At the outset, I want to make it clear that if a genuine public health issue were at hand — the black plague or Ebola for example — I would have no problem shuttering Churches for a brief period of time until the threat had diminished. What is below is more of a jeremiad against the modern Church for being such lapdogs of the State then it is a blanket condemnation of shuttering churches during a genuine pestilence crisis.
Having said that I want to articulate why I think the Church, exceptions notwithstanding, was wrong to shutter their doors during this Wuhan virus.
1.) The Church was wrong to shutter their doors during this Wuhan crisis because in shuttering their doors they revealed that they automatically believed the State.
I’ve written on this before so I won’t spend a great deal of time here. Living under the current Government we are living under our disposition concerning official Government pronouncements needs to be one of deep skepticism. To put it bluntly, the Church had no business automatically believing what it was told by State officials.
This blind trust seems to communicate that the contemporary Church does not understand that the State is its sworn enemy. Like Pharaoh, or Nebuchadnezzar, or the Herods, or Nero, our State hates Christianity. It is not to be trusted. Ever.
Perhaps one could argue that closing for a week or two until the smoke cleared made sense but having kept the doors closed longer than that only communicated that the Church doesn’t know that her enemy is the State.
2.) The Church was wrong to shutter their doors during this Wuhan crisis because in shuttering their doors they revealed that they do not understand the Biblical concept of Jurisdictionalism, or Sphere Sovereignty. The State has no standing to just command the Church to do this or that in the context of the Church’s jurisdiction. Such commands fall outside the jurisdiction of the State. The State may consult with the Church and provide counsel and may encourage the Church to take this or that action but the State cannot by its fiat word dictate to the Church. Just as the Church does not pay taxes to the State because the Church belongs to a different Kingdom with a different Sovereign and so is not beholden to the tax laws of the State so the Church cannot be told by the State when to close its doors. Again, the State may consult the Church but it has no authority to merely announce that the Churches must close. Just as the US embassy in Tokyo is on American soil and so cannot have Japanese laws impressed upon them so the Church is an embassy that cannot be dictated to by the alien State.
3.) The Church was wrong to shutter their doors during this Wuhan crisis because in shuttering their doors they revealed that they know how to butcher Scripture.
It seems that the shuttered Church has used “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” without thinking through the implications of what they were twisting. The shuttered Church wanted us all to believe that we were hating people by having our Churches open because in having our churches open we would be exposing people to the Wuhan virus. However, the shuttered Church never paused to ask about how we were hating our neighbor by shuttering our Churches. In shuttering our Churches we were contributing to a narrative of hating our neighbor by implicitly sanctioning the destruction of their livelihoods. In shuttering our Churches we were contributing to a narrative of hating our neighbor by implicitly sanctioning the economic shutdown which will lead to the significant impoverishment of our neighbors. In shuttering our Churches we were contributing to a narrative of hating our neighbor by supporting a narrative that will lead to our neighbor’s despair, depression, and debilitating stress. I can make a better argument that shuttering our Churches has been more hateful to more neighbors than it has been loving to a few neighbors. As usual the Church demonstrates it can’t think outside the narrative that it is officially handed.
4.) The Church was wrong to shutter their doors during this Wuhan crisis because in shuttering their doors they revealed that they are more inclined to obey man than God. God clearly commands us to “not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is.”
The Westminster Larger Catechism speaks in such a way about Worship that it is hard to believe they would have counted internet “worship” as Worship.
Q. 108. What are the duties required in the second commandment?
A. The duties required in the second commandment are, the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath instituted in his Word; particularly prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ; the reading, preaching, and hearing of the Word; the administration and receiving of the Sacraments; Church government and discipline; the ministry and maintenance thereof; religious fasting; swearing by the name of God, and vowing unto him: as also the disapproving, detesting, opposing, all false worship; and, according to each one’s place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry.
Q. 109. What are the sins forbidden in the second commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and any wise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself;… all superstitious devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretence whatsoever; simony; sacrilege; all neglect, contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God hath appointed.
Given that language above do we really believe that the Westminster Divines would have considered private worship done publicly via the internet as worship?
5.) The Church was wrong to shutter their doors during this Wuhan crisis because in shuttering their doors they revealed that they are clueless about what the State can and cannot do per the Constitution.
Remember the Bill of Rights is based on the reality that the Rights both expressly articulated there and many not expressly articulated there are Rights as given by God. The State cannot, in any circumstance, declare those rights forfeited. The State does not have the authority to cancel the Right to freedom of assembly because the Right to freedom to assemble is God given and so cannot be abjured. The State cannot tell the Church it cannot assemble.
Listen to the language from the Supreme Court in 1866 on this matter,
The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men, at all times, and under all circumstances. No doctrine, involving more pernicious consequences, was ever invented by the wit of man than that any of its provisions can be suspended during any of the great exigencies of government. Ex parte Milligan, 71 U.S. (4 Wall.) 2, 121 (1866).”
By shuttering the Churches, without so much as a whimper of protest, the Church has ceded to the State power and authority it does not have by way of our political covenant (Constitution). It is the nature of Government that once it has seized power it does not give power back.
For all these reasons it is my conviction that the Church which now continues to shutter its doors, in the face of mounting evidence that the Wuhan virus is a hoax is dishonoring its Savior and Liege-Lord.
Allow me to add, by way of codicil, that none of what is said above is intended to suggest that individuals who are primary candidates to contract the Wuhan virus should be obligated to attend Church. The fits commandment requires us to be careful of our lives. As such people who are aged, who have immune systems that are weak, who have co-morbidity health issue would be best served by shuttering themselves until matters become even more clear than they already are.