Biblical and theological considerations about health and government:
How should people – and Christians especially – think about the whole gamut of what is happening because of the COVID crisis? What should we think about things like lockdowns, medical mandates, mask-wearing, and vaccine passports? Obviously, I have written many dozens of articles about these matters over the past year and a half.
And the way things are going, I will likely be writing many more articles about such things. It is imperative that Christians think biblically about these issues. Sure, there are medical, scientific, social, legal and other aspects to these matters. But the believer should seek to bring Scripture to bear on these things as much as possible as well.
I have sought to do this over the past 18 months, as have others. In late June I wrote a piece which mentioned a new Declaration that speaks to these issues: the Warrenton Declaration. I discussed it here: billmuehlenberg.com/2021/06/29/lockdown-madness-time-to-say-no/
Here I want to speak to this further. The first 15 points of the Declaration have to do with the role and extent of civil authorities. It is a good summary statement on questions of government power and reach, and how the believer should interact with the state. It raises questions about whether the Christian can at times resist, and if there is a place for civil disobedience. I have just shared those 15 points here: billmuehlenberg.com/2021/08/13/the-warrenton-declaration-and-civil-authorities/
Here I will offer the final 21 points which look at a number of important matters such as what the love of neighbour means in a time of public health crisis; some biblical cases of medical treatment; and various forms of medical mandates and the like.
One need not agree with everything said here to appreciate that biblical concerns are being brought to bear on this. And what is offered is presented primarily in terms of biblical and theological concerns. That is very useful indeed, and other concerns can be found elsewhere.
Here then is Section 2 of the Declaration which examines “Application to Medical Mandates”:
XVI. WE DENY that the civil authorities have been granted lawful jurisdiction and authority over personal, familial, or “public” health.
XVII. WE DENY that the leprosy-related passages in Leviticus 13 & 14 can be construed to teach the general principle that civil government has unqualified and legitimate jurisdiction over managing “public health.”
XVIII. WE AFFIRM that these leprosy passages are related not to the spread of biological contagion, but of ceremonial uncleanliness as is evidenced by numerous factors: First, even the man covered head-to-toe in white leprosy was declared “clean” (Lev. 13:12-13) and was permitted in the camp. Second, the stated reason for the general expulsion of lepers is the same reason given for the expulsion of those who touched a dead body or had a bodily discharge; not biological contagion, but ceremonial uncleanliness which “defiled the camp” before the Lord (Num. 5:1-4) . Third, nowhere in Scripture is leprosy described as being biologically contagious. This “leprosy” also afflicted houses (Lev. 14:34) and garments (Lev. 13:47). “Leprosy” was not the same as modern day “Hansen’s disease”. Fourth, in order to prevent belongings in a “leprous” house from being declared “unclean” by the Priest, the owner was permitted to empty the house of his possessions before the Priest arrived for inspection (Lev. 14:33-36). Preventing biological contagion through sanitization (burning) of objects was not in view here. The ceremonial practices associated with the now defunct Levitical Priesthood have been made obsolete by Christ’s greater Priesthood (Heb. 7:12), and cannot be credibly invoked as providing civil government with jurisdiction over “public health.”
XIX. WE DENY that civil governments have lawful jurisdiction or authority to remove anyone’s right to pursue their livelihood and conduct their affairs in public.
XX. WE DENY that civil governments have lawful authority to enact “lockdowns” predicated on protecting “public health” as this is not their jurisdiction.
XXI. WE AFFIRM that individuals are free to restrict their own movement about society to this end should they deem it wise to do so. They may not lawfully demand that civil government employ force on their behalf to restrict the liberty of others.
XXII. WE DENY that such violations of medical freedom by the civil government, or the subsequent mandating of vaccines and masks are rightly justified based on the claim that unmasked or unvaccinated persons “present a general danger to the health of the public due to viral spread.”
XXIII. WE AFFIRM that it is the Christian duty of each family to seek the well-being of their neighbor (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:39; Jer. 29:7) and that this includes adopting reasonable practices for the symptomatically ill to refrain from knowingly exposing their neighbors, especially in a crowded or public context. Each Christian should seek to live at peace with all men in a manner that displays the love of Christ in obedience to the law of God (Rom. 12:18; Mic. 6:8).
XXIV. WE DENY that the existence of communicable viruses, viral testing mechanisms, or the invention of vaccinations creates a new standard of morality whereby a healthy person simply conducting their affairs in society without vaccination, viral testing, or wearing a mask is evidence of criminally or morally reckless behavior. Moreover, if such a standard for violation of medical freedom is adopted, conceivably, civil governments could permanently regulate and restrict every facet of life since according to this same rationale, various flu-like viruses can be unknowingly spread at all times. Further, there are a host of other far more deadly dangers such as heart disease, which, like virus-related hospitalizations, also place a burden on the health system. The civil government does not then gain authority to ban soda intake for obese individuals.
XXV. WE AFFIRM that a biblically faithful view of the civil government sphere as well as the ecclesiastical government sphere provides no lawful jurisdiction for civil magistrates or ecclesiastical authorities to mandate or in any way coerce individuals to inject substances into themselves or their children or cover their mouths, noses, face, or any combination thereof, with masks.
XXVI. WE AFFIRM that any civil or ecclesiastical authority that attempts to coerce individuals or their children with any form of public banishment, fine, imprisonment, social ostracism, or other forms of coercion for not wearing a mask or injecting a substance into their bodies are ascribing to themselves authority not delegated by God and are in grievous sin (Matt 19:14; Tit 3:10; 1st Cor 1:10; Rom 16:17).
XXVII. WE AFFIRM that although local churches may reasonably enforce policies of calling on the symptomatically ill to stay home, any attempt to impede fellowship in the body by a believer on the grounds of failing to inject a substance into their bodies or the wearing of a mask is also divisiveness (Tit 3:10; 1st Cor 1:10; Rom 16:17).
XXVIII. WE DENY that personal and family decisions to decline vaccination or the wearing of masks are necessarily out-of-step with the biblical command to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:39).
XXIX. WE DENY that conformity to a given recommended course of medical action is made to be civilly or morally obligatory by appeals to an alleged “majority” of expert opinion, or available medical data.
XXX. WE DENY that an individual Christian’s obligation to the weaker brother (1 Cor. 8:1-12) compels any Christian to violate his or her conscience (Rom. 14:3; 1 Cor. 10:31) regarding the wearing of masks or injecting a substance into their body. Such action may be regarded by Christians both as contrary to sound and loving health practices for themselves and their family. Specifically with masks which are worn visibly on the body, Christians may also have concern in their conscience about the message they believe wearing the mask sends to the world. They may regard the wearing of masks as bearing false witness (Ex. 20:16; 23:2) or as an unloving, tacit endorsement of what they see as propaganda surrounding their use and enforcement upon their neighbor.
XXXI. WE AFFIRM that those who seek to bind the conscience of the believer by insisting that conformity with mask or vaccination mandates is the only way for a Christian to fulfill the command to “love one’s neighbor as oneself” are treating the traditions of man as the commandments of God (Mk 7:6-9). These individuals are themselves guilty of twisting the Scriptures and are effectively subjecting the law of God to the ever-changing and conflicting whims of “public health” agencies, the latest medical study, or majority opinion.
XXXII. WE DENY that choosing to respectfully decline a church officer’s request to wear a mask is in any way evidence of divisiveness or rebellion against ecclesiastical authority since the ecclesiastical office does not hold jurisdiction over personal or familial health decisions.
XXXIII. WE DENY that all instances of requiring masks for church meetings are necessarily sinful or divisive in such cases where the meeting is held at a venue where the property managers are not the local church and such property managers require mask wearing for entrance. This is a property issue. In such cases, those who choose not to fellowship because of the mask mandate at the meeting venue should not be said to be in violation of any biblical commands regarding regularly meeting with the saints. To the extent possible, church officers should seek to secure a meeting venue where the local congregation will not be forced to exclude non-masking individuals due to the whims of the building owner.
XXXIV. WE AFFIRM that maintaining personal health and personal health decisions, including decisions about which medical interventions to adopt or forego, are the role and jurisdiction of each individual and their family.
XXXV. WE DENY that parents are guilty of neglect or abuse if they choose to forego a given medical intervention such as a medical procedure or vaccine due to the fact that they are not convinced of the short and long term risk profile or effectiveness of the action. This remains true regardless of what recommendations they have or haven’t received from a doctor.
XXXVI. WE AFFIRM that it is anti-scriptural for a parent to categorically deny all medical interventions to their children at all times with the rationale that all medical intervention is, as a category, evidence of a lack of faith in God (1st Tim 5:23).
You can read it and sign it here: warrentondeclaration.com/