Romans 13

How Can We Simultaneously “Submit to Every Ordinance of Man” and “Obey God Rather Than Men”?

"...it seems necessary to amend the statement, 'We must obey the government unless the government explicitly tells us to disobey God,' to something like this: 'We must obey the government (1) unless the government explicitly tells us to disobey God, or (2) unless the government exceeds its jurisdiction so as to speak authoritatively into a sphere regulated by another, God-instituted authority.'" - Snoeberger

781 reads

Church vs. Public Health Orders: Buildings, Spheres, and Statements

My heart goes out to churches in places where COVID-related health orders have made it impossible to “gather in a normal way,” to use a phrase from Grace Community Church’s (GCC’s) “Statement from Pastor and Elders.”

True, gathering that way is only “normal” in the sense of “what we’re used to as a megachurch, in modern times, in the most prosperous nation on earth.” But if we consider the conditions they actually have to meet under, to gather legally, it’s much easier to feel their pain. Outdoor temperatures in parts of LA County, California (where GCC meets), reached 121 degrees a couple weekends ago.

Can they really comply with God’s command to obey the local authorities—including health orders banning indoor gatherings—and also obey God’s command to gather for worship?

I believe they can, and in a previous post I laid the principles groundwork for a comply and resist response, rather than assuming churches must comply or resist. Here, I want to look at GCC’s case for it’s noncompliant-resistance response. Tyler Robbins’ evaluation posted here several weeks ago. I’m looking at it a bit differently, though we land in similar places.

1913 reads

Church vs. Public Health Orders: A Case for Complying and Resisting

Much of the debate over whether churches should submit to COVID-related rules in California has been inaccurately framed. “We must obey God rather than man,” they say (drawing from Acts). Using phrases like “ban on indoor worship” or even “ban on worship,” they represent the options as totaling two: We can (1) obey God by continuing to meet, disobey the manmade rules, and stand up for our rights or we can (2) disobey God by not meeting at all, comply with oppressive orders, and watch our liberties be slowly stripped away.

But these aren’t really the choices anywhere in California.

It’s true that some counties are more restricted than others, and, at the moment, Los Angeles County (where John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church meets) has a broad ban on indoor gatherings. Orange County (where Greg Laurie pastors Harvest Christian Fellowship) is under a very similar ban. These bans do apply to churches—along with bars, restaurants, parties at people’s homes, and a variety of other venues.

Another Option

The only-two-options talk in these cases is like saying, “Either the traffic light is green or you have to stop.” That really isn’t quite how it is, as all drivers know. Maybe the light is yellow. Maybe you’re well into the intersection already. Maybe the light just turned yellow.

2522 reads

“Our personal convenience (for example, meeting in an air-conditioned building rather than outside in the heat) is never a legitimate reason for disobeying the government.”

"...there is one exception that is clear. When our biblical responsibility to obey government authorities (or any other earthly authority) conflicts with our responsibility to obey God, we must choose to obey the higher authority.....May we too have the grace to disobey government authorities when they command us to do things contrary to the clear teachings of God’s Word." - P&D

913 reads

Our California church met in person. Legally.

"It is legal to meet for worship in California. But, to do so, churches must follow the regulations put in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus, which involves meeting outside with masks and with distancing. How a church does that is up to them, but it is possible, as we have discovered." - RNS

278 reads

Calif. court issues temporary restraining order against church for holding indoor services

"A California judge has granted a temporary restraining order against Godspeak Calvary Chapel and its Pastor Rob McCoy for holding in-person services in violation of COVID-19 health orders....McCoy announced in a video message Friday that he will continue to hold indoor services. 'I wish it didn’t have to come to this, I really do, but we will be violating the judge’s order.'" - CPost

623 reads

“God does not pit obedience to Himself against obedience to civil magistrates here.”

"We are most certainly to obey God, but as Romans 13 indicates, one of the ways we obey God is to obey those God Himself has sovereignly and providentially put in authority over us. This includes civil magistrates. Even those we don’t like. Even pagan Roman emperors. Elsewhere, Paul tells Titus: “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient” (Titus 3:1)." - Keith Mathison

328 reads

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