Some sensible and biblical insights on how to think about COVID and Statism:
In June of this year an important 36-point Declaration came out having to do with various issues which the COVID crisis has raised. When it first came out, I mentioned it at the end of an article on lockdowns and mask mandates, and I featured its final four points in that piece. Have a read here: billmuehlenberg.com/2021/06/29/lockdown-madness-time-to-say-no/
But given what an important document this is on some important subjects, it is worth revisiting. Indeed, I want to feature the entire Declaration with all 36 points. So I will do this in two articles. The first will look at the role of government and civil authorities from a biblical point of view – covered in the first 15 points of the Declaration.
The second article features its final 21 points which have to do with medical mandates and the like. You can find that companion article here: billmuehlenberg.com/2021/08/13/the-warrenton-declaration-and-medical-mandates/
The Warrenton Declaration begins with these words:
The Warrenton Declaration on Medical Mandates, Biblical Ethics, & Authority was created in order to provide doctrinal clarity and coherence on issues of biblical authority and ethics related to medical mandates. The declaration seeks to equip local churches and their officers in providing transparency on where they stand and to assist individuals who are being mistreated in their churches with a well-ordered summary of belief in this regard.
As mentioned, its first 15 points deal with the role and sphere of government, and the responsibilities of citizens – including Christian citizens – to it. This is something I have been writing a lot about recently. Indeed, I began a whole new subsection on resistance theory. With this piece added to it, there are now 50 articles found there: billmuehlenberg.com/category/politics/resistance-theory/
Here then is Section 1 of the Declaration:
I. WE AFFIRM that all authority, in heaven and on earth has been bestowed upon God the Son, Christ Jesus. (Is. 9:6-7; Dan. 7:13-14; Col. 1:15-20; Matt. 28:18).
II. WE AFFIRM that delegated, earthly authorities have been instituted by God as His servants to function as a blessing to those in their jurisdiction through their Godly governance and rule according to God’s law and in obedience to Christ (Ps. 2:1-12; Rom. 13:1; Rom. 13:3-5; 1 Pet. 2:13). These may be civil authorities (Rom. 13:1; 1 Pet. 2:13-14), ecclesiastical authorities (Heb. 13:17), vocational authorities (1 Pet. 2:18), familial authorities (Eph. 6:1; 1 Pet. 3:1), and self-governing individuals (Prov. 25:28; Rom. 12:1-2; Mk. 12:31; Lev. 19:18; 1 Pet. 2:16).
III. WE AFFIRM that to ascribe total jurisdiction to any human authority is idolatry, since this kind of unlimited authority is reserved only for Christ Jesus (Is. 9:6-7; Dan. 7:13-14; Col. 1:15-20; Matt. 28:18). This establishes limits to the jurisdictional authority of all subordinate offices that exist under the authority of Christ.
IV. WE DENY that the existing civil authorities have unlimited jurisdiction.
V. WE AFFIRM that the scriptural jurisdictional limits of delegated human authority are also established by good and necessary consequence given that various offices are said in Scripture to be required to be obeyed “in everything” (Col. 3:20, 22; Eph. 5:24; Tit. 2:9) . The sense in which “in everything” is used in these verses cannot mean that obedience is obligatory for all commands regardless of their morality, since Scripture also teaches Christian disobedience to sinful or abusive commands (Acts 5:29, Ex. 1:15-20). “In everything” also cannot mean that obedience is obligatory for all non-sinful commands, since Scripture also establishes multiple offices of human authority (Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 2:18; Eph. 6:1; Romans 13:1). These offices may at times conflict, thus requiring Christians to consider which authority is acting within their rightful jurisdiction to determine if obedience is required. Thus, commands to obey “in everything” must refer to the obligation of Christians to obey all non-sinful commands of true authorities which are also within the proper jurisdiction of the authority giving the command.
VI. WE DENY that biblical commands to obey authorities, whether civil, ecclesiastical, familial, or vocational “in everything” (Tit. 2:9; Col. 3:20, 22; Eph. 5:24) can be construed to negate the roles of their respective jurisdictions which Scripture also teaches (Rom. 13:3-4; Gen. 1:26-28; Deut. 6:6-7; Prov. 22:6, 23:13-14; 1 Tim. 5:3-16, 6:1-2; Eph. 6:1; 1 Cor. 11:3).
VII. WE AFFIRM that in instances where a Christian’s responsibilities to God and his fellow man are not hindered, the Christian may choose to obey some unjust commands when such commands can be obeyed without engaging in sin. This may be because compliance with the command is done under duress, because compliance is expedient, or because compliance is rendered in an exaggerated fashion in order to further expose the wickedness of the command (Rom. 12:20; Matt 5:38-42).
VIII. WE DENY that any human or group of humans who claim to be civil authorities are in actuality, recognized by God to be civil authorities, solely by virtue of their claims to that authority or the claims of those who support them (Hosea 8:4).
IX. WE AFFIRM that true civil authorities are legitimate to the extent they, as appointed by God, bear the sword to fulfill the description of what civil authorities are in Scripture, namely, that they punish evil and praise good (Rom. 13:3-4; 1 Pet. 2:14) according to their civil office and jurisdiction.
X. WE AFFIRM that civil magistrates have lawful authority to punish civil crimes like assault (Ex. 21:18-19), murder (Gen. 9:5; Ex. 21:12), rape (Deut. 22:25), theft (Ex. 22:1), fraud (Lev. 19:35-36; Deut. 25:13-16), man-stealing (Ex. 21:16), and false witness (Deut. 19:15-19), and to ensure proper due process through the civil courts, payment of liability for verifiably proven harm (Ex. 21:33) and proportionality of punishment (Deut. 16:18-20, 17:6, 19:15-21).
XI. WE AFFIRM that Christians should obey the biblically lawful instructions and commands of earthly authorities to the extent of their proper, God-ordained, role and jurisdiction (Rom. 13:1; 1 Pet. 2:13).
XII. WE DENY that the Pauline era reign of Emperor Nero can be credibly invoked to invalidate the limiting description of what constitutes legitimate civil authority in Romans 13:3-4. First, this is due to the clear witness of Scripture regarding the identity and characteristics of legitimate biblical civil authority (Rom. 13:3-4); and second, to the fact that the Neronic persecution did not begin until the great fire of Rome in 64 AD, which was seven years after the writing of the book of Romans (57 AD).
XIII. WE DENY that the specific authority granted to Pilate to execute Christ Jesus according to God’s plan of redemption (Jn. 19:10-11) is evidence of a general principle of civil governance whereby civil magistrates retain legitimate authority to do evil or make any commands outside the bounds of their jurisdiction.
XIV. WE DENY that the only reason one may lawfully disobey an authority is if they are commanded to sin by that authority.
XV. WE AFFIRM that disobedience is also permissible should any command be given outside of the jurisdiction of the particular authority. For example, throughout history, civil governments have sought to force individuals into certain vocations, foisted improper controls over affairs of the church, and imposed restrictions over the number of children that a family is permitted to have. Frequently, these kinds of orders are claimed to be for the “greater good” of the public. To whatever extent these commands would not have required anyone to sin, obedience is still not morally obligated since these commands are outside the jurisdiction of the authority making the commands.
As mentioned, my companion piece looks at what the Declaration has to say about medical and ethical issues. And remember that you can sign the Declaration: warrentondeclaration.com/