I’ve now posted two articles on why churches should continue to meet, in person, during the coronavirus pandemic, even if governments order churches to close.
The first argument, posted here, was that churches should remain open in a time of crisis because they are needed more than hospitals and grocery stores. Yes, the public needs access during this time to hospitals and grocery stores (as most, to the delight of preppers, are not preppers). But the people need churches more. For, in the true churches of God, the soul of man is cared for, his sickness tended, his hunger fed. And, even more notably, corporate repentance is offered up to God, the greatest remedy for any pestilence. “Jehovah, remove this pestilence from our land once you have removed this sin from our land!”
The second argument, posted here, is that Romans 13 does not require Christians to obey the civil magistrates when they order churches not to meet, even when there is a pestilence. The authority is not given by God to the politicians or police to tell Christ’s true churches when they can and cannot meet. Such a decision, bound by the rule of Scripture, is left to the government of each, individual local church. Similarly, politicians and police don’t have the authority to tell a father not to spank (smack, for any British reader) his children, as God has given such to the realm of family government. Civil magistrates have not been given that authority by God, and they cannot claim it, even with the justification of protecting the public from bodily and psychological harm (precisely what they are doing today in Europe and the UK). God has established bounds for the governments he has created, family, church, and state. Romans 13 certainly prohibits Christians from being revolutionaries, of the French persuasion, or anarchists. But it does state clearly the bounds of authority possessed by the state. Outside those bounds, the state has no divine right. The state may quarantine those sick with contagion. But it may not quarantine the healthy, for to do so would be to usurp the authority of the family government. The state may make recommendations as to how to safely congregate publicly during a time of contagion, but it may not order the church to not meet, and so usurp the authority of the church government. The impact of the coronavirus flu is not uniform across these united States, or even within the States. It is up to each local church to weigh the available information and consider how much of a threat to the congregation this flu is, and so take the necessary precautions during their meetings.
This said, the case of Rodney Howard-Browne should not be ignored by pastors. This man was not arrested in Florida because he is a charlatan of the faith or a heretic. He was arrested because he continued to lead church meetings. He went above and beyond the health precautions taken by those businesses christened by the county government as “essential”. And he was arrested. I bring him up to highlight the seriousness of the things for which I’m arguing. I think the things I’m arguing are true, and therefore pleasing to Jesus. They are, however, in disagreement with men I greatly respect. For example, I disagree with Douglas Wilson and Tim Bayly. Bayly believes that when the government orders churches to not meet during a time of disease, churches are to obey and not meet. To do otherwise, Bayly argues, is rebellion against God. This is consistent with what Richard Baxter argued. Wilson basically agrees with Bayly and Baxter, but puts more of an emphasis on the fact that, at some point, civil disobedience is called for, even if the magistrates are still pointing at the flu. They are probably the two men I most respect as courageous and wise fighters in the Great Downgrade of our time. I do not write, however, as a lone voice for my positions (I’m in agreement with Andrew Sandlin, AD Robles, Jeff Durbin, Jon Speed, Matt Trewhella, Sye Ten Bruggencate, etc.), but it is important to note the worthiness of those men who think I’m wrong. Weigh what they say against me, for I am no man’s master, and we all must answer to the Lord.
When your weighing is done, hear this. If, after doing your Berean duty to examine the Scriptures, you come to agree with me that the church (not the synagogue or mosque) meeting is the most essential meeting in all the world and that the civil magistrates have no authority to shut it down, no matter their justification, you then have a duty to act according to that conviction. Families in the UK have to spank (smack) their children, regardless of the law on the books, regardless of the threatened consequences. They don’t have to do so in the middle of Starbucks. They can do so in private. But do so they must, lest they hasten their children to a cursed death. Likewise, you would need to disobey those magistrates forbidding you to meet and meet, even if fines and arrests are probable consequences. You don’t need to livestream or post photos of such meetings. You don’t need to ask for fine and arrest. But you have to do what you have to do, consequences be damned. That’s the kind of man you have to be, the kind of husband your wife deserves, the kind of father your children need.
I’ve said before and I’ll say it again. There has never been a time in American history where wickedness has been more abundant or more abundantly celebrated. The surprise, then, is not that Biblical obedience may require pastors to get arrested. The surprise is that more Christian men haven’t been arrested, fined, or fired. Such consequences for fidelity are coming down the pipe for church members. A man in Vegas, who has served in the police department for 30 years, is going to lose his job for refusing to use deceitful gender pronouns. A member of Bayly’s own church who worked in the local school system was fired for the same reason. Are you, pastors, willing to be arrested for your work? Are you willing, lay elders, to lose your jobs because of your elding? Careful consideration must be given in times such as these. And, when decisions are made, costs need to be counted.
So count. And act. And if you want a small man to stand beside you in the breach, give me a call. I’m a loyalist to those who want it.