Fallacy of the Silent Witness

I remember reading an endorsement by a famous Christian celebrity back in the 80s of  Christian sunglasses called “Silent Witness.” An advertisement was featured in magazines as a practical way to share your faith. They were distinguished by fishes and crosses that were part of the frame of the glasses.  Christians could share their faith without saying a word.   Just put on the glasses and you will be a witness.

This brings up the whole idea of a “silent witnessing.”  There is nothing wrong with wearing sunglasses, hats, bumper stickers, or t-shirts that identify our faith in Jesus Christ.  I have heard of Christians who sneak gospel tracks in beer containers at grocery stores and even heard of some who placed them in the disposable toilet seat covers in public restrooms.  Whenever anyone would extract a seat cover, out popped a tract.

There have been testimonies of unbelievers encountering stealth witnessing methods like these and God using them. Yet the Biblical idea of witnessing is more than just a silent venture. Act 1:8…and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part o f the earth.”  The Greek word for witness is “martus.”  It means to be a witness in a legal sense.  When you see that word run through the Bible it has to do with witnessing some action or event.    The Mosaic Law insisted on the absolute necessity of witnesses in all cases which came before a judge, especially in criminal cases. Not only in criminal cases, but in all cases, it was necessary to have at least two witnesses to make good an accusation against a person (Deu_17:6; Deu_19:15; Num_35:30; Mat_18:16; Joh_8:17; 2Co_13:1; 1Ti_5:19).

The idea of witnessing follows through to our present day.  When witness are called to a court proceeding they are usually given a place in the trial to testify about something they know or have seen.   For witness to fulfill their duty they have to speak/testify. Jesus promised that when the Spirit would come He would testify about Him so that we would testify. John 15:26-27 “When the Helper (Spirit) comes,…He will testify about Me,  (27)  and you will testify. The word “testify” means to bear witness, not just your opinion but what you have seen.

Witnessing and testifying are vocal issues.  Yes, our lives are to be a testimony of how Jesus changes us (actions often speak louder than words), but they are no substitute for speaking.  We must remember that the gospel is a message that needs to be communicated. Eph 1:13  In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. We must live it and proclaim it.  There is an error if we try to do one without the other.

Silent witness can hinder the salvation process

I remember a story I once heard of a Christian who worked alongside of an unbeliever who eventually gave his life to Jesus.    For years the Christian strove to let his light shine so brightly that his coworker would see his good deeds and be led to Christ. This went on for years and eventually it did happen. The person came to Christ, and joined his co-worker’s church and they became good friends.

One day they were talking to a third person at church, and the man related the whole story about how letting his light shine, helped lead the other person to Christ. The new Christian then interrupted and contradicted him. He said that he had actually been a hindrance to his becoming a Christian. That hurt his feelings a bit and he asked why. He then explained that for years he knew he was not a very good person, and he wanted to make changes. He looked at his coworker and saw a person who lived a good, moral life. But he never said anything about Christianity, so he assumed he was not a Christian. He concluded therefore that one could be a good person without being a Christian. Had he known the man was a Christian, he would have come to Christ much more quickly.

Historical example of the fallacy of the silent witness

There was a historical court case that was lost because of the silence of an attorney.  The distinguished lawyer Samuel Hoar (1778-1856) was representing the defendant. When it was time to present his case, he told the jurors that the facts favoring his client were so evident that he would not insult their intelligence by arguing them.

The jury retired to deliberate and returned in a few minutes with a verdict of guilty. Samuel Hoar was astonished! “How,” he asked, “could you have reached such a verdict?” The foreman replied, “We all agreed that if anything could be said for a case, you would say it. But since you didn’t present any evidence, we decided to rule against you.” His silence had lost the case.  We need to speak up about Christ.

 

 

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