Faced with opposition from pandemic fearmongers, and even some church-going traditional believers, nationally known author and evangelist Pastor John MacArthur is making the case for his decision to keep Grace Community Church open for worship in California.
In a July 29 appearance on “The Eric Metaxas Radio Show!” with best-selling Christian author Eric Metaxas, MacArthur blistered misguided Christian adherence to church closures on the basis of biblical orders to submit to earthly authority.
According to MacArthur, actions taken by figures like Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic all but explicitly required that people of faith put government before God — a tyrannical precedent often set in the early days of an authoritarian dictatorship
The only righteous response painted by the pastor was disobedience.
“Look, we obey the law when the law is righteous, when the people in authority are righteous, when they are protecting those who do good and punishing those who do evil,” MacArthur said. “In the case of Hitler, if you had an opportunity to eliminate Hitler and didn’t do it, you would have failed to fulfill a righteous opportunity.”
“I would say you take that opportunity if you have that opportunity and you were within the framework of those who were given the authority to do that. So, this is not to say you roll over and allow any tyrant to do whatever he wants to do. So, you could say, well, this isn’t Hitler yet. Right?” MacArthur said.
“But this is still tyranny,” he added.
“It doesn’t start with massacring 6 million Jews. It doesn’t start with massacring 13 million people between Russia and Germany in the killing fields in those years, the late ’30s and early ’40s. It starts this way. It starts with intrusion into the life of the church, and the violation of law is by the governor because that’s against the First Amendment.”
Watch the interview here:
It was not the first time MacArthur has been outspoken in warning Christians nationwide against buying into the seemingly innocuous, but no less dangerous, soft tyranny of government-ordered church closure.
The pastor’s bold statements began flowing over in July, not two weeks after Newsom flip-flopped on California’s social and economic reopening with an executive order that once again restricted businesses and religious institutions in reponse to a major coronavirus case surge within the state.
Issuing his order on July 13, Newsom shut down indoor dining locations, bars, zoos, museums, gyms and houses of worship.
It had been just over two months since the state kicked off a modest reopening effort on May 8, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Previous efforts to lock down the state had been met in May with protests from state residents, a handful of cities and even several major church networks.
MacArthur’s Grace to You Church, in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Sun Valley, was one such organization, pledging to remain open regardless of the order to shut down once more.
In a lengthy open letter to the governor and the Christian community on July 24, MacArthur reminded readers that “Christ, Not Caesar, Is Head of the Church,” laying out a compelling, rational and biblical case for denying the government in times such as such as these.
“God has established three institutions within human society: the family, the state, and the church,” he wrote. “Each institution has a sphere of authority with jurisdictional limits that must be respected…
“When any one of the three institutions exceeds the bounds of its jurisdiction it is the duty of the other institutions to curtail that overreach. Therefore, when any government official issues orders regulating worship (such as bans on singing, caps on attendance, or prohibitions against gatherings and services), he steps outside the legitimate bounds of his God-ordained authority as a civic official and arrogates to himself authority that God expressly grants only to the Lord Jesus Christ,” MacArthur added.
Does this mean, then, that the Bible tells Christians to deny all earthly authority? Not according to MacArthur.
In Mark 12:17, after being asked whether a believer in God can in good conscience pay taxes to an unbelieving state, Jesus says: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
The command is clear, MacArthur argues. The state has its place in every Christian’s life and submission is commanded, as those Christians currently failing to meet have so kindly reminded us.
But God comes first.
And when we deny God out of respect for earthly authority, we are “rendering to Caesar” what is belongs to God: Ourselves.
“The church is Christ’s precious bride,” MacArthur wrote. “She belongs to Him alone. She exists by His will and serves under His authority. He will tolerate no assault on her purity and no infringement of His headship over her…
“The biblical order is clear: Christ is Lord over Caesar, not vice versa. Christ, not Caesar, is head of the church. Conversely, the church does not in any sense rule the state,” MacArthur wrote.
“As government policy moves further away from biblical principles, and as legal and political pressures against the church intensify, we must recognize that the Lord may be using these pressures as means of purging to reveal the true church. Succumbing to governmental overreach may cause churches to remain closed indefinitely.”
“How can the true church of Jesus Christ distinguish herself in such a hostile climate?” the pastor asked. “There is only one way: bold allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ.”
On Sunday, MacArthur stirred headlines when he greeted his congregation at church with the words, “Good morning everyone, I’m so happy to welcome you to the Grace Community Church peaceful protest.”
He received a standing ovation and cheers, according to the Washington Examiner.
Of course, MacArthur has been anything but uncaring in his rhetoric regarding the coronavirus. Quite the opposite, in fact.
The pastor has remained steadfast in acknowledging that should scientific evidence prove a strong association between worship and increased coronavirus transmission, churches should do best what is best for the health and safety of their communities, just as Christ would.
Yet, the data continue to suggest that religious services have had negligible impact on COVID-19 transmission.
So long as the orders continue to come down from the top of government in an all but arbitrary manner, entirely divorced from the reality of the danger or the science regarding what is effective in beating the outbreak, MacArthur suggested that peaceful Christian disobedience should remain the standard.
Anything less would foster the impression in government that American Christians will not fight to keep their faith and worship sacred.
From there, the pastor argued, it would all be downhill. So, why not fight while battlefield was fair, rather than stacked against.
“We have to take a stand where it’s easy to do. It isn’t hard for me to do this,” MacArthur told Metaxas (about the 9:05 mark in the interview video above).
“This is an intrusion. I need to protect my church, the people of the church, and hold up the truth.”
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