13

There is a basic Bible principle for Christians to obey the laws of the authorities that govern them:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. (NIV Romans 13:1-3)

The purpose of governing authorities is to establish laws to protect each member of society from destructive behaviour which might threaten the survival of the whole society. But what about situations where government imposes laws which prevent Christians from coming together to worship publicly or to preach the good news of the Gospel? When the apostles disobeyed the religious leaders and refused to stop preaching the gospel, they were thrown in jail. Did that shut them up? No!

Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29)

This earned them a flogging, but at least Gamaliel’s intervention spared them from being killed.

But what about situations where government law prevents Christians from coming together to worship, pray, sing and partake of communion in church? King Darius issued a decree that any man who prayed to any god other than himself was to be thrown into a den of lions (Daniel chapter 6). Daniel broke that decree by continuing to pray three times a day in front of an open window, where he could be seen praying to God. I realise that isn’t quite the same situation as churches in England (for example) during the current lockdown, but it’s got to the stage where police have authority to prevent public worship in situations where the laws are being disregarded. They did this recently and stopped a baptismal service from taking place.

The motivation for preventing public gatherings is well understood – it’s to prevent the spread of the COVID pandemic. There is no suggestion that social distancing should be ignored by Christians and this question is not about civil disobedience. It’s about the line that may have to be drawn if government authorities introduce laws that ban public worship, which includes preventing Christians from partaking at the Lord’s Table – Communion.

Jesus commanded us to “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).

What Bible principles apply in 2020 (and presumably for some time to come) with regard to how Christians should respond to any legislation that results in the closure of Churches thereby preventing like-minded believers from gathering together for worship, prayer, singing hymns and partaking of Communion?

A precedent has already been set which could result in churches becoming impotent. No, this isn't about "persecution" from governments. It's about "where do we go from here" now that Catholic and Protestant churches have seemingly caved in from the word go and are only now waking up to the consequences of being unable to function as God intended them to.

P.S. Last week 120 UK church leaders (from a variety of denominations) asked for a judicial review on the basis of unlawful closure of religious buildings.

P.P.S. With regard to the Church of England, it seems that Justin Welby is going to take a year out (a sabbatical) in spring 2021. I wonder if any other church leaders are contemplating similar action. More to the point, I wonder how that will help church members who are isolated, alone and distressed.

12
  • 16
    Are you asking about closing churches for a pandemic, or are you asking about where a government prevents Christian activity just because they don't want it to happen? Because those are two very different cases. Nov 17 '20 at 18:43
  • 3
    Lesley, can you please edit that information into the question. Nov 17 '20 at 19:28
  • 4
    Questions about how churches should respond to hypothetical situations are pretty much off topic. There are many churches outside The West that have suffered genuine persecution and prohibition, and you are welcome to ask about how they have responded. Nov 17 '20 at 20:15
  • 4
    Yes, it's a tricky question, but the Church today is not in a hypothetical situation. It's real, it's now and it's not going away. No, this is not about persecution. It's about what biblical principles apply right here and right now in the 21st century. I'm sure the Pope and whoever is in charge of the Anglican Church (no disrespect, I honestly can't remember) have written about this and how the Bible can guide us through these difficult times. Every Christian on the planet needs to face up to what's going on. This is not a hypothetical situation.
    – Lesley
    Nov 17 '20 at 20:21
  • 15
    Governments wouldn't need to do anything if people tried to be part of the solution and not the problem. Instead, people are protesting because they are told to wear masks, when that is the smallest measure imaginable. My church preemptively cancelled meetings worldwide before any government did. And was well prepared for that.
    – kutschkem
    Nov 18 '20 at 7:13
5

It is easy to make decisions when one chooses between two paths, one of which is obviously right and one which is obviously wrong. One puts aside any inclinations of greed or other fleshly motivation and one does the right, because it is right and one accepts the consequences, come what may.

But what is more of a conflict is when one must choose between two apparent 'rights'. As the question, here, suggests, it is right to worship God, even if that were to result in something detrimental.

And the question also suggests that it is right to show respect for earthly power, if there is no conflict with spiritual obedience. And, of course, it is right to protect one's fellow humanity from harm, in this case the harm of infection which can prove extremely detrimental to both short term and long term health and can prove fatal.

Daniel faced an absolute prohibition on worship to all Deity in a situation where no harm would result to anyone, except to himself, if he were discovered. So he continued to do, in private, what he had always done. The only way it was discovered what he was doing was that he had been put 'under surveillance'.

I don't think it is a relevant example, myself.

In the present distress, what is essential to the church is, firstly, the household.

Paul ... unto Philemon ... and to the church in thy house [Phil 2, KJV]

Throughout the scripture of the New Testament, what stands out is the way that households are subject to Christ and subject to his word, as made known through the apostles.

There is nothing to prevent households remaining faithful throughout the pandemic. And there are ways of communicating between households which are safe.

Solitary individuals are permitted (in the UK, at least) to form limited 'bubbles' with others, so there is no need for anyone to become over-isolated.

The lock-downs do not last long. They cannot, for economic reasons, be prolonged. Otherwise, economies will collapse, law and order will break down and civilisation will also break down. The lock-downs have to be short.

After the lock-downs - cautiously - congregations can meet again.


Of course, some people think that Christianity consists of visiting a building once or twice a week and the lock-downs will leave them with no religion at all for a while.

One can only hope that it teaches them something about themselves and that they will seek for something more.

4
  • 4
    Excellent point about "church" being made up of people, of households, and that there is more to Christianity than going to church once a week. Perhaps churches need to come up with fresh ideas - such as holding drive-in services. Our town council approved of that scheme and it was so good to worship publicly with like-minded fellow believers, even though we were socially distanced. Oh, and we were able to sing as loud as we liked, safely sitting in our vehicles! No word yet of being able to have communion, though. It's been 9 months now.
    – Lesley
    Nov 18 '20 at 8:46
  • 1
    @Lesley That sounds a great idea to me. Especially the singing ! Scotland (and this is unusual, given its privileged history) seems to be more restricted than elsewhere. Nine months, continual, seems hugely excessive to me. I can see the justifiable reasons for your question.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 18 '20 at 8:47
  • 2
    @NigelJ - Actually, Scotland seems to be less restricted than other places. We have been able to have services with up to 50 people since late July. Even in the highest tier of restrictions (which is almost a complete lockdown), services of up to 20 will still be allowed. There does, however, seem to be a lot of churches that have just said they won't reopen until we can operate fully back to normal. Yes, there is a bit of hassle involved and it's a bit restricted - but it is really great that they've seen the importance (and relative safety) of churches in writing the regulations.
    – neil
    Nov 19 '20 at 22:34
  • 1
    @neil - Yes, some churches in Scotland are able to hold services, even though they are restricted with regard to numbers allowed and what they can, or can't do. The little church I attend can let in 30 people, socially distanced, all wearing masks - even though the building we hire can accommodate 300. But what about those churches that have kept their doors closed? Will the ministers find they no longer have a flock to shepherd once restrictions are lifted?
    – Lesley
    Nov 20 '20 at 15:53
44

From your comments you are asking about the case where governments have made regulations in response to a pandemic (Covid19) preventing in-person meetings, or limited their size, and not given churches specific exemptions from those regulations.

Many church leaders have explained their response to Covid19 regulations, and most are very similar so I will explain them in general terms.

  1. Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities. It is the Biblical duty of all Christians to obey secular authorities where they do not conflict with God's laws. In most traditions and teachings there has to be a serious reason for any disobedience. The Biblical examples almost invariably relate to a total ban on teaching about God or worshiping him. More recent examples include laws aimed at persecuting some section of society, or significant injustices. These are not the situation with Covid regulations.
  2. Covid regulations are not preventing Christian meetings or Christian activity. There is no prohibition on Christian meetings, as long as they are appropriately distanced, or online, or in some other way safe. There is no prohibition on broadcast of Christian material, Christian teaching. Christian schools continue to function under the same rules as non-Christian, and Christian meetings are not treated differently from non-Christians. Most churches have transitioned adequately to distanced or online meetings, with no more than a certain amount of inconvenience.
  3. Continuing to meet in person in defiance of medical precautions is an offence against Jesus teaching to "love your neighbour". Meeting restrictions are intended to prevent people from becoming sick or dying. Defying them increases the likelihood of infecting others, causing them serious harm or death. Those harmed are not just the Christian community but anyone they interact with as well. Christians should not be taking action that actively harms their neighbours.
5
  • 1
    Appreciate your insights. Please be aware I am not advocating civil disobedience or any actions that would actively harm other people. As for the transition to online meetings, not everybody can participate. My concern has to do with how the Church (worldwide) responds and how it will recover - without breaking the law. This pandemic is nowhere near over and many Christians are suffering because they are isolated and without pastoral support and care. Church leaders have a huge task before them.
    – Lesley
    Nov 18 '20 at 9:14
  • 12
    @Lesley in that case I'd argue their church family is failing to adapt and rise to the challenge that every human in the world is facing. Nov 18 '20 at 13:27
  • Great answer - #1 allows for us to suspend meeting in compliance with the laws, #3 urges that we do what we can to love our neighbor and be a blessing to the wider community, at least by not being part of the problem. Nov 18 '20 at 15:43
  • @Chris Pfohl - You've hit the nail on the head (spiritually speaking). This question is about how the church family (especially church leaders) can respond, adapt and take care of those who feel abandoned or who are grieving. It's about reaching out to others to show compassion, and isn't just about people who are members of a church. Sorry it took me so long to reflect upon and respond to your comment. I think my question has been misunderstood - it's much harder to ask a good question than it is to answer!
    – Lesley
    Nov 21 '20 at 17:40
  • I particularly like NT Wright's take on this one: time.com/5837693/should-churches-reopen-thinking-about-exile Nov 23 '20 at 13:14
9

I found a quote I like from an online news source called The Week (emphasis mine).

Like everything else in this world, Romans 13 makes sense within its broader context. And in the New Testament, this broader context is a big, raised middle finger at the government of the day, the Roman Empire. After all, Rome killed Jesus. And Paul is not short of contempt for the Roman Empire, which he likens to Old Testament-enemies of the Jews like Pharaoh and Babylon, and even at one point asserts that it is controlled by the Devil. So much for government worship.

So, what the heck? Well, Paul writes Romans 13 to say basically two things: First, just because the Roman Empire, and indeed most governments, are awful, doesn't mean that all government in principle is bad. And secondly, he wants to tell his audience that, while they should hold the Roman Empire in contempt and resist it however they can, they should not do so by breaking the law.

It's a very old idea that the law of the King of Kings is superior to the laws of mere kings. It caused a world of hurt, too, if I remember my history correctly. It's an awfully easy idea to abuse when you're generally assured no immediate punishment should you abuse the privilege. So, let's look at a couple of verses:

Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. (Matt 22:21)

It might feel like here in the U.S. the government is forcing itself on us. But the reality is that we really do have a government of the people, by the people, for the people. We can change (with effort) any aspect of governing authority that we want. In other words, government imposes law with our consent. Therefore, so long as the government is acting within the bounds of law, it has the right to close church doors.

And Paul didn't express this idea only to the Romans. In his epistle to Titus he said:

Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. (Titus 3:1-2)

I'm especially fond of that last clause, to show "all meekness unto all [people]." I'm going to come back to that in a moment.

For now, let's keep in mind that the Lord's admonition to give to government that which is its due and Paul's statement that we should submit to it are not the only admonitions to do so.

Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. (1 Pet 2:13-16)

That statement from Peter is in sharp contrast with his statement in Acts 5:29. When you read the whole story (Acts 5:17-32), yes, he and the other apostles are speaking to the local government. But (a) they were trying to stop the apostles from teaching about Christ, not restricting their assembly for public safety and (b) they were the apostles, not common church goers. Maybe people don't want to think there's a difference, but I suspect there is. If the government tried to stop my church leaders from teaching Christ, I'd howl! Consequently, I don't think that particular verse is applicable to our current situation. In fact, let's look on the other side of the coin:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (Rom 8:35)

Persecution (if you can call restricting group gatherings during a time of pandemic persecution) is a function of Christianity. It's almost part of the job description. In fact, I wonder if I search hard enough if I wouldn't find Biblical support for the idea that refusing to permit persecution could compromise salvation (turning the other cheek comes to mind).

Was it wrong for Daniel to be thrown into the lion pit? Absolutely. Would it have been right for Daniel to complain and fight against it? That's an interesting question — it may have resulted in God being denied the opportunity to show His power. I'd hate to have to explain that to the Lord — and that brings us back to that last statement of Peter's about meekness. If we wish to inherit the Earth, then meekness is a mandate.

And it's worth noting that most people misunderstand what meekness is. They think the word is a synonym of "humility." It is not. Humility is, simplistically, a willingness to give credit where credit is due. It is the opposite of pride. Meekness, on the other hand, is a willingness to be subject to authority and a willingness to accept your judgement. It is the opposite of arrogance.

Conclusion: IMO there is Biblical evidence that we should obey government. About six months ago I asked my retired-attorney father just how much local government had the right here in the U.S. to contravene our First Amendment rights to freedom of religion and free assembly. His answer was illuminating.

What powers are not explicitly given to the federal government are reserved to local governments, which have used those powers to act for public safety in times of disaster and disease almost since the beginning of our Union. There is so much legal precedent that no attorney worth his salt would even try to act against it.

In the end, each Christian needs to act according to her or his conscience based on the influence of the Holy Ghost and their understanding of the Word. But it seems to me the Word clearly suggests that obedience to government is more valuable than fighting an obviously temporary restriction to gather. I'm sure there are several interpretations in this circumstance of this last verse, but it tells me that when the Lord said to give to government what is the right of government to require, it's better to obey than to fight your way into a building.

Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. (1 Sam 15:22)

3
  • 2
    Yes, I agree Christians should obey the law and no, we are not being persecuted. Also, I am not advocating civil disobedience. But I think church leaders need to start "thinking outside the box" if they are to shepherd their flocks and take care of their spiritual needs. Appreciate what your father said about devolved legislative "powers to act for public safety in times of disaster and disease".
    – Lesley
    Nov 18 '20 at 9:02
  • 3
    @Lesley Let me suggest a perspective, though. We're not being persecuted in the traditional sense that I don't believe the government is trying to shut churches down (in this circumstance... but that's a different discussion and I agree with your concern that this could be used as an excuse). However, I think we shouldn't overlook Paul's use of the word "tribulation" (and I probably should have focused on that rather than "persecution" in my answer). These are certainly trying times - but those are part of the Plan, too. Nov 18 '20 at 9:33
  • 2
    @JBH Nice answer. As regards "part of the Plan", I've always liked the joke about the drowned man who says "God will save me", where God replies "I sent you a policeman, a fire crew and a lifeboat, what more did you want?" I don't think meekness is quite the answer - it's appropriate meekness which is important, being able to tell which fights are righteous and which ones are just driven by selfishness. A child moans "It's so unfair!" when they can't do what they want; an adult looks at the reasons and accepts unpleasant consequences where it's necessary.
    – Graham
    Nov 18 '20 at 14:13
4

But what about situations where government law prevents Christians from worshiping, praying and singing in church?

There is no Christian requirement to gather together in a church, or to pray or sing aloud, as should be clear from the tradition of hermits living in holy isolation. (One could even make an argument that effectively turning your house into a hermitage makes you closer to God!)

They did this recently and stopped a baptismal service from taking place.

The issue was not the baptism of the child, it was the fact that the whole family were there. Baptism of a child requires only the priest and child to be physically present at the font, in order to dedicate the child to God. Naturally the parents also need to be present to transport the child. There is no religious requirement for friends and family to be there though. Even the common custom of godparents making a commitment to the child's upbringing is only a social custom, not a doctrinal requirement.

which includes preventing Christians from partaking at the Lord’s Table – Communion

Even in Christian sects where Communion is an ordinance rather than a sacrament, there is no requirement for Communion to be taken at any specific frequency. For members of those sects, they should take Communion when possible, but if it is not possible then it does not make them lesser.

The obvious quote is Mark 2:27: "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."

When the apostles disobeyed the religious leaders and refused to stop preaching the gospel

This goes to the heart of the issue. Every single one of your Biblical references concerns people who were banned from following their religion on religious grounds. The issue for Darius wasn't that they were praying, it was that they were not praying to him. The issue for the Pharisees wasn't that the apostles were praying, it was that they weren't praying in the way they wanted.

The rules established by all governments are entirely secular though, and are applied equally to every religion. Jews lost Passover earlier in the year. Muslims have lost Eid. Hindus have lost Diwali. Every religion has suffered equally. And as a result, none of these Biblical references apply. Instead we're left with your Romans quote. Or perhaps more appropriately, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s", which if you remember was a question about whether people should follow the Roman secular laws.

EDIT: To cover your subsequent additional statement:

being unable to function as God intended them to

Jesus explicitly rejected any requirement for churches to exist. As per Matthew 18:20, "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." Whatever plans God may have had about churches, he didn't let Jesus in on the secret.

1
  • The Police were absolutely right to prevent the service from proceeding as planned because it broke the law. The pastor later held a socially distanced service outside. In England, although places of worship can open for private prayer, religious gatherings are banned during lock-down.
    – Lesley
    Nov 18 '20 at 14:45
1

Every Christian must surely be keen to support their government in its unenviable task of trying to contain and then to (hopefully) eradicate this awful pandemic. An immense amount of prayer is going up to God, that governments get the knowledge and help they need to deal with this killer virus. In harmony with those prayers, Christians are strenuously seeking to co-operate in this monumental task. It is logical to forego certain customs and privileges in order to save thousands of lives, including our own. This is not a question of “caving in to government from the word ‘go’,” as your comment implied. It is not a sign of Christian weakness to support government in trying to deal with a pandemic. Nor should Christians withdraw their support just because government is “preventing like-minded believers to gather together for worship, prayer, singing hymns and partaking of Communion.” This isn’t just about us. This is about the entire human population.

What is needed is reflection on what has happened so far, where this seems to be leading, and how to continue being faithful to God. At what point does government exceed its God-given task and encroach illegitimately into Christian obedience to God? One example given has been that of Daniel, as in chapter 6 of his book in the Bible. Can we sort out any principles from that?

A national prohibition against prayer or petition to any but King Darius had been promoted by people in government out to get Daniel. It was temporary - for a mere 30 days - and incorporated everybody. The Jews were not being singled out, let alone Daniel personally. Daniel could have 'gone private' with his daily prayer routine (three times a day, facing Jerusalem) but he continued visibly praying at his open window. He knew the consequences - being thrown to the lions. It's not come to that with Covid-19 as church buildings can open for individual prayer, yet worship services in England are illegal for the second time now (but allowed again in Scotland after an initial banning).

Will this be temporary, or will government keep switching from “Churches can open for worship with masking, distancing and limited numbers” to “No worship in Church buildings”? Not being a prognosticator, I cannot answer my own question. Not even the government can. We might need to remind ourselves that no government can prevent any Christians from worshipping God, even if they close buildings down.

Nor does that impact on family worship at home, but millions of Christians are the only Christians in their household or live on their own. Most now have no Christian fellowship with anyone (Zoom does not count as fellowship in the biblical sense, in my opinion, though it’s better than nothing.) Many elderly Christians cannot access such things anyway. Christianity is not a personal religion in the sense of we can individually isolate and still carry out Christ’s mandate for his Church body. Yes, we remain members of his body even in our isolation, yet if isolation leads to disintegration of the Church visible, we cannot assume that to be the will of God and just let it happen, without question. There are various ways in which current legislation could lead to actual disintegration of the Church visible, and we cannot assume that laws are temporary and that, of course, economic considerations will enable government to let us get back to public worship. An effective vaccine might achieve that, but a variant of the virus, or a completely new one, could afflict the globe later. Restrictive laws will be in place instantly, should that happen, so the question needs to be, “How do Christians prevent the Church visible from disintegrating into an almost voiceless and helpless institution that does not carry out Christ’s commission to us? Or, has that already happened, and is a spiritual reason for what we see now, and therefore it will only get worse?” Do Christians dare ask ourselves if decades of feeble (i.e. ineffective) spiritual leadership has resulted in a mere outward semblance of Christianity that is now crumbling under pressure? If so, then what remedy is there? Yet it should never lead to, “Each Christian for his or her own!” otherwise the great adversary has won. There’s a spiritual element to this, as Ephesians 2:2 indicates. A literal, deadly virus is in the air that we breathe, but do we allow the “prince of the power of the air”, that spirit of disobedience, to get us also?

Now some practical considerations to demonstrate what Christian leaders must sort out before long. If a believer wants to be baptised, hardly any option exists right now. A walk by a gentle stream at dawn or dusk, with a fellow (masked) walker quickly dunking him or her under the icy water when no others can see them, then carrying on their way (shivering)? A baptismal service in England was stopped by police on Sunday 15th November 2020 as 30 people met in a church building, for no worship is to go on in buildings, and private houses can hardly have others present. As for not being allowed to sing in public worship – TV has shown robed choirs singing along to the cathedral organ, the congregation masked and distanced, but the congregation cannot sing along behind their masks? I suggest all Christians switch to unaccompanied Psalm singing; so solemn a format that not even a passing fly would be harmed by their breath.

Meanwhile, football throngs yell, sing and embrace in public, and house-parties continue despite threat of fines. Worse of all is how government is stopping millions from working, and many of those fall through the financial safety net, being ineligible for subsidies, and are now suicidal with despair. Millions are becoming mentally ill. Even if they resist suicide, their lives are now wrecked, their self-employment ruined. Has any government got the right to stop ¾ of their nation from working?

This is not a digression from the question, because it’s about the right of government to do things nationally that impact the public regarding life and death issues. Forbidding public worship won’t kill anybody, but many of the other sweeping powers adopted will indirectly kill hundreds of thousands through suicide. They will not be included in the Covid-19 death statistics. But Christians are hardly able to reach out to those despairing people, as they would normally do, due to the illegality of meeting in other peoples’ homes! Not even family members can now do that apart from rare exceptions. Nursing Homes have seen utter despair and bewilderment with many elderly folk unable to touch visiting relatives behind glass or Perspex barriers. Dementia patients cannot understand and relatives are heartbroken, rarely even getting to the death-bed for a final farewell. That may be changing, but the inhumanity of it is only to be expected from government that deals with statistics and financial implications, thinking that human rights must be swept aside – and for how long? Should not Christian leaders be challenging government on such matters, while abiding by the law?

But if these restrictive laws keep coming and going, and then start becoming the norm, not the exception, the time will come for Christians to openly declare that they will obey God as ruler, rather than men – just so long as they can articulate where, exactly, government is overstepping its God-given mandate and infringing on the mandate given by God to the Church. Now is the time for Christian leaders to get together, irrespective of denominations, and seek clear, biblical vision.

10
  • 2
    Yes it is. The point of laws and government is never to prevent all harm though - the point is to cause the least harm. So yes, this is actively harming people, and the question then is whether it is worse than the alternative. We don't yet have stats for suicide in the US this year, but a typical year runs 40-50,000. So far 250,000 people have died in the US from coronavirus, and we don't yet have stats for the "long Covid" effects on what percentage of survivors will ever be able to work again. So until Covid causes a 5-6x increase in suicides, lockdown is less harmful.
    – Graham
    Nov 18 '20 at 12:50
  • 1
    @Graham This is why the balancing act of gvmnt is, as I said, ‘unenviable’. If they deem drastic work restrictions necessary to save more people than will die (or effectively ‘be destroyed’) by deprivation of income from working, then suicides will be viewed as ‘collateral damage’. My point is that Christian leaders must unitedly speak to gvmnt about this, offering to help such people, for Christians know that every single life is precious. But we won’t get stats on Covid-related suicides as mental health factors are not physical, but mental, leaving us to guess most of the time.
    – Anne
    Nov 18 '20 at 13:18
  • 1
    .. Just for one example, this summary from the BMJ. Even from the worst-case there, that increase is still not close to the number of deaths from Covid. I think a significant issue with your answer is that it's presented as a feature of Christianity though, when actually this is a totally secular problem. Religious worship in this context is no more or less important to people's mental wellbeing than playing sport, going to music gigs or the theatre, or having family parties; and mental wellbeing is not the same as Biblical injunctions.
    – Graham
    Nov 18 '20 at 13:48
  • 1
    @Graham Suicide is not a secular issue. Christians should be deeply concerned to reach out to despairing people as not only are professional bodies overwhelmed with the call on their services, but restrictions prevent us doing what we'd normally do to make contact with such ones. If you view Christian worship as akin to social clubs and entertainment, then you have no idea what biblical worship is all about – it’s being salt and light to a dark and dying world, seeking to preserve life and hope through the gospel of Christ and showing love to all. We can't be clinical about suicidal neighbours
    – Anne
    Nov 18 '20 at 14:13
  • 1
    @Graham - Whilst I appreciate the points being raised here, comments are not for extended discussion between two people. There is a chat room for people to enter into discussions on side issues that are raised. Have you taken our tour? Here is the link: christianity.stackexchange.com/tour
    – Lesley
    Nov 18 '20 at 15:11
1

Q: Is there any biblical support for the Church to allow Government to close its doors and prevent public worship?

Unfortunately, the way this is phrased is a "bad reason" fallacy or worse a "red herring" fallacy. For Christians, there is no Church building per se. Believers are the church.

Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 1 Cor 12:27 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Rom 12:5

Have the authorities closed your door (mouth)? No.

With this in mind, we might better understand Peter's situation when he said, we should obey God, not man. He was not talking about meetings in a building, but rather an interior belief system that regardless of meeting place would still abide and be pronounced.

And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. Acts 5:41

Government has every right to protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Or in the case of a despot to do what he sees fit, until God prevails. As also mentioned in the OP.

Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. Rom 13:7

Surely we can understand how a limitation to gather together in a building is clearly to try to slow the spread of a disease, but to frame this as a Christian's abrogation of a right to speak is ridiculous at best. Seriously, as if that limitation somehow squashes the body of Christ. It doesn't.

Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's (wear a mask, social distance) and you are still a full-fledged, heaven bound Christian, unless your inability to gather somehow made you denounce Christ. This disease shall pass too.

1
  • Appreciate the comparision between a closed door and a closed mouth and have edited the question. I am not suggesting that Christians should break the law with regard to social distancing in order to prevent the spead of this pandemic. I'm asking how church leaders will cope in the future and what plans they may have to ensure the spiritual welfare of their flocks. A lot of Christians, especially the elderly, are suffering because they no longer have contact with their pastor/minister/priest or with their local congregation. It isn't about Government preventing Christians from speaking.
    – Lesley
    Nov 21 '20 at 8:52
0

Indeed, there is Biblical support:

Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all those engaged in selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.

Matthew 21:12*

Fr. Rick Heilman mentioned this passage on his latest U.S. Grace Force podcast, that Jesus getting a whip and driving out the money changers from the temple is a good example for us. It's an example righteous anger toward current events.

But, introspectively and conversely, the National Catholic Register reports that

A majority of respondents in their survey said that government and public health officials should treat houses of worship such as synagogues, mosques, and churches with at least the same priority for re-opening as businesses such as malls, restaurants, and retail stores.

https://www.ncregister.com/news/treat-churches-like-businesses-during-lockdowns-americans-say

which is to say, we have made God's house a den of thieves instead of a house of prayer by actually wanting the government to treat it like any other business during this pandemic. Instead of a refuge for souls in times of trouble, it's lumped in with Dave and Busters and whatever funplexes you have in England.

So, the basis is that, an evil generation will allow the profanation of its houses of prayer, even if the modern form of profanation is just a matter of perspective. Jesus says the same thing about adultery when He talks about looking at a woman with lust in your heart, in the New Covenant, where much is expected of us, even our perspective is tested against our hearts.

If we view church as a mere business, then we've profaned it and deserve to be driven from it.

* Matthew 21:12 being an inauspicious veiled anachronistic reference to the Rush album pointing to the priests of the Temple of Syrnix

2
  • So you're saying Christians should be patient if the Government wants us to stay closed for longer or have more restrictions than businesses because the alternative is making our churches into places of business?
    – curiousdannii
    Nov 20 '20 at 23:46
  • 1
    You raise a very important point. Thank you for having the courage to say what the real issue is - that the house of God is no longer a refuge for souls in times of trouble or a house of prayer.
    – Lesley
    Nov 21 '20 at 9:12

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.