The World Is Afraid, and the Church Isn’t Helping

"At the end of 2020, Lifeway Research asked U.S. adults which feeling they sought to avoid the most: fear, shame, or guilt. Four in 10 U.S. adults (41%) said fear, the clear winner of the three options." - Lifeway

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dgszweda's picture

Unfortunately MacArthur is flying under the banner that the church should promote truth, and then he goes on to spread much disinformation to feed the narrative that the government is acting tyranical and with an agenda.  I do agree with MacArthur that the church should be the one pillar that promotes truth.  But it should be on the truth itself, not focused on discrediting others with false information. 

We should take precautions, we should follow the government that has been ordained over us, and finally we should have the hope that all of this is in God's control.

dgszweda's picture

I would also say that we have a divide in the church.  Those who do not support such things as mask mandates, vaccines..... often look at the other side as being "fearful", and they then take that "fearful" as being unGodly or even sinful.  And it has been entirely misconstrued.  For me personally, I wash my hands, I take the flu vaccine every year.  I visit my doctor.  I ask for prescriptions for various ailments.  If people are in the office and coughing I ask them to take the day off and use some sick time to prevent others in the office from getting a cold/flu....  I would say that most people would view this as a sane approach.  But for some reason when it comes to COVID, if you want to wear a mask or get a vaccine than you are living in fear.  I can't count on my hands the number of pastoral staff members that I know who were great Christians, serving the Lord faithfully.  Felt the same way MacArthur felt, didn't get the vaccine, didn't wear a mask and didn't social distance who are now dead.  On something that was very avoidable.  The church, in my opinion, has lost too many of its faithful servants over this.

T Howard's picture

DGSZWEDA wrote:
I would say that most people would view this as a sane approach.  But for some reason when it comes to COVID, if you want to wear a mask or get a vaccine than you are living in fear.  I can't count on my hands the number of pastoral staff members that I know who were great Christians, serving the Lord faithfully.  Felt the same way MacArthur felt, didn't get the vaccine, didn't wear a mask and didn't social distance who are now dead.  On something that was very avoidable.  The church, in my opinion, has lost too many of its faithful servants over this.

It's because many Christians [in America] have politicized the issue and made the issues surrounding COVID the shibboleth of being a faithful Christian and a true patriot. I don't know how many slippery slope arguments I've heard from this group of people. I've heard very few objections from this group of people that didn't involve vaccine misinformation, conspiracy theories, or partisan politics.

I met with a believer on Sunday who is going to apply for a religious exemption from his health care employer because the vaccines come from aborted fetal cells, because the most educated people (i.e. people with doctorate-level education) aren't getting the vaccine, because mRNA vaccines are using untested / unsafe technology, because big pharma wants us reliant on these expensive new vaccines instead of using already existing and cheaper therapeutics, etc. etc.

It boggles the mind.

Notice, will you, that none of these objections except the first are religious in nature. And, even the aborted fetal cell objection really isn't viable in this case. However, he is seeking and will likely receive a religious exemption.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

T Howard wrote:

Notice, will you, that none of these objections except the first are religious in nature. And, even the aborted fetal cell objection really isn't viable in this case. However, he is seeking and will likely receive a religious exemption.

And if he does receive it, why should it bother you?  He must answer for his actions before his own Master, to whom he stands or falls, just as each of us must.  As I've posted before, I don't think the arguments for a religious exemption are convincing enough to me for me to try to apply for one.  However, I also know someone who has received a religious exemption.  She's an adult, and she must answer to God for her own actions, and also will be responsible for any health consequences she suffers.  That's no skin off of my back.

You should do what you believe is necessary to protect yourself and your family, and you are free to convince others of your position, just as anyone is.  I will do the same.  Once you take all the precautions you can, you've done what you can do.  You can preach to others, but none of us (thankfully) has the power to coerce them.  After that, it's in God's hands, as this entire pandemic has always been.

It's natural for us to be concerned for others who won't take precautions each of us deems normal and reasonable.  However, I'm thankful for whatever freedoms we do have to make these choices for ourselves, rather than have them forced on us "for our own good."

Dave Barnhart

T Howard's picture

dcbii wrote:
And if he does receive it, why should it bother you?  He must answer for his actions before his own Master, to whom he stands or falls, just as each of us must

My friend seeking a religious exemption from his employer bothers me because his objection to receiving the vaccine isn't based on any sincerely held religious belief. You'll notice that in his list of objections, none of them are based on Scripture or his Christian faith. He just doesn't want to get the vaccine or lose his job, so he's using the religious exemption as his trump card. That, Dave, is dishonest and cowardly. It's a terrible witness to the world. It also, I believe, endangers the perceived validity of future religious exemptions.

I had this same conversation with a pastor friend of mine who many years back sought a religious exemption from paying into Social Security. He didn't really have a scriptural argument against it; he just didn't want to pay into social security, and as a pastor he has that option.

My position is if you don't want the vaccine then don't get it. But, at least be honest about why you're not getting it and be willing to accept the consequences of your decision. Stop blaming God for your decision.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

T Howard wrote:

My friend seeking a religious exemption from his employer bothers me because his objection to receiving the vaccine isn't based on any sincerely held religious belief. You'll notice that in his list of objections, none of them are based on Scripture or his Christian faith.

I thought his reason #1 was the "aborted cells" reason.  As you even pointed out in your previous post, that one can certainly be seen as a religious reason, even if it's not well-founded.  I don't know the guy you are referring to, but his having other reasons doesn't negate his first reason being religious in nature.  If he's not being honest about the connection to abortion being his main reason to not get the vaccine, then he will answer to God for that.

I agree we should just be honest about our reasons.  I wouldn't personally claim a sincere religious objection.  However, I'm not privy to the thoughts of others, and I generally have to accept their word about their own thought processes.  I can attempt to convince them otherwise if I believe they are wrong or misled, but without a lot of evidence, I wouldn't try to accuse them of lying about their primary reason.  At that point, I would let them go.

Could such a person be a terrible witness?  Of course.  But people of many religions claim all sorts of wacky things as a sincere religious belief.  The whole point is that personal belief is, by definition, a personal thing, not required to be dictated by other believers or authorities of various religions.  The best thing we can do is to tell others why, as Christians, we are doing what we do (e.g. like NOT claiming a religious exemption and why).  Bad or dishonest examples will always be out there, though I don't include in that list those who are sincere and honest in their claim of a religious exemption.  Our job is to be a good example, even when we disagree with others.

Dave Barnhart

T Howard's picture

dcbii wrote:

Could such a person be a terrible witness?  Of course.  But people of many religions claim all sorts of wacky things as a sincere religious belief.  The whole point is that personal belief is, by definition, a personal thing, not required to be dictated by other believers or authorities of various religions.  The best thing we can do is to tell others why, as Christians, we are doing what we do (e.g. like NOT claiming a religious exemption and why).  Bad or dishonest examples will always be out there, though I don't include in that list those who are sincere and honest in their claim of a religious exemption.  Our job is to be a good example, even when we disagree with others.

Dave, I'm not questioning his American right / freedom to claim a religious exemption. You're right: people claim all sorts of wacky things as a sincere religious belief. However, what I'm questioning is how his Christian faith as informed by Scripture leads him to claim a religious exemption from receiving a covid vaccination. My point is, it doesn't. He (and most other Christians, imho) knows it doesn't; yet he claims a religious exemption anyway.

dgszweda's picture

T Howard wrote:

 

dcbii wrote:

 

Could such a person be a terrible witness?  Of course.  But people of many religions claim all sorts of wacky things as a sincere religious belief.  The whole point is that personal belief is, by definition, a personal thing, not required to be dictated by other believers or authorities of various religions.  The best thing we can do is to tell others why, as Christians, we are doing what we do (e.g. like NOT claiming a religious exemption and why).  Bad or dishonest examples will always be out there, though I don't include in that list those who are sincere and honest in their claim of a religious exemption.  Our job is to be a good example, even when we disagree with others.

 

 

Dave, I'm not questioning his American right / freedom to claim a religious exemption. You're right: people claim all sorts of wacky things as a sincere religious belief. However, what I'm questioning is how his Christian faith as informed by Scripture leads him to claim a religious exemption from receiving a covid vaccination. My point is, it doesn't. He (and most other Christians, imho) knows it doesn't; yet he claims a religious exemption anyway.

I am also seeing a number of people use the fetal cell argument, not as a legitimate reason, but a reason that they can use to justify all kinds of other misinformation.  I think with previous vaccines, the aborted fetal cell argument had more weight.  I think today and with the vaccine choices that are available, the aborted fetal cell argument is becoming a stretch that gets weaker and weaker.  There are plenty of choices where aborted fetal cells were not used in the research or the manufacturing of the vaccines.  The vaccines do not contain aborted fetal cells.  And a few used some remote offshoots of the aborted fetal cells, 15,000 generations removed from the original aborted fetal cells to do some early pre-clinical studies in a petri dish.  Even pro-life groups for the most part, except for some fringe groups, and all major denominations and ethics committees say that a vaccine like the Moderna vaccine should not be a concern for those who are concerned about aborted fetal cell lines.

dgszweda's picture

The leading cause of death in California is currently COVID, followed by heart disease and cancer.  95% of deaths currently taking place could be reduced by vaccination.  There has most certainly been a lot of confusion around a rapidly changing data and information once in a lifetime pandemic.  Instead of being a beacon of truth, the church is spending more time highlighting gaps in the information as a reason to discard all of science.  We say that we are for the sanctity of life, but instead Dr. MacArthur promotes how miniscule the deaths are in comparison to the whole population.  Well only 0.2% of the population in California is aborted every year.  Should we ignore that?  The church used to be a leader in this space, instead they are increasingly being known as sowers of misinformation, government resistors and they spend more time talking about government tyranny than the Gospel.  It is a sad state of affairs today, and it has really exposed the underbelly of the church.  I am really going to be interested in how the church handles the upcoming set of individuals running for office.  The Republican party has gone so far off the deep end, it will be interesting.

Larry's picture

Moderator

My friend seeking a religious exemption from his employer bothers me because his objection to receiving the vaccine isn't based on any sincerely held religious belief. You'll notice that in his list of objections, none of them are based on Scripture or his Christian faith.

I wish we wouldn't go back to this. 

A sincere religious belief in America doesn't have to be based on the Scripture or Christian faith. Furthermore, in the Bible, each individual is entitled to their beliefs and no one else gets to sit in judgment on that in the way you are doing here. He's your friend so perhaps he has told you it is not his sincere Christian faith, but aside form that, how would you know? Calling them cowards doesn't make it so. I know sincere Christians who think you shouldn't get tattoos, or who think you shouldn't drink any wine, or who think women shouldn't wear pants. I wouldn't call them cowards because of it, nor would I claim they aren't sincere. 

Some of those reasons could be biblical in nature. And more importantly, no one gets to sit in judgment on it in a legal or personal sense. You can exclude them from your church if enough people agree. But to charge people with cowardice is a level of prejudice that simply shouldn't fly. 

Larry's picture

Moderator

I am also seeing a number of people use the fetal cell argument, not as a legitimate reason,

How did you determine it is not legitimate for them?

The leading cause of death in California is currently COVID, followed by heart disease and cancer.

Where did this information come from? I can't find it. Aren't cause of death statistics typically not available until after the year is over?

Ken S's picture

While a religious exemption may be legal, it can still be viewed very poorly by a significant portion of the population, especially when some of the religious exemptions really are very thinly disguised political objections. Others are simply misinformed, and while I would not say they are cowards or insincere, I do think T Howard is correct about the possibility that it could endanger the perceived validity of future religious exemptions. 

The aborted stem cell objection is really tough for Christians to use unless they are prepared to commit to abstaining from a whole host of other medications: hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, benadryl, and many more. 

T Howard's picture

Larry wrote:
A sincere religious belief in America doesn't have to be based on the Scripture or Christian faith.

Agreed.

Larry wrote:
Furthermore, in the Bible, each individual is entitled to their beliefs and no one else gets to sit in judgment on that in the way you are doing here.

Incorrect. Read Paul's epistles where he specifically calls the churches to task for heterodoxy. He also tells the church to evaluate and judge prophecies and other beliefs and teachings that were being promulgated in the church. Honestly, your approach is akin to saying, "A professing Christian can believe anything they want, and you can't tell them it's wrong." Try concluding that after reading 1 Corinthians.

Larry wrote:
Calling them cowards doesn't make it so. I know sincere Christians who think you shouldn't get tattoos, or who think you shouldn't drink any wine, or who think women shouldn't wear pants. I wouldn't call them cowards because of it, nor would I claim they aren't sincere.

To be clear, Larry, people are not cowards for holding their beliefs, whether about drinking, wearing pants, or getting tattoos. In fact, I would argue there is more Scriptural justification for these positions than for not getting the vaccine. However, professing Christians are cowards when they fabricate a religious objection to getting the vaccine but can't even provide a Scriptural defense for their objection. They just don't want to get the vaccine, and they don't want to lose their job. So, they blame their decision to not get vaccinated on God.

That, Larry, is cowardice. It's legal. It's their American right. But, it's cowardice.

 

But, back to the topic at hand, Christians need to be truth seekers and truth tellers. Unfortunately, many Christians seem now more like conspiracy theorists. They offer little hope to our culture.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Read Paul's epistles where he specifically calls the churches to task for heterodoxy. He also tells the church to evaluate and judge prophecies and other beliefs and teachings that were being promulgated in the church. Honestly, your approach is akin to saying, "A professing Christian can believe anything they want, and you can't tell them it's wrong." Try concluding that after reading 1 Corinthians.

Heterodoxy. Not differing views on the application of biblical principles. If you think my approach is akin to "Christians can believe anything they want," then you aren't reading what I am saying. And I think you aren't understanding the historic doctrines. I am preaching through 1 Corinthians right now, so I am fairly familiar with it. It won't help you make your case.

To be clear, Larry, people are not cowards for holding their beliefs about drinking, wearing pants, or getting tattoos. In fact, I would argue there is more Scriptural justification for these positions than for not getting the vaccine.

No, there isn't. Is that a sincere claim. Perhaps it's cowardly??

But why is one cowardly and the other not? Again, you make an assertion with no argumentation to support it. You have yet to say why it is cowardly to have a sincere religious objection even if it is wrong.

Professing Christians are cowards when they fabricate a religious objection to getting the vaccine but can't even provide a Scriptural defense for their objection.

I agree. If someone can't provide a scriptural defense, then they shouldn't use it. But a great many can provide a scriptural defense of it. It is not fabricated for them.

They just don't want to get the vaccine and they don't want to lose their job. So, they blame their decision on God. That, Larry, is cowardice. It's legal. It's their American right. But, it's cowardice.

Again, how do you know that they simply don't want to get the vaccine and don't want to lose their job? I can't help but wonder if you aren't just making that up, sort of like statistics. You know the old line: 93.4% of statistics are made up right on the spot. Or maybe it was 89.8%. Either that or you are making some sort of claim to special revelation from God about what other people actually think and believe. My guess is you haven't talked to anyone in my church or in my circle of friends. I don't know how you would know if their objections are sincere or not.

My guess is you have no way of knowing why most people aren't getting the vaccine. So why not just admit you are making this up because you don't like their conclusion and you disagree with them?

T Howard's picture

Larry wrote:
Heterodoxy. Not differing views on the application of biblical principles. If you think my approach is akin to "Christians can believe anything they want," then you aren't reading what I am saying. And I think you aren't understanding the historic doctrines. I am preaching through 1 Corinthians right now, so I am fairly familiar with it. It won't help you make your case.

I just finished preaching through 1 Corinthians. First Corinthians addresses both improper belief and praxis as well as misinformed "application of biblical principles." So, yes, 1 Corinthians does inform our discussion here.

Larry wrote:
I agree. If someone can't provide a scriptural defense, then they shouldn't use it. But a great many can provide a scriptural defense of it. It is not fabricated for them.

And their scriptural defense is? And, this robust Scriptural defense is why they and their families have received other vaccines, but just not the covid vaccine? Scripture teaches them to specifically avoid the COVID vaccine?

Larry wrote:
My guess is you have no way of knowing why most people aren't getting the vaccine. So why not just admit you are making this up because you don't like their conclusion and you disagree with them?

Actually, we do have some understanding why most people aren't getting the vaccine. Don't we have polling data that tells us? What do those polls demonstrate? What reasons have self-identified Christians given for not getting vaccinatedDo these reasons stand up to scriptural scrutiny?

T Howard's picture

In reviewing my most recent posts on this thread and my posts in other threads, I acknowledge I am coming across very dogmatic about the religious exemption. What's the big deal? Who are we to scrutinize the sincerely held beliefs of professing believers?

As I related in another thread, I had a missionary friend recently die from COVID who left his wife and three young children without a husband and father. He willfully chose not to be vaccinated. While he did not claim a religious exemption (because he didn't have to), his reasoning for not getting the vaccination was based on misinformation, conspiracy theories, and politization (i.e. the same reasons multiple polls have pinpointed belonging to evangelicals).

My concern is that more and more believers are going to see the religious exemption as an "escape clause" for refusing the vaccine (for the reasons stated above) even though there really is no Scriptural basis or warrant for their refusal. This has and will result in more unnecessary hospitalizations and death, but now those will be the result of one's Christian faith and a perceived obedience to God.

As Christians who believe and obey God's Word, should we not take a stand against this abuse and misapplication of God's Word? Should we not speak truth into this situation? Should we not call on believers to knock off this foolish and dangerous behavior? Those who persist, should we not mark them and tell other believers not to follow their example?

If you're a professing believer and don't want the vaccine, that's your decision. All I'm saying is don't blame God for your decision when your decision has no basis in Scripture.

Larry's picture

Moderator

First Corinthians addresses both improper belief and praxis as well as misinformed "application of biblical principles." So, yes, 1 Corinthians does inform our discussion here.

This would be interesting to see you defend in this respect. Needless to say, your position is not so clear that it is beyond dispute. To the contrary, your position is more likely a minority position. Most Christians that I have read acknowledge that there is at least a legitimate reason to not get vaccinated for religious objections. And most unbelievers seem to agree. 

And their scriptural defense is? And, this robust Scriptural defense is why they and their families have received other vaccines, but just not the covid vaccine? Scripture teaches them to specifically avoid the COVID vaccine?

So you are adamant that they have no scriptural defense but you don't even know what it is? I am not trying to be smart aleck, but I don't get that. 

Actually, we do have some understanding why most people aren't getting the vaccine.

I am not sure if you read those articles but I don't think they make the case as clear as you think they do. Some of the responses reveal a lack of understanding of the principles involved. And at the end of the day, the bigger point is whether or not you admit that people can disagree with you without being a coward?

All I'm saying is don't blame God for your decision when your decision has no basis in Scripture.

On this, I agree. But if the decision does have a basis in Scripture, then it isn't "blaming God" for it.

 

T Howard's picture

Larry wrote:
So you are adamant that they have no scriptural defense but you don't even know what it is? I am not trying to be smart aleck, but I don't get that.

Larry, I've heard a lot of "religious" talk and misquoted Scripture. I'm asking you to provide the robust scriptural defense you claim people have for refusing the COVID vaccine specifically. What is it?

Larry wrote:
I am not sure if you read those articles but I don't think they make the case as clear as you think they do. Some of the responses reveal a lack of understanding of the principles involved. And at the end of the day, the bigger point is whether or not you admit that people can disagree with you without being a coward?

Yes, I read them. These and other similar polls demonstrate time and time again that evangelical Christians are really motivated by reasons other than a proper understanding and application of Scripture and obedience to God. This leads me to conclude what I have about their claims of religious exemption.

Larry's picture

Moderator

These and other similar polls demonstrate time and time again that evangelical Christians are really motivated by reasons other than a proper understanding and application of Scripture and obedience to God. This leads me to conclude what I have about their claims of religious exemption.

Notice your assumption that only your understanding and application is correct. That is the point here. There seems no consideration that you might be the one who is wrong. Part of what it means to be a conspiracy theorist is to have such a sure opinion of your own view that you cannot comprehend that there is another, usually less sensational, explanation or view. There is, for you, no room for difference, no other possible explanation than cowardice, than twisting the Scripture. It's like the Q-Anons--so sure and confident and willing to call names and deny the patriotism of any who would dare disagree. And there is apparently no amount of anything that might make you consider that you might be missing something or that anyone could disagree with you in good faith. Any thing that might call into question your view is automatically ruled out because it disagrees with your view, not because it has been examined.

You may be correct but you don't have the authority to force that on anyone else. Most of them are not making arguments I would make, but they are reasoned arguments even if I disagree with them.

Some people object to the vaccine on the grounds that the body is a temple of the Spirit, and we should not put certain things in our bodies. That is a long-standing Christian principle and they are consistent in that. It's not just the COVID vaccine that they don't put in their bodies. There are varying levels of concern for them. Some people object on the grounds that personal health is an individual's responsibility before God; it is not the government's responsibility. The issue of sphere sovereignty has been rejected by some, but foolishly in my view. Whether or not sphere sovereignty excludes government health mandates for individuals is at least a debate that should be had. There are some people who are vaccine hesitant (rather than anti-vax): they are willing to get it once it has been proven. But hearing "It's safe and effective" from the people who have been caught in numerous false or misleading statements over the last 18 months will not suffice for them. They believe there is safety in the multitude of counselors and they are unpersuaded that one side of "counselors" is the be-all and end-all of information, particularly given that the counsel has been so false and so inconsistent over time. Again, feel free to disagree, but charging them with cowardice and misuse of Scripture is a charge you cannot legitimately make. 

I would simply urge some caution and deference to those who, for reasons sufficient for their own conscience, see it differently than you do. 

T Howard's picture

Larry wrote:
And there is apparently no amount of anything that might make you consider that you might be missing something or that anyone could disagree with you in good faith. Any thing that might call into question your view is automatically ruled out because it disagrees with your view, not because it has been examined.

You may be correct but you don't have the authority to force that on anyone else. Most of them are not making arguments I would make, but they are reasoned arguments even if I disagree with them.

Larry, what have I said? I don't have an issue if people disagree with me about getting the vaccine. It's their decision to make without compulsion from the government. However, I can and do evaluate people's "reasoned arguments," especially if they start claiming divine imprimatur or disapprobation. If someone has a sound scriptural argument, then let's hear it.

Larry wrote:
I would simply urge some caution and deference to those who, for reasons sufficient for their own conscience, see it differently than you do. 

Fair enough, brother. But, I would also encourage us not to just accept "God told me so" or scriptural gymnastics as a "reasoned argument" for not getting the vaccine, especially when there are most likely other reasons evangelicals are not getting the vaccine (as highlighted in multiple surveys / polls).