven years old (this was the congregation where my parents were baptized). The Jay Street congregation was rigidly Sommerite in nature (Reflections #213) and had little fellowship with other Churches of Christ in the area!! Bernell Weems was trained initially by Carl Ketcherside, and then later he was liberated by Carl Ketcherside from much of the legalism that had bound him. Thirty-five years later, Bernell's widow married F. L. Lemley, and she was a wonderful wife and companion to him until his death. F. L. Lemley was the Al Maxey of his day!! Praise be to the Lord.

From a Reader in Indiana:

Dear Brother Maxey, Thank you for all that you are doing!! I always look forward to your Reflections articles, and this week's didn't disappoint! Early on, I was a champion of the legalistic view of the music issue, and had argued for it vigorously. Now, I find myself wondering WHY my friends and family can't see the fallacy of those same arguments I used to swear by!! Honestly, sometimes it is maddening --- I feel like a person who has just made an incredible, life-changing discovery, and has run excitedly to my friends and family to share it with them, anticipating that they will experience the same "Ah Ha!!" moment I did, only to have them stare at me like I'm crazy, or pray for my swift return to sanity, or, worse yet, just no longer want to be around me! Then, to make things even worse, if I try to share my "discovery" with those outside of my legalistic Church of Christ upbringing, they just look at me like I'm a "flat-earther" ... as if to say, "Duh! You mean you didn't know the earth was round?!!" They were already liberated from such archaic thinking. Bro. Maxey, Thank Goodness for your great Reflections, and for Edward Fudge's gracEmail mailouts, and for Cecil Hook's Freedom's Ring. I do not know where I would be today without you three!! Again, Thank You for your work, and for enduring the heartache that comes with it.

From a Reader in New England:

Brother Al, I just want to take a moment and express how grateful and thankful I am to you for your willingness to address so many critical and divisive issues facing Christians today! I know I've told you this before, but I was almost done with religion because of the poison I had experienced for more than a quarter of a century from legalistic leaders. Years ago, when I affiliated with a legalistic sect of the Churches of Christ denomination (the "Contending for the Faith" bunch), I really had no idea what I was getting into. Slowly, and in the interest of marital harmony, I succumbed to their divisive and twisted views, and I became one of them! For years I cast aside anything that didn't come from an "approved" publishing house or author. I tossed aside even the basic biblical teachings of my own family, and I readily condemned them all to a fiery hell because they were not a member of "MY church." When I finally broke free four years ago, it was painful. One of the first things I remember hearing my wife scream at me was, "You have been reading and listening to those false teachers." She viewed them as false teachers because their views and opinions were different than those of "the party line." Thankfully, with your gracious and gentle approach to so many emotional topics, she also has now broken free of those chains!! Bro. Al, you will never know the joy and the peace your efforts have brought me and my family!!! Within the quiet of our home, with a Bible in our hands, and no screaming, brow-beating relatives and "concerned brethren" issuing their many ultimatums, we were able to reexamine long held beliefs and traditional teachings. With honest hearts, and a desire to truly and objectively restudy our many views, opinions and beliefs, we took your advice and looked at what the Scriptures actually teach versus what we'd been "told" they teach. It was painful, embarrassing, and at times even funny once the blinders came off. Al, my wife and I truly feel "born again." I believe my prayers have been deeper and my life enriched as I grow in the true love of Christ. I am reminded of the song penned by the late southern gospel singer Rusty Goodman: "Had It Not Been." Al, had it not been for your willingness to challenge our closed minds and extend your hand to us in Christian love, my soul would be lost, and I honestly shudder to think where I would be today. May God richly bless you and your family as you continue to mend fences and bridge the gap that has so long divided God's children.

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