All Kinds of Responses
I sighed with relief and felt the burden lift as I read through your article, Littlejohn, MacArthur, and the Binding of Conscience.
You touched on three things that have troubled me since the beginning. First, the question of who is now regulating the churches’ worship. Second, concern about the church and it’s ministers playing handmaid to the state and enforcing those regulations.
The state may indeed attempt to regulate the churches’ worship. But the minister of the gospel is way outside his lane if he attempts to enforce those regulations. If the state wants to know what we’re up to they should send their own goons.
And thirdly, the deterioration of love for neighbour. It is sad to see brother’s dividing over lines drawn by the state. It is sad to see fearful brothers in Christ chastising others from behind soggy masks for not being more afraid.
May God continue to give you fresh words to help settle the sheep.
Littlejohn, MacArthur, and the Binding of Conscience
Well, as much as I like Baxter, he was wrong. The church doesn’t have a duty to obey government, only God; they area different sphere. It may be wise for them to do so in a lot of cases, but not mandatory. The government can bind individuals if they align with the Bible and the Constitution but that’s a high bar.
Lance, sorry, but this would be an area where I would agree with Littlejohn (and with the Reformers). We disagree in application, as I explained, but in principle I think Littlejohn and I would both say that there are areas where the magistrate can, from within his lane, command something, and the believers’ response should be one of obedience. I certainly don’t believe that this obligation applies in every instance, but I do believe that it applies somewhere (1 Pet. 2:13).
RE: Littlejohn and MacArthur
One of the main things happening to Christians in this COVID panic is that we are being subjected to a barrage of doubt-inducing argumentation and propaganda. So much of it seems targeted to produce inaction through uncertainty. I’m sure there’s a psyops term for that. Every sane man can see that the lock downs are very probably the biggest assault on civil rights in our nation’s history. But maybe, possibly, there’s a chance that it isn’t. And so we must all keep quiet and let it happen.
There is a lot riding on the judgment call about whether this is or isn’t inexcusable tyranny. I blame no one for wanting certainty before acting.
That said, I believe there is a way of proving that it is tyranny, and doing so based on the public statements of our various state governments. When they declared that they would decide what was essential and non-essential in our lives they told us that they were taking over all of our value judgments. Their own statements make clear they were not merely assessing risk, they were substituting their value judgments for ours. This is why casinos, churches, abortion clinics, and gun shops all receive different treatment.
Americans have until now had the right to make their own judgments about the importance of assembling for various causes. Some of us think that’s in the 1st Amendment. It would be one thing for governments to recommend or even require social distancing. That would be a matter of specifying how to safely assemble. It is quite a different thing for them to begin deciding which assemblies are important and which are not.
The latter is what they have explicitly done, and it would be tyranny even if the coronavirus were as severe as the Black Death.
Nathan, thank you.
Littlejohn, MacArthur, and the Binding of Conscience
I attend a CREC church and our congregation is divided. Many of us agree with you and MacArthur; however, our pastor whom we love and respect is opposed to your position regarding the mask ordinance and posted the Littlejohn essay written against MacArthur. He is posting articles that warn us to avoid you and others in Moscow. He told me I should NOT attend the conference in TN and that Crosspolitic was reprehensible and that they should be ashamed of themselves because of how they mock others. The list of complaints goes on and on. I wish you, him, LIttlejohn and MacArthur could get in the same room and have this conversation.
The basis of his whole argument and how the session has decided to rule is 1 Peter 2:13. He said we have lawyers at our church who write legislation at the city capital who have studied the Constitution. He says you are in error when it comes to American history, how our government works and the Constitution in general. I was disheartened to hear this. I am new to the reformed community and you are the main person who influenced me into joining this church. I’m afraid many families have left the church, at least temporarily, until they no longer force us to wear masks.
I have been profoundly influenced by you and your ministry. My wife and I are currently meeting with one of our elders once a week and listening to your 39 sermons on marriage (one/week). We thank God for you and I look forward to meeting you in TN.
Peter, thank you. Don’t take any offense on my account. As you respected your pastor before, continue to respect him now. Differing with him need not be disrespectful.
I read a recent Tweet you sent about COVID-19 from “Swiss Policy Research.”
Could I ask you how much you know about this organisation, and why you think we should trust it?
I ask this because I started to dig into a bit and noted that no names of any owners, founders, writers, academics, or editors are mentioned, nor is address for the organisation given, and also a random examinations of citations I checked were spurious or not peer reviewed.
SPR also cite articles from a website called “Off Guardian” which is known for its pro-Russian and anti-Ukraine propaganda, and also for illegally using the front page logo of the British newspaper, The Guardian, to deceive readers into thinking there is an affiliation between the two.
I sense you just read this piece and liked what it was saying, and assumed it must be scientifically correct. But I’d rather hear your take on SPR.
Brendan, I don’t know anything about SPR. A friend sent me the link, and it had a number of things I already knew gathered in one place. I would certainly be willing to disavow them if I knew they were nutters, but in determining that I would need to know more than the fact that they write anonymously, that some of their info is considered “spurious,” and that some of it is not peer-reviewed. We live in a time when a man can lose his job for having a positive view of hydroxychloroquine, and the guy who sacks him could easily be someone who writes peer-reviewed articles.
Last week in the August 4th letters, “Midwest Reader” asked about not taking communion because his elders were considering serving the Supper in masks and gloves. You responded: “Certainly I don’t think it would have been wrong to bow out.”
I’m a pastor in the Middle East, and have largely been insulated from the politics of masking in the US. But I was stunned by Midwest Reader’s elevation of masking to that level as well as your approval of his thinking. We’ve been marching through Hebrews as a church and happened to be on Hebrews 13:17–18 this week. If elders masking up for the Lord’s Supper rises to the level of disengaging from the fellowship of the Table then Hebrews 13:17–18 means next to nothing. Midwest Reader might be correct about masking and their effectiveness; He might be correct about the government’s role in playing to fears, overreach, etc., but in my estimation, what he needs more than anything in this situation is to talk to his elders, get over himself, and do his duty.
I’m thankful to the Lord for your ministry.
John, we may have had a misunderstanding somewhere. I thought I was answering his question about bowing out of helping to serve communion–not bowing out of receiving it.
In our town (Moscow) there are two “parties” regarding the C-19 issue. I will call them the Mayor Lambert party and the Doug Wilson party. If we were to hold a referendum, the Wilson party would have maybe 15% support – Christ Church, libertarians, etc. Mayor Lambert would have the majority by far. Doug, a sometimes reader of radical literature, has done a fine ju’jitsu. He claims that everyone in the majority camp are anxious, guilty of scientism, etc. Meanwhile his own cult following in the Kirk, those in their 20’s and 30’s who care about such issues, has reached a fevered pitch about life in the gulag, etc. Beautiful switcheroo. Agit-prop at its finest. One last thing: the mayor and council, democratically elected have authority over the city on matters like the public health. If they tell you to boil your water, you might choose not to comply, but it might be for the general public good. The mayor and council have authority over the whole city. Doug Wilson can object and complain, but in my view Mayor Lambert has been gracious with him. He is a much more gracious man than Doug.
Fred, the fact that leaders of cities in America are democratically elected has been no barrier at all when it comes to them destroying their cities. Who has been democratically elected if not the leaders of Portland, Seattle, Chicago, and Minneapolis? And while we have been blessed by the absence of riots here, who is responsible for having peacefully devastated the economy of our small town? That kind of thing can be done with a smile, and by a man who is personally affable. And over what? Idaho was certainly touched by COVID, but was spared the serious harm that other states faced. COVID deaths in Idaho are right around the number of flu season fatalities just several years ago. On top of that, Latah County was right near the bottom compared to other counties in Idaho. We have had no hospitalizations, and no deaths. And that means that virtually all of the significant damage we will experience will have been inflicted by our local government.
As for some of your other jabs (e.g. “cult following”), I think you know better. But at least we can assume, since graciousness is highly valued by you, that you meant it graciously.
I am trying to narrow my focus for what are the main “good things” and the main “evil things” in our present culture. Here’s what I’ve got so far for “biggest evils”:
Our general belittling of God: Our Almighty Creator is gagged and despised throughout the land.
Our killing of babies in the womb: Murder by the millions (862,000 killed in America in 2017).
Our pornography: The cancerous opiate of the masses. (Perhaps 50% of all adults are regular users?)
Our absent fathers: Dad’s living for themselves, abdicating God-given responsibilities.
Here’s what I’ve got for “biggest ‘good’s’”
Our Constitution and it’s amendments
Our inherited Judeo-Christian values
Our abundant natural resources and geographical beauty
Our extremely high standard of living, with a huge middle-class.
Do you think this is accurate? Any that you would add or change? Thanks so much for your wisdom and example in the faith.
Craig, I think that would be a good outline of the way things are.
Hello, I would just like to pass on my family’s gratitude to Canon Press and to the Wilson family. My husband and I began Sabbath meals at our home a year ago last weekend after hearing about the Wilson Clan’s Sabbath meals. We don’t live near much family so it’s been an open invite to any friends, neighbors, and anyone who would like a hot meal and great fellowship. My husband does the main dish and I bake the bread. My teens have formed lasting bonds with friends through these meals. We’ve gotten to know our neighbors, and new families at church. People can’t believe we want to do this every weekend but it has been such a blessing. Please let them know that their habits have become a legacy for another family in Texas. We are so grateful for their sharing.
Emily, thanks for this. And it only gets better.
Single and Isolated
Thanks for your thoughtful, reasoned writing seasoned with salt. Really appreciate it mentally and spiritually. Keep that fire burning.
My question is, without too much background: as a single woman whose dad is not in control of my life or finances (and he is not in my mind responsible for me as I am old enough to have had a few kids by now), what am I to do when stuff really starts to pinch? I’m trying to have courage and date, but men are generally, understandably, not so marriage-minded right now. What advice would you give a single daughter in this scary time of trial and tribulation? Our consolation is in the presence and salvation of God; I just hope to be protected from my own, emotional decision-making process.
This might be a tough one. Hope you can help.
All the best to you in your ministries.
Your friend in CA,
Rachel, my answer would depend on the nature of your relationship with your father. If he is out your life by his choice, that is one thing. If he would like to be involved in it, but has seriously disqualified himself somehow, that is another. If it just kind of happened, even though you have a good relationship still, then that is yet another situation. I obviously don’t know the circumstances. But if it something like the first two scenarios, I would pray for some kind of godly input you could seek out as situations arise (uncle? brother? older couple at church?). If the third situation, I would start calling your dad up from time to time in order to seek his advice on various things. Try to grow back into it.
Where You Are
Hi, this is in reference to articles you have written about guilt. How would you counsel a couple that got married 10+ years ago when the wife was 15 and the husband was 21 that are now, because of current events/greater awareness of the world feeling guilty about their marriage? The marriage was legal, and they had parental consent. What is the biblical way of thinking about this type of situation?
LG, the good news is that God takes you from where you are, not from where you should have been. It seems to me that what you should do is sit down together, confess to God your lack of wisdom in how you married, thank Him for your marriage now, then forget it and move on.
Every Broken Bone Set
You wrote: “Life eternal is an ocean of joy . . .”
I fully look forward to such an eternity and at the same cannot possibly fathom how that could even be possible apart from pure grace. But one verse about eternity in heaven that has always struck me is Rev. 3:4, where we are told that He will wipe away every tear . . .
Why would there be tears in heaven? I don’t think this is just a metaphorical description, and I can think of a few reasons why such an occurrence will happen, but I am curious as to your thoughts?
Guymon, I have always taken it as an expression that means that in Heaven He will wipe away every tear that was shed here, in this life. He will set every broken bone, but they were broken here, not there.
I have recently watched “An Evening of Eschatology” on the “Desiring God” YouTube channel. I also just finished your book “When the Man Comes Around”.
My upbringing was that of a Fundamental Baptist and our eschatology was Dispensational Pre-trib Premillennialism. I have recently been introduced to the Partial-Preterist Postmillennial view by my close friend, and I believe it to be the truth.
As a Dispensationalist I was taught that the book of Revelation was written c. 90AD. As a young person I had trouble with this point as it would have made John very, very old. And that would be a stretch for the first century.
In “An Evening of Eschatology” you said that you believed not only Revelation, but the entirety of the new testament was completed by 70 AD. I was wondering if you would be willing to share what evidence, or support you have of that belief.
Paul, the only serious difficulty here is the dating of the book of Revelation. I would recommend Ken Gentry’s book, The Dating of Revelation for a thorough treatment. What a late date for Revelation boils down to is an ambiguous statement made by Irenaeus, and how we interpret it. The evidence for an early date is largely internal to the book. The seven heads are seven kings . . .
Masculine or Male?
This is very unrelated to most of your recent questions—but you seemed like a good person to ask this.
I’ve been wrestling with the question of gendered referential language about God recently. Jesus (and all the Bible) teaches God is Spirit. So God is unconstrained by corporeality. And the opening chapters of Genesis teach both male and female were created in God’s image. So, both genders possess the divine image.
Yet, of course, Scripture primarily uses masculine language to speak of God: Lord, King, Husband—and the Triune name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And the Son incarnated as an irreducibly male human.
Does this mean God is somehow metaphysically male? If so, then what does is mean for God to be spirit and for both male and female to receive God’s image?
CC, I think the best way to deal with this is to limit the words male and female as biological characteristics. God is not male because He is Spirit, and has no body. But God is masculine, and He reveals Himself to us as a Father. Consequently, the metaphysical reality is masculinity.
Thank you for making me realize what true freedom is, and that I love it after all. For several years, I have thought that I hated freedom, because I heard it used to justify vulgar blasphemy and pornography. This is an issue that many Christians are confused about, and needs to be addressed. I have heard intelligent, otherwise admirable Christians say that censorship is wrong because “everyone should have access to all ideas” or that if one thing is banned, everything could be banned. But that does not seem to reflect reality, and until recently, even the world knew that. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said he could tell pornography when he could see it, and in 2013 my logic professor, a (moral, God-respecting) socialist agnostic who claimed (perhaps inaccurately) to be far more liberal than the democrats, demonstrated that while it is hard to say exactly when something becomes pornographic, it would be ridiculous to say that there was no such thing as porn. Why do many people want to ban books and films about a little kid running naked in cake batter while very few people want to ban books and movies that have a brief and reasonably mild scene or two involving a naked little kid in the context of having just taken a bath? Well, the latter is natural and normal, while the former is gratuitous and bizarre, and much more likely to cause a child to stumble. Freedom should not be an idol, and true freedom involves being free from vice and sin, and preventing others from falling into those traps. As the Lord Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Thank you for helping me understand the truth about true freedom.
James, thanks for writing.
A Word from Up North
On Aphorisms on Liberty
I live in Canada, but when I bring up liberty I’m accused of “sounding like an American” (I have lived more than half my life here, but was born and raised in the US). One of my greatest challenges is to convince Canadians that limited government and personal liberty is not an American concept, but a Christian one.
I plan to post one of these each day, thus parring down my friend list.
Scott, just tell people that you sound like Canadians used to sound. And that you do have a lot in common with Americans who sound like Americans used to sound.
Concerning “Aphorisms on Liberty”:
I only counted 56 theses, not 95…
Ian, give me a minute . . .
Very powerful words, Pastor. Reading all the way through it was like drinking from a fire hose. But since that is a tired analogy, it was more like trying to eat a 72-ounce porterhouse in 30 minutes at Ralph’s Steakhouse because if you do, it’s free and you get your name added to a plaque next to “Big Al” Strumsky, who did it 28-flat.
Malachi, that’s a big honor. Goes with the steak.
Worth Printing in Full
The following is a letter I wrote to some of the lead elders of my church a week or so ago (I redacted the names in this version). I thought you might find it interesting given that you were the one who pointed me to the mask article published by the Univ of MN which I reference in the letter. It’s ironic because I’m a physician and adjunct faculty at the Univ of MN Medical School, but I missed it when it was published in April. I’m really glad you referenced it on your blog. A little while after you did, the president of the U then pointed to the follow up article I reference below. It makes for interesting reading. My letter is really long–I’m not sending it to you in hopes of you posting it (although feel free to do so if you think it helpful); I mainly wanted to commend you for your blog posts and give you some follow up on how the U dealt with the heresy they inadvertently published back in April (I guess they concluded they were on the wrong side of history with that April publication).
Oh and, if you’re wondering if the elders made any changes as a result of my letter, the answer is no (at least none that I can detect so far).
I am writing to you regarding face mask use during worship services particularly in light of the recent executive order by Governor Walz. For the sake of efficiency, I’ll make this more bullet point-ish rather than prose-y. This is a modification of what I wrote to Pastor ____ a few months ago when our church’s health care workers were solicited for input regarding masks—modified because of some information new to me since then.
I attached 2 articles which I’ll be referencing (I’ll reference as  and ):
 “Masks-for-all for COVID-19 not based on sound data” | CIDRAP – 4/1/2020 https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2020/04/commentary-masks-all-covid-19-not-based-sound-data
CIDRAP is the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, a UMN research institute
This article was published by CIDRAP on 4/1/2020, self-consciously as stated in the first sentence “in response to the stream of misinformation and misunderstanding about the nature and role of masks and respirators as source control or personal protective equipment . . .”
Authors: an ScD scientist and a PhD scientist, both professors at the U of Illinois – their expertise: respiratory safety and infectious diseases
It’s a commentary which cites 50 scientific studies as evidence to make conclusions.
This is really important to note because this is not “just one study”—the basis is on dozens of studies done prior to the pandemic (the studies initiated less 6 months ago specifically at COVID-19 and now being published are subject to significant bias and error due to the very short term nature inherent to such studies, not to mention the politically charged atmosphere).
 “My views on cloth face coverings for the public for preventing COVID-19” | CIDRAP – 7/22/2020 https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2020/07/commentary-my-views-cloth-face-coverings-public-preventing-covid-19
Author: Michael Osterholm, a PhD scientist and the Director of CIDRAP
Intent: a response to “anti-mask” and “pro-mask” people whom he claims have misrepresented CIDRAP data—particularly its data in article 1 (attached)
He states in paragraph 3, to be “crystal clear”, that “I support the wearing of cloth face coverings (masks) by the general public”
He doesn’t address the fact that he is directly contradicting what CIDRAP (and he, being the director) stated in 
He then goes on to actually defend the analysis from  which clearly recommends NOT wearing masks by the general public (see title of )
This is remarkable.
It was painful for me to read his “walk back” of  as he was embarrassing himself by contradicting himself and provided no reasoning for the reversal (in fact, the opposite). I wonder if he was “blinking Morse code” to his scientist peers to communicate that he really doesn’t believe in his reversal (since all the reasoning in his commentary addressed the defense of cloth masks being ineffective) but instead really was under duress by the UMN president?
Background: I received an email from the U president since I’m on faculty at the U in which  was linked for the readers (faculty, staff, students) to get “on board” with mask wearing.
Mask use by the general public is ineffective in protecting others or the wearers from SARS-CoV-2 (virus name which causes COVID-19) transmission.
Implications for our church:
Wearing masks by all during worship services do not protect one another from getting COVID.
We should not imply in any way that wearing masks by all will protect our high-risk congregants (high-risk for dying if they get COVID—diabetes, heart disease, etc.)
This is especially true if we continue to require masks during all services—any implication that we communicate to high-risk congregants that having everyone wear masks will protect them is dangerous to them, therefore, unloving.
So, please, at least, do not say in any way that we are wearing masks on the basis of it being protective to our neighbor (and therefore “loving our neighbor”).
One can make an argument for us to wear masks because the governor requires it (although, an argument could be made that his executive order actually increases risk of harm; therefore, the loving thing to do would be to not follow it)—but not because science has shown mask-wearing by the general public to be effective against COVID.
Feel free to forward this to whomever you think would benefit from it (or whomever you’d like to have scrutinize it for soundness of logic and content)—I sent this to you since I had your email addresses (I don’t have the addresses of the other elders). And, of course, I’m happy to discuss this with any of you further. You are in my prayers, that the Lord would give you wisdom as you lead our church—I don’t at all take for granted the weight of that responsibility on your shoulders.
Grace and peace to you.
COMMENTARY/ Masks-for-all for COVID-19 not based on sound data | CIDRAP (April 2020)
Citing 50 actual studies (experimental data):
paragraph 3, 1st sentence:
“We do not recommend requiring the general public who do not have symptoms of COVID-19-like illness to routinely wear cloth or surgical masks”
paragraph 5, paragraph 1
“source control (meaning the wearer limits virus dispersal to another person)”
“personal protective equipment (PPE)” – meaning, protecting the wearer from getting infected
Conclusions – paragraph 2 and 3 of the conclusions section
“Cloth masks are ineffective as source control and PPE, surgical masks have some role to play in preventing emissions from infected patients, and respirators are the best choice for protecting healthcare and other frontline workers, but not recommended for source control. These recommendations apply to pandemic and non-pandemic situations.
Leaving aside the fact that they are ineffective, telling the public to wear cloth or surgical masks could be interpreted by some to mean that people are safe to stop isolating at home. It’s too late now for anything but stopping as much person-to-person interaction as possible.”
COMMENTARY/ My views on cloth face coverings for the public for preventing COVID-19 | CIDRAP (July 2020)
“Again, I want to make it very clear that I support the use of cloth face coverings by the general public. “
Author then goes on to argue against the use of cloth face coverings by the general public:
“In the same vein, we must not conflate the sheer number of recent studies on cloth face coverings with quality. A series of papers have been published in recent weeks addressing the effectiveness of cloth face coverings, but they collectively lack scientific rigor for a variety of reasons, including a much-touted meta-analysis that did not even include studies of cloth face coverings in the community but rather included studies largely on surgical masks and N95 respirators used in healthcare settings. “
“While the science on this issue remains ongoing, numerous limitations have plagued studies completed to this point, complicating any meaningful judgment as to the role that cloth face coverings can play in helping control this pandemic. Quality data assessing the effectiveness of cloth face coverings are still lacking, as noted by Roger Chou, MD, and colleagues in a recent rapid review article and follow-up letter in the Annals of Internal Medicine. “
“The statement about ‘sweeping mask recommendations’ is well-supported by citations further down in the article. As of this writing, few data support that cloth face coverings will help flatten the curve. In countries and cities where mask wearing is more likely to be followed by most of the population, there are now significant and ongoing outbreaks. “
paragraph 30, 31 (the “authors” mentioned here are the ones of —he’s defending them, that cloth masks are no good against viruses which are really tiny, then he goes on to “double down”)
“The authors found very few studies of the fit of cloth face coverings. But, drawing from their extensive expertise with respirators and surgical masks and the limited data on cloth face coverings, they concluded that, because cloth face coverings demonstrate very low filter efficiency for the smaller particles generated during breathing and talking, even a well-fitting face covering would not be very effective at lowering the emission or inhalation of small infectious particles.
The data today are even more strongly supportive of close-range small-particle inhalation than they were when the commentary was published, as evidenced by (1) a recent letter to the WHO from 239 scientists describing the importance of small particle inhalation as an important mode of transmission and (2) a high amount of presymptomatic and asymptomatic transmission—that is, without large droplets from coughing and sneezing. “
Paul, thanks very much. And to everyone else, sorry about the formatting above.