Christ, not Caesar, Is Head of the Church

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TylerR's picture

Editor

Many of you have no doubt seen this missive from JMac's church, announcing its intention to defy CA's latest church closure edict. I don't believe it made a good case that CA has overreached, or that it has overreached NOW in a way that it hadn't yet BEFORE. The rest of the article speaks in generalities and is of limited value.

If JMac wishes to defy the CA government, he needs to do better than this. He made no case. His article does not teach Christians how to distinguish (1) restrictions for public health concerns from (2) restrictions because of a targeted bias against religion. It also doesn't establish that scenario #2 has happened in CA; though it may well have done so. It relies on a slippery slope argument and it's reasoning is sloppy. I expected better from them.

This is a bad argument. No doubt, some evangelicals will gleefully post it as though Christ has spoken and the matter is settled. It is not settled. Perhaps there is an argument to be made that churches can defy the CA governor. JMac just hasn't made it. No Christians should rely on this statement as a basis for defying its State government. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

AndyE's picture

I tend to agree. Romans 13:4 says the government is “God’s servant for your good.”  Government has a legit role to promote the safety and defense of its citizens, and that includes public health issues.  Do churches have the right to dismiss building code requirements, or fire safety codes, or other types of hurdles that the government may put in their way before they can occupy a building?  Seems like the government has a God-given role to play in these matters, and that we need to be subject to those God-appointed authorities, even if we don’t like the regulations.

I get the idea that church requires a real assembly, and that virtual doesn’t really fulfil all that God intends for the church. But does that mean you get to meet in a building that doesn’t pass the fire code, or if you don’t agree with the social distancing restrictions put in place by your God-ordained authorities?

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

We've pretty much taken the same position (opposite to what JMac is saying) in our church.  When the regulations restricted meetings of more than 10 people indoors, we did online only for a while, and then met outside.

Now, we are meeting inside, but that's because the governor lost a court case and then announced that his restrictions have nothing to do with churches.  We do take extra precautions, but we now feel we are on good legal ground to allow meetings, so we do.  We will continue to do our best to meet while evaluating changes in the government regulations.

Dave Barnhart

Larry's picture

Moderator

Do churches have the right to dismiss building code requirements, or fire safety codes, or other types of hurdles that the government may put in their way before they can occupy a building?   ...But does that mean you get to meet in a building that doesn’t pass the fire code, or if you don’t agree with the social distancing restrictions put in place by your God-ordained authorities?

None of these things affect the fundamental nature of the church. Requiring a church building to meet certain codes does not require a church to cease its nature or functioning as a church. Requiring a church not to meet does infringe on the very nature and function of the church, which is the problem. 

If a church building does not meet building codes, they can meet elsewhere. There is not biblical requirement to not meet building codes. If a church does not meet, they cannot fulfill the fundamental nature of the church. So this comparison is not a good one.

AndyE's picture

Larry wrote:

None of these things affect the fundamental nature of the church. Requiring a church building to meet certain codes does not require a church to cease its nature or functioning as a church. Requiring a church not to meet does infringe on the very nature and function of the church, which is the problem. 

If a church building does not meet building codes, they can meet elsewhere. There is not biblical requirement to not meet building codes. If a church does not meet, they cannot fulfill the fundamental nature of the church. So this comparison is not a good one.

It's a good point to ask if the regulation affects the fundamental nature of the church.  Yet, the potential exists for JMac's church, or any other, that the fire marshal could come in, notice a serious code violation, and not allow the church to meet in that building, effectively prohibiting the church from meeting *for a time* until that code violation gets resolved (there might not be any other legit meeting location options).  Churches have been creative during the pandemic to find ways to actually assemble and yet maintain required social distancing -- like meeting in cars in the parking lot, or meeting in a outdoor location spread apart.   Things like that are more difficult for a large church to pull off, for sure. I think the temporary nature of the prohibition plays a role in this as well.  Soldiers during war time are temporarily prohibited from gathering together in their local church. Is that a governmental overreach?  If I thought about it, I could probably come up with other examples.  I definitely get your point, though.