Dr. Jason Garwood

Narrated By: Scott Tucker
Book: Outside the Camp
Topics: , , ,


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Chapter Text

“Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.”

Hebrews 13:13

G.K. Chesterton once said that, “Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere.” Permit me a moment to offer up a slight alteration of Gilbert Keith’s quip: Art, like doctrine, consists in drawing the line somewhere. Doctrine, by definition, is drawing the line on the canvas of epistemology. When we formulate doctrines, we are sifting (to mix metaphors) through the dirt looking for gold and other precious gems. When we find them, we acknowledge what they are, not what they’re not. In other words, we acknowledge the gold to be gold, not not-gold—the lines are lines and we ought to defend them as such. Doctrine, like art, is not benefited or advanced by pretending the lines don’t exist, nor are we aided in any way by moving the lines based on the subjective whims of some relativistic beholder.

Objectivity is a built-in feature of all doctrinal pursuit. Not only is it built-in, objectivity is also presuppositionally required in order to even begin the pursuit. Its inherent, native feature is one of antithesis; that is, there is a God who is there (thank you, Francis Schaeffer), and that which is not God is not God. A is not at the same time non-A. We have thesis, and antithesis. Paul spells it out in Romans 1 like this: Creator and the creation. Moreover, our intentional pursuit of line-drawing must be clear if we are going to offer up anything meaningful to the social order in which we find ourselves. So, consider this a canvas.

Contrary to our current hodgepodge culture, whose present-day Enlightenment struggle with rationalism, skepticism, and empiricism has left it in the murky pool of nihilism, biblical Christianity gives us an objective standard that keeps us from limping between two opinions (1 Kings 18:21). Van Til said that our choice is autonomy or theonomy—self-law or God’s law. While I agree with Van Til’s antithesis, for it is biblical, the current COVID-19 debacle has really set up another antithesis: decentralized healthcare vs. centralized healthcare. Or, humanistic religion as expressed in the idolatry of statism vs. Christian religion as expressed in self-government. To reject God and His law-order is to accede to idolatry. And idolatry is an extortionist.

Idolatry is always polytheistic and collectivistic because idolatry thrives on subjectivism and incoherence (cf. Psalm 115). Idols do best when: 1) There is an authoritarian, top-down power play (i.e., state control, unlawful mandates, forced medical procedures, etc.); and 2) There are multiple gods in the pantheon (anyone and everything but King Jesus). This particular assertion is true based on the fact that idolatry cannot and does not give room for a fixed word. Furthermore, in the Christian scheme knowledge must meet two criteria: 1) It must be fixed, for God is transcendent (and immovable, at the risk of sounding too Platonic); and 2) It must be graspable, for we are finite creatures who understand very little (i.e., we have to be able to receive it intelligibly). Idolatry can’t work in this paradigm because it rejects both of these presuppositions. It rejects the fixed transcendency of God, and thus collapses into subjectivity, and it rejects intelligibility because it is perfectly comfortable with an incoherent and contradictory epistemology; and who’s to say otherwise?

To bring us back to our point: what we are dealing with are worldview foundations, questions of epistemology and how we know things, and what to do about the things we know. Our current handling of the COVID-19 self-imposed crisis has been nothing short of a complete display of sheer ineptitude and manic subjugation.[1] Many haven’t sought out the foundations but have instead assumed them. There has been massive manipulation in the media which has in turn caused incredible misunderstanding in the Christian church. The gods have failed us, and it is high time we call upon the name of the Lord. Let us, then, recapture the biblical antithesis so we can show the world what it means to be healed. Besides, a culture is only as good as its religion. If the religion is shoddy, the society becomes suicidal. Consequently, our greatest need right now is pure and undefiled religion because the lines matter.

My aim here is to sort out the corona-mess by revisiting Leviticus 13 & 14. This has undoubtedly become a source of much vexation as many religious leaders have appealed to it in order to justify a state-(mis)guided response. When the Warrenton Declaration came out this past summer, we received very little pushback. In fact, most people embraced it with little qualms, signing and sharing and promoting the doctrinal line-in-the-sand. There was one part, however, that seemed to trip a small number of people up, that being Section Two, point XVIII which reads,

WE AFFIRM that these leprosy passages are related not to the spread of biological contagion, but of ceremonial uncleanliness as is evidenced by numerous factors: First, even the man covered head-to-toe in white leprosy was declared “clean” (Lev. 13:12-13) and was permitted in the camp. Second, the stated reason for the general expulsion of lepers is the same reason given for the expulsion of those who touched a dead body or had a bodily discharge; not biological contagion, but ceremonial uncleanliness which “defiled the camp” before the Lord (Num. 5:1-4) . Third, nowhere in Scripture is leprosy described as being biologically contagious. This “leprosy” also afflicted houses (Lev. 14:34) and garments (Lev. 13:47). “Leprosy” was not the same as modern day “Hansen’s disease”. Fourth, in order to prevent belongings in a “leprous” house from being declared “unclean” by the Priest, the owner was permitted to empty the house of his possessions before the Priest arrived for inspection (Lev. 14:33-36). Preventing biological contagion through sanitization (burning) of objects was not in view here. The ceremonial practices associated with the now defunct Levitical Priesthood have been made obsolete by Christ’s greater Priesthood (Heb. 7:12), and cannot be credibly invoked as providing civil government with jurisdiction over “public health.”[2]

There are some who argue that the civil magistrate has the God-given authority to quarantine anyone they choose (these are the gospel-coalitiony, two-kingdom folks who generally don’t use words like ‘civil magistrate’ anyway), and then there are those who believe that the magistrate has the authority to quarantine the sick (Douglas Wilson has repeatedly made this argument;[3] so has Matt Trewhella,[4] and others[5]). Not only is there no compelling biblical argumentation for civil jurisdiction in this regard, there is little to no explanation on how that is to be accomplished (FEMA? Yeah, right). This is especially concerning when it is coming from theonomists and other reconstructionists who believe in a very small, very limited civil government. To simply enforce this would likely necessitate an interminable amount of people employed by the government to essentially police everyone with a temp-gun. Really? Are they stationed outside of every grocery store taking temperatures and checking papers? This is all, however, besides the point. The central question is, Does scripture grant the civil magistrate jurisdiction over public health?

The Warrenton Declaration, I believe, takes the correct approach, one I am convinced is exegetically superior in every respect, namely, the civil magistrate has no jurisdiction over public health whatsoever. It may enforce trespassing laws, but it has no inherent right to enforce quarantines at all, not even for the symptomatic. Private property restrictions are the biblical means of addressing this issue. Granting the civil magistrate jurisdiction over “public health” is letting a bull into the china shop. Once you let the bull past security, the glistening fine china is fair game. That bull is not leaving even if you ask nicely and remind him of the “You Break It, You Buy It” policy. What I intend to offer in this paper is a limiting principle that does not allow for even a modicum of government overreach, even in times of a pandemic (and especially in a drummed-up, ostensible pandemic). If one decides to give the state absolute control over quarantine—even if it’s just the sick we’re talking about, however that is defined of course—the question remains: how is this not a slippery slope? Is this really what we want our current bio-fascist, technocracy-laden government doing? If the civil government has jurisdiction over public health, then what do we make of the rise in heart disease and the toll this health issue alone has put on the “public health” system (more every year than even the highest COVID-19 death toll figures for one year)? What prevents the civil government from monitoring and regulating your diet and imposing commensurate penalties for non-compliance?

Furthermore, most theonomists agree that imposing God’s law with leaders like Trump or Biden at the helm would be an absolute disaster anyway. 99.9%[6] of the Federal government is all excess and dross and unconstitutionally vacuous, let alone unbiblical and inherently tyrannical. Any consistent, liberty-loving Christian who cares deeply about God’s law being the working paradigm in a social order would agree that we don’t want the current charade that is resident Biden’s White House handling much of anything as it pertains to justice. And why is that? Because they don’t meet the character qualifications for being a ruler, they don’t utilize the treasure that is biblical law, they are participating in an unjust system, and last but certainly not least: they don’t know the Lord. They are ruled out ipso facto. That sort of duplicitous system is only worthy of being trampled underfoot. So why in the world do we have Reformed Christians, who may be a lowercase ’t’ theonomist, or even an uppercase ’T’ Theonomist, arguing that the current civil government has a right and responsibility during this current pandemic to quarantine the sick? When the Bible provides no such jurisdiction for civil government?

In any case, there are some who invoke Leviticus 13 & 14 as evidence that the magistrate has authority and jurisdiction over public health, and thus they possess the God-given power to quarantine the sick. To be clear: this is a line that should not be on the aforementioned canvas. I’m going to explain why this is the case, why the civil authorities have no business whatsoever involving themselves in it.[7] We begin by revisiting the context of the passage, and then the passage itself. The Bible, it is assumed, is our ultimate God-given authority. The lines come from here.

[1] I highly recommend you pick up this book: Douglas Axe, William M. Briggs, Jay W. Richards, The Price of Panic: How the Tyranny of Experts Turned a Pandemic into a Catastrophe (Washington, D.C.: Regenery Publishing, 2020).


[3] Douglas Wilson, Devoured by Cannabis: Weed, Liberty, and Legalization (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2021), 48-49. (Kindle Edition.) Also: And:


[5] R.J. Rushdoony asserts the following, and it must be admitted, rather presumptuously: “The state has therefore a legislative power in dealing with plagues, epidemics, venereal diseases, and other contagious and dangerous diseases. Such legislation is plainly required in the Mosaic law (Num. 5:1–4). Not only is it declared to be a matter of civil legislation but an essential aspect of religious education (Deut. 24:8).” Rousas John Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, Volume One (Nutley, NJ: Craig Press, 1973), 293. My problem with Rushdoony’s statement here is: 1) He simply asserts this to be the case without any detailed exegesis of the applicable passages; 2) He assumes that tsaraath is some sort of “venereal” disease or contagion (the texts say nothing of the sort); 3) Since the “civil legislation” was often intertwined with the “religious” aspect of Levitical law, it is sometimes hard to decipher. However, based on the priestly involvement in the protocols that Deuteronomy 24:8 warns about, we can safely deduce the “religious” nature of the issue. Rushdoony, in my view, glosses over this, thus conflating the civil and religious aspects of the ceremonial protocols.

Also, Dr. Gary North attempts to defend the Leviticus 13 & 14 measures as containing transcendent applicability to modern practices of medical quarantine due to their“judicial” function, but simultaneously admits that “it was not a concern about biological contagion.” He then goes on to claim that since leprosy was “judicially” contagious, this means that the civil magistrate has jurisdiction over managing biological contagion. This is akin to saying that because scripture prohibits eating unclean food to prevent judicial punishment, that now the civil magistrate has the authority to force a specific diet on the population.

North says elsewhere: “Conclusion: these two chapters are primarily concerned with legal status rather than biological condition. If this was not the case, then why wasn’t it mandatory to burn the furniture that had been moved outside the house? Why wasn’t the furniture contagious? Because this plague was not biologically transmitted. It was judicially transmitted.” (Emphasis his.) Gary North, Boundaries and Dominion: An Economic Commentary on Leviticus, Volume One (Dallas, GA: Point Five Press, 2012), 284.

[6] I’d rather say 100% but that’s for another book.

[7] Not to get too far ahead of myself, but the extent of the civil magistrate’s involvement should be, perhaps, something like this: “Hey guys, looks like there’s a sickness going around. Look through your own eyeballs, use good judgment, and maybe slather your insides with vitamins and minerals. Perhaps go to the free market that is in no way connected to our bloated, centralized Leviathan, and check out things like ivermectin, intravenous zinc, and chlorine dioxide. We hear that stuff works.” That’s about it, honestly. After that very local judge is done saying his piece, he can put his hands back in his pocket and skip down the road whistling a tune, if he so pleases.