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November 30, 2020

Luke 12 and Face Masks

By Robert Thoburn

Today we are being told that social cooperation comes from executive orders and centralized control.  In fact, what has been rolling out before our eyes is anything but social cooperation.  

If we want to talk about masks, we may need to stop talking about masks.   We need to point people to Luke 12.  Trust the God who sees everything.  Trust the rights and responsibilities he gave to individuals.  Trust the limited role he gave the state.  Don’t look to man.  Don’t look to the state to solve our problems. 

Telling others how shocked we are that they cover their faces doesn’t seem to have made much difference.  They wear them anyway.  Advocates of masks also seem to realize the futility of arguing.  They easily tolerate the many stores which seem to have decided not to confront customers who enter with open smiling faces. 

If someone brought up masks a year ago, I think we could have had a conversation.  But, today the issue isn’t really about masks.  People have already heard the arguments.  (“The CDC said not to wear them,” “The virus spreads anyway, even worldwide!...”)

It’s not about masks.  It’s a broader cultural and spiritual battle.  The culture of masking up has been promoted by a belief in the state.  The state will save us.  I know this because I was there.  I didn’t see anyone wearing a mask in January/February 2020.  Here in Virginia they all started after Dr. Northam’s Memorial Day announcement.  Individuals do things for all kinds of reasons.  But, the great impetus making masks socially acceptable, even socially required has come as the governors have used the prestige of the state to encourage masking.

So, why do the states have such influence?  Why do we vote for these people, love these people, listen to them, and jump on board?  The reason is that we believe someone has to manage everything, even a virus.

Rousas Rushdoony wrote that our belief in predestination is inevitable.  If we don’t believe that God controls the future, we inevitably assume that man must do so.[1]  Nobody for very long believes nature should be left to itself.  Even the climate change crowd wants man to try to control the future of the climate.  I don’t think it matters to them that maybe we cannot control something like that on this massive sphere we all live on.  They will simply come back and say that we have to try even if we have little chance of success.  After all, if we don’t try, nobody will. 

Since March we have witnessed much of Americans’ trust in the state come to fruition.  States have intervened to control Corona.  The results have not been particularly good.  By official stats, the virus is out of control.  There has been constant fear and disruption of lives, education, investments, and business.  Our rights to speech, assembly and worship have been under constant assault. 

We’ve seen corrupt politicians, Republicans and Democrats.  Was the mayor of Denver really on the way to the airport to fly to Miami when he tweeted for his residents to spend Thanksgiving at home? 

Going forward, we face major economic problems.  And, when central control isn’t working well we can expect to see calls for even more draconian state control.  Thinking is, if the lockdown didn’t work it’s because we needed a bigger lockdown sooner.  If stimulus didn’t make us rich, we need more free money. 

But, all this trying more of the same thing isn’t driven by data.  Rather, it’s a faith, an assumption that the answer comes from centralized state action.    The state is our salvation.  Hopefully for better, but for better or for worse, the state must tackle any problem. 

The alternative to all this is a belief in God’s predestining power.  Luke 12 says:

Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?  But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows. Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God.

What does it mean to confess Christ?  If we confess Christ, we read and follow his word.  If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

America is a system built by followers of Christ, people who read Christ’s word, the bible. Because God numbers every hair and sees every sparrow, we can trust his ways.  We can give individuals the responsibility that God gives them in scripture.  We can protect their God-given rights to speak with mouths uncovered and to assemble and to sing. 

America was perhaps the greatest system of social cooperation ever.  And, it was built on private property (thou shalt not steal), charity, and voluntary cooperation. 

Our states and our federal government were built on Republican government.  Trusting in Christ, we didn’t trust man.  Isaiah 33 says For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king.  We didn’t trust any fallen man to be all this so in every state lawgiving came from one branch, usually with 2 houses.  Carrying out the laws of the legislature came from a separate executive.  Judging the facts and the justice of a case came from yet a 3rd branch.  The constitution guaranteed this form of Republican government to every state in the union.

In Virginia, unlike the federal government, even the executive power is dispersed and not held by one man.  We have 3 statewide elected executives and 123 sheriffs who carry out the laws.  The local sheriffs and others do not work for the governor.  They don’t answer to him and cannot be fired by him but hold executive power directly on their own.    

This cumbersome system doesn’t lend itself to a strong response to a virus or to any emergency.  But, Americans were not looking for the state to save them from a virus.  The role of the state in scripture is punishing evildoers after the fact.

With such a limited state, we became the safest, healthiest and most prosperous nation in history.  A distant wilderness became the envy of the world.  It turns out that very limited civil government, individual responsibility and rights, strong families and churches all became a prescription for great social cooperation.

If we want to save our land then those who do trust in the true God must turn to him and his word.  We must assemble on the Sabbath and renew our covenant with him.  It doesn’t depend on what the unbelievers and the statists do.  Rather, God is looking for those of us who are his people to do something.  II Chronicles says:  If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

[1] See for example:  https://faithandheritage.com/2016/02/rushdoonys-biblical-approach-to-history/  “Whenever and wherever the doctrine of creation is denied or weakened, to that extent the sovereignty of God and His eternal decrees are denied or weakened; sovereignty and predestinating power are transferred into the hands of man.”


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