Warhorn Media on COVID-19: Collected writings
What follows is a list of articles posted here on Warhorn Media about Coronavirus and all the related topics: face masks, submission to authority, spheres of authority, rebellion, schism, etc. In a similar vein, we’ve collected Pastor Wilson’s writings on this topic here, and Pastor Sumpter’s writings here. We have also provided a summary of their arguments (as of 09/01/2020) and the errors they contain.
March 14, 2020
The elders and pastors made the difficult decision last night to cancel all church meetings, gatherings, and programs for the next three weeks, effective now through Friday, April 3… Having considered all these things, and having examined our own motivations, we have taken what we have deemed the best and wisest course of action for the good of this congregation and our community. We have submitted ourselves to the judgments of Dr. Spaetti, in consultation with public health experts and officials, and to our governor. Like all law, public health laws often have political motivations, but we submit to our civil magistrates “as unto the Lord” knowing they are as fallible as our fathers, deacons, elders, and pastors.
–This is an excerpt from an email written to the members of Trinity Reformed Church. It is the session’s initial response to the pandemic.
Pastor Bayly wrote a few paragraphs on Warhorn Media to explain our thinking:
For those in other churches questioning the wisdom of our decision, note particularly the fourth through sixth paragraphs. We have more than a hundred little children, so the danger our children pose to the community at large as vectors for this contagion was a major consideration. We also were concerned that our church not give in to the panic and phobias of those who see public health measures and the broadcasting of coronavirus information as a liberal conspiracy and feel some combination of a Christian conscience and American patriotism requires them to fulminate and belligerate against their governors’ public health warnings and measures.
It is the duty of our civil magistrates to protect our bodies, at least. God has ordained them to this work and we are under their authority. Had they forbade us from assembling because we proclaim the Fatherhood of God writ large across all creation; because we proclaim God’s Moral Law condemning adultery, divorce, child murder, greed, and lies; because we call men to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ Alone; because we warn it is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the Judgment; of course we would defy their order and continue to meet and worship and pray and preach and sing praises.
This is none of those things. What we have here 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.
March 14, 2020
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…
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.
March 30, 2020
In other words, our cantankerous response to recent public health laws is not so much a function of our brilliant understanding of data, graphs, the proper limits of government, and epidemiology as the knee-jerk response of Scotch-Irish to any encroachment of authority on our own turf of home and church. We’ll make our own decisions, thank you very much.
And what is the basis of our own decisions?
Certainly not solidarity with fellow sinners. Hear me out, now.
Is it merely accidental that so many Reformed mothers and fathers are anti-vaxxers?2 And why? Is is because vaccinations don’t work in the aggregate? Do these sisters and brothers argue our nation’s population as a whole is harmed by vaccination?
Maybe occasionally, but in the main, the arguments are over what’s best for ourselves—for our sons and our daughters. In other words, once more we have our national (and certainly our Scotch-Irish) personality of dominant individualism and individual liberty trumping the aggregate good—just as it does right now with the Coronavirus.
But what if Jesus had made His decisions this way? What if Jesus—but really, His Father—had decided to protect His Son at the cost of our entire and eternal damnation? What if God’s Only Begotten Son had not declared His solidarity with us in our helpless depravities and had left us getting infected with Original Sin generation after generation until the Final Judgment? After all, how much does the Father love His Son? Why would any good father give his only begotten over to death for the sake of others so very filthy and ungrateful as we are?
Reading Isaiah 53 as we approach Good Friday, how can any of us deny solidarity is a precious truth of the Gospel?
–An Easter meditation on how our American individualism contrasts with Christ’s willingness to be in solidarity with us.
April 1, 2020
A word to readers: This parable was inspired by watching and listening to Christian men and women on social media crying down government authority in our present health crisis. Many are out there saying COVID-19 is no crisis; abortion has destroyed the government’s claim to authority; elders and pastors who move church worship online are lemmings; pastors who violate public health laws by going ahead with worship are martyrs for the faith; the government has no right to tell the church what they can and can’t do; Christians should obey God rather than man/Christians should obey God rather than man/Christians should obey God rather than man; and so on.
April 2, 2020
I think the principle of the civil magistrate’s authority to protect public health with quarantine orders is incontrovertible. I don’t use that word very often. States have police power to protect the health, safety, welfare, and morals of their citizens. This power includes quarantine laws. We can argue about the Tenth Amendment and the Commerce Clause and the true scope of the federal government’s constitutional authority in public health, but that is a complicated subject and academic at this point. State governments are issuing stay-at-home orders.
April 4, 2020
The question, as I understand it from the exchange, is whether the civil magistrate ever, under any circumstances, has authority to forbid churches from meeting. You say no because under the U.S. Constitution that decision is “delegated” by the Constitution “to local church leaders.”
Dear brother, I think you are in error…
I believe the civil magistrate has authority to issue these temporary large-gathering restrictions and apply them to all large gatherings, including churches, to protect, as Blackstone put it 250 years ago, “the public health of the nation,” from an easily spread, deadly contagion.
April 4, 2020
The discussions about state quarantines among conservative reformed types just now illustrate the degree to which pastoral care has died in the reformed church. Having left off our work of personal exhortations, admonitions, and rebukes within the church, pastors are responsible for our sheep having lost the ability to recognize and honor authority outside the church…
Now then, the governing authorities implement a quarantine over public gatherings and we all have to witness our fellow believers using ever last excuse they can come up with—as well as the Name of Christ and His Church—to justify the rebellion we pastors have never disciplined.
Or even tempered.
April 9, 2020
God gave our forefathers the free exercise of the right to choose their own form of government to which they and we, their posterity, would then be bound. Even then, they left us with the right to choose our civil magistrates. But once we choose them we obey them.
Our form of government doesn’t give us the “right” to Monday-morning quarterback all their judgments and reject the ones we think are bad policy. If, however, the civil magistrate does interfere with the exercise of our responsibilities as delegated by God in different spheres of authority (family and church, e.g.) and that interference will unjustifiably cause great harm to ourselves or especially others, then we petition the civil magistrate for redress of grievances or appeal his interference to the lawful authorities above him or in the last resort engage in civil disobedience appealing to God and conscience.
I believe nothing yet justifies the last resort. One reason for my conviction is that American Christians in 1918—who were no less godly or informed of their rights than we are—obeyed.
In the present crisis, legal abstractions, divorced from history, will only confuse and mislead us.
April 19, 2020
Our civil authorities can’t limit themselves to leading smart Reformed men. They must lead herds of sheep. For several weeks, now, it’s been my conviction they are downplaying the helpfulness of facemasks at least partly to keep face masks readily available for healthcare workers. Other reasons, yes; but I’m guessing that was the main one.
Is that wrong?
In the final analysis, I think not.
Would others answer “yes” and marshall arguments in support of their position?
Sure, but let me register here my own wish as a pastor of a Reformed congregation that all of us would please be less judgmental and censorious and angry at the civil authorities right now. From the Church especially, it strikes me as unseemly.
April 20, 2020
Our civil authorities’ work is hard for a number of reasons beyond the cantankerous resistance of large political blocs of their sheep.
For instance, from the moment we first heard of Coronavirus, truth has been in short supply. We think we know COVID-19 was conceived in the wet markets of Wuhan, yet it might well have been conceived and accidentally released by the nearby Wuhan Institute of Virology…
How then are Christians responding to their civil authorities in the midst of those authorities’ difficult work protecting us while having to make decisions based upon such deception and uncertainty?
At first, Christians in the Reformed part of the Church were willing to complain about their civil authorities privately to their constituency while, for public consumption, they made some show of submitting to them. We might call it belligerating compliantly. Submit to the quarantine while announcing on your podcast that the civil authorities are dumbos. In-house, the message was that constant drone of Reformed men: we’re smart and we know better…
This had been the state of affairs for weeks, but as time has gone on, Reformed men have decreasingly commended submission while increasingly whipping up their constituencies over what they purport to be the suppression of religious liberty and unfair discriminatory treatment…
Dear brothers, those who agree to hold worship on Sundays through FB Live and Zoom for a few weeks have not thereby lost their faith or their legitimacy. Not in anyone’s eyes but your own and those you are misleading with your bombastic rhetoric.
Rather, quiet and submissive Christians who obey their civil authorities and thank them for their thankless work have been a balm of Gilead to their neighbors and the shepherds leading them all.
Most governors in most states are doing the best they can on the information they do not have. Stop blaming them for things that never entered their minds. Stop blaming them for having experts who disagree with each other after consuming faulty data and even faultier models. Stop hissing and catcalling at those God has commanded you to submit to and honor…
July 8, 2020
Jesus and His Apostles are quite clear about submission to authority—including civil authority. Jesus told Peter to go get the coin from the mouth of the fish and pay the tax they both owed (Matthew 17:27). During his sham trial, Jesus acknowledged Pilate’s authority over Him when He said, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:11)…
We could continue with such illustrations from Scripture and church history, but no reader of good faith can miss the point that the people of God have never trivialized rebellion against authority…
Certain I’ve been for a very long time, and certain I’m still today, that there are rules and laws promulgated by our civil authorities we must rebel against…
But having pastors of fellow reformed churches go online and accuse pastors and elders of being statist idolaters because we ask our sheep to submit to the civil authorities in the matter of face masks is simply schism.
July 9, 2020
Does this mean the public health measures taken by every civil authority during this COVID-19 pandemic has been needed, proportionate, or wise?
Not in the least…
What about elders and pastors who lead their congregation to submit to their civil authorities’ ban on singing in worship?
We will disagree with them, but we will not try to draw away disciples from their congregations by fomenting their members’ rebellion against their elders and civil magistrates. We will not try to alienate their members by incessant railing against civil authorities as well as any church authorities who disagree with us.
In the end, we’re left with just a few simple truths. We are commanded by God to obey those in authority over us whether those authorities are good or bad. Pastors are not civil authorities. Pastors are church authorities. Pastors should not rail against civil authorities, fomenting rebellion against those authorities among Christians in their own and other shepherds’ congregations…
July 11, 2020
We have no objection to other Reformed elders around the country who have decided respectfully to say “no” to COVID-19 regulations they deem harmful to their sheep in their state and context. May God be glorified! We will help in any way we can! But let them not enter our congregations and tell our people that we, their elders and pastors, are giving in to statism and commending idolatry if we don’t do precisely what they do.
That is schism…
If Christians really shouldn’t comply with public health and safety orders that make worship less convenient, such as sprinkler requirements in the sanctuary, limits to row length, room capacities, and other fire codes that address things statistically far less dangerous than Covid-19–if Christians that comply with such public health and safety laws are in fact obeying man rather than God, then it is necessary to warn God’s people against such man-fearing idolaters…
Don’t believe masks are effective? No law requiring them? Don’t wear them. But also don’t sit in judgment on your brother in Christ who does. Consider him your weaker brother and accommodate him. That might even mean wearing a mask for his sake.
Believe in the effectiveness of masks? Wear one if you want. But realize that not all your brothers in Christ do. And if you want them to wear masks around you, appeal to them in gracious love, not condemning them. Don’t join in the condemnation the left is already heaping on your brother in Christ.
July 13, 2020
There has been some divisive rhetoric from some people claiming that we should not submit to the civil authorities concerning masks. Some of these people have been media personalities. Some have been lawmakers. Sadly, some have even been Reformed pastors. If you have been reading and listening to such people, we exhort you to stop. It is one thing to read and argue about the effectiveness of masks or what actions are really necessary because of COVID-19. It is another thing entirely to be feeding from the hands of those who are condemning your pastors and elders and encouraging rebellion against the civil magistrate over a law that transgresses none of the laws of God. Such divisiveness and rebelliousness will bear bad fruit in our lives if we give it a foothold.
We are prone to justifying disobedience, and I know that many of us have no desire to do what this law requires. So we want to address some of the excuses we’ve heard for why it is reasonable to disobey this law…
Finally, we exhort you to cheerfulness as we submit to those God has placed in authority over us:
Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world. (Philippians 2:14–15)
July 13, 2020
We know it’s difficult to have the pastors of other churches opposing our elders’ care for their sheep, but this has long been the case with several of the other presbyterian and reformed churches in Bloomington, so we’re not running for cover. What’s been particularly sad to see, though, is how pastors and elders of churches we long have been sharing close fellowship with in other parts of the country now are standing against our elders because our elders have urged us as a congregation to comply with civil authorities’ face mask requirements…
Please pray for us, your elders and pastors, as we continue to lead during this plague God has visited upon us. May He have mercy on us and lift it from our nation and world. May He give our nation and the world repentance for our many sins and rebellions against Him. This is where we all should be focussing our words and attention.
July 17, 2020
Back then to COVID-19: That we may disagree with our city fathers’ public-health policies doesn’t make those policies unconstitutional or divest civil authorities of their police power. Church history, American history, caselaw, statutory law, and the Constitution are themselves witnesses against the railing that many Christians have given themselves to very publicly these past few months, and we call for it to stop. It is in direct violation of the command of God repeatedly given across the New Testament to honor and fear and obey those He Himself has put in authority over us.
There are many ploys men can engage in to avoid these direct commands of God, but you, man of God, don’t be sucked in by such justifications of rebellion. Stop listening to those who invent them.
Rather, pray to God for relief from this plague of sickness and the personal, relational, and economic suffering it has unleashed across the world as many admittedly wicked city fathers have used and abused their God-given authority over us, their sheep. God is the One with Whom we have to do and He will judge our responses to those He has placed over us whether husband, father, elder, governor, or mayor.
Finally, pray for them. Pray for them in love with faith in God’s power to change them as He has changed us.
July 19, 2020
What does it mean to honor them? Quite simply to listen when they talk, to do what they say, to treat them with distinction. Every church has its own culture and its own ways to honor the elders. It is not a question of having the best seats in the sanctuary, nor a question of having someone open the door for the elders to enter (although that may be part of it.) It is a question of treating them, talking to them, looking at them in public and private…
Once again, let us remember how the Letter to the Hebrews explains the concept of honoring elders:
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:17)
A congregation honors the elders by submitting to them in such a way that their hard work among us becomes a joy to them, their wives, and their children. In other words, by making their office “beautiful” as the Apostle Paul called it (1 Timothy 3:1). There is no standard recipe for how to do this. But it is possible. Both of us can testify to it.
July 28, 2020
The things Christians are having public hissy fits about on their podcasts and social media right now do a perfect job of outing the church’s worldliness. There are those railing against racism and those railing against face masks.
Take your pick.
That, or stop living out your inner rebellion. That’s for the worldlings.
You, Christian, are to repent and honor those God has put over you. Think about it.
August 1, 2020
Until the sheep learn to recognize reviling against authority and its sinfulness, they will continue to be misled into thinking this disagreement is over COVID-19 and face masks.
But really, this disagreement is over honoring those in authority over us. In how we speak and write and think. Outside and inside us.
August 10, 2020
[Concerning] MacArthur’s statement, it glossed over a few areas that are important to recognize in sphere sovereignty. It’s neat and tidy and is able to achieve that condition by overlooking a lot of history and ignoring complicated pastoral realities. The messiness of competition and jealousy and inevitable conflict between the spheres is just the beginning. I think our statement on sphere authority does a good job of explaining these historical conflicts and pastoral realities…
All that said, I don’t know what I’d do if Trinity were in California and we faced another indefinite closure. I don’t know what our pastors and elders would do. But I’m pretty sure we would not go into battle with his statement.
August 18, 2020
Pastor Wilson and his followers have caused much harm to Christ’s church and His sheep. Even granting him his freedom to lead his own congregation in rejecting masks, why does he not force this division within the Church of Christ at large with fear and trembling? If there was ever a time for Pastor Wilson to abandon his humorous, avuncular tone, this would be it. Yet he has continued in it.
That is why we wrote this piece. Several of us have gone privately to Pastors Doug Wilson and Toby Sumpter to discuss some of the matters raised above. We are releasing this piece to the larger church as a safeguard against false teaching and authority…
August 20, 2020
We have no beef with the elders of any church or the board of any Christian school or organization deciding not to submit to this or that COVID-19 public health decree. These are the decisions elders are called to make, and if they believe the particularities of their context require them not to obey this or that law because it interferes with their church fellowship in a way injurious to their sheep, we trust them to lead their own flocks. What they must not do is rail against and revile authority. Also, they must not foment the rebellion of other sheep from other flocks against their own shepherds because they go a different way.
September 1, 2020
But starting in April, and continuing to the present day, what began as careful has slid quickly into posts that are increasingly idiosyncratic, irrational, and even unhinged. Conspiracy lurks around every corner, COVID-19 is mostly a political, invented reality, and masking has become the statist, sacramental, idolatrous evil by which all others are defined. Worse than that, there is increasingly little room for anyone who disagrees with these pronouncements…
In this context, I have documented in this post a collection of statements made by both pastors in the course of the past seven months, pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic, the State, masking, and church authority…
But more than the judgment of history, we face the judgment of our Lord. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, may we not be said to have divided the flock capriciously. May the quality of our words be seen by the fruit of actions that come therefrom. And may the strengthening work of Moscow on so many things not be undone by commitments that cause the sheep to despise the rulers of their nation, states, counties, and most especially, churches.