Christians should argue from silence when appropriate

Very often, when discussing the bible, people make bad arguments from silence. For example, in all thirteen letters of Paul, he never mentions the virgin conception of Jesus Christ. So someone might argue, “I guess Paul doesn’t believe in the virgin birth.” That would be a bad argument from silence.

Suppose someone was accused of murder. A lot of evidence is pointing to their guilt. But in looking at their phone and email records, not once do they ever tell any of their friends that they committed murder. If the jury concluded on that basis that they were not guilty, that would also be a bad argument from silence.

But not all arguments from silence are bad. Take 1 Timothy 2.12: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” Many evangelicals argue that Paul was not permitting women in Ephesus specifically to teach men in the church because they were less educated and some were teaching heresy. That is bad exegesis on so many levels, but my first response is: that’s not what the text says! Paul does not say that is why he is prohibiting women from teaching men, therefore, that is not the reason he is prohibiting women from teaching men.

Go with the text first. Those who refuse to go with the straightforward meaning of straightforward texts are driving an unnecessary wedge between real brothers and sisters in Christ.


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