Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

By Kevin Campbell

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

By now I’m sure that most people have heard of President Clinton’s new policy regarding homosexuals in the military. If you haven’t, it has been labelled “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The idea, if you are a homosexual, is not to tell recruiters or other military officials about your homosexuality and they in turn will not ask you about your “sexual orientation.” The result will be that homosexuals will be allowed to serve in the armed forces without a big fuss being raised over the issue. There is a provision that those who openly advocate their homosexuality can be court martialed and expelled from the military.

Understandably, many of the militant advocates in the homosexual community are outraged and upset by Mr. Clinton’s compromise on the issue. He had campaigned for homosexuals to be allowed to serve in the armed forces openly. Due to strong opposition, however, he had to modify his policy, the result being that the homosexual community has felt betrayed. This was not the first, nor will it be the last, time that the President has found himself attempting to straddle a fence and flip-flopping on an issue.

Some in the homosexual crowd however will applaud Clinton’s policy. Now they will be able to serve in the military with all the benefits of other servicemen and maintain their immoral lifestyle at the same time. They won’t want any controversy over the subject and will feel safe holding to their beliefs and practices without others knowing about it. As long as no one asks, they won’t tell and all will be happy, right?! Wrong! Many in the military do not relish the opportunity of sharing close quarters with homosexuals. They also feel betrayed by the administration’s policy and would prefer to have the homosexuals excluded from the service. Such a policy demonstrates the difficulties involved in trying to hide activity or belief that is immoral and ungodly (Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Tim. 1:9-11). We must always remember that the Lord knows our hearts and thoughts and secret actions, all of which we will be held accountable for (Eccl. 2:14; Prov. 5:21; 15:3; Mk. 4:22; Rom. 2:16).

Given Mr. Clinton’s penchant far upholding immoral and ungodly activities (e.g., abortion, homosexuality, etc.), it causes one to wonder and question his stated religious convictions. How can a man who professes to be a Christian be a staunch defender of those who disdain, denounce, and despise biblical values and morals? What would he say to those who might question him regarding his stand?

Biblical Examples of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Even in the Bible we can find examples of some who desired to practice a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Notice the first example in Matthew 21:23-27:

And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority? And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet. And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things (KJV).

On this occasion, the Jews asked Jesus specifically about the authority he had to be teaching and preaching. Jesus responded with a question of his own that placed the Jews in a difficult circumstance. If they answered the question honestly, they would be at odds with the people, for the people believe in John as a prophet. If they answered falsely, then Jesus would have sprung the response on them, “Why then did ye not believe him?” In essence, they were stuck and could not afford to give an answer. We might say that they developed a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in regards to the questions that Jesus asked them. Because of their opposition to John and Jesus, they didn’t want to be asked and didn’t want to tell what they believed about the baptism of John.

The same thing occurred in Matthew 22:15-46. After being asked several questions by the different sects of the Jews, Jesus turned the tables and asked them a question that they could not answer (vv. 41-45). It should be noted that Jesus did not refuse their questions but used the opportunity to boldly and directly confront the issues raised. He did not have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy but was willing to state for the benefit of the people his convictions on these questions. After having the tables turned though, the Jews decided that they had had enough of this question and answer period and developed a modified form of “don’t ask, don’t tell” (v. 46).

False Teachers and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

The examples above simply illustrate what Jesus said in John 3:19-21:

And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

Those who believe the truth and practice it are not afraid to have their deeds and activities examined. The apostles preached the word with great boldness in the book of Acts (4:29,31; 9:29; 14:3). Even when in prison, Paul continued to preach and to teach and thereby caused others to be “much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Phil. 1:14). Some may have thought that the best thing for Paul to do would be to just be quiet and not keep pushing. Maybe things would be easier on him if he would just adopt a quiet, non-combative posture. Surely a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in regards to the truth would have lessened his suffering! Paul however, continued to seek opportunities to teach and to preach, even while an “ambassador in bonds” (Eph. 6:19-20; Col. 4:3).

When one is confident of what he believes and is not afraid of being exposed to the rejection of others for his stand, he will adopt an approach like that of Paul’s. False teachers however, and their sympathizers, will learn to evade and dodge questions regarding their beliefs and practices. Like some of the homosexuals in the military, they would prefer that their beliefs, convictions, and actions remain secret. They want to have all of the benefits and blessings of being counted as a faithful brother in Christ while at the same time harboring false and damnable heresies (2 Pet. 2:1). Others who teach and believe the truth will nonetheless aid false teachers by not exposing them for being wolves in sheep’s clothing. Those who aid and abet in such a way are guilty of not following Paul’s admonition in Ephesians 5:11: “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove (expose, NKJV) them.”

In January of 1993, I debated a Baptist preacher by the name of Bobby Sparks on the question of the necessity of baptism to salvation. One of the questions that I asked him during that debate is given below:

Which of the following statements gives the correct order of occurrence?

1. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.

2. He that believeth and is saved shall be baptized.

Even though Mr. Sparks had answered that very question in a previous debate (he answered “number 2”), this time he refused to answer the question and kept saying night after night that they were “both saying the same thing.” Mr. Sparks learned the value of adopting a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy when it came to Baptist doctrine. I told him during the debate that if he would ask me the same question, I’d be glad to tell him which one gave the right order (see Mark 16:16). Nevertheless, he never asked and he never told! I’m sure that there are many other examples that could be given but this just helps emphasize that false prophets and Bill Clinton have one thing in common: they both like the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

It should also be pointed out that false teachers are not limited to the denominations. There are those who would profess to be sheep among the Lord’s people but who “inwardly are ravening wolves” (Matt. 7:15). I know personally of a church that asked a man to come work with them only to find out later that he held to doctrines that were false regarding marriage, divorce and remarriage. The end result was a church that split, with the majority going off with the false teacher. The reason I use this example is to emphasize the responsibility of the elders of the church to know beforehand what a particular preacher teaches and believes on various subjects. If a church asks a preacher with whom they will have fellowship what his beliefs and convictions are on certain matters and he won’t tell, a red flag should go up. Not only does a church have the right to know what will be taught by a preacher, but they have an obligation to the cause of truth to find out. On what grounds would someone deny a church the right to know what an evangelist believes and teaches when they are considering having fellowship with him in the gospel? The above is not the only example I’ve heard of and I’m sure that there are a number of others examples that could be cited, whether it be a located preacher or a meeting preacher, of churches that found out too late what was being taught.

The Parents of the Blind Man (John 9:18-23)

One final matter to consider is that of those who sympathize with false prophets, or those who are afraid to confront them, although they are not false prophets them-selves. In John 9, we read about a blind man who was healed. When the Jews found out about it, they denied that the man had ever been blind to start with. When his parents were called in to testify, they confirmed that he had been blind from his birth. However, when they were asked how it came that he was now able to see, they said:

But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. (John 9:21).

The truth of the matter is, they did know but were afraid to say. Notice the statement in John 9:22:

These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.

In the above example, we can see that the man’s parents believed the truth, but because of their desire to please the other Jews and to avoid being put out of the synagogue, they decided “not to tell.” The problem they had, simply put, is that they were trying to be men-pleasers. Paul posed the question in Galatians 1:10, “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” Our confidence is to be in the Lord and his word, not in ourselves or our standing with other men. Sadly, some seem to value the praise of men more than the praise of God and are thus willing to sit silently by while error is promoted and applied (Jn. 12:42-43). Brother Dan Shipley commented on this very problem in an excellent article entitled “Closet Convictions” (Plain Talk, Vol. 17, no.2, p. 3). After quoting the passage in John 12:42-43, he said:

From its beginning, the cause of Christ has suffered because of disciples with closet convictions; the kind of men who know and believe the truth but will not stand up for it. Consider for example, these influential rulers of our text. Potentially, their worth to the cause of their unconfessed Christ was immeasurable; effectively, how-ever, they contributed absolutely nothing. Worse, their influence remained where they did, as must always be the case. What a testimonial to the tremendous swaying power of cowardice and pride:  it keeps them among those who they oppose and puts them in opposition to their own faith and convictions. “But, after all,” they may have reasoned,” we do have our standing in the community to think about. And besides, how could we ever explain to our friends of the synagogue circle about what we really believe? Why, what would they think?”  and so goes people-pleasing religion.

To the above I can only add a hearty “amen”!

As preachers and Christians all of us must realize that we have a grave responsibility to stand up and stand firm. There is no excuse for the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of some in the religious world and even some among our own brethren. I have heard reports of some capable and eloquent gospel preachers who go to areas where certain false doctrines are not only taught, but also practiced, yet nothing is said regarding these problems from the pulpit. Are we developing our own “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding controversial issues? Do we have the concept that if “they won’t ask me about these matters, I won’t tell them”? And even if I am asked regarding my convictions, am I willing to state them forthrightly, without fear of losing friendships and acquaintances?

Peter commands that we “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). Are you ashamed and embarrassed to do so? Paul was not (Rom. 1:16). May our attitude be that of the apostle Paul as expressed in 2 Corinthians 5:9: “Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.”

Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 14, p. 16-18
July 21, 1994