A repost (with a few typos corrected) from the very first month this blog was up - June 25th, 2007
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It's not another truth of practical theology, but rather a dictum or saying inserted into our normal line up - and it goes as follows:
What is not commanded in Scripture may not be commanded; what is not forbidden is Scripture may not be forbidden.
This is simply an extension of the idea of Sola Scriptura - that we place ourselves under Scripture as our authority. If Scripture doesn't say, "You must" we cannot say "you must". If Scripture doesn't say "Thou Shall Not" we cannot say "Thou Shall not." Within this boundary, this set of things neither commanded nor forbidden, there is freedom.
Freedom is not always used wisely. We may debate about how people use their freedom, we may counsel them against using their freedom in a poor way - we may even ask them if they are using the pretense of freedom to hide something which is blatantly contrary to Scripture - but we cannot speak beyond the Words of Scripture, for where Scripture is silence, we cannot speak authoritatively - for without the Word we have no authority whatsoever.
This is hard. People use their freedom poorly. People act out of ignorance, people act inefficiently. But the alternative is worse. The alternative is rank legalism where the mandates of men take equal place with the Word of God. And if we look at our history, the road to theological hell was paved with good intentions. Mandating a penance was at first just to make the Lasped prove their devotion -- soon it was a terror. Allowing the Pope to speak authoritatively beyond Scripture looked as though it would establish unity - instead it created tyranny and split the Church multiple times.
People will use their freedom poorly. Weaker brothers will act out of ignorance, and stronger brothers will act out of misplaced pride. We must allow neither folly to become entrenched and "law". If there is no freedom, there is no Gospel (which is free from the works of the Law), there is no love (for love casts out fear, and if we act out of fear it is not love), there is no worship (for God has set us free to worship Him without fear). Freedom must be maintained.