And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. - Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)
Edmonton Alberta Canada is the new Ground Zero in the fictious Christian persecution at the hands of a supposedly "tyrannical" government that is trying to save our lives. For many months the government there has been trying desperately to convince GraceLife Church that they need to comply with the law, you know, as Romans 13 says we are supposed to. Pastor James Coates was arrested a few months back for his disobedience and stayed for 35 days after refusing to agree with court orders of released. As soon as he was released, he resumed thumbing his nose at society and government by holding packed services with none of the guidelines from the Health Department being adhered to. After two packed Easter services the government took the unprecedented step in building a physical fence around the church to prevent people from entering. Naturally, the apostate church has gone ballistic. The teachings of the purpose driven church have left so many in Christendom with cult of personality pastors who simply cannot fathom their value or existence outside of the hour and a half service they perform on Sundays. No western government has prohibited any church from helping people, ministering to people, counseling people, assisting in the community or even providing Sunday services virtually. In the case of Alberta Canada, they are even allowed to meet on Sundays at 15% fire code capacity as long as they wear masks ands socially distance. GraceLife has abided by none of these requirements and as such the government has decided to finally enforce their mandates. It is a sad, sad commentary on where the church of today is. I am not going to get bogged down in the weeds about the fencing but rather let us focus on how we got here because GraceLife in Alberta is the same as John MacArthur's Grace Church in California as well as countless others. Petulant churches run by petulant pastors who seemingly have utter disregard for the lives of the sheep entrusted to them. First, we will review the statement put out from GraceLife Church and then have a brief sermon review of Pastor Coates from last summer when he was first deciding to rebel. Both are linked above. They are quite revealing in that the NAR thought process has infected our neighbors north of the border as well. Let us reason once more together, starting with portions from the official statement.
'"Dear fellow Albertans, It goes without saying this has been an incredibly difficult 11 months. The effects and ramifications of COVID-19 on our precious province are not insignificant. We sympathize with everyone who has suffered loss in this time, whether it be the loss of a loved one, or loss stemming from government lockdowns (such as economic loss or suffering as a result of being denied necessary health care). Given the attention our church has received in recent days, we want to address the broader public on our reasons for gathering as a local church. What follows is not a theological defence. We have already addressed that (and it is primarily and predominantly obedience to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that has shaped our stance). Instead, what follows will shed light on our approach to what is being called a "pandemic." The reason we put "pandemic" in quotes is because the definition of a pandemic was changed about 10 years ago. At one time, a pandemic was defined as an infectious disease that resulted in a certain percentage of excess deaths over and above normal annual averages. The definition was changed in connection with H1N1 to remove this threshold. Ten years ago, COVID-19 would not have qualified as a pandemic. In fact, not even close.' - GraceLife Church
Right off the bat we see the agenda in action. The unmitigated gall to compare the loss of life through COVID to the material loss of money is not only unchristian but it is unseemly. That is the false equivalency being drawn, however. The notion that losing a business is somehow equal to dying on a ventilator gasping for air is absurdly ridiculous and insulting. It is in fact that argument I expect from a politician, not a pastor or church. The attention GraceLife has received is entirely chargeable to Pastor Coates who has decided he knows better than scientists and health experts. He chose to go to jail and he chose to disobey the government until they put the fence up. He has no theological defense (as we will see in the sermon review). As for the change in definition - who cares? Does the definition matter to the nearly three million people who have died so far worldwide? I do not need a pastor trying to play doctor. It is arrogant and presumptuous and the hypocrisy is not lost on the unsaved world. It damages the cause of the Gospel.
"Having engaged in an immense amount of research, interacting with both doctors and frontline healthcare workers, it is apparent that the negative effects of the government lockdown measures on society far surpass the effects of COVID-19. The science being used to justify lockdown measures is both suspect and selective. In fact, there is no empirical evidence that lockdowns are effective in mitigating the spread of the virus. We are gravely concerned that COVID-19 is being used to fundamentally alter society and strip us all of our civil liberties. By the time the so-called "pandemic" is over, if it is ever permitted to be over, Albertans will be utterly reliant on government, instead of free, prosperous, and independent. As such, we believe love for our neighbor demands that we exercise our civil liberties. We do not see our actions as perpetuating the longevity of COVID-19 or any other virus that will inevitably come along. If anything, we see our actions as contributing to its end - the end of destructive lockdowns and the end of the attempt to institutionalize the debilitating fear of viral infections. Our local church is clear evidence that governmental lockdowns are unnecessary. In fact, it is also evidence of how harmful they are. Without going into detail, we recently lost the life of one of our precious congregants who was denied necessary health care due to government lockdown measures.
Consider the following statistics. It is alleged that 129,075 Albertans have tested positive for the virus. That works out to just less than 3% of the population. However, it needs to be pointed out that the PCR test being used to test for COVID-19 is fraught with false positives. This is especially true, since at least until recently, Alberta was running the PCR test at 40 amplifications. As such, the number of Albertans who have actually contracted the virus is likely significantly less. It is also vital to highlight that more than 99% of those who contract the virus will fully recover." - GraceLife Church