“Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.” Rev. 18:10
In recent weeks we have witnessed the frailty of all the systems of man worldwide. Indeed, Revelation 18:10 should come to mind to all of us and shake us to the core in the realization that when God’s just judgment comes it can bring down any stronghold of man in an instant. With the endless stream of press conferences and news, we have heard repeated assertions that all actions done in response to the recent virus spread and resulting quarantine are to protect lives and must be accepted as valid (read: morally right) regardless of the consequences. But, of course, for the Christian examining all things in light of Scripture, questions should arise:
1. Are the actions taken in alignment with Biblical laws on quarantine?
2. Against whom should these actions legitimately be taken when valid?
3. What is our responsibility to protect lives in respect to this issue?
4. Where are the Christians who should be leading in this battle for the truth?
We have seen the actions at the federal and state levels and, no doubt, felt their impact. Social distancing, prohibitions against gatherings of 10 or more (sometimes even fewer), restrictions on retailers and more have been mandated. It seems with each passing week the doomsday predictions were justification for further restrictions. As the weeks slowly crawled by we began to hear a growing crescendo of cries against the quarantine actions under the banner of “the cure cannot be worse than the disease” and, thus, invalid. Is there truth to this? What saith the Scriptures?
While all of Scripture is God’s Law-Word, central to this discussion will be the laws of hygiene and disease found in Leviticus 13-15. It is here we can see the patterns, precepts and principles of God’s commands that must be the foundation of any of our thinking on the issues of disease and quarantine. What do we see? We see that there are responsibilities for family, church and state with respect to these questions. God’s Law speaks to the reality of disease in a fallen world and gives us the lawful responses to it. These responses not only limit the spread of said disease but support its elimination at the same time while minimizing the impact on the larger community and its dominion work.
First, the actual practice of quarantine is thoroughly Biblical. What is described as leprosy in our translations can be better understood as typical of any infectious disease. As Rushdoony points out,
“It is important to note that the concern is for the welfare of the family and the community; neither can be sacrificed out of pity for the victim. It is thus noteworthy that we have here the source of the idea of quarantine . The concept is Biblical. As applied by Orthodox Jews and by orthodox Christians, it has included the quarantine not only of infected persons but also of infected animals and plants .”(1)[emphasis mine]
Rushdoony’s point is that pity for a diseased victim should not override the well being and health of the family and broader community by allowing the infected person to destroy either. Indeed, he goes on to say,
“Quarantine, it should be noted, is a moral fact: it asserts that there is a good and evil response to a situation. Quarantine does not say that the sick man is evil, but to expose others to a serious illness or disease is evil, and therefore separation is good, healthy, and necessary.” (2)
So, this is an open and shut case today, then, right? We have a virus making its rounds across the world so all actions taken by the state are, thus, good and right? Or, is there more to this issue than initially thought?
“Many commentators have seen the forms of “leprosy” or diseases described in Leviticus 13-14 as types or symbols of sin. However, as Harrison reminds us, the Bible never does so. Disease is simply presented as disease, one consequence of a fallen world. Quarantine is a separation of disease, and more quarantine is a separation of evil from society. This is very important to note. We do not flee from disease and sin, but rather separate sin and contagious disease from the community. Our Lord says, “I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil (or, the evil one)” (John 17:15). Modern separationism too often quarantines the healthy and the moral, not the diseased and the criminal members of society .”(3)
There are two points that are missed when considering whether quarantine actions are lawful. First, note that in all cases it is the sick individual that is quarantined, not the healthy. As pointed out in these same chapters, the fact that the healed member is required to be consecrated back into his priestly, dominion work means that the healthy member is expected to continue in his, without interruption. Rushdoony recognized this in the earlier quotes where, historically, infectious persons, plants, homes, etc were placed in quarantine; in other words, those confirmed to be sick or, as Leviticus 13:1-8 points out, those who were believed to be sick by outward evidence . This requirement of outward evidence is crucial as it strikes the balance between the freedom of the individual (this would include protections opposed to mandatory invasive testing) against the protections for the community. We have a similar practice in the legal sphere: the Biblical requirement of “innocent until proven guilty” is likewise to be applied here as “healthy until proven diseased.”
Second, Rushdoony has pointed out that disease in the Bible is “presented as disease, one consequence of a fallen world.” Inherent to true freedom are the risks of life in a fallen world: you could fail in business, you could be injured or killed in a collision or you could be exposed to any number of sicknesses that abound in our world. That world, true, is being renewed by the Lord through His actions and those of His people in their dominion work but the pushing back of the curse means we must deal with the problems of the curse along the way. This means exposure to a hidden illness is not the same as being made ill by it. We regularly swap viruses and bacteria in our daily interactions with others without a single incident due to the body’s normal, God given immunities. So, while we must apply the laws of quarantine to those who are actually ill and manifesting the symptoms thereof, we must also protect the work for the kingdom among those that are healthy.
The implications of this in light of the present debate are enormous: so called “social distancing” should be between the diagnosed ill and the healthy, not between the healthy alone. Businesses should function as normal but those that become ill should remain at home until healthy. Risks of disease have always been present in any large gathering of people, today’s virus notwithstanding. It is a simple fact that we must choose to live in the reality of this fallen world, God’s world marred by man’s sin and full of risks (and blessings), or we will be forced to submit to increasing tyranny “for our own safety.”
We must therefore recognize that while it is wrong for Christians to think that the state has zero authority in regard to disease it is also equally wrong to lock down the healthy with the sick. Christians alone bear the Truth in this world and we need to be about the business of directing the debate on this issue accordingly so that true freedom can be realized. To just blindly follow the masses only adds to our judgment and is our assent to tyranny.
(1) R. J. Rushdoony, Leviticus, Vol. III of the Commentaries on the Pentateuch (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2005),135.
(2) Ibid., 136.
(3) Ibid., 144