This is my third time around, which makes it either a charm or an out. I want to accomplish three things here. First, I will grant concessions. *gasp* Second, I will re-establish affirmations. Third, I will set a course for ending this mischievous series.
In the first article on COVID-19 (published this past Monday), I made two claims which warrant correction.
First, I claimed that arresting that Floridian pastor was unconstitutional. I recognize now that legal waters are much mirkier than I assumed, in that specific situation. There seem to be legal precedents in U.S. law which permit Florida civil authorities to enforce a shut-down of local churches during a pandemic. However, I maintain it was unbiblical. Further, what the Mayor of New York has threatened (permanently shutting down non-compliant churches) is certainly unconstitutional.
Second, I claimed that any Christian who is OK with that Floridian pastor’s arrest is either ignorant or cowardly. After publishing that blog, I noticed much more conflict within the Reformed community than I anticipated. We seem divided, remarkably evenly, between those who condone and those who condemn the arrest. Because of this, I think more patient language is warranted – not because I am any less convinced of what constitutes the relationship between church and state, but because I know it is foolish to take off running into battle while half of your brethren (I mean the true brethren – the ones you’d celebrate a Reformation Day with) haven’t drawn their swords yet. So I believe this demands I prove, not simply assert, my position – and so I shall (see third section below).
There are only three assertions which I have sought to communicate in the previous two articles of this series. They are as follows:
Affirmed: that civil magistrates have no authority under God to dictate when and how a local assembly of Christ’s church shall be made.
Affirmed: that whether a local church postpones the assembly during a time of crisis is a matter becoming only of her elders.
Affirmed: with the previous affirmation in mind, it is not the business of one church to indict another for continuing or postponing the assembly.
The Way Forward
The first matter which needs attending is the vindication of my (apparently) less-than-popular position. I have dug into the confessions, Hodge, Calvin, and others today. I have Baxter to read this weekend, but I remain confident with the prospect of publishing a position piece Monday or Tuesday. The post will make plain my position on the relationship between civil and ecclesial government, it will provide exegetical and historical grounds for my position, and it will apply my position to our present predicament.
The second matter that I must get to is tying off this series (if you can call it that). Depending on how much trouble Monday/Tuesday’s article gets me into, I can have a final installment on Wednesday/Thursday next week. That last post will be a call for all Christians to humble themselves, as greatly as possible, before our civil rulers.
And that’s really it. This whole time, I have only had three things to say about what’s going on: 1) civil government shouldn’t be shutting down churches, 2) local churches must be patient with other local churches, and 3) Christians should be doing what their civil authorities instruct them to do. Is that really so bad?