In response to the article we published by John Stevens essentially supporting the use of the Covid-19 vaccine one of our members, Jim Nicholls has written a blog where he says we should not take the vaccine for ethical reasons. As we said in the previous blog, at Christ Church, we are not advocating refusing the vaccine but neither are we insisting it is a matter of civic duty that you should take it. We recognise there are people in our congregation with genuine concerns about the ethics or the risks of the Covid vaccines which we respect and we therefore believe this is a matter of personal conscience. We encourage you to read this, and also the previous article and other blogs referenced there as well.
If I were to bet on the most used word of 2020 I think I’d choose the word ‘unprecedented’. And it’s certainly true that there hasn’t been anything happening quite like what we’re witnessing at the moment. But this is not an entirely novel situation. History tells us of plagues and pandemics which have affected the world and which the church has had to face. Take the plague in Rome during the second century, where it’s reported that Christians were exemplary in their care for the sick, with many of them succumbing to the disease themselves because of their self-sacrifice in caring for others.
Of course, the world is a very different place now, and one dilemma those Christians in the early Centuries didn’t need to deal with was what is a contentious issue for the modern church in these unprecedented times – vaccines.
We all know that a vaccine has been thought of by many as the holy grail which will lift us out of this crisis, and the quest to find one has been embarked on by many pharmaceutical companies in the hope that they may restore health to humanity and deliver us from the pestilence we face. But with vaccines at the forefront of the conversation for a while now, a lot of Christians have become aware that the way many of them are produced and tested poses an ethical conundrum – the use of foetal tissue. I’m not a medical scientist, so I won’t go into all the technical details, but in summary many vaccines use a cell-line derived from cells originally taken from the organs of an aborted baby in their development or production. This is nothing new and and vaccines already widely in use such as the MMR vaccine are produced using this method.
This is something that only came to my attention quite recently. When I first heard about it I just assumed it was an exaggeration of the internet, but when I looked into it, I was surprised to discover that it was actually true and I was saddened to realise that I and my children had received vaccines made using cell-lines from foetal tissue.
It shocked me to my core to think that healthy babies had been killed and their body parts used in this way. Although I hadn’t been personally involved in the abortion itself, I felt that I had in some way participated in and benefited from it. I also felt angry that as Christians we’d let this slip under the radar – I had absolutely no idea about this until now.
In regards to the COVID vaccines this would apply to most specifically to the Oxford/Astra-Zeneca vaccine which in made using the HEK 293 cell-line, originally taken from the kidneys of a baby girl aborted in the 1970s. However the other vaccines although not produced with a human cell line do still utilise it at the testing stage. It seems all the vaccines on offer are tainted in someway by being linked to foetal tissue.
I have a friend who is not a Christian, but as a vegan believes that it’s wrong for people to kill animals or use them as commodities in any way. He is also someone I would think of as being fairly left wing and ‘progressive’, so I was curious to know whether he would be happy to take the vaccine if it has any animal derived products in it. When I asked him he said that he would not. I am certainly not a vegan, but his response got me thinking. If this friend of mine, who doesn’t believe in God and therefore has no basis for objective moral values can be so consistently committed to his moral standards in regards to the treatment of animals, then why as Christians do many seem to be happy to be injected with something made from what I can only describe as murdered-human derived products? After all Jesus himself said “Of how much more value is a man than a sheep!” Surely as Christians we can only take a ‘pro-life’ stance when it comes to abortion. And if we’re going to be truly consistent with that stance, then can we really in good conscience use something made with the tissue of an aborted baby?
Many Christians have cited the doctrine of God’s common grace, namely that God in his kindness to humanity provides all people with good things regardless of whether they believe in or worship him or not. The Bible is clear that when it comes to the good things which all of humanity enjoys they come from God. But we should be careful in attributing to God things which He hasn’t expressly taken credit for. I have to admit I have winced when I’ve heard Christians giving thanks to God for the vaccine. Can we really attribute something of such questionable origins to God? Surely just the association with child sacrifice is enough to testify against theses vaccines as being blessings from God. At best you could say as the Pharaoh in the Prince of Egypt says to Moses: sometimes sacrifices have to be made for the greater good’.
But I think this goes beyond just the question of whether you can be ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro vaccine’. I believe just the very fact that these vaccines are linked with the practice of abortion should signal to us as Christians that there’s something not quite right here. Maybe God would be challenging us at a much deeper level than whether or not to take the vaccine. Maybe he is calling us to search our own hearts and think about what is really important. And maybe its an indication that things aren’t quite as they appear at face value. It is unfortunate that the pandemic has provided fertile soil for many outlandish conspiracy theories to spring up. The result has been that anyone who questions the mainstream narrative has been put into the category of ‘conspiracy theorist’, shutting down any serious discussion about what might be going on here. Who knows what sort of legacy will be left even if COVID does go away? How much more power will the masses of willingly conceded to the state? And is it really that far fetched to assert that companies and organisations, some of them hostile to the church are using this situation to their advantage?
There has been some speculation by Christians that the vaccine could be the ‘mark of the beast’ as spoken of in Revelation. I don’t have the space to go into detail on that subject here, suffice to say I don’t believe the vaccine is the mark of the beast in and of itself, but who knows if its the pre-cursor to it. Maybe there will be a time when Christians across the globe will have to take a stand and refuse will result in them being economically marginalised. But whether we believe the mark of the beast refers to something literal or not, what we can all agree on is that the beast stands as a metaphor for this world which stands in opposition to the Lord and His anointed. And we do need to be careful that we’re not being swept along by the World’s agenda. It’s the same agenda and outlook on life that drove those who attempted to build the tower of Babel. And it’s the same agenda that we are seeing manifested now which is driving the discussion on ‘reimagining and resetting our world’. It’s the same outlook which inspires all the talk about ‘building back better’. It’s all part of the system as represented by the beast.
One of my favourite films of all time is Stephen Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. The story is well known – the wealthy venture capitalist John Hammond develops a theme park with real living dinosaurs, brought to life by harvesting their DNA from the blood of mosquitoes preserved in tree sap. I remember as a child being awestruck by the portrayal of the dinosaurs on the big screen. But what I didn’t appreciate as a child was that Jurassic Park was a cautionary tale about interfering with nature. Early on in the film Dr Ian Malcolm played by Jeff Goldblum rebukes John Hammond for his lack of humility before nature and warns of the dangers of arrogantly proceeding with scientific endeavour without really evaluating whether it’s right to do so. I can’t help but feel that there is a similar lack of humility being displayed at the moment, with all the smug self congratulation on how clever and advanced we are to be able to ‘defeat the virus’.
But as Christians we can’t buy into the same philosophy of life. A philosophy which makes no reference to God and doesn’t realise that the wrath of God against mankind’s rebellion is in the process of being revealed from heaven. The World’s response to this has been fear, panic and a resoluteness that ‘together we can defeat the virus’. We can hardly judge them or be surprised about this, after all a world without God is a scary place. But as Christians we should see the world very differently. And we need to be careful not to buy in to the same way of thinking.
Israel had a terrible track record when it came to adopting the values of the world around them and there are numerous Old Testament passages recounting their repeated unfaithfulness.
they mixed with the nations
and learned to do as they did.
They served their idols,
which became a snare to them.
They sacrificed their sons
and their daughters to the demons;
they poured out innocent blood,
the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
and the land was polluted with blood.
I wouldn’t want apply this passage directly to all Christians who decide to take the vaccine, but surely verses like this should serve as a warning to us to be more concerned about whether we succumb to the world’s way of thinking than succumbing to viruses.
There’s always the risk that we will be tempted to ‘mix with the nations’ and learn to do as they do having been ensnared by the same idols. My fear is that if we just allow ourselves to be swept along with the rest of the world, we as the church will become nothing more than irrelevant passengers on this bus to who knows where. And we need to be on our guard against that. We do live in unprecedented times – but in these unprecedented time as Christians we are presented with a unique opportunity to let our light shine and show the world around us a different way altogether. So let’s not waste it. And let us not become entangled in building a kingdom to which we do not belong. After all Jesus said ‘my Kingdom is not of this world’. With the direction the world could be going in we should find that to be a great source of solace and encouragement.
It is ultimately down to each individual to make their own decision about whether to have the vaccine and I don’t seek to bind anyone’s conscience. But in making these decisions, let us not be driven by our desire to get our lives back to ‘normal’ or fear over what others might think of us. You can be sure that the Lord is sovereignly ruling over the current crisis that we face. And you can be sure that he is working His purposes out through what is going on in the world right now. There may be days ahead where we see the beast of Revelation manifest more and more clearly. But we can take comfort from the fact that the King, who gave his life for us so that we could be members of His Kingdom, is on His way back to deliver a truly great reset where the beast will be defeated, this world which opposes His Lordship will be overturned, every wrong will be righted and we will live with Him in his Kingdom where there will be no need for vaccines or medicine because His wounds will have healed us forever.