Should the Church have Closed and Is It Time to Reopen?

My friends daughter said “dad why are they closing churches, no one gets sick in church” a simple child’s faith but it gave me pause so I can’t judge a pastor that has decided to keep their Church’s doors open during the Covid-19 Wuhan Flu outbreak in opposition to state orders.  I don’t know if the Spirit called him to stay open or not. God will judge and we may be able to infer something from the results.  If a word is from God one should expect the results to bare fruit.

I believe that the church is a miraculous place that God made for us. Yes God is everywhere and you can meet Him at home but the church is set apart and sometimes home for many can seem much less so, hence God created houses of prayer for all people (Isaiah 56:7, Matthew 21:13, Psalm 122:1, John 4:21, 1 Tim 2:8).

In the beginning while the world was getting a handle on this outbreak of the Wuhan Flu suspending some ministries and moving to online services makes sense. However I don’t know if the church should have completely shut its doors with the staff doing web streams from home. Jesus said “My house shall be a house of prayer for all nations” This is a command which seems hard to fulfill if the doors are locked to everyone no matter the circumstance.   Scripture also command in Hebrews 10:25, “Do not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing.”  As part of our Christian witness and neighborly duty we need to be flexible to meet requests of those in authority to fulfill Roman’s 13. But at some point and some degree we also have to follow what Peter said “Whether it’s right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide”.  There is a tension between Romans 13 and Acts 4.  Now after the recovery rate has been determined to be 99.6% and the at risk groups are more clear there should be ways the church could open up a bit more with safety measures while at risk groups watch from home or from cars in parking lot services.

The words in Hebrews 10:25 are the clear command from God to meet corporately.  The bible does say in Matthew 18:20 that “where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with them”.  This is a wonderful promise but the word gather here is different from Hebrews 10:25.  In Hebrews 10 the word is episunagōgē which means the complete gathering where as the word in Matthew 18; sunagō  just means to gather.  Hebrews 10:25 clearly commands the regular gathering of the local church at its regularly designated location, not a subset but the complete assembly.  This also establishes places where Christian’s can still say with Psalm 122 “I was glad with those who said to me let us go to the house of the Lord”.  If there was no such place nor assembly apart from the temple in Jerusalem such passages would become devoid of meaning when Jesus prophecy about the diaspora in John 4:21 was fulfilled but the passage implies that worship and intersession would continue elsewhere.  At some point in the tension between Romans 13 and Acts 4 the church would find itself breaking this command if they continue under the authority of man.

With this in mind it has been utterly reprehensible that abortion clinics and liquor stores have been deemed essential while the church has not.  We can even see a targeting of Churches and Synagogues in New York by Mayor de Blasio while others have not been.  In John 4 Jesus is compared to bread and water and therefore just as important as these therefore the church is just as essential as food and water.  Below is a link to an article and two videos which I believe may be helpful to pastors and churches as they navigate the questions to reopen along with legal considerations that may need to be addressed.

Church, Don’t Let Coronavirus Divide You

The Bible, The Church and Psychology

This may be the first post where I don’t really draw a conclusion nor state a strong opinion. That is because it is one thing I have been struggling to get my arms and head around for years. I’m hoping this post may be useful to start some dialogues toward a better understanding. The issue is this. The bible talks about behaviors and also addresses why we misbehave. It even addresses extreme behaviors identifying spiritual and demonic causes. On the other hand psychology studies behaviors, mental and emotional states and also proposes reasons and solutions. This to me seems to be a large overlapping grey area.

Many churches and Christians now defer to psychology placing more faith in its “scientific approach”. But many fail to realize that as a science it lacks many of the rigors of physics, chemistry and even biology. For example in those struggling with depression they find a chemical imbalance in the brain. One would think, “Oh well there is the cause”, but it is really an assumption of cause. It could very well be the effect of something else. Because emotional states cannot be measured; they must be communicated. Therefore cause and effect relationships cannot be rigorously established.

In modern psychology the naturalistic paradigm assumes that all behaviors must have physical experiential causes and therefore physical solutions. From personal experience dealing with my own children struggling with ADHD, after years of denial and mistakes I had to accept the reality of such a mental disability having behavioral consequences.

Naturalistic psychology denies the metaphysical but as Christians we believe in the metaphysical. Though the metaphysical or spiritual cannot be measured it can and does often affect the physical.

innerbeing

In this diagram Christians accept what is both above and below the physical divide. Naturalistic psychology only accepts what is below the divide. In the past Christians may have tended to lean toward metaphysical causes for behavioral issues while giving less consideration to the effects of the physical which wasn’t the best course. Now many are leaning the other way. So then how are Christians to discern what is caused by that which is above the divide from that which is caused by the physical below the divide.

Let us consider some examples.

In Mark 9:14-29 Jesus comes upon a boy who is mute, has seizures, and often tries to throw himself into a fire to cause personal harm. Jesus commands the unclean spirit to leave. The disciples ask why they couldn’t cast it out to which he says “this kind only comes out with prayer.” Today this child might have been diagnosed with epilepsy and self-injury disorder.

In Mark 5:1-2 Jesus comes upon a man living in a graveyard. The man is violent and when bound he breaks even chains used to bind him. Jesus talks to the unclean spirits and then commands them to come out. Today this man may be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder or some other disorder. I heard of a middle school student diagnosed with spectrum disorder who is often agitated and violent and tore a drinking fountain off the wall.

Does Jesus response necessarily infer that these symptoms are always prescriptive of an unclean spirit? Maybe not necessarily, but then how are we to discern? If we always defer to a physical or mental cause then some may be condemned to a life of spiritual torment. These are some examples of extreme circumstances. Other less extreme ones include:

In James 1:13-15 speaks about temptation to sin. In Matthew 21:28-31 Jesus tells of a son asked to work who says yes but then doesn’t and a second son who says no but regretted and did the work. Jesus asked which obeyed to which they all agreed the second son. I’ve experienced this in Boy Scouts working with scouts having ADHD off to do what is asked and later found distracted by other things. The bible speak of discipline in Proverbs including both penal and verbal rebuke to dissuade bad behavior. But some schools of Psychology propose that all psychosis or tendencies to bad behavior are the result of past trauma. Therefore discipline such as punitive action is traumatic and only positive reinforcement and encouragement should be enacted.  However this is in direct conflict with scriptures statement that we are by nature sinful and that if sin isn’t punished our hearts will scheme to do more evil (Ecc 8:11).

There are more examples in scripture which may be compared to modern society and psychology. And in many cases there are contrasting views and responses between scripture and psychology. But many questions still remain how to discern spiritual from physical causes. How to discern whether punitive or positive redirection is required. How to discern spiritual causes for behavior along with or apart from those caused by mental disabilities. Its a difficult topic but one the church should address while not giving in to the temptation to defer to modern sensibilities.

Why Sunday?

Lions With Commandments

Image by edenpictures via Flickr

I had a conversation with a good friend of mine regarding the observance of worship on Sunday as opposed to Saturday. My friends main concern over the move of worship to Sunday was that it might present a hindrance to Jews accustomed to meeting on Saturday. I would say not Jews only but any other religious group that meets on another day might find it difficult to make the shift from one day to another. Also many people including my friend are of the persuasion that the shift from Saturday to Sunday occurred later in Christian history and was likely more politically motivated then Biblicly or Spiritually motivated. I can truly appreciate these concerns which prompted me to consider the origins of the Church’s shift to Sunday. Read more of this post

Lost in Translation

Coming out of the enlightenment of the 1600s and early 1700s the church saw great revivals in the late 1700s and 1800s lead by such noted Christian leaders as George Whitfield and Johnathan Edwards. This spawned the age of missions in the church through the 1800s and early 1900s.
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Where is My Honor?

Exodus 20:8-11 “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. 11 “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. Read more of this post

Weeding Out False Teachers and Teaching

I attend a men’s group at my church each weekend. This weekend we discussed the fourth chapter of First John. While the director of ministries lead the session I started noticing some points that drew my attention. While trying to fill out my notes page I started writing notes in the margins of my bible. What follows is an exposition of the points that grabbed my attention. Read more of this post