“Consider peace between two countries that has been brought about by past unjust means (such as the targeting of civilians or the use of illicit weapons),” he writes. “Must the peace and its benefits be rejected by current leaders whose responsibilities would be threatened by their loss?” The answer is no.
We should not do away with our peace treaties with Japan because those treaties were the result, at least in part, of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Nor should we say that—because the bombing of non-combatants resulted in an end to World War II—we would be right to use such weapons on future civilian populations. That would not be true either.
Or, as evangelical writer Joe Carter argues, a patient receiving an organ transplant from a murder victim would not, in any way, be morally responsible for murder. Withholding the life-saving transplant because of the murder would be itself a wrong. But so would suggesting that, because lives were saved by a morally-wrong murder we should therefore open up murder camps to provide organs for those who need them. That would be an atrocity.
Torture is wrong, no matter how many lives are saved by the information yielded from such torture. We should work to end it. That does not mean, though, that a security guard who receives a call that his building is about to be attacked by terrorists needs to investigate whether that information came from torture before he evacuates the building.
At the Jordan River, John the Baptist directed against the sins of tax collectors or soldiers of the Roman Empire in defrauding or extorting people (Lk. 3:12-14). They could not justify such things by pointing to all the good things that came about from the Empire as a result of taxes—such as the peace between nations or the road system. At the same time, Christians in the Book of Acts, using Roman roads to carry the gospel, would not need to ascertain whether the taxes that paid for a particular road came from a pre- or post-sycamore tree Zacchaeus (Lk. 19:1-10).
We should—as people committed to the dignity and sanctity of human life—continue to work to make sure that unjust means are never used, even for good purposes. That does not mean, though, that whenever knowledge is found by such means that we should pretend that we do not know it or that we should refuse to safeguard future lives with such knowledge.
Again, I am not suggesting that every vaccine necessarily might involve unethical aspects of research, but simply that, even if some do, that fact does not mean that a Christian inoculated from disease by such a vaccine would be sinning to do so. Taking the COVID vaccine is morally right.
The work of our medical experts, the pharmaceutical industry, government authorities, and research institutes is astounding, to have come up with a vaccine so quickly. That does not mean that we would necessarily endorse every step of the process in discovering the knowledge to find it. But it does mean that, when it comes to a way to protect ourselves, our neighbors, and our mission field from a disease that has killed far too many, we are right, in a time of thanksgiving, to give thanks where thanksgiving is due.
This article was originally published here.