In your opinion are vaccine mandates something we are required by God to submit to? In particular covid vaccine mandates?
In the spirit of our mini Pub debate the other day I will say Yes and make my qualifications later.
The civil authorities are empowered to protect life. That includes taking reasonable action to prevent the spread of disease.
In the United States, that falls under the police power given to the states.
The Supreme Court has ruled in Jacobson vs Massachusetts, a case from 1905, that states have the power to mandate vaccines, and this power, if used wisely and moderately, does not violate Fourteenth Amendment civil liberties protections. Of course that case was pre-Warren era. But I dont see it being overturned.
If you believe that mass quarantines and stay at home orders are legal and constitutional, and the states have the power to restrict free movement of people, a very onerous and desperate kind of restriction, in order to prevent the spread of disease, then that commits you to the view that states have the power to mandate vaccines. Whether they should do that in the case of Covid vaccines is a prudential decision that is ultimately in the hands of someone else, someone with authority. But if you admit lockdowns, you have to admit mandated vaccines. Greater to the lesser.
I do not believe mandating vaccines in the kind of social and political environment we are now in would be wise. It would be very, very foolish. The civil authorities should urge people to be vaccinated and aim to peacefully persuade them to do the proper thing to keep themselves and loved ones safe from disease.
@brian.edward.bailey feel free to correct me if I have gotten anything wrong here.
Thanks for your answer Ben. If I have a duty to obey a vaccine mandate but don’t I would be in unrepentant sin right? Are unrepentant sinners permitted to partake of the Lord’s supper? Should elders fence the table from people who refuse vaccines?
Some sins are understandable and others not as much. Just as civil magistrates don’t engineerishly use every power to enforce every rule, so a pastor or elder should not be heavy handed or engineerish with the flock, just for the sake of some principle or other.
Refusing to get a safe vaccine for a dangerous and easily spread illness when you have been commanded to do so by higher authorities is sin, yes. But in the debate around baptism, one side or other is wrong, and therefore in sin. We extend charity on baptism because we admit it’s a hard case. The Covid vaccines are likewise a hard case. We will be judged for every idle word spoken and many of us will have much to answer for just in this last year alone.
Love covers a multitude of sins. I’ve been in the Reformed world for about 7 years. During that 7 years I’ve known Reformed patriarchal homeschooling and classical ed families. Many of these people are extremely opposed to at least some vaccines.
I’ve never been an anti-vaxxer. Admittedly I don’t understand what the fuss is about. It seems to fit a pattern of homeschool rebellion to authority. But my first duty to fellow believers in the church is to love them even if I think they’re wrong about vaccines. I strive for the church’s purity and peace by making my opinion respectfully known at times and then shutting up.
Sorry that’s not consistent but foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.
No. Nope. Negative.
So here’s what I think we all know now. The vaccines don’t prevent infection, which means they also don’t prevent transmission, which means they also don’t prevent mutation.
What they do do is reduce the chances of dying of covid. That being said not everyone’s chances of getting covid are equal, not everyone’s chances of being hospitalized or dying are equal. And we have pretty good data about what those demographic outcomes look like.
The problem is the same people at the highest risk for covid fatality are also the highest risk for adverse reaction to the vaccine, even if it’s still substantially less, it must be considered.
So my point here is that the covid vaccine is not a public health prophylactic as we have been led to believe. In fact, this third wave of COVID is looking almost identical to the first wave when no one was vaccinated.
This is a personal health decision and should be treated as such. People giving it greater importance than that truly are living by their own righteousness.
Notwithstanding the fact that I don’t admit lockdowns, I think you may err in your assignment of which is the greater and which is the lesser. Mandates concerning where we may go and what we may do are categorically different than forced medical procedures, or the taking of things into our bodies. It is one thing to refuse the exile; it is another thing to refuse the king’s food.
Safe in what sense? By what standard? Safe for whom? It certainly wasn’t safe for the aborted infants whose flesh was used for efficacy testing.
A quotable piece of Emerson, perhaps; but a platitude that sounds much wiser than it actually is.
You speak your opinion so matter-of-factly about how it is sinful to refuse a vaccine mandate, and yet go on to speak of charity on the matter of baptism because it’s a hard case… while at the same time trying to correlate the difficulty of the vaccine question to the question of baptism. Well, which is it? You dodge Pastor Spurgeon’s question entirely. Is the vaccine question truly of such a nature that it is so self-evidently sinful as you purport it to be, or is it of a nature akin to the question of baptism? It can’t be both.
The thing which I take from Emerson’s quote is that he just likes the sound of his own voice.
Our elders are providing religious exemption letters to support members of the congregation whose employers are mandating vaccination.
We oppose mandatory vaccination.
In essentials, unity.
In non-essentials, liberty.
In all things, love
Because: “all authority in heaven and on earth” and many other Scriptures that combine with Romans 13 to complete a balanced doctrine of authority.
Alive! in Christ
I’d love to read the text of the letter.
In a debate about vaccines or baptism, two opposing positions can’t both be right. One is in sin. You believe me to be in sin for supporting Covid vaccination. I’m not happy about that. I’m sorry we are divided, but I won’t press it beyond saying, I think you’re wrong but I will get over it.
Telling people that vaccine mandates are tyranny packs the issue with moral weight, because who wants to support tyranny? But it’s a simplistic answer to a more complicated question. It gives certain people and ministries a flag they can fly to signal that they are serious people, ignoring the complexities of the issue.
Moral weight in this discussion is unavoidable, and we all need to recognise it. That fact should motivate us to be both convicted and charitable in our evaluations of each others’ positions. Convicted…because we need to be men about this, and men can disagree well while being firmly opposed to each others’ views (that’s why I love Sanityville). Charitable…because we may not be the first to work through these issues in the history of the church, but we are working through these issues in something of a unique situation for ourselves. None of us came to Covid fully prepared for these questions.
But I don’t think this particular question can be resolved by considering vaccine mandates in the abstract. In other words, this particular vaccine and its attendant circumstances have to be evaluated on their own merits. As do the biblical passages regarding a Christian’s duty to submit to his government.
Christians may be biblically required to obey vaccine mandates, and this particular (hypothetical) vaccine mandate may be tyrannical. Both can be true at the same time.
If so, I ask does not the law of love requires the church to speak prophetically against the abuse of our neighbors. It seems we are in danger of calling evil good when we require glad obedience to that which is evil. And I’m not speaking generally but specifically. A tyrant may compel that which is good and he should be obeyed. But if a thing he does is tyrannical/evil we must admit it is not good, and being silent about it does not honor authority but makes us callus to our neighbors suffering.
That’s precisely why this is so complicated Ken. There are multiple parallel discussions going on over Covid, and it’s virtually impossible to pull them apart and deal with them one by one.
- Is Covid the medical crisis it’s claimed to be?
- Is the vaccine medically necessary?
- Is the vaccine even safe?
- Is the vaccine ethically acceptable for pro-life Christians?
- Have the restrictions been an undue infringement of our natural liberties?
- Have the restrictions placed on churches been an undue infringement of our religious liberties (our responsibilities before God as his people)?
- And now, are vaccine mandates something we’re required by God to submit to?
I have answers to some of these questions, at least I have answers I’ve become comfortable with. But whether or not you or anyone else agrees with those answers will be contingent on your answers to the rest of the questions in that list.
Another similar example would be gun control. The right to self-defence is a well established part of both natural law and specific revelation. How does that apply to the right of Americans to both own and carry firearms in the US today? Does it answer all our questions and a way that settles all disputes? I am pretty sure it does not.
So to your question above, and to my point about this thread, discussions about law of love or the validity of vaccine mandates in the abstract are not going to get us very far. If you believe the vaccine is itself dangerous, then pastors urging their congregations to submit to governments is going to be a tough pill to swallow. If you’re not persuaded that the vaccine itself is a medical danger, then the government mandating vaccines in this particular instance may still be tyrannical even though it is not itself a danger to life. But there is still a place for submission to government even when its decrees are obviously unjust.
This isn’t an answer. I’m just trying to unpick why your questions don’t get us any closer to the answer (that’s not to say it’s necessarily a fault of your position).
(Is it bad form to quote oneself?)
I’ll put my cards on the table regarding these questions. Fire away at my answers as necessary!
- Covid does not seem, to me, to be the crisis it’s claimed to be. That is not to say it doesn’t exist, or that it’s not dangerous (especially for the elderly and medically vulnerable), but I’m not persuaded that it has itself warranted the measures that have been taken.
- The necessity of the vaccine may be necessary or beneficial depending on one’s state of health. Pushing it on the whole populace with so little time to evaluate it and with its known limitations seems culpably foolish to me (and a recipe for avoidable insurrection - think Rehoboam’s counsellors).
- I am not persuaded that the vaccine is itself the great medical danger that many claim it is. The fact (?) that many who have take the vaccine have died (or had serious health complications) seems consistent with the sort of people who would have been most likely to benefit from it in the first place (i.e. the medically vulnerable).
- I am persuaded, despite the tremendous ethical issues surrounding vaccine research and abortion (which are certainly significant), and for exegetical reasons, that Christians are not biblically required to forgo either this vaccine or vaccines in general.
- Yes, I think the restrictions placed on society in general have been unjust and undue, especially after summer 2020. I was sceptical March 2020 about the scope of the ‘crisis,’ but I was sympathetic to governments wanting to be cautious. I believe that much is do them for their office. But after we passed the first wave spring 2020 and it was manifestly clear that this was not the plague it was claimed to be (100,000 cases a day, 2,000,000 US or UK deaths), I believe the restrictions should have been quickly rescinded. BUT…that doesn’t mean it was sinful to obey these restrictions or inappropriate for pastors to urge their congregations to honour the governing authorities by obeying the restrictions.
- Which means I believe the restrictions placed on churches have been both unwarranted and an infringement of our legal rights of freedom of religion. The varying severity of restrictions through the US (and the UK) only complicates the issue. We’ve only been ‘allowed’ to sing for a few weeks in the UK. That did not sit well with me at all, and I worked through a discussion on sphere sovereignty with our elders because of the issues related to this. But we still chose to comply. I’m persuaded that the unwarranted restrictions on society or church do not necessitate disobedience. Does that mean I’ll urge compliance if we’re asked to close church again? Almost certainly not.
When it comes to the term “mandate”, I think this discussion would greatly benefit from a more precise definition. I don’t think there is any mandate now nor ever will be that Americans who are not legally institutionalized will be forced to receive some substance into their body against their will. Instead, the mandates forbid entrance, employment, or schooling within certain facilities if the vaccine is not taken. The latter type of mandate can greatly limit freedoms, but it is not the same sort of thing as the former type.
Really good point. I can’t see any governor, president, or prime minister who would risk the fallout by a blanket mandate.
My guess is the discussion is phrased as it is to argue from the greater to the lesser. If national or statewide vaccine mandates are problematic, then are business, educational, institutional, etc mandates then problematic…
The point made by Ben about refusing mandates being sinful but baptism being an issue of charity is very illustrative of the state of the Reformed world on many issues, COVID included. Second table law is supreme; first table law is… adiaphora. This is a total inversion of the biblical pattern, focusing on second principles while dismissing or ignoring first principles. I find this thinking everywhere on many issues, demonstrating our inability to think rightly about things. Romans 1 is clear: where second table transgressions abound, first table transgressions precede and abound the more. Meanwhile, many are content to play the one-stringed harps of authority or tyranny.
Here’s a document issued by the RPCAP on some biblical principles concerning vaccinations. My understanding, after the last presbytery meeting, is they are going to look even further into this issue as it is becoming increasingly important.
To be clear, my conclusion was not that Christians must disobey all tyranny, but rather that Christians with the support of the church should speak out against tyranny. But I generally agree with your assessments of those previous points.
But speaking prophetically against the injustice of the acts themselves and compliance with the governing authorities aren’t mutually exclusive.
But they are not the same thing and we should be careful not to equivocate that they are.