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Silence in the Face of Evil

Updated on November 13, 2012

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer~ Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian, Nazi dissident, and founding member of the Confessing Church.

And he was correct. Indeed, decades of pulling punches at the pulpit should end. Preachers should stop being mealy mouthed and mincing words. Silence in the face of evil, wicked acts, acts of omission, is nothing less than blasphemy. To fail to call it what it is minimizes and perpetuates evil practices.

Evangelical pastors, for whatever reason, are simply not getting the message out. Their mission is simply to preach the gospel. But, the silence persists and the church continues by default to approve of the world’s state of affairs. But the blame doesn’t stop at the pulpit. Elders, church leaders and parishioners alike sit in mute silence while the world hurtles toward hell in a hand basket.

Edmund Burke

Whatever reasons underlie this silence, maybe fear of public denunciation or political retaliation, the remedy may not be so much reeducation as repentance. Martin Luther King, Jr., would undoubtedly agree. It was he who stated, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” King also said, history will record the greatest tragedy of our times wouldn’t be the outlandish clamor of bad people, but the appalling silence of the good.

If immorality is prevailing, the fault lies with the church. If there is a lack of moral discrimination, the pulpit should accept responsibility for it. If Satan rules our government and our politics become so corrupt society is on the verge of crumbling, who’s responsible? Let’s not ignore the fact the church is. This fact is thoroughly biblical.

James says the hallmark of spurious faith is profession, without resulting action, to care for the needy and helpless people. In other words, without accompanying works faith is not faith at all. James also wrote, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.”

If the church teaches the gospel of God’s love but refuses to denounce abortion isn’t that an example of faith without works? “These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” ~Revelation 3:1~

So, if silence in the face of evil is itself evil, then isn’t it reasonable to assume taking a stand to decry it is a responsibility the church can’t shirk? Statistics show thousands of babies being aborted daily. Wouldn’t they be counted as “the least of these?”

Edmund Burke, a British philosopher, during the mid 1700s, once wrote "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." Burke's observation goes far in explaining the struggle between good and evil. History repeatedly shows those professing to be good vastly outnumber those doing evil. Yet evil seems to prevail much of the time. It also shows numbers rarely determine the outcome. The scriptures are full of men who stood up to fight for what was right.

Jesus admonished the church at Laodicea for doing nothing. "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.” ~Rev.3-15~

Too many Christians and churches today are like that. They stand idly by, being mere spectators instead of actively working for good. However, if good does triumph they are quick to celebrate, although they did nothing. On the other hand if evil wins, their complaints are long and loud. God commands good people, not just to avoid evil, but oppose it. One is good not because they do no evil, but because they work for good. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." ~Gal. 6:7~

Not to act is to act and silence is blasphemy.


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    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      JY, very interesting. Edmund Burke is famous for that quote: all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. Excellent and voted up~