Awhile back, I began to suspect that there was a flaw in the theory, sometimes called the Law of Silence, that the Bible’s silence on a subject is always prohibitive. I’ve found cases where it indeed appears to be, but also cases where it appears not to be.
I’m convinced that figuring out which is which is largely a matter of personal growth. If I adopt children into my home (as I have!), they are going to need to learn a lot of rules at first until they come to know me better and know how I think and what I want. As they learn more about who I am and what I like, they should become less dependent on explicit rules, and more dependent on their internalized knowledge of me to make their decisions.
The following eight examples illustrate the complexity of our decision-making process, and point out that my silence about something does not necessarily mean I’m prohibiting it.
Doing what we’re told to do. (Good)
- I tell Ashley to put her clothes away and she does it.
Doing what we’re told not to do. (Bad)
- I tell Micah not to put his old clothes back on and he does it anyway.
Doing what we’re not told to do. (Could be either)
- I never tell Jaden to mow the lawn and he does. (Good)
- I never tell Jaden he could have a soda after mowing the lawn and he does. (Bad)
Doing what we’re not told not to do. (Could be either)
- I never tell Alora not to mow the lawn and she does. (Good)
- I never tell Alora not to have a soda after mowing the lawn and she does. (Bad)
Not doing what we’re told to do. (Bad)
- I tell Saty to draw me a cow and she draws a horse.
Not doing what we’re told not to do. (Good)
- I tell Saty not to draw a horse and she doesn’t.
Not doing what we’re not told to do. (Could be either)
- I never tell Jaden to go to ride his bike to the store, and he doesn’t. (Good)
- I never tell Jaden to help elderly women who fall down in the store, so he doesn’t. (Bad)
Not doing what we’re not told not to do. (Could be either)
- I never tell Sam not to get a soda after mowing the lawn, and he doesn’t. (Good)
- I never tell Sam not to not display his temper so he doesn’t. (Bad)
Is your head spinning yet?
Knowing whether an action is good or bad involves having a good idea of what the authority figure wants. As a younger child, my kids ought to know that I would never want them using power tools. As they mature and learn how to use power tools, they ought to know that I’d be thrilled to have them mow the lawn as often as they want. As they mature, they might even get to the point that they wouldn’t need to ask to have a soda. All of these decisions involve more complex decision-making than simply checking to see if there is a rule that can be deduced or inferred about it.
This internalized decision-making can be compared to walking after the Spirit and not being under law. If the law is now written on our hearts, it is a much higher standard than a written code. But this higher standard actually breathes new life into our obedience to God. As Paul writes, the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
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