“Now while Paul was waiting for them in Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he observed that the city was full of idols…So Paul stood in the midst of the Aeropagus and said, ‘Men of Athens, I see that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this transcription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you’” (Acts 17.16, 21-23; NASB).
“Their idols [unbelieving peoples] are silver and gold, the work of human hands…Those who make them are like them” (Psa 115.4, 8).
“For they exchanged the truth of God for falsehood, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…” (Rom 1.25a).
What is religion? What is a religious person? Are you one? Do you know such an individual? I ask because I’m convinced that many people do not know the true answer.
Over the past few months I have spent a significant amount of time attempting to provide individuals from a variety of businesses with information on religious exemptions pertaining to the medical treatment being rammed down American throats (actually jabbed in the arm) without their informed consent. I say “without informed consent” because of the strong arm tactics being used in order to force compliance. Very little information is given about this medical treatment. There is no 3-5 year safety data provided. Any data provided that is counter to the current narrative is silenced, mocked or ignored. A medical crisis is claimed but evidently not one so serious that we cannot fire a large portion of our health professionals.
The hysteria regarding this illness is disturbing. Arguments of irrationality are provided by those that pretend to be completely rational. For example, if face diapers work then why bother those who refrain from wearing them? If they cannot prevent smoke particles from getting into your lungs, then why say that they can stop viruses which are measurably smaller? If the medical treatment is safe and effective, then why not provide an ingredient list? Why suppress adverse reactions including death? If it is out of love for neighbor, then where is your love the neighbor that has legitimate concerns for not getting it? If the information provided by the “experts” is accurate and truthful, then why refuse to have an open debate in the public sphere where other “experts” in the same fields of study disagree in their interpretation of the data? Why censor rather than critically analyze? If you’ve received the medical treatment and you believe it works as intended, then why are your fearful of those who have not? If protection is truly offered, then how can you be harmed? Why are the numbers still rising in cases and deaths when more people have taken the prescribed treatment? How can the numbers be higher when the majority of the population has participated in this medical experiment?
To use a simple analogy for those uncomfortable with answering probing questions:
Automobiles travel at high speeds and people, due to human error, tend to have accidents. In the past people did not wear seat belts and as a result the death count was too high. So actions were taken to educate and enforce the use of seat belts in all automobiles. The seat belts were deemed safe and effective and the best tool available to curb the high fatality rate. Nearly 70% of the driving population was convinced that wearing seat belts was the best preventive measure they could take. The took the experts advice and did what they recommended (i.e., they followed the guidelines). But when the data came in and the numbers were crunched the fatality rate had not really dropped. The cases of seat belt fatalities was as high if not higher than the previous year. What was the problem? Why were the number still too high? Ah the reason is simple. The 30% (or less) who refused to wear seat belts were the source of the higher case load of deaths. Driving would not truly be safe for anyone, not even those who wore seat belts and were protected, until the radical 30% learned their place and submitted to the tool provided by the experts. Until they were brought in line with the rest of the safety conscious public driving would too dangerous of an activity to pursue. (Hypothetical scenario for illustrative purposes only).
Back to Religion…
Now I started off this post with questions pertaining to religion. And I made the bold statement that many people in our day don’t know the answer as to what a religion is and who is actually a religious person. I also shared that I have made myself available as a pastor to aid individuals seeking a religious exemption from their employer regarding a particular mandate coming down the pike. And I am glad to say that some of my efforts have been successful. However, I have noticed a bit of confusion on the part of many both inside and outside the Christian fellowship.
There have been those that have assumed that to be a religious person you must be associated with a particular sect or denomination or faith. Others have argued that science, medicine or politics are not religious in nature, thus, you cannot make an argument against what the “experts” are saying on the grounds of religious faith. Sadly, some notable pastors have offered this idea from one degree to another.
- Popular pastor and author John Piper argues that in light of the evidence presented in the media by the approved experts, Christians have little reason to avoid taking the prescribed medical treatment. An act of godly love should drive their decision not peer pressure from apparently joining the ranks of those they normally oppose. After discussing the freedom we experience in Jesus Christ, Piper argues we dare not use that freedom to violate others: “But woe to us Christians if this radical freedom makes us cocky.”
- Robert Jeffress a pastor in Dallas, TX is dismissive of those that try to appeal to religion as a way to avoid getting the government’s medicine. He confidently asserts that you might as well avoid other medications if you’re going to be consistent, and then explains that neither he nor his staff will be providing recommendations for anyone seeking a religious exemption.
Both men are entitled to their opinion. All people are. But the freedom to express one’s opinion is not the same thing as being right. I’m sure that both men have strong feelings about their position and would argue adamantly in defense of it. The freedom to have feelings, even very strong ones, is another right that people have, but neither do feelings, even strong ones, make the position held a correct one.
They are not alone. A large number of Christian ministers promote a similar line of thought as seen in an Associated Press article by David Crary on the Christianity Today website. And so, we are back to the questions of religion, who’s religious, and is this a religious issue.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary the term means, “A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.” The Encyclopedia Britannica (2008) offers a similar meaning, “Relation of human beings to God or the gods or to whatever they consider sacred or, in some cases, merely supernatural.” We could peruse other resources but the answer will be the same. Religion may be something more classically understood as a worship of some deity with various ritualistic expressions of devotion; or religion may be understood in its most basic sense as a certain set of beliefs about reality as a whole that are strenuously held to (i.e., deep-seated convictions).
Paul in Athens…
This is precisely what Paul bears witness to while waiting for his ministry team in the ancient Grecian city of Athens (cf. Acts 17.16). As he observes the edifices of their cultural commitments; seen in their architecture and argumentation (i.e., idols, buildings, and thoughts) his spirit is continually being provoked within him. And since Athenians loved nothing more than to discuss this issue or that, to pontificate on this issue or that, we find the apostle entering into the marketplace (of ideas) reasoning with all who would give him audience (Acts 17.21, v. 17 respectively). His behavior earns him further investigation into his own beliefs as he is ushered into the court of ideas, the Aeropagus, where all important matters were weighed and judged (Acts 17.18-20). Paul a highly educated man in both Hebrew and Roman worldviews understood the nature of the case better than his contemporaries. He starts his defense of the Christian faith with a pointed observation of their own:
“Men of Athens, I see that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this transcription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you’” (Acts 17.22b-23).
Paul understood his audience better than they understood themselves. They were very religious people. People so cautious that they made an altar to an unknown god lest they offend that which they did not know. Paul’s point was that they worshiped the imaginations of their own mind, even though they knew at least to some extent that in God all people “live and move and exist” (Acts 17.28).
Who is religious?
All people. That’s what Paul said. It’s what the Psalmist explains in Psalm 115. People who deny the God of creation mock His children (cf. Psa 115.2) for believing that He exists because He is immaterial; a spiritual Being that has no beginning and no end, and who is in fact the Author of all beginnings and ends. But it is the unbelieving world that worships the imaginations of their own hearts (Psa 115.4-8). Having denied the God above them they turn inward and worship “the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom 1.25a).
Greg L. Bahnsen makes two pivotal points in his book By This Standard. The first is repeated several times throughout, “All of life is ethical.” The second speaks on the ethical mindset of mankind as a whole, “Men will either choose to be governed by God or to be ruled by tyrants.”
Meaning what? The statement regarding ethics pertains to right and wrong behavior. A system of truth, a standard that determines what people should and should not do. Ethics pertains to the law, and the question that springs from it is, “Whose law?” This leads to Bahnsen’s second point. Either people will submit (individually and corporately) to God’s Law or they will submit to the law of some other. To be governed means to be led. Either people will be led to live their life in accordance with God’s law, or they will follow the lead of one who upholds their own law.
That this is in fact a religious issue may be seen in the words of Jesus the Christ:
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt 6.24; KJV).
Jesus loved the Father and abided in His love (John 15.10). How did He do this? By keeping His commandments. This is the same requirement of any who would call Jesus their master, for if they loved Him they would keep His commandments (John 14.15). Anyone who claims that Jesus is His Master (i.e., Lord) but refuses to keep His commandments (i.e., word) is a liar (cf. Luke 6.46).
Since all of life is ethical, all of life is religious. Either we live to serve the God who created us and gives us life in Jesus, or we live under the law of the creature; ultimately, our own autonomous hearts (cf. Rom 8.7-8).
An issue of religion?
Is the prescribed medical treatment pushed by the civil government and their experts a religious issue? How does the argument go for receiving it? Is it an “ought to do” or an “if you want to?” It seems to me that a wide variety of individuals are arguing that it is something that we “ought to do.” Meaning that various religious leaders, medical professional, scientific experts, and elected politicians are saying that we should and we are wrong if we refuse. So serious are they on the matter that they are willing to use coercion and bullying techniques to get their way. Come January anyone who refuses an attempt will be made to rob them of their way of life. People are trying to couch the issue in terms of public health policy, but in so doing they are attempting to bind your hands and feet in the process.
Something that Piper said in his article that was spot on was that in Jesus Christ the sons/daughters of the kingdom have been set free. Free not only from sin, but free from the traditions of men. Which means at times free from the laws of men. Ultimately we live under the governance of God and not of men. Those who have received authority from on high have done so in a limited (delegated) fashion. They are charged with enforcing good and punishing evil. They are not charged with invoking their own version of good and punishing what they detest as evil.
Killing babies in the womb that is a version of the current civil government’s good. So too is mutilating young boys and girls, and allowing grown adults to play dress up and “let’s pretend.” Let us not forget about promoting envy and covetousness and calling it paying your fair share in order to rob people of their wealth and their children of their inheritance. Are those scientific issues? Are they medical issues? Are they merely political issues? Or are they at base religious issues?
No one has unlimited authority except God alone. Those in authority have limitations where they are permitted to exercise that authority, called jurisdictions. That others in power are attempting to force those underneath them to submit to their every whim is an expression of overreach (i.e., tyranny). They have gone beyond the boundaries prescribed to them by God (cf. Rom 13.1-10). Thus, attempting to force someone to make a medical decision that they are not comfortable with, or have strong convictions against, is in fact the very definition of a religious issue contrary to men like pastor Jeffress. The method or form of which is no different than what the apostles of Jesus Christ rejected in Acts 4:19, 5:29,
“Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, make your own judgment… We must obey God rather than men”
I understand full well that the nature of the case regarding this illness is driven by the religious zeal of others. All people are religious, but not all religions are equal. All people follow the law, but not all laws are worthy of consideration. Freedom comes from God who gave life, not from those who wish to call themselves gods and goddesses. The State is a servant not our Master. And if they fail to offer godly (i.e., goodly) service, then they are not worth listening to. Will their be consequences? Oh sure, you can bet on it. But their will be consequences either way you look at it. It’s really just a matter of what sort of consequences are you willing to live with?
Anyone who desires a religious exemption recommendation against what’s coming send me your sincerely held religious beliefs. Tell me in writing your circumstance, regardless of your religious affiliation and I will do my best to give you the best recommendation letter that I can.
I have been asked, “What if I’m not religious?” Which often times means, “What if I do not prescribe to any particular religion?” All people are religious there is no way of getting around that. All people have a worldview that is upheld by a certain set of presuppositions that guide their understanding of the world. Some of the founders of our nation were not Christians but were governed by and large by the biblical worldview. In our nations key documents (Declaration of Independence, Constitution of the United States, and our own State Constitutions) certain rights and privileges are recognized as coming from the Creator. The government does not give us those rights, they are established to protect them. Though Thomas Jefferson was no Christian I would have had no problem, based on the criteria I just mentioned, writing him a recommendation for a religious exemption. That is not the same thing as me baptizing him or offering him communion and in turn ushering him into membership in my church. Those things I would not do without a profession of faith, after having time to sit down with him in a ministerial fashion.
We need to keep our categories of thought separate. The government does not have the authority to inject anything they want into your body. They do not have a right to rob you of your livelihood. You can be a conscientious objector, fall under the protections of our rights as citizens, and not share my faith. I’m not vouching for you as a Christian, but as a citizen in the United States that has your religious freedoms being stomped on! If God allows unbelievers to dwell in the land (as He did in ancient Israel), then who am I to say “Nope. Sorry. You don’t believe like I do, I can’t help you.” We are called to love our neighbors, even our enemies (cf. Deut 22.1-4; Prov 24.17-18), and if I am able to help aid you in such a fashion that does not violate my Lord’s commandments… then I will. I’ve already done it for some, I’m more than willing to offer what aid I can.
All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the New American Standard Bible, 2020 Update (NASB).
John Piper, “A Reason to Be Vaccinated: Freedom,” Desiring God blog, October 19, 2021, accessed October 29, 2021, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/a-reason-to-be-vaccinated-freedom.
I appreciate the stated concern of Piper in this article, but I disagree with his premise. I believe that he has failed to consider the religious lens that guides the interpretation of data in any field of study; including, science and medicine. Worldviews guide interpretations of all data. A persons network of presuppositions are intricate and offer a bias as to how they will reach conclusions on a variety of subjects. Suppose we took Piper’s argument and applied it to the popular environmentalism of our day. There are “experts” that the civil government and popular media use to push forward their agenda of going green. Are we to take their interpretations at face-value? Are we to assume that they have the “fact of the matter” set, and then conclude that no other interpretations are available regarding the same data? Are we to believe that their own convictions about how one should care for the world in which we live is the only possible one? We know that we have freedom in Christ, but we shouldn’t allow that freedom in Christ to make us cocky. We’ve been commanded to be faithful stewards of the earth. Evidence by the “experts” shows that we are destroying our planet, that fossil fuels are dangerous, and the CO2 levels present a dangerous hazard to life on earth; therefore, we should stop cows from farting, only drive electric cars, and each have an Asherah pole in our backyards. Okay, so that last one was a little tongue-in-cheek, but the hysteria that drives that movement (environmentalism) is similar in form to the current one regarding the illness that has been front page news for over 20 months now. You could apply Piper’s argument in the same way because stating the “facts” alone does not in fact prove anything; other than espouse the worldview of those driving the narrative. Piper fails to consider or does not care to discern the religious motivations of those guiding the current agenda regarding the espoused medical treatment he says partaking in would be an act of love.
Joshua Zitser, “Texas megachurch preacher and Trump devotee says there is no ‘credible religious argument’ against COVID-19 vaccines,” Insider, September 19, 2021, accessed October 29, 2021, https://www.businessinsider.com/no-credible-religious-argument-against-covid-19-vaccines-megachurch-pastor-2021-9?op=1. Obviously, Jeffress does not see the current medical dilemma as a religious issue, but is he right?
American Heritage Dictionary, 5th edition, s.v., “religion.” https://www.ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=religion.
“Religion,” Britannica Desktop Encyclopedia (Chicago, IL: Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008).
Greg L. Bahnsen, By This Standard: The Authority of God’s Law Today (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1985), 13, 19, 21, 27. PDF e-book.