Albert Mohler says he is comfortable taking the COVID vaccine when it becomes available. But he also understands why some, especially Christians, may hesitate to roll up their sleeves when the time comes. In an article that is part praise for the vaccine and part admonishing caution in its distribution, Mohler argues the vaccine should not present a moral dilemma to Christians. In fact, taking the vaccine falls under the category of loving one’s neighbor.
“I will take this vaccine as soon as it is available to me,” Mohler writes in “Vaccines and the Christian Worldview: Principles for Christian Thinking in the Context of COVID,” posted yesterday to his website. “I will take it not only for what I hope will be the good of my own health, but for others as well.”
The Vaccine Should Be Celebrated
The speed at which the vaccine was created represents “an unprecedented event in medical history,” according to Mohler. “In terms of technology, it hearkens back to the Apollo moon mission,” Mohler writes. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President compared the advances in science necessary to pull off a vaccine in this short amount of time to the 1960’s Space Race, when the U.S. met President John F. Kennedy’s goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
But as impressive as “Operation Warp Speed” has been, many are still wary of taking the vaccine, some for ethical reasons.
What Should Christians Think About Taking the Vaccine?
Mohler writes there are seven points to take into consideration as Christians grapple with the ethicality and the efficacy of the vaccine and ultimately decide whether or not to take it.
“First, Christians do not believe in medical non-interventionism.”
It is not wrong for a Christian to seek to prevent contracting the virus by taking the vaccine, Mohler argues. “Medical treatment is an extension of God’s common grace and Christians have always understood this,” Mohler writes. “That is why, throughout history, where you found Christians you found hospitals and the church treating the sick.”
In fact, Mohler goes so far as to say Christians view the prevention and treatment of diseases as a “biblical mandate.” Christian ministers have even played a role in advocating for vaccines. In 1758, Jonathan Edwards actually died as a result of receiving a “wrongly administered inoculation,” but Mohler says the more important point than his dying is that he was willing to take the inoculation in the first place. Edwards sought to demonstrate the legitimacy of inoculations, “based in the Christian worldview assertion that science and medicine are predicated on the world as orderly and intelligible—because the Creator made the world this way.”
“Secondly, we must consider the derivation of the vaccine itself—what kind of technology was involved in the development of a vaccine?”
Mohler acknowledged that many vaccines and other medical treatments are developed with the use of “morally problematic cell lines.” The two cell lines that are used for the development of medical treatments today are problematic because one came from an aborted baby and the other from a terminal cancer patient who was not asked for her consent when the cells were extracted. As Mohler explains, the cells were obtained in 1951 (in the case of the cancer patient, Henrietta Lacks) and 1960 (the aborted baby). The cell lines developed from those original samples are so far removed from their origins that it’s hard to say that anything we have used in our modern medicine is directly related to those original unethical acts. Mohler writes:
Christians need to understand that no step in producing these vaccines had any direct involvement in an abortion of a single child. There is also the issue of proximity. The further you go in history, the harder it is to keep a clear line of culpability in morally significant events. That said, the good news about the COVID-19 vaccines is that even as these cells…were used to create the basic shape of the vaccine, no fetal tissue was used.
At the same time, Mohler does not brush off the significance of the fact that a baby was aborted in 1960 and we are using that “horrifying wrong” to our advantage. However, Mohler argues “that does not mean that good cannot come from that harm, even as it is a good tainted by the realities of a sinful world.” (For more information on how fetal tissue is related to the coronavirus vaccine see here.)