Scripture clearly states that at certain times silence is a virtue. Yet at other times remaining silent is wrong, cowardly, and traitorous. How can we know when to “keep silence” and when to speak?
“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.
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.
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).
ears to hear” would understand the truth (Matthew 13:9–16).
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
Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days” (Proverbs 19:20).
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).
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).
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).
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
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).
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).
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).
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.