Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary

29 Jun 2021

Government Regulations and the Gathering of the Church

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With Tim Stephens’s[1] recent arrest in Calgary, Alberta under the charge that his holding church worship gatherings outdoors was a violation of current health regulations, many have been arguing rather vociferously that Tim and other pastors in Alberta (like James Coates) are in clear violation of Scripture and, thus, deserve their current situation. The most common argument can be presented in a syllogism:

Premise 1: Christians/churches must submit to all government regulations unless there is a clear command/prohibition in Scripture to the contrary.

Premise 2: There is no clear command in Scripture that a church must gather

Conclusion: Therefore, Christians/churches are sinning when they gather for worship in violation of government regulations (i.e., not submitting to government regulations)

The conclusion of a syllogism cannot be valid if either premise is false. In this case, I think there is good reason to doubt both premises. To demonstrate that, I want to begin with the second premise, with plans to address the first premise in a future post.

Before we start, though, a couple of caveats are in order. First, I have no intention of determining what the best or right course of action is for churches in Canada, the U.S., or anywhere else. As I have already stated, I think “we should allow different churches to reach their conclusions about the wisdom of following the guidelines (out of deference) without accusing them of rebellion or cowardice.” Second, I am going to be assuming certain biblical and theological principles rather than trying to prove or demonstrate them. My goal is not to convert someone who would be largely skeptical and antagonistic to the belief that churches gathering for worship is important, but instead to encourage those who I think are, or should, largely be in agreement on the importance of church gatherings to think more carefully about possible ramifications and application.

Argument: There is no clear command in Scripture that a church must gather

Some have tried to center this debate on Hebrews 10:24–25 and whether this is a command for the church to gather or merely a prohibition against abandoning the assembly. While not dismissing the importance of determining exactly what that passage is saying, I would suggest that the conclusion is ultimately irrelevant for the question at hand.[2]

Suppose a government came out with the regulation that, from this time forward, Christians are not allowed to gather together for worship, full stop. Should we just never gather again for worship so that we do not violate the government restriction? I would hope that many of the pastors who are now urging churches to try to accommodate government restrictions would, in this situation, say that churches cannot comply with that requirement. In part, because it is absurd to conceptualize an “assembly” or “congregation” (i.e., what “church” actually means) that never assembles or congregates. In spite of all the bluster to the contrary, Bible-believing pastors and churches know that gathering to worship God is not ultimately optional. Whether or not it is a “command,” it is certainly an expectation of Scripture that almost all would agree is actually a requirement for a church to be a church. A church that does not gather would be violating God’s will.

(But wait: in the scenario I suggested, the government would be specifically targeting churches in prohibiting Christians to gather for worship, but that is not the case in the current situation. So perhaps the idea that current regulations are not targeting churches is why these pastors and churches would believe it is not necessary (or even permissible) to violate these current regulations. The idea of general applicability (i.e., the regulations are not specifically targeting Christians/churches) is an important principle in western and particularly American law. But where is this exception given in Scripture? You cannot argue honestly that you need to have a clear command in Scripture to the contrary in order to be allowed to violate government authority and then turn around and give an extra-biblical exception that government authority is not valid if it is targeted. At a minimum, you would need to amend Premise 1 to provide an additional exception or note that your argument is a legal one rather than a biblical one.)

I am actually surprised at how many people who should know better seem to be trumpeting the idea that the church is not required to gather: something I hope people recognize is actually a dangerous argument for the health of the church. But rather than being satisfied with showing how flawed the argument is, let’s instead steel man (opposite of straw man) the argument by refining it to its strongest position. Instead of the original premise 2, here is a better one that some have used:

Better Argument: There is no clear command in Scripture that a church must regularly gather, as a whole, in-person

Here we have added three additional elements: gathering regularly, gathering as a whole, and gathering in-person. Let’s briefly consider each, again with the caveat that I do not intend to present a developed argument for these practices in part because I think those claiming the novel Christian position bear the burden of proof, not those maintaining the historic Christian position (i.e., that churches must gather regularly, as a whole, and in-person). (For those who want to think more fully about this, see Jonathan Leeman’s recent book One Assembly),

Is the church required to gather regularly? If the church is required to gather, has it fulfilled its requirement if it only gathers once or twice a year? A few years ago I do not believe people were seriously questioning the idea that the church must gather regularly. Churches universally gathered at least weekly, and the idea that a church would choose not to gather for one week was seen as scandalous. Churches often have requirements in their constitution that members must attend regularly and will be removed from membership if they have not attended in a specified period of time (often 6 months or 1 year). Is it possible for someone to “forsake” an “assembly” that does not assemble regularly? While there may be some disagreement on what constitutes “regular” gathering (more on that later), regular gatherings seem like a biblical requirement for a church.

Is the church required to gather as a whole?  Though passages like 1 Cor 5:4; 11:33, 14:23 seem pretty clear that the church, at least in some situations, is to gather as a whole, even before the current situation this became a debated issue. So here I will simply address an argument I have seen against this idea.

If the church is required to gather as a whole, are you not fulfilling that requirement if a family is gone on vacation for a weekend or a mom stays home with her sick children? But this is not a serious argument. It is akin to the accusation against the pro-life position that argues one cannot be against abortion and for capital punishment. Both take one thing in common (not everyone in the church is present at the gathering; a life is being intentionally taken) and ignores something that clearly distinguishes the two. For the pro-life argument, the key difference is the reason the life is being taken. For the gathering of the church, the key difference is that in one situation an individual is choosing not to come to the gathering of the whole church while in the other the church leadership is deciding not to allow the whole church to gather. Anyone should be able to distinguish between the church leadership intentionally dividing the body up into multiple services/gatherings and the leadership hosting one service/gathering even though not every member may be able to attend every week. Even if some people are not able to be present, churches should work to allow the whole assembly to gather.

Is the church required to gather in-person? Some have stated that virtual meetings are functionally the same as in-person gatherings. If the requirement for the church to regularly gather as a whole can be fulfilled without being in the same location, can a “local church” be comprised of members scattered throughout the globe? What other biblical requirements can be fulfilled without ever being in the same physical location? Can a father fulfill his parental obligations by choosing to live away from his family as long as he does video chats with his kids? Does the Great Commission no longer require us to “go” since we can simply “Zoom”? If a church decided to have in-person gatherings but a member chooses to only ever “attend” virtually is that a problem? Those who understand biblical anthropology should see that our embodied existence means that being face-to-face is better than virtual interactions, even if we can be grateful to have the technology to stay in touch when we are unable to be in the same location. Churches must gather in-person.

I would like to think that most of those trying to argue there is no requirement for regular, in-person gathering of the whole congregation actually know better but feel they need to push back on the idea that a church would be sinning if they temporarily did not meet those requirements. And here we can offer an even stronger argument.

Best Argument: There is no clear prohibition in Scripture against a church deciding it is best not to gather for a time, especially if they are providentially hindered.

Since sometimes those arguing for churches to gather seem to imply that any church who does not gather is thereby sinning, some have resorted to the bad argumentation addressed above. But everyone recognizes that there are exceptions to the expectation that a church would gather, as a whole and in-person.

Perhaps weather makes it dangerous or impossible to gather, like snowstorms, floods, etc. Perhaps there are building issues that prohibit gathering, like losing electricity, outgrowing your space (so that you temporarily need two services until you can find a location with adequate spacing), etc. There may be societal or physical dangers, like wars, plagues, etc.

The reason we recognize there are exceptions to the requirement for churches to gather is because there is a difference between absolute prohibitions and general commands/exhortations. If the Bible says “you cannot/must not do x” then anytime you do x you are sinning. If the Bible says “you must do y” there may be times in which you do not do y and yet are not sinning. For example, the Bible prohibits stealing (Eph 4:28), so a Christian can never steal without sinning. In the same passage, the Bible requires people to work in order to provide for their needs, but that does mean that Christians can never take a vacation. Another example: Christians are to show hospitality (1 Peter 4:9), but that does not mean someone always needs to be in your home or sharing a meal with you.

But when would a Christian be in sin for not working, or for not showing hospitality? Or when would a church be in sin for not gathering? I do not believe we can definitively draw the line when someone moves from obedience to disobedience on matters like this, which means we need to offer grace to those who may draw the lines differently from us.

That also means we should be able to look at those who say “I want to submit to God by submitting to the government he has instituted, but I believe that our church would be failing to fulfill our requirement to gather if we continued deferring to governmental regulations and, therefore, I think in order to give glory to God we need to gather” without concluding they are rebels who are ignoring commands to submit to the government. And we should be able to look at those who say “I believe the gathering of God’s people is an essential part of our obedience to Christ, but I believe in the current situation it would give God glory for us to temporarily utilize virtual and smaller gatherings in order to do what is honorable in the sight of God and man” without concluding they are cowards who have relinquished the governing of the church to a secular state.[3]

But what we should not do is act as though the gathering of God’s people is an inconsequential and inessential part of the Christian life.

[1] Full disclosure: Tim is a friend and graduate of DBTS, though we have had no discussions about the decisions he and his church have made.

[2] If it is only a prohibition against an individual abandoning the assembly, then the clear assumption is that there is an assembly the individual could abandon.

[3] A complicating factor is that there are people who are visibly doing the same things but are being driven by rebellious hearts that just want to defy government regulations or are being driven by a fear of man that is either seeking popular approval or trying to avoid potential consequences.

17 Responses

  1. Don Johnson

    Ben, I think you show a fine example of reasoning, but you have little Scripture to back up your reasoning. Tim has at least tried to justify his position Scripturally. I think he has failed, but of course, that is a matter of opinion.

    When you say this: “Suppose a government came out with the regulation that, from this time forward, Christians are not allowed to gather together for worship, full stop.”

    That is just a straw man. No government in North America has given that kind of order that I am aware of. We aren’t arguing about that at all.

    Finally, as one who argues that Hebrews 10.25 is not a command to assemble, I offer two challenges. Prove that it is a command to assemble. Also, if it is not a command to assemble, where is the command found in the New Testament?

    I think assembly is spiritually necessary, it is simply assumed in the NT, but never commanded as such. I would be happy to be proven wrong, but you will have to use Scripture, not logic.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

    1. Ben Edwards


      Thanks for the comment.

      I didn’t offer much Scripture because, as I said, I’m not laying out a positive argument for my position. Instead, I’m offering a critique of the arguments I discuss by doing a mild form of reductio ad absurdum. IOW, I lay out some of the implications that would follow if the arguments are true, and encourage those who hold those views to respond, either by admitting their original argument is flawed and needs to be adjusted (perhaps to the one I end with) or showing why those implications are not necessary (e.g., here’s why we can hold church virtually and be fully obedient to Scripture but that would be not be sufficient for a father parenting his child, or a pastor showing hospitality).

      So I don’t intend to take up your challenge, because (1) I already said I think the answer to that issue is not ultimately relevant to the discussion, (2) I think you need to show how something can be spiritually necessary and assumed in Scripture but can be ignored without sinning (is the gathering of the church the only things like that, or are there other things spiritually necessary for a believer and something the Bible assumed they will do but they don’t really have to do it), and (3) address the implications I laid out, e.g., in my hypothetical government restriction (the supposed “straw man”) what would you do, and how would that be consistent with your current position?


      1. Don Johnson

        Hi Ben

        To respond to points in this paragraph:

        “I didn’t offer much Scripture because, as I said, I’m not laying out a positive argument for my position. Instead, I’m offering a critique of the arguments I discuss by doing a mild form of reductio ad absurdum. IOW, I lay out some of the implications that would follow if the arguments are true, and encourage those who hold those views to respond, either by admitting their original argument is flawed and needs to be adjusted (perhaps to the one I end with) or showing why those implications are not necessary (e.g., here’s why we can hold church virtually and be fully obedient to Scripture but that would be not be sufficient for a father parenting his child, or a pastor showing hospitality).”

        1. I think you haven’t captured my argument in your piece, so your reductios are reducing arguments I am not making, at least as far as I can see.

        2. The passage is offered by the Covid rebels as the key piece of their defense. We all agree that “we ought to obey God rather than man.” Fine. Has God said you *must* gather in a set way? Is the expectation of the New Testament a legalism that we must all gather on Sunday in our place of worship, or else?

        Given that Heb 10.25 is offered as the first plank in the argument, then it behooves us to know what the passage means. We have to know what it says about gathering to see if the government restrictions due to Covid constitute a situation where we either obey God or man.

        I don’t think you can escape by trying out, “what if” scenarios if you don’t know what Heb 10. 25 means.

        The “what if” scenarios are meaningless to me since they assume agreement on what Hebrews 10.25 means. Until we can agree on that point, we will continue to disagree on others.

        Don Johnson
        Jer 33.3

        1. Ben Edwards


          I’m not sure why anyone would need to agree on the meaning of any passage in order to answer the “what if” scenario I laid out. (Of course, people with different perspectives on the biblical passages/principles might answer the scenarios differently, but that doesn’t mean it can’t even be discussed until they agree). Just answer it according to your understanding of Heb 10:25.

          If the government said Christians could not gather for worship, what do you think Christians should do, according to your understanding of Heb 10:25 and other passages of Scripture?


          1. Don Johnson

            If the government was specifically targeting Christians, the scenario would be entirely different. Christians would find ways to meet, but not openly.

            However, that is not the case before us. The government issued health orders that applied to all, not just Christians. Tim and company advocated disobedience on the basis of two points: the alleged command of Heb 10.25 and the claim that Romans 13 gives government very limited authority. (James Coates also added a “Covid denier” argument, I don’t know if Tim subscribes to that.)

            Given the arguments, one has to test the justification for soundness. Is the interpretation of Heb 10.25 correct? Is the interpretation of Rom 13 correct? In both cases I think not.

          2. Ben Edwards


            So you would appeal to the extra-biblical idea (grounded in western legal theory) that gives an exception to the need for Christians to submit if the government is targeting Christians?

            Thanks for taking the time to answer. No need to answer this further question, but in light of that I would be interested in hearing your opinion on the following scenario: The government outlaws any religious gatherings (and, thus, are not targeting Christians). Should Christians submit?


  2. Excellent article. The distinction between absolute prohibitions and general commands should be obvious but too often is missed, and you’ve stated it very clearly.

    I very rarely disagree with Don Johnson, but I cannot agree with his “straw man” statement. In Scotland we were perilously close to that “straw man” last summer, and it’s no straw man for believers in many situations. Too many North American Christians, in my view, are seeing this only through the prism of Covid and Covid-related regulations. If we are going to say that the Scriptures teach a principle, we perhaps should stop and ask where that principle would lead with an even more hostile government than North American Christians are facing.

    If we are going to teach that the Bible does not expect us to meet in person on a regular basis, then we perhaps need to stop and ask ourselves where that leaves Christians in China, or Saudi Arabia. Are we going to tell the underground churches they are wrong to meet, because the Bible doesn’t command them to meet, and their government commands them not to? I trust not….

    I look forward to the next article.

    1. Ben Edwards


      You’ve raised one of my biggest concerns in all of this as well. It seems as though many are so focused on trying to defend their particular decision in the current situation (on both sides) that they are not considering what the ramifications would be of their arguments in other situations.


  3. David Diez

    Ben, thank you for the blog article and your thoughtful approach in it. For the sake of D. Johnson, allow me to provide a scriptural/exegetical argument rather than a “logical” one.

    Regarding Hebrews 10:25, it is true that the importance of church gathering is not expressed explicitly in grammatical form as a command. However, its syntactical relationship to 10:24 strongly communicates the expectation and the need for it. The idea of not gathering together is a participle that modifies the main verb of “let us consider…” in 10:24 – a 1st person plural command (the third one in the passage of 10:22-24). The ptc is in the present tense indicating customary or habitual action (Wallace, GGBB, 521-522). The two most likely ways that the participle of not gathering together modifies the main verb are these, either/or:

    1. As an instrumental ptc indicating means. To habitually not gather with the church assembly will not enable the believers to carry out the responsibility to persistently consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds. To state it positively, the habitual gathering of believers is instrumental to fulfill the command of 10:24. Therefore, to gather together is as necessary as a scalpel is necessary as a surgical instrument in a surgeon’s hand to achieve a successful operation.

    2. As an imperative ptc continuing the force of the hortatory subj in 10:24 (Dana Harris, Hebrews, 277). This means that one could very well argue exegetically from this verse that it is command for believers to gather together physically and habitually by prohibiting the neglecting of it, which some were guilty of.

    Either use of the participle provides an exegetical basis for the expectation and the obligation of believers to gather together as a local assembly habitually and physically. Also, there is good basis to make the syntactical argument that the responsibility not to forsake the assembly is necessary to fulfill the other two commands in 10:22, 23 since they are all linked together as 1st person hortatory subjunctives (“let us” commands). This grammatical idea supports practical responsibilities found in both testaments and practiced in church history: the calling to worship God (“draw near”) corporately and to hold fast corporately the confession of the faith (hence, creeds, doctrinal statements, etc.). Anecdotally, as a pastor, I have seen how inevitably people deteriorate spiritually when they stop gathering together physically.

    Forgive me for the lengthy response, but one more point. Someone might respond by pointing out that meeting virtually could fulfill the requirement of 10:24-25. I would point to the significance of the following participle of encouraging one another. Since it is presented as an antithetical, positive action to the negative of not forsaking the assembly, the habitual action of encouraging one another must involve gathering together habitually. But the question remains, does it have to be a physical one instead of a virtual one? Well, the immediate setting of the passage did not conceive of any other way. Furthermore, the “one another” idea equates to a personal relationship among believers of a local church. Imagine the habitual fulfillment of that without a physical connection to the corporate body (see Ben’s illustration above). Our church did the Sunday morning Zoom virtual gatherings for 6 months. It certainly was not nearly as effective for mutual encouragement. It is not supposed to.

    Thank you Ben for thoughtful post and Don for your thoughtful response.

    Miami Bible Church

    1. Ben Edwards


      Thanks for taking the time to lay out your thoughts. Some helpful material to consider.


    2. Don Johnson

      David, thanks for the comment. You are the first person in this discussion who has even made an attempt to engage in the passage with me. I see it much the same way you do, but with some differences (key ones!)

      1. I disagree with Wallace about the habitual present. My reason is the meaning of the term. “forsaking” isn’t just “having bad habits” but “abandoning.” In other words, a situation where someone is spotty and inconsistent in church attendance is not the subject of this passage. (that kind of church attendance evidences a spiritual problem, but it is not what the passage is addressing). So Heb 10.25 is not merely talking about bad habits, but a decisive move away from the assembly. I think a word study on the term will bear me out. (The commentaries are somewhat divided on this point.)

      2. I dislike the “command” language for hortatory subjunctives. I don’t think they carry the same force as imperatives, although they are certainly urgent.

      3. I agree that the participle “not forsaking” is an instrumental use of means. It answers the question “how” (or in this case “how not”). The exhortation is to consider one another, the means is “not by forsaking” BUT “by encouraging” (coming alongside).

      The fact is that the exhortation, consider one another, does not require assembly to carry out. It requires a commitment to “the assembly” (ie, the local body and its members) and an involvement in one another’s lives (coming along side, encouraging) for fulfillment. If you abandon the assembly, this will never happen.

      This is just a quick sketch. I see where you are coming from, but there are a few points of difference that give the passage a different force than it has traditionally been preached.

      I will note also that of the 13 commentaries I consulted on this passage, NONE of them said the passage commanded the church to assemble. That includes John MacArthur. They aren’t Scripture, but if the passage actually teaches the church to assemble, you would think at least one of them might have mentioned it.

      Thanks for the interaction.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

      1. David Diez


        Thank you also for the stimulating interaction. I actually do not disagree with your core thoughts in your reply to me. Also, my intent was to provide a valid, coherent, exegetical basis of the necessity for habitual, physical gatherings. I understand that at times some (grammarians, theologians, pastors, etc.) can examine the same data and come to a different conclusion, even if the same hermeneutic is applied, for various reasons. As a local church pastor, I agree with you that the practice of the “one-anothers” must and mostly happen beyond the weekly Sunday church gathering, but it does not exclude it. I also agree with you that the accountability for individual church attendance must not be carried out with legalistic rigidity. For one, the Scriptures do not define a specific rate what constitutes faithful church attendances, and for another, it is up to each autonomous local church to communicate its attendance standards to its membership. All that being said, the matter is not about individual church attendance. In my opinion, I think you over-argued that point. The matter in question is whether it is expected that a regular/habitual/weekly (choose one) gathering of local church members is expected and necessary even when the govt orders otherwise. I think the overall evidence of the NT attests to those two points:

        1. Since the birth of the first church in Acts 2, believers were physically gathering habitually – so habitual that it was daily, then we see more of a weekly pattern on the 1st day of the week (Sunday)
        2. The exhortations to teach, preach, and give attention to the public reading of Scripture to the church body (1 Tim 4:9-16 for example) expects a physical corporate gathering and can only be done most effectively in it since I believe preaching/teaching to the congregated flock is the primary shepherding application to its spiritual health (the benefit of social media notwithstanding).
        3. The monetary collection “on the first day of every week” (1 Cor 16:1-2 NASB) indicates that the weekly gathering of the church was already established and expected.

        Since in this age churches are grace and not under the law (Rom 6:14), I understand that special circumstances may lead a church to decide to adjust their scheduled and/or place of gathering corporately, so I won’t deal with those specific circumstances (e.g. govt persecution or extreme weather conditions, etc) and how a church adjusts. What is clear in biblical history and affirmed anectodally throughout extrabiblical history is that the people of God were called, expected, and needed to assemble together to praise God with one voice and be encouraged by the Scriptures through preaching for its spiritual health.

        Above ground or underground, the local body of Christ has not known any other way but to keep gathering together physically and persistently.

        All the best to you, Don, in God’s grace,

        1. Don Johnson

          David, these are all good points. I have said in discussing this that church attendance is “assumed” in the NT. It is “normal” Christian behaviour. I am fine with using the word “expected.”

          I may well have “over-argued” — won’t be the first time!

          However, I would like to point out the context of the discussion. Tim Stephens and James Coates and the other Covid rebels in Canada are arguing that churches should disobey the government health orders. They justify that proposition on three grounds:

          1. We are commanded to assemble in Hebrews 10.25, and “we ought to obey God rather than man” (they sometimes add other passages in support, but Heb 10.25 is the go-to passage)
          2. The explicit command to submit to the higher powers in Romans 13 only gives limited authority to the government, ie, they have no authority to interfere with worship services even if they are making public health orders. They seem to say Rm 13 only gives government authority over crime and punishment.
          3. The Covid crisis is overblown and the government policies are stupid, so we don’t need to obey them. (I am oversimplifying a bit, but that is essentially James Coates position).

          Since the best we can say about church gatherings from the Scripture is that it is expected, though not explicitly commanded, their argument fails on point 1. I hope you can see what is wrong with point 2. Point 3? Well, I think Covid is a crisis, but the responses were ineffective and unnecessary, mostly. I don’t think that gives me leave to just do what I want.

          There is a bit more to this, I am summarizing a lot here, but you can trace down the full arguments on their church websites if you are interested.

          Thanks again for the conversation.

          Don Johnson
          Jer 33.3

  4. Don Johnson

    Ben, I think your blog software won’t let me reply directly to your last post above, so here are my quick comments.

    “So you would appeal to the extra-biblical idea (grounded in western legal theory) that gives an exception to the need for Christians to submit if the government is targeting Christians?”

    Uhh… I am not following this one. Isn’t that what “we should obey God rather than man” is all about?

    “Thanks for taking the time to answer. No need to answer this further question, but in light of that I would be interested in hearing your opinion on the following scenario: The government outlaws any religious gatherings (and, thus, are not targeting Christians). Should Christians submit?”

    I think this is essentially the same question. If government is targeting religion in general as a secular state, or as a Muslim/Buddhist/Calvinist (sorry lame joke) state, then those are circumstances where “we ought to obey God rather than man.”

    In the case before us, the governments in Canada are issuing public health orders, not targeting religion. Jon argues that his experience in Scotland was different and the state was targeting Christians directly. I don’t know about that, I wasn’t there, so no comment. In Canada, however, that is not the case. While I think most of the responses our governments made to the virus problem, I don’t think they were targeting Christians or religion in imposing their orders. Thus I think Romans 13 is our guide. We aren’t being targeted, we have alternatives with which to endure, and we ought to simply go along in these cases for the sake of the gospel.

    I don’t know what more I should add, don’t want to hijack your blog any more than I already have!

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

    1. Hi, Don. What if the government is targeting clubs, religions, debating societies, or anything else where (they think) any kind of anti-government stuff might happen. Such as in North Korea. Surely no one thinks that the restrictions against Christians meeting are targeted only at Christians or only at religions. In North Korea, should Christians obey the government and never meet? Would they only be free to disobey if it were targeted at Christians, and will they have to suddenly shut down if the restriction is newly applied to bridge clubs and bowling clubs and dance societies, so that it isn’t targeted anymore? Perhaps reductio ad absurdum isn’t fair in this context but is there really sound Biblical basis for saying that it makes a difference if we are targeted?

      In Scotland, the gambling shops were opened but churches were still closed, and people could go to the park for a picnic or to sunbathe, in groups of up to 8, but Christians still couldn’t hold even outdoor services. I don’t know if they were specifically “targeting” Christians but they certainly were treating corporate worship as less important than your suntan, or a picnic, or your gambling fix.

      When that begins to happen (especially when the whole nation is having 10 or less cases per day), one does begin to wonder whether this is really an emergency that justifies the restrictions or whether it is just a government on a power trip, one deciding who wins and who loses based on what they like. And when one starts to believe that, then one does begin to question one’s prior assumptions about when we obey and when we disobey, and to really scrutinise the Scriptures on the subject. And I think a lot of North Americans have arrived at more simplistic answers than are warranted by Scripture, answers they’ve been able to live by because they’ve had relatively friendly governments for years, and because they could relatively safely assume that the current restrictions are temporary.

      But those answers may not serve them that well in the future, and the things they are writing may not be particularly helpful to believers facing real persecution and restrictions that appear to be permanent.

      The Scripture is full of examples of godly people disobeying or resisting civil authority beyond the “targeting” parameters, and often receiving God’s blessing for it.

      1. Don Johnson


        The “what ifs” are irrelevant. That is not what happened in Canada. Your experience in Scotland is also irrelevant to my argument. I’m not arguing about Scotland.

        Don Johnson
        Jer 33.3

        1. Don, I understand that you are talking about Canada, but when you declare that Scripture teaches something, that crosses borders. If your principle doesn’t apply well in different settings, perhaps you haven’t nailed the Scriptural principle very well this time and your explication of it needs some work.