The Gospel Coalition, which is about three months away from saying that “mandatory vaccines are a gospel issue” and refusing to get injected is sinful, has continued their progressive little trajectory in a timely manner. First they said that everyone should listen to the government and close their churches, then they said people should stop singing in Church. Now they’re saying that people who won’t wear masks are engaging in sinful disobedience and that the decision to refuse to wear one is not and cannot be a legitimate “issue of conscience.” This is the thesis of Erik Raymond’s post, where he writes:
I do not believe that conscience is a valid reason for refusing to wear a mask to church. Christians should save the conscience for conscience issues. Instead, call this what it is: civil disobedience.
The article argues that refusing to do something out of conscience cannot trump scripture. He notes three objections that Christians make as to why they cannot or will not wear masks:
- A scientific objection: masks are ineffective
- A political objection: masks represent unjustified government restrictions
- A moral objection: masks represent a false narrative (i.e., the seriousness of COVID is overblown and to wear a mask is tantamount to lying)
and then surmises that because the wearing of a mask is not in and of itself a moral issue – “A person is not sinning if they wear a mask. It’s not a sin to be a dental hygienist, welder, or scuba diver.” None of those really matter in light of our command to submit to government authorities.
He says in a context where masks are legally required for the church’s public gathering, then we obey. If the government dictates that we wear masks to church, we wear masks to church. If they specified the color of masks we have to wear, we’d have to submit to that too. Disobeying the governing authorities is sinful, and we don’t have the right to violate clear commandments of the bible for the sake of our conscience.
There are more arguments than that, of course. He notes that some other scenarios cause “disobedience to the clear teaching of Scripture.”
Love for Neighbor (Matt. 22:39): In our churches, there are various levels of concern about COVID-19. Some have lost friends and family members to the virus. For many, wearing a mask is one reasonable way to love other people and protect them. It would be unloving to minimize or ignore their concerns, especially in light of the evolving data and heightened case numbers. Christian love requires a willingness to follow Jesus and set ourselves aside. Christians should be eager to do this.
Wisdom Toward Outsiders (Col. 4:5): It is saddening to read of some churches who disregard safety standards and then become super-spreaders for the virus. This harms the testimony of the church in the community. Christians should be concerned with reasonable efforts to preserve and promote the gospel. At this moment, failing to wear a mask doesn’t seem wise.
At one point in the article Raymond says, “if the elders believe it is right to submit to the government by wearing a mask, then there is not a provision for the conscience to disregard them.”
Yet if the elders say that you don’t have to wear a mask in their church service, whether that be John MacArthur of Grace Community Church, or JD Hall at Fellowship Baptist Church, ostensibly those pastors are sinning with that dispensation and they ought to be disregarded and not submitted to, and a mask worn anyway.
Finally, that last point about wisdom towards outsiders is a telling one. If refusing to wear a mask is not loving and does not promote the gospel, but submitting to govenment authorities and wearing one does, then by nature mask-wearing is a “gospel issue.”
Of course, we would love to see Raymond do this with other stuff. Mandatory Vaccines? The same article would apply. Christians told by the government to wear certain vestments, such as an armband denote their faith? The same article would apply. Christians told by the government that they may not own guns due to their faith? The same article would apply. Pick your poison. So long as the command to do a thing is not in and of itself technically “a moral issue” (it is not a sin to wear armbands, it is not a sin not to own a gun), then failing to comply with the government’s mandate that you do that thing is.
Refusing to wear a mask? Civil disobedience. Sinful. Not a conscience issue. A betrayal of the Gospel.
Hurry up with that article about mandatory vaccines being a gospel issue that we don’t have the freedom to refuse, TGC. We’re about ready for it at this point.
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