Conscience and COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates: 
In Defense of Sphere Authority

You OK with living here? Could you name a few of your preferred nations?


I laughed at that. I hate what its becoming but I still think America is the best nation on the earth which is why I believe we ought to fight to keep it.

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Sounds like a good argument to submit to her authority, too.

When its lawful and a good argument to fight against tyrants attempting to take it over.

I guess I don’t see where Evangel guys have ever said ‘submit and shut up.’ Your presbytery meetings must be some gatherings if that’s what’s going there!

But DW has stated, and publicly…

‘I would rather die than to require healthy parishioners to be vaccinated or masked in order to worship God.’
‘I would rather be excommunicated than comply with it.’
‘They simply do not want to be complicit with the creation of additional “admission” requirements for the worship of God, requirements that are based entirely on the doctrines of men. To do so is to destroy liberty of conscience.’

Then this distinction between ‘require’ and ‘recommend.’

I’m not a member of Evangel Pres, closet Presbyterian though I be. But from my vantage point 5000 miles away, it’s not terribly difficult to see who is lobbing bombs and who is pleading for peace.

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Is seems that you are arguing that Doug Wilson is responsible for not only what he says but also for how others take it while at the same time denying that we are responsible for how others take it. So when I say that Warhorn seemed to say “submit and shutup” I am not saying they have literally said it but the weight of the material has led many people to believe that is their position. Yes there have been caveats made but when one uses rhetoric like “beligerators” and “rebels” and constantly talks about submission one is led to believe something that if the rhetoric was dialed back would be a whole lot less liable to be mistaken.

I am not following you. Isn’t Doug explicitly using the term “require” and not recommend.

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Our church is punk rock and militant. We were born in street ministry and abortion ministry. If cops hassle you or Aaron or Mark about preaching on the street, you all push back. There’s a certain defiance that is just baked into our church that very few other churches have. Our situation is far from the norm.

Our natural inclination toward any restriction on our worship is to immediately think, “This is BS, and I’m not gonna do it.” I’d say that was all of our reactions to stay at home orders. It didn’t have to be forced. Since were smaller then, it was easier to be of one mind.

But our provisional elders told us to stop getting together at each other’s houses and do church over Zoom for a few weeks. We did a few drive-in services. Rather than rebel, we submitted to this instruction even though I’d say none of us wanted to do it. But we love Evangel. We love the men of our presbytery, and so we submitted. We kept the peace.

Even us, as edgy as we are, we shut up and submitted for a time. We did the right thing.

And then our conservative Republican landlady told us to come back and you don’t have to wear masks. Lucky us.

Our behavior was very different from Trewhella’ or Moscow’s.


I can agree with him on whether masks should be required or not without agreeing with all his rhetoric or hermeneutic on it. I told Toby I thought that was a silly argument and undermined his argument. He had an explanation that I didn’t buy because it sounded a little James Jordanish. That said, I can say they are wrong on that without feeling the need to go on attack mode.

Potayto-Potahto. As our back and forth just demonstrated. He urges Christians to make it an excommunication issue rather than following the input of elders they would have trusted 18 months ago. And encourages them to look for other issues in their churches as well by constantly insinuating, as you did just a few posts back, that there are ‘likely’ other issues lurking under the floorboards of any church that doesn’t feel the need to rebel against all mask mandates in church.

Where’s the place for a faithful eldership that asks (okay fine…requires but probably won’t excommunicate!) submission on something like masks but is otherwise faithful? Where’s the place for your brothers in Evangel? Would you recommend everyone leave all their churches?

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" If the elders of an otherwise faithful church require parishioners to wear a mask in order to participate in worship, and if they refuse to make any accommodations for those who do not wish to wear a mask (e.g. sitting in the back of the balcony), and if this is the only issue on the table, I do not believe members should leave a church over this issue. I believe that to leave over this issue only would be foolish and unwise.

If someone has left a church under these circumstances, and if the only reason for doing so was this issue of masking, then I believe it would be proper for them to return to the church in order to be reconciled to their elders."

  • Doug Wilson September 3rd 2020

This is pretty explicit and is not the only time he has made this caveat. Are we going to say that every time he speaks to something he has to lay out all the caveats?

The churches I know outside of yours and those in evangel which have required and I mean required masks have had a lot of issues that have been perplexing their people. I live near Louisville Kentucky where many of the churches are going woke. I know of one SBC that did not meet for worship but instead went to a BLM rally last year. All of this stuff has been hitting these churches pretty hard. Woke and Revoice stuff has been hitting the churches and men I know who left these churches all said they were trying to stay and fight without being divisive or a church hopper but then came covid and the mask stuff cemented in their mind the hopelessness of their ability to reform that church.

Maybe Doug Wilson is blowing smoke and its all a ploy to bring every christian to moscow and under his popedome. Maybe thats it. Or maybe there are a lot of churches where the compromise has been so bad that God’s people are coming out of them and gathering together with likeminded believers to do the work of the Lord.

Making those caveats seems to me to seriously undercut his argument, especially in places like Monday’s post. And it goes against all of his rhetoric on masks and idolatry. I understand making a point, but when brothers are pleading with him to tone it down a bit because it’s causing real division in churches that don’t have all the issues he suspects usually accompanies the mask issue, I start wondering what else is going on.

I’m dealing all those same things here. Maybe it’s not BLM or Revoice specifically, but we have those same problems, and sometimes it’s the exact same groups.

I don’t think we have to accuse Moscow of trying to bring everyone to themselves to see that their rhetoric is negligent and damaging, to see that the sort of people who are most likely to get fired up by it are the least likely to need it, and that there are many pastors who are just trying to faithfully make it through a couple years of ministry like 2020 and 2021 were that every single one of us was unprepared for without losing dearly loved members over something that just doesn’t need to be a leaving the church issue.

Call out compromise. I’m great with that. But quit shooting your own brothers in the back while doing it.

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It only undercuts his argument if you assume He arguing against masks in general over against the requiring of masks without any kind of accommodation for those who have a conscience issue on it which could include the issue of idolatry. And who doesn’t agree that for some masks are an idol. At the abortion clinic, the deathscorts have been wearing them religiously and they will say on their twitter that it is religious. For many masks are indication of an idol of safety at all costs or of a worship of the state. I don’t think they have to be idols. But back to the point, its only an undercuting of his argument if we must insist that he means one thing when he doesn’t.

I don’t think you should fear losing members if you accommodate their conscience on this. Furthermore, if we dial back the rhetoric towards those on the opposite side, it might heal divisions amongst us. When you call them rebels, beligerators, and use over the top rhetoric towards your brothers, people who are sympathetic to them also feel attacked. The divisions that some of the churches on our side felt might not have happened if we too didn’t go scorched earth in our rhetoric. I hate to sound like the tone police but I agree, lets quit shooting brothers.


‘My strong statement about being excommunicated simply had to do with a requirement that I worship God, and that I do so in a mask. In other words, that I must attend, and that I must mask up. That is when I would seek to leave a church that I had believed was otherwise sound.‘

It seems to me he’s doubling down on masks. It’s not just about other issues in church (gender/sexual compromise, wokeness, etc). It’s about masks.

And still that rigid dichotomy between ‘recommend’ and ‘require.’ With no regard for the authority of church officers to make a wisdom call in this situation.


That seems to be the most charitable read we could give. The “otherwise sound” language has always bothered me as well. It is seems the height of arrogance on the part of a church member to say that their church has been sound and the church officers faithful in the execution of their work but now this one little thing, masks, is causing them to leave the church. If you have been happy and healthy in a church for some time and then decide to leave over a stupid issue like masks, you have exposed more of your own heart than any failures, perceived or otherwise, on the part of the church officers.


Something that struck me this evening: the recent podcast on covid and authority sounded almost exactly like chapter 25 of Bahnsen’s By This Standard. He argues that the two ditches on the side of the road are those that take Romans 13 to be descriptive, i.e. that anything an ruler does is from God and should be obeyed. The other ditch are what he refers to as rebellious people who put themselves over the ruler and judge everything according to what they think God’s law says.

Bahnsen says the truth is somewhere in the middle, where we must show proper deference to authority, as David did Saul. However, at some point of forbearing, the oppression becomes too much and some action must be taken.

The only question is: when is that point in our modern context? What line in the sand is there? Can we name it and pray to avoid it?

Tim mentioned in the podcast that he had, after long study, been convinced that the American war for independence was justified. I wonder what factors led him to believe that, or if there’s a good book on it.