In some fine reporting over at the Daily Wire, Megan Basham has detailed how the federal governemnt used evangelical leaders to spread COVID propoganda. Basham cites several interviews between leading evangelicals and Francis Collins, the Barrack Obama appointed Director of the National Institutes of Heath. Several well-known names appear in the piece, including Russell Moore, Tim Keller, The Gospel Coalition, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and Christianity Today.
In the interviews, Collins, a member of the federal government, partners with evangelical leaders to provide moral imperatives to the church of God. And Basham goes on to show that Mr. Collins’ positions on abortion and LGBTQ sexual perversion leaves him in no position to do so. Here is a brief sampling from Basham’s article:
“Former megachurch pastor Tim Keller’s joint interview with Collins included a digression where the pair agreed that churches like John MacArthur’s, which continued to meet in-person despite Covid lockdowns, represented the “bad and ugly” of good, bad, and ugly Christian responses to the virus.”
“While a webinar featuring Collins and then-ERLC-head Russell Moore largely centered, again, on the importance of pastors convincing church members to get vaccinated, the discussion also moved on to the topic of masks. With Moore nodding along, Collins held up a basic, over-the-counter cloth square, “This is not a political statement,” he asserted. “This is not an invasion of your personal freedom…This is a life-saving medical device.”
“[Rick] Warren and Collins spent their interview jointly lamenting the unlovingness of Christians who question the efficacy of masks, specifically framing it as a matter of obedience to Jesus. “Wearing a mask is the great commandment: love your neighbor as yourself,” the best-selling author of “The Purpose-Driven Life” declared, before going on to specifically argue that religious leaders have an obligation to convince religious people to accept the government’s narratives about Covid.”
Basham has demonstrated that the Federal Government indeed used evangelical leaders to spread COVID propoganda. But, I would like to press the point further to a central problem, one that the bride of Christ must get straight on because it is going to come up again. That problem is that the government partnered with evangelical leaders in an attempt to muzzle the kingdom of God. When Collins joined these evangelicals on their platforms, they took upon themselves the right to instruct ordained ministers as to how they should shephered and govern the church of God. Ecclesiastical authority is of course given to the ordained ministers, elders, and pastors. And it is manifestly not given to the federal government. Even so, these interviews involved exhortations to pastors to put forward public heatlh measures to their churches, promote vaccines, keep their churches closed, keep their peoples isolated, and masked up. Basham said it well, “Throughout all of it, Collins brought the message to the faithful through their preachers and leaders: ‘God is calling [Christians] to do the right thing.”
Brothers, We Have a Kingdom
The church of God is not an essential service. The church of God is the very kingdom of God on earth. Many well-meaning Christians insisted throughout COVID that the church was essential. Yet, that very language came from the state. The state deemed what services were essential and what services were not. And many in the church insisted to the state that the church must be categorized as essential. But, there is a deep and refined point of Christian doctrine, one that must be unearthed by careful analysis of the Greek. It teaches: The Church is not a Walmart.
If we would be ready for the next overreach of the state, then indeed we can start by turning a deaf ear to those evangelicals who were used by the state to spread COVID propoganda. But, we must immediately add to this first step a thorough acquaintance with the truth that the church of God is established by God and exists as a coequal sphere alongside the state. The state giving directives to the owners of a local hair salon is one thing. And the state giving directives to the church of God is another. My point is not to deny the civil government’s authority around sacred things. I grant it. My point is to remind the church that she indeed is an established authority and reality in the world, running alongside, not under, the state.
Once that point is settled, Christians must see that the kingdom of God, of which they are a part, is indeed coming on earth as it is in heaven. This means that the church of God maintains moral authority to declare the truth of God to the state. What we have in this article from the Daily Wire is clear examples of the preaching going in the wrong direction. Scott Manetsch has explained the situation in Geneva during the time of the Reformation, “Although Calvin and his pastoral colleagues did not possess formal civil authority, they did exercise substantial moral authority within Geneva due to their intellectual stature . . . as well as to the crucial role that the pulpit played in mass communication and indoctrination” (Calvin’s Company of Pastors, 27).
Our context is different, but our work of reformation is no less palpable. The church of God publicly assembles for the worship of the Triune God. In so doing, she reminds the city that there is a God in heaven who rules the kingdom of men (Daniel 4:17). By divine institution, individuals are solemnly admitted into the visible church through baptism. The Lord’s Supper is administered to a distinct and baptized people, while it is denied to those who have not been called out of darkness. In this table fellowship, the church proclaims the Lord’s death until He comes, again in public, formal, and assembled fashion. The Word of God is openly declared by ordained men and in so doing the kingdom of God is opened and those who were once outside of that kingdom are brought in.
These functions of the kingdom of God were suppressed by the government throughout COVID. And certain evangelical leaders found themselves aiding that very suppression. Due to the hyperspiritualized and individualized instincts of evangelicals, they by-and-large succumbed to that governmental suppression. And far too many officers of the church looked to the CDC for how they should govern, modeling their approach not off of the revealed Word, but the policies and procedures of their local Home Depot. All of that is double-plus no good. And now is an excellent time to review the game film and resolve not to the make the same mistakes again. There is no condemnation for us in Christ Jesus and the battle is very much still on. As we march forward, Chesterton’s hymn O God of Earth and Altar can be our theme song—
O God of earth and altar, bow down and hear our cry,
Our earthly rulers falter, our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us, the swords of scorn divide,
Take not thy thunder from us, but take away our pride.
From all that terror teaches, from lies of tongue and pen,
From all the easy speeches that comfort cruel men,
From sale and profanation of honour and the sword,
From sleep and from damnation, deliver us, good Lord.
Tie in a living tether the prince and priest and thrall,
Bind all our lives together, smite us and save us all;
In ire and exultation aflame with faith, and free,
Lift up a living nation, a single sword to thee.