Orwellian Christian Freedom

I’ve discovered another Christian heresy, this one hiding in 9Marks Church’s use of the phrase “Christian freedom”.

John MacArthur’s battle against Los Angeles City persecution of Christianity has had several episodes by now. As I predicted, Mayor Garcetti’s threats to shut off the power & water were so hollow that now, he’s threatening to take away their overflow parking lot.

htt ps://pjmedia.com/culture/tyler-o-neil/2020/08/31/retaliation-la-county-cancels-churchs-lease-as-john-macarthur-continues-to-worship-god-n867445

Not a coincidence, then, that the forktongued 9Marks church organization has come out swinging against MacArthur. Incompetent boobs of a mayor need all the help they can get.

I’ve blogged previously on 9Marks. Suffice to say, Leeman’s partner Mark Devers uses the term “Biblical” to trick Protestants into lowering their defenses.

https://gunnerq.com/2019/08/15/baptist-sjws-freak-out-over-upcoming-sbc-convergence-documentary/

I start with Leeman’s original statement, followed by his increasingly hilarious effort at damage control.

A Time for Civil Disobedience? A Response to Grace Community Church’s Elders

htt ps://www.9marks.org/article/a-time-for-civil-disobedience-a-response-to-john-macarthur/

By Jonathan Leeman, 25 July 2020

Before your church follows John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church and begins to gather in defiance of governmental orders this Sunday, hold on! Stop and think with me for a moment.

In case you missed it, MacArthur provided a wonderful statement affirming: Christ’s lordship over governments; our duty to disobey governments when governments forbid worship; and the government’s lack of jurisdiction over a church’s doctrine, practice, and polity. Plus, pastors do well to learn from MacArthur’s example of courage. In years and decades to come, we may have many opportunities to defy governmental incursions.

“Don’t follow MacArthur’s wonderful, courageous and inspirational example!”

I also respect the decision of the Grace Community elders to “respectfully inform [their] civic leaders that they have exceeded their legitimate jurisdiction” and that “faithfulness to Christ prohibits [them] from observing the restrictions they want to impose on [their] corporate worship services.” That might be the right decision. I believe it’s a judgment call, but if they feel bound of conscience to gather their church, then they should gather (see Rom. 14:14, 23).

Leeman’s respect and four bucks will get you a cup of coffee in California.

I also respect the decision of the Grace Community elders to “respectfully inform [their] civic leaders that they have exceeded their legitimate jurisdiction” and that “faithfulness to Christ prohibits [them] from observing the restrictions they want to impose on [their] corporate worship services.” That might be the right decision. I believe it’s a judgment call, but if they feel bound of conscience to gather their church, then they should gather (see Rom. 14:14, 23).

So then, why are we having this conversation?

Yet I’d also like to add, civil disobedience may not be the only legitimate or moral course of action at this moment.

Leeman begins his disagreement with MacArthur by saying he can’t prove Mac is doing anything wrong. Going for the hard mode achievement!

Four additional things are worth mentioning in case you did read his piece. First, it’s true that MacArthur’s church cannot meet, but Christ’s church can meet. Right now, members of his church can meet outdoors. There is nothing sacrosanct about the particular and present forms of our congregations.

“Sacrosanct” came close. The word is “sacrament”. Government guidelines do not allow for sharing food or baptism. Heck, they don’t even allow for singing. And let’s not forget the American sacrament of First Amendment. Government ordering churches to literally close their doors is unlawful.

You might say my counsel to Pastor MacArthur is similar to my counsel to the pastor who thinks his church has to go to multiple service or sites: “why does that new congregation have to be called your church? You can plant, no?” Likewise, is there any biblical reason why your church or mine cannot split into several churches or take some other form?

Because it wouldn’t solve the problem, dumbass. Even house churches are now illegal!

Along these lines, I appreciate J.D. Greear’s and the elders of Summit Church’s decision to turn the 12,000-member Summit Church into hundreds of house churches for the remainder of the year, even if I would structure things a little differently than him.

Somebody is a sexual Gamma, getting in his little digs about how he’s just a little bit better than the big names.

Also, one possibility being discussed by the Capitol Hill Baptist Church elders is whether they should turn their church into several autonomous congregations should DC restrictions eventually make sufficient indoor room for doing so.

Sure, you can reorganize your church when the government gives you permission. You have much respect for Christ!

For now, they’re meeting in a field. Grace Church, on the other hand, is insisting on maintaining its present form. That’s a potentially legitimate decision to make, but it’s not the only decision a church can make.

Leeman doesn’t recognize or care about a major form of persecution: humiliation. The reason we’re being locked out of our buildings is to humiliate us, make us accustomed and resigned to having our chains yanked around by our ‘betters’.

It’s not always about the dungeon.

Grace Church, on the other hand, is insisting on maintaining its present form. That’s a potentially legitimate decision to make, but it’s not the only decision a church can make.

Leeman’s got nothing on MacArthur. No argument that he’s doing wrong in the sight of God. A real Protestant would have either opened up with chapter and verse of Mac’s misconduct, or nodded approvingly of a man taking some risks for the Savior.

Second, Christians have long worked to accommodate government restrictions on gatherings, both when those requirements have seemed fair and when they don’t. Churches in coastal cities during World War Two accommodated evening black-out requirements in case enemy planes hit the coasts. Those churches didn’t insist the government had no right to “restrict our worship.”

I don’t recall that being the case in USA. Assuming it was, the government had no right then, either, but churches cooperated because God did not require His churches to be shelled into rubble.

Churches in China today sometimes do well to disobey the government and gather underground, but sometimes they’re wise to comply with government restrictions, or at least government enforcement measures, such as keeping their non-state sanctioned congregations relatively small. As my Chinese pastor friends tell me, the police know about their hundred-member congregations, but they won’t bother with them until they reach 200. And so my friends keep planting new churches. My point here is not that the Chinese Communist Party has a right to limit the church to 200. They don’t. My point is that my pastor friends are making calculated, wisdom-based judgments about what will best preserve the witness of the gospel over the long-run, and not just their church.

Strawman argument. God does not require his churches to be as large as possible so complying with that request is not necessarily disobedience to God. But when God orders believers to meet together and the government bans meeting together, then the choice is State or Christ… no third option.

Leeman knew that. It’s why he can’t say MacArthur is wrong to oppose the government.

In other words, just because you think God will ultimately vindicate your decision to disobey the government on the last day doesn’t mean it’s wise. You might have other options that avoid undue attention.

We don’t “think” God will vindicate our decision to disobey a government that openly hates Him and persecutes His followers. We read Hebrews 10:25 in context with the sacraments and the Biblical patterns of worship, also Acts 4:18-19 and 5:29-30 for good measure, and KNOW God will vindicate us.

Third, addressing this matter of what’s wise or “beneficial” (see 1 Cor. 6:12), I personally wonder if defying government orders for the sake of a pandemic is the most judicious opportunity to exercise those muscles.

Absolutely. Defying the plagues of the Roman Empire proved to be a defining moment in the Church’s early history, to say nothing of fearing God more than men.

Watch me risk death just to worship Christ for one more Sunday. Then tell me Christ will be unhappy that I wasted my life.

The politics of LGBT tells me our churches may have more occasions to defy government requirements in years to come. Do we want to spend down our capital on pandemics?

What, do Christians lose the ability defy government if we do it too often? The opposite is true: if we allow government to shut us down at will then they will shut us down. Habits come from actions.

Speaking of habits to actions, if Leeman isn’t already denouncing Sodomy… in his D.C. area church… then he’s got a nasty habit of disobedience.

My point is merely, let’s leave room for churches to make different decisions à la Romans 14.

Step One is to make disobedience to God acceptable. Step Two is to demand disobedience. “Fifteen Days to Flatten the Curve” got us to accept the lockdown because it sounded like a good idea. Now we’re in Month Six of those “Fifteen Days”.

Let’s not make that mistake again.

Fourth, and this is my most wonky point, MacArthur draws a strict line between the jurisdictions of state, church, and family. I, too, affirm the separation of these jurisdictions and have written amply on the topic. Yet here’s what we need to keep in mind.

“We need to keep in mind that when I wrote about separation of Church and State, what I really meant is that the State should be free of God.”

Those jurisdictional circles, to some extent, overlap whenever it’s the same people who are bound by those distinct jurisdictions. After all, each of those authorities can possess a claim on a person, no matter what building the person is standing in.

It’s not about the freaking building, Leeman. It’s about serving two masters once government decides it’s not going to be a servant anymore.

…Churches should observe state-established fire codes, building codes, zoning restrictions, historical-preservation-society codes (if you’re on Capitol Hill), and more, all of which impinge on and limit our gatherings. Yet most of us have not stopped and said, “This is hindering our worship” or “This is the state exercising authority over church practice.”

That’s because it wasn’t hindering. What IS, is banning singing, sacraments and gathering together in Christ’s name. For ANY reason. If you have trouble understanding the extent to which the government should be allowed authority over church practices then here’s a simple litmus test: Jesus is real and He’s watching what you do.

And on Leeman goes. Fast forward.

What’s implied in MacArthur’s statement is that his elders don’t believe there is a real threat with Covid-19.

It doesn’t matter if Covid is a serious threat. Covid could be Spanish Bubonic EbolAIDS and we Christians would still be required to meet together, take Communion and sing.

Witness our conviction… and Leeman’s. “We must think twice about obeying God if we might get hurt by doing so!”

Yeah, so, just another Churchian megapastor upset that a peer is making him look bad by finding his spine and doing a good deed that suggests MacArthur might actually believe the fairy tales that he’s peddled for a career.

But the times be a-changing! Normies are waking up! These guys are just a sample of the pushback he got.

htt ps://reformationcharlotte.org/2020/07/27/mark-dever-vs-john-macarthur-9marks-misses-the-mark/

htt ps://reformedreasons.com/2020/07/26/9marks-misses-the-mark-dever-vs-macarthur/

Let’s skip ahead to Leeman’s defense for some lulz!

Further Reflections on Recent Conversations about Christian Freedom

htt ps://www.9marks.org/article/further-reflections-on-recent-conversations-about-christian-freedom/

By Leeman, 27 July 2020

One of the advantages of social media is that an author receives pretty quick feedback on an article, allowing him to see what people are hearing or not hearing from his piece. For that reason, I’m grateful for the robust social media response—positive and negative—to my written reflection and the Pastors Talk with Mark Dever on Saturday. Both commented on Friday’s Grace Community Church elder statement, which called churches to join them in obedience to Christ by resisting the government’s restrictions on various gatherings, including churches. Some folks were very critical of our stance, and we welcome the pushback.

One question that has surfaced again and again on Twitter is this: Why would 9Marks feel compelled to respond to these elders and raise these points right now? Aren’t you the pro-church and pro-gathering guys?

Attempt to control the discourse. The linked articles certainly didn’t ask such a mundane question as Leeman’s timing. They went for doctrinal blood just like me.

I sincerely love the elders of Grace Church and their senior pastor.

It’s possible I misunderstood the GCC elders’ statement. I’m happy to be corrected.

Dude, you WERE corrected! With authority, and street tacos for spectators!

But to my eyes, it essentially read, “This is the way of faithfulness, and we’re calling upon other churches to join us in obedience to Christ.” Then it asked churches everywhere to demonstrate such obedience to Christ by affirming the statement with a signature. I believe this message was communicated in the title and the opening lines about Christ, not Caesar, being Lord (could it be that other Christians are trying to obey Christ by obeying Caesar?). And it was communicated again and again throughout the statement.

Yep. It is evil for a church to obey the lockdowns in general and California’s ban on singing & house churches particularly. Signing his pledge is optional; God knows who you are.

For example:

  • Compliance would be disobedience to our Lord’s clear commands.”
  • “Pastors who cede their Christ-delegated authority in the church to a civil ruler have abdicated their responsibility before their Lord and violated the God-ordained spheres of authority.”
  • “Our prayer is that every faithful congregation will stand with us in obedience to our Lord.”

Aside from what the authors of this statement may or may not believe, the statement itself makes no provision for the possibility that a Christian might choose another path and still be counted as faithful. It does not say, “Churches and elders will come to different conclusions, but we believe we are free to disobey the government and even feel compelled to do so.”

That’s right, Leeman. MacArthur called you out! Now, shit or get off the pot.

And the point of my article, stated at the beginning and end, with four points in the middle trying to carve out the possibility, was to say, “This is not the only way of potential faithfulness.”

Leeman wants to be seen serving two masters but everybody knows it’s the State he really obeys.

So, again, why raise these points now, good saints have asked? We’re not, finally, so much interested in addressing the decision of Grace Church once more.

Because once again, he’s got nothing that says MacArthur is doing wrong.

Rather, we want to draw attention to the growing pattern by Christians across the political landscape, ironically, to close down Christian freedom by binding the consciences of others in pursuit of our political agendas, agendas which are often good! This is a drum we’ve beat before and will continue to beat.

Oh noes! Ever more Christians are becoming dogmatically political! Some of them are even beginning to question State authority!

To the best of our ability, 9Marks has stood for and will continue to stand for Christian freedom, particularly in matters of political judgment. Not every political matter belongs to the domain of freedom. Abortion does not. Racism does not. Worshipping God and gathering as churches does not (and, yes, that’s political!). But how we approach those issues, and what strategies we take, as well as the vast number of other issues that fall under the headings of pastoral and political judgments, do fall into the domain of Christian freedom.

Perfect Churchianity. Boyfriend Jesus is all about freedom, not obligations that might harm your health! But as we all know, Churchians love to contradict themselves…

Amidst our political pursuits, we believe it’s crucial to remind the saints of our spiritual freedom for at least four reasons:

First, for the sake of unity.

…And there it is.

Christians in this country are going to tear each other apart if we treat every political judgment as a test of faithfulness. The nation’s politics are becoming uglier. The culture is pushing against churches. And now an election is here. All three of these factors combine to create a landscape in which a thousand different things—none of which are explicitly scriptural but many of which call for the application of Scripture—could divide us. When culture pushes against you, Mark Dever has said, unfaithfulness is one threat, but a biting and rancorous balkanization is another. And we feel brothers and sisters on both our political right and left increasingly treat their own issues as tests of gospel faithfulness. This does not bode well for unity in and between churches.

The political Left has broken with Christ. There’s no other way to put it. It is good that the middle ground is shrinking… forcing pastoral cockroaches into the light of consequences.

Lest you think it ironic to call for unity while offering a critique, please understand, the call to unity doesn’t mean we never disagree with one another, even publicly. That can encourage a false and shallow unity. Yet the call to unity does mean that, when we disagree, we try to do so charitably, for one another’s good, giving one another the benefit of the doubt, and affirming our ongoing gospel partnership, assuming this is possible.

This is a very insidious evil that prevents us from passing judgment on evildoers. Example, if a Christian thinks gay is okay then he is not a Christian. Full stop. “Agreeing to disagree” with such a man is to cheapen the teachings of Almighty God, who did not call them the Ten Suggestions.

There is no unity between sheep and wolves. There is no need for doubt over the clearly communicated principles of Scripture.

Second, for the sake of affirming the unique authority of the Bible.

Doubling down on no judgment! “The Bible has unique authority but we can agree to disagree on whatever it tells us to do.”

Neither John MacArthur nor Mark Dever nor their respective elders’ judgments on when and how to apply the Bible rise to the level of Bible, as I trust all these men would quickly affirm. We protect the unique authority of Scripture by reminding our hearers of that distinction when we publicize our political judgments. None of us are apostles.

It doesn’t take an apostle to notice when a man disobeys Scripture. It’s not a hard book to understand… clerical efforts to the contrary notwithstanding.

Third, for the sake of protecting the gospel.

No, we’re not saying the gospel comes under threat because of the Grace Community Church elder statement or decision to meet. We’re saying that a consistent and unchecked disregard for the Christian freedom of other saints and churches will create a culture of legalism.

Quadrupling down on no judgment! Legalism is noticing when people call themselves Christians but don’t obey Scripture! We must avoid legalism!

“The gospel” is code for the socialist agenda. Preaching the Good News of political unity, welfare gibs and female empowerment!

And legalism effectively undermines the gospel, even if it’s unintentional.

That’s a lie. Nothing will advance the Gospel as much as our acting like God is real and obeying His commands is important. Endless, insignificant discussions about Biblical minutiae is how you DON’T spread the Gospel.

Why are we afraid of getting Covid if we believe God promised to resurrect us and make all things new? Oh, but we’re just pretending to be afraid so we don’t appear different from everybody else….

This is a danger the church faces along every point of the political spectrum. When things that are not ultimate become ultimate, faith in the sufficiency of the gospel is replaced with fidelity to something else. Therefore, to fight for Christian freedom is to fight for the gospel, because doing so is one way we draw a line between the gospel and everything else.

There’s that phrase again.

One of the marks of a healthy church, 9Marks has argued for two decades, is a biblical understanding of the gospel. Yet the growing political rancor of the last few years in and between our churches has prompted 9Marks during those same years to fight for the gospel more and more by emphasizing Christian freedom. And we will continue to do so.

Read that as “biblical justification of social justice” and you’ll have Leeman’s theology nailed.

Fourth, for the sake of teaching American Christians HOW TO THINK AND SPEAK IN THE LANGUAGE OF CHRISTIAN FREEDOM and Romans 14 amid our present political turmoil.

Capitalized letters mine. Honestly, could he be any more open about his true agenda without growing a mustache to twirl?

…Ohh, he could!

For instance, I decided to attend a protest march organized for evangelical churches over a month ago in order to affirm the basic theological truth that black people are made in God’s image…

Leeman participated in a Barabbas’ Life Mattered march.

…(since the DC mayor herself was speaking at marches, I didn’t understand myself to be disobeying her quarantine mandates, however inconsistent her application of those mandates might be).

Hey Leeman, the Bible also has commands about hypocrisy. It says DON’T.

I also invited members of my church, but wanted to do so without wrongly binding consciences and presuming too much about my own judgments. Here is what I said in the email to my church:

“While I assume that all of you agree with me regarding the sinfulness of racism and of police brutality generally, I recognize that all of you might not share my diagnosis of this particular historical moment and what steps are necessary for addressing such problems. And I want to affirm your Christian freedom and my fellowship with you amidst such differences. I love you all.”

His words prove that Hell can hide in syrup.

Perhaps there was a better way for me to have done this, but I am confident Christian freedom is a category and a language that Christians in the United States need to grow in using.

He could have picked a way that didn’t blame his white congregants for crimes they didn’t commit in a country that didn’t exist four hundred years ago.

See how “Christian freedom” is code for Social Justice?

As for what you can expect from 9Marks moving forward, if you want to make a case for reparations a test of faithfulness (for or against), expect us to again say, “Don’t forget Christian freedom! Welcome to the Table those who disagree with you.”

Hey Leeman, the Bible also has commands about stealing. It says DON’T.

So with immigration policy and the timing and location of civil disobedience and specific strategies for combatting abortion and a hundred other things. And you’ll probably hear such talk from us more and more moving toward November.

Say, “We’re free to do this” all you want. But take great care before you say, “And you have to do this too.” Don’t sacrifice our spiritual freedom for your political freedom.

You do not have spiritual freedom, Pastor Leeman. None of us who follow Christ do. He is a king, not a butler and not a whipping boy.

Skin suits, I tell ye. “The gospel” of Social Justice. “Christian freedom” to be thieving, hypocrite agents of Hope ‘N Change. No Cross, no Christ, no condemnation, just good deeds for a worthy cause. There’s never been a better time to take the ticket!

Lest you think I am merely pushing back on brothers and sisters on the political right, I mean to push back on the left, right, and center. We all need the lesson of Romans 14 (see the excellent work of Andy Naselli, along these lines.)

I presume he means Romans 14:22 specifically. “So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves.” But the context for that is the dietary laws that non-Jews were never commanded to keep.

Romans 14 is no excuse to disobey God… certainly not with the feeble excuse “Christian freedom”.

 

One thought on “Orwellian Christian Freedom

  1. Pingback: 8 September 2020 – Dark Brightness

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