Many of the blog’s readers may already be aware of the divide that has been developing among conservative, biblically faithful Christians over the issue of civil disobedience in the face of the current government restrictions in many places regarding church gatherings. As I see it, there have arisen essentially two valid perspectives, both of which affirm the validity of civil disobedience whenever the government requires Christians to disobey Scripture.
The first perspective has been ably set forth most recently in a statement by John MacArthur on the behalf of the elders and the congregation of Grace Community Church in Panorama City, California. That statement is entitled Christ, not Caesar, Is Head of the Church, and it is, in my view, a very well written and biblically reasoned statement. In fact, it essentially sets forth a position and a decision that was already reached by the elders at Immanuel Baptist Church (where I serve as the primary teaching pastor) back in May, and we are encouraged by the statement of GCC. This position is that, given the situation in states such as California (where GCC is located) and Illinois (where IBC is located), the time has arrived for legitimate civil disobedience by the church.
However, there is another valid perspective, which is that the time has not yet come for civil disobedience. This perspective has been ably set forth by Jonathan Leeman, the Editorial Director of 9Marks, and an elder at Cheverly Baptist Church in Cheverly, Maryland. It is entitled A Time for Civil Disobedience? A Response to Grace Community Church’s Elders, and it argues not only that the time has not yet come for civil disobedience but also that we ought to view the issue as a matter of conscience and not let it divide us as Christians.
Now, although I come down on the opposite side of the issue as Leeman regarding whether it is the right the time to practice civil disobedience, I happen to agree with him that it ought to be seen as a matter of conscience upon we must allow space to another to agree to disagree in love. In fact, the various writers of the Reformed Baptist Blog may not agree fully on this matter. Thus, we must allow for differences between churches, as well as within individual churches, bearing with one another and praying for one another that God will grant us grace, wisdom, and unity.