Masks of the Red Death, in a Little Hat Tip to Poe
I received an e-mail from our congressman yesterday, a Republican, btw:
According to local health officials, the continued use of face masks in public and sustained social distancing measures are helping to slow the spread of the virus.
Hmmm, how exactly do they KNOW this? Of course, they can’t KNOW this unless they did a careful study with a control group that didn’t wear masks, then compare the results over time. So, are they lying, or are they just stupid? And I seem to remember that slowing the spread back in March was for a limited time so hospitals wouldn’t be overrun if it turned out to be really bad. Now we’re supposed to be slowing the spread . . . just because? I’m leaning toward conspiracy theories at this point, Big Brother, Big Pharma, Globalists, the whole lot of ’em.
Mike, yes, conspiracy theories become attractive around this point. But while we should never rule out malice aforethought, we also need to factor in good old governmental incompetence.
RE: Masking and Masks: A Hypothetical Interview So, I’m guessing you’re still in the design stage for the “BLOG & MABLOG” masks? I mean, there aren’t any in the store so what’s the hold up?
Dave, well, yes, I had toyed with the idea . . . but I am pretty sure that anything I came up with would be banned.
I appreciate your writing on masks, and I am curious as to your thoughts on this. I am on the consistory (as a deacon) of a small Reformed church. We have stayed open through the panic, but a couple of the elders were in favor of shutting down. As we stayed open we tried to respect those who were more concerned by putting some light social distancing guidelines in place. We dropped down a bit in attendance but are back to normal now. Nobody in the church ever wore masks, and the light social distancing guidelines are being mostly disregarded.
We have communion every other month, but we suspended it in April (I think a mistake). For our June communion, the pastor announced at the beginning of the service that the elders who were serving it would put on masks and gloves while serving. This was a surprise to me, and it greatly bothered me. However, since I am a deacon and help guide people up to the table, I thought I should go ahead and participate because I had committed to it ahead of time.
Anyway, we did have communion again last Sunday. I pressed the issue of masks and gloves with the elders. For a while, it looked like they were once again going to have them when serving. Thankfully though, a wise elder opposed to masks was able to convince them not to wear the masks and gloves. I had not yet told them this, but had they gone ahead with masks and gloves when serving, I was going to ask out of helping and not take communion. Not out of anger, but out of an inability to participate in communion with a clear mind. I would have been too distracted and upset at the masks.
Would that have been the right position? What would you say to not taking communion if the servers are wearing masks and gloves?
MR, I certainly don’t think it would have been wrong to bow out.
I very much appreciate the work you do. The Lord has worked quite a bit of courage in my heart through your encouragements. Actually, this letter is about that.
I am currently a student at a Bible College in Chicago. We have put in place all kinds of exasperatingly particular restrictions concerning masks and temperature radar guns and the like. Most folks walking down the sidewalk past our urban campus do not wear masks. They seem rather unconcerned, whereas we Christians seems rather frightened.
As children of God, a Man of War, it seems we are not being very much like our Father. I often find myself quite frustrated with these cowardly and arbitrary rules. Pastorally, how may I keep a level head amid this torrent of rabbit-like hopping along Caesar’s garden.
Okay, maybe I just meant that last part to be clever, even if it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
But this all seems so cowardly and trite. Where’s the heart and the courage? And how can I exercise courage in a culture that all but universally detests it? Isn’t it courageous enough nowadays to not wear a mask in your car by yourself? even if the air conditioning is off?
How does the Church act in a way that is righteous and valorous? And how does the individual Christian cultivate bravery in his own walk and rejection of sin?
Thank you very much, sir.
Jake, good questions all. And the rabbit analogy is not there yet, but shows promise. To your question, one of the things I would do is publicly associate with Christian leaders who are standing against the tide. That was the point of my MacArthur post.
Wisconsin’s governor has just issued his mandatory mask edict from his throne in Madison and once again, my church leadership is kowtowing to the state, expecting layman like myself to follow suit in rolling over and playing dead without debate. In your posts, you mentioned that mask mandates were unconstitutional. Where exactly in the U.S. Constitution and/or common law do you base your argument? I’m not challenging your position, but looking through the document today, I couldn’t find the obvious silver bullet that I was searching for. As a product of the communist NY public education system, I’d appreciate your help. I want to write to my church leadership a letter presenting my position in a God-glorifying fashion, arguing from sound theological, legal, and scientific evidence rather than from typical disdain for authority. Lord willing, I look forward to meeting you in person at Grace Agenda and worshiping with Christ Church on the Lord’s Day. Thank you.
Brent, thank you, and great question. My argument (if limited to the US Constitution) would be from the First and Tenth Amendments. The First Amendment does not allow conditions to be placed on our right to peaceably assemble. “You can assemble if you wear a blue shirt, etc.” For the Tenth, the Constitution is an express powers document, meaning that in order for the federal government to have the right to do something, it needs to be expressly authorized by the Constitution. All other rights and responsibilities are reserved to the states or to the people. Now I take this as meaning the break out of rights and responsibilities between the states and the people in them that were in place at the time the Constitution was adopted, and our legal traditions know nothing of the kind of restrictions being placed on us now. In other words, the government does not give us our rights. We have them from God, and this includes my right not to have to wear a secular burka because of a manufactured crisis.
In your interaction with Liam about mask-wearing (Letters, July 28th 2020), you say the situation is analogous to the weaker brother in Romans rather than the one in 1 Corinthians.
But in Romans 14, I’m struck by “if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love” and “it is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble . . . let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”
I’m reading Paul as saying, “If your Christian brother is convinced that eating meat is wrong, you should exercise love for that brother by not tucking into a medium-rare sirloin in front of them.” Or to put it another way, “If you know your Christian brother is grieved by your mask-wearing — because they’re convinced that not wearing a mask falls foul of the command to love one another — then you should exercise love for that brother by wearing a mask in their presence.”
Where is my exegesis going wrong? It’s been a while since seminary :)
PS Love the Spotify playlist.
Barry, we have to balance two things. One is our willingness to accommodate the weaker brother, and the other should be a refusal to put the weaker brother in charge of everything. Paul says in one place that he will not eat meat or drink wine forever, for the sake of a weaker brother, but then in Colossians he rebukes them for submitting to decrees, saying “do not taste, do not touch,” etc. I reconcile these stances by saying that we should be truly malleable when it comes to our personal interactions with Mr. X, but that Mr. X’s fears should not become the de facto elder board.
On A Land Where Nobody Smiles:
You mentioned WSU essentially closing their doors. Do you think there is a certain amount of excuse-mongering among colleges that would be gathering the sophomoric student body fresh from protesting activities? COVID seems like a pretty convenient excuse to weather a different kind of storm.
Kate, yes, that is a possibility. Although their consensus appears to be that the virus has graciously agreed not to attend their protests.
Thank you for your post on Dr. John MacArthur. Refreshing!
Gordon, thanks. I am most grateful that he is taking this stand.
Re: Our Galvanizing Grandfather. As a churchgoer in the SF Bay Area, I am shocked and dismayed at the negative reactions Dr. MacArthur has received from my church leadership and (anecdotally) most other Christians in the area. I find myself being the one guy standing up and cheering in the stands for Dr. MacArthur while everyone else looks on in horror not knowing how best to slink into the background. The refrain from my milquetoast brethren is (almost to a man) is “What about the people’s health?? How can the church meet under such circumstances?!?!?”
One of the things that angers me most (and I am hopping, spitting mad right now) is the assumption on the part of most Christians that the government is playing straight with us over this illness. It’s been my experience that when the government is lying to us, they are just dead wrong anyway. They lied to us about weapons about mass destruction. They lie to us about babies being just a cluster of cells and that it’s ok to cut them up in the womb and sell the parts. They lie to us and tell us that boys can be girls because feelings are more definitional to a person than DNA–unless its ethnicity DNA, then a person can’t decide anything and must go out ant protest, which is totally ok in the pandemic–but if you try to go to church, hoo boy, public enemy number one, you are. Remember when we were told that the bottom of the food pyramid was carbs and we had to eat more of that than anything? Fat was bad, but sugar was good? We left “trust but verify” in this relationship long, long, ago.
If the government was a person, we would avoid them at all possible cost because we couldn’t trust a thing that came out of their mouth. Yet here we are, the church, accepting the world’s narrative because we want to LOOK caring, but most of us aren’t willing to do the work to find out what that truthfully is.
I’m thankful for what Dr. MacArthur did because this is a fight we need to have. Right. Now. The government is flexing its muscles on us, trying to corner us, to see how far we’ll go. By pushing back now, we set the tone for the bigger fights which are inevitably coming (Thank you Justice Gorsuch). And, here, in Northern California, my elders are so concerned about how they LOOK to the world that they have lost sight of who God has called them to BE.
Which, as I think about it, is something that is so very Californian. God help us all and pray for us.
David, yes, and thank you. Speaking of “how far we’ll go” in this test run of theirs, I was frankly astonished that Dr. Fauci suggested goggles. And then, after that, deep-sea diver helmets . . .
Our Galvanizing Grandfather: Substitute the name Doug Wilson with J.M. and you see where I stand on the subject. ;-)
Rebecca, thanks. But I am still just a side character. As the circus devolves into chaos, I am a clown off to the side, providing color commentary.
Thank you for the article, “Our Galvanizing Grandfather.” You were quoted by John MacArthur today on The Eric Metaxas Radio Show. Your public acknowledgment of John MacArthur’s godly stance is commendable. And your comments about the role men in the church are called by God to demonstrate are excellent. Your sister-in-law sent this to me and my husband and I are passing it forward to encourage the Christian men we know that are starving to hear these truths reiterated. Some are being persecuted by their own church elders for taking the same position. Thankfully, these are men with backbones. Unfortunately, they are the minority.
Your article supports, strengthens and revitalizes them, while concurrently admonishing and exposing those leaders shrinking in their duties to their flock. May God bless you for obediently speaking the truth and may His hand of protection be over you and all your family and congregation.
Renée, thanks very much.
I live minutes from Grace Church and have visited many times over the years. I’ve never come away disappointed or in disagreement with the preached message but blessed and refreshed by the Word preached. I always marveled when they had guest speakers like Al Martin and RC Sproul, given the distinctions in theology.
The church is known for MacArthur’s ministry but it goes way beyond one man. They operate a Christian school, seminary and college. Their bookstore is filled with titles you can’t find outside of online sources and include the Puritans, VanTil, Bahnsen, Frame and just about every Reformed author you can imagine.
I considered Grace as a home church when we first moved into the area in the ’70s until I became aware of the emphasis on their premil, pretrib, dispensational eschatology. While it’s impossible to find a church in southern Cal that has postmil leanings, I just couldn’t align with what I considered aberrant theology and expose my children to it with regularity. MacArthur’s ministry has always been an anomaly to me. He will brilliantly preach about Calvinism, Reformation doctrine and our victory in reaching the nations, then turn on a dime and place these victories into the distant future of after the ”Rapture.”
His stand against Emperor Newsom is somewhat surprising because he has taught the message of ”this world is not our home” for over 50 years. Many of the church members I’ve talked with during election time went so far as to vote for the other candidate to hasten the Lord’s return. This is based on the premise that things must wax worse and worse before he comes, the influence of end-time teaching they are subjected to.
We used to say it’s as though MacArthur ”checked his brains out” every time he switched into Rapture mode. Just about everything else you can take to the bank.
I may sound critical but I have always honored this ministry for being faithful to the Gospel, growing it’s influence and outreach through it’s educational arms and doing it all in the middle of the satanic hotbed of So Cal. Grace truly does much more abound. Thank God for John and the Church for such a time as this.
David, thanks for seeing those things which matter most.
My Dear Douglas — Thanks for endorsing Dr. MacArthur as a spokesman for Christianity in the US. No other notes.
Frank, dance with the one what brung ya.
RE: Our Galvanizing Grandfather
Thank you for this post; well said. I encourage you to please keep John and his leadership on this in our consciousness.
Dave, you are welcome, and I will try.
Some Bad Information
The Antifa teachers thing looks to be dodgy, I’m afraid. Thought you’d like to know.
David, thanks, and yes. I corrected it in last week’s Content Cluster, and will have a retraction this coming Thursday. We must never forget that the Right has its lies and liars also.
A Birth Control Question
Hello! I hope and pray that you are faring well in our crazy times.
My question concerns 11 Theses on Birth Control, particularly concerning the dangers of hormonal birth control methods. My wife has been on hormonal birth control (the Pill) for medical reasons unrelated to conception (she wasn’t sexually active until our marriage last year) since she was in middle school. These conditions are still present.
Is intercourse, then, essentially playing Roulette with a child’s life? If so, how should we move forward in our marriage?
With deepest appreciation for your ministry,
Anonymous, I am afraid I would need to know a lot more about your situation before giving any advice. The questions I would have would include whether her condition precludes having children at all, whether there are alternative treatments for her condition, etc.
An Old Routine
Actual footage of “head bumps with Reformed, postmillennial, presuppositional, paedobaptistic, and Presbyterian brethren”:
Kyriosity, well, that was something.
George MacDonald Again
On the subject of “Is MacDonald Really All That?”, I’m curious to know if there are any particular MacDonald books that make you call the majority of his fiction “hack writing,” and his theology the same?
Mind, I’m not necessarily challenging your view; I’ve only read one MacDonald book, The Princess and the Goblin—the Canon Press edition, in fact. I’m merely trying to get acquainted with this evidence you speak of that would mean he’s perhaps not the masterful predecessor to Lewis that I was led to believe he was . The recent exchange between you and Mr. Philip on the subject slapped me pretty hard, as I have never before heard anything like what you’re saying applied to MacDonald.
Rivers, MacDonald was a universalist, believing that everyone would eventually be saved. At the same time, he was a shrewd judge of character, and believed that no one would be saved apart from a repentance that went all the way to the bottom. His insights there are what Lewis found valuable, I believe. Lewis collected a number of his sayings in an anthology which is quite good. His “romances” are the things he wrote to make a living. In my judgment, the Curdie books are the books he wrote that will last.
A Question About Hell
In a recent sermon and “Mere Fundamentalism,” you mention the concept of “further up and further in,” where our capacity for joy will increase in the New Creation. I have two questions on this. How does the idea of a degrees of reward apply to this and does this same principle apply to eternal punishment — that Hell will become more hellish at time goes on? Again, how does the idea of degrees of punishment apply to this?
Sam, I believe that capacity for joy is nature of the reward in Heaven, all of it a function of relationship and capacity for relationship. Life eternal is an ocean of joy, and one man arrives there as a thimble and another as a fifty gallon drum. They are both submerged in the joy, and both are absolutely full, containing nothing else. There is no envy, and the thimble, going further up and further in, will eventually get where the fifty gallon drum is now. Now I do believe that there is a likely counterpart to this in damnation, but there are additional problems I frankly have not worked out. The redeemed have infinite gladness to grow up into, while the damned are deteriorating down toward the void. And it seems odd to have increased capacity for misery the closer you are to the utter emptiness. And it should be kept in mind that, when it comes to the precise nature of damnation, we have very little revelation on the subject, and so we should acknowledge our tentative speculations to be such.
That Spotify Playlist of Mind
On The Letters to the Point Playlist –
Doug I noticed you listed Van Morrison a few times in your playlist.
I was wondering if you have ever listened to his, No Guru No Method No Teacher work.
My wife and I, especially when alone, have found this to be one of the best and mutually enjoyable to listen through. In The Garden is inescapably thought provoking and transports one into better thoughts of our future together in Christ.
Just a thought and an encouragement for your consideration.
As always thank you. You really are the man for this time.
Rob, thanks for the tip. Started listening to it yesterday.
I saw your playlist today in this week’s letters… I’m not sure if you’re familiar with him, but David Ramirez warrants a listen. He has similarities to Johnny Cash, and his older stuff is particularly insightful (“I’ve been loyal to the wants of my lustful heart and unfaithful to my friend Love”) and a better observer of the human heart and condition than many modern worship songs, though he himself is not likely a believer. The Forgiven, Fire of Time, Bad Days, Rock and a Hard Place, and Good Heart are just a few of his best songs.
DT, thanks. I will check him out.
A Couple of Letters Relating to Greek Orthodoxy
I am a longtime fan of your thoughtful discourse, from the Credenda/Agenda era through the the internet age. About myself: I was raised LCMS, but have been in the Eastern Orthodox Church for 36 years (I am 63). I have a question about the Reformed worldview. We know the issues that the sixteenth-century Reformers had concerning Roman Catholic faith and practice. But was their viewpoint too “local?” What I mean is that most of the practices condemned by the Reformers as Roman abuses are also found in all the ancient Churches claiming apostolic foundation, but outside the influence of Rome. Among these I would include the Byzantine, Armenian, Georgian, Syrian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Chaldean, and Indian. How could all these ancient Churches have similar faith and practice (Christological controversies notwithstanding) while developing outside the influence of Rome? Surely these practices did not arise from western European medievalism, as is often implied by Protestants since the time of the Reformation. How could they all independently fall into the same errors or apostasy? How could they all get it so wrong, for so long, while a small group of Northern Europeans suddenly find enlightenment? I would enjoy having your viewpoint on this. Thank you very much for considering my question.
Basil, thanks for the question, which I will try to answer as respectfully as I can. The Reformed challenge would grant these similarities that you mention, and would attribute them to the inveterate religious nature of man. Man hungers for tangible worship, and this veers into idolatry with very little encouragement. As to your point about one small group finding “enlightenment,” another thing that all the churches revered in common was the authority of Scripture. The Reformation happened as a result of the Scriptures, which all acknowledged as authoritative, being printed and made widely available in the vernacular. So the impetus of the Reformation was ad fontes, back to the sources. So you are right that we see a great deal of commonality across all the communions you mention. But I don’t find that kind of worship in my New Testament and, in addition, I don’t find it in the churches of the first three centuries.
I was raised Greek Orthodox and dunking babies was a given.
Fast forward, I’ve been born-again since 1982. Having been a Protestant since then, I’ve never thought that anyone in the faith can account for babies being baptized.
I do not see where this is happening in the Scriptures. Did I miss something?
Why would YOU believe babies should be baptized?
PS . . . I enjoy your writings.
Dede, thanks for the question. It is a huge subject, and I have written a book on the subject which you can find here if you are interested in pursuing it. The form of infant baptism that we practice is covenantal and Presbyterian, which is quite distinct from the approach you grew up with. In short, we believe that baptism is a mark of the covenant, and that children in believing families are organically part of the covenant. The comparison would be to the fact that in the Old Covenant, infants were circumcised, also as a sign of the covenant. But in order to be a true son or daughter of the covenant, the child who is baptized must grow up into a living and evangelical faith in Christ. Water saves no one, but it does obligate us to believe and be saved.
Another Book Plug
Just wanted to say thank you for your helpful little book, Ploductivity!
After the lock down began here in Peru (Mar 16), yours was the first book I began to “plod” through, and I give you the credit for encouraging me to read more, even if only in small bites throughout the day.
So instead of my usual 1-2 books per quarter, I’ve now read about two dozen books since April! (I even borrowed from my son’s ND Wilson stash to find great non-fiction)
After finishing your book in early April, I wrote this little review/recommendation on my blog: here.
If your readers haven’t read Ploductivity already, maybe my words here (and my review) will encourage them to do so!
Eugene, thanks very much.