John MacArthur and Reopening

John MacArthur and Reopening

» Two things quickly: join us for Men’s Ministry in person (bring your own breakfast), tomorrow at 8:00a at CPC. Steven Jones will lead us in music and Igor Kolesnikov will share (which I’m looking forward to). Also, this Sunday evening we begin the new worship time of 5:30p. We can accommodate up to 200 people. Let’s fill it up.

» I spoke this week with a pastor and friend who attended the Master’s Seminary (the seminary founded by John Macarthur) and who has stayed in touch with an informal network of other pastors who are also Master’s graduates. All these men respect and admire John, as I do. I asked my friend if Master’s grads in Washington were following John’s lead and resuming worship without masks or social distancing. He said there were no pastors resuming ordinary worship, with the exception of one very small congregation. What follows is my paraphrase of their reasoning (after which some comments on why this is so divisive). If you’re not familiar with John Macarthur’s grounds for resuming worship, a brief poke around the internet will fill in the blanks. Here’s a summary of what my friend said:

1. Biblically-minded epidemiologists and other medical professionals in their churches do believe this is a pandemic, the disruptive nature of which is measured in ways beyond the number of fatalities alone.
2. Co-morbidity, a term that refers to a death attributable to two or more factors, does not lessen the impact of Covid-19. For example, if a person has diabetes, then contracts the virus and dies, that death is not attributable to diabetes alone.
3. Washington governor Inslee has a better relationship with churches than California governor Newsom, which has led to somewhat more nuanced and workable regulations in Washington.
4. Government regulations are not as onerous or ominous as they seem. My friend is a Chinese-American who has kept ties with the Chinese church and its struggle under a genuinely oppressive, persecuting government. His comment was, “we haven’t really seen persecution yet.”

» Some thoughts on why this is such a loaded conversation. First, just speaking of Covid-19 as a genuine health concern is now taken by some as an endorsement of a left-leaning political agenda. Even though that can hardly be said of this group of Master’s Seminary grads, it’s a line of thought that is dividing some of their churches. Smaller churches may not survive that division, which is as needless a Kingdom division as ever existed.

» Every pastor I know recognizes that such divisions are the current state of affairs. For whatever reason, a significant percentage of American Christians in this moment are seeing the Kingdom of God through the lens of politics, rather than politics through the lens of Scripture and the Kingdom. The result has been an increasing number of brothers and sisters in Christ treating each other with suspicion — a mistrust exacerbated by the alienation inherent in social distancing. But is that inversion of political life and Kingdom life bearing fruit for Christ and his Bride? Is it biblical?

» Imagine this. Imagine that during the Apostle Paul’s ministry, Herod Agrippa had begun to advocate insurrection against the Romans, who had by then ruled, oppressed, and controlled the Jews (and Christians) for about 100 years. Do you think that Paul, in a general epistle to the churches of Palestine, would have encouraged believers to rally behind Agrippa as a leader capable of restoring freedom, self-rule, and hope? Was that Paul’s conception of efficacy — real change — and would the realm of that change have been earthly and temporal?

» In a way, such an option had already presented itself. When Pilate was reluctant to crucify Jesus but unable to convince Jewish leadership, he still had a card up his sleeve: “Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” Of course, they choose Barabbas, the anti-Roman insurrectionist, the man of action! A man so passionate about his people he was willing to kill. If you really want to get something done, whom do you choose? The one willing to be killed for his people, or the one willing to kill? The way that God has chosen to fulfill all our longings, hopes, and dreams — for this coming election and for eternity — is often not the way his people would choose for themselves: “He came to his own, and his own knew him not” (Jn 1:11).

» We have a civic duty to engage our political system and we should do so; we have a sacred duty to not believe in it. Both require wisdom, discernment, and self-discipline. Let’s pray for that.