One of the sadder things to watch in the church today is how easily God’s people have joined the rebellion of the world against all authority. Specifically, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the cynical rejection of medical authority is now quite visible, particularly among conservative Christians who are convinced vaccines are responsible for all basements that flood. Vaccines and sugar, that is—refined sugar, of course.
It’s almost become a matter of Christian conscience to fulminate and belligerate against public health authorities. Most Christian physicians pull their hair out over the need to defend their diagnoses and treatments in light of an unending succession of internet experts who claim all medical practice today (other than ingrown toenail surgery by a podiatrist) is a socialist conspiracy.
So now we all hit the coronavirus and the civil magistrates’ orders prohibiting assemblies above a certain size, and kapow! Christians already were certain we know better than medical authorities. Now add in the civil authorities and we have a perfect storm. Christians are in a panic against what?
Against authority. But not authority in general; specific men and women God has placed over us and commanded us to obey.
But you say the authorities over you are corrupt and they kill babies and celebrate sexual perversions and know nothing about the danger of vaccines, let alone cornavirus? You do know, don’t you, that at the heart of rebellion is the rebel’s conviction that he knows better than the man in authority over him?
So to provide an example of how we have twisted submission to the civil magistrate into rebellion against the civil magistrate, let’s rework Romans 13:1-7 according to the conservative church’s solidarity with the rebellion pandemic today. Words added are in italics.
When you’re sure they’re right, every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For good authorities are from God, and those good authorities which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists good authorities when they make right decisions has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed (except when the authorities were bad and wrong) will receive condemnation upon themselves. For such good rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for the good authority is a minister of God to you for good.
But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for the good authority does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for when good authorities make the right decisions, they are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. When good men make good decisions, render what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
It would be funny if it weren’t so evil. Remember what the Scriptures say concerning rebellion?
For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. -1Samuel 15:23
As I said in an earlier post, had our civil magistrates forbidden our worship assemblies because we have been proclaiming the universality of man’s federal headship, the wickedness of LGBTQ sexual minorities, God’s hatred for the bloodlust of abortion, or the coming Judgment, of course we would defy their order and continue to meet and worship and pray and sing praises and preach these truths.
But the present public health orders are none of these things. What we must respond to this day are civil authorities appointed by God giving us orders aimed at suppressing the spread of a deadly disease. This is not just their right, but their duty, and we thank God for them.
In time, I personally think it’s likely the conservative and reformed talking heads on the internet will be mocking those who submitted to our civil magistrates at this time. But let it be said clearly, we have not cancelled public corporate worship because we thought it was necessary. We have cancelled because our Governor commanded us to.
As it happens, we think he was wise to be this conservative, but really, it doesn’t matter. His order is perfectly in keeping with the authority God has delegated to him.