How Not to Use the Bible to Argue Against Vaccines

Photo by Lukas on Unsplash

It looks like vaccine passports are becoming a reality in many jurisdictions.  The British Columbia government is requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination to access activities like ticketed sporting events, dining in restaurants, fitness centres, and conferences.  On post-secondary campuses,  proof of vaccination will be required to participate in sports and clubs and to live in student housing.

And some people are upset by this. 

Among the upset are Christians.  On the news, I saw protestors carrying signs with Bible verses.  Stories are popping up on my social media feeds of students at Christian colleges and universities who are upset because their plans for the fall have been disrupted by vaccine requirements.  Their frustrations are supported by biblical texts.  One group of Christian students started a petition demanding the school’s leadership reject government rules on biblical grounds. 

Many of these attempts to use biblical texts and principles to challenge vaccine passports are quite weak.  But, under certain circumstances, it is possible to find a biblical justification for disobedience.  Here is my list of do’s and don’ts to help Christians use the Bible to present a strong challenge to government rules and restrictions, not just for vaccine passports, but for a wide variety of situations in which it is appropriate to actively challenge and even disobey earthly authorities.

For Christians, winning the argument and getting what we want isn’t the ultimate prize.  My assumption in compiling this list assumed that integrity in pursuit of the truth is our concern.

Don’ts

Don’t argue using the principle of Unity

Christian unity is very important.  After all, Jesus prayed for one thing and that was for unity amongst his disciples (John 17:11, 21-23).  Some Christians are using the unity argument to justify their position on all sorts of Covid-19 measures from masks to vaccination requirements.   This is ill-advised.  The problem is that both sides can use the unity argument.  And since the significant majority of British Columbians are vaccinated, some may argue that it falls on the minority to submit to the majority in order to preserve unity.  

Don’t argue that their motives are nefarious

This argument is out there, but Christians ought only to use it if there is, in fact, some sort of plot or power grab by the government and, by extension, Christian leaders who are adhering to government requirements.  I read one post that accused Christian leaders of following government guidelines “under the guise of protecting our community.”  Under other circumstances, this might be an effective argument, but in this case, the government’s actions can easily be viewed as motivated solely on protecting the community.   

Here is the line of reasoning that the government and its supporters follow to arrive at vaccine passports and other limitations:

  1. They think we are in the middle of a pandemic–the virus is contagious and it kills people.
  2. They believe that it is the government’s responsibility, among other things, to protect people. 
  3. They trust science and so they believe that there are two main ways to protect people in a pandemic–a lockdown or an effective vaccination. 
  4. They trust the data and believe that the vaccine is effective.
  5. They think that it is important that we respect people’s rights to not receive a vaccination.
  6. They think that another lockdown would be very bad for a lot of people–lots of businesses would fold, education would be compromised, and mental health would suffer, to name a few.
  7. They conclude a hybrid system (whereby the vaccinated can go to a movie, and the unvaccinated can’t) is the best way to both protect people’s rights to refuse the vaccine and protect other people from dying, while, at the same time, avoiding the negative effects of a full lockdown.

Because this line of argument makes sense, these people will not take seriously an accusation that there is an ulterior motive at work.  

If you still want to accuse the powers that be of some sinister motive,  you need to be specific and the sinister motive must be, at least, plausible.  

Don’t be careless with the Bible  

Some people will believe that the very presence of a Bible verse makes our position biblical.   But we need to be careful.  The Bible is the Word of God, so it goes without saying that it needs to be treated accordingly.  We can’t just Google “Bible verses about freedom” and then argue that they all support our freedom to attend a basketball game without two doses.  For instance, John 8:36 (“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”) does not say that no one has a right to limit my freedom in any way.  Used in this way, one can manipulate the Bible to justify anything.  

Scripture is authoritative in the life of a Chrisitan, so we must have Biblical support for our position, but the Bible must be used responsibly.   I’m not saying that you need to be a Bible scholar to quote the Bible, but you can’t just toss verses in here and there.  You have to do a little bit of thinking in order to line up what you want the Bible to say and what it actually says.

Don’t be too quick to cry “Discrimination!”:

Discrimination is a powerful word these days.  I understand the desire to harness such power for our side, but its power should be used simply as a rhetorical tool–this demeans actual discrimination. 

For many people, discrimination is real, not an abstract concept.   When we use the term in this diminished sense, it diminishes the very real experience of others.   You see, unlike discrimination by gender, race, sexual orientation, or even socioeconomic position, the category of unvaccinated is not rigid.   An unvaccinated person can move to the vaccinated category very easily.  And as soon as the pandemic is over, so too will be the vaccine restrictions.  By the strictest definition of the term, there is discrimination (like when I discriminate ripeness of avocados in the grocery store) going on here, but because the categories are not rigid and temporary, applying it to ourselves in this instance, is inappropriate.

One of the most frequently used, or misused, Bible verses that is brought to bear against the “discrimination” in vaccine passports is Galatians 3:28.

28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

If we read one verse further we realize that this verse is about unity in Christ transcending ethnic, social, and gender distinctions. It does not mean that no Christians should ever be treated differently than any other Christian.  As a matter of fact, Jesus excludes some from the alter (Matthew 5:23) and Paul excludes some Christians from Communion (1 Corinthians 11: 27-34).

Don’t appeal to Pagan Idols

By pagan, I mean “unlit by the light of the gospel.”  In essence, pagans worship idols.  What is an idol?  I am riffing off Tim Keller here: Christians believe that God created everything and he called it all good.  So we have the ultimate thing, God, and a bunch of good things.   When God made people, he made them “in his image” (Genesis 1:26-27).  We are above the good things.  We are to enjoy the good things, worship God, and love our neighbour.   Idolatry is when we worship a good thing instead of God.  This inversion always results in dehumanization and often in human sacrifice.  This is why idol worship is, in God’s view, a detestable practice.  In the ancient world, when we made fertility the ultimate thing, children end up on the altars of the fertility gods. 

A good thing, fertility, replaced God as the ultimate thing, and people suffered.   Our culture has largely abandoned the worship of the true God and replaced him with many different idols.  Wealth, success, beauty, fame, and pleasure are some of the common ones. The worship of each of these has resulted in a wake of human suffering and misery.  Perhaps the most important deity in our society today is individual autonomy, aka “Freedom” or “Rights.”  These are good things–they can’t be the main thing.  When they are, people are sacrificed.  (Watch my video on this subject here.)

Christians ought not to invoke the names of these pagan gods to challenge the government or its policies.  For one thing, these gods have no authority over Christians.  But more importantly, if we allow these false gods to force the opening up of the dorms, restaurants, and sports teams to both vaccinated and unvaccinated, human lives would necessarily be sacrificed on the alters to these pagan gods.  God will find this detestable. 

So when making your placards, Instagram posts, and petitions, be very careful that you do not invoke the names of these good things as if they were the ultimate things. 

This is my list of “Don’ts.”

In my next post, I offer some things we can do and conclude with the one biblical exemption that permits Christians to resist the authorities God has placed over us.  (Read it here.

1 Comment

  1. Monica deRegt

    Very well said! I want to quote so much of it, but this really struck me:
    “And since the significant majority of British Columbians are vaccinated, some may argue that it falls on the minority to submit to the majority in order to preserve unity.”
    It may be hard for some in our individualistic, hedonistic society to accept that freedom and pleasure are not actually more important than putting others above ourselves. And like you said, the unvaccinated do have an option to move to the other camp whenever they wish.

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