top of page

Franklin Graham, John MacArthur, and Church-and-State

Updated: Jul 21, 2022

A few friends have seen this post on Facebook and asked me to re-post it here to make it easier for them to share. Franklin Graham quotes California pastor John MacArthur ( = the dim quoting the dim) to encourage people in southern California to defy government guidelines and return to church: “It has never been the prerogative of civil government to order, modify, forbid, or mandate worship.”

Let’s just say a few quick things about that:

1. It has always been the prerogative of civil government to order, modify, forbid, or mandate worship—except in those relatively rare and modern cases in which a country’s constitution forbids it from doing so. The history of England, to pick a country not entirely foreign to American sensibilities, includes all four of those prerogatives, since it has a . . . state church. And so on.

2. It remains the prerogative of even American civil governments to enforce a variety of constraints on worship. Here are a few: (1) building codes in church structures; (2) health and safety codes governing use of those structures; (3) child protection rules governing who can be hired to care for children; (4) noise bylaws to protect the surrounding community; (5) forbiddance of hate speech, speech that incites violence, speech that endangers the public and more….

And the keen-eyed reader will note how all of these constraints have to do with safety, a concern immediately on point in this discussion.

3. Christians may well have to “obey God rather than humans,” but only literally when those human authorities forbid Christians from doing what they are directly called to do by God—not just whenever the state annoys Christians or inconveniences them. If the state were forbidding all forms of Christian fellowship, then it would be running afoul of the Constitutional protection of freedom of assembly as well as freedom of religion. But it isn’t, so it isn’t.

4. People with no education in civics and no evident expertise in political theory, ethics, or Scriptural exegesis should refrain from opining about political theory, ethics, and Scriptural exegesis.

5. People who insist that they are “just preaching the gospel” would do well to “just preach the gospel.” Otherwise, the IRS should pay them a visit, their boards should get them back in line or remove them, and their donors should rethink their support.


 Mini Courses 


Understand key ideas in important Christian theology, ethics, and history in 30 minutes (or less!) in ThinkBetter Media's mini-courses, created by award-winning theologian and historian Dr. John G. Stackhouse, Jr. 

bottom of page