While a number of traditional evangelicals who mix faith and Christian nationalism reject face masks its a different situation among the Neo-Calvinists. Over at The Gospel Coalition there have been calls for Christians to wear face masks. In some ways its been open like Brett McCracken’s article, in other’s its through Joe Carter reminding people what the Centers for Disease Control states. Or in the case of Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra its writing about how a number of Neo-Calvinist churches encourage people to wear face masks. In this post this blog wants to thank the Neo-Calvinists for their wisdom and their refusal to let this issue become part of a culture war.
“We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God. He is nearer than our own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts”
A. W. Tozer
For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. 16 Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer,[d] say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? 17 You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.
1 Corinthians 14:13-17 NIV
The wearing of a face mask or a covering has become controversial among some of the traditional evangelicals, Baptists minded or non-denominational individuals. This is the group that has pushed and fused Christian nationalism with the evangelical faith. In this camp you will find a number of people who have made face masks a mark of your faith. Your declaration is not upon the fact that you believe that Jesus suffered, died and was crucified and rose again on the third day. No in this camp the sign of your faith is if you reject a face mask. That is what tells you that if you are a Christian. From individual pastors to Jerry Falwell Jr eschewing masks. For many evangelicals in this stream this is what the Christian faith is about. If you want to read more about this you can do so here, here, here and here. And this I would suggest is more of a phenomenon in the United States. Evangelicals in Europe are a different breed which you can read right here. Yet in the Neo-Calvinist stream of evangelicalism it is quite different.
Brett McCracken and Why You Should Wear a Face Mask
Brett McCracken is a senior editor of The Gospel Coalition. He is an teaching elder at Southlands Church in Southern California. This U.C.LA. and Wheaton graduate has also been a prolific writer. Over the past few years he has published, Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community, Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism and Liberty, and Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide.
Recently Brett wrote a post at The Gospel Coalition that has been trending for a while that encourages people to wear face masks. The name of the post is called, “4 Reasons to Wear a Mask, Even if You Hate It” Brett writes at The Gospel Coalition that he does not like wearing masks as they are uncomfortable. Yet he also says that he is troubled by everything in culture being politicized. This is how he states it.
I also hate that the mask has become such a divisive political symbol, with the masked and the masked-nots assuming the worst about each other: that mask-wearers are fearful, cosmopolitan elites or that mask-avoiders are science-hating MAGA bumpkins who prefer their freedom over Grandma’s life. It’s silly that it’s come to this: politicizing masks. But I’m not surprised. Everything in our world today is politicized: ice cream, razors, Harry Potter. So of course protective face masks would be politicized, especially when the president himself makes masks political.
As he goes further into the article he makes four arguments as to why Christians should wear face masks. Those four reasons are to love your neighbor, respect civil authorities, to honor the weak and to spread the Gospel through one’s freedom. I will post a brief section from the article as I think its worth reading.
Love Your Neighbor
“For Christians called to love our neighbors as ourselves, wearing a mask in public—particularly indoor spaces where social distance cannot be guaranteed—seems like a relatively easy way to practice neighbor love. Even if it’s annoying to wear one, and even if you aren’t convinced by the science behind it, why not wear one anyway? Given the enduring uncertainty about the way COVID-19 spreads, shouldn’t we err on the side of more protective measures rather than less, for the sake of the neighbor we might—even if it’s a slim chance—unknowingly infect?”
Respect Civil Authorities
When it comes to mask-wearing for Christians, then, if your city or state is mandating masks in certain circumstances right now (as mine is), shouldn’t you obey those directives? Likewise if your church has instituted a “mandatory masks” policy for physical gatherings: go ahead and wear that mask happily—embracing the opportunity to practice Hebrews 13:17.
To Honor the Weak
In Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 and 10, Paul argues that in matters of freedom, it’s important that “stronger” Christians don’t flaunt their freedom in ways that become stumbling blocks to the weak. When a mask-wearing “weaker” brother enters a church gathering full of mask-free “stronger” brothers, the mask-wearer naturally feels pressure to remove it—but that’s exactly the sort of wounding of the weak conscience Paul says is a “sin against Christ” (1 Cor. 8:12).
To Use Freedom to Advance The Gospel
Paul, for example, seems happy to give up his freedom for the sake of loving others (1 Cor. 8:13). “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them,” he writes (1 Cor. 9:19). “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Cor. 9:22–23). There is such missional power in this posture. Few things are more beautiful to witness than someone giving up their rights and freedom for the sake of another.
Brett then closes out his article calling for Christians to practice responsibility. How is the world going to view evangelicals during the COVID-19 pandemic? This is what he says.
There’s a lot at stake for Christian witness during COVID-19. Do we want the non-believing world to look at Christians as reckless virus super-spreaders who put their own freedoms (to gather in person as soon as possible, to not wear masks unless absolutely mandated) ahead of the health of their larger community? Or do we want them to look at Christians as “servants to all,” willing to forego their freedoms out of Christlike neighbor love?
Again this blog would encourage you to read the entire article.
Other Aspects of The Gospel Coalition Support Face Masks
In addition to Brett McCracken’s article there are other examples as well that this blog has noticed or seen. At The Gospel Coalition Joe Carter wrote a post about the Center’s for Disease Control recommendations for churches re-opening. The CDC recommended masks or face coverings being worn. You can read this in, “CDC Document Outlines Guidance for Reopening of Churches.” Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, who this blog has been critical of in the past, wrote another article about churches re-opening. In a recent post called, “Back to Church: How 5 Congregations Reopened Last Sunday” she wrote about how churches used face masks into her article. I mean stop and consider what she says about different churches. By the way before I proceed I want to point out that numbers, 2, 3, and 4 below come from the same Neo-Calvinist church on Massachusetts. Look at what the following Neo-Calvinst churches did about masks.
- “We were watching the same data points as everyone else,” Immanuel Church Nashville lead pastor T. J. Tims said. His church opened with face masks and assigned seating.
- His team of elders spent five hours planning how they were going to cap the church at 40 percent capacity (since the church can hold around 250, that probably wouldn’t be an issue), maintain social distancing (they blocked off every other pew), and wear masks.
- Everyone wore masks except the person speaking from the pulpit, even during the one song they sang near the end.
- Preaching to a sparsely populated room of people wearing masks was unusual, Hill said.
- The elders ended up putting a table by the door with masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer for any who wanted to use them.
- Congregants sat about 10 feet apart and brought their masks, though few put them on. (This blog wants to point out that this service was outside at a public fairgrounds in Indiana.)
The only one that bothered me is the description of a Neo-Calvinist church in Arizona. Arizona as you know is spiking in COVID-19. And its getting worse. Its with that in mind that the following description bothered me in The Gospel Coalition article.
- At all three, Christ Church provided masks, noting that they were “appreciated, beneficial, and available.” Some people chose to wear one, but they were “definitely in the minority, which is consistent with how people are generally operating in the rest of the East Valley of Phoenix,” Bailie said.
But for the most part this blog observes that many Neo-Calvinist churches have pushed for and encouraged others to wear face masks. This blog which likes to focus on the EFCA noticed this in a church blog post at Christ Community Church in the Kansas City and Kansas area. Tim Spanburg wrote a post about having a son dealing with a disease that put him at higher risk for COVID-19. This blog wrote about that in, “Tim Spanburg of Christ Community Church in Shawnee Mission, Kansas Pleads With Evangelicals to Wear Face Masks so His Son Can Go to Church.”
The Wondering Eagle Would Like to Thank the Neo-Calvinists for Encouraging People to Wear Face Masks
This blog has been very critical of Neo-Calvinists. Often I have written about scandals, culture, membership problems, questionable church discipline and more. But this blog also does not want to operate in an echo chamber. I have made a concerted effort in getting to know a few Calvinists. And while I seldom agree I always want to keep an open mind. This blog has also written positive posts about Calvinism. For example a couple of years back the following was composed, “What The Wondering Eagle Appreciates and Respects About Neo-Calvinism.” Its for reasons like today which stress why one should be about fact and not tribalism. If this blog wanted to play the tribalism card I would ignore this issue and keep hammering away at the Neo-Calvinists.
In good conscious I can not do that at all.
It refreshing and encouraging to see that a number of Neo-Calvinists and even The Gospel Coalition encourages the uses of masks. Joe Carter, Brett McCracken, Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra didn’t have to encourage or write about it and draw attention to the issue. In the middle of a pandemic its refreshing to see some evangelicals support common sense and actually love their neighbor. Yes, let me repeat that again, in this situation many Neo-Calvinists love their neighbor. Can this blog say that about regular Baptists and those who emphasize the culture wars? Nope. Pardon the pun but will regular Baptists be able to evolve and grow in this area? Or will they double and triple down on their beliefs? I think we know what they will do. Its a weird time because the world is upside down. Traditional alliances and points of view have been shattered. And if I can ask will you see other blogs acknowledge this point about the Neo-Calvinists and face masks and will they talk about it? Will they be gracious and talk about it? Or will they just focus on one of two chief issues and play the tribalism card.
I can’t operate like that at all. This blog needs to be honest and say the following. To Brett McCracken, Joe Carter and Tim Spanburg The Wondering Eagle wants to thank for supporting and encouraging face masks. Its refreshing to see some responsibility and honesty for a change. While we won’t agree often as I am not not will be Calvinist on this point I very much appreciate you pushing this issue or following guidelines based in science. And even following scripture to show why face masks should be worn. My hope is that regular evangelicals will learn from you, but I will be honest. I have my doubts about traditional evangelicals.