Which brings us to Parson Goat–sorry, John MacArthur and his 180-degree turn.
You remember Pastor MacArthur of Grace to You in California, the one who argues that slavery to tyrants is obedience to God and holds great sway with evangelicals. So naturally when Governor Nuisance–ah, Newsom ordered churches to close last March, MacArthur complied without a whimper.
But by May 23, even this gutless wonder had had enough:
To say that we strenuously disagree … would be an understatement. All credible data show that this coronavirus is far less dangerous than initially projected, even while the economic, mental, and spiritual toll of an extended lockdown order is far more dangerous. … We stand against it plainly, and moving forward, we are striving to pursue every biblical and legal means to oppose it.
But he wasn’t pursuing practical means, else he would have simply opened his doors. Especially when other, more courageous pastors in the People’s Republic of Californistan were doing so.
No matter: Pastor MacArthur’s had a change of heart, big time. He published a lengthy statement on Friday explaining why it’s now OK to defy Nuisance when it wasn’t previously:
Christ is Lord of all. He is the one true head of the church (Ephesians 1:22; 5:23; Colossians 1:18). He is also King of kings—sovereign over every earthly authority (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:16). Grace Community Church has always stood immovably on those biblical principles.
Really? That would explain your closing earlier this year, obeying government rather than God, right?
As His people, we are subject to His will and commands as revealed in Scripture. Therefore we cannot and will not acquiesce to a government-imposed moratorium on our weekly congregational worship or other regular corporate gatherings. Compliance would be disobedience to our Lord’s clear commands.
Indeed it would be—and was even in March. Good that he’s finally recognizing this.
But he wouldn’t be John MacArthur if he didn’t continue kissing Leviathan’s butt:
Some will think such a firm statement
Ahem: what statement is “firm” when it’s four months late?
is inexorably in conflict with the command to be subject to governing authorities laid out in Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2.
Intriguing he doesn’t worry that “some” will think he doesn’t go far enough, that he’s craven and cowardly for submitting to godless government, isn’t it?
Grab a barf-bag as you read this next:
Scripture does mandate careful, conscientious obedience to all governing authority, including kings, governors, employers, and their agents (in Peter’s words, “not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable” [1 Peter 2:18]). Insofar as government authorities do not attempt to assert ecclesiastical authority or issue orders that forbid our obedience to God’s law, their authority is to be obeyed whether we agree with their rulings or not. In other words, Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 still bind the consciences of individual Christians. We are to obey our civil authorities as powers that God Himself has ordained.
Oh, retch. I warned you, didn’t I?
He maunders on for a few more paragraphs, then hitches up his pants and, no doubt with a quiver in his voice, announces,
…in response to the recent state order requiring churches in California to limit or suspend all meetings indefinitely, we, the pastors and elders of Grace Community Church, respectfully inform our civic leaders that they have exceeded their legitimate jurisdiction, and faithfulness to Christ prohibits us from observing the restrictions they want to impose on our corporate worship services.
Said another way, it has never been the prerogative of civil government to order, modify, forbid, or mandate worship. When, how, and how often the church worships is not subject to Caesar. Caesar himself is subject to God.
Ya think? That would explain closing the church earlier—oh, wait, I already rehearsed that. And if God forgives John MacArthur, we certainly should.
Except that this Goat shows no repentance. Instead, he describes the age-old war between the Church and State, and how he’ll now defy a presumptuous government—without ever acknowledging that he should have before, nor asking forgiveness for failing to do so. To wit:
History is full of painful reminders that government power is easily and frequently abused for evil purposes. Politicians may manipulate statistics and the media can cover up or camouflage inconvenient truths. So a discerning church cannot passively or automatically comply if the government orders a shutdown of congregational meetings—even if the reason given is a concern for public health and safety.
Um, excuse me: isn’t that precisely what you did?
… When officials restrict church attendance to a certain number, they attempt to impose a restriction that in principle makes it impossible for the saints to gather as the church. When officials prohibit singing in worship services, they attempt to impose a restriction that in principle makes it impossible for the people of God to obey the commands of Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16. When officials mandate distancing, they attempt to impose a restriction that in principle makes it impossible to experience the close communion between believers that is commanded in Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, and 1 Thessalonians 5:26. In all those spheres, we must submit to our Lord.
But you didn’t need to submit before?
Finally, it’s curious that MacArthur emphasizes,
…that we are not making a constitutional argument, even though the First Amendment of the United States Constitution expressly affirms this principle in its opening words: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The right we are appealing to was not created by the Constitution. It is one of those unalienable rights granted solely by God, who ordained human government and establishes both the extent and the limitations of the state’s authority (Romans 13:1–7). Our argument therefore is purposely not grounded in the First Amendment; it is based on the same biblical principles that the Amendment itself is founded upon.
Parson Goat is nothing if not a follower. He moseys along in the lane his fellows have trampled, sampling the grass and not bothering his little horned head over questions of dictatorship and Christian patriotism. Now that MacArthur is turning off Leviathan’s garden path into more rebellious roads, the herd will likely do so as well. Perhaps the Lord is calling His faithless pastors to repentance; perhaps at long last He is turning the tide in Amerika.
Yo, Goats: it’s an answer to prayer that you’re trotting back towards the fold. But we who stayed put have lost all respect for you.
(Thanks to Rocco Piserchia and the many others who forwarded this story to me.)6:13 pm on July 26, 2020 Email Becky Akers