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Vaccine Ethics: Black and White, or a Conscience Issue? What does the Bible say?

Updated: Jan 27, 2021



SINCE WRITING THIS PIECE, WHICH REMAINS BELOW IN ITS UNEDITED FORM, I HAVE RECEIVED SOME HELPFUL PUSHBACK AND HAVE RESPONDED TO IT HERE.


PLEASE DO NOT READ WHAT IS BELOW WITHOUT ALSO READING THE UPDATE/CORRECTION.


YOU MIGHT AS WELL JUST GO STRAIGHT TO THE UPDATE/CORRECTION.


So far in this series of blogs I have been commending boycotting the vaccine as a good idea, a great opportunity for the abolition movement to give a powerful message to the watching world. But would it be going too far to say that this is a necessity for Christians?


The refrain from almost every Christian I have heard speaking into this is that, above all else, this is a conscience question and everyone must be free to make up their own minds. We mustn’t put pressure on people one way or the other by suggesting that ours is the “Christian” way.


Let’s take a look at 1 Corinthians 10:23-33.


“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.


Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”


If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?


So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.


There is freedom of conscience here – you can eat anything sold in the market without having to worry about where it’s come from. At face value, this would seem to suggest that we don’t need to worry ourselves too much about the provenance of consumer products today, such as a vaccine. But hang on, there’s more.


A deeper principle is at work: it’s not just about what you have a right to do as an individual in isolation, it’s about how it affects others, especially unbelievers, particularly their conscience: “not everything is beneficial…not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” Before someone says that taking a vaccine is for “the good of others”, note that Paul is not talking here about “the good of others” healthwise or financially or in terms of feelings, but in terms of their conscience, and their understanding and reception of the gospel: “so that they may be saved”.


There is a clear instruction here to the Corinthian Christians: If you are told that the meat was offered in sacrifice: “do not eat it.” This is now a command, not a suggestion. It’s no longer a freedom of conscience issue, but has been taken over by the superior principle of love for neighbour. It has to be understood in the context of that relationship.


To eat something that you have been told has been offered in sacrifice communicates endorsement of that act of idolatry, and that is why it is forbidden, because it misrepresents the gospel and causes the other person “to stumble”. They will interpret it as suggesting that Christians are able to accommodate idolatry at the same time as worshipping Jesus.


Applying this to today: we need not worry ourselves about the provenance of every single product we consume. But if we know, if we are told, that something has been produced with the fruit of child sacrifice, as these vaccines have been, and especially if that child sacrifice continues today with society’s blessing (and therefore ours by default), as it does, then unless I’m mistaken this passage of Scripture issues a command, not freedom of conscience. The command is this: do not partake of it. Not so much because of our conscience, but because of the conscience of those around us.


It is to avoid communicating (and the tepidity of our stand against abortion only reinforces this message) that we are comfortable with, tolerant of, even willing to benefit from, child sacrifice. We misrepresent Christ if we show indifference toward child sacrifice, or if we consider our own health interests to be superior to opposing and ending the genocide. Simply keeping our heads down or staying neutral is not an option: we need to communicate proactively that child sacrifice is wrong and needs to be stopped.


I eagerly invite discussion over this because if my reading is right, the implications are huge: this is not a freedom of conscience issue but one in which Christians are called to take a clear stand: there is one right answer. If I’m wrong I need to be shown that I am wrong in order to prevent me from causing all sorts of harm.


This is Part 4 of a series of blogs responding to the recent Evangelical Alliance webinar on the ethics of the Covid-19 vaccines. I'm grateful to the EA for hosting this timely and stimulating online event. A recording of the event, together with a written introduction from the EA and accompanying papers, is available here, so I won’t spend virtual ink summarising who said what. Instead, in this series of blogs, I want to pick up on a few specific points, offer some personal reflections/analysis, and then suggest how we might helpfully advance the debate in a new and different direction. Read Part 1...

Read Part 2...

Read Part 3

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5 Comments


Thank you so much Dave for all of your posts on this vital issue, and for the courageous and inspiring stand you are taking. It is very much appreciated - please keep going. I am sharing your articles with others in the hopes that they will begin to see the importance of this issue and the opportunity it could provide, as well as the cost it may demand.


A counter-argument I have come across is 'Where do we draw the line?' in refusing to use medical treatment (or any product for that matter) with ties to abortion, or injustice, or sin of any kind. But I feel that once you are made aware of such a connection, whatever you then…

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Thank you for these articles. They have helped me to marshall my thoughts amidst the covid 19 noise. As Christians we definitely need to consider the moral issues, such as the use of fetal cell lines in the vaccine production, and we need to consider how we have to act to proclaim Jesus is Lord of all, the only way of salvation and the only hope for our world. It’s actually not PPE that saves although might help, nor a vaccine....Being prepared to live this will indeed be costly and very misunderstood, but may we all seek to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, and to proclaim His salvation day after day!

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Sarah Turner
Sarah Turner
Dec 20, 2020

Dave...thankyou for your clear thinking...I m finding few friends who are on the same page...and the isolation is growing ! I will not be taking the vaccine as I had an abortion at 22 years old and thereafter could not have children...I had by then become a Christian and although offered IVF I refused as I told them I could not again be involved in kiling fertilised embryos....I believe we do stand at a moment where we can use this ethical moment to say where we stand. Much of the christian community is compromised and does not understand but we have a higher Judge to stand in front of one day. I value that you listen to all sides…

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Replying to

He who is forgiven much loves much luke7:47

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Sarah Piaggio
Sarah Piaggio
Dec 17, 2020

I had all my vaccinations, and my daughter had all hers before I ever had any idea that there might be a link with abortion. And I only found out because I was specifically looking into the subject of abortion. I don't think the average person is even aware of it as an issue. We should have been banging the drum about this issue since the 1970s, but it's not too late to start.

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