“And so, as the Miller-Urey experiment clearly demonstrates, life arose out of this primordial soup. …”
As the professor drones on, you look around at the other students who are either nodding in approval or nodding off to sleep. Your hand seems frozen around your pencil, even though you need to be noting the dates the professor is mentioning for the upcoming test.
Sure, you have questions—actually, disagreement, but you sure wish you had studied up on the Miller-Urey experiment. Last time another student expressed doubt, the professor swiftly shut him down with an eloquent rebuttal. Hmm, maybe you could respond like … no, that wouldn’t work. How about …
“Wonderful! I see we’re all in agreement. Here are your assignments for next week.”
You slink out of the classroom, feeling defeated once again.
“A Time for Every Purpose”
To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven … a time to keep silence, and a time to speak. (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7)
Let’s look at Matthew Henry’s commentary on this passage.
A time when it becomes us, and is our wisdom and duty, to keep silence, when it is an evil time (Amos 5:13), when our speaking would be the casting of pearl before swine, or when we are in danger of speaking amiss (Ps. 39:2); but there is also a time to speak for the glory of God and the edification of others, when silence would be the betraying of a righteous cause, and when with the mouth confession is to be made to salvation; and it is a great part of Christian prudence to know when to speak and when to hold our peace.1
Scripture clearly states that at certain times silence is a virtue. Yet at other times remaining silent is wrong, cowardly, and traitorous. The question for many creationist students is: how can we know when to “keep silence” and when to speak? While the Bible doesn’t offer a specific answer for each particular situation, it does give principles that can help you evaluate each situation you face. These guidelines will help you wisely assess not only when, but also how to speak up.
“A Time to Keep Silence”
Keep silence when the hearers would despise the truth.
Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words” (Proverbs 23:9).
Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces” (Matthew 7:6).
- During His time on earth, Jesus didn’t reveal Himself as Lord and Savior to everyone He met, and He often spoke in parables so that only those with “
ears to hear” would understand the truth (Matthew 13:9–16).
- Dr. Jason Lisle cautions against being outspoken on creationism in a secular university science class.
Many students come to the classroom with the noble, but misguided, sentiment: “I’m going to convert all my evolutionist professors into creationists.” First of all, it’s not within our ability to convert people (1 Corinthians 3:6–7). That is the prerogative of the Holy Spirit. Our job is to sanctify Christ as Lord and always be ready to respectfully give a defense of the faith to anyone who asks (1 Peter 3:15). For the most part, professors are not going to ask; they are not interested in the opinions of their students. Sharing biblical creation with them would be like casting “
pearls before swine” (Matthew 7:6; Proverbs 23:9).2
- While few professors may be open to discussion, fellow students in your class may be seeking the truth. Be friendly and take time after class to discuss what is being taught. Be a genuine friend and a genuine witness. Your classmates may never have heard a clear presentation of the creationist position. Sharing the Creator can lead to sharing the gospel.
Keep silence when it is time to listen and learn.
Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days” (Proverbs 19:20).
- This principle often governs speaking up in class, even though you must exercise discernment in accepting only what fits with biblical truth. You have enrolled in that class as a student—to learn. Therefore, the middle of the professor’s lecture on embryonic recapitulation is not usually the time to challenge that faulty view. Avoid interrupting or constantly seeking to trip up your professor with sly questions. That doesn’t mean you can never bring up the creationist view or expose the weaknesses of evolution. You may have opportunities to share the truth during specific times of discussion or question asking.
- When completing coursework or taking tests, this principle of learning also comes into play. Realize the professor is not asking about your beliefs but testing your comprehension of his teaching. Therefore, a test question asking for the time period of the Neanderthals isn’t the appropriate place to write “just a few thousand years ago,” even though that fits with the biblical timescale. Dr. Lisle recommends that creationist students answer such questions without compromising their beliefs by beginning with “It is generally accepted . …” Or the answer might start with “According to . …”3
- Your silent testimony will often earn you the right to speak. Be a stellar student. That doesn’t mean you necessarily have a 4.0 GPA but that you give your best. Arrive early to class, sit up front, and take notes. Turn in your homework on time. Show an interest by participating in discussions and answering questions. Talk to the professor and other students, making friends.
Keep silence when you have nothing wise to say.
Oh, that you would be silent, and it would be your wisdom!” (Job 13:5). So if you aren’t ready to give a proper response in class, it would be better if you didn’t speak up at all.
Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; when he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive” (Proverbs 17:28).
My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body” (James 3:1–2).
- We must humbly evaluate our knowledge of a topic before jumping into a debate. Be careful to avoid faulty creationist arguments. Also avoid petty disputes (2 Timothy 2:23). You may wish to limit your debates to issues pertaining to biblical authority, as does Answers in Genesis.
Keep silence until you can speak under control.
He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit” (Proverbs 17:27).
In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the heart of the wicked is worth little. The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of wisdom” (Proverbs 10:19–21).
Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 29:20).
So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19–20).
- Be prepared to give an answer, but don’t seek a quarrel at every disagreement. Don’t be disruptive, rude, or contentious. Don’t speak in anger or scorn.
“A Time to Speak”
Speak when God has put you in the position to speak.
For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).
- Despite the challenges of a science class based on evolutionary principles, the Lord may still put you in a position to speak, according to Johnny Pike.
When I was a student at a Christian university in Portland, Oregon, all of my biology classes were taught from evolutionary textbooks. Although I am not naturally outspoken, I seized many opportunities to voice the biblical point of view in class. I remembered my parents’ instructions to speak the whole truth and to not be ashamed or put my grades or reputation first. To my surprise, the response was positive. My professor even allowed me to give short lectures to freshmen for the next three years, showing some of the tremendous evidence consistent with biblical creation!4
Speak the truth and speak it boldly.
So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard’” (Acts 4:18–20).
And for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:19–20; see also Colossians 4:3–4).
- A wise way to speak is to ask discerning questions that expose the weaknesses of evolution and point to the truth. Question-asking was often Christ’s method. Although He knew all the answers, the questions silenced opponents and directed seekers to the truth.
- www.answersingenesis.org is a helpful tool to bring you up to speed on scientific issues through Get Answers and to keep you up to date on current events through News to Note. Thankfully, you don’t have to know all the answers. By studying ultimate apologetics, you can learn how to give a fool-proof response.
- Stand on the truth of the Bible, realizing your stance may bring mocking. As a follower of the crucified and risen Lord, don’t fear but rather welcome persecution. “
Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:12–17).
Speak with the right attitude.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1).
That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” (Ephesians 4:14–15).
Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians 4:6).
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).
But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:23–26).
- Remember in the excitement of discussion that your purpose is not shredding the opponent to win the debate. Watch your tone, and keep your emotions under control. It’s good to be passionate about this subject and to allow your passion to show, but you must remain gentle and respectful. Identify your true enemy in the battle and those who need liberation from the captivity of his lies. You must not compromise the truth to avoid offending anyone. But you can share the truth in love.
As you grow in wisdom, knowing when to keep silence and when to speak up, may the Lord grant you many opportunities to proclaim Him as the Creator—and Redeemer.