US pastor John MacArthur is behaving like the moody teenager whose parents “know nothing” and should get out of his way and “don’t tell me what to do.”
You know the type. The same moody teenager who is more than happy to take mum’s and dad’s money, drive their car and eat the meals pushed in front of him, even while he grumbles about their overbearing control of his life.
MacArthur’s decision to reopen Grace Community Church in California, a state that has one of the highest COVID-19 infection and fatality rates, has “teenager rebellion” written all over it.
“We cannot and will not acquiesce to a government-imposed moratorium on our weekly congregational worship or other regular corporate gatherings. Compliance would be disobedience to our Lord’s clear commands.”
Hey John, just had a quick skim through the New Testament documents. Couldn’t find anything about meeting in some kick-butt-sized mega church building that has all of the cleanliness of a P&O cruise ship picking up passengers from aged care facilities. Not one verse.
Did of course read stuff about “not neglecting to meet together and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). Which of course can still be done without having to do so in a building that has shaped your theology and practises far more than you would care to admit. Nothing particularly biblical or necessary about a barn the size of a small city that seats thousands upon thousands of people.
Still don’t let me get in the way of you thumbing your nose at your parents, er, at Caesar. Here’s what MacArthur went on to say in his statement:
…when any government official issues orders regulating worship (such as bans on singing, caps on attendance, or prohibitions against gatherings and services), he steps outside the legitimate bounds of his God-ordained authority as a civic official and arrogates to himself authority that God expressly grants only to the Lord Jesus Christ as sovereign over His Kingdom, which is the church. His rule is mediated to local churches through those pastors and elders who teach His Word (Matthew 16:18–19; 2 Timothy 3:16–4:2).
“Therefore, in response to the recent state order requiring churches in California to limit or suspend all meetings indefinitely, we, the pastors and elders of Grace Community Church, respectfully inform our civic leaders that they have exceeded their legitimate jurisdiction, and faithfulness to Christ prohibits us from observing the restrictions they want to impose on our corporate worship services.”
Wow, the house positively shook when that door slammed. And the sounds of Nirvana coming from the bedroom are enough for the neighbours to call the cops!
Key question of course, why is the government regulating gatherings? They’re not regulating worship per se, are they? They’re not hostile to the faith once delivered to to the saints. Not openly yet at least. All they are doing is regulating all and any major internal gatherings, and huge big churches that seat thousands get swept up in that regulation. They’re fearful about the virus and they’re taking action. Think of your shut down church as collateral damage.
Collateral damage for not having the foresight to create a church structure that could be nimble in times of emergency or crisis. Flexible and adaptable when black swan events occur. You know, like in the rest of history for the church outside the modern West. Or else you’ve bought into the progressive narrative yourself, in which history just keeps getting better and better.
Of course, in light of the famous, and many times married, movie star Zsa Zsa Gabor, who said that she never despised an ex-husband so much as to give him his diamonds back, I am sure that MacArthur won’t be expressing his opposition to the government’s rules by coming out from under its umbrella in terms of state sanction and tax breaks etc etc.
Teenagers never go that far with their parents. I mean, moving out would give me my independence and create a man out of me, but it would cost! It would be uncomfortable. I might have nowhere to lay my head! Oh, wait a minute…
I’ve heard it said that MacArthur’s actions are designed to head off at the pass further government overreach in terms of religious freedoms, and that COVID-19 is just an opportunity for the government to increase its control, one that it never intends to back away from. But hey, I’ve heard it said that 5G causes COVID-19 too, so you can never be too careful about conspiracy theories.
The worst of this, however, is that many a non-Christian of various stripes, are adhering to the rules and seeing their businesses and leisure pursuits go completely bust. I’m pretty sure they’re not going “Go you good thing John!”. MacArthur is cutting off his evangelistic nose to spite his ecclesiological face.
There’s no love of neighbour in this at all, despite all of the biblical rhetoric in the rest of the statement. You see, that’s part of God’s law too, loving your neighbour as you love yourself. You admitted the desire to keep the law John, when you said this:
Insofar as government authorities do not attempt to assert ecclesiastical authority or issue orders that forbid our obedience to God’s law, their authority is to be obeyed whether we agree with their rulings or not.
The law of love seems to cross between the New Testament and the Old Testament and back again. It’s also the hardest law to comply with, which is why we have Jesus, who never asserted his rights.
Asserting of rights is a sure fire way away from the law of love, which is why so many of the rights movements start off with love and move away from it pretty rapidly into self interest and self focus. Don’t let the church become a rights movement John. It didn’t start that way.
Perhaps the day is truly coming when the government is going to shut you down – shut many of us down – when we don’t comply with secular teachings and rules around the promotion or exclusion of unbiblical sexual ethics.
I can certainly see that day coming, and I would be the first to sign up to disobedience towards the government. That would be a good time to disobey the government. That would be a good time to put out a statement like the one you have.
But when that day does come, you may find that, like the petulant teenager, you’ve slammed so many doors in so many houses, that no one is listening anymore.