So what was that really all about? (Further reflections on John MacArthur and defying the law)

In the light of John MacArthur’s decision to go against California state law on the Coronavirus, another prominent church leader in the States, Tom Buck posted this tweet.

  1. I don’t think we have ever really argued that everyone should risk their lives in cross cultural mission going to dangerous places. There has always been a recognition that we are all called to mission and to witness but that there are different types of calling. We have always distinguished between being ready to face the persecution that comes from following Christ and seeking out martyrdom.
  2. I feel it is a little disingenuous to make the comparison. There is a difference between me choosing to risk my life so that over lives can be rescued from sin and hell and a church seeking to be responsible not just towards believers who may enter their buildings but also to non-believing visitors and also to the wider public and emergency services who may be affected if our decisions lead to new spikes in the virus.
  3. Generally speaking, the response of other believers (see for example the 9 Marks response has recognised a level of freedom in our decision making on these kinds of things and a desire to pray for GCC as they met).

But I am also concerned.  It’s the same unease I felt when the Judicial Review action was taking by Christian Concern For Our Nation seeking to rule the closing of churches in the UK unlawful. That action was accompanied by articles attacking evangelicals who had complied with the lockdown regulations. At the time I asked who the action was really aimed at, the Government or the wider church.[1]

Then unfortunately I start to pick up on the names of those who have been involved.  The US church is locked in a rather unpleasant culture war at the moment. It is partly about race and partly about gender.  There are those, including significant numbers of conservative evangelicals who are raising concerns about abuse, sexism and racism in the church and in wider society and those who see this as compromise with the world’s agenda. Those who speak up against racism are called woke, accused of buying into a social justice gospel and suspected of compromising with a secular agenda that includes LGBTQ rights.

And it just happens that those who have been most outspoken in this culture war have been the same circle of people around John MacArthur. So once again, I am uneasy. Where is the fire trained?  We sometimes talk about being wounded by friendly fire. Now strictly speaking, friendly fire is what happens when someone gets hit by their own side but only specifically when their own side are targeting the enemy.  Yet too often, it isn’t that type of friendly fire. Rather, it may at first sight look like the guns are trained on the secular enemy but in fact they are pointing at the church.

At the moment, we as a church are working our way through The Sermon on the Mount.  One of the things Jesus tells us to do is to let our yes be yes and our no be no. In other words, if we have something to say to each other as believers, we should say it directly.

Postscript “On being sheeple”

Here is a response I received on twitter to my first article about GCC and my statement that MacArthur had got the decision wrong.

It goes without comment that a response to someone arguing that something is wrong and not scriptural needs to do a little bit more than simply state the claim that MacArthur is right. Evidence and argument is needed, instead we are given a snide insult. This in itself only serves to support the concerns that some of are raising.

But did you notice what the intended insult was? Those of us who disagree with MacArthur are “sheeple.” That’s right this man thinks it is an insult to liken God’s people to sheep!


[1] See https://christianconcern.com/comment/the-way-is-shut-evangelical-silence-and-the-illusion-of-virtual-church/ and https://christianconcern.com/comment/the-right-to-worship-is-given-to-us-by-god-not-the-state/

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