Greenville Seminary ready to recommend closing churches to beat on pots and pans

The first response of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary to the Corona virus on Apr 3, 2020 (later they posted several others, some much better) shows just how weak the modern church has become: indeed, the shuttering of the churches can well be modeled as us being hoist on our own petard in allowing such leaders.

Rev. Willborn makes a number of mistakes on the book of church order and the sacraments, to the point of amazement. But lest this discussion become tedious, I am going to limit my remarks for now to the viral part of his essay.

He constantly refers to submitting to the magistrate who is acting out of love. (Actually he doesn’t even refer to authorities correctly most of the time, as we will see.) This manner of speaking is ambiguous. He does not know if the magistrate is acting out of love. Moreover, there is a difference between being motivated by love, and acting in a way that is objectively loving, in the sense of actually being beneficial. Consider, to illustrate, that the magistrate said we should go out on our front stoops from 10 to 12 each Sunday morning and beat on pots and pans to scare the virus away.  Such advice could be motivated by love. But would Rev. Willborn still advocate shuttering the churches so that we could submit to the magistrate and beat on pots and pans during the time that church would normally meet? There is no indication that Rev. Willborn would oppose this, since beating on pots and pans does not necessarily violate a law of God. But if he would oppose a magisterial decision that reached this level of absurdity, then he needs to realize that it behooves church officers to make at least some level of independent examination of means and evidence, and not simply bah like sheep at each power grab made by magistrates.

The reader is invited to first scan his piece without prejudice, here. In my remarks that follow, Willborn’s text is indented.

We live in most unusual days. Presently our civil leaders, to whom we are to submit unless they command us to disobey God,

1. Why does Rev. Willborn use the word “leader”? The guy that organizes your neighborhood block party is a leader, but we need not submit to him. Leader has too vague of a connotation in English. We only need to submit civilly to one holding relevant and lawful authority. This is not a quibble. We need to be precise in our key terminology so as not to set up wiggle room for making mistakes later.

2. Rev. Willborn, will you remember this principle when your colleagues celebrate the civil disobedience of those opposing segregation, and will you rebuke them for celebrating resistance to something that was not disobeying God? For it is not disobeying God to drink from a designated water fountain.

3. Is it the case that we must submit to every civil authority, the only exception being if they command us to disobey God?

i. any notion of jurisdiction? Your local dog-catcher can impose a tax on you?

ii. any notion of constitutional limits? Can he take your wood, even though article 31 of the Magna Carta clearly states, “Neither we [the king] nor any royal official will take wood for our castle, or for any other purpose, without the consent of the owner.” Or are all such constitutional limits governed by the Willborn-Caveat, an implicit “unless we decide otherwise” on the part of the magistrate?

iii. Apart from the constitional question, can the civil authority break the law of God, provided that what he does is not forcing you to disobey God? That is, he can steal all your goods on a whim? You must not resist?

have given us clear directives on how to promote the public health of ourselves and neighbors.

Allegedly how to promote, Rev. Willborn, allegedly how. Beating on pots and pans does not in fact promote public health, except perhaps inadvertently by virtue of getting a little exercise.

[there follows a windy digression on the 4th commandment, love and law, which are not quite accurate or relevant… but we need to focus.]

Concerning the “love of neighbor,” let us be reminded that both the Old Testament and New Testament speak to an aspect of Sabbath keeping that relates to keeping the day in the proper way. Particularly, I am speaking of deeds of necessity and mercy (Isa 58:13, 14; Luke 4:16; 14:5; Matt 12:1-13; Mark 2:23-3:5; Westminster Confession of Faith 21:8).  In our present national situation set before us in God’s most wise providence, it is both necessary and merciful for us to observe the civil magistrates’ call to think more highly of others than self (Phil 2:3).

But the civil magistrate has not called us to think more highly of others than self. This is just Willborn’s unjustified commentary on the civil magistrates’ diktats. Moreover, is it within the magistrate’s purview to command people to think more highly of others than self? Has Willborn taken theonomy to an unheard-of height, thinking the magistrate should legislate the spiritual commands? How about the fruits of the Spirit while he is at it?

It is necessary to love our neighbors by protecting them, and it is an act of mercy to avoid the contraction and spread of the virus

Substitute any flu for the word virus. Then it is not merely an act of mercy, but justice as well, that you cover you mouth when sneezing, avoid others when infected, wash your hands, and in short do everything your mother taught you to do.

Some of us, based on studying the actual numbers along with comparison to what is known and not known, believe this Coronavirus is in fact just another flu, not even more virulent than the average. So, if the magistrate would shut down church services to slow the spread of the same flus we have had for 100 years, would Willborn allow for that as well? If not, why not, based on his principles?

by following the wisdom of our civil leaders.

1. There he goes with “leaders” again — why doesn’t Willborn act like a leader and resist this nonsense if anyone can be a leader?

2. Willborn does not know that the diktats of our civil authorities are wisdom. There is every reason, based on the words, both internal and external, to see that they are not wisdom. (i) For example, the reason given for the six foot rule is because that’s how far sneeze particles travel. But wearing a mask would block the particles even more effectively. So why not say, everyone must keep six feet distance, unless wearing a mask? (ii) Speaking of masks, first they told us not to wear masks, now they tell us we should. Has “science” made some new discovery in the last two weeks? Or are they in disarray? Where is the wisdom? (iii) There is no landing plan. The virus is not going away just because everyone locks down. It is not wise to engage in a course of action that has no way to finish. (iv) If saving every life is the law of love and mercy, then again, why not take the same measures to eliminate deaths from ordinary flu — which still outstripped the deaths from Corona by more than a factor of three as of the date of Willborn’s screed? (v) The cure is clearly worse than the disease. Indeed, if they do not reverse these (foolish, not wise) measures soon, there could be mass starvation, during which people will not be thinking much about the virus. (vi) Why not have an absolute quarantine of that small subset of the population that is truly at risk, while allowing everyone else to build up herd immunity, just as happens with every cold and flu?

In short, Willborn is completely unwarranted in identifying the actions of our rulers as wisdom. There is ample reason to doubt that our rulers’ diktats are based on wisdom. It is not good to call foolishness wise.

He continues:

3. Now let me make a general observation about the importance of keeping the Lord’s Day, while at the very same time obeying those “kings” given us for our good (Rom 13:1-4; 1 Pet 2:13-17). The Westminster Confession of Faith gives us the biblical balance that is needed in times like these when it says that public assemblies of Christ’s church are not “carelessly or willfully to be neglected” (WCF 21.6). For Christ’s church indiscriminately to meet in days of widespread sickness, a sickness that is highly communicable, would be careless.

The sickness is neither widespread, nor highly communicable. There is no data supporting either of these assertions.

Why the qualification to meet “indiscriminately”? Why not just say it would be careless “to meet,” since that is what Willborn’s advice actually amounts to? He frequently uses qualifications that give a little bit of surface plausibility to his assertions, yet are unjustified in terms of his own principles.

While we desire to meet, we are lamenting the disease and the consequences it has brought upon us, especially a Psalm 42 absence from public worship. With the Psalmist, we long for a return with the throng to His worship. Therefore, we are not carelessly and willfully neglecting the worship, therefore, we are not disobeying God in following the wisdom of the civil leaders and medical community.

Now the “wisdom” has been extended from “leaders” — there he goes again — to the whole medical community. But do we have access to the latter? Hardly. Dr. Fauci is a career bureaucrat and proven fraud, having been through an almost identical panic-mongering in connection with AIDS some 30+ years ago. The girl-doctor standing next to him has made enough howler statements for us to realize she is also two freckles short of a cat’s whisker. (My favorite: “it is peaking on a log scale.”)

We need to realize that most doctors never learned much more about transmission models or probability theory than any other college graduate, and far less than many non-medical graduates. I have no doubt that the most learned amongst them know how to navigate through the complexities, but this is a small minority. And how do we find them? Are politicians able to make this selection? I would trust a local vote from all the AMA members of each town on who to trust, rather than these vetted and politicized bureaucrats with medical degrees.

Another thing that should make us very suspicious is that those professionals that have demurred from the media and Willborn’s position — and there are many — are shouted off the stage or ignored, and not rebutted. Just by the rules of debate, this should make us nervous.

Keeping the context of the fourth commandment in mind—it is for our good, not our harm and it must be out of love and concern for our neighbor’s welfare—will help us think through the appropriateness of our Governor’s “love your neighbor” Ordinances and how we approach ALL corporate gatherings, including church services.

Despite all the flowery and frankly manipulative language, Willborn does not know that the Governor’s diktat is motivated by love of neighbor. I suppose it is charitable of him to think this, but it is not reasonable or warranted. And there is no threading of any relevant distinctions in his advice. He should drop all the ambiguous qualifications, and just state his principle in bold form, something like this:

It is our Christian duty to obey the magistrates, even to the point of shutting down the churches, and regardless if their commands are reasonable, or constitutional, or well-motivated; we must do so even if the commands are out of jurisdiction, or based on a power-grab, or a transfer of all the wealth of the nation to the hands of international bankers, or for whatever reason the magistrate might be motivated by, which it is not ours to ask about anyhow. (Harris’ paraphrase of Willborn)

That is Willborn’s principle, when you analyze what he has said. So just say it, Rev. Willborn.

… [Something about China and Rome]

You are in essence joining those of us who can meet without violating the Civil Magistrate’s Ordinance 17, so that we can love our neighbors, but also provide us all something of a platform to worship our God in our homes, without forgetting the Day and the corporate body of Christ.

All we need is : love… dah, dadadada.  (HT: Beatles)

Now, let me get to another aspect of this whole unique epoch in which we find ourselves. Just as some Christians may wrongly feel like they are disobeying God (and the fourth commandment specifically) by obeying the Governor and loving their neighbor,

Please stop Willborn. Substitute “obeying the Governor and hating their neighbor” because your knowledge cannot distinguish these two.

so some may feel guilty for not receiving the weekly or monthly (in our case) administration of the Lord’s Supper.

… [There follows some remarks on why not to take private communion.]

In conclusion, let us not “legalize” the Sabbath Day. Let us not “beat ourselves up” because we are keeping the Governor’s ordinance and the law of Christ to love our neighbors by promoting and preserving their health.

Stop it Dr. Willborn. This mindless incantation of love, without evidence or plausibility, is moving from the manipulative to downright prevarication.

… [There follows some remarks on the Lord’s Supper and its alleged unknowable frequency, and lack of necessity anyhow.]

Worthy of another essay.

The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion

One of the reasons I don’t believe in the global warming narrative is because its most strident and belligerent advocates appeal to “science,” and demand that we submit to “science,” even though they themselves know nothing about science. At bottom, then, it is an appeal to authority, and a specific class of men is put forth as having that authority.  But the class of men that are deemed scientists is actually a small subset of those with master’s degrees or above in the sciences. The vast majority of these go on to careers in engineering, programming, or management, and are not heard from again so far as their scientific training. The ones that get positions in universities or laboratories are (1) carefully vetted before getting their positions, since it is entry into a guild that guards its prerogatives and does not want too much dissent; (2) once in, they are involved in a life-long struggle for funding; and most funding comes from the government. So the appeal to the authority of science actually comes down to an appeal to the pronouncements of a small subset of science majors that have been vetted by the guild and who are largely beholden to the government for their funding. Even many that appear to be privately funded, such as in the pharm industry, are still tied to the government indirectly, since the government grants their product license. In short, the appeal to the authority of science is at bottom a circular reference back to the authority of the government, masked as an appeal to science.

I don’t mean the guild scientists are liars — though some are, provably. But I mean that what is going on with “science” is quite different from the mythos created by popular images such as Madame Curie sacrificing her health and her life in pursuit of truth. The majority of actual men practitioning science are subject to all the motives of fashion and conformity and self-interest that motivate men in any field, except perhaps even more so, because of the funding problem. Some can rise above it; some can’t. This is why we need wisdom more than “science.”

Instead of “scientists” delivering judgments that everyone receives obediently, they should be the ones doing the tedious work of dredging up and presenting the relevant facts. We have, probably, over a million men in our nation that can understand scientific arguments based on data. Let the data and the argument be presented, and let us decide if the conclusions are valid. We don’t want, we don’t need a new priestly class.

Coronavirus Mortality

It must be said that the publicly-disclosed facts do not support the Coronavirus (hereafter: the Big C) Panic. The numbers coming out of Italy started the panic, with terrifying talk of 3.4% mortality rate. Here are the facts, however.

  1. The average age of one dying from the Big C in Italy is 80.
  2. 99.2% of the deaths were people that had at least one other illness. Almost half had three or more other illnesses.
  3. Many of these 80 year olds with 1 or more life-threatening diseases would have entered the hospital and never come back out anyhow, but in the meantime would have been exposed to the Big C; but anyone dying in a hospital with the Big C was counted as dying on account of the Big C.
  4. The denominator in the mortality rate is greatly understated, since random testing has not taken place, and the people that are tested are already more likely to have it. To illustrate using an extreme example: if one person (say, not knowing he has it) infects a nursing home and all 100 inmates die as a result, but no one else is even tested for it, this would look like a 100% mortality rate. If 10 or 100 times more people actually have it than are known, the mortality rate goes down by a factor of 10 or 100.

See this excellent summary, done with Germanic thoroughness. (If there are subtitles other than English, turning off all subtitles will leave only the english.

Next, we compare the Big C to regular flu in the USA this season:

  • Flu:      39 million illnesses, 400,000 hospitalizations and 24,000 deaths (CDC)
  • Big C:  300 thousand illnesses and 8,000 deaths (Johns Hopkins)

Ordinary flu still has a 3x lead on the Big-C as of the date of my posting this. The number of illnesses is astonishingly different: a factor of 100 more illnesses from the flu. Note that the number of flu illnesses is not measured directly, but extrapolated from certain previously determined infection proportions. But in the case of the Big-C, only the “confirmed” cases are listed, with all the problems highlighted above. If the same extrapolation method was instead used, the mortality rate would come way down.

Fear of death

If I had a condition that made me more susceptible to dying from the Big-C, and someone asked, “Tim, would you like us to stop all the production of automobiles, shut down all the restaurants and coffee shops in the nation, as well as many other businesses, causing 15% unemployment, add 2 Trillion dollars to the national debt, shut down the churches, eliminate social intercourse, and destroy the ability of young people to buy houses for a generation, if by doing so you could live another couple years?” I would say “of course not.” “But would you give the go ahead if this applied to a thousand, or even ten thousand?” “No of course not: go away.”

There is something unseemly about this “we’ve got to do whatever it takes to save lives.” The wicked fear death above everything else. But the reaction is not rational even on their terms. You could save tens of thousands of lives by shutting down all the roads to driving cars. Assuming all this social distancing really works, you could save tens of thousands of lives already from the ordinary flu by doing it. You could save hundreds of thousands of lives by ceasing these meaningless wars in the Middle East.

For the damned, you can understand the fear, even if it is irrational. Such is their fear of death and judgement, they seem to be willing to saw off the branch they are sitting on! and take everyone else with them. Such is their hatred of Donald Trump, or the church, or America, or all of the above, that the agitators in press and politics are willing to bring the whole thing down.

Thus, I don’t think it is only fear that motivates them. Elsewhere

Augustine Updated: The Origin, Progress, and Destiny of the City of Corona

I have written about the memes and new realities they are creating, in service to their master Satan. There is a demonic triumphalism in their visage. Nevertheless, both the fear and the demonic smell of victory lead them to their own destruction. If the trucks stop rolling, most of us will die — including the men that are bringing it to pass. But apart from that, several of their idols are falling. The government schools are closed. Men are forced to break their addiction to ESPN, because there are no games to watch. There is less public blaspheming of our Savior’s name in the pubs and taverns.

I have often wondered how it came about that the Ammonites and Moabites, while attacking Jehosophat, rose up one morning and instead killed each other.

For the children of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of mount Seir, utterly to slay and destroy them: and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, every one helped to destroy another. And when Judah came toward the watch tower in the wilderness, they looked unto the multitude, and, behold, they were dead bodies fallen to the earth, and none escaped. II Chr. 20:23-24.

Of course it was the hand of Jehovah. But that is only (admittedly most important) half of the story. With the Panic of the Big-C, we can finally get a glimpse as to how it might have come about. Doubtless, every soldier had a very good reason, he thought, for why he was justified to slay his neighbor. “If I told you once, I’ve told you a hundred times to stop that loud snoring: but you did it again. Take that!” and off flew his head.

What should have been done

Pretend that the official account of the Big-C were accurate, contrary to the facts.

Then, what should have been done was an absolute quarantine of the elderly and other categories at risk. The youth could have been organized into teams to do shopping and chores for the quarantined, getting a small amount of pay and perhaps some college credit for social service. This is how a real nation behaves. (In Dresden, this was done to serve the refugees pouring in, before the Allies rained down fire from the sky.) With near zero exposure to those actually in danger from the virus, everyone else would continue his work, letting the normal herd effect slowly take over.

Israel Defense Minister Bennett explains.

But the Church

This is the time for strong men to see the signs of the times and lead in the church. It is the time to speak, and perhaps take a confrontational stand against the unlawful diktats and furthering of irrationality by our rulers. But at least speak, even if you can’t act.

But what do we see? Just the opposite. They speak, but in terms of a school-girlish acceptance of the priestly class’s propaganda, even in the teeth of what they can see with their own two eyes. It is utterly unseemly to see Christians capitulating. In a subsequent post, I will analyze the published positions of OPC pastors as well as of supposedly rock-ribbed orthodox Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

They appeal to the will of God, but it seems to me that what we can say about the will of God in this connection is that such men be replaced.