John MacArthur, James White, et al release Frankfurt Declaration on government abuse of power

"The 2,000-word document has received signatures so far from notable figures including John MacArthur, Tom Buck, Voddie Baucham, Phil Johnson, James Coates, and James White." - C.Leaders

The Declaration

1503 reads

There are 17 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I will not be signing, for reasons I might write something about more systematicallysoon.

The Statement's first sentence shows signs the whole is already off track

In the course of human events, it sometimes becomes necessary for people of good faith to speak out against the abuse of power. This should be done only after serious and prayerful deliberation, and even then, in an attitude of humility and with respect for the authorities that have been established by God. ...

In the U.S. people should speak out against the abuse of power all the time. No deliberation is necessary. This is a duty of citizenship. When the abuse is actual, it should always be opposed. When it abuse is only perceived, it should never be opposed "as abuse" but can be opposed in other legal ways. This is why we elect leaders from city to county to state on up, and why we have public debate on policy at each of those levels as well.

So, right out of the gate, the statement seems to reveal confusion about how citizens of a nation such as ours are supposed to handle policy they disagree with, how representative democracy works, etc.

I'll have to dig into it later, but the snippets I've had a look at so far also reveal confusion about how God's sovereignty relates to human government. I'm not sure they've give enough weight to the fact that the sovereignty of God usually works through secondary causes, and human government is one tool God has specifically declared to be appointed by Him. So there's a category error in assuming "sovereignty of God" and "human government" in general are opposing forces.

WE THEREFORE DENY that human governments are morally and ideologically neutral and always know or seek what is good for their citizens and that their narrative should be unconditionally trusted. We reject any deception, fear-mongering, propagandizing, and indoctrination by the State and mass media, and all reporting on critical world issues which is premature, selective, or ideologically manipulative.

What about ideological groups opposing human governments? They are just as guilty of "deception, fear-mongering, propagandizing, and indoctrination" these days.

In general, I'm seeing a lot of 'denying' here of things no one is affirming.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Larry's picture

Moderator

In the U.S. people should speak out against the abuse of power all the time. No deliberation is necessary.

So you think citizens should speak out without "serious and prayerful deliberation"? If you don't deliberate, how do you know if you should speak out or not? The fact that people do it all the time is hardly a meaningful component of the conversation. The paragraph you quote says "sometimes." And we must know when and how to speak out. Without deliberation, how would we know when and how we should speak out?

In general, I think there is too little deliberation of people speaking out (or failing to). Consider the last few years here at SI even, where there were many dogmatic pronouncements made, but often very little willingness to deliberate and debate, even about significant theological issues and concerns.

Let's deliberate on this: No serious minded person can doubt that there was a serious abuse of power during COVID. All attempts to philosophize it away will not hide that. The government used its power to abuse, to harm, to threaten, to hurt, to fine, to destroy. And they knew better, or should have known better. The canard that "we didn't know back then" is simply false. Anyone can go back to 2020 and read and listen to people who said exactly what is widely agreed on now as the truth. Much of the "disinformation" that was banned from social media is now agreed to be correct. We knew it back then. But power was used to coerce, intimidate, harm, and destroy.

You quote a second paragraph and say, "In general, I'm seeing a lot of 'denying' here of things no one is affirming." Yet that very paragraph preceding this, which presumably is the foundation for this statement, was filled with things that many people affirmed, including people here at SI. 

When you say, "What about ideological groups opposing human governments?" you are participating in a classic error of expecting a document or statement to address something it wasn't intended to address. The statement is on the Christian and Civil Liberties." That means it is address governmental actions and relationships. We should not expect it to address something else. My guess is that they also oppose the same things from "deological groups opposing human governments." However, since that is another topic, it does not need to be addressed here.

I won't sign this for several reasons. First, I have little interest in signing something that will be utterly meaningless in actual life. And that's what these kinds of statements are. Second, I have little interest in wasting whatever "political capital" I have as a pastor on political issues. I will leave that to others. 

But let's not misunderstand the statement or expect it to be something it isn't. 

Mark_Smith's picture

"Article 2 God as the Source of Truth and the Role of Science
We affirm that God, the Creator, is the Truth and that therefore objective truth exists and can
be derived from His revelation in Scripture and nature, and from any facts which can be credibly
verified. We endorse science which seeks to discover, through the scientific method and debate,
the truths that God has built into the natural world. We also affirm the limitations of science,
including its inability to speak authoritatively on areas outside its purview and its propensity to
err when data is lacking. Since man has fallen into sin, we further affirm that all his thoughts,
deductions, and institutions contain degrees of corruption which tend to distort, manipulate, or
suppress the truth."

I realize this is written against the CDC and their actions. I grow tired of emphasizing that the scientific method is flawed because humans are sinful, WITHOUT also recognizing that our INTERPRETATIONS of Scripture can be flawed as well. I present as evidence the fact that thousands of denominations exist with seemingly opposite interpretations of Scripture. Even conservative evangelicals disagree about key things (Arminian vs Calvinism, Pre-Post-A-Millennial) etc...

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

So you think citizens should speak out without "serious and prayerful deliberation"? If you don't deliberate, how do you know if you should speak out or not?

The sentence assumes it is known to be an abuse of power. In the Statement, they're talking about praying and deliberating about whether to speak out about what is already known to be wrong. 

It's a small thing, but part of the overall confusion about how citizens of a democratic republic "oppose" within the framework of law, by using free speech and the vote and, when wronged, the courts.

In general, I think there is too little deliberation of people speaking out (or failing to). 

I have to admit on this point that I was being a bit sloppy with "speaking out." Well, at least, I use the term differently than what you have in mind. When I use "speaking out," I don't mean just any kind of speaking out we feel like doing. Deliberation is involved in what sort of speaking out to do. Voting is speaking out. Advocating for policy change is speaking out. But I think the main thing is understanding that I'm talking about speaking out after we already understand the issues involved.

You quote a second paragraph and say, "In general, I'm seeing a lot of 'denying' here of things no one is affirming." Yet that very paragraph preceding this, which presumably is the foundation for this statement, was filled with things that many people affirmed, including people here at SI. 

I'd be interested in more details on that. I haven't seen anyone claim the government is infallible, etc., etc., as the Statement feels the need to "deny."

Surely it's clear that saying "The government was not wrong to claim A and do B" is not the same as saying "The government is infallible."

When you say, "What about ideological groups opposing human governments?" you are participating in a classic error of expecting a document or statement to address something it wasn't intended to address. The statement is on the Christian and Civil Liberties."

My complaint here is that they have made a poor choice of target selection. As Christians, our commitment is supposed to be truth. So I'm saying making a statement that focuses exclusively on the errors of the authorities and ignores the errors of those resisting authority is egregiously lopsided. Especially when the latter has so much representation in the household of faith. It's not exactly a specks and logs situation (Luke 6:41), but it's at least a logs and logs situation.

To go after their logs and ignore our own isn't very 1 Peter 2:12 (much less Luke 6:41).

I realize this is written against the CDC and their actions. I grow tired of emphasizing that the scientific method is flawed because humans are sinful, WITHOUT also recognizing that our INTERPRETATIONS of Scripture can be flawed as well. I present as evidence the fact that thousands of denominations exist with seemingly opposite interpretations of Scripture. Even conservative evangelicals disagree about key things (Arminian vs Calvinism, Pre-Post-A-Millennial) etc...

I agree.

I guess my strong gut reaction against the whole thing has multiple contributing factors. One of them is that the line can be very fine between healthy skepticism toward the claims of "science" (often not actually what the science showed) and outright obscurantism. 

I mean obscurantism in the sense of opposing learning and discovery but also in the broader (maybe sloppier) sense of opposing the expansion of knowledge and being suspicious of learning in general.

"Science" properly defined, is pretty much synonymous with structured study.  ... and I keep hearing negative generalizations about it by Christians, in the context of broader hostility toward all things not-overtly-Christian: us/them language.

What I've seen of the Statement so far shows a lot of underlying presumption of hostility. "The world" Jesus said would hate us in John 15:18-19 is not the same thing as "men" in Luke 2:52, or "all the people" in Luke 2:47 Acts 2:47, or "outsiders" in 1 Tim 3:7 or Colossians 4:5.

So we need to stop lumping those concepts together in our eagerness to be militant about something.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Ken S's picture

Larry wrote:

Let's deliberate on this: No serious minded person can doubt that there was a serious abuse of power during COVID. All attempts to philosophize it away will not hide that. The government used its power to abuse, to harm, to threaten, to hurt, to fine, to destroy. And they knew better, or should have known better. The canard that "we didn't know back then" is simply false. Anyone can go back to 2020 and read and listen to people who said exactly what is widely agreed on now as the truth. Much of the "disinformation" that was banned from social media is now agreed to be correct. We knew it back then. But power was used to coerce, intimidate, harm, and destroy.

I do not agree with this at all (perhaps I am not a serious minded person). While there certainly have been isolated cases of overreach, I think the government in general attempted to do their best to handle an ongoing health emergency. In many cases the fines and closures were warranted.

 

I've been frankly disgusted and embarrassed with how many Christians and many churches handled Covid. I'm guessing Christians in China and other places who are facing actual persecution would be shocked to see what American Christians call oppression and persecution.

My opinion is certainly not popular in fundamental and evangelical circles, but I know many outside of those circles who are dumbfounded at the lack of care for others and the selfishness of preserving "my rights" that Christians have demonstrated. So I'll take a pass on signing this declaration.

Dan Miller's picture

Quote:
... I'm guessing Christians in China and other places who are facing actual persecution would be shocked to see what American Christians call oppression and persecution. ...

Do they? Or do they say, "Fight oppression when it starts; don't wait until the state is unstoppable."

Larry's picture

Moderator

the While there certainly have been isolated cases of overreach, I think the government in general attempted to do their best to handle an ongoing health emergency. In many cases the fines and closures were warranted.

Isolated cases? That's hard for me to understand. The government essentially imprisoned everyone in their homes, telling them they couldn't work (unless it was certain big box stores or "essential businesses), couldn't go to school (predicted to be a disaster and it turned out to be worse than that), couldn't go to hardly anywhere. This was not isolated or targeted. It was universal. It was not for sick people or high risk people. It was universal. People at that time said it was the wrong way to handle it. And those people turned out to be right. The courts have generally sided with churches who sued over overreach. 

I've been frankly disgusted and embarrassed with how many Christians and many churches handled Covid. I'm guessing Christians in China and other places who are facing actual persecution would be shocked to see what American Christians call oppression and persecution.

Me too. There were many who just gave up the church, the actual assembling of the body and still haven't returned because someone convinced them that watching the same TV show was "church." There were many who openly attacked other Christians and celebrated tickets, fines, and even jail for Christians who lived by their conscience. To say it wasn't as bad as China is hardly the standard of comparison. Bottom line is that there was a lack of grace and deference on all sides. 

I think characterizing it as  "lack of care" or "selfishness" is the wrong tack to take. It is just as easily painted the other way, that there was a lack of care and a selfishness on the part who held your position. Why not defer to others who may have seen it differently than you do, especially now they turn out to be mostly correct? 

Joel Shaffer's picture

Dan Miller wrote:

 

Quote:
... I'm guessing Christians in China and other places who are facing actual persecution would be shocked to see what American Christians call oppression and persecution. ...

 

 

 

Do they? Or do they say, "Fight oppression when it starts; don't wait until the state is unstoppable."

Dan, have you heard or read of any persecuted Christians from other nations ever say "Fight oppression when it starts; don't wait until the state is unstoppable"?  Maybe my research and readings need to be expanded because I have yet to read or hear that view. 

I've done alot of research and readings that I've done on 20th and 21st century missionary movements and the persecuted church,  In Iran, where the underground church has grown to around 1 million since 9/11,  Iranian Christians claim that the tyranny from the Islamic State has actually fueled the growth of Iran's underground church. The more the Islamic state persecutes and oppresses the Iranians, the more resilient, loving, and evangelistic the Christians become and the more Iranians come to faith in Christ.  Iranian Christians also claim that the mosques are mostly empty in Iran and only the upper-class elite religious class attend them.  

 In fact, there have even been a few Iranian Christians that fled to America to escape the persecution and oppression from Iran, but decided to go back to Iran because they couldn't handle the "Spiritual Sleepiness" of the American Church because of the lack of persecution or oppression in America. By going back to Iran, the men risk beatings, torture and death and their wives risk rape, beatings, torture and death.     

 

 

dgszweda's picture

This is not religious persecution, but cultural persecution.  As someone who has attended many churches in places like SE Asia, wearing masks was and is commonplace, even before the pandemic.  None of the ones that I know of, viewed temporary closures of the churches as some level of persecution.  

I don't see many people talking about this.  A lot of this is fueled around the strong US idea of individual freedom and liberty.  Whereas in a lot of countries, especially those focused around social benefits, the focus as a society is more around the common good.  And so inconveniences at the individual level is tolerated if it produces a better common good.  Whereas, in the US, any incursion into individual liberty and freedom, regardless of the reasoning or outcome is viewed as an attack.  I am not saying either is right or wrong, but it does paint persecution in a different light across different societies.

T Howard's picture

dgszweda wrote:
 

I don't see many people talking about this.  A lot of this is fueled around the strong US idea of individual freedom and liberty.  Whereas in a lot of countries, especially those focused around social benefits, the focus as a society is more around the common good.  And so inconveniences at the individual level is tolerated if it produces a better common good.  Whereas, in the US, any incursion into individual liberty and freedom, regardless of the reasoning or outcome is viewed as an attack.  I am not saying either is right or wrong, but it does paint persecution in a different light across different societies.

I think this is a helpful observation. The U.S. is not a collectivist society; we're highly individualistic (perhaps less so than before). Only natural disasters, attacks on our country, or world wars bring us together. At least initially. Then, we turn to finger pointing and pontificating.

dgszweda's picture

T Howard wrote:

I think this is a helpful observation. The U.S. is not a collectivist society; we're highly individualistic (perhaps less so than before). Only natural disasters, attacks on our country, or world wars bring us together. At least initially. Then, we turn to finger pointing and pontificating.

You are right.  We often paint the picture that "if something violates our ideal" than it is tyranny, persecution....  Again, not saying one is better than the other, but there are some benefits of looking to the common good.  You could even argue that there is some biblical basis of this, although I wouldn't argue vehemently around this.  Having lived in a number of countries I have definitely experiences some of the benefits.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

dgszweda wrote:

Again, not saying one is better than the other, but there are some benefits of looking to the common good.  You could even argue that there is some biblical basis of this, although I wouldn't argue vehemently around this.  Having lived in a number of countries I have definitely experiences some of the benefits.

As long as things are actually for the common good, people get behind them.  I don't actually know anyone who had a problem with "Two weeks to flatten the curve," no matter how useful that was or wasn't, since no one really knew anything yet.  However, when that was decided to be not enough, and when the list of essential things that could be open for the common good did not include churches, but did include liquor stores (among other similar things), of course people will start to question what is actually going on, and ask if it's really for the common good, or just for those who have an in with leadership.

The same with quarantining the healthy rather than the sick, as has been done for generations.  Shutting down all business and education for the common good?  In that case the virus had better be not only easily spreadable, but as lethal as rabies, and not controllable with lesser means.

When Americans can see that what is done in the name of common good is not really for the common good, of course the long tradition of freedom in this country will cause people to act differently than they would in a nation like China, where there is no freedom.

Dave Barnhart

dgszweda's picture

dcbii wrote:

When Americans can see that what is done in the name of common good is not really for the common good, of course the long tradition of freedom in this country will cause people to act differently than they would in a nation like China, where there is no freedom.

The second the mask rules started coming out, a lot of people were in an uproar.  You can't breathe, they don't do anything....  The general consensus is that the mask rule was a move toward tyranny, and how dare the government tell us what to do with our bodies.  Whereas, in many countries they were not viewed as that way.  In fact in most of Asia, masks have been common for decades.  The view in Asia, is that wearing a mask when one is potentially sick or been around someone who might have been sick is a courtesy.  To not wear one, is considered highly offensive.  So on the one hand in America, it is offensive for the government to impose a mask mandate, and in a place like Asia, a mask is an obligation for the common good of those around you.

Dan Miller's picture

dgszweda wrote:

This is not religious persecution, but cultural persecution.  ...

... the strong US idea of individual freedom and liberty.  ... in the US, any incursion into individual liberty and freedom, regardless of the reasoning or outcome is viewed as an attack.  I am not saying either is right or wrong, but it does paint persecution in a different light across different societies.

Is this really fair? (I'm not saying you're wrong that Americans expect individual rights more so than those in the east.)

The basis of the California/MacArthur case was that churches were closed AND casinos were left open.

dgszweda's picture

Dan Miller wrote:

 

dgszweda wrote:

 

This is not religious persecution, but cultural persecution.  ...

... the strong US idea of individual freedom and liberty.  ... in the US, any incursion into individual liberty and freedom, regardless of the reasoning or outcome is viewed as an attack.  I am not saying either is right or wrong, but it does paint persecution in a different light across different societies.

 

 

Is this really fair? (I'm not saying you're wrong that Americans expect individual rights more so than those in the east.)

The basis of the California/MacArthur case was that churches were closed AND casinos were left open.

If you see who signed this document, MacArthur, Johnson, James White.  All three of these have belittled the government response at all levels.  James White peddled so many conspiracy theories online, including that the government created the virus.  Just feel free to peruse his twitter history.  The article states,

Quote:
The declaration emphasizes that God is “the ultimate Lawgiver and Judge” and that the narrative of human governments shouldn’t be “unconditionally trusted” because they aren’t “morally and theologically neutral.” It commends “civil authorities” who respect individual and religious freedoms and encourages those who don’t to repent.

Well, churches are not morally or theologically neutral.  I feel that the Declaration is uniquely American, and not uniquely Christian.  I also feel that the Declaration oversteps its concerns.  The US government has three branches, that all work to keep checks and balances in place.  MacArthur felt that the state government and/or the executive branch overstepped their bounds.  He took it up with another branch, the Judicial, and it was overturned and he was awarded money.  Not sure how it could have worked any better.  While I don't agree that casino's should have stayed open.  Was this really the foundation of tyranny?  Because if you read James White's tweets, you would be convinced that a theologian was espousing facts that this was the beginning of a broad takeover of the federal government.  None which turned out to be true.  In my opinion, all three of these individuals have sullied some of their messaging from what they peddled online.

The focus of the declaration is around individual and religious freedoms.  Something that is not entirely shared by the Universal church.  Individual freedom is not paramount to many in the universal church and I don't think that makes them sinners.

Andrew K's picture

dgszweda wrote:

 

dcbii wrote:

 

When Americans can see that what is done in the name of common good is not really for the common good, of course the long tradition of freedom in this country will cause people to act differently than they would in a nation like China, where there is no freedom.

 

 

The second the mask rules started coming out, a lot of people were in an uproar.  You can't breathe, they don't do anything....  The general consensus is that the mask rule was a move toward tyranny, and how dare the government tell us what to do with our bodies.  Whereas, in many countries they were not viewed as that way.  In fact in most of Asia, masks have been common for decades.  The view in Asia, is that wearing a mask when one is potentially sick or been around someone who might have been sick is a courtesy.  To not wear one, is considered highly offensive.  So on the one hand in America, it is offensive for the government to impose a mask mandate, and in a place like Asia, a mask is an obligation for the common good of those around you.

I've lived in East and SE Asia most of my adult life, and this point has made the rounds but is greatly exaggerated.

When you say "common," you mean you might see a handful of people wearing them during flu season or if they had a cold. Maybe a couple of students in a class, max. A few on a plane. 

Usually you saw none. 

That's hardly "common," and very, very different from masking your whole populace.

I had never worn a mask in Asia in more than 15 years before the pandemic, and nobody found it offensive. A lot of my students in both E and SE Asia would simply blow their noses openly and stack tissues in a pile like anybody else. 

In SE Asia currently, we are very sick of masks, thank you very much. Countries have been rolling back mandates, but a lot of people on the streets have just been ignoring them anyway.

JD Miller's picture

It is one thing to say it is showing love to wear a mask if you are sick.  It is another thing to force a healthy person with asthma or past trauma to wear a mask.  It can be very unloving to force someone to cover their face.  At the height of the question over whether or not Sioux Falls should extend their mask mandate, their was a public forum held with many testifying.  Two different woman got up and testified about assaults they had experienced in the past and how traumatic it was for them to have their faces covered now as a result.  If the science had actually shown that the masks would stop the covid particles it would be one thing, but it is unloving to force people to relive past trauma when the science does not even support it.  Further the science does support that long term mask use does make people more susceptable to other bacterial infections.  If we really want to show love for others, we need to be concerned about that as well.