Founders Ministries

Grace Baptist Church Statement on Religious Exemption to Mandatory Medical Procedures

The elders of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida have produced the following documents to serve the members of our church as an increasing number are facing vaccine mandates at their places of employment. We have drawn on the wisdom of many others in this process and have particularly benefitted from the labors of other churches and elder bodies. Due to the unique responsibility to shepherd this particular flock in which the Lord has made us overseers we have written the following document with specific consideration to our context, confessional documents, and commitments as a church. We are happy to share the fruit of our work with others who might benefit from it and encourage them to use and/or adapt it for their own purposes with or without attribution—whatever serves them best. We view this document as the result of the collaborative efforts of many. Special thanks is due to Pastor Chad Vegas of Sovereign Grace Church in Bakersfield, California for sharing helpful insights from their elders. Pastor Graham Gunden of GBC, Cape Coral, did the bulk of the research and original drafting of this statement in behalf of all of the Grace elders.

The members of Grace Baptist Church stand within the two-thousand-year Christian tradition. We are committed to the doctrinal standards of our church constitution and the supremacy of the Holy Scriptures. Because of this, we affirm our religion’s principles of liberty of conscience as expressed in our confession of faith, which is the Second London Confession of 1689 (see chapter 21, paragraph 2). We are committed to honoring and preserving human life from conception to natural death and teach that individuals and families bear full responsibility for making medical and healthcare decisions in the fear or the Lord. We also affirm that an individual’s conscience is a gift from God and is answerable to Him alone who is Lord of the conscience.
Therefore, Scripture teaches that any act a person believes to be sin is in fact sin for that person, whether it is intrinsically sinful or not. “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). Furthermore, our church confession states that, “subjection, in all things lawful commanded by them ought to be yielded by us to them, in the Lord.” (2nd London Confession of 1689, Chapter 24, paragraph 3). Mandatory medical procedures do not conform to that which is lawful, i.e. that which conforms to the eternal law of God.
These mandates fall outside the jurisdiction of the divinely instituted authority of the state or employer. Therefore, individuals are under no moral obligation to comply with such mandates. Furthermore, these mandates fall outside the jurisdiction of the government according to the first amendment of our own constitution.
Therefore, we state our unequivocal support for the right to refuse, on the basis of religious conviction, mandatory medical procedures (including vaccinations), whether ordered by a branch of civil government, an employer, or any other institution to which an individual is subject or dependent. In addition, the Holy Scriptures teach Christians that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19). Stewardship of our bodies before God necessitates being free to make decisions about health and medical treatments according to Scriptural principles, the light of nature, and the dictates of individual conscience. Therefore, the refusal to obey mandatory medical procedures may also be based on an individual’s sincere belief that his or her (or his or her child’s) life, health, welfare, or ethical integrity is potentially endangered by such procedures.
We affirm that our Christian religion protects the liberty of individuals and families to refuse any medical procedure or product on the basis of sincerely held concerns for known or unknown side effects, experimental or emergency uses, potential involvement in fetal cell lines whether in development or testing, or medical and/or political corruption or coercion. The sixth commandment—“You shall not murder”— makes every person responsible “to preserve our own life, and the life of others” and prohibits “the taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbor, unjustly, or whatsoever tendeth thereunto.” (The Baptist Catechism, Q72-73.) Many Christians believe, in good faith, that involvement in such medical procedures violates this commandment.
Therefore, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we uphold the rights and responsibilities of the members of Grace Baptist Church to make responsible medical decisions for themselves and their families, including their right to refuse vaccinations or gene therapies on religious grounds. And we hereby call upon all authorities: political, governmental, organizational, or otherwise, to respect these deeply held religious convictions by upholding this religious liberty and/or providing religious exemptions as requested.
On Behalf of the Elders of Grace Baptist Church of Cape Coral,
Thomas Ascol, Senior Pastor

To Whom It May Concern:
The elders of Grace Baptist Church are writing on the behalf of _______________, a member in good standing of our church since _____, to confirm that his/her sincerely held religious beliefs prevent him/her from receiving a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination. He/she is sincerely convinced that to take the vaccine would violate the law of God as found in the Holy Scriptures as well as in our church’s Confession of Faith (Romans 14:23; Hebrews 11:6; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, 21.2; 24.3; The Baptist Catechism, Q 72-73). Our church teaches that to take any action one believes in conscience to be contrary to the law of God is to defy God’s authority and is therefore not permissible. Our eldership affirms the right (and where applicable, the obligation) for each member of Grace Baptist Church to take religious exception to mandatory vaccination by governmental authorities and/or employers on this basis. Our church has also issued a statement confirming this right and obligation according to our doctrinal standards and Scripture.
____________’s application for religious exemption is, therefore, not merely a matter of personal opinion or philosophy, but of bona fide religious conviction with the support of his/her church. Thank you for your understanding in this matter.
Thomas Ascol

Grace Baptist Church – Statement on Religious Exemption to Mandatory Medical Procedures

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The Battle For Young People

As the fight against Critical Theory rages, my concern is that we have forgotten a battlefront that, if ignored, will lead to a short-lived victory.  That is the front for the hearts and minds of our young people.  My father used to tell me that high school was for learning facts, but college is where you learn how to think.  Now, Critical thinking skills have been replaced by Critical Theory mandates.  Free thought, according to North Korean defector and Columbia University graduate Yeonmi Park, has been replaced by a conglomeration of sinister, ideological, monoliths whose oppression of free thought rivals and even exceeds that of North Korea…sounds like a lovely place to send our children.  Sadly, this is not limited to the secular institutions of higher learning, as even those institutions that were once a bulwark of Godly values are now becoming closer to Athens than Jerusalem.
Psalm 119:9 starts with a very important question for us to consider. How do we assist our young adults in keeping Biblical fidelity as they venture through some of their most formidable years?  How do we keep Critical Theory from robbing our young people of Gospel hope, joy and freedom and replacing it with anger, chaos and oppression?  In short, I propose that we need to learn to treasure our young people enough to teach them how to treasure God’s Word.
Treasuring Our Young People
Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  An accurate description of how we’ve been preparing our youth in the church.  Too often children’s and youth ministries are led by people who are untrained and under equipped. When our youth get to college they have had little discussion as to truth, Christian identity or purpose.  They have been given absolutely no Biblical skill set to deal with the subjects of justice, identity, or gender roles, even though they most definitely will deal with those in college, and yet we still wonder why they get blindsided when they get on campus.
Psalm 119 echoes the rest of Scripture in the importance of training our youth to have a love for God and His commands (Deut 6:4-7; Prov 22:6).  Young people at this age are full of potential and very pliable as they decide who they are and what their guiding principles will be going forward. The world has recognized this for years, and thus, consistently start their revolutions at the institutional level.  This is true whether it be the sexual revolution of the 1970’s or the current Critical Theory revolution of today.  The ideas they set forth are like explosives placed in the minds of our youth who are then sent back to our churches to detonate and destroy.  This is the importance of keeping a young man’s way pure.  This section of Psalm 119 shows the value in getting to our children early and to show them how to keep a life that is pure and faithful to God before bad habits or bad ideologies are able to get a foothold.
Treasuring God’s Word becomes priceless in learning how to please our Creator and have a relationship with our Father.
Treasuring God’s Word
Approximately 172 of the 176 verses in Psalm 119 make reference either to God’s Word directly or as a synonym of God’s Word.  God’s Word is imperative, as all knowledge of life and Godliness must be revealed from God to us.  When man rebelled in the garden in Genesis 3 thinking he could be like God, God could have left us to find our own way.  But in His infinite grace and mercy, He instead chose to reveal Himself to us in His Word. The very Gospel itself is only known through God’s Word which is why treasuring God’s Word becomes priceless in learning how to please our Creator and have a relationship with our Father.  Hiding it in our hearts may begin with memorization, but it goes beyond the mind and instead resides in our hearts where it changes us. It becomes the standard of defining who we are and how we view the world.  Hiding it in our hearts puts it in a place where we can access it at any time, in any circumstance, and cherish it.  In this place we learn to value, appreciate, and use God’s Word as the standard by which all else is measured. Obviously, this ultimately is through the work of the Holy Spirit, but I can think of no greater goal than to get our youth to truly treasure the Word of God, because in doing so, they treasure God Himself.
Put It Together
It’s time we bring this fight to where the heat is and to where long lasting change will take place.  Our young people need to be taught to treasure God’s Word.  They need to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within them.  They need to be in churches where God’s Word is taught to them skillfully, accurately and ultimately treasured preeminently.  Our young people need to be in churches where they are treasured enough to be taught God’s Word and prepared for the coming battles.

A Report on What’s Going on Among Colorado Baptists

Earlier this summer, after the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) convened in Nashville, a number of SBC pastors in Colorado reached out to fellow pastor, Sean Cole (Emmanuel Baptist, Sterling, CO). We expressed our concerns of what we understood to be the trajectory of the SBC. Two issues in particular grieved us. First, seeing God’s good design dishonored and distorted by women serving in the role of pastors. Second, seeing the tentacles of the godless ideology of Critical Race Theory unnecessarily divide Christ’s blood-bought people. Those distortions and those tentacles were being observed in our own backyard.
We saw it on SBC church websites here in Colorado that listed women as co-lead pastors and women preaching before Christ’s gathered church. We saw it in publicly posted essays written by Colorado pastors using the divisive language of CRT.
We decided to address this publicly at our annual convention of churches using the resolution process. I wrote a resolution entitled, Resolution on the Title, Office, and Function of Pastor (which would be labeled Resolution #3 by the Resolutions Committee). Pastor Cole modified a resolution submitted in Nashville for here in Colorado entitled, Resolution on the Incompatibility of Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality with Scripture and the Baptist Faith and Message (which would be labeled Resolution #4).
Pastor Cole submitted these to the Resolutions Committee several weeks before our convention that was held October 11-12.
Days before the convention, the committee went public with the resolutions. They significantly modified Resolution #3 that addressed the office and function of pastor. Where I had clearly stated the office, role and function of pastor is for biblically qualified males only, the committee changed it to state the qualification of being a male applies only to the “senior/lead” pastor.
After talking with fellow pastors, I agreed to offer amendments the committee’s Resolution #3.. My proposed changes included striking any reference to “senior/lead pastor” and inserting the statement that “WHEREAS there is no biblical distinction of senior pastor under whose authority a female may serve in the office or function of pastor.”
To the Resolutions Committee credit and the acting president of the convention, they played fair. Knowing pastors were preparing to challenge the resolution as it was presented, they asked for my amendments in advance which were then posted on screen for the messengers to see.
As expected, my amendments were challenged—by a well-known pastor. A couple of messengers came to the microphone in support of what I proposed. Pastor Cole spoke with boldness, telling the messengers of the conversations he’s had with pastors who are greatly concerned about this matter and are “close to walking. What we want is clarity in our Convention,” he told the messengers.
Others apparently wanted clarity as well. When it came time to vote on the amendments, several messengers requested a counted vote, which the acting president granted. In place of a voice vote, messengers were asked to stand if they were in favor of the amendments. The amendments passed. I do not have the official tally, but several have estimated it was about 60/40. The final vote on the amended resolution was a voice vote and it passed with a majority.
Three summary observations
First, the chairman of the Resolutions Committee told the messengers the committee could change submitted resolutions to “what we feel reflects the heart of the Colorado Convention.” I can only assume that’s why the committee changed mine. What I find telling is that while Resolution #3 was saturated in Scriptural arguments and included multiple biblical references the committee changed it according to ‘what we feel reflects the heart of the Colorado Convention.’ That wording reflects the pragmatism that has plagued the SBC for decades. Further, the final vote suggests that the Resolutions Committee is not as in tune with Colorado Baptist churches as they thought they were.
Second, it was greatly encouraging that messengers wanted clarity about the title, office and function of pastor for our Colorado churches. That the ‘aye/nay’ method of voting on a non-binding resolution got changed to an actual count—at the request of messengers—indicates that for many present, this topic is no shibboleth, nor an insignificant matter. I rejoice that messengers were willing to challenge their fellow Baptists to clearly indicate what they believe about who is qualified to serve as pastors.
Third, where to from here? The pastor who had opposed my amendments from the floor, afterwards conveyed to Pastor Sean and others of us who had decided to address these matters, that “the convention has spoken and we will move forward and in that light joining hearts and hands and heads to continue to make an impact in Colorado.” I am grateful for this statement and look forward to Colorado Baptists working together to impact our state for Christ as we joyfully operate under the authority of God’s Word.
What will “moving forward” look like? Colorado Baptists already have a confession of faith that states the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture. We claim that we are already convinced that “Scripture is totally true and trustworthy… and is the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried.”
Will our state Credentials Committee be assigned the duty of lovingly confronting Colorado churches that have women identified as pastors or operating in the function of elders/overseers? When Colorado Baptist churches have women stand before Christ’s gathered church and speak in such a way that is authoritative and doctrinal in content (i.e., preaching), will sister churches call them to repent? Afterall, “the convention has spoken.” Is that what “joining hearts and hands and hands” will look like?
May God give our churches grace and clarity and courage to be the pillar and support of the truth (I Timothy 3:15).
Resolution #3 Resolution on the Title, Office, and Function of Pastor
Adopted by the Colorado Baptist Convention, 2021
WHEREAS, our Creator God has blessed His image bearers with fulfilling His mandate for them by creating them as male and female (Genesis 1:26-28), and,
WHEREAS, males and females, while equal image bearers of God, have been given by Him unique roles, abilities, and responsibilities, defined biologically and by the creation order, (Genesis 1-3; I Timothy 2:12-13), and,
WHEREAS, since sin has entered the world through Adam and sin spread to all, defying, distorting, and defiling in every generation both our perception of maleness and femaleness and our unique roles, abilities and responsibilities as males and females (Gen 3:16b, Romans 1:24-32; Ephesians 2:1-3), and,
WHEREAS, both God’s Law and His Gospel reveal and confirm the blessing of the distinctions of males and females and summon sinners to repent of their defying, distorting, and defiling of what He has blessed (I Timothy 1:8-11; I Corinthians 6:9-11; I Thessalonians 4:1-5; Ephesians 4:17-24; 5:22-33), and,
WHEREAS, the Church’s Head, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, has commissioned His local church to be the pillar and support of the revealed truth of God (I Timothy 3:14-15; I Peter 2:9-12; I Thessalonians 2:13), and,
WHEREAS, our Lord Jesus Christ through His apostles has decreed those males who meet specific qualifications shall minister in His local church in the office and function of pastor (overseer, elder) (I Tim 2:12-15; 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; I Peter 5:1-5; Acts 14:23), and,
WHEREAS, this distinction of the office and function being for males only is rooted in the creation order of males and females prior to sin having entered the world (I Timothy 2:12-15; Genesis 2-3), and,
WHEREAS, there is no biblical distinction of senior pastor under whose authority a female may serve in the office or function of pastor, and,
WHEREAS, autonomous Baptist churches, cooperating according to the doctrinal convictions expressed in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, which states: (the local church’s) scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture, and therefore be it
RESOLVED, Colorado Baptists Churches shall commit themselves to proclaiming, explaining, and modeling the Divine blessing of image bearers being male and female and their unique roles, abilities, and responsibilities, and be it finally
RESOLVED, Colorado Baptist Churches, will strive to be the biblically rooted pillar and support of the truth in our state and communities, by reserving the title, office, and function of pastor, elder, overseer for males only who meet the qualifications of I Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; I Peter 5:1-5.

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A Secular Sacrament: Why Mandates Violate Liberty of Conscience and Enforce a New Religion

Since the Biden Administration mandated soldiers and federal workers to be fully vaccinated, while also requiring private businesses larger than 100 employees to require vaccines, chaos has ensued. Defending the freedoms of Americans, many have begun to address the constitutional problems this mandate creates.[1] Others have begun seeking a religious exemption for this mandate based upon the fetal cells used in the research and production of these vaccines.[2] Still others object to the mandates because they have already contracted Covid, have natural immunity, and believe (with a long history immunology supporting them) that taking a vaccine is unnecessary and may be potentially harmful to their body.[3]
At the same time, other Americans, and many Christians among them, have opted to get the vaccine, even arguing for its morality. Add to this the difference between seeking a vaccine exemption on medical grounds versus moral and religious grounds, and the complexity multiplies.[4] Not surprisingly, with all of these arguments out there, people of faith are led to ask: What should I do?
To answer that question, I am putting myself in the shoes of the men and women in the military and federal government who are now ordered to get vaccinated. Some of them have willingly received the vaccine, and done so in faith. Many others, however, are not able to receive the vaccine in faith. As I have spoken to church members and other Christians about this, many are crushed in spirit at the thought of injecting a serum that has come about by the use of stem cell lines that ultimately trace back to cells derived from aborted babies. Others are not bound in conscience by the use of fetal cell lines, but are nevertheless are unable to take the vaccine in good faith. It is for this latter category, I am writing.
In what follows, I offer a twofold argument for why this vaccine mandate should lead some men and women to seek a religious exemption (not just a medical exemption). These two arguments are based upon a genuinely held religious belief that this mandate (1) eliminates the free exercise of their faith and (2) forces upon them the faith another religion. Along the way, I will show why this vaccine and its accompanying mandate is different in nature than previous vaccines. Unlike previous vaccines, like Jonathan Salk’s polio vaccine or the more recent anthrax vaccine, the Covid vaccine comes with a moral imperative that is downright religious, complete with Fauci prayer candles and vaccine jewelry.
At the outset, I admit that this argument may not resonate with everyone, and that is fine. I am not writing to persuade everyone to seek a religious exemption. Seeking a religious exemption is deeply personal and should be based on one’s genuinely held beliefs. So, I am not seeking to bind anyone’s conscience regarding the vaccine. At our church, we have labored hard to stress the liberty Christians have to receive or reject the vaccine, because we really believe that one’s health care decisions are matters of personal responsibility and liberty, not public morality and coercion.
That said, as a pastor with many members seeking religious exemptions, I am writing to Christians to offer biblical rationale for why Christians can—and in many cases should—seek a religious exemption. So, to the text of Scripture we go.
The Mandate Replaces Faith with Coercion
In the Bible, the locus classicus for liberty of conscience is Romans 14. And while the whole chapter provides a rich resource for understanding the biblical view of human conscience, the last verse provides a starting point for distinguishing faith from coercion, as well as offering a connection between conscience, faith, and sin.
Summarizing his argument on conscience and religious devotion to God, Paul writes: “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (v. 23). This simple principle needs to guide Christians at all times, but especially in moments when governing authorities are binding consciences by way of coercive actions that do not proceed from God’s truth. In fact, the first point to make is that coercion always makes faith null and void.
There are many ways to get at this argument, but one of them has to do with faith, thanksgiving, and using the good gifts of God. Here’s how Paul puts it in 1 Timothy 4:1–5,
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
While Paul’s words take aim at false teachers who forbid marriage and require abstinence from food, his argument stands upon a universal truth: Christians are those who give thanks to God for every good gift. While those in rebellion against God take his gifts and refuse to acknowledge him or give thanks to him (Rom. 1:23), Christians are those who give thanks to God (Luke 17:19) and praise him for every good and perfect gift that comes down from our Father in heaven (James 1:17). These gifts include, food and drink, sex and marriage. But they also include sunshine and rain (Matt. 5:45), agricultural wisdom (Isaiah 28:26), and medicine (James 5:14).[5]
Accordingly, for Christians to receive the vaccine in faith means that Christians can give thanks to God for the good gift that he has given. And more than that, Christians must give thanks to God for anything they put in their body. Not only are we called to glorify God with our bodies (1 Cor. 6:20), but if we refuse to give thanks to God, we are not exercising faith and are by definition sinning (see Rom. 14:23).
By contrast, when Christians eat, drink, or take a vaccine, they do so with personal thanksgiving to their Lord. And over the course of the last year, this is what many Christians have done. In faith, they have prayed against Covid and for a vaccine. Covid is a real threat and one that continues to cut short the lives of those whom we know and love. Accordingly, Christians have given thanks to God for the vaccine, and no one who has taken the vaccine in faith should feel condemned.
My argument here is not anti-vaccine; it is anti-mandate. Because thanksgiving for the vaccine is predicated on a free conscience, I am making the case for personal freedom to making wise choices for one’s health. Remove that freedom of conscience, by forcibly causing someone to do something against their will (and their body), and the ability to offer genuine thanksgiving is gone.[6] And without thanksgiving to God, faith is eliminated, and sin remains. Those who deny God may make light of this thinking, but for those who seek to do all things to the glory of God, this way of thinking stands at the core of their being. And this why liberty of conscience has always been protected in our nation.
Going back to the early church, Christians from many faith traditions are on record for defending the rights of individuals, Christians or otherwise, to live according to their faith.[7] Likewise, Andrew Walker, in his recent book on religious liberty, has argued that making religious choices freely is part of what it means to be made in God’s image.[8] Accordingly, religious liberty “is not a political question,” but a question of what it means to be human. Religious liberty, he argues, “arises from a theology of creation—that humanity bears a unique origin, design, and purpose in its constitution” (Liberty for All, 110). More confessionally, the Second London Confession (1689) puts it this way.
21.2. God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in any thing contrary to his word, or not contained in it. So that to believe such doctrines, or obey such commands out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience; and the requiring of an implicit faith, an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience and reason also.
Christ alone is Lord of conscience. This is the critical point of tension in our moment. This tenet of our faith is in sharp conflict with state and health officials who exalt themselves as conscience-binding-lords.[9] They refuse to give room for religious exemptions or conscience, and thereby seek to bind the conscience which is free in Christ.[10] As state and health officials masquerade as conscience-binding-lords, we must reply: Solus Christus.[11]
Protestants have always opposed church or state pronouncements that coerce action or bind conscience. In 1769–70, six Baptists were jailed in Culpeper, Virginia for this conviction, and James Madison worked with likes of John Leland, another Virginia Baptist, to instantiate in the  Constitution of the United States (1789) a clause protecting religious liberty—what we know as the First Amendment. Thus, religious liberty has been a defining feature of America, and one that reflects the human dignity and personal freedom set forth in Scripture.[12]
Sadly, with the recent vaccine mandates, liberty of conscience has been withdrawn and in its place the state has eliminated the chance for citizens to live according to their religious convictions. As a result, many Christians, still unconvinced by the need for this vaccine, have lost the chance to be persuaded of its goodness and the chance to receive it with thanksgiving. Hence, the first reason that many Christians should seek a religious exemption is because instead of the state using the power of persuasion, which could preserve personal liberty and would lead to thanksgiving, the state has used its power of coercion to eliminate personal freedom for the sake of its religious belief that the vaccine is the savior we all need.
This is the second argument to be made, that instead of merely eliminating personal liberty and the chance to offer thanksgiving to God for this vaccine, the Biden administration and its various agencies have forced upon Christians a medical procedure that is championed as a secular sacrament. Still, before getting into that argument, the fact remains that many Christians who are called to do everything from faith and to give thanksgiving to God for every good gift, including vaccines, are not able to do that. And for that reason, those who cannot take the vaccine in faith, should not take the vaccine at all. Instead, they should seek a religious exemption and band together with others who share their convictions to stand for personal liberty.[13]
The *Mandate* Requires Many Christians to Participate in the State Religion
The second reason for seeking a religious exemption is due to the religious nature of the Covid vaccine. Because American leaders have not said, “Bow down and worship Baal,” I suspect many will not see how vaccine mandates are forcing another religion on Christians. This may be especially true for those who stand outside the church and must assess the convictions of Christians in the federal government or armed services.
Even more, because many Christians have received the vaccine in good faith and made biblical arguments for it, it may be difficult to see how a Covid vaccine has become a secular sacrament. Although, as these mandates come down with the force of law, and governing officials like Kathy Hochul praise them with religious language, it is easier to see how they eliminate personal freedom and enforce a new morality.
Without discussing the merits or demerits of the vaccines, I want to show how these mandates force a secular sacrament on those who do not subscribe to the religious values of the state. But such an argument depends upon answering a few questions.

What does it take to have religion?
How is the Covid vaccine a religious experience?
Have all Christians who have received the vaccine participated in a false religion? (The short answer is ‘no,’ the longer answer is, ‘it depends’ and it is becoming more difficult).

1. What does it take to have a religion?
While large metaphysical (i.e., philosophical, sociological, and theological) questions are tied up in defining a religion, we might observe that what one believes about God, the world, and morality, as well as what someone does to obey the words of a higher authority (whether supernatural or not) is the essence of a religion.
Acknowledging the difficulty of defining a religion, Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli provide a helpful sociological orientation to religion set around “three aspects [of] religious behavior.” [14] They list in parallel fashion “beliefs, morality and liturgy; or creed, code and cult; or words, works and worship” as the key features of a recognizable religion. And from their threefold orientation we can consider how Covid has ventured into the realm of beliefs, morality, and liturgy (i.e., the religious work of the people).[15]
2. How has the Covid vaccine become a religious experience?
Covid as a religious experience comes into focus when we realize (1) how strongly people believe in the vaccine on the basis of a priestly class of advocates, (2) how the vaccine has created a moral divide with an in-group (the virtuous vaccinated) and an out-group (the unclean unvaccinated), (3) how the vaccine is treated as the only and “one size fits all” means of salvation, and (4) how the rhetoric surrounding the vaccine is filled with religious imperatives,[16] public celebrations (see the video below),[17]government praise for the vaccinated and public threats of judgment on the unvaccinated,[18] not to mention the public shaming of those who would desire further scientific evidence for the vaccines efficacy.[19]

[embedded content]

[Creepy doesn’t begin to explain this montage. HT: Not the Bee ]
In short, the law that requires a vaccine does not come from a purely “secular” impulse, but a religious one. Though no one, including the most influential politicians and power brokers, can expunge the sense of the divine from the human soul, America’s ruling class have worked long and hard to exclude historic Christianity from the public square while permitting all other religions to remain. More than this, the ruling elites have cunningly conceived and established its own civil religion that is palatable to all except those who cherish the liberty of conscience. From this religious view of the world, albeit a secular one, the vaccine is treated as a sacrament that brings salvation and blessing. Conversely, refusal to take the sacrament invites a curse that results in removal from the community and all of its associated blessings. Let me press into the details to show how this works.
Morality is always downstream from religion. And since the Judeo-Christian civil religion of the 1950s has been evicted from the public square, other forms of worship have sprung up. These forms of worship are often materialistic, atheistic (or polytheistic), and rationalistic, but they are religious nonetheless. Because God made the world in a certain way, it is impossible to remodel his house without following the lines he drew. So, even if the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus is rejected, there will be another supreme Lord. And when that Lord is the self, very soon the vacuum created by God’s rejection is filled by the state and its agencies.
This is what has happened in America. The Founding Fathers knew the dangers of tyrants, but the modern world, intoxicated with the godless, sex-crazed ideologies of Rousseau, Marx, Freud, Marcuse and their grandchildren (i.e., the ones preaching Critical (Race) Theory), have no idea that enshrining power in the government to protect the pleasures of the proletariat has not eliminated religion. It has simply made the state religious and given government power to do what it pleases. And in the days of Covid, we have seen supreme authority ceded to governing authorities, but especially the CDC. Consequently, the government is no longer a servant of the people; it has become a master of the people. And many in the nation are happy to be protected and pastored by their elected officials. Why else have elections become so cut throat? It’s religious!
In this setting, there exists a priestly class. Thomas Sowell has fittingly called them the Anointed.[20] And their vision for the world is that of a utopian playground where they can make everything happy, safe, and clean. The problem with their imaginary world is the real world. Instead of dealing with conditions that are real, they seek with governmental force to demand people to do what they say. With sovereign confidence in themselves they declare, “Together we can defeat Covid!”
Advancing their gospel from the screens of smartphones, these would be heroes parade themselves with knowledge that will save. And because all contrary arguments are censored from the social media carriers, the vision of the anointed becomes the final authority. Similar to the Medieval Church, which Martin Luther protested and the Council of Trent corrected, the religious nature of this state church is seen in the way the vaccine mandates have become a matter of right and wrong, not just sickness and health.
In fact, the religious response to Covid is evident in the way the ruling elites are joined by a priestly class of celebrities whose skill in selling their bodies qualifies them to tell you what to do with yours. How many celebrities, when they received their shot, celebrated with a picture, complete with a double mask, on Instagram. Virtue signaling their vaccination, these priests of culture call others to “Follow me as I follow Fauci.” How else could Fauci gain a cult following, unless there is a cult?
In short, the ruling elites, joined with their approved priestesses of the medical profession, and the prophets of the entertainment industry, tell us the vaccine is the way to go. And because most of the results of the vaccine have been unharmful, and any harmful impacts have been denied or dismissed, there has been a measure of truth in their advertising.
Still, don’t miss the religious fervor of Covid vaccines. Those who got them, the ruling elites have said, especially in places like Australia and Canada, can enjoy their freedoms. They can breathe mask-free and return to life as normal. Or at least, they can until the next booster, mask mandate, or lockdown. Make no mistake, however, the secular evangelists preach the same gospel: blessing is found in the vaccine, but death awaits the unvaccinated. In short, the Covid vaccine has made a divide between the clean and unclean—a religious tell, if ever there was one.
And more, as Peter Leithart has observed, the Covid narrative not only divides the masses medically, but also morally. In his First Things article, Leithart notes the presence of “sin stories.” Highlighting Biden’s speech mandating vaccines, and comparing it to the work of Paul Frijters, Gigi Foster, and Michael Baker in their book, The Great COVID Panic, he states,
“A very effective way to dominate people,” they write, “is to convince them they are sinful unless they obey.” Government officials and powerful business leaders use sin stories to divide and control opposition. Corporations break the power of labor by cultivating discord in the workforce; politicians tell sin stories to keep the people from mounting mass opposition. COVID, they note, is “an almost perfect sin story,” one that sets all against all by treating everyone as a potential source of deadly infection and literally distances us from one another so we can’t mount a united opposition. Giant companies told sin stories to kill off small businesses that couldn’t afford to keep up with constantly-changing regulations. And President Biden deepens divisions by presenting himself as president of the vaccinated, whose duty is to protect them from impure semi-citizens like me.
Indeed, this line of thinking is so ubiquitous today, it almost goes unnoticed. But once we see how the ruling elite are passing moral judgments, are teaching the nation to divide itself based upon Leviticus-like standards of clean and unclean, and are making their case on an approved list of orthodox scientists, it becomes incontrovertible that what we are facing in the Covid mandates is a deeply religious belief system. Yes, it is secular. It denies God and preaches medicinal healing, but it contains a strong body of belief, fortified by a cadre of moral imperatives, decided by a higher power, and mediated through a series of princes, priests, and prophets. And this leads to the vaccine itself.
While many Christians have freely taken and benefitted from this achievement of science, it has become increasingly apparent that to others, the vaccine is a religious sacrament. To those who deny God, the protection of one’s life becomes the number one priority. In other words, with no hope of heaven and no fear of God, the secular world treats this one life as their only chance at heaven. And materialist as they are, they look to science to be their medicinal savior. And because God is good, modern medicine IS a wonderful savior—not in an ultimate sense, but in a qualified sense. And this is why many Christians have received the vaccine with great thanksgiving and liberty of conscience.
Nevertheless, when we look at the total picture, it is increasingly clear that the vaccine is now treated as a sacrament for salvation. With ironic humor, it is even heralded with a fundamentalist zeal that rivals the fiercest evangelists on the sawdust trail. And sadly, many vaccinators are as mean-spirited and punitive as the fundamentalist Christians they abhor. In short, in less than a year’s time, the Covid vaccine has become a religious sacrament.
It didn’t have to be that way. It could have simply been a way to respond to a global pandemic, a part of a multi-prong strategy to help the sick. But instead, the religious fervor of the ruling elite has made the Covid vaccine a sacrament of health and life and freedom. Thus, when governing agencies demand citizens to take the vaccine, they are forcing the world’s newfangled idol on Christians. And taking a page from 1 Corinthians 8, some Christians will have freedom of conscience to eat the meat, but others will not, and therefore must not.
Yet, with the vaccine mandate forcing worshipers of Christ to receive in their bodies the serum of sacrament, the state has now forced their secular religion on Christians. And this is a legitimate reason for seeking a religious exemption. But this also raises another question.
3. Have all Christians who have received the vaccine participated in a false religion?
No. If you have read this essay from the beginning, you know that I believe many Christians have in good conscience received the vaccine. And this argument is not written to condemn anyone who has with faith and thanksgiving prayed for, sought, or received this vaccine. As a vaccine and not a sacrament, the vaccine is a product of human ingenuity and one that has sought to do good. And for those who have taken it that way, even if they lined up next to an irreligious sacrament seeker, they can go to sleep tonight with a clear conscience.
That said, the vaccine mandates have reset the calculus. No longer are the vaccines a personal choice that individuals can receive or reject, based upon their medical history and liberty of conscience. Unless something changes, and we should pray that it does, the vaccines are now the enforced will of the government, regardless of your medical condition or religious beliefs. And in that setting, I expect there will be Christians who can still in good conscience receive the vaccine. But I also expect that the longer the politicians of this country make healthcare decisions for Americans, the more Christians are going to take note of the secular religious practices being forced on them. This is a second reason why a religious exemption can be—and for some, must be—sought.
Two Reasons to Seek a Religious Exemption 
In the end, liberty of conscience and freedom from an imposed secular sacrament are the two reasons that many Christians can and should seek a religious exemption. Again the “should” here is related to conscience and not a biblical imperative for all Christians. The universal imperative is that if you cannot get the vaccine in faith, you must not. Again, Romans 14 is clear on this. You should not violate your conscience or bind the conscience of someone else who thinks differently than you.
At the same time, with the increasing secularization of our culture and the force of government demanding citizens to do things against their will, all Christians should stand for religious liberty. And this begins by recognizing the religious response to Covid. The vaccine mandates are not pure science nor unbiased medicine. There’s more to it than that, and it does not take a conspiracy theory to connect the dots. The Covid vaccine, unlike every other mandated vaccine, has a religious connotation to it. For this reason, Christians in our day need to be instructed by Revelation 13 as much as Romans 13. And I pray this essay might help us to see what is going on and to respond in freedom and faith—whatever that means for you and the vaccine.
May God give us wisdom and courage in these days.

Photo by Markus Spiske on
[1] As David Closson has observed: “First, there are serious concerns that President Biden’s vaccine mandate is illegal and unconstitutional. No federal statute or constitutional provision expressly gives the president the authority to impose a sweeping vaccine mandate on private businesses and their employees in this manner, and the Biden administration has an extremely questionable reading of the statute they claim gives him this authority. Some states have already threatened to sue.”
[2] I have received multiple requests for help on religious exemptions based upon the connection between the Covid vaccines and the use of stem cell lines derived from aborted babies.
[3] Though there are competing claims, here is one study that argues for natural immunity:
[4] Stating the difference between religious and medical exemptions, Alliance Defending Freedom notes, “You must first determine if your objection is based on a sincerely held religious belief against taking any of the available vaccines (since they are different), or whether your objections are based on other medical, health, cultural, or political, but not religious, concerns. Many people have medical or other concerns which do not rise to the level of an actual religious belief. A belief that taking a vaccine is unwise or could be harmful will normally be considered a medical or health objection, not a religious objection.”
[5] I take the oil of James 5:14 to be medicinal.
[6] Additionally, Christians are those who know that bodies are not disconnected from souls. As Abraham Kuyper wisely stated with respect to limitations on government mandated healthcare, “Just think of the battle over cowpox inoculation, or of the shameful idea of some heartless magistrates to close the churches during epidemics in the interest of public hygiene. Think also of the outrageous attempts in a Christian nation to discourage burials and to bring into vogue the pagan practice of cremation. Thus it is essential to be very circumspect about choosing one’s point of departure and to give our doctors (many of whom are philosophical materialists) not one tittle more than they, strictly speaking, can demand. Many take public hygiene to mean health care that turns not only the public spaces but also our bodies into the private hunting ground of our medical colleges. And since our bodies are inexplicably and marvelously bound up with our spiritual being—a spiritual being that these gentlemen hygienists for the most part concern themselves very little about—it goes without saying that our physical needs can come into conflict with our psychical needs. And in that case we must fight tooth and nail against the materialistic conclusion that in all such cases body takes precedence over soul!” (Our Program: A Christian Political Manifesto)
[7] Here are twenty quotations from Baptists who have made arguments for religious liberty.
[8] Andrew Walker, Liberty for All: Defending Everyone’s Religious Freedom in a Pluralistic Age, 81–110, esp. 89–90.
[9] Sadly, this includes the Christians who unwittingly support them with a facile reading of Romans 13. For a better reading of Romans 13, see here, here, and here.
[10] New York Governor Kathy Hochul: “There are not legitimate religious exemptions because the leaders of all the organized religions have said there’s no legitimate reason.”
[11] In Our Program: A Christian Political Manifesto, Abraham Kuyper writes about the relationship between the state and the Christian’s conscience. He states, “The conscience marks a boundary that the state may never cross. The limits to state power reside in the will of God. Government has as much power as God has assigned to it. No more; no less. It sins if it leaves unused a portion of the power assigned to it, but also if it arrogates to itself any power that is not assigned to it. There is only one power without limits, the power of God, whence it is called almighty power. Anyone who accords the state the right to exercise power as if it had no limits is guilty of deifying the state and favoring state omnipotence. That is not indulging in oratorical phraseology but simply indicating a purely logical concept.”  Thanks to Ben Purves for this and other references to Abraham Kuyper.
[12] For those thinking theologically, “liberty of conscience” is not a denial of Luther’s “bondage of the will.” The latter has to do with the personal inability to repent and believe, the former has to do with the ability to repent and believe without external coercion. Both doctrines can be found in Scripture and both doctrines are necessary for understanding biblically the roles of church and state. For now, our focus is on the public good that comes when consciences are not coerced by external forces—this is good for all image-bearers, not just those who call themselves Christians.
[13] One counter argument to any religious exemptions for the vaccine is the fact that most seeking an exemption have already received countless vaccines. Therefore, the counterargument goes, any current religious accommodation is not a true religious belief but a matter of convenience or personal disinterest couched in terms of religious convictions. The refutation of this counterargument, however, is the fact that this vaccine mandate, unlike George Washington’s smallpox vaccine mandate or the anthrax vaccine mandate, is the global scope of this pandemic and the religious response of the secular society. In other words, while receiving medicine as a good gift from God, current events have proven that this vaccine is not simply a gift of modern medicine, it has become a secular sacrament. And thus, not only does taking this vaccine violate the conscience of many Christians, it does so by forcing Christians to participate in a modern, medical sacrament.
[14] Peter P. Kreeft and Ronald K Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics: Hundreds of Answers to Crucial Questions (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic. 1994), 351.
[15] Etymologically, liturgy means the “work of the people.”
[16] From the rush transcript of Kathy Hocul: “I need you to be my apostles. I need you to go out and talk about it and say, we owe this to each other. We love each other. Jesus taught us to love one another and how do you show that love but to care about each other enough to say, please get the vaccine because I love you and I want you to live, I want our kids to be safe when they’re in schools, I want to be safe when you go to a doctor’s office or to a hospital and are treated by somebody, you don’t want to get the virus from them. You’re already sick or you wouldn’t be there. We have to solve this, my friends. I need every one of you. I need you to let them know that this is how we can fight this pandemic.”
[17] From postvent or post-vaxxed calendars (think: advent calendars but in reverse) to protein-spiked helmets, The Verge reports, “Sites such as Etsy, Zazzle, and Redbubble are overflowing with T-shirts, hats, and buttons proclaiming “Fully Vaccinated,” “Hug me, I’m vaccinated,” “Vaccines cause adults,” and “Vaccinated AF.” (I just report these; I don’t write them.) There are necklaces, hats, toys, keychains, and cardholders. Okay, it’s a little weird, but still…”
[18] Consider President Biden’s “scolding tone,” which was noted by none other than Jake Tapper, when Biden addressed the nation.
[19] Among others, see CNN’s Don Lemon’s comments.
[20] See Thomas Sowell, The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulations as a Social Policy.

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Ruminations on Revelation: Moses’ Mosaic

Moses’s knowledge of creation came by immediate revelation. There were no documents recording the event on which he could reflect and no eyewitness accounts, not even Adam, for he was created on the sixth day. The first three chapters of Genesis determine everything in the rest of Scripture and, indeed, for all the events of subsequent history. We learn of the exalted status of humanity in its creation in the image of God, we learn of its moral stature of knowledge of the will of God and the true goodness of obedience and the devastation of disobedience. We learn of the reason for male and female, the order and purpose of their creation, and, again, the consequent moral status and intrinsic goodness of this relationship, a marriage relationship established by God at the very fountainhead of humanity (Matthew 19:4-6). These chapters tell us of the disobedience that led to death and the corruption of all the descendants of Adam. The subjection of creation itself to vanity is revealed as having proceeded from this first sin.
Without the revelation of Genesis 1-3 we have no Romans 2, 4, 5, and 8. Well, let’s just say the entire New Testament.  We find in this narrative the first promise of redemption through the seed of the woman and the consequent final and ultimate demise of Satan. The principle of sacrificial death to provide covering for the results of sin finds graphic expression in this revelation of primeval reality. Subsequent to the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, the memory and oral information could serve as a resource for the recording of the pertinent events and relations and developments. These historical accounts of actions and judgments could come from Adam for 900 years, from Noah for 350 years subsequent to the flood, from Abraham and the three subsequent generations descending from his loins. From this seedbed of oral (and some written?) history the pertinent events of the developing human condition were available to Moses. The revelatory relevance of the historical narrative was guaranteed by the superintending operation of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). The events for which there could be no eyewitness account were revealed to Moses immediately.
Moses clearly recognized his calling as a man dependent on revelation. From the burning bush to his messages given to Pharaoh, saying what God put in his mind and on Aaron’s lips, Moses was conscious that God initiated and controlled the content of the message. Announcement of each plague was an outflow of revelation followed by effectual action from the Lord God. The giving of the Ten Commandments was pure revelation, even written by the finger of God. It put into objective propositions the law written on the heart at creation, the same law that would be enforced by the curse of death for disobedience.
The first three chapters of Genesis determine everything in the rest of Scripture and, indeed, for all the events of subsequent history.
Moses asked specifically for a revelation of the glory of God, knowing that any knowledge of God must come by his grace and his revelatory action. God would speak to Moses “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11). He heard, having been hidden from the fatal view of infinite glory, God say, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children on the children and the children’s children to the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6, 7).
Moses received the revelation of the ceremonial law and the civil law in addition to the moral law. These also helped define the character of the people of God and the work of the coming finality of the prophetic word, the priestly ministry, and the King of kings. Deuteronomy consisted of the words Moses spoke “to the people of Israel according to all that the Lord had given him in commandment to them” (Deuteronomy 1:3).
Any compromise of the revelatory status of the Pentateuch and the propositional character of that revelation threatens to make clear understanding of entire corpus of Scripture impossible. Creation occurred according the word power, eternal purpose, and orderly arrangement determined by God as revealed in Scripture. The simple proposition “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3) builds upon the entire narrative of Genesis revealed to Moses. None could argue that the summary by Paul of the gospel he preached to the Corinthians is a minor point of truth, an irrelevancy, or only a tangential issue of application. It summarizes the redemptive revelation of God in gathering to himself the people given to his Son before the creation of the world. That simple statement is a mysterious imposition on the intellect apart from the full truthfulness of the layered context of what Moses wrote  in Genesis 1-3 and then throughout the Pentateuch.
In harmony with that and as an expansion of it, propositional revelation continued throughout Scripture; it built upon the first principles of creation, covenant, fall, redemption, law, election of a people, unveiling of promise, and divine sovereignty disclosed to Moses, the first penman of Holy Scripture. The absolute truthfulness of this written revelation and its unwavering authority for life before God is emphasized immediately upon the death of Moses and the transfer of leadership of the people of God to Joshua: “This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth” (Joshua 1:8). An accurate understanding of the Mosaic revelation would determine the clarity with which all future revelation would be understood and synthesized into the final manifestation of the “faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). We grasp the meaning of the “Alpha and Omega,” the “tree of Life,” the “root and descendant of David,” the “water of Life,” “the plagues described in this book,” and finally consolidated into the entire corpus of Scripture (Revelation 22:13, 14, 16, 18-21).

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Encouragement for Gospel Ministers from John Newton

And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry. Who was before a blasphemer… but I obtained mercy. 1 Timothy 1:12-13
What a privilege it is to be a believer! They are comparatively few, and we by nature were no nearer than others: it was grace, free grace, that made the difference. What an honor to be a minister of the everlasting gospel! These upon comparison are perhaps fewer still. How wonderful that one of these few should be sought for among the wilds of Africa, reclaimed from the lowest state of impiety and misery, and brought to assure other sinners, from his own experience, that ‘there is, there is forgiveness with him, that he may be feared.’
We are called to an honorable service, but it is arduous. What wisdom does it require to keep the middle path in doctrines, avoiding the equally dangerous errors on the right hand and the left! What steadiness, to speak the truth boldly and faithfully in the midst of a gainsaying world! What humility, to stand against the tide of popularity! What meekness, to endure all things for the elect’s sake, that they may be saved! ‘Who is sufficient for these things?’ We are not in ourselves, but there is an all-sufficiency in Jesus. Our enemy watches us close; He challenges and desires to have us, that he may sift us as wheat; he knows he can easily shake us if we are left to ourselves; But we have a Shepherd, a Keeper, who never slumbers nor sleeps… When we are prone to wander, he calls us back; When we say, my feet slip, his mercy holds us up; When we are wounded, he heals; when we are ready to faint, he revives. The people of God are sure to meet with enemies, but especially the ministers: Satan bears them a double grudge: the world watches for their halting, and the Lord will suffer them to be afflicted, that they may be kept humble, that they may acquire a sympathy with the suffering of others, that they may be experimentally qualified to advise and help them, and to comfort them with the comforts with which they themselves have been comforted of God.
Cardiphonia: Letters to Rev. Mr. William Bull, 1:590 (taken from Jewels from John Newton, Banner of Truth, 2016)

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Some Will Apostatize

The Bible never sugarcoats the painful realities of living in a fallen world. Sin is portrayed in all of its dark hues, and the best of men are acknowledged to be at best, mere men. Similarly, the church is portrayed as in a constant state of conflict until the Lord Jesus returns.
The church in the world is the church militant—always engaged in warfare, under attack and advancing doggedly onward through enemy territory. As is true with any army, the church is not immune to the loss of some of her members. In fact, the skill and tenacity of our enemies are intent on destroying as many as they can.
Paul warns Timothy of such loss in the opening verses of 1 Timothy 4. “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (v. 1). Those “later times” are here. They have been present since Christ’s first coming and will continue until his return.
Paul intends to encourage Timothy by informing him of the inevitability that some will apostatize. Timothy is pastoring the church in Ephesus—a church that Paul himself planted. Yet, among the members of that church, among those who professed to be followers of Jesus, some would depart from the faith.
From Judas onward the church has been confronted with the painful reality of apostasy. When those who have once been bright, shining lights among the people of God later turn away from the paths of discipleship and abandon the teachings of God’s Word, it is brings great sorrow to fellow church members. Perhaps none feel such sorrows as deeply as those pastors whose responsibility it is to shepherd the flock.
How are we to understand those who fall away? Are our Armininian friends right in their teaching that genuine Christians can lose their salvation? No. Salvation conveys eternal life and Jesus promised that His people are secure because “no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:29). Paul assures us that the One who began a good work in us “will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
John gives us insight into what is going on in the lives of those who profess to follow Jesus but then turn away from him, depart from his Word and reject his people. “They went out from us,” the apostle writes, “but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19).
The antidote to apostasy is a rigorous devotion to the truth of God’s Word.
When someone departs from the faith never to be recovered it is not that he has lost the salvation that was once possessed. Rather, such a person demonstrates by his departure that, no matter how loudly he professed to belong to the Lord’s redeemed, he did not genuinely possess the salvation that comes through faith in Christ. Though such people might be among us, they are not “of us.”
Paul explains how this happens. How a person lives is determined by what he believes. Those who fall away do so because they become devoted to the “teachings of demons.” This does not mean that they get caught up in the occult. Rather, they come to believe notions that originate in hell and are consequently led away from the faith.
This is what causes people to make up rules that God’s Word does not teach (“Do not get married” or “Do not eat”) and to become convinced that by following them they are spiritually safe. In reality, they have fallen prey to “deceitful spirits” who use liars with seared consciences to spread their spiritual poison (1 Timothy 4:2).
Apostates are people who have been deceived. They have been duped into believing lies rather than the truth and, as a result, are not standing firm but are falling away.
The antidote to apostasy, then, is a rigorous devotion to the truth of God’s Word. It is in the Word that the gospel of God’s grace in Jesus Christ is revealed. Becoming increasingly grounded in the gospel is what gives stability to a believer. As Psalm 1 says, the blessed and stable man is the one who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates in it day and night (vv. 2-3).
Pastors must be radically committed to teaching the Word of God in all of its fullness and simplicity. This is why Paul repeatedly emphasizes the importance of sound doctrine in his letters to Timothy and Titus on pastoral ministry (1 Timothy 1:3, 10, 4:6, 16, 6:3; 2 Timothy 3:16, 4:3; Titus 1:9, 2:1). This is also why no Christian should settle for anything less.
There is a battle going on in the minds of all those who know the Lord. It is a battle between truth and falsehood—between the teaching of God’s Word and the teachings of demons. What you believe will inevitability determine how you live.
Make sure that the ideas and convictions to which you become devoted are derived from Scripture alone. There is no other way to stand firm the faith.

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Change at Founders Ministries

Founders Ministries announces the resignation of Jared Longshore from the staff and board of the ministry. He served since 2017 as Vice President of Founders and was a part of the launch of the Institute of Public Theology in January of this year.
“Jared has been a great friend and brother and I am grateful for his service over these last several years,” President Tom Ascol said. “God has used him to encourage many through the work of Founders. We will miss him and pray for God’s guidance and blessing as he enters a new chapter of his life and work.”
Dr. Ascol also expressed his excitement about the many initiatives that are ahead for Founders. “We have some excellent new titles in the pipeline for publication by Founders Press as well as an outstanding line up of preachers for the 2022 Founders Conference on ‘Militant and Triumphant: The Doctrine of the Church.’ I am especially delighted to announce that Dr. Tom Buck will be joining Voddie Baucham, James Coates, Travis Allen, Conrad Mbewe, and me to address this urgently relevant theme exegetically, theologically, and practically.” There is still time to register for the conference, though space is limited.
Dr. Baucham, a Founding Faculty Member of the Institute of Public Theology and Founders Ministries board member said, “Jared Longshore is a dear friend, brother, and co-laborer. His contribution to the work of Founders Ministries and IOPT has been invaluable and we wish him well in the next phase of his journey.”
Dr. Baucham will be teaching a course at IOPT in January 2022. You can learn more about his class and register by accessing the IOPT website.

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A Profile in Fortitude: Edmund Grindal

The name of Edmund Grindal does not immediately capture attention as a historically relevant figure, at least for most.  Given the world in which we currently live, however, his relevance might well be increasing by the day.
Various dates are given for the birth of Edmund Grindal in St. Bees, England, but 1519 or 1520 is the usually accepted date.[1]  As a young man he studied and advanced in Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, becoming president of his college in 1549.[2]  He was ordained a deacon in 1544, at a time in which the Church of England was separate from Rome but not yet fully Protestant.[3]  He would later express his sentiments for his ministry in the old church by saying, “I have said mass; I am sorry for it.”[4]
When the Reformation made greater in-roads into England during the reign of Edward VI (1547-1553), Grindal became a sincere Protestant.  Heinrich Bullinger’s work De origine erroris had led him to embrace the Reformed doctrine of the Lord’s Supper somewhere around 1547.[5]  Though Grindal never met Bullinger in person, he did become personally acquainted with the German Reformer Martin Bucer during Bucer’s final days as a professor at Cambridge.  He was even one of Bucer’s pall bearers.[6]  During the reign of Edward, Grindal also served in the church under the bishop of London and later Protestant martyr Nicholas Ridley.  During the years when English Protestants were persecuted during the reign of Mary Tudor (1553-1558), he fled to continental Europe, to the city of Strasbourg, for refuge.
When Elizabeth ascended to the throne after the death of her half-sister Mary, Grindal and a host of other Protestant English exiles returned to their homeland and began occupying positions in the Elizabethan Church.  Grindal himself laid aside his personal scruples about episcopacy and certain church ceremonies for what he saw as the greater good of the church, lest it should fall into the wrong hands.[7]  Even prior to his exile, Grindal had been nominated to become bishop of London, and when the Elizabethan Church was being established, he was again chosen for that office.  In 1570, Grindal was promoted to become Archbishop of York.  Following the death of Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1575, Grindal was translated to succeed him the following year.  As Archbishop of Canterbury, Grindal was now the leading pastoral figure in the Church of England.
As archbishop, Grindal’s “chief interest was in the improvement of the education of the clergy and their consequent ability to rightly proclaim the Word of God.”[8]  He wanted the Word of God to preached faithfully for the cause of Christ.
And it was Grindal’s concern for the proclamation of the Gospel that would be at least one of the reasons for his falling out with Queen Elizabeth.  In 1576 the queen ordered Grindal to suppress an exercise known as the “prophesyings” that were taking place in some parts of England.  In our terms, we would more likely call them “preachings,” for that is what they were.  Essentially, what would happen is that several ministers would gather together in a given town on a given day, perhaps a market day, a few sermons would be preached before an audience of laymen, with two or three of the more senior ministers serving as moderators.  After the sermons, the ministers would retire together for a sort of service review, to talk about the sermons in order to help the preachers improve, perhaps discuss other matters of ministerial concern, and have a meal together.[9]  Queen Elizabeth was not too thrilled at the reports she received about these “prophesyings”.  To her they seemed to be tending toward too much democracy and anarchy, and so she commanded the Archbishop to circulate an order for their suppression.
And Grindal could not in good conscience comply with the order.  He felt that there needed to be more preaching in the church and not less.  And so on December 20, 1576 he wrote a long letter to the queen giving his reasons.  He wrote,
With most humble remembrance of my bounden duty to your Majesty: It may please the same to be advertised, that the speeches which it hath pleased you to deliver unto me, when I last attended on your Highness, concerning abridging the number of preachers, and the utter suppression of all learned exercises and conferences among the ministers of the church, allowed by their bishops and ordinaries, have exceedingly dismayed and discomforted me…
But surely I cannot marvel enough, how this strange opinion should once enter into your mind, that it should be good for the church to have few preachers. Alas, Madam! is the scripture more plain in any one thing, than that the gospel of Christ should be plentifully preached; and that plenty of labourers should be sent into the Lord’s harvest; which, being great and large, standeth in need, not of a few, but many workmen!…
Public and continual preaching of God’s word is the ordinary mean and instrument of the salvation of mankind. St Paul calleth it the ministry of reconciliation of man unto God. By preaching of God’s word the glory of God is enlarged, faith is nourished, and charity increased. By it the ignorant is instructed, the negligent exhorted and incited, the stubborn rebuked, the weak conscience comforted, and to all those that sin of malicious wickedness the wrath of God is threatened. By preaching also due obedience to Christian princes and magistrates is planted in the hearts of subjects: for obedience proceedeth of conscience; conscience is grounded upon the word of God; the word of God worketh his effect by preaching. So as generally, where preaching wanteth, obedience faileth…
I trust, when your Majesty hath considered and well weighed the premises, you will rest satisfied, and judge that no such inconveniences can grow of these exercises, as you have been informed, but rather the clean contrary. And for my own part, because I am very well assured, both by reasons and arguments taken out of the holy scriptures, and by experience, (the most certain seal of sure knowledge,) that the said exercises, for the interpretation and exposition of the scriptures, and for exhortation and comfort drawn out of the same, are both profitable to increase knowledge among the ministers, and tendeth to the edifying of the hearers,—I am forced, with all humility, and yet plainly, to profess, that I cannot with safe conscience, and without the offence of the majesty of God, give my assent to the suppressing of the said exercises: much less can I send out any injunction for the utter and universal subversion of the same.  I say with St. Paul, “I have no power to destroy, but to only edify;” and with the same apostle, “I can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.”…
Bear with me, I beseech you, Madam, if I choose rather to offend your earthly majesty, than to offend the heavenly majesty of God.[10]
Grindal concluded his letter by making two petitions to the Queen and exhorting her to remember her humanity and to continue on in the ways of God.  The first petition was that she refer all ecclesiastical matters to the church to be dealt with by the church, as they were matters that were to be judged, borrowing the words of an ancient writer, “in ecclesia, seu synodo, non in palatio” (in the church, or a synod, not in a palace).  His second petition was that when she dealt with matters of faith or religion or matters touching the church, that she would not make pronouncements on them as the authority, as she did in civil and external matters; “but always remember, that in God’s causes the will of God, and not the will of any earthly creature, is to take place… In God’s matters all princes ought to bow their sceptres to the Son of God, and to ask counsel at his mouth, what they ought to do.”[11]
Grindal was willing, if need be, to be kicked out of his office as archbishop rather than comply with the queen’s order to suppress these preachings.  Officially, he remained in office until his death in 1583, nevertheless the queen placed him under house arrest and he was unable to fulfill many of his functions as archbishop.[12]  The queen directed the other bishops to suspend the prophesyings in their dioceses.[13]  For Grindal, however, faithfulness to Christ and obedience to the Word of God far outweighed the treasures of earth and whatever earthly benefits he might gain by retaining the favor of the queen.  He regarded faithfulness to God as more important than earthly success in his undertakings.
Who knew?  The life and example of Edmund Grindal might be more relevant to the present day than any of us, myself included, had ever thought.

[1] Patrick Collinson, Archbishop Grindal (1519-1583): The Struggle for a Reformed Church, (London: Jonathan Cape, 1979), 25.
[2] Ibid., 41.
[3] Ibid., 36.
[4] The Remains of Edmund Grindal, ed. by William Nicholson, (Cambridge University Press: Parker Society, 1843), reprinted 1968, Johnson Reprint Corporation, 211.
[5] Collinson, 44.
[6] Ibid., 50.
[7] Ibid., 90.
[8] Powell Mills Dawley, John Whitgift and the Reformation, (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1955), 148-149.
[9] Collinson, 233-234.
[10] The text of Archbishop Grindal’s Letter to the Queen can be found in The Remains of Edmund Grindal, ed. by William Nicholson, (Cambridge: The University Press, 1843), 376-390.
[11] Ibid., 387-389.
[12] Though his refusal to suppress the prophesyings was the official reason for which he received such treatment from the queen, it seems there was also another reason, if not more than one.  Thomas Fuller, the seventeenth century church historian referred to Grindal’s “sharp reproving of Julio, the Italian physician, for marrying another man’s wife; which bitter but wholesome pill the physician himself not being able to digest, incensed the earl of Leicester, and he the queen’s Majesty against the good archbishop.  But all was put on the account of Grindal’s nonconformity for favouring the factious meetings called prophesyings.”  Collinson states broadly that Grindal was the victim of “courtly intrigue.”  (See Collinson, 253 ff.)
[13] Nick Needham, 2000 Years of Christ’s Power, Vol. 4, (Christian Focus, Fearn, Ross-shire, 2016), 198.

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Ed Litton, Southern Baptist Leaders, and Judgment Day Honesty: A Call for Accountability and Action by Southern Baptist Churches

The eighteenth-century writer, Samuel Johnson, once quipped, “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” Though, to my knowledge, I am not slated for such an end, I can testify to the sanctifying value of drawing near to death. It provides perspective and an opportunity to think simply, critically, and honestly, by reminding one of that unavoidable reality that Scripture announces unequivocally: “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
On that day, when called to give an account for every idle word and the stewardship entrusted to us as those who have received the gospel of Jesus Christ, the kind of equivocation that often serves so well when we don’t want to make necessary judgments will be meaningless. As a Pastor, I have a double burden in this regard because I will “have to give an account” as one of those charged with keeping watch over the souls of the people I serve (Hebrews 13:17).
My late friend and mentor, Ernie Reisinger would occasionally exhort me when dealing with difficult, vitally important matters, to speak with “judgment day honesty.” He meant that I should evaluate the matter with the kind of seriousness that recognizes one day I will stand and give an account for what I say and do.
It is in that spirit that I have tried to evaluate the antics of many Southern Baptist leaders and pastors over the last seventeen months. An honest evaluation of several facts should convince Bible believing Southern Baptists who are interested in maintaining—or recovering—the integrity of the SBC that we are fast approaching DEFCON 1 in terms of how fast and far the convention has fallen.
The response to the Covid crisis, 2020 riots, BLM “protests,” governmental tyranny, and violation of religious liberties was in so many ways, abysmal. From Al Mohler’s “Covenant and Commitment” for Southern Seminary and Boyce College employees and students to Danny Akin’s disastrous “How to Shepherd Your Church through Racial Injustice” led by four Southeastern Baptist Seminary faculty to Kevin Ezell’s church planters’ similarly unbiblical assessment of the riots (though it seems NAMB may have removed their video from their website), Southern Baptists were served very poorly by those we employ to give leadership to key institutions and entities.
These are just a few highlights from the last seventeen months. Space does not allow me to elaborate on previous failures like the hiring of a faculty member who has endorsed the damnable Revoice conference or the elevating to seminary Provost of a self-described racist and white supremacist. Nor will I describe the cowardly smear campaign and admission of participation in sexual abuse coverup by Russell Moore (who stayed quiet for months if not years about what he calls “a culture where countless children have been torn to shreds, where women have been raped and then “broken down”) formerly of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
When questions were raised about these events by countless “SBC headquarters” (local churches), SBC elites dismissed or ignored their concerns altogether, scrubbed websites, and accused the pastors of those churches of being troublemakers or otherwise tried to gaslight them. It’s bad enough to be treated this way by those who are supposed to be our leaders. It’s doubly immoral to expect churches to continue to pay those leaders’ salaries as they do so.
Given the disconnect between the elites and rank-and-file Southern Baptists, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by the almost complete failure of leadership when Ed Litton’s dishonesty and pulpit plagiarism came to light.
To be sure, I did not vote for Ed Litton to be the SBC president in Nashville. I didn’t like the fact that he claimed that he did not allow women to preach in his church while videos of him and his wife preaching were circulating. I also didn’t like the fact that NAMB (and on at least one occasion, Southwestern Baptist Seminary) sponsored him speaking around the SBC on the campaign trail. For me, those are simple integrity issues.
On June 26, less than two weeks after Litton was elected President of the SBC on the second ballot, I was sent a video clip of Litton’s sermon on Romans 1, along with a sermon by JD Greear on Romans 1. The date on Greear’s sermon indicated that it was preached in January 2019, a year or so before Litton plagiarized it. A comparison of the two was (and still is) bad. Very bad. After watching the video that morning, I sent Ed a letter. I wrote it as a pastor to a pastor. I acknowledged that while there might be an explanation that I simply could not conceive, what he did “looks very bad.” I encouraged him to step away from the demands of ministry long enough to “seek help and encouragement from trusted counselors.”
Those were my thoughts after seeing just the initial plagiarized sermon by Litton. Since then at least half a dozen more have been documented, including one from several years ago where Ed and his wife stole from Tim Keller in one of their joint sermons. There may be many more, but we may never know since Ed removed over 140 of his sermons from the Internet once the scandal broke.
And make no mistake, it is a scandal—scandal of massive proportions. The emperor has no clothes, despite how much certain SBC elitists and those who want Ed to further a progressive agenda try to convince us that he is arrayed in the finest of fabric. Just ask any child. Or think about what answer you will give to the Lord were He to ask you about Ed’s plagiarism on the Day of Judgment.
To my knowledge, only one SBC leader spoke directly against pulpit plagiarism in the immediate aftermath of Litton’s dishonesty being made public. Jason Allen, President of Midwestern Baptist Seminary tweeted this on July 5, 2021.

Re re-preaching other’s sermons, I believe:
One *ought* not preach another’s serm (w/ rare exceptions) even w/ permission & attribution.
One *must* not preach another’s serm w/out permission & attribution.
If this appears to happen, the church’s elders should review & resolve.
— Jason Keith Allen (@jasonkeithallen) July 5, 2021

This is hardly profound but in the presence of the deafening silence of his fellow SBC elites, pastors and churches welcomed it. Al Mohler, who was in an admittedly awkward spot having come in third in the race for the SBC presidency behind Litton and Mike Stone in Nashville, did recently speak on the matter in response to a student question about it. He put it in the context of the widespread practice of pastors using “manufactured sermons.”
There simply is no doubt that this conversation we’re having right now is occasioned by the fact that the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Ed Litton, has been involved to some degree in preaching someone else’s sermon. Beyond that we can see the whole issue of the kind of manufacture of sermons that is now widespread. I would simply have to say that that is precisely not what we are trying to teach or to hold up as an example here.
Again, true enough. But Southern Baptist churches and pastors could wish for the full-throated renunciation of this kind of dishonesty that a younger Mohler gave in 2006. Then, he called pulpit plagiarism “theft” and used unequivocal language to renounce it.
Words are our business, I cannot imagine using someone else’s as my own. It [Plagiarism] is one of the most despicable practices I can imagine… I cannot imagine sitting in the congregation knowing that this guy is simply parroting something he has read, borrowed, or stolen from someone else….He’s not [a preacher] if he is preaching somebody else’s stuff….It is never right to steal [a sermon] and it’s never right to suggest that it’s yours if it’s not….If a comedian stole another comedian’s material he would end up in court.
A simple google search reveals that this kind of plain-spoken assessment of pulpit plagiarism used to be common fare among Bible believing evangelical leaders, including Southern Baptists. Now, however, that we have a serial plagiarist as President of the SBC, our leaders have lost their voices. Or maybe it’s their spines. My guess is that it’s the latter.
So here is where we find ourselves. Southern Baptist Churches are being led by a President who is a confirmed pulpit plagiarist. As I see it, he should resign immediately and seek help from men of integrity who will deal honestly with him in caring for his soul. Ed Litton lacks integrity. He has forfeited any opportunity to lead the SBC effectively.
None of the SBC leaders have issued any kind of direct, public rebuke. None have called for him to resign, though several pastors have done so. Southern Baptists deserve better.
What should such leaders do when confronted with their failure to lead? They should repent and start doing what their constituents rightfully expect them to do. Or, if they refuse, they should resign.
What should churches do when the leaders whose salaries they pay fail to lead? They should call for their leaders to repent or resign. If such leaders are unwilling to respond to these kinds of admonitions from their congregational “headquarters,” then the churches should defund their institutions. If I pay you to guard my house and you stand by while enemies infiltrate at will, don’t expect me to keep you in my employ.
It is a matter of stewardship. I cannot keep count of the SBC churches who have contacted me out of a deep concern over the lack of integrity right now in their convention. Many of them have left or are in the process of leaving the SBC. Some are looking for an alternative—a way to stay Southern Baptist while demanding that the SBC elites quit ignoring simple facts and the expressed concerns of churches.
Here is what needs to happen—and in many places already is happening in churches of all sizes. Churches need to vote to stop sending financial support to those institutions and entities in the SBC whose leaders refuse to lead. Since each agency and institution gets a slice of the money given through the Cooperative Program (CP), this will inevitably mean working around the CP. I take no pleasure in that thought because the CP is an ingenuous mechanism for funding ministries around the world. Churches should determine which SBC entities—if any—they are willing to continue supporting financially. They can then decide to designate to those entities.
From my vantage point, the two entities that I am happy to support are the International Mission Board and the Disaster Relief work through our state convention. I don’t want our international missionaries to suffer for the leadership failures of SBC elites. And Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is second to none. If only half of the 47,000 SBC churches were to escrow or designate their financial gifts in this fashion, the elites would finally be forced to listen. If they are unwilling to confront Ed Litton over his lack of integrity as matter of principle, perhaps they will be motivated to do so as a matter of principal—especially if that principal begins to dry up because they have lost the confidence of the churches whom they serve.
Will this work? Absolutely. Have we reached the point where this course of action is advisable? Sadly, I believe we have. The facts of Ed Litton’s plagiarism are not in dispute. Neither is the God-honoring course of action open to him.
It is foolish to continue financing failed leadership. As long as Ed Litton remains president of the SBC, Southern Baptist leaders are failing. It is past time to hold them accountable.
It’s not complicated. It’s just hard.

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