On Churches Defying Orders to Close

On Churches Defying Orders to Close
| PentecostalTheology.com

I have been asked by several person to comment on the issue raging among many Christian, that of church attendance during the covid-19 lockdowns. The controversy came to a head with the arrest of Pastor Rodney Howard Brown for his defiance of his local sheriff’s request that he not hold his usual Sunday services.

 

As a historian of revival, some believe I should have a definite word on this, but the only thing that comes to me is that the issue is ambiguous, and good Christians could go either way. Yes, governments have the responsibility and power during pandemics to take quarantine measures. Such measures are lawful and should be obeyed by Christians. And yes, on the other hand, in this country we are blessed with the 1st Amendment that ensures freedom of worship.

 

This leaves an area of ambiguity of moral choice, i.e., to disobey a law and affirm a spiritual obligation or not. As Americans learned in the Civil Rights era, for instance, defying laws excluding African American from white only restaurants was a spiritual imperative, but unlawful act. Is the restriction of attending church in the same category? I am not convinced, but for some it may be.

 

Many Christian don’t like having moral ambiguity in their lives. They would prefer something like the Old Testament law to guide every dilemmas presented to them. But the New Testament allows large areas of ambiguity in many of life’ issues. Paul is especially clear about ambiguities and the Christian’s freedom on conscience. Recall of his advice on eating meat offered at the local temples, a big deal then, or holding one day more sacred than the rest (Rm 14). For him, Christians could act in differing ways towards these issues.

 

But behind the ambiguity of the current situation there are important historical issues to consider. In spite of much progress, many denominations of the Church still have a poor understanding, or an absent practice, of healing prayer. Very few Christians understand how to specifically pray against a virus or bacteria that is invading their body and making them sick. The general prayer, “Lord, heal me.” is usually not very effective.

 

The New Testament pattern against infections is modeled in the incident when Jesus rebuked the fever that was making Peter’s mother-in law ill (Luke 4:39). We don’t have the exact words he used, but a rebuke is a directed, firm negative statement. We have the exact words that Jesus used against a fruitless fig tree that caused its death (Matt 21:19). We must assume that the virus or bacteria that was affecting Peter’s mother in law received a deadly curse just like the fig tree. The infectious agents died immediately, for she recovered and began preparing supper for Jesus and his disciples.

 

I have used a similar form of cursing the virus or bacteria for years on myself (usually in front of a mirror) and found it very effective, I have not seen it modeled in the healing literature anywhere, but would appreciate information and correction on this. I never thought too much about it until the present pandemic, when I wrote a brief blog posting on it. Let me add that I combine the curse on the virus with words of encouragement and blessing to the immune system to be strong and resist the virus or bacteria.[1]

 

The Church as a whole is just recovering fro the long heresy/error of not doing healing prayer. The Reformers asserted cessationism right at the start of the Reformation, and the Catholic equivalent which restricted healing prayer to the very holy and rare people, evolved in late antiquity, and basically banished effective healing from the normal parish.[2]

 

Thus Church has not had successful instance in experience stilling pandemics with prayers. The Black Death, for instance, which ravished Medieval Europe ran its gruesome course with no letup in spite of desperate prayers from the Christians, as in novinas and “exposing relics,” all unbiblical. Luther, among others, encouraged Christian clergy not to run and stay and treat those who were sick even at great risk to themselves.[3] But he had not a word about effective healing prayer to still the plague.

 

In the 1890s and 1900s, some Holiness Evangelicals and then the Pentecostals recovered many aspects of Biblical healing prayer, as in the laying on of hands. But the Pentecostals did not figure out how to effectively pray against the influenza of 1918, and like other Christian denominations, shut down their churches until the pandemic ended. All of which is to say we still have much to learn about healing prayer and should not fault the civil authorities for their judgments about closing churches temporarily.

 

Further, as Christians, we must grant to government officials the right to be suspicious of Christian practices on healing and prayer. In former decades it was not uncommon to that children of Pentecostal or fundamentalist churches die because they were not taken to the doctor, or because they did not accept insulin for diabetes on the grounds that they had faith in God’s direct healing. That still happens on occasion. That form of presumption,[4] was actually a serious issue in the first healing revival, the Faith-Cure Movement of the 1890s, and did much to end that pioneer, and otherwise excellent revival.[5]

 

So we really should avoid thinking that the sheriff who arrested Howard Rodney Brown was some sort of anti-Christian villain. In fact, he declared that he hated doing the arrest.[6] Obviously he was acting on common sense based on the woeful history and experience of the church in regard to plagues.

 

So what should the church do now? The most obvious thing is to up the effort in teaching effective healing prayer so that it becomes normal in practically every church in America, and which results in hundred of thousands of witnesses on effective healing prayer. Learning to pray effectively against virus and bacterial infections must be taught systematically and not just left haphazard. There will plenty of occasions to practice and refine that type of prayer in the course of a normal year. Recall that many common colds are less deadly forms of corona viruses, so that a Christian who has experience in paying against an on setting cold should have no difficulty in combating the covid-19, or any other deadly virus.

 

Further, churches must probe on ways to mobilize united, mass prayers against entire pandemics. I recently reported on how Kenneth Copeland and his son-in-law, the Rev. George Pearson, led a pray, watched by thousands on Copeland’s cable TV network, to come against the covid-19 virus en mass (Sunday 3/30/ 2020). Pastor George and Kenneth Copeland both “prophesized” about the corona virus Covit-19 and “judged” it to disappear “much sooner than expected.”[7] Bu judging they meant that the Christian can take Jesus’ authority over it and declare it ended. Copland elicited the agreement of his viewers (I assume mot who viewed this program went along) to form a huge network of prayer of agreement that the covid-19 would quickly weaken and dissipate. Certainly many Christian have a right to be skeptical about that prayer, as unlike praying individually against a virus (fever) there is no biblical pattern for praying against a mass plague.

 

But I commend the Revs. Copeland and Pearson for attempting this. They are within the New Testament mandate to “but test everything, hold fast to what is good.” (1 Thess 5:21 NRSV) If it does not work, and covid -19 runs its normal course of ending late summer or after a vaccine is developed, nothing was lost, except that perhaps both pastors will have some egg on their faces. If there is an unexplainable slowdown in the progression of the disease, then their attempt will be seen as a milestone in the history of the Church’s healing ministry. Let us see.

 

 

[1] William De Arteaga, “Personally Combating the Corona Virus,” Pentecostal Theology, Posted March 8, 2020.   http://www.pentecostaltheology.com/personally-combating-the-coronavirus/

[2] I deal with this error in my book, Agnes Sanford and Her Companions (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2015).

[3] Emy Yang, “What Luther Teaches us About the Corona Virus,” Christianity Today. Posted Jan., 30. 2020           https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/january-web-only/martin-luther-coronavirus-wuhan-chinese-new-year-christians.html

[4] The classic on the issue of faith or presumption is Charles Farah’s, From the Pinnacle of the Temple (Plainfield: Logos International, 1979).

[5] On this issue see my work, Quenching the Spirit, (Lake Mary: Creation House, 1996) chapters 9 & 10.

[6] Tamar Lush and Cris O’Mera, “Pentecostal Pastor First to be Arrested for Defying Corona Virus Order,” Christianity Today, March 30, 2020 https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/march/tampa-megachurch-pastor-rodney-howard-browne-arrested-covid.html

[7] See my blog postin on this prayer session, “Copeland’s Prophecy on Covid-19,” Pentecostal Theology. Posted 4/1/20   http://www.pentecostaltheology.com/copelands-prophecy-on-covit-19/

William DeArteaga

William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include, Quenching the Spirit (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), and Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He and his wife Carolyn continue in their healing, teaching and writing ministries. He is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations.

19 Comments

  • Reply April 10, 2020

    Varnel Watson

    THANK YOU William DeArteaga wish you put a part 2 today after reading this

    http://www.pentecostaltheology.com/police-raid-churchs-drive-in-service-with-500-tickets-for-every-member/

    Building bank accounts is all i see

    Commitment to christ, holiness, evangelizing, deliverance from worldly life styles, and true brotherly love and discipleship is lacking in my experience in churches i have visited and spent a quantity of time with.
    But the constant message of tithing and the passing of the offering plate is stronger than ever.
    Used car salesmen preachers are in abundance today.
    May this time out from God bring repentance and commitment to what he wants from the body of christ.

  • Reply April 10, 2020

    Varnel Watson

  • Reply April 10, 2020

    Varnel Watson

    there is of course 300 OTHER LEGAL ways of controlling the masses Governor Bill Lee said he’s used cell phone data to see Tennesseans are becoming more active since he asked people to stay at home last month. That data, he said in a press conference on Thursday, weighed heavily on his decision to issue a stay at home order.

    His use of cell phone data has some concerned for their privacy.

    “It’s been said your phones actually a tracking device that you can talk on, and that’s pretty true,” LMU Law Professor Stewart Harris said.

    We’re always looking for the newest gadget and latest app. We quickly accept terms and conditions without even thinking about it.

    “We click on that button,” Harris said.’I accept your terms of service I assert that I’ve read them,’ but of course no one actually reads them. In those terms of service you’re agreeing to that company to share whatever data it collects about you, and that’s precisely what they do.”

    Harris said companies then sell that money to advertisers, other companies, and even the State of Tennessee.

    “We saw the numbers of movement by their cell phone activity the movement of those cell phones and that data is what weighed into this decision,” Governor Bill Lee said. https://www.wvlt.tv/content/news/Gov-Bill-Lee-used-cell-phone-data–569340231.html

  • Rick Slotboom
    Reply April 11, 2020

    Rick Slotboom

    For pastor Rodney Howard Browne much more is going on. He believes there is a globalist anti- Christian conspiracy going on, driven by the deep state shadow government of the U.S. which greatly reinforces the urgent need that he feels to stand up for religious liberty. To really understand his position you must read his books ‘The Killing of Uncle Sam ‘ and ‘Killing the Planet’. Now I’m not the kind of guy that’s interested in conspiracy theories, but I did read the first book and have started to do some research on this. I don’t think that pastor RHB is seeing the whole picture or gets it right everywhere, but I must admit that the book that I’ve read is extremely well researched and documented and I think the issues that he is addressing are extremely important. He has asked experts in different fields to critically examine the book footnote by footnote, and although they started sceptical they ended up convinced. Pastor Rodney has personal contacts in congress and the White House and given a copy of the book to every MP. Apparently it is so convincing that even some progressives (his opponents) are starting to ask critical questions. Now, he might be seeing too many conspiracies (there’s a certain danger that once you start looking for them you’ll see them everywhere), but I found his analysis of the global economy the most illuminating I’ve ever read. Probably the assessment of former CIA officer Kevin Shipp that this is the best description of the deep state government in existence is true. (For his claims that these people are working towards a one world religion I’d like to see more evidence.) If only half of it is true, than something far more insidious is going on around the globe than most can even imagine. I therefore think that it is extremely important that we analyze and debate these books carefully, especially as pentecostal/ charismatic theologians, because this seems to cut through everything that’s going on in the world and especially the U.S. and has many ties to U.S. pentecostalism and the neocharismatic and evangelical support for the Trump administration. Now, I’m not just buying into these kind of things uncritically, and am still working on it, but much of it seems, as far as I’ve been able to assess thus far, well founded, at least in the first book that I’ve read (I’ll read the second one later). I would like to make an urgent appeal to all of you to read these books, to come up with a balanced, critical assessment of it and start a debate. If only part of this is true, than the world is headed toward disaster if these trends go unchecked. I’m not saying this because I’m buying into anything without evidence, I’m still researching it, but thus far much of the evidence seems impressive. For those of you who are sceptical I’d like to say: read the book and assess for yourself. I don’t believe everything that pastor Rodney is saying in this area, neither do I think he is seeing the whole picture (Globalization is so complicated that no one fully understands it, I think), but we urgently need to discuss these things and initiate a debate. There is at least much more going on than almost anyone realizes. Therefore I would like ask all of you to read these books and critically assess the evidence and then post your comments. It’s extremely urgent.

  • Reply April 11, 2020

    Varnel Watson

    Rick Slotboom and he may NOT be very far from the truth Are you referring to his 2018 book on all that?

    • Rick Slotboom
      Reply April 12, 2020

      Rick Slotboom

      Troy Day Yes, The Killing of Uncle Sam. It’s hard to finally find out whether the virus itself was part of a conspiracy, but there are definitely people who are trying to take advantage of this, indeed by instilling fear. Whether it was a good idea of pastor Rodney to keep meeting in church or not I find hard to decide (and the Dutch context is different from the American, so it’s even harder to take a position from here, but I understand his reasons). Maybe he deliberately pushed this to lead a legal precedent. For me it’s not just about Corona or the constitution (although you the same pressures from the progressives here in the Netherlands, although in a less polarized way; our government has made an exception for religious meetings up to 30 people, so that we can have online services, but the progressives are calling to prohibit even that, with the social democratic mayor of Rotterdam calling to set aside the constitution because of the emergency), but about the larger picture of what is going on in the world. We urgently need a balanced debate about these things, especially now that we are seeing that many Pencostal theologians are supporting the progressive side. Here in Amsterdam we now have a Pentecostal migrant pastor who is also a theologian and social scientist and has been proclaimed theologian of the year, who is openly doubting whether heaven and hell exist, saying that we should work for heaven on earth, social justice, peace with other religions, climate policy and accept homosexuality, offering free university level education to all the pentecostal migrant pastors. Another charismatic theologian I know that is leading a large diaconal ministry (doing a lot for especially illegal immigrants, LHBTI people of different nations) is arguing for all the same things and even denying that Jesus will come back on the clouds of heaven. I understand that the early Pentecostals had different traditions about this with good reason and I do feel a lot for poor or migrant people in need, and the pacifism question is also a difficult one for me), but we carefully need to assess this and initiate a large debate to bring out into the open what is going on (or what not?) and come up with intelligent solutions. Also the very quick rise of technology to survey us everywhere is disturbing. I recently saw the Israeli atheist historian Harari telling that in Silicon valley all the big tech companies are working on full integration of computer technology, internet and (neurobiology). Just within a few years we have found ourselves beeing tracked and spied on through our smart phones, computers and television (location tracking, internet use analysis, spying on you through the cam and microphone on your smart phone and computer). These developments are going very rapidly all of a sudden, and for example the mayor of Amsterdam threatening to close all churches and mosques that don’t accept gay marriage (the children at elementary schools here are now being taught to experiment sexually whether they like sex with males or females better). This getting nasty very quickly. Our pastor and the bible school of our church are already teaching and preaching on how to deal with persecution. So yes I’m not just arguing about Corona but everything that is going on in the world, especially the West.

    • Reply April 12, 2020

      Varnel Watson

      Rick Slotboom give me the resume I have only scanned the book but have not had it for long to read it all What does RHB say in the uncle SAM book?

    • Rick Slotboom
      Reply April 14, 2020

      Rick Slotboom

      Troy Day Basically there’s a corrupt global elite of private central bankers that has also built a deep state government in the US and is working towards a one world government, to extend their own power and wealth, and according to RHB they will also usher in a one world religion. There are a lot of detailed issues, like how the CIA has worked together with drugs gang to finance secret wars against their enemies etc. There’s much more and it’s extremely evil and often extensively documented.

  • Reply April 11, 2020

    Varnel Watson

    William DeArteaga Joseph Castillo MAYBE just MAYBE they have every right to do so

    DOCTOR TELLS TRUTH ABOUT C19 BODY COUNT AND GOVT LYING

    This is a Minnesota State Senator and. Doctor saying they’ve instructed him to put on people’s death certificate cause of death “COVID19” when in reality the person passed away of other causes other than the COVID 19 virus. I believe the virus is real I know of people that have passed away because of it legitimately . But all this doesn’t add up. They are pumping FEAR into us so that later we are at the mercy of them. Who is “them” you ask? I will reserve that for another time. I do want to encourage you with these words from the Book of TRUTH the Holy Bible—-“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
    ‭‭II Timothy‬ ‭1:7‬ ‭ We cannot give into a “one size fits all” medicine. Everything that is going on with this virus doesn’t add up. It is real but what the government is doing to handle this and who they are listening to is not the correct advice. As believers in Christ I ask that we pray that the evil is exposed, that God give wisdom to our government leaders, that they will discern between what is TRUTH and what is a LIE. Fear does paralyze people to think for themselves. We need to have the mind of Christ and as you watch the news etc Do not let FEAR paralyze us. Yes let’s take precautions but let’s not live in fear.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9nU1BCnX1Q&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR28I02-pYJsztuZNcyL5xLQIqSauvG8JgiJb8kdCOchjCQlOTvo1YB4oQo

    • Rick Slotboom
      Reply April 12, 2020

      Rick Slotboom

      Troy Day I do agree fully of course with not living in fear. I use the Scripture you mentioned virtually daily. Whatever bad people may be doing, however power they are, they are not in control. One is on the throne, and the Lamb. Whether he has the right to assemble or not or whether this is wise not really what I’m interested in. (Maybe this is because I’m Dutch and our government has found a sort of middle ground (make an exception for religious meetings up to 30 people, which is mainly used for online services, appealing to the Dutch constitution) that doesn’t exist in the US because we are a more consensus based country that seeks a balance between many different voices; although I really miss the real church meetings). I’m much more interested in the bigger picture of what’s going on. There are all kinds of pressures to push back against the church and we need a good debate on what’s going on and what to do about it. In the Netherlands we are also seeing this polarisation but thank God we have a government that manages to get different parties together to listen to one another and come up with a workable solution. I don’t know if this will remain in the coming years. The pressure on the church is mounting. I’ve got the feeling that in the US the debate is so polarized that the two side are often not working FOR anything, but rather AGAINST one another. Even if you think it would be wise to go into quarantine as a church, for the world it will never be enough until either there is no church anymore or the church is so worldly that there is no difference anymore between church and world. And the powers and processess that are trying to enforce this need to be brought out into the open and publicly be discussed. One of the primary ways to do this is to silence the voice of the church or to appeal to ‘science ‘ as if science is the only thing and isn’t open to many interpretations. When people appeal to ‘objective knowledge ‘ and ‘science’ it basically means (especially in the US): anti-Christian and christians do not even have a right to be heard. The whole appeal to ‘objective’ knowledge is stupid, because in virtually every branch of philosophy and science, even physics, many people acknowledge that no such thing as objective knowledge exists. Interestingly, the last few days here in the Netherlands a few non-Christian intellectuals have started to as questions like whether this constant appeal to science, health care and economy doesn’t preempt any debate in a fear driven way, and whether not actually the quarantine measures will actually lead to more deaths than if we would end them- and if all of this not one big denial of our mortality (I’m reminded of the Scripture that speaks about the captivity of man because of the fear of death), and what are we sacrificing of the good life by constantly focusing on health and economy. So here in the Netherlands we can still have something of a rational discussion about things. But is this also possible in the more polarized cultural climate of the US?

    • Reply April 14, 2020

      Varnel Watson

      Rick Slotboom what is your take on this CDC order ? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8SNxSMK6vQ&feature=emb_title

    • Rick Slotboom
      Reply April 15, 2020

      Rick Slotboom

      Troy Day Interesting. It’s at least certain that certain very powerful people knew that this could happen. RHB has recently pointed to a document from the Rockefeller foundation from 2015 that expected a global pandemic. I’d like to know who owns Netflix and/ or made this series. I also saw that next to the market in Wuhan where the Corona virus was a lab (who owns/ controls it?) that was working with Corona virus on bats and that certain US government organisations repeatedly warned could cause a global pandemic. So all kinds of high ranking people knew of the possibility and maybe created this. I just read a quote by David Rockefeller in the 1990s that said we NEED a global catastrophe to build a global government. So, the question is: who is behind this? (If intentional) the globalists? China? Maybe both, working together? It’s difficult to say, but there are so many of these clues that is difficult not believe that certain people anticipated or even created this to use it for their own purposes. I would also like to know more about the ties between people like the Rockefellers and China. It’s difficult to predict where this might be going. A one world government? Or greater division between US and China? Or maybe division and chaos leading to a globalist takeover?

    • Rick Slotboom
      Reply April 15, 2020

      Rick Slotboom

      Troy Day Harvard university has just published a study suggesting that until 2022 we will need at least 7-8 more lockdowns. The progressives in different countries, including here, are pointing to churches as major sources of the spread of Corona. There will definitely be great pressure to close churches for extended periods of time.

    • Rick Slotboom
      Reply April 15, 2020

      Rick Slotboom

      Troy Day Just read in the Washington post that they have been publishing on Corona viruses and bats for years, so the makers of the Netflix series probably picked up on that.

    • Rick Slotboom
      Reply April 15, 2020

      Rick Slotboom

      At least much of modern scientific medicine and the life sciences in China have their origins in the work and foundation of the Rockefellers. That doesn’t prove anything yet, but makes you wonder whether there is a connection?

    • Rick Slotboom
      Reply April 16, 2020

      Rick Slotboom

      I just saw that the Wuhan Institute of Virology has received a 3.7 million research from the NIH and this US government institute is linked by some to the Rockefellers

    • Rick Slotboom
      Reply April 16, 2020

      Rick Slotboom

      The research Grant was specifically for research on the transmission of coronaviruses

  • Reply April 12, 2020

    Varnel Watson

  • Reply April 14, 2020

    Varnel Watson

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