LifeSite News reported that Dr. Bob Edgar, former general secretary of the National Council of Churches, said “Jesus never said one word about homosexuality, never said one word about civil marriage or abortion.” He said this to CBS News at a gathering of liberal Christian leaders in Washington.
Sadly, this is a common sound bite from people who should know better. Their reasoning goes like this:
- Whatever Jesus did not specifically condemn in the Bible is morally permissible or unimportant.
- In the Bible, Jesus did not specifically condemn abortion or homosexual behavior.
- Therefore, abortion and homosexual behavior are morally permissible or unimportant.
There are many problems with this reasoning.
1. As you may have noticed, their logic goes off track in the first bullet. Direct quotes of Jesus also didn’t specifically mention gay-bashing, slavery, drunk driving, child sacrifice, and many other sins, but they are still sins. They are arguing from silence, and that is a logical fallacy.
Some insist that since Jesus didn’t specifically condemn oxymoronic “same sex marriages” that they must be permissible. Jesus also never talked about square circles, partly because they don’t exist either.
2. Jesus is God (and anyone such as Edgar should know that), so He authored all the moral laws in the Bible – including the crystal-clear ones against homosexual behavior and murder. And He created the institution of marriage and desribed what parents should do, of which 100% of the verses refer to the ideal as a one man/one woman union.
3. Many of the “red letters” (direct quotes of Jesus) referred to the “black letters” (the rest of the Bible). Jesus noted in Matthew 5:17-19 that He supported all the law.
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
4. He may not have specifically mentioned abortion and homosexual behavior because they weren’t hot topics for his primarily Jewish audience. Homosexuals were a tiny minority then just as they are now (less than 3% of the U.S. population) and the Jews had strict laws against such behavior. Regarding abortion, Jews actually saw children as a blessing and not a curse, so they had no desire to destroy them. I am not aware of any Jewish movements at the time advancing these behaviors as not being sinful. Under no circumstances were these issues dividing the followers as they are today.
Having said that, Jesus was not silent on oxymoronic “same sex marriage.” He clearly stated what marriage was in Mark 10:6-9 and elsewhere, to the exclusion of other scenarios:
But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.
He describes exactly what the plan was, and doesn’t even hint at other possibilities. He didn’t say you couldn’t marry animals either, but I don’t see anyone saying bestiality must be acceptable because He didn’t specifically prohibit it. So there was no silence.
Regarding abortion, He reiterated that we shouldn’t murder and noted that the real meaning of the command was deeper than the physical act.
Think about this: It took almost 2,000 years and a several decades long perverted sexual revolution that repeatedly denies and mocks the Biblical worldview of human sexuality plus a massive, well funded pro-gay public relations campaign to convince some liberals that oxymoronic “same sex marriages” should have government recognition and that abortion should be legal. Yet liberal theologians think that it is something Jesus should have addressed in more detail back then? Even the pagan Hippocratic oath had prohibitions against abortions until just recently.
Most people would concede that U.S.-style slavery was a moral evil, but since it is now illegal you won’t hear about it as a campaign issue in the presidential election. But does that mean it isn’t important? Does that mean the candidates wouldn’t address it if large parts of the population were seeking to legalize it? Of course not.
Simply put, they were non-issues for the Jews.
5. If these liberal theologians are so keen on the direct quotes of Jesus and assume that they trump the rest of the Bible, why don’t they take them all as seriously as they do their pet verses or arguments from silence?
Jesus claimed to be the only way to salvation, but they not only ignore that but they teach the opposite. He claimed to be God, but they tend to ignore that. He spoke with a physically resurrected body but they often deny that. He said his primary purpose was to save lost sinners and He taught about Hell a lot. When was the last time you heard them preach on that truth? And so on.
6. Those who use these arguments from silence don’t apply them to the rest of their pet topics. Jesus said nothing about universal health care, for example.
Jesus advocated caring for the poor, but he never brought government into it (apparently Jesus’ silence only counts when it comes to abortion and (supposedly) homosexuality).
So to summarize: Arguing from silence is a logical fallacy, Jesus inspired all scripture, He supported the Old Testament law to the last letter, the “red letters” weren’t silent on these topics in the sense that they reiterated what marriage and murder were, He emphasized many other important issues that these liberal theologians completely ignore (Hell, his divinity, his exclusivity, etc.), He was equally “silent” on issues that these folks treat as having the utmost importance (capital punishment, war, welfare, universal health care, etc.), abortion and homosexual behavior simply weren’t hot topics for 1st century Jews, and He did mention Sodom and Gomorrah.
For leaders like this to (mis)quote the red letters and to commit the logical fallacy of arguing from silence is negligent and foolish. They are distorting the Bible and hurting the church and its witness.
Hat tip: RealChoice blog