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Should Christians Wear Masks?
An Open Letter

Show me how to know when a thing is evil
Which I think is right and good,
How to know when what is lawful
Comes from an evil principle
The Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan prayers)

Dear Christian Reader,

All know that we have recently faced a global pandemic, but not all agree how we ought to have handled it. Through some dark miracle, masks not only became a political issue, but a source of division among Christians, a revealing source of confused thinking, and a cauldron of emotion. This conversation pertains to how Christians ought to have handled the COVID-19 pandemic in light of their principles and commitments. Whether you are a pro-mask or anti-mask Christian, this article aims to give more than casual interest to the biblical passages frequently used in the discussion. It offers seven advantages over (most) other articles:

  1. Greater depth: My hope is to help churches and individuals to wrestle well with the issue of masks.
  2. Better organization: Ideas are grouped into collapsible regions to organize the content.
  3. No advertisements: Your reading makes me no money but is strictly for the purpose of seeking unity on this issue.
  4. Training: I was trained in the disciplines of New Testament studies (Th.M.) and historical theology (Ph.D.). Given its divisive nature, I have tentatively chosen to remain anonymous. While I am passionate about how this issue relates to the Christian's testimony in our time and society, I have no enduring passion for this issue and would wish to publish first and foremost in an area for which I do have enduring passion: church unity. Having said that, the Christian response to masks does present an interesting test case in which to explore unity since the following reasons exist for disagreement or inconsistency of approach: What is Scripture?; Does it speak to masks in a pandemic?; If so, which passages and ideas are relevant?; How do we properly interpret and apply them?; and, How then ought we to respond?
  5. An apolitical orientation: All interest in how this may or may not contribute to American politics, its parties and their positions, past or present Presidents and their stances, etc., is utterly and completely secondary to helping the Church align on this issue.
  6. Curated interaction: The reader will find a short but growing list of well-intentioned questions (submitted by email) and responses.
  7. Easy reference: Many articles have complicated URLs that are not easily referenceable in conversation. Just say:

Many Christians have not yet adequately identified nor integrated the specific matrix of biblical priorities that speak to masks. This is the purpose for this open letter, and I am going to argue that wearing masks in a pandemic is an explicitly Christian thing to do. Indeed, Christians ought to wear masks in the current climate.

Many Christians have not yet adequately identified nor integrated the specific matrix of biblical priorities that speak to masks.

But at the outset, we together need to acknowledge that there are multiple Christian perspectives on the topic, and provided the government does not mandate masks, we need to allow others the time and freedom to come to grips with the issues involved, and to hold other views, without it separating us in our common duties and goals. This means resisting reasoning which vilifies others. That is decidedly unChristian, for it breaks all possibility for Christ’s hard-fought unity. We also need to proffer grace toward others in our actions and especially in our thoughts, for what we think will come out in a million nonverbal ways whether or not we are physically able to hold our tongues, though holding our tongues should be a practice with which we are well familiar. I want this paragraph to frame the entire letter.

Not all sides are equally valid, but all people should be given time to encounter the best reasoning from both sides and work through that reasoning in humility.

Note that I am not saying that all sides are equally valid, but that all people should be given time to encounter the best reasoning from both sides and work through that reasoning in humility. This means that pro-mask Christians should not use this letter to condemn other Christians but to introduce them to the biblical and theological case for masks. Moreover, I am not arguing any holistic judgment about Christians who disagree—as if to caricature or condemn. No. I am targeting one issue only. As I lay out my case, I ask only for an open mind.

As a disclaimer, this article was written for Christians and those who respect Christian precepts and morality. Indeed, only those who understand that Scripture plays a unique and important role in the Christian life may be persuaded. Whether you are an anti-mask Christian or a pro-mask Christian, or something else, I ask you to think carefully with me through the moral reasoning underlying the actions you are taking and attitudes you are inculcating during this pandemic. I will point out the biblical and theological rationales that should be informing that moral compass. I will lay out my perspective unapologetically because I aim to give the reader something substantial to work with, rather than groundless opinions. In our situation, when the spiritual and physical well-being of our communities is at stake, unsubstantiated and weakly grounded opinions are not just counterproductive but damaging.

To the pro-mask Christian, I aim to give you categories and principles to help you think through why you hold the convictions you hold. To the anti-mask Christian, let me share up front that I am burdened by a passion for church unity, yet I do not always speak with the grace befitting such a passion. Paul’s words at times condemn me: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” I worry my words will feel more like salt on a wound than tasty seasoning. It’s important that I admit this weakness so that I do not leave the impression that I come from high moral ground, using gloves to fling mud in your faces while I remain clean and arrogant. To be sure, you will probably not like everything I have to say or the way I say it, but I do not wish for any animosity between us, only partnership and good will. And I know the place from where I speak—connected to you as brothers and sisters as you are to me, and I intend Christian charity through hard words. And I aim for greater unity in our body. To those ends, please forgive me in advance, forgive me at each step, and above all, forgive me should we ever meet in person.

Knowing When to Apply Which Scriptures
On the one hand, Christians can disagree and independently maintain good motives, and sometimes even good biblical reasons, for holding their respective positions. On the other hand, some positions make better sense of the biblical data than others. That is to say, there are enough principles contained within Scripture to sometimes justify opposite actions. Satan’s use of Scripture in Matthew 4 is a good example.

There are enough principles contained within Scripture to sometimes justify opposite actions.

And Matthew 4 is also a good example of Jesus eschewing one direction in favor of another. The art is knowing when to apply which principles, and Matthew 4 indicates that, in principle, there can be a right way and wrong way to apply Scripture to life. Of course, not every choice has to be so binary, as if every choice is either to follow Satan’s lead or Jesus’ lead, but how do we know which principles to apply when and where? This question highlights the need for healthy Christian conversation. This letter is aimed to present those Christian perspectives that overtly justify wearing masks in a pandemic. Why is this my view? Because pro-mask motives stem from several key Scriptural mandates that anti-mask Christians do not prioritize in the same way. Whether or not anti-mask Christians will end up in agreement, they must find a way to integrate these gospel mandates into their actions and views on masks.

Ranking Reasons
What reasons are typically offered for not wearing masks?

It is important to differentiate between types of reasons because not all reasons are created equal.

I’ve heard political reasons (e.g., it is our right; it should be our choice; it’s a segue to mandated vaccines; the government is overstepping, etc.), and I’ve heard personal reasons (e.g., I hate the things; I can’t breathe; they signify oppression; it runs counter to my conscience; etc.). But I have not heard any compelling theological or biblical reason not to wear masks. It is important to differentiate between types of reasons because not all reasons are created equal.

Outline of Argument
My argument has three prongs:

(1) biblical reasons to wear masks,
(2) historical/theological reasons to wear masks, and
(3) contemporary Christian supports for the wearing of masks

Of these prongs, keep in mind that the biblical and theological reasons are preeminent.

For the anti-mask Christian, some of the words may be hard to hear, but I ask you keep an open mind and to remember that this letter comes from one who wants our churches to flourish and who desires that we honor God and glorify the gospel in our actions. Let’s mutually assume that we all have this same motivation, and let it serve to encourage open minds and open discussion.

Goals for the Letter
In light of our current situation (over 500k deaths in the U.S. alone), my goal for this open letter is that all Christians would put aside their personal preferences and platforms and get serious about reducing risks and cooperating with the authorities in every way possible, if not for the health of our larger community, then at least for the sake of the gospel. If you disagree that a spirit of cooperation is in order, the onus falls upon you to present better exegesis of the Scriptural passages and principles I will tender and/or to substantiate reasons to undermine their relevance.

Manifestation of the Problem
When the idea of masks first began to enter our ears, I would never have imagined how political they were to become—or how deep-seated and intense. At the beginning of the outbreak, we had already lost friends to it (several more have since died), so I was surprised to discover that many of my fellow Christians were not only lax about COVID-19 but even antagonistic to masks. We have since encountered discussions wherein mask-wearers were portrayed using a diversity of colorful images. At best, mask-wearers were misled. Less flattering portraits included pawns of the government, seriously deluded, fear-mongers, or something or other to do with Satan. While wearing a mask, I discerned reticence to interact, condescension, scorn, and looks of confusion. These reactions indicate strains of emotionally-charged anti-mask sentiment. As I looked more broadly at pockets of evangelicalism, I saw it in churches and on Facebook, sometimes under the auspices of Christian convictions. The vehemence surprised and perplexed me.

As I spoke with those on the other side, they told similar stories of antagonism for not wearing masks.

As I spoke with those on the other side, they told similar stories of antagonism for not wearing masks, albeit usually when rejecting the preferences of private business owners and usually from non-Christians, but my guess is that the disunity and antagonism truly runs in both directions. Clearly we have a problem. How do we overcome it? For me the answer is a simple (but not easy) recipe. First, proffer grace at all times. Second, attune yourself to Scripture.


The Biblical and Theological Case for Masks during a Pandemic
This section will ground my claims about the proper course of action for Christians at this time. Again, my argumentation will only be compelling to Christians who agree that Scripture plays a unique and important role in the Christian life, and who also believe that where its concerns come into conflict with other domains of life (e.g., political, educational, scientific, legal, social, whatever), the priority must be Scripture. Moreover, let it be acknowledged that Scripture does not directly condone nor proscribe the wearing of masks in a pandemic. About the closest thing would be an admonishment to head coverings in an entirely different context for entirely different reasons. Thus, all biblical stances argue from principles that either should or should not get applied to the current situation. That is exactly what I’m going to do. I will maintain this thesis:

It is a more faithful representation of the priorities within Scripture to wear a mask during a pandemic, and Christians should correspondingly view this as an opportunity to demonstrate to the culture around them our care and solidarity with them.

Biblical Argument
Herein I wish to communicate what seems to be a clear mandate from Scripture and historical Christian reflection about the proper Christian response to a pandemic. My overall case has three prongs: Scripture, theological precedent, and contemporary supports. My Scriptural case is primary, and it also has several prongs. If any single prong gets adequately demonstrated, even if the others are found wanting, my overall case stands. Those points are: application of the Golden Rule, submission to authorities, seek the welfare of the city, and good gospel PR. My theological case has two prongs: one from a historical precedent and one based upon the priority established in Matthew 6.33.

If there has been one consistent observation in my efforts to interpret Scripture and early Christian texts with fidelity, it would be that people often cannot easily separate their culture from their faith, nor their cultural concerns from their faith concerns. The results of this are everywhere present in Christian history, and they are present today. Although Satan is the prince of this world, God’s Spirit ever strives within the hearts of men with his divine intentions to plant seeds of good. The implication of this is that culture isn’t bad just because it’s culture. Instead, culture participates in various ways with godly priorities and values and in various ways outside them. There is good and bad, in varying degrees, in every culture. The implication of this is that every culture is predisposed to naturally embrace some goods that others miss while missing goods another culture can see better. Likewise, every culture is predisposed to see some evils more clearly while missing those that other cultures see more clearly. The relevance of this point comes into play when we consider the situation from our own American standpoint, with its emphases on personal freedoms and politico-religious admixture. Can we recognize that one source of anti-mask reasoning eschews masks because personal rights are being infringed upon?

At the start of the pandemic, there were bound to be two viewpoints on masks. Amidst some fairly outlandish claims, the anti-mask camp tended to rally behind a notion of “not fearing.” Mask wearers, it was said, were succumbing to ungodly fear. That was probably the most reasonable argument I heard for not wearing masks because it reflected a well-intentioned (interpretive) viewpoint based in confusion rather than self-assertion. I will deal with that view in time, but I maintained optimism that pastors would eventually correct this perspective. Unfortunately, lately I’ve seen people driving in the opposite direction in emotionally persuasive but theologically irresponsible ways. These misguided efforts set aside the very clear duties laid out in Romans 13 in favor of unsound theological reasoning that is fundamentally, in most cases, political intrusion. I wonder if, as Americans, we can see this clearly.


Application of: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matt. 7:12).
Here is what researchers know or strongly suspect about COVID-19:

  1. COVID-19 is now everywhere
  2. COVID-19 is much more contagious than the average flu1
  3. COVID-19 is more deadly than the average flu2
  4. COVID-19 targets certain vulnerable populations with deadly force
  5. COVID-19 hits the rest pretty weakly or asymptomatically, which means all invulnerable populations infect without knowing they are infected or infecting
  6. COVID-19’s symptoms may not start for days or weeks
  7. COVID-19’s most infectious period includes a window before having symptoms

The pernicious nature of COVID-19 doesn’t lie in its ability to take down the young and healthy. No, its superpower lies in its ability to infect while it is nearly invisible, to use the young and healthy as its unwitting hands and feet.

The pernicious nature of COVID-19 ... lies in its ability to infect while it is nearly invisible.

Putting these facts together forces us to the inescapable conclusion that COVID-19 makes every individual an unknowing vehicle for the transmission of death—an unintentional accomplice. This isn’t what Paul meant when he said we Christians carry around the death of Jesus in our bodies (2 Cor. 4.10). Christians must wrestle seriously with this reality. And Jesus presses this question: if the vulnerable population were our children or spouses rather than the elderly and immunocompromised, would these same basic health interventions be rejected? If we agree that we’d wear masks for the sake of our kids or spouses, if we are still unwilling to do so for our neighbor, we are violating this commandment.

This means, of course, that if somebody knows they are infected with a contagious disease, they will take strong measures to prevent others from getting it. And it stands to reason that if somebody just came from the contagious disease wing at the hospital, you would probably want them to err on the side of caution, rather than err on the side of misfortune, before meeting with you or your child. And so it stands to reason that you too should err on the side of caution for the sake of your neighbor. In our world today, COVID-19 is rampant. It is like the contagious disease wing of the hospital. Moreover, it is a biased disease. It frequently passes over the young with hardly a sign while it kills the aged. This means that anybody could have it and not know it. Doesn’t the unsuspecting carrier have any responsibility toward the average other? How about toward those highly susceptible? And what do we do when these populations cannot be treated separately, due to our inability to know when we are infectious or who’s highly susceptible?


Let it be considered that Christians are prompted in many ways to be good citizens and to obey the local authorities as far as possible. Peter says, “…honor the king” (1 Peter 2.17)—the visible representation of the city (or nation). And Paul says in Romans 12.21-13.7:
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment…. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (ESV).

As far as possible, as long as it’s not counter to God’s law, Christians are to actively submit to the “governing authorities” (ἐξουσίαι ὑπερεχούσαι) to obey God. The Greek phrase here is typically translated as having something to do with the government (cf. NIV, ESV, NKJV, NLT), and then some Christians (quite arbitrarily) further confine it to mean “executive branch leaders”, but a literal rendering that better expresses the idea would be “superior authorities”. Although the phrase isn’t used anywhere else in the NT, the term ἐξουσία is used all over and should inform our vision. It is used of all manner of beings (demons included), so we should not be so quick to disregard everybody who doesn’t have direct, coercive control over us. That is, to limit the referent only to authorities with coercive control is too artificial. Upon what basis do we exclude non-coercive authorities from view? For example, we are quick to affirm (upon biblical grounds) the authority of teachers over students or bosses over employees, and at least in this stage of American history, these are authorities not imbued with coercive rights over others, yet they maintain their authority in principle nonetheless.

Taking a step back, unless we wish to divorce Scripture’s underlying precepts about authority and submission in one context from that in another, an inadvisable move in my estimation, we have to wrestle with the broader, integrated Scriptural teaching about the Christian response to authority. It is here that 1 Peter 2.13-14 adds texture to Paul. Peter does not limit our submission to entities with direct, coercive control over us. What does he say? “Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good." The Greek phrase πάσῃ ἀνθρωπίνῃ κτίσει is consistently rendered: “every human institution" (ESV, NASB), “every authority instituted among men" (NIV), and “all human authority" (NLT). These glosses and the larger perspective to which they should be attached all get at the same counsel: “Quit putting artificial limitations upon the authorities in efforts not to obey. Do what is good and useful. Seek to cooperate as far as possible. Unless God says 'no', you say 'yes'."

Christians must become familiar with submission to authorities for the sake of order, to foster unity (both Christian and societal), to reflect well upon the gospel, and to develop our souls into conformity with the heart of Christ.

In fact, an integrated perspective yields several divine concerns in the end. Christians must become familiar with submission to authorities for the sake of order, to foster unity (both Christian and societal), to reflect well upon the gospel, and to develop our souls into conformity with the heart of Christ. Do any of these concerns seem irrelevant to the situation and needs of American Christians?

To wrap up, those in positions of non-coercive authority, such as public health officials, speak with authority on specific topics (i.e., public health concerns). In both their reason for existing and their efforts on our behalf, they certainly fall under the purview of these verses. Unless there are compelling reasons to the contrary, why ignore them? Paul says it well in this very passage, “Pay to all what is owed to them…respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” Paying honor is not just telling a policeman that we appreciate what he does but also by obeying the laws he upholds. Likewise, paying honor to a public health official means doing what they recommend in the sphere in which they authoritatively speak.


There is another large issue involved here. Not only are Christians to do good to our individual neighbors but we are to work for the well-being of the community as a whole.

Christians ... are to work for the well-being of the community as a whole.

This includes their health. This is just an extension of the Golden Rule applied to the community, and it isn’t an isolated strand of Paul’s thought. Perhaps the most direct representation of this idea comes in a verse traditionally glossed in a way that obscures it. Bruce Winter brings out the force of πολιτεύομαι in Phil. 1:27 by arguing that it should be rendered, in contrast to most modern versions, as something like “Live only as good citizens, worthy of the gospel of Christ….”3 To one having familiarity with the Greek language, Graeco-Roman culture, and the Greek culture which preceded it, this rendering appears better grounded (note that πολιτεύομαι is etymologically related to Greek “city” [πόλις]). Moreover, this isn’t just a New Testament idea. In the Old Testament too, God wishes that his people support their cities. Jeremiah 28.7 says, “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (ESV). The biblical principle implies the duty to take all reasonable measures to prevent fellow citizens from contracting COVID-19.


To seek the welfare of the city doesn’t just reflect an application of the Golden Rule. For Paul, another reason owed to good public relations for the gospel (i.e., good gospel PR). New Testament writers argue that Christians must represent the Christian faith well to those living around them.

Christians must represent the Christian faith well to those living around them.

For example, a key thrust of 1 Timothy reveals that Paul’s model to reach the world with the gospel proceeds by keeping the church from disrepute and ordering it so that Christ’s kingdom, and the church’s concern for all men, can be clearly seen by the culture. Paul elsewhere says, “Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands…so that you will behave properly toward outsiders…” (1 Thess. 4:11-12, ESV, emphasis mine). Colossians 4.1 contains a similar admonition: “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.” While the scope and specific meaning of some of these elude us, they all pertain to right relations with outsiders, and those which are overt tell us why. The order and operation of Christians will speak positively or negatively about Christ to the surrounding culture, and ordering our Christian witness should be a central concern that far exceeds (American) political causes. When the world looks at Christians, it shouldn’t see things that unnecessarily bring the name of Christ or His gospel into disrepute. It is the hard work of churches and individuals to ensure this doesn’t happen. This point bears upon the current situation in the following way. If the church, in the face of a pandemic, is unwilling to temporarily embrace minor countermeasures (i.e., masks), what does that say to the population around them? What does that say to the vulnerable populations? It says, “We are not interested in quelling this disaster. We don’t trust the authorities. We don’t care about your ‘science’. We are not interested in caring for the least of these. We are only interested in our rights.” This attitude represents the problematic political intrusion I mentioned, and this intrusion does provide a material example of a priority that causes outsiders anxiety. This means, even if the science proves that masks are useless in the end, Paul counsels:

Do whatever you can to help the culture to perceive that Christians authentically care because the gospel of love has redeemed them, and this perception is worth far, far more than mild inconvenience.

This rationale provides a theological indictment of anti-mask mentalities in the current environment.

Theological Precedents
Above I made a (truncated, hopefully readable) biblical case for my position. There are also theological precedents from our rich history that are important to consider. Widespread plagues are nothing new. Martin Luther, the father of the Reformation, well illustrates the double duty incumbent upon Christians in the face of one.

Luther said:

“This I well know, that if it were Christ or his mother who were laid low by illness, everybody would be so solicitous and would gladly become a servant or helper. Everyone would want to be bold and fearless; nobody would flee but everyone would come running. And yet they don’t hear what Christ himself says, “As you did to one of the least, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:40). When he speaks of the greatest commandment he says, “The other commandment is like unto it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself ” (Matt. 22:39). There you hear that the command to love your neighbor is equal to the greatest commandment to love God, and that what you do or fail to do for your neighbor means doing the same to God. If you wish to serve Christ and to wait on him, very well, you have your sick neighbor close at hand. Go to him and serve him, and you will surely find Christ in him, not outwardly but in his word. If you do not wish or care to serve your neighbor you can be sure that if Christ lay there instead you would not do so either and would let him lie there. Those are nothing but illusions on your part which puff you up with vain pride, namely, that you would really serve Christ if he were there in person. Those are nothing but lies; whoever wants to serve Christ in person would surely serve his neighbor as well. This is said as an admonition and encouragement against fear and a disgraceful flight to which the devil would tempt us so that we would disregard God’s command in our dealings with our neighbor and so we would fall into sin on the left hand.

“Others sin on the right hand. They are much too rash and reckless, tempting God and disregarding everything which might counteract death and the plague. They disdain the use of medicines; they do not avoid places and persons infected by the plague, but lightheartedly make sport of it and wish to prove how independent they are. They say that it is God’s punishment; if he wants to protect them he can do so without medicines or our carefulness. This is not trusting God but tempting him. God has created medicines and provided us with intelligence to guard and take good care of the body so that we can live in good health.

“If one makes no use of intelligence or medicine when he could do so without detriment to his neighbor, such a person injures his body and must beware lest he become a suicide in God’s eyes. By the same reasoning a person might forego eating and drinking, clothing and shelter, and boldly proclaim his faith that if God wanted to preserve him from starvation and cold, he could do so without food and clothing. Actually that would be suicide. It is even more shameful for a person to pay no heed to his own body and to fail to protect it against the plague the best he is able, and then to infect and poison others who might have remained alive if he had taken care of his body as he should have. He is thus responsible before God for his neighbor’s death and is a murderer many times over. Indeed, such people behave as though a house were burning in the city and nobody were trying to put the fire out. Instead they give leeway to the flames so that the whole city is consumed, saying that if God so willed, he could save the city without water to quench the fire.

“No, my dear friends, that is no good. Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard, and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbor does not need your presence or has recovered, and act like a man who wants to help put out the burning city. What else is the epidemic but a fire which instead of consuming wood and straw devours life and body? You ought to think this way: “Very well, by God’s decree the enemy has sent us poison and deadly offal. Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

--Martin Luther, Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague (snippet)


Traditionally, this verse has been interpreted to mean that God’s kingdom, his politics, his morals, and his gospel, as revealed within Scripture and tradition, take precedence over all other, even well-intentioned concerns: personal, cultural, legal, educational, scientific, and even (worldly) political. While I admit that working out such a division can get tricky, I would make the following clarification. Whereas some applications of this two-city distinction (reaching back at least as far as Saint Augustine) are confounded at the level of (overlapping) morals, and therefore find an uncomfortable encroachment by worldly politics into heavenly politics, the Reformed tradition has maintained sharper divisions between the politics of God and the politics of man.4 This might be persuasive to those who favorably appeal to the Reformed tradition. More importantly, I wish to emphasize that all conservative conversants in this discussion (of whom I am aware) agree that the gospel is more important than earthly politics.

The gospel is more important than earthly politics.

How surprising, then, through some dark miracle, masks have gained notoriety that far outstrips their ontological significance! A simple appeal to the practical orientation of Christians in other cultures suffices to demonstrate this point. Why is it no problem for them but it is for us? I hope we can agree that masks are an earthly concern that should be decisively subordinated to the demands and concerns of the gospel, and that a gospel-affiliated community should properly lay emphasis where Scripture, their tradition, and their central commitments lay emphasis.


So I have offered biblical and theological reasons to argue that the Christian duty is to cooperate with authorities as long as they are not forced to dishonor God in the process. Thus, the Christian duty is, on the face of things, to wear masks if the governor or public health officials have recommended them (submitting to authority) or if business owners mandate them on their own property (respecting private property) or if the coercive authorities mandate them (submission to authority). The doing of which is important for three reasons: to obey God, to keep Christ and His gospel from disrepute, and to communicate to the surrounding culture that we are serious about caring for “the least of these”, even if it causes us some temporary discomfort.

To be very frank, wearing masks is almost literally the very least that Christians can do. Let’s be honest, while masks are a pain, they do not represent any more discomfort than those who wear high heels, get their ears pierced or tattoos for decoration, or squeeze into shapewear to keep an image intact.

Wearing masks is almost literally the very least that Christians can do.

It certainly represents a lesser form of suffering than fasting for others or physically caring for someone who is sick. And I am surprised, chagrinned, and sometimes even appalled, that they have been made into symbols of oppression and government control (or worse). We emphasize helping those who are sick and vulnerable, and then we act directly contrary to this. What gain is it to be willing to care for the sick if we are the ones making them sick?!5 What consistency is there in saying that we care when we are not willing to participate, even temporarily, in the most modest of interventions that would prove we care? This isn’t like a vaccine where we have to put something questionably harmful into our bodies. This isn’t like abortion, where the lives of others are at stake. We are talking about putting some material over our faces, like we do every winter, except that somebody told us to, and we’re splenetic about it.

My argument up until this point remains solid unless contrary reasons may be brought forward, but note that acceptable contrary reasons require theological significance. For example, the argument that “masks don’t work”, while relevant to the claim that anti-mask Christians are unnecessarily furthering COVID-19’s spread, is nevertheless irrelevant to the biblical and theological concerns I’ve articulated because they have nothing to do with their practical efficacy, namely, honoring the authorities and making the gospel look good. Given these biblical principles, the personal argument “I don’t like them” is likewise inconsequential. While practical and personal reasons may seem persuasive for an individual, that person must recognize the role these non-biblical reasons are playing. It must be acknowledged that these reasons are overriding biblical principles and priorities! But some anti-mask arguments have appealed to Scripture, and I want to address those most prominent.

Anti-mask Arguments
While I have heard all sorts of reasons not to wear masks that have no basis whatsoever in Scripture (e.g., government conspiracy, pathway to mandated vaccines, devil’s plan, etc.), I have heard two that, at least on the surface, seem to be a genuine appeal to Scripture. The first is this: to wear a mask is to live in fear and to live in fear is to lack trust in God. The verses used to support this seem to be, commonly, 1 John 4:18, 2 Timothy 1:7, and Psalm 91. In what follows, I will demonstrate that such claims do not hold up under scrutiny, that wearing a mask is not the same thing as living in fear, and that fearing is not the same thing as lacking trust in God. The second reasonable argument, an appeal to Romans 14, is not an anti-mask argument. It is a pro-freedom argument, and it is an important one to consider in light of our present situation.

What Does the Bible Teach about Fear?
Competent exegetes recognize the popular tendency to disregard the context of verses. Perhaps you’ve heard the adage: “a text without a context is a pretext.” A pretext for what? Well, whatever point the snippiteer wishes! Here are detailed explanations of verses used to directly or indirectly condemn mask-wearing. You will see that none of them can be used to that purpose without (too) much strain and presumption.

Claim:  If you have fear, you are not perfectly loving, and if you do not perfectly love, you are sinning, or at least not living out your faith.

Response: There are several grounds upon which to refute this truncated and problematic way of looking at this verse. The first and most concise (though least detailed) way is to point out that the fear in view here pertains to (divine) punishment. That is the limit of the fear John wishes to discuss. He is not talking about any and all fears that might arise in the course of life. The reader can stop here.

We can, however, deconstruct this argument further. Notice that the argument is surreptitiously made in the reverse: fear means no love. But that’s not what the verse says. The verse says that love drives out fear. And not just any kind of love, but "perfect love." Most people who would quote this verse to condemn fear condemn themselves because if you interpret this verse in a binary way, then unless your love is "complete" (and I've seen very few people like this), you must necessarily live in fear. Why? Because in this binary view, if you're not one, you're the other, at which point, the critic is as guilty as those they condemn.

But here's the thing: refuting this argument using its own presuppositions really obscures what is really going on in this verse.

These assertions (i.e., “love casts out fear” and “being fearful means being unloving”) only become interchangeable if Scripture sets up love and fear as logical opposites (i.e., the aforementioned "binary way"). So an important question surfaces. What is the relationship between love and fear, even here? Is it one of binary opposites? There are no indicators of this. More likely we see a principle introduced, and not all principles operate successfully in reverse.


  1. “A good cat drives away rats.” But what if the owner also owned a caged rat? Can the principle be used in reverse to make the cat bad?
  2. “Calm words drive away anger.” But does this mean that somebody angry cannot speak calmly? Or that if somebody remains angry, the words spoken couldn’t have been calm?
  3. “A good drink makes merry the heart.” Does this mean that if the heart is merry, you’ve had a good drink? Or that if the heart isn’t merry, you should seek good drink?

The issue comes down to how Scripture intends the relationship between love and fear. If it is antithetical contrast or polar opposites or binary opposition, and we could convince ourselves that 1 John 4 is speaking about all fears whatsoever (which it isn’t), then we would have a problem. But it doesn’t indicate what that relationship is. Moreover, as mentioned, this verse has nothing at all to do with all forms of fear. It refers specifically to the fear of divine judgment, which lifts it entirely from the COVID mask question. Moreover, a strong case can be made that this isn’t antithetical contrast. And here is that case.

Legitimate Fears in Scripture
There are all sorts of legitimate fears within Scripture, not least the “fear of the Lord” Himself, which not only doesn’t represent a lack of trust but just the opposite: “the beginning of all wisdom.” Let us not neglect verses like 1 Peter 1.17, “Conduct yourselves in fear [of God] during the time of your exile [on earth].” But what about fearing circumstances? Is there ever a legitimate reason to do so? Certainly. Hebrews 4.1 says, “While the promise of entering his [God’s] rest still stands, let us fear any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.” In other words, we should be scared that our fellow Christians not make it to God’s eternal rest. Christians are commanded to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2.12, ESV). And the Christian should specifically fear sinning: “As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear” (1 Tim. 5.20, ESV). Paul himself was fearful that Satan had tempted the Thessalonians into sin and undone his ministry efforts (1 Thess. 3.5), that the Corinthians’ expectations of him and his of them would not match (1 Cor. 2.3; 2 Cor. 12.20), and he feared for his life during his many trials (2 Cor. 7.5). There is even such a thing as a “holy fear”. It is said, “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.”  (Heb. 11:7 NIV). Here, fear of divine judgment, which threatened to bring about death, prompted Noah to take safety measures for his family. Scripture also commends a “reverent fear”: “Since you call on a Father who judges each person's work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear” (1 Pet. 1:17 NIV). So Scripture discusses different types of fear, and it is irresponsible to treat all fears as though they were the same and all bad. The proper question must be which fear is in view in any given spot, and what is the biblical attitude toward it?

The proper question must be which fear is in view in any given spot, and what is the biblical attitude toward it?

There are many commendable examples of fear which entail an emotion that brings about increased awareness and ameliorative action. Indeed, fear is a natural response to a perceived threat to your physical and emotional well-being. It is not in itself antithetical to trust in God. In fact, it provides the opportunity to trust God in the midst of negative circumstances. While there are many ways fear can take over, corrupt our perspective, and generally ruin our joy, it is sufficient for the point at hand to have refuted the notion that fear is antithetical to faith.

This verse does not support anti-mask reasoning. The “fear” in question here is not some generalized notion of fear, let alone fear of a pandemic. Moreover, the typical Greek term associated with this type of fear (φόβος) isn't used in this context. The term here is δειλία, and it specifically pertains to cowardice about an action. The specific δειλία Paul tells Timothy to avoid is a reticence to identify with Jesus and Paul. That is to say, the verse has to do with boldly sharing the gospel with the world. How do we know this? In v. 6 Timothy is admonished to exercise his Spirit-given gifts, and those (three) gifts are identified in v. 7: δυνάμεως καὶ ἀγάπης καὶ σωφρονισμοῦ. Power. Love. Soundness of mind. Moreover, they are placed in contrast to δειλία, and Paul concludes his thought in v. 8 with “therefore, do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord…”. Clearly, Paul intends for Timothy to be bold in his gospel testimony. What more, the only imperative in this section is συγκακοπάθησον τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ: “suffer together for the gospel”. In this idea is encapsulated a “suffering” embraced to bring good repute to the gospel before the outside world. Wearing a mask, though mild in severity, better embodies this picture than doing nothing. So this verse has nothing to do with fleeing from or taking precautions against legitimate dangers. Paul’s consistent appeal is to make the gospel look good to outsiders.

Paul’s consistent appeal is to make the gospel look good to outsiders.

Despite the claims of those who think that not wearing masks offers hope to the culture, it actually exhibits that we are unwilling to care for them. Honor those around you insofar as you can build bridges with that good will, and boldly share the gospel. Don't refuse safety measures in a pandemic. This is the opposite of strategic.


What about Psalm 91? Doesn’t it even seem to promise protection against disease?! “You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday” (vv. 5-6). There are several problems we must overcome here, none of which are straightforward. For the sake of argument, let’s assume (though we should not) that these verses represent a promise and not a guideline or principle. Let’s also assume, though we should not, that it’s not situational to David or the Jewish people. Let’s also assume, though we should not, that it does not represent David’s expression of his faith rather than a divine promise. Let’s assume, though we should not, that it represents a universal promise to all people everywhere, or at least to Christians, as inheritors of the promises of the Old Covenant by virtue of the benefits of the New Covenant. Let’s then assume, though we should not, that the spiritualization involved in translating these dimensions of deliverance to the Christian should not also spiritualize the reasons to fear (i.e., pestilence, the arrow, and terrors of the night) from physical to spiritual entities. Given that this benefit can only come to you who “make the Most High, the Lord, your refuge and shelter” (v. 9), the relevant and pertinent question immediately becomes: How do you dwell in the shelter of the Most High and rest in the shadow of the Almighty? Whatever promises or principles are present, this is the prerequisite. To be in the shadow of the Almighty One is to be safe. So how do you do it, and how do you know you’ve sufficiently done it? The way this works itself out in the minds of many Christians is “to convince yourself that you are safe from the pestilence.” The whole exercise becomes a psychological and mental thing. The problem is, to assume that this applies to every Christian apart from anything we might do is afield from the intention of the author.

So what is this safe place, how do you get there, and how are you protected? As practical people, we don’t so much care what this “shelter” is or how we might get there. We know it’s safe. We just want to know how. How do you get yourself into God’s hiding place?

It turns out that if you answer the other two questions, which are answerable, it may help with this one. First, what is this “shelter”? The word for shelter means “veil” or “something hidden”. It is used by Moses in Exod. 3.6 when he hid his face from God. Interestingly, for Moses it involved wearing some form of covering. Now, what is the manner of protection? Your feathers (remember, the fowler is after you) can be covered by God’s feathers. You become, so to speak, camouflaged. The fowler says to himself, “I came for a robin, but where did it go? All I can see is a pterodactyl.”

There are two ways to look at this situation. The first is this. Since the Reformation, it has become possible to re-apply the idea that in Christ, our sin is covered, to this idea of protection. In Christ, so it goes, the enemy only sees Christ. In this interpretation, it is by virtue of being positionally “in Christ” that you will be “protected.” There is really nothing you need to do. You’re just the ugly duckling hiding behind a giant wing. If Satan is the fowler, and wants to collect our souls because of what we owed on account of our sins, Christ will hide the Christian. Christ can fool the fowler. In fact, the early church would commonly talk about Christ’s actions on the cross in triumphant terms. Christ pulled one over on Satan, ha, ha! But at the same time, they may very well have recited this Psalm as they were led off to the wild animals to be slaughtered. How is this consistent? Because they recognized that the Lord’s prerogative was preeminent, that the Psalms were predominantly Christological, and that certain texts are situational and not unqualified universals. There is way too much theologizing happening when we prefigure ourselves rather than Christ, assume a post-Reformation soteriology, adopt a psychological emphasis, and then hope to procure physical safety from a pestilence. This hermeneutic may reflect Reformed thinking, but the issue is, does it apply here?

Now the second interpretation which I would commend is that we must take action(s) to make the situation a certain way, namely, to make it such that we look like the Lord. In this case, his feathers may just camouflage our feathers because ours appear like His and get lost in them. There is nothing to prevent us from construing the prerequisite of a certain resemblance of feathers that makes it difficult for an aggressor to see you rather than a bigger bird. Indeed, this would be a good patristic way to interpret this Psalm.

Now, how do we go about deciding between these two? When the Psalmist wrote this, he almost certainly had nothing like the Reformed idea in mind. Even Christ was yet a thousand years out, the Reformation two and a half millennia. More likely, and just as faithful to certain strands of Reformed thinking (I might add), our good works ought to transform our lives into what Christ looks like. If we look like Christ, as we take refuge under the Lord’s wings, the fowler will not see us. Note that the analogy here isn’t that the Lord will actively engage the fowler if he comes too close. The image is that we are hidden under his wing.

In sum, Psalm 91 does offer life-giving encouragement to the Christian, but it doesn’t promise physical deliverance from every evil, and it shouldn’t be used to argue that fear means distrust of God’s promises and a lack of faith. If a sufficient number of exegetical assumptions can be demonstrated as legitimate and likely, then taking refuge in the Lord will alleviate our fears. But I would challenge that largely passive and psychological self-convincing is the means to attain this, and I would also challenge that the verse, even under all these (questionable) constraints, be used to argue backwards from fear to lack of faith. See my comments on 1 John 4.


Fear isn’t a lack of trust in God but a God-given response to potentially harmful circumstances, an acknowledgement that we ourselves are not gods and that there are many facets within creation by which we can meet our demise. It is also an opportunity to responsibly trust God and love your neighbor in the midst of those negative circumstances.

Fear isn’t a lack of trust in God but a God-given response to potentially harmful circumstances.

So mask-wearers are not succumbing to or propagating fear. Indeed, masks are a reasonable and intuitive countermeasure to protect ourselves and others. We mustn’t forget to be “shrewd as vipers while innocent as doves” (Matt. 10.16). The translation “shrewd” obscures its direct force a bit, but this word φρόνιμος has everything to do with wisdom and prudence. Our experts currently say masks protect others more than yourself. Given that evidence on masks is still evolving, maybe we find that there is benefit for the wearer too. Certainly, masks have been used throughout history from medieval plagues to modern medical procedures to block particles. This is just an intuitive thing. Thus, for many reasonable people during a pandemic, legitimate fears (whether for self or others) will produce prudence, and prudence will dictate the wearing of masks. Remember, we are talking about what prudent actions will result from the right response to fear. The burden of proof would seem to fall upon those who equate prudent action with some other course.


What Does the Bible Teach about Freedom?
In most justifications for why not to "succumb" to government mandates to wear masks, the issues revolve around our political freedoms, seemingly conflated with Paul's notion of freedom. Below I will respond to a text used to put aside the mask issue in the name of Christian freedom.

Roman 14’s culminating assertion is:

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother…If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died (vv. 13, 15).

Pro-choice reasoning might go something like this: in the same way that Paul did not pressure the weaker (Jewish) brothers to eat pork, so too should we not pressure people to wear masks.

There is wisdom in this argument, but its wheat must be culled more carefully from the chaff. Notice that this (problematic) logic cuts both ways, so to follow it would be to cancel out all positions. But apathy is rarely the standard because we all recognize that indifference makes for a poor ideal. Indeed, that this principle can run both directions begins to illustrate the problem here, one that takes no stands and lends itself to too-broad applications. Think about how an uncritical application of this passage could quickly tie our entire community in knots, and seem to do so with biblical justification. In Paul’s words, “If your brother is distressed because of what you eat you wear a mask, you are no longer acting in love.” And if we truly indiscriminately apply this verse, its opposite must also be true, “If your brother is distressed because of what you eat you refrain from wearing a mask, you are no longer acting in love.” I hope you notice that a broadly-applied principle without situational caveats can justify all sorts of mischief. Suddenly, by what we choose to be offended by, we get to control the behavior of others. But this is obviously poppycock. The driving issue isn’t about what offends the other party but about what offends God. The central infraction here is scandalizing your brother’s relationship with God. Further, these differences strain an unnuanced application of this passage to our situation.

First, Paul’s admonition is specifically about food that Jewish Christians had believed, all their lives, to be unclean. That is, this issue is specifically religious, not political or dietary. It derives its force from the fact that Jewish believers felt it was an offense against God to eat certain types of meat. Even in Rome, the right meats, or the right meats prepared in kosher ways, weren’t always available, and this sometimes required the exclusive eating of vegetables. That is, Paul is talking about Jewish consciences formed within a two thousand year tradition—for these Jewish Christians’ entire religious experience—as a condition of honoring God. That is not our situation. Nobody in our circles grew up believing that by wearing a mask they will offend God. I suspect nobody believes that even now. No, they themselves are offended, and the offensive nature of masks was artificially constructed in the last ten months because it is really political in nature, not religious. So these are not analogous situations. The reaction against masks often represents little more than political assertions of freedom and claiming we can do so because of our freedom in Christ. We need to be careful that we are not using Christ in service of political ends. Moreover, it isn’t difficult to see that with such tactics, nearly anything can be adopted and defended under the guise of Christian conscience and freedom. To use Paul’s “everything is permissible” to legitimize ambiguous interpretations, political ambitions, or whatever else, is to miss the mark if more central concerns are left on the table.

Second and third, Paul explicitly discusses issues that differ from our situation in two other important ways. These issues pertain to intra-ecclesial relations (i.e., Gentile Christian and Jewish Christian relations). My argument is that masks pertain to (at least include) the Church’s relationship with the outside. And so masks fall under the purview of other principles from Scripture (see above exegesis). Therefore, unlike the mutual charity Paul enjoins upon Jewish and Gentile Christians when confronted with issues unaddressed in Scripture or issues owing to the transition between Judaism and Christianity, masks fall into neither category. They do not owe to the advent of Christianity nor do they escape the purview of other (not superseded) passages of Scripture. So, again, we are not talking apples to apples.

Having said this, obviously, there are some people for whom masks either truly represent a genuine health risk or some form of trauma. And that’s okay. We care for our own too, but we don’t lose sight of the fact that this isn’t the ideal. That is, the general understanding should be that it’s unfortunate that they aren’t able to participate in our united efforts to engage with culture in redemptive ways because of a situation they cannot control. But it should always remain clear that this exemption owes to a physical or emotional infirmity rather than political motives which represent a failure to integrate our (biblical) mission into our actions and motives, see? Those who cannot participate should think, “Darn, I cannot love my larger community alongside the rest of my church community, but I can pray for their success.” Doesn’t this seem superior to deceptively pretending to have a health condition to avoid masks, manufacturing mask trauma, or bad-mouthing private businesses for requiring them?

Fourth and finally, we mustn’t forget that Paul’s concern here pertains to choices made for the sake of others—not for our own sakes, our own rights, or our own freedoms. He says in v. 7, “None of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself.” His teaching on the proper use of Christian freedom is the same as Peter’s: “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but use it as servants of God” (1 Pet. 2.16).

We are now postured to see the wheat from the chaff. The kernel of truth is that we stand or fall to our own Lord and Master Jesus Christ, so it’s to Him that we each must answer. But it must not be missed that there is an inferior position in Romans 14. Paul is tolerant of it for reasons which do not apply to our situation, but those who hold it are called “the weak in faith” (ἀσθενοῦντα τῇ πίστει). I point this out because for anti-mask Christians, if the principles of Rom. 14 are even on their mind, the “weak in faith” position is equated with wearing masks. I am confident that many have wondered to themselves, “Don’t these mask-wearers understand that we are free in Christ?!” And I suspect that many have not asked themselves whether Paul outlines how that freedom ought to be wielded either generally or in our specific circumstances. Instead, many become nonplussed, angry, or they pity pro-mask Christians because we must be liberal or uneducated about “the science”. The reason for this owes to a viewpoint that is focused upon the wrong biblical truths in our situation. My aim has been to help Christians recognize and articulate clearly that the script needs to be flipped.

Given the differences between the situation of Romans 14 and ours, namely, that these issues were (1) long-standing, (2) religious convictions (3) that affected how a person honored and felt accepted by God, the mask issue is not analogous to Paul’s issue in this chapter. Therefore, his recommendation for a tentative but grace-oriented truce while identifying the inferior position as inferior (and why) should be approached more critically. We should give grace to people anyway because that is the tenor of the NT, but we should also be careful not to grant legitimacy to ideas that allow our fellow Christians to act in ways that betray our central mission.

Even if I have failed to convince you that the counsel of Romans 14 (i.e., a graceful diversity of opinion) is not analogous to our situation and therefore is difficult to apply without caveats, and if the reader still wishes to apply it, it is incumbent upon us to identify who then are the “weak in faith”. I have argued that anti-mask viewpoints are inferior because they have allowed lesser considerations to override important Christian responsibilities. Those who explicitly seek to honor those responsibilities should be recognized as the stronger in faith. Now, we should promote a culture where the dialogue is about how to best use our freedoms for the sake of others rather than how to best use our freedoms for our own sakes. We should promote a culture where our freedoms are used to bring good repute to Christ, His Church, and His people (insofar as they reflect and represent Him), and to that end build bridges to the community in God-honoring ways. In our present climate (in a pandemic, with public mandates for masks in most communal situations), this means we choose to wear masks, even if it hasn’t been mandated, even if we believe them ineffective, and even if we also feel compelled to gracefully dialogue about what the science shows and what our rights under the American constitution secure for us. Into this matrix of intentionally other-focused outworking of our own (valid and rational) concerns, hopefully, we can also winsomely leave the impression that although we feel strongly about our freedoms, we are willing not to exercise them in the way we like to show our love for the community and each other.


What Does Scripture Say about the Role of the Government?
As I mentioned, Christians need to discuss this issue. In the below section entitled “Contemporary Supports", I list sites that argue for the same position I do. But I want to acknowledge the most systematic anti-mask article that I've come across so far. It may be found here. My response to this article may be expanded below.

Perhaps I will get to a more-detailed refutation of the assertions made here in the future, but here I wish only to provide perspective for the reader by making some critical observations about CRG’s** method and approach to three key areas: submission to authority, loving one's neighbor, and Christian freedom.

The reader will observe an interesting paradox: the same verses are used to opposite ends (e.g., Rom. 13-14, Matt. 22.39, and the call of 1 Timothy to make the gospel look good). This peculiar situation strangely embodies my earlier comment that two readers of Scripture can appeal to different priorities from different passages to justify opposite positions. But in this case, the very same texts are used to opposite conclusions! The obvious question becomes: which interpretation is more faithful to the intentions of the biblical writers?

**For purposes of this response, I will refer to this article using the shorthand CRG (for “Christians and the Role of Government”), which summarizes the author’s overriding interpretive consideration.

Let me say up front that the author of this article has done us a service in five ways. First, he/she has put together a coherent Christian case that requiring masks is wrong. Second, although I disagree with this dear brother or sister, I think the article well represents the state of thinking of many well-meaning Christians about mask mandates. Third, it is the only reasoned anti-mask article I have seen. Fourth, the article explicitly and commendably attempts to ground the author’s stance on Scripture and theology, and while I will point out some problems, this is the approach that matters for the Christian. Fifth, CRG highlights the main point of my article, namely, that the driving concerns of anti-mask Christians have more to do with politics than faithful exegesis and application of Scripture. But my point here is to acknowledge that the author has done us a service.

First, CRG’s arguments generally proceed from contemporary notions about the role of government rather than the details of biblical texts. Theological assertions are formed on the basis of political assumptions and then promoted as the view that most fully captures the intent of Scripture. Unfortunately, his/her political theory is out of touch with the biblical authors’ actual political situation, their view of the world, and their intentions in Scripture. So it is that the author favors an approach that uses ideas about the role of government to set bounds on the extent of Scriptural application. This does not necessarily disqualify the overall argument, but it does problematically use an artificial lens as an exegetical governor, and it does mean that the article often cannot fairly claim biblical support for its points. Given that it is written to persuade Christians, this does immediately become a problematic starting point.

Second, the author claims that to glorify God and love neighbors requires that we take into account “the totality of Scripture.” The pro-mask position is thus portrayed as limited in perspective and ignorant of key biblical evidence. The problem with this portrait, however, is that CRG does not introduce any Scriptural or theological principles to make his/her argument. The author claims some passages are misused by pro-mask advocates (and this is no doubt true), but challenging the sloppy thinking of the other side without advocating for your own makes for a very vulnerable position. Moreover, I hope the reader will consult my article to consider both exegetical details and the overarching biblical priorities in play (as identified by biblical scholars) rather than rational appeals to problematic fringe scenarios.

The overt political concern of this article pertains to limitations of civil government. While the author eschews “extra-biblical" rules, commands, and requirements in three places, he/she doesn't seem to realize that to apply a particular (extra-biblical) political theory to one's interpretation of Scripture is really no different. The author seems to assume that Paul and Peter communicate a single, unified purpose for government which is: “to administer civil justice according to God’s definition of justice found in Scripture." While I personally like the sound of this, there are a number of assumptions being made here, several of which are patently false. To name a few, in the passages he cites (Romans 13.3-4 and 1 Peter 2.13-14), neither Paul nor Peter mention that the government's role pertains to “administering civil justice" nor that they must do it “according to God's definition of justice found in Scripture." They counseled submission and obedience to populations under Roman rule, a form of government that can hardly be considered in Paul's day to be operating with God's notion of justice. Indeed, Peter and Paul were both martyred under that government. Moreover, the words they used were not terms related to “justice", that is, with δικ- roots (e.g., δίκαιος, δικαιοσύνη, etc.). Instead, they use versions of ἀγαθός, which could be used in a variety of ways, ranging from the idea of the “good" to the just plain “useful". Think about what that might mean for a moment. This means that if it is deemed to be “good" or even just “useful" for the population to wear masks (which, by the way, many Christians already see the wisdom in), the government may be called upon to enforce this good and/or useful measure. To Christians who cannot see the matter clearly enough, hear Paul's words in this same passage, “Do what is good and you will have praise from the same [the authorities]; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil." To all anti-mask Christians, how sure are you that masks are not the useful thing to do during a pandemic? Moreover, the author brought in 1 Peter 2.13-14, about which I have commented above in my article here. I will have more to say about this matter in upcoming comments, but I would point out that the assumptions in play are not faithful to the language or historical situation of the biblical authors.

Moreover, not only is placing such “limits” based upon tenuous or false assumptions, but they appear to stem from latent political ideologies. Unfortunately, these political theories and ideals aren't even acknowledged to be political theory, and this suggests to me that the author is unaware that these political assumptions are affecting his/her interpretation of Scripture. Moreover, there appears to be no consciousness of the fact that Paul’s command in Romans 13 to obey the authorities was issued in the context of a government (and a society) with far more pervasive and extensive authority structures and with far less regard for “proper limits” than anything the United States has yet seen. And this peculiar move is subject to a basic inconsistency. To say that Paul’s command to submit to more oppressive authorities does not apply to Americans because our government is far less oppressive reminds me of a story about two young brothers with two cookie jars.

In this story, Mom tells the brothers that the two cookie jars are for an upcoming party. She then explicitly tells the older (in the presence of the younger) not to eat cookies from his full jar so that there will be enough for the Christmas party. The younger one notices that his jar is only half full, and he thinks to himself, “if brother cannot eat cookies from the full jar so that there will be enough, that must mean that for everyone to have enough, a full jar is required. And since my jar is only half full, it will certainly never be enough. Thus, Mom’s command must not apply to me since I have only half a jar.” So the younger eats his cookies and later discovers the wrath of his mother. This circumstantial and circuitous reasoning to avoid her command was not only quite inverted, but it missed the point that the cookies were to fulfill a purpose, namely, to provide cookies for the party. The relative fullness of the jars was not relevant.

In the same way, to argue that a rule (i.e., Romans 13) that applies under more oppressive conditions does not apply under less oppressive conditions is quite inverted. Worse, circumstantial pleading might succeed if it can be argued that the purpose for the command would have been undermined by following the command. But Paul’s purpose (at least one of them) in calling Christians to submit to the authorities is so that the gospel will not meet any more barriers than those already inherent to its claims and ethical rigor. To shirk mandates made by the authorities, whether or not they’ve been codified by our executive branch leaders, does not fulfill the key purposes for which Paul penned Romans 13.

Moreover, we must ask: if the (less intrusive) mandates of our government represent stepping out of its lane (claimed by CRG), and it is sinful to obey rules concocted by those outside their lane (also claimed by CRG), then certainly Paul should never have commanded obedience to Roman authorities without some caveats and disclaimers! Moreover, there is simply no biblical basis to introduce this limitation. Instead, an unnamed political theory is used to circumscribe the limits of Romans 13 in a manner that those who value grounded exegesis should find uncomfortable. It is very easy to use extrabiblical theories (and in this case, where does it even come from?) to countermand any Scriptural injunction. No, there must be some compelling biblical or theological justification which affords the extrabiblical theory hermeneutical significance. This, I presume, is what the author purports to do when he says we need the whole testimony of Scripture involved, but then we get nothing but “[The government] does not have the authority to command all citizens to sell their vehicles, [sic] or to cover their faces.” That statement has no grounding in Scripture, nor does it offer us any compelling rationale to afford it any significance in our interpretations. It is merely based upon his/her political views. Indeed, to even make this assertion is to counsel something directly in conflict with the plain meaning of Romans 13.1-2.

This segues to another problem. If we are going to use political theories and assertions to interpret Scripture, we are immediately confronted with a problem. Where should we look when inquiring about the proper limits of government? As interesting as a discussion which appeals only to the American charter would be, if we come from Christian presuppositions, then we must allow for the discussion to transcend the narrow confines of the Constitution. To do otherwise is to remove the conversation from the realm of theology and Scripture, and we must acknowledge this. Moreover, if we are content to appeal to political theories, then we have to press the question: if the government can set speed limits and draft soldiers for battle, why can’t they mandate masks? The protection of its people is one of the most frequent and fundamental duties assigned to civil governments in political theory. Why not here?

So when the author appeals to Romans 13:3-4, 6 and 1 Peter 2:14 and says, “According to the Bible, the civil government has authority insofar as it stays in its lane,” he/she is claiming that Scripture sets boundaries on the government. However, this isn’t what is happening in either of these passages. Paul is commanding obedience and then describing why governments deserve obedience. When Peter commands, “Submit…to every human institution…[because they] punish evildoers and praise those who do good,” he is not sharing wisdom about proper political theory. He is not restricting the government. If he is doing anything political, he is providing a positive rationale for the existence of governments and why they hold authority over their citizens. To assume Peter is engaging in some sort of attempt to qualify or restrict (there are no terms here which limit) the government, or to assume Peter is offering a comprehensive enumeration of the purposes and functions of the government, or even to assume that masks clearly fall outside this purview, is all presumption or question-begging. I think the objective reader can see this.

To summarize, neither Paul nor Peter limits the role of government. Second, there are no Scriptural reasons to superimpose non-Scriptural limits upon the clear injunctions to submit and obey to the governing authorities and to “all human institutions.” Third, even if we theoretically allowed for non-Scriptural limits to be placed on the scope of injunctions in Scripture, and even if it were possible to successfully ground one, no grounds are offered here, let alone one that applies to masks, let alone why the Christian reader should even accept the premise that non-Scriptural limits should be allowed to serve in this capacity. It is a pretty significant infraction against reason, the author’s expressed purpose, and the reader’s good faith to claim that “the sum testimony of Scripture” gets us anywhere close to “the government cannot mandate masks.”

On the flip side, here is what this means. If your elders deem it safest to mandate masks for public worship, you should not whine and whinny. You should submit to them. You should not challenge their right to do so. Certainly they comprise a valid “human institution”, and that institution has (spiritual) authority over you and the house of God at which you worship. Therefore, the author’s statement “It is a dangerous thing if an elder team believes they have the authority to keep Christians out of corporate worship…because they will not follow an extra-biblical command” is misleading in three ways. First, it is not the elders who have made the decision not to come. They have made worship available under reasonable conditions. Second, churches are private properties generally entrusted to the administrative control of the pastors and elders, and they typically do have the authority to mandate such things. Third, it is no hindrance to your worship of God to wear masks, so by not coming you are explicitly choosing a political objection over submission to your elders and over your responsibility to worship God. This does not glorify God, which inarguably betrays the central concerns of the author.

We see the same basic approach when it comes to Matt. 22.39 and the call to love your neighbor as yourself. While it is important to acknowledge with the author that glorifying God ought to be a supreme priority for the Christian, the immediate next question is: how do we glorify God in this situation? The author assumes that covering one’s face is tantamount to neglecting God’s commands issued elsewhere in Scripture, though he/she never tells us which ones. Instead, we are told that “it is a very big deal to not be able to see someone’s face,” and wearing a mask is presented as sinful because “a masked face is an obvious hindrance to intimacy and fellowship.” It may be worth pointing out that no mask mandates have yet applied within households and therefore they’ve not affected marital intimacy in the manner described in CRG, but it is a valid point to emphasize that faces are important for intimacy and fellowship. Nevertheless, it is invalid to assume from this that covering them in certain contexts is therefore a wrong course of action. Why? Because the question isn’t, “Are they important?” Nor even is it, “Are they helpful?” The question is, “Can you fulfill God’s commands to be in fellowship and to deepen your relationships even while wearing a mask?” Sure, it may take more effort, but Christians must understand that fulfilling biblical mandates will not always be as efficient and convenient as they now are. Can you build relationships, deepen intimacy, and live in fellowship while wearing a mask? Of course. Is it as convenient? No. Is it as fun? No. But we have to keep in mind that at the same time we are investing more effort to continue in fellowship, we are also protecting a significant segment of the population.

Second, our disunity over masks has resulted in far greater barriers to intimacy and fellowship than masks ever have or could. So claims that wearing masks inhibit intimacy, whatever their merit, need immediate rebuttal by the fact that our disunity has caused more. If we are to target some course of action, let it first be unity on masks.

Third, to claim (or to demand of others) that our relationships cannot deepen while wearing masks is itself misguided and potentially coercive. The argument that you must see a face to communicate or deepen a relationship should be discounted not only because these things are possible with masks but because even blind people can make deep connections while never being able to see faces. It is potentially coercive if you make no masks a precondition of a deepening relationship. Moreover, to claim that masks should not be worn because they inhibit the fullest possible intimacy is to ignore some key perspectives. What types of intimacy demand a face? I could make a similar claim about all clothes. God made people without them. To see one’s entire body is to know them most fully and to enable the greatest intimacy, and to not see their entire body is to hinder intimacy and fellowship. But clearly there are caveats to this principle of unveiling that we all accept (e.g., concupiscence, appropriate social decorum, weather considerations, etc.). In the same way, there is nothing that should disallow, in principle, COVID-19 from becoming one of those natural caveats in the face of our present circumstances.

Finally, and as important as any concern here, you don’t need to remain uncovered to worship God in community or by yourself. Don’t worry, He will see you, and He will hear you.

While the author has it right that Romans 14 does not teach that the “weaker brother” gets to control a church’s actions by their weakness, the author’s discussion with his interlocutor misses the mark entirely. “Weaker” here does not reference physical weakness. Moreover, wearing a mask is not to be equated with the “weaker brother” position. Such a decision remains to be seen. See my discussion why Romans 14 is a tenuous place to go hunting for principles that apply in our situation.

In summary, while faces really matter, and let’s all hope we get back to fully encountering them very soon, nevertheless wearing a mask is not violating principles in Scripture nor preventing Christians from fulfilling their duties. Indeed, my article argues just the reverse. The most rounded perspective on the Christian duty in our circumstances entails wearing masks. Even though some duties will thereby require more effort, this is how we best fulfill the mandates to glorify God and love others as ourselves.

Contemporary Supports
At the time of publishing, other Christians have made similar arguments that wearing masks better exhibits Christian ethics from other biblical standpoints:

In addition, respected evangelical Christian colleges and seminaries across the nation have donned masks for their environments:

Whatever else the consensus of these institutions means, it signals that even our conservative Christians institutions responsible for teaching proper hermeneutics do not find masks to be anti-Scripture or anti-education.6 Instead, they have actively tried to cooperate with authorities and participate in efforts to help mitigate the pandemic.


Comparing Pro-Mask Motivations with Anti-Mask Motivations: Gospel over Politics
When a(ny) political stance becomes more important than fidelity to the precepts within Scripture, it indicates misaligned priorities. Contrast this with the biblical, theological, and moral reasons championed by pro-maskers: (1) a Christian should not disregard clear Christian teaching for any reason, including political reasons, (2) a Christian should seek at every point to bless his/her larger community, not do it a disservice, and (3) a Christian should do whatever he/she can not to bring disrepute to Christ’s name.

In other words, pro-mask motivations include: (a) Scripture’s injunctions to submit to authorities (i.e., biblical action), (b) desire to cooperate with public authorities whenever possible (i.e., biblical attitude), (c) clear demonstration of neighborly love that the refusal to take the recommended precautions lacks, (d) not wanting to contribute to the spread of the pandemic, (e) not disrespecting the larger community (which is interpreting anti-maskers as not prioritizing the community = bad gospel PR), and (f) legitimate fears about the pandemic. In other words, (a), (b), (c), (d), and (e) are either explicit New Testament concerns or close applications of it, while (f) is a basic, natural, often unbidden human emotion that can prompt good or bad actions. Contrast this with the oft-heard motives of anti-mask Christians. What motivations do they have that are not political (i.e., not concerned with their rights)? Upon what biblical or theological grounds can anti-mask Christians refuse to wear masks in our present situation? I humbly ask the anti-mask Christian to identify their reasons and then ask themselves the simple question, “Are these reasons biblical?"

Moreover, what love do we exhibit to a watching society, what repute do we bring to Christ, when we dig in our heels over an amoral and indifferent thing? We signal that we can’t play ball, even when we are all cast into the same stadium together for a life-or-death baseball game. Contrast this to when Christians were thrown into the arena together, they did not divide over whether it was better to die by the lion’s teeth or the lion’s claws. Instead, they openly declared before the watching world, “May Christ be glorified through my death.”

As I mentioned, through some dark thaumaturgy, even in the presence of a pandemic, masks have not only become a political issue but a source of division within the church. While this is a multifaceted issue (including pedagogical, scientific, risk-based, public health, perhaps legal aspects), and while people have a right to their political and personal beliefs about masks, as Christians we believe that Scriptural truth outweighs and out-prioritizes these (often otherwise good) concerns, and sometimes political and personal beliefs must be abandoned when they come into conflict with Scripture. Speaking candidly and directly to the chief issue I see, once we presuppose Christian truth, this forward assertion of “rights” has immediately trodden upon uncertain ground, for our Savior willingly gave up his rights for the sake of his beloved, and he often asks us to do the same (cf. 2 Thess. 3.7-10; Phil. 2.3; Luke 6.40, et al.). For a Christian, Scripture must trump politics and personal preferences whenever they come into conflict. The concern for rights, as important as that is in some situations, must be subordinated to God’s truth and purposes for the Christian in the world. In a pandemic, the Scriptural and theological trajectories above demonstrate that the view I advocate better represents these (divine) purposes than the anti-mask position.

My request is that wherever you land on this issue, it is upon ground clearly defensible by Scriptural principles and precedents. I pray that the reader:

  1. Enter into a time of personal and communal discernment
  2. Consider my case carefully with an open mind
  3. Ask yourself, “How do I ground my responses to COVID-19 in Scripture?”

May God bless our pursuits of unity during this difficult season.

Well-meaning interactions may be sent to:


Questions and Responses
This section is intended to include good (i.e., substantive and conversation-propagating) questions about the article, as I am able to get to them.

Question: There are so many different sides to COVID-19 that it's hard to take one and forget the rest. “Do unto others as you would have done to you" is absolutely biblical, but this is interpreted in two ways like many points of disagreement on COVID19. One person says it isn't biblical to tell someone to cover their face, while another says it is. One person says it's okay to be scared of COVID-19, and another says it isn't. One person says that it's okay to lock down a whole country because of a virus, and another says it is absolutely unconstitutional and unbiblical to do so. One says it's okay to shut down a church, regardless of the reason, and one says it isn't biblical in any sense. One person says we all need to do this for the fear of those around us because it will hit the most vulnerable; another says, if you're scared, you need to be the one staying home and/or wearing a mask and not imposing that belief on everyone else.

Response: You are right to say that people have argued for different responses, but that doesn't make all sides valid or equal. Just because there are multiple sides doesn't mean there's no way to find wisdom in the present situation. In fact, it is precisely for such a situation that I am writing.

Perhaps an uninitiated and unbiased individual, who is suddenly dropped into our time period and matrix of issues for the very first time, would find the diversity of viewpoints very disorienting. For anybody who still feels this way, the way forward is not to catalog the disagreements but to argue in substantive ways for or against a side. If this is you, maybe this article can help you to formulate the central principles towards which the Christian needs to be oriented.

But let’s be forthright. Given the larger context from which this question came, this is not a guileless confession that “it just gets hard sometimes” so “what else can a person do but pick and choose what seems right?” Indeed, the astute reader will notice that there isn't a question present, nor was there in the larger context from which this snippet came. Instead, the point made is that well-intentioned Christians disagree about what is right here, and therefore there are multiple valid viewpoints. It is absolutely true that there are two orientations within the Christian camp, but that does not mean that all viewpoints enjoy equal biblical validation. It is no argument for one position or another to draw attention to the disagreements. Confusion does not justify any position; only reasons have the power to justify a position. Moreover, the conflicting opinions above do not represent a morass of unaffiliated viewpoints but standard rhetoric from a political divide between two competing viewpoints. In other words, it is no justification of one’s stance to argue that there’s lots of opinions out there. We are beyond that, and we need well-articulated arguments to evaluate.

I have argued that anti-mask Christians make few attempts to ground their anti-mask views in Scriptural priorities. Instead, they are often focused on the political vector. Where attempts are made by a few to connect anti-mask rhetoric to Scripture, the arguments are couched in bald appeals like “it isn’t biblical to tell someone to cover their face.” Where, indeed, could somebody possibly find such a thing in Scripture? You might find some applicable principle in the Constitution, but we are not discussing the Constitution.

This article aims to unmask attempts to map political arguments to (bad) interpretations of Scripture, to help the average Christian to think through principles based upon accepted exegesis, and to help them recognize bad exegesis. I want to help all Christians to assess their motivations in relation to masks, and I think that in so doing, an important window into their own commitments and priorities will open for them. To summarize a main point in this article, although Christians are free to hold a variety of political viewpoints, they must recognize when those viewpoints come into conflict with their (professed) beliefs. This is one way Christians walk wisely through the variety of opinions they receive.

For the Christian, masks prompt a discussion about what Scriptural principles should govern our thinking in this situation. There are other (non-Scriptural) reasons, some of them good, that while not inconsistent with Christianity, ultimately do not express love for or obedience to God one way or the other because they are very indirect or based upon other spheres of thought (e.g., political). And as far as I can see, in lieu of people providing better exegesis of relevant passages, there is a pretty clear case to be built for masks. In other words, the right interpretations help us to derive the right priorities here. It is one of my article's main points to say: even if you distrust our health authorities and the government (and depending upon your experiences, there may be good reasons for this distrust), you should nevertheless submit to them unless it causes you to dishonor God. So the question becomes: is it dishonoring to God to wear a mask? If not, put on a mask.

Question: Would you agree that the mentality that everyone should be looking at each other like we are walking diseases capable of killing each other everyday is extremely unhealthy for a society as a whole? Everyone has been made out to be a walking weapon, and I don't really believe there is unity in that mentality. Is it biblical or unifying to behave in such a way?

Response: I have three points:

First, this is an important question to ponder in our present situation, but this isn't an anti-mask argument. It is an anti-dehumanization argument, and a good one. Whether or not people use masks, when we are in a pandemic or any other crisis, any dehumanizing behavior is a real danger to society. It is a danger even when we're not in a crisis. Some believe that wearing masks exacerbates it, but I think not wearing them exacerbates it because masks are many people's way of coping with the situation and moving on with life in a way that allows them not to see others as walking weapons--even if they are.

Second, I suspect most pro-mask Christians would agree that treating people like walking weapons is unhealthy for society, assuming we mean exhibiting uncaring and non-relational attitudes toward others, but so is ignoring the reality of the situation. To ignore reality in a pandemic is to exhibit an uncaring spirit, and it is thus also inherently non-relational. So which is worse? As Christians (and all people of conscience), we're asked to seriously reckon with the reality of the situation. We should ask ourselves: “What if we really do kill without meaning to or even knowing it? How should we react to someone who is unwilling to admit it?" Even if we seem perfectly healthy, if by our actions we infect others, and those others die (or remain injured), there are real analogues between us and a walking weapon (though we could probably put it in less damaging terms).

Third, the truth is, even with a mask, one is potentially still a walking weapon, if we mean by this that he/she has the potential to harm another. Most of us acknowledge that. But here's the difference, and I speak here directly to the anti-mask Christian. If somebody is walking around with a gun that is randomly spraying bullets outside of the carrier's control, by putting it into a holster, the gun-wielder signals to others (a) that he acknowledges the reality of the situation (he has an unruly gun) and (b) that he is willing to take measures that help lower the risk that the gun will shoot those around. By holstering that gun, by putting on a mask, whatever success ratio masks have, mask-wearers are overtly saying by their actions, “I acknowledge the realities of the situation, and I'm willing to do what I can to lower your risk and mine. We're in this together." This is clearly communicated by those who wear masks and don't make a big deal about them. Conversely, when you do not wear a mask, others recognize that you are saying something quite different. You are saying one of several (and usually all) things: “I don't believe this pandemic is dangerous," “I don't believe masks work," (which is tantamount to saying) “I don't trust our authorities on this", and “I don't care enough about you to protect you if it inconveniences me."

This message is very off-putting, especially when people are worried about their loved ones. Think about it, if you saw someone who had just come from the Bubonic plague wing of the hospital approaching your small child to give her a hug, you would not be emotionless about it--even if this person appeared healthy. To understand the analogy is to understand how strong reactions can unfold when people do not wear masks. “But this is not the Bubonic plague!" you might argue. Sure, but here's the rub. Onlookers may feel about your actions the way you would feel about a plague situation for which you recognize the harm. By not wearing a mask, you communicate either that you don't take COVID-19 seriously enough or you don't take people's health seriously enough. I suspect that much of what anti-mask folks have negatively experienced are just people's (understandable) reactions to this clear message you are sending to them, whether or not you want to or realize it. And this is where the great tragedy comes in for Christians. Let the world send whatever messages to each other they want. They are operating outside God's purposes and rule. But Christians should be mindful about the messages they are sending. Sometimes they will have no control over what message their faithful actions will prompt. But with respect to masks, we both know the message it sends and we can do something about that. However the Christian feels about masks, isn't it a very small trade to your conveniences to wear one so that your commitment to the gospel, which demands that you exhibit care for people, is not falsified? That is one of the key questions that anti-mask Christians need to be asking themselves.


[1]  While COVID-19 N0 numbers cannot be finalized until it’s over, the flu is known to be around 1.3, while COVID-19 seems somewhere between 2 and 6. I’ve been haphazardly monitoring COVID-19’s contagion rates, but at no point have I seen it drop anywhere close to the flu. It is significantly more contagious. Cf.

[2]  Last year there were 40-55 million flu cases resulting in 24,000-62,000 deaths. Estimates for COVID-19 include over 75 million (known) cases resulting in over 1.6 million deaths. Cf. ibid.; (as of 12/18/2020).

[3]  Cf. Bruce W. Winter, Seek the Welfare of the City: Christians as Benefactors and Citizens (1994), 82-100.

[4]  For example, see the writings of Michael Horton: Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church, The Gospel-Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World, et al. For (very) truncated forms of their reasoning, see the podcasts: and/or The discussion is a large one and since this isn’t an academic article, I would just say, here’s an article worth reading for its contribution to background: I would also say that the relevance of this question is this: whatever type of issue masks are (even if they rise to qualify, as I think they do, as a pertinent political issue), they should still rank far below gospel concerns.

[5]  Whether this may occur directly or through actions which contribute to the conditions by which they became sick.

[6]  This consensus, at least, existed at the time of writing.