February 6, 2015

Anti-vaxxers and epistemological narcissism

by Jesse Johnson

This week was vaccine week in the news. Measles outbreaks in California and Arizona shed light on the trend of anti-vaxxers: parents who intentionally do not have their kids immunized against measles (the actual vaccination is against measles, mumps, and rubella). Today I want to appeal to Christian parents who are in the anti-vaxx crowd. But before getting there, a little history:

Measles is a disease that spreads rapidly, largely decimated the Native American population in the United States, and brought global chaos  for centuries. It is not frequently lethal in healthy children who receive medical attention, but because of how painful it is and how quickly it spreads person-to-person, through much of the last 500 years it has been regarded as one of the most dangerous diseases.

But in the 1950’s a Navy pilot and war-hero-turned doctor was able to identify the virus that caused measles. This soon led to a vaccination, likely one of the most impressive feats of the modern world. Not only did the vaccination protect those who received it, but it soon became obvious that there was a societal affect as well. Doctors began to notice  “herd-immunity,” which basically means that when over 90% of the population is vaccinated, the disease stops spreading to the point that it dies out. In fact, in 2000 the US Centers for Disease Control declared that  measles had been effectively eliminated from the US.

One of the most devastating and feared diseases in the history of the world was defeated by a vaccine—a vaccine that not only protected those who received it, but protected those who were too weak to receive it (such as infants, or those with immune deficiency disorders).

But things didn’t stay that way. A 1998 study claimed that the vaccine that had vanquished the disease was also causing harmful side-effects, such as autism in children. The study was later shown to be a fraud, the doctor had his medical license revoked, and was essentially tarred-and-feathered. But with the onset of the internet age, the fraudulent study spread, and was believed by many who simply didn’t know it had been debunked.

Those who were influenced by the study latched on to two concepts—the concept of herd-immunity, and the concept that the vaccine might be dangerous—and a trend of anti-vaxxers was born. Some refuse to vaccinate their children because they read somewhere on-line that the vaccines are dangerous, and they believed what they read. Others refuse to vaccinate because of the, “hey, there is a controversy, these are my kids, so why risk it” attitude.

And while the consensus in the media is that most of that crowd is liberal, non-religious, Whole-foods-shopping, Prius-driving (and that may be true), I also know many Christians who have joined this crowd. Before I appeal to you to get out, let me quickly say that I get why the anti-vaxx argument appeals to Christians.

It appeals to us because we get this basic fact: much of what passes as science these days is a bowl of lies. We are aware that popular science today makes basic mistakes, has all but discarded the scientific method, and is politically and financially driven. We get that the phrase “most scientists agree” means nothing except that the facts are not in. We understand that if “science agrees” that global warming will be the end of snow forever, and then only a few months later says, “never mind, scientists actually agree that it means MORE SNOW THAN YOU’VE EVER SEEN!!!! (and stop calling it warming, sorry about that)”—its credibility is stretched.

Let me grant that much of modern “science” is politically correct more than verifiably true. But with that said, to put vaccines in the same category as macro-evolution and global warming climate-change is to ignore basic evidence. Measles used to ravage the world, and now it has practically been eliminated because of a vaccine. To deny that is to…well, it is to deny science. With that said, here are four reasons Christians should vaccinate their children:

  1. Vaccines are a form of common grace that have dramatically changed the world for the better (Gen 3:18; Ps 145:9-16; Matt 5:44-45; Acts 14:16-17). Participating in the blessings of common grace in a post-Babel society means that we bond together as nations, and we use common grace to make quality of life better (Gen 9:6, 2 Kings 12:2, Luke 6:33). We work, we marry, and we protect each other. A basic way to do that is to be vaccinated against diseases that plague the cultures that don’t vaccinate.
  1. Thus, being vaccinated is a form of loving your neighbor (Lev 19:18; Matt 5:43, Rom 13:8-10, Jas 2:8). Knowing that some are too little, too young, or too weak to be vaccinated, we protect the weak by being vaccinated.

  1. We are not of those who are swayed by internet-rumors that have since been widely discredited (Job 12:20; Prov 13:16). That’s not to say that we blindly believe whatever we hear “science” say. Rather, we have a healthy skepticism, which in this case is satisfied by the universal scientific appeal to the safety of these vaccines (accompanied by the legal mandate to do it in most states). In fact, it discredits our discernment when we believe unsubstantiated and discredited rumors over the obvious fact that measles used to produce terror, and does so no longer.
  1. Christians are those that take risks for the advancement of the common good. We don’t teach our children “safety first,” but rather, “soli Deo Gloria” first, and everything else follows. Christians used to understand this. The ethics of Jonathan Edwards, who in one of his first acts as Princeton’s President received the Small Pox Vaccine and later died from it, used to be the norm. The wrong moral from Edward’s death is “avoid vaccines.” The right moral is “take calculated risks to better society.”

I recognize that this is a Christian gray-area, and it goes beyond what is written to say that a person is sinning by being an anti-vaxxer. But it does not go beyond what is written to appeal to believer’s discernment: don’t undo one of society’s crowning scientific advancements because of epistemological narcissism.

Jesse Johnson

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Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA. He also leads The Master's Seminary Washington DC location.
  • Laura

    You don’t address some of the moral issues anti-vaxxers have against vaccines, such as the MMR II being developed with voluntarily aborted human fetal tissue or the HepB being pushed on infants less than days old. There are legitimate violations of conscience involved, not just a willingness to skip out on herd immunity or believe a questionably credible study.

    • Still Waters

      The most consistently anti-abortion organization today, the Vatican, extensively studied the origins of the rubella vaccine, which was developed in a line of cells derived from a voluntarily aborted fetus in the 1960s. Their conclusion was that as the rubella vaccine protects other unborn children (rubella is most dangerous to pregnant women as it causes severe birth defects such as blindness, deafness, mental retardation, and even miscarriage), therefore, it should still be taken; and parents should advocate for the vaccine be developed in more ethically derived cell line. Other pro-life organizations would agree: http://www.rtl.org/prolife_issues/LifeNotes/VaccinesAbortion_FetalTissue.html

      As for the Hep B vaccine, there is a very good reason that it is often given so young. Hep B is deadly to infants so if they have been exposed, they must be vaccinated quickly. In this jurisdiction, Hep B is not routinely given, as it is not endemic, but it was where I worked in West Africa. Those who had worked decades in the field there said there was a visible difference between before and after the vaccine campaign started.

      I am by no means in favour of using fetal cell lines, and I think they need to be gradually eliminated from medical use. However, those same cell lines are also used in the manufacture of medications and research. Labs can buy them online. If we are to argue against taking vaccines because certain vaccines were developed from cells taken from an aborted fetus (in my jurisdiction, the only childhood vaccines which were derived from those are rubella and chickenpox) then where does the boycott stop? The better alternative would to campaign against the poor ethics of research labs in using questionable sources for cell research and demand that they follow better guidelines.

      • Dee

        For the Hep B vaccine, unless the mother is tested positive for Hep B, then that infant does not to be vaccinated for it. There is no reason for it. The infant isn’t sexually active or an IV user which is the ONLY way to contract Hep B. I’m tired of people giving us third world information, when that is not the conditions that we live in.

    • Stephanie

      I was disappointed that the article didn’t address this concern as well – although I do have concerns with some of the ingredients that are present in the vaccines, I would honestly still vaccinate if this was my only issue. However, after much study and thought and prayer, my husband and I feel that we are morally obligated not to benefit from the evil of abortion and misuse of the human fetal tissue used. I do think this is a complicated issue and I can sympathize with those who come to a different conclusion – but because we feel convicted in this area, to go ahead would not proceed from faith but instead would be sin. So yes, there are other reasons Christian parents decide not to do the MMR.

      • Still Waters

        I am not seeking to turn you from your decision, in saying this, just adding another thought. I too spent some time in prayer about this issue. An analogy came to mind. I genuinely have grave concerns with how my European ancestors obtained this land from the Native North Americans. What they did to take the land was in many cases, downright evil and resulted in the cruel deaths of many Natives. Living in the prosperous and free nation that I do, I have benefited from the violence and deceit that was practiced. Does that mean I should pack up and return to Europe? I see the use of fetal cell lines in a similar way.

        • Dennis HC

          There’s also the biblical example of Joseph being sold into slavery… his brothers meant it for evil (as in the case of the abortion), but God redeemed it for good (as in the case of the vaccine). Just as accepting the Joseph narrative doesn’t make a person pro-slavery, neither does accepting the reality of the provenance of the vaccine make a person pro-abortion.

    • The way the original tissue was obtained has been open to speculation. But even if it were true, the human protein as used today is created by simple cell multiplication. There are moral issues with the way America was colonized and the way the South was built, but I don’t read of Christians calling for a wholesale exodus from America because we are living comfortably off that sin.

    • “pushed on infants”? The whole point of this post is an appeal to parents to make informed decisions with their children.

      As for the motives of those who skip out, I took those catagories from NYT’s Douthat: http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/02/04/among-the-anti-vaxxers/

  • Wow, looks like you drank the kool-aid. As a Christian, I think you have a responsibility to look at all the evidence before you make judgements on what Christian parents “should” do. Frankly, I think Scientologists have a better appreciation for the human body than most Christians and we should be ashamed of that. You have no idea what the negative effects of this vaccine have been (and I’m not simply suggesting Austism). And that is exactly the point. Do not fault Christians for not wanting to enter into this Big Pharma-sponsored experiment. Please be more responsible in your research and writing and don’t just regurgitate Big Pharma’s talking points.

    • MKR

      Delina Pryce McPhull. I feel incredibly sorrowful when reading misguided posts like yours coming from belivers. If anyone has swallowed the kool-aid of Western, individualistic culture, it’s you. I live in Asia. I grew up in Asia and I am now raising my children in Asia. Let me tell you, I line up for vaccines. I see the terrible effects of these diseases that you, because of vaccinations, are shielded from. Friends orphaned because their parents died from Hep B. Encephilitis brought on by the mumps. Young adults who will deal with a life of being crippled from polio. I truly believe vaccinations are God’s gift to us on so many levels. They are not perfect but we will not have perfection until Christ comes and in the meantime- vaccines are one of the biggest life savers worldwide. It’s such a pity that Christians subscribe to so many of the wacked out big-pharma-conspiracy-theories when we are the ones who are supposed to be different. I challenge you to live a year in Pakistan or some other vaccine deficient country and see how far you get.

    • Robert Sakovich

      You’re assuming a lot here, Delina. And you should offer some proof to back up what you’re saying here instead of serving an appeal to yourself as an authority. I suggest that you take heed of what MKR and Andrew K are saying here as it seems you, like most western/American Christians, have grown to accustomed to the ease of life that is here in our day and age. There is much to be learned from the history of the struggles that previous generations have dealt with, but it seems we’re too busy enjoying all of our ease and technology to recognize that they came at a cost.

      • Here is a video to get you started (it addresses the “herd immunity” concept). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubSPeZAOeDs

        I am no more of an authority on vaccines than the blogger here is. The reason you don’t question him, is because you agree with him.

        I don’t think we should forget the struggles of previous generations, but we should also not overlook the struggles of the current generation that is dealing with the onslaught of pharmaceuticals, environmental toxins, tainted food and water supply….It’s all related. Vaccines are not 100% safe. And where there is risk, you must weigh (and study) all the risks and benefits. If vaccines are all their manufacturers say they are, then they should be open to scrutiny. This openness is sorely lacking. It is no wonder so many of us are suspicious.

        Furthermore, we must ask: Are there ways to build up an immune system that doesn’t involve vaccines?
        How did we ever survive this long without the vaccines that have been developed in the last 100 years? What problems have we seen exponentially increase in these last 100 years? Who is studying this?
        And what about shedding? How does this play into the equation?
        What influence do the drug companies have on our government (CDC in particular), medical schools and research funding?

        Before we can declare that everyone MUST do something, we must take all of these issues into consideration.

        I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind about whether or not to vaccinate. My primary objection in this post is the suggestion that to be Christian means to vaccinate….to love your neighbor, means to vaccinate. C’mon! The suggestion that in order to prove we are not narcissistic is to blindly follow the culture and the government is irresponsible. To suggest that the answer to individualistic thinking is agreeing with the blogger, is equally invalid.

        • MKR

          Just a little insight into pre-vaccine morbidity. Sure, people survivied. But not long and not as comfortably as many do now. I am still here because somewhere along the line God gifted man with the ability to remove an infected appendix safely (someone hundreds of years ago would not have been so fortunate.) And today, millions are still here because they were vaccinated. Vaccines shouldn’t be shunned any more than an appendectomy should be shunned. Take note of the following figures and be thankful you didn’t live then… https://www.behance.net/gallery/2878481/Vaccine-Infographic

          • I noticed that you did not address any of my questions. Was this on purpose? This is not a debate about the blessings of scientific and medical advancement.

          • MKR

            We live under the fall and will do so until Christ’s return. Which means nothing will be perfect. In the last 100 years vaccines have increased as well as other harmful things and yet vaccines get the blame and not obvious factors such as sedentary lifestyles or junk food. In other ways life spans worldwide have greatly increased. We have many options available to us in order to be good stewards of the bodies God gave us. Vaccines is one of them. So are vegetables, fruit, excercise and sleep. I breastfed both my babies. We do not eat processed food. We eat little meat and lots of plants. We eat whole grains and very little sugar. I haven’t had a soda in 5 years, and my kids never have. They both have only been on anti-biotics twice. And yet I still vaccinate- because all of that still is not enough for many viruses. That’s why vaccines have been enormously helpful. I do not think it’s an issue, again, of there not being answers to your questions. It’s a matter of you believing or not the overwhelming evidence that is already there.

        • Robert Sakovich

          Delina, you made an accusation that Jesse is just regurgitating “Big Pharma’s talking points”. I’d say that is slanderous unless you can validate your claim…especially given what your implied assertions are about “Big Pharma”. And I would say that is hardly an indication of individualistic thinking.
          You’re also making assertions that “it’s all related”. You’re going to have to do a lot of work to demonstrate how such general terms as you are throwing around are actually related in a causal fashion if you want to have some sort of basis for what you’re saying.
          You ask how did we survive…how about looking back at the diseases that ravaged past generations and see what they did. They developed vaccines. Maybe if more people actually lived through some REAL pain and suffering, we’d have a better idea of how much better things are now with the vaccinations. Or we can just sit and complain about how much worse off we are because of them. I think you’ll have a hard time convincing anybody who lived through the times that brought about these vaccines that this is true, though.

        • Paul M

          You can’t be serious? Heck, getting out of bed in the morning isn’t safe…yet there are many who wish it – and everything else in life – to be…including life-saving vaccines. Prudence is one thing, but to throw the baby out with the bath water because a tiny percentage have received side-effects is just plain foolish.

          And, that, is not “drinking the Kool-Aid.”

          • Dwight Gingrich

            Since you mention “prior generations working in unison to effect eradication,” I’ll mention a book that I think needs to be read: Dissolving Illusions, by Suzanne Humphries. I have tried to find a substantive negative review, but have not been able to find one so far. It appears to challenge the official/popular story of vaccinations with overwhelming historical data. Here is a review to give a taste: http://www.westonaprice.org/book-reviews/dissolving-illusions-by-suzanne-humphries-roman-bystrianyk/


          • Paul M

            I’ll look into it…always good to investigate.

          • Tim Eriksen

            Delina, to accuse Jesse of drinking the kool aid when you say such things as “but we should also not overlook the struggles of the current generation that is dealing with the onslaught of pharmaceuticals, environmental toxins, tainted food and water supply” shows that you may be the guilty party. Yes there has been increased pharmaceutical use, and some doctors may be too quick to prescribe, but your comment assumes it is overall bad and dangerous, when the truth is, it has been overall a great benefit to society. Our water supply is cleaner. Our food supply is greatly increased. People who in the past would have died from disease are still alive. Our life spans have increased.
            That is not to say there are no concerns or abuses, but there are organizations looking out for the best interests of society’s health, who are not in the pockets of “Big Pharma.”

    • “Scientologists”?

  • Robert Sakovich

    Thanks for this, Jesse. As the father of two sons who are both on the ASD spectrum, I find it incredibly irritating that people are trying to track autism and Asperger’s back to something like vaccination. I can honestly say that I love both of my boys and am thankful that God has shown me grace by bringing them into my life. I can’t for the life of me figure out why so many people are worried about trying to find somebody/something to blame for these conditions instead of learning to grow in love, mercy, and grace towards these children who struggle with learning to express themselves and deal with the areas of life that we make into “gray areas”. I have learned from them that I have so many areas of inconsistency when it comes to orthopraxy…and that points me to Christ.
    I am also curious why people are so quick to discard the history of how and why these vaccines came about. And as for Laura’s objection, I haven’t really heard it voiced much at all, to be honest. I would say we should pushback on the use of aborted fetal tissue, but that doesn’t mean we don’t vaccinate. And that still doesn’t address what Jesse is talking about here, either.

    • Andrew K.

      Here: “Vaccines DO NOT Contain Fetal Tissue”

      Frankly, while the origins of vaccinations (as with innumerable other medical advances) may be disturbing, I also find it ethically irrelevant to their use today.

      • Stephanie

        Andrew, it’s true that this is a common misunderstanding. For clarification though, while the MMR vaccine does not CONTAIN human cells harvested from aborted babies, aborted babies were still used in the development process in that the vaccine contains viruses that were grown in these human cells, so the moral issue still stands.

        • Robert Sakovich

          And polygamists and murderers were in the line of Jesus. God uses ALL things for the good of those He has called.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Others (like Andrew below) have addressed the fetal tissue concern, so I won’t repeat that here. Thanks for reading.

  • Lisa

    Here is something I (who vaccinated my own kids with no problem) can’t get anyone to answer:

    Some parents are refusing to vax because they have concerned about the risks. They might have a child who was injured by a vax and therefore refuses to get more for that child, or refuse to get their other kids vaxed. I can’t say as I blame them.

    How is it ethical or moral to then fight for legalization that those parents be mandated to inoculate their child?

    What is then being said is, “I want my kid to be protected at the risk of your kid. My kid’s safety matters more than your kid’s.”

    Because there is no denying that vaccines come with risks. When one takes one’s child for routine immunizations, you are handed a list of the potential risks. And the *only* way to know whether or not a child will be able to handle a vax is to give it to them. If it causes damage, we say, “Ooops. Oh well. At least all the other kids in his classroom will be safe.”

    I have a nephew who is allergic to peanuts. If there were a new vaccine developed that had peanuts in it, should my brother and his wife be expected to inoculate their son? Should their doctor say, “Well, there’s just a *trace* of peanuts. Your son will *probably* be okay. We won’t know for sure until we give it to him.” My brother and his wife would be crazy to allow it.

    But that’s what we’re asking of a lot of parents who don’t vaccinate.

    Also, a lot of adults aren’t up-to-date on their vaccines. Kids are only a small portion of the population. Why are we focusing only on them and not also on all the un-vaxed adults?

    • MKR

      I’m 39 and because of all the news, I just got an MMR booster after seeing an article on adults and vaccinations. I was vaccinated in my childhood but was found to have little rubella immunity in my pregnancies- thus a booster was a good idea. For those truly seeking to be safe and keep others safe- they’ll heed alot of the info that IS coming out on adults and being properly vaccinated.

      • Lisa

        MKR, I hear what you’re saying but not sure you’re understanding me. I am for many vaccines but there is no denying that they do harm some people. Just as the story of your aunt and polio, a family friend has a daughter in a wheel chair due to the DPT vac she received years ago. As much as I am for vaccines, I am every bit as much for parental rights, and for each of as as adults to not be mandated to receive medical care we may oppose. For every person helped by vaccines, there are examples of others being harmed. We must not allow our country to entertain the idea of forcing medical treatments on any of our citizens.

    • Ummm…a lot of what you wrote just isn’t true. As in the only way to see if a vax is harmful is to give it. That’s the point of my orrigial tweet up top. This is an issue that has been tested and already litigated, so to speak. Its not a kid-by-kid thing here.

  • MKR

    Delina Pryce McPhull. I feel incredibly sorrowful when reading misguided posts like yours coming from belivers. If anyone has swallowed the cool-aid of Western, individualistic culture, it’s you. I live in Asia. I grew up in Asia and I am now raising my children in Asia. Let me tell you, I line up for vaccines. I see the terrible effects of these diseases that you, because of vaccinations, are shielded from. Friends orphaned because their parents died from Hep B. Encephilitis brought on by the mumps. Young adults who will deal with a life of being crippled from polio. I truly believe vaccinations are God’s gift to us on so many levels. They are not perfect but we will not have perfection until Christ comes and in the meantime- vaccines are one of the biggest life savers worldwide. It’s such a pity that Christians subscribe to so many of the wacked out big-pharma-conspiracy-theories when we are the ones who are supposed to be different. I challenge you to live a year in Pakistan or some other vaccine deficient country and see how far you get.

    • Andrew K.

      Well said!

      I live in Asia as well, and my mother-in-law’s sister was crippled, bedridden, and eventually died from polio–completely preventable had she been vaccinated.

      The West has completely forgotten how awful were these horrible plagues.

      • I know children that have been crippled by (blindness, brain damage, severe autism). The pharmaceutical companies paid them for damages. Does this mean no one should vaccinate and all vaccines are bad? Let’s study our logic.

        • Robert Sakovich

          Really? Severe autism has not been demonstrably linked to any of these vaccines. Any company that paid damages did so to stay out of court.

          • MR

            But, can scientists say for certain that vaccines are not linked to autism?

          • Robert Sakovich

            MR…that’s not how it works. The claim has been made against vaccines and the burden of proof is on those making that claim.

        • Andrew K.

          Actually, I’m not really certain what you are saying.

    • If I lived in your situation, my response *might* be different. You cannot expect me to live in response to your reality instead of my own (and visa versa). If the risks to disease are greater than the risks of a vaccine, then by all means, vaccinate. That is not the case with measles. It is not about a conspiracy theory, it is about the real influence that companies with a lot of money have on our governments, our media and our public opinion …and they don’t provide the science to back up their claims.

      Everyone should have a choice about what chemicals and viruses they choose to inject in their bodies.

      • MKR

        Not true Delina. Again, don’t trip yourself up on the “my truth vrs. your truth” logic. My reality is that I am an American citizen who lives in Asia but who’s parents now live in the US and I will be visiting the US in the Spring. Aren’t you glad I am vaccinated so as not to bring anything in to the US? I would like to say the same to you. We live in a global village, do not delude yourself into thinking the US is some protected land mass. It is not. We live in worldwide community. And as Christians it is our responsibility to love our neighbor. For me that means being vaccinated and it should mean the same to everyone, especially Christians. As for science, it’s not a matter of there not being massive scientific evidence in support of vaccines, it’s a matter of people like you choosing not to belive it. I’ll use the analogy- the sun exists whether or not we choose to belive it does. Vaccines work wheather or not we believe they do.

        • If you think that the vaccine issue is as obvious as the sun, then you are being willfully ignorant.

          We live in a global village, yes. But how come when we travel overseas, there are some vaccinations that a fully-vaccinated child has to get in order to travel. How come all available vaccines are not on the vaccine schedule? You vaccinate according to your immediate risk. That’s obvious.

          As Christians it is also our responsibility to care for our children and do the best we know how for those God has placed in our care. I can’t protect the world against some potential risk and ignore my present reality.

          Americans that are going to breastfeed for a month, put their newborns in daycare with lots of kids, raise their kids on a diet of processed foods, and give their kids antibiotics every time they’re sick SHOULD VACCINATE.

          I am not against vaccinations. I am against the idea that building immunity and building a healthy immune system can only be achieved by vaccinations.

          Biologically we are not all alike. We don’t all have the same lifestyle. We don’t all live in the same countries with the same risks. Vaccines are not 100% safe or risk-free for the person being vaccinated or for the society around them (look up vaccine shedding). Therefore, it is irresponsible to say that to be a Christ-follower means you should vaccinate.

          • Clint

            Thank you, Delina. Great points. I understand why people choose to vaccinate. We did with our first daughter and she had severe reactions. There are risks to each side. I just wish that pro-vaxxers would give me the same respect and not be dismissive.

    • Still Waters

      Yes, as I mentioned above, I worked over a year in West Africa, in a region where they still seek out traditional healers and are doubtful of modern medicine. However, the benefit of the vaccines was so obvious to the population, that they would come willingly and in crowds on vaccination days to have their children vaccinated. Those who had worked longer than I confirmed that they saw a great difference in child morbidity and mortality post-vaccination. I always wonder with the anti-vaccination crowd, if they would refuse to get a vaccination if they were bitten by a rabid animal. Now there is a disease which is 100% fatal if you develop symptoms.

    • Tony Huy

      MKR – Your response seems too black and white. What you are saying is take the Hep B and the Polio vaccine. But what about the chicken pox vaccine? What about HPV? And what about the schedule that is put out for families? Should newborns two days after birth be given vaccines? Are they already immune because of the mother? Do they do this because they don’t trust parents to bring the kids back? Should you give more than 1 vaccine at a time? Have you looked at actual data to see effects and death rates in 1st world countries. Perhaps polio will kill you know matter what country you are in. But is that true of measles? Search the CDC data. Look into Britain’s data. You may find that in the case of measles, the mortality rate was drastically (like 90%+) reduced just over time BEFORE the vaccine was introduced. Please don’t broad stroke the issue.

  • MKR

    thank you Jesse Johnson for such a sensible, gospel drenched post. Very thorough and it touched on some excellent points.

  • Dwight Gingrich

    Two points:
    (1) First, I suspect this is unintended irony in your final paragraph: “one of society’s CROWING scientific advancements.”
    (2) Please read Suzanne Humphrey’s recent book Dissolving Illusions. Here is a review that will give you some idea of its contents. I have tried to find a substantial negative critique of this book, and have not yet found it.
    God bless!

    • Joseph Greene

      Suzanne Humphries is a kidney specialist, not an infectious disease specialist, with a whopping 2 peer reviewed papers published. She’s not a valid source at all.

      • Amos8

        Does that in any way mean that was she said/wrote is not the truth?

    • Thanks for the crowing/crowning. Fixed.

  • David

    Jesse –

    Before these comments blow up, a couple thoughts.

    1) Your characterization of those who exercise a “healthy skepticism” (to re-purpose one of your terms) regarding the safety of vaccines as “epistemological narcissists” seems unloving and uncalled for. It’s no sin to write about your views on a Christian gray-area, but if it is indeed a gray-area, then participating in name-calling is unbecoming. I could certainly argue that one who takes everything the scientific community concludes at face-value is an “epistemological narcissist” as well… but I won’t 🙂 However, this leads to my next point…

    2) Most of your arguments can run easily run in the opposite direction. My background is in statistical analysis and I work in the health care industry, and I can assure you from first-hand knowledge, vaccinations are a MAJOR money-making enterprise, for both the health care provider and the pharmaceutical industry, one that is fiercely protected. And because we know that the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil (1 Tim. 6:10), why would it surprise us that the truth is compromised in these sorts of endeavors? When you combine this with my first-hand knowledge of the dangerous side-effects of vaccinations, I could also make the argument that not educating others of these facts is equally unloving toward my neighbor.

    3) Others have brought up the moral issues in play, so I won’t re-cover that ground, but I will also mention that these issues deserve your attention.

    4) No doubt Wakefield’s study has been discredited, but again, there is evidence to suggest that the side-effects of vaccinations are purposely under-reported. Like I mentioned earlier, it would be easy to maintain that the discernment of those who believe every scientific survey released without a critical analysis of who paid for that survey and how the results were reported is equally discredited.

    5) I’m not sure I see a biblical warrant for “taking risks for the common good.” Obviously I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, either, but I don’t think shaming those who are cautious about vaccinating their children is the right way to make this point in the first place. Perhaps I am mistaken here, and I would love to hear more on this topic from you.

    In the end, I agree that in the common grace of God, the scientific development of vaccinations has been a great achievement, and that they are getting safer. My wife and I are in the process of having our infant vaccinated (although not according to the CDC’s recommended timeline). However, I would urge you and other influential members of evangelicalism to think more carefully about how you write about this gray-area in the public square.

    • Epistemolgical narcissism: I like that term because it reflects the attitude that says: “all of the scientific community is unainmous on this point, but I read a few blog articles that really opened my eyes to the truth, so the abolition of Measles not withstanding, I’m sidding with my skepticism over the science.” I like my term for it :).
      The idea that more should be written on taking risks for the common good is a great suggestion. I’ll try and write more about that in the future.
      Thanks for reading, and for your thoughtful comments.

  • Johnny

    This topic really does not belong here. Its more than a simple “gray area”, but rather a very personal, sometimes hurtful area in which parents have had children damaged by pharma and should be a private matter between the believer and their doctor. But curious: if you as pastor will be pushing for health through vaccines from the pulpit, will you be equally addressing other health issues for your congregation, such as preaching against morbid obesity from bad diet, or cancerous cigarette smoking, or abortifacient birth control pills? (or do those taboo topics get a free pass?)

    But regarding vaccines I’ll bite: say one of the members of your church heeds your advice and has their child fully immunized and then a few days later the child dies (google ‘vaccine related death’ sometime) and the grieving family comes to speak with you, pastor. What will you tell them?

    • Robert Sakovich

      I think a lot of commenters seemed to have skipped past this line and latched onto the last one:

      “I recognize that this is a Christian gray-area, and it goes beyond what is written to say that a person is sinning by being an anti-vaxxer.”

    • Hannah

      Apparently, he will just tell them they took “a risk for the greater good because that’s what Christians do.” Now, where he finds that idea in the Bible, I’m not even sure! He seems to like planting verses out of context and having nothing to do with the topic at hand into his writing.
      Oh, and I suppose those grieving parents should then just get over it and move on?

      • Robert Sakovich

        I’m guessing Peter, Paul, John and other Apostles preaching the Gospel to save souls at the risk of their own lives doesn’t count here, right?

    • Johnny: I’m not pushing anything from the pulpit. Second: you say this belongs between a person and their doctor? Great! I totally agree, and so does the law in most states. In fact it requires vaccines, except in the case of a religious objection. In which case I’m writing above to say why I don’t buy the religious objection clause.

  • Joshua

    While I appreciate Pastor Johnson’s thought on the matter, I find that his thinking isn’t very sound.

    One of the major issues is that the parent’s are making decisions on behalf of their children. This is our God-given right of course, but we are not just considering what we would personally do, but what is best for our child. The bible doesn’t mandate I put others in harm’s way (which is the conviction of the anti-vaxxers for their children) for the good of everyone else. That is a non-Christian belief, not a Christian one. Christians might find Biblical support for putting themselves in harm’s way for the good of others, but we have to be very careful about putting our children in harm’s way for the good of others.

    Secondly, it is philosophically impossible to prove vaccines are safe, sort of like it is impossible to prove God doesn’t exist. Personally, I think that vaccines are largely safe. The issue is whether they can cause catastrophic harm to certain individuals, which is what many parents have said. Peanut butter consumption is largely safe, but can be deadly for certain individuals. And we can’t know whether vaccines are safe for an individual until they are vaccinated, which has potentially devastating consequences. Not all parents want to make put their child in that position. It is wrong to say anti-vaxxers are relying on fraudulent scientific studies when perhaps they are actually them about this from a more philosophically sound perspective and are not being bullied by the status quo (cause let’s be honest, non-vaxxers are still in the far minority).

    Lastly, while Christians may take risks for the common good, it is a huge stretch to get from that to encouraging a person to vaccinate their children. In fact, this now seems to be an admission that Pastor Johnson agrees that vaccines carry legitimate risk. And once again, it is non-Christian viewpoint to belief that the needs of the many legitimizes sacrifice of the few. It is fine for individuals to make that decision; it is wrong to make that decision for others!

    I am grateful for the benefits that vaccines have brought mankind. But I do not feel the need to look down on or chastise others who do not feel compelled to put their own children in harm’s way to protect the children of others.

    • Robert Sakovich

      I think what you’re missing is that this movement isn’t content to just not feel compelled to not put their children in harm’s way. They want to tell parents like me with autistic children that we got it wrong…it’s our fault or the government’s or some pharmaceutical company’s fault.
      As a Christian, I am supposed to realize that God is sovereign and He has a plan and a reason for this. And I don’t need to hear from all sorts of people how it is the fault of vaccines and everything else that my son has sensory overload and that the other kids don’t really get him. I see a lot more people jumping on the vaccination bandwagon than I do people looking to actually care for and love people affected by autism/Asperger’s.
      I can say that I’m glad that he doesn’t have to deal with any of these other conditions on top of autism…that’s for sure.

      • Joshua

        An anti-vaxxer who chastises others for vaccinating their children is doing the exact same thing they don’t want pro-vaxxers to do–make a personal choice based on what they think is best for their child. While my wife and I have been very cautious about vaccinating our children, we aren’t going to be critical of others who do choose to vaccinate. I’m sorry if other anti-vaxxers have criticized you for vaccinating your children; I actually don’t think most anti-vaxxers would, even if the child later developed a condition such as autism.

  • Thanks for a very sensible post, especially the reminder that “safety first” is not a Christian virtue.

  • Ahm7

    What a complete lack of charity and love for your brothers and sisters in Christ and a complete failure to understand where we are coming from. How about you stop claiming we only “read it on the internet” and I’ll refrain from calling you a brainwashed boot-licker, ok? I completely respect your decision to parent the child God placed in your care the way you see fit. Unfortunately,”Christians” like you think it’s appropriate for gov’t to forcefully compel me to make a decision about my child’s health that I believe to be harmful. Shame on you.

    • Robert Sakovich

      What are the quotation marks for? That implies that you think he is not a Christian when you write it like that.

      • Ahm7

        Of all the implications this post made about Christian parents who make a different decision about the health care of their children, I find it humorous you have a problem with my use of quotation marks.

        • Robert Sakovich

          Did you bother reading this part: “I recognize that this is a Christian gray-area, and it goes beyond what is written to say that a person is sinning by being an anti-vaxxer.”
          You’re uncharitable at best, slanderous at worst. And your response hear only shows blind pride in failing to address what I asked.

          • mkdb

            WOW! “That implies that you think he is not a Christian when you write it like that.” Where in the world did you get that implication about Ahm7’s implying this absurdity? This is like saying “Your initials are RS. That implies that you think I am not a Christian.”


            And then you go on to judge and condemn this person for trying to point this out? “uncharitable”? “slanderous”? Really? Ironic?

            Could it be that he/she addressed something rather than your wild, non sequitur accusation?

          • Robert Sakovich

            Seriously? Any time somebody uses quotation marks around a word, it always calls into question whether that word is truly applicable. This is the COMMON understanding of the use of quotation marks in that context. If that’s not what is meant, Ahm can clarify at any time, but REFUSES to. He’s added two comments after I brought it up and he still hasn’t just said “that isn’t what I meant”. And yes, to say that Jesse isn’t a Christian would be slander in my book.
            Here is a definition for you: “the action or crime of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person’s reputation.” So would making the statement that Jesse is not a Christian…or he is a fake Christian, fit the bill?

            Also, Ahm chooses to imply that even though Jesse clearly states he is not saying this is sinful, Jesse is indeed saying it is sinful. In essence, he is saying he is either being deceitful about it or outright lying. Words have implications…and Ahm is throwing out a whole lot of accusations through the implications of his words.

          • Robert Sakovich

            He put a quote around one word…not a phrase. And it certainly wasn’t a quote of what Jesse said. Let me put it here for you to read for yourself:

            Unfortunately,”Christians” like you

            That isn’t him quoting Jesse. Who do you think you’re going to fool making that kind of claim? And saying that a pastor is not a Christian isn’t a big issue? You’ll have a hard time convincing me that it shouldn’t be addressed.
            Ahm can feel free to clarify or make a correction or clarify, but hasn’t so far. And I put the definition of slander up there for you…you can correct the dictionary, I guess.

          • mkdb

            “How about you stop claiming we only ‘read it on the internet’ and…”

            Slander is spoken, libel is WRITTEN.

            If you had a modicum concern for finding the truth in these matters it would be one thing, and then we could dialogue and have iron sharpen iron, etc … but I’m thinking that your obfuscation and redirection and evasiveness is intentional. With just the “slander” blunder–not to mention the overall approach–it is clear that your agenda is not the truth.

          • Ahm7

            He won’t outright say it but he’ll all but imply it. You can infer what ever you like from my quotations. Slander? Seriously?

  • MKR

    Thanks again Jesse for the post. For what it is worth, I’ll throw out a helpful article that addresses many of the concerns and questions out there, and even challenges alot of the woo…

  • Mamaof6

    I have child who did have serious complications from a vaccination. This is not just my opinion, but it is confirmed by doctors. So I did not get any further vaccinations n for that child or any others after that. I see this situation sort of like chicken little. the sky is falling. Just a few months ago we were terrified that we were all going to die from ebola. Now it’s measles.In a few months it will be something else. We need to stop being so afraid and so easily swayed by the media. God is still in control.

    • Frank

      So, it seems what you’re saying is… “do your research first and the doctors should do some due diligence (i.e. check to see if the child will have complications) before just quickly administering a vaccine”? I don’t think the problems of your child solicit a need for EVERYONE to write off vaccines.

  • justanothersheeple

    Interesting.. We were just discussing this in seminary with a professor and discussing how a pastors job is to point peoole to Scriptute and explain why it means what you say it means, and that it would be extremely foolish for a pastor to start teaching on vaccinations unless he has the credentials to do so, or can at least point to primary sources and cite studies and explain why other positions are wrong just like he does with Scrioture. I wonder if this pastor has decided to venture past his training? One thing common to these type of blogs is the absolute absence of the mention of the vaccine courts that pay out to thousands of people who have suffered from devastating vaccine side effects. Normally that reveals a pretty serious gap in knowledge. Funny how that works… Just google “vaccine court.”

    • Robert Sakovich

      MKR’s article below has a link to explain how vaccine court doesn’t prove anything.

      • Justanothersheeple

        That’s interesting…love to have that explained. I’m sure the fact that $BILLIONS have been paid out is just… coincidence?

        • Robert Sakovich

          Money doesn’t prove anything. Heck, if that were the case, then we should say that Biblical Christianity is dead wrong because the vast majority of big money churches are not Biblical at all.

          • Justanothersheeple

            Like it or not, the courts were started because of undeniable reality. Vaccines come with side effects. Some crippling. This is well established and families have been awarded billions of dollars in compensation. You don’t pay out that kind of money when you’ve caused no harm… Be a reality denier if you want though.


          • Dennis HC

            No one is claiming vaccines are perfect. Yes, there are incredibly rare serious side effects that occur in an extremely small proportion of the population. But those numbers pale in comparison to the much higher percentage of serious primary effects of diseases such as mumps, measles, whooping cough, polio, etc. etc.

          • Robert Sakovich

            Yes, as somebody who suffered through whooping cough last spring, I can attest to how bad that is. Thankfully I am a healthy adult, but if I would have got it as a child it would have been much worse than just a 3 month annoying coughing fit.

          • Dennis HC

            Measles were essentially eliminated in the US in 2000, thanks to vaccines. It is now making a roaring comeback due primarily to failures to vaccinate. People can draw their own conclusions from that.
            Your second paragraph doesn’t make sense to me. If you decide not to vaccinate, you are not solely putting yourself at risk, you are also putting at risk the weakest and youngest members of our society who are either too sick or too young to be vaccinated.

          • chrisleduc1

            “you are also putting at risk the weakest and youngest members of our society”

            And if you FORCE others to vaccinate, you are doing the SAME thing to them. The proof is there. You are forcing parents to go against their conscience and subject their children to what is proven to be potentially crippling for life. Is that really that hard to comprehend? It’s a self-refuting argument.

          • chrisleduc1

            ” It is now making a roaring comeback due primarily to failures to vaccinate. People can draw their own conclusions from that.”

            Are you aware of the statistics on exactly who contracted the disease over the last 2 years? Specifically, are you aware of the breakdown of those who had no vaccination, those who had 1 shot and those who had received both short and those who had received booster shots? Since you seem to know so much, I’d love for you to cite the facts for us.

          • Joseph Greene

            Do you realize that the facts are there were more cases of measles in the US in January alone than several entire years since 2000?


    • Dennis HC

      There is some level of irony, I believe, when people from the anti-vaccination position criticize others for speaking outside of credentials and expertise. In fact, the vast weight of credible doctors and scientists, and as Jesse indicates, basic human history and experience, all strongly argue the effectiveness and relative safety of vaccines. I say “relative safety” because as with all things in this sinful world, it is imperfect, hence the no-fault vaccine injury court procedure.

  • Frank

    “Measles used to ravage the world, and now it has practically been eliminated because of a vaccine.”

    Could you put that in bold? 😀

    I came from a family who vaccinated me when I was young, but then went on the anti-vaxxx agenda in the late 90s. The rest of my siblings were not vaccinated and to be honest, I remember the attitude of my parents. While they meant good, I get it, there certainly was an element of pride, a kind of “us against them (government).” Its a bit contrary to Romans 13.

    Anyway, before I write a blog post in the comments :). I just got my latest booster with TDAP (I think that’s right). After my doctor explained it to me, I’m very grateful for that vaccination (despite the temporary pain, haha).

    • Frank

      By the way, before anyone chastises me on making a judgment about my parents attitude…

      I’m not saying EVERY parent is doing that. I’m just making an observation about the attitude my parents were influenced by and they also, borderline, started doing themselves. The danger all of us face, whether anti-vaxx or pro-vaxx, is to take an attitude “I’m right and you’re wrong.” Note I said: Danger, not necessarily happening.

    • Dwight Gingrich

      On the history of disease and the part vaccines have played, I recommend a look at Suzanne Humphries’ recent book Dissolving Illusions. It challenges the official/popular understanding of the history of vaccines with detailed documentation. Here is a review that will give a flavor: http://www.westonaprice.org/book-reviews/dissolving-illusions-by-suzanne-humphries-roman-bystrianyk/

      God bless!

  • Terrence Daugherty

    Great article… I guess it would be too much to say “epidemiological epistemological narcissism”. 😛

  • Doug Evans

    I do not believe that the problem lies with false research or religious grounds, the problem is caused by this countries idolatrous celebrity worship. Celebrities who know nothing at all about biochemestry and epidemiology take a “brave stand” against something they know nothing about in a fit of self aggrandization and their clueless followers follow suit.

    The rise of these diseases can be blamed on the selfish efforts of people like Jenny McCarthy, Kristin Cavallari (whoever that is), Mayim Bialik, Donald Trump, Charlie Sheen, and Bill Mahr who have all publicly stated their distaste for vaccinations, some even groundlessly but emphatically claiming that they cause autism.

    Remember biochemist… I mean actress Meryl Streep weeping in front of congress over the imaginary ailments caused by alar? There was a stampede to eliminate apples from the American diet because Meryl Streep got all weepy and teary before congress when in fact the chemical she was demanding be removed was less hazardous than peanut butter. We’re seeing the same thing now all caused by celebrity worship and the masses blindly following silly people.

    John was so right when he penned 1 John 2:15-17

  • Deanna Ekings

    I had commented on a post a while back that I felt it should be the parents choice to vaccinate their children simply because I feel forced vaccinations can lead to way too many legal issues on both sides and then we go down a slippery slope. I was obliterated and called many names by people who did not know me. All the while I was agreeing with vaccinating children, I vaccinate my children and will continue to do so. This is a great article to educate parents on why they should vaccinate without calling them names and judging them.

    • Dennis HC

      There’s an interesting dynamic developing based on this issue. On one hand, I’m all in favor of parental choice and limiting governmental overreach. On the other hand, separate and apart from mandated governmental action, there is the reality that parents who deliberately choose not to vaccinate may become liable for damage done to others if they or their children communicate an otherwise avoidable disease to a vulnerable party. This is an increasing trend in our litigious society, and it’s one that people should be aware of as they consider this issue.


      • Huh

        Does that mean the vaccines are ineffective?

    • Thanks for that comment Deanna. I agree it should be a parent’s choice in most cases, and that is what this post is written for: to appeal to parents. But the US Supreme Court has ruled that in the case of an outbreak, it is well within the government’s purview to mandate vaccines. I don’t think the current Measles threat rises to that level though, and so I don’t argue that it should be compelled by law. I hope that helps.

  • mkdb

    Oh the irony of pointing toward “discernment” and narcissism and responsibility.

    I’d be far more cautious if I were you. I say that because I am convinced there will be a day when (or IF) you do some research–or the reality hits you and more people–that you will realize just how far from being accurate you really are.

    Your characterizations of the issues, the solutions, and the “anti-vaccine” people is embarrassingly erroneous. Does the truth not matter? You are trying to win an argument rather than get to the heart of the truth and, therefore, of what is truly right and best and glorifying to God. Can we really love others and glorify God while spreading error?

    Here are just a few links to consider, and then reconsider your position:




    I don’t know how a person can read these and then, at a minimum, give them pause, if not spur them on to further discernment and personal research.

    While “Herd Immunity” is touted, not only is that erroneous, the real problem is “Herd Mentality” (e.g. fear of man, pressure through demeaning or ad hominem “narcissism” approach, lack of discernment (with more facts than just “your side”).

    While I am more than mildly surprised at how many Christians or “conservatives” are giving in to the undiscerning/herd mentality, it is far more egregious and stunning that Christian leaders/pastors are pressuring or even attempt to “bully” Christians through articles like these. DO SOME DEEPER AND TRUE RESEARCH people!!!!!! Please!!!

    I hate to say this but this could be the worst article I have ever read, not just because I disagree, but because of the errant approach, premise, conclusions, and attempts to rebuke and belittle others (which are based on these untruths/misinformation and dearth of discernment) … All the good intentions and concern for and desire to help and protect others are worthless if you are in error. While this may be a hallmark of many liberal approaches (e.g. good intentions outweigh concern for the truth) I would hope that Christians and leaders would not do the same.

    • Dennis HC

      You make the mistake of assuming that proponents of vaccination have failed to consider points and arguments raised by anti-vaccination people. In fact, many vaccination proponents have done extensive research on anti-vaccination positions, and without exception, those positions have been debunked, discredited, unsupported by evidence and data, and lacking in any serious scientific rigor or credentials.

      Many of the most vocal anti-vaccination people have greater financial ties to the anti-vaccination movement than the much-maligned pharma companies do to the general public, since vaccines are usually only a small fraction of revenues and an even small fraction of profits, as most vaccines are very low margin products. Additionally, many of the most vocal anti-vaccination people have been unable to gain any credibility within their own fields, and are unable to pass any level of peer review, and that isn’t due to some grand conspiracy theory.

      In my view, our consumeristic, self-esteem-worshipping, immediately available information culture today has elevated everyman to the position of expert. And there is a particular pride that can often tend to emerge from that dynamic, one that dismisses the multitude of learned counselors on a topic and self-elevates the secret or hidden knowledge — kind of like the gnostics of old — that only the person and his or her small cadre of fellow travelers believe.

  • libs

    If it is a gray area , not even mentioned in Holy Scripture, why the name calling, and condescension towards those who choose what they believe to be right for their family?

    Pharmaceuticals are not God. If vaccines are all they are supposed to be, then why be afraid of those who do not vaccinate?
    Is the current measles “outbreak” a wild virus or a vaccine strain? Cdc is silent on this.
    I have a lot of questions to be answered before I can say I believe pharmaceutical research on their own product.
    We need third party research before I buy into the “science says vaccines are safe.”
    This is what we should be crying for, third party research.
    Why don’t we have it?

  • rach



    It pains me that this written without any reference to aborted fetal cell lines and the fact is vaccines can be made without them. So the Debate needs to be about how vaccines are made.

  • Michael

    Jesse, I appreciate greatly your posts on Cripplegate. But a bit of admonishment, if i may. This may be the most atheological post on this site to date. What are we to expect next? A post on “why homeschooling or private schooling is for the ‘common good’ of the church”? Why “all mother’s should breastfeed because Jesus (and (Jonathan Edwards!) was breastfed”? How “eating gluten is really glorifying to God and is for the common good for the poor wheat farmers of the world”? Why “Calvin and Luther were wrong about birth control”?

    Also, I know your hermeneutical training is better than what you have shown here. The verses you list for “loving your neighbor” certainly show loving one’s neighbor is a commond, but you have jumped a step in the logical process when you assume this means getting your kids vaccinated. This is so far down the theological triage that it is to be thrown in the bucket of “opinions.” Mohler doesn’t even have a category for such things! Would you preach this from your pulpit? If not, why post it here where you have an even wider influence?

    “Christians are those that take risks for the advancement of the common good.” Chapter and verse in the NT please? This may be the most troubling statement in your whole post. What is the “common good”? Who gets to decide that? Is organic food for the common good? Non-GMO foods? Breastfeeding? Homeschooling? Pesticides? Many in our society argue that having a few or no children is for the common good.

    This issue is an adiophora issue. It is a gray area. Yet here we have The Cripplegate Blog — which represents a certain great theological strain and even a great seminary — taking such a strong stance. Where has your mentor ever come out publicly on such a topic? How many people at IBC will be angered and possibly even leave the church over the pastor’s stance on vaccines? I advise running your next “gray area” through this grid first:

  • Shaun Little

    I am really disappointed you would use this blog to post about the vaccine controversy. I come here for spiritual and biblical insight, not to be admonished for the decisions I make for my family which I VERY strongly believe to be in their best interest. My wife and I know of 2 children who actually DIED after getting their vaccinations. We know of a few also that have been permanently damaged from them. There are a handful of weighty reasons we have chosen no to vaccinate such as: the toxic chemicals in them, aborted fetus cells, links to autism, links to serious food protein allergies (peanuts especially), and not to mention the high level corruption within the CDC and FDA. That said, I’m not going to get into it here and debate my beliefs about vaccinations, but just want to re-iterate that I am extremely disappointed you guys would allow this blog to be used for this. I come here for a sense of fellowship and theological insight from people I respect. But this has me so upset I am even considering unfollowing.

  • MJP

    The post does seem to be a little heavy handed with a few logical fallacies in there.

    • Quite a lot of logical fallacies presented in the ranting below. Seems to me that people are more upset simply because they disagree with Jesse’s post – and Jesse has a responsibility to call people to be discerning. To that end, I thought he made an excellent post.

      • Robert Sakovich

        He didn’t say all comments were rants.

        • You’re right 🙂 Some are helpful, others completely miss the point of Jesse’s post.

        • mkdb

          Did you intentionally misrepresent what I said? Are you trying to redirect from the points and problems pointed out? Where did I say “all”?

          • Robert Sakovich

            “to say those that ‘disagree’ are merely ‘ranting'”…that gives the clear implication that all who disagree are said to be ranting.

  • Mary
    • Robert Sakovich

      All I see is a bunch of statements that things “can” happen. No mention of how likely it is compared to those who are not vaccinated.

  • Joseph Hession

    I think if pro-vaxxer Christians want to endorse vaccination then they should insist that aborted fetal cells are not used in vaccine production (which they are). Additionally, they should produce some studies which show that vaccine injection is better disease prevention than developing a healthy immune system through proper diet, sleep, and exercise. I’ve been reading Christian authors suggest mandatory vaccination or else mandatory quarantine for the un-vaccinated. Wouldn’t it be just as appropriate to forbid eating at McDonalds drinking soda, or having a sedentary job since these severely weaken our immune system’s ability to fight off disease?

  • mkdb

    “Rather, we have a healthy skepticism, which in this case is satisfied by
    the universal scientific appeal to the safety of these vaccines
    (accompanied by the legal mandate to do it in most states). In fact, it discredits our discernment when we believe unsubstantiated and discredited rumors…”

    more specifically “…which in this case is satisfied by the UNIVERSAL SCIENTIFIC appeal to the safety of these vaccines”

    That factually and demonstrably false statement ALONE, by itself (not to mention all the other errors), not only completely discredits what you are saying, but unquestionable defeats your biggest points of discernment … in fact it does not “discredit OUR discernment” but it discredits YOUR discernment. Oh, the irony, oh the built-in, self-defeating assertions.

    There is no “universal scientific appeal” with anything regarding vaccines! NONE! There are a plethora of “scientists” and medical doctors and researchers, etc who are putting forth “science” and reason as to why they ARE NOT safe!

    Yet flagrantly false statements like this are attempts to “discredit” those who believe the opposite of your faulty platform. And for those who did not “discern” that obvious falsehood … and then continue to bash those that disagree with the article and that “side” of the issue, then what does that say about the overall concern and practice of discernment?

  • restintheway

    I wonder what will be written once the HPV vaccine becomes mandatory? When we told our pediatrician no that our daughter wasn’t getting that she said and I quote “That’s fine since it is still your choice for now, but you better rethink your position because it will become mandatory.” We had an interesting discussion after that since she was surprised we said no to that vaccine since we have vaccinated. I also am sad that Jesse Johnson tarred and feathered everyone with the term ‘epistemological narcissism’, regardless of valid concerns or no. And btw, my husband spent 20 years as a cardiovascular R&D Scientist. I guess in this day and age we get to pick and choose which things we will call biblical or not – I mean after all, it was just a few days ago some popular reformed sister bloggers, who I normally like, said anyone who doesn’t do whatever vaccines the gov’t says to is a ‘pantheistic, anti science, new ager’ guilty of being occult minded!…….funny – I have yet to hear any solid Christian give any of these these slurs to anyone who believes in 6 days of Creation (which I do). Yet the Scientific community at large scoffs at 6 day Creationists – I guess it won’t be long before another band of Christians joins all areas of Science and begins to tar & feather other Christians who don’t agree 100% with all modern day science as well…….after all – we wouldn’t want to be labeled a Pantheistic-Anti-Science-New Ager or a Epistemological NARCISSIST, after all. And here I expected respected Christian leaders to be Charitable, but I guess name calling gets more press.

    • Robert Sakovich

      YEC is not equivalent to vaccination…especially when it comes to the science.

      • restintheway

        Answer the HPV part then, or whatever else they eventually try, because we have vaccinated – but there are some we will NOT do. And the CDC studies show the HPV vaccine is totally safe (ummm, not so fast!). Also, as my husband has spent 20 years as a Scientist – I can tell you it is just like the YEC Science (and I mean as far as Science Research, clearly not the issues) – after all, it is in how you run your studies (research), how you report events, what parameters you include & exclude, etc…surely you know that. Why is there such a large fund in the CDC for paying damages to those harmed/killed by vaccines if they are so safe? I am glad we were not harmed with them, but others have been and the CDC admits this, but vaccines or not – God is Sovereign & He is in control. As a Christian I know this, so I don’t fret about this stuff. Those who aren’t as strong in their theology may. I have friends who vaccinate & those who do not. What I won’t do though, is name call either one and act like an uncharitable Christian and certainly a Pastor should know better! In fact Robert, the vaccine issues is a physical one for the most part…maybe people should be more concerned with the Spiritual issues (and quite frankly, as a YEC, I do see it as a spiritual issue). So honestly, I see the Creation issue as fundamentally more important than whether or not someone vaccinates – besides Gods Word says that plagues & diseases will be around, they will not be eradicated no matter what Science tells you. Jesus is coming again and He will set all things right. Gospel people – let’s share that instead of calling anyone who doesn’t agree with modern science slanderous names or implying they are being biblically UNdiscerning, by not going against their conscience (something the Bible forbids to Christians…..it’s even a direct verse!)

    • I can understand your feelings, even if I don’t share them as strongly. But your raising of the 6-day creation issue is one I hope everyone here will consider. Arguing about the subordination of physical science and scientific evidence to Scripture has been one of the cornerstone arguments of YEC. It does seem to be inconsistent to now appeal to science as a leading foundational argument for vaccine efficacy.

      • restintheway

        Thank you for understanding where I was going with that analogy. Your comment is exactly what I was thinking!

  • At Odds

    I’m not for vaccinations nor against it. I think it ought to be up to the parents. I don’t think vaccinations are directly harmful. I don’t think measles are the next epidemic, either. I do, however, both sides of this issue are led by fear. One says they’re not going to vaccinate their kids because they believe that it is harmful. The other says they should because measles are bad and could get worse, though there’s no evidence other than ‘Brian Williams’ saying so.

    Money moves and there are people that want money to move and keep moving towards their favor. This is not a conspiracy but quite mundane. Merckle, pharmaceutical company that has sole IP on the measles vaccination, has a reputation to maintain. Not only with customers but with contracts such as with the U.S. government. If their vaccination does not receive a 93%(?) success rate, they lose contracts.

    Never let an opportunity go to waste. Marketers are pretty smart people, and they know how to jump onto something when needed. When the Disney-measles incident occurred, guess who had an idea? They inundated the news with fears and facts of measles, because let’s face it, the MSM can be paid off. Due to MSM’s pandering for vaccines, one has to wonder where this author’s opinion comes from – fear or forethought. When the Ebola virus came to the U.S., the stocks for the companies that were helping to fight against the virus spiked while Obama signed funding for who knows what. Once the elections were over noticed that the whole Ebola thing dissipated.

    So, while to say that parents ought to vaccinate their kids is OK and opinion that is reasonable, it’s not OK to scare people into it and skip out the rest of the facts. Such as, American Indian populations did not get wiped out by measles. They got wiped out (some tribes did) by small pox first, measles second, other diseases and war third, while the Older Worlders were OK or at least used to it. They were harmed by it because their immune systems were not ready for it. They would be known as a ‘virgin population’ when it comes to diseases. If this was mentioned in the article above this would set a different tone to the author’s argument for vaccinations. In fact, this may give credence to people that say they shouldn’t get vaccinated due to immune systems being protected. I’m not saying, myself, this is a wise move.

    The biggest concern that I have about this whole thing is that the state wants control. You say that I’m being a conspiracy theorists? Well, if you live in New Mexico or Oregon, you’ll have to bake cakes for something you don’t believe you should. If you don’t think government would do such things in collaborating with big companies to do this. Well, Planned Parenthood.

    One thing more, it is worrisome that a pastor would advocate something like this, but miss the point that their is talk of forcing parents to do something to their kids that they do not otherwise believe in doing. Think about it.

  • Dennis HC

    On a sometimes-related note, although not all anti-vaccination people claim conspiracies as support for their position, I find that a surprising number seem to factor that in. On that note, here’s an excellent three-part series by Fred Butler on problems related to Christians who choose to indulge in conspiracy theories.




    • Dwight Gingrich

      Conspiracy theories are definitely a problem, yes. But thank you for acknowledging that not all “anti-vaccination people” rely on conspiracy theories.

      I am very tired of hearing it suggested that all those who question the use of vaccines, whether in whole or in part, do so because of conspiracy theories, popular level Internet sites, or celebrities! Please, if anyone wants to lump all such vaccine-questioners as nuts, then first write a reasonable rebuttal to Suzanne Humphries’ book Dissolving Illusions. Here is a review to give you some idea of the kind of task this would involve: http://www.westonaprice.org/book-reviews/dissolving-illusions-by-suzanne-humphries-roman-bystrianyk/

      The amount of fear expressed currently over the topic of vaccines is completely out of proportion to the disease risks involved, and it is stifling careful thought and the kind of careful research that needs to be done to truly understand the scientific, historical, and moral issues involved.

    • Great series by Fred. Thanks for linking it.

  • Eric Davis

    Friends, let’s avoid the “this post does not belong here” or “you can’t take a stand on this issue b/c it’s personal” approach. Vaccinations involve decision-making in the ethical realm. If we cannot bring the Bible to bear on that realm, then we’re missing much of the point of Scripture; to bring God’s word to bear on all things pertaining to life and godliness. So, it’s permissible, and helpful to show how God’s word addresses things like this. By the Spirit, God’s word equips us to exercise discernment. So please, instead of commenting along the lines of “this issue does not belong here,” instead, let’s say something like, “As Christians called to subject our minds to Scripture, we ought to do our best to bring clarity to this ethical issue. But, I do not prefer the view…,” or something.

    • Michael

      Eric, should the above post be preached from the pulpit? If not, why here? What pastor from TMS has ever preached about vaccines from the pulpit?

      Cripplegate purpose reads: “This blog is a small attempt to continue the tradition that these men started by giving a place for like-minded Christians and pastors to share their thoughts about ministry, theology, and issues that affect the church today, in a way that will bring encouragement and clarity to those who read it.”

      Which of the three above (ministry, theology, and issues that affect the church today) does this fit in?

      • Robert Sakovich

        Do you think this doesn’t affect the church? I sure think it does and there are people who won’t be around each other at church because of this stuff.

      • Eric Davis

        Sure, preach it from the pulpit if you want. Just be sure to accurately divide the word if you do. And I bet it would create some healthy discussion in the local church which is to be a place of Spirit-filled one-anothering where we can dialogue about any and every issue w/o getting our toes stepped on too easily while also equipping our minds for biblical thinking.

        And if you do, be sure to include this statement, along w/ the other wisdom in the article: “I recognize that this is a Christian gray-area, and it goes beyond what is written to say that a person is sinning by being an anti-vaxxer.”

        The article falls right in line w/ our purpose for the blog. This is an ethical issue in which the church is involved and upon which the Bible has things to say.

  • Brenda Hudson

    I can’t believe we are calling this a sin or not a sin. If we believe something is wrong and we do it anyway, it is sin. We are not a 3rd world country. I am old enough that I had the measles, mumps and chickenpox as a child. So did my brother and sister and many friends. Yes we didn’t feel good and we itched. It wasn’t as bad a the flu. With the herd mentality I believe that 90% are vaxxed and if the 10% don’t want to just leave them alone.

    • Eric Davis

      Brenda- No one is calling this a sin. Jesse wrote: “I recognize that this is a Christian gray-area, and it goes beyond what is written to say that a person is sinning by being an anti-vaxxer.”

  • ADionisio

    Wow. Talk about a hot topic! One of the things I think we need to be careful to do here, regardless of how we feel about vaccinations, is to guard our hearts against feeling like those who do vaccinate are somehow better than those who don’t… “I’m more loving/righteous/holy than so-and-so” (which IS sinful). Hopefully that is not the reaction people have to this post, but our hearts are wicked, so I just want to put that out there as a precaution… especially because there are legitimate reasons to not vaccinate, not stated in Jesse’s post, like allergic reactions to vaccinations (although that could fall under point #2:”some are too little, too young, or too weak to be vaccinated”). Parents have to make a decision in those and similar situations, and it would be very easy to read Jesse’s post, and other’s comments regarding the small risk of a few for the better of everyone, and color everyone who declines vaccinations with the same brushstroke, and vice versa.

  • pearlbaker

    Ok, ok, ok…can we keep this on a spiritual/biblical plane and try to be edifying regarding what God says about things, then can we properly interpret the Word?

    The apostle Paul tells Timothy to “use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses” (1 Timothy 5:23); this is clearly an exhortation to take preventive medication.

    Read more: http://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-vaccinations.html#ixzz3QzP8HwqP

  • Robert Sakovich

    You sound a bit like you have forgotten…just saying. Also, what would the death rate be without any vaccinations? Any way to figure that out since you’re throwing up statistics? Because that would be an apples to apples comparison.

    • restintheway

      Actually Robert, I can tell you what it would be without vaccinations – whatever God has decreed it to be.

  • mkdb

    Allow me to quote from an MD from another article concerning “Herd Immunity”:

    “If you believe absolutely in the benefit
    and protective value of vaccination, why does it matter what others do?
    Or don’t do? If you believe you need vaccination to be healthy and
    protected, then by all means vaccinate your child and yourself. Why
    should you even be concerned what your neighbor chooses to do for his
    child – if vaccination works? The idea of herd immunity is still based
    on the idea that in individual cases vaccines actually are protective.”

    I would love pro-herd people to answer these questions as well as look at the whole article (and others).

  • Brad

    Could someone explain what “epistemological narcissim” is? I could quite understand what the phrase meant from the article.

    Personally, I go with the vaccines for my kids. Basically I do it just because my doctor says it is a good thing to do.

    • The tweet that opened the post was what I was going for.

  • mkdb

    Not to minimize the health and life or death aspects here, but perhaps the biggest overall concern going forward is the issue of freedom … and I don’t see much concern about that at all.

    At the risk of being discounted as conspiratorial, if we cannot “discern” what is at stake when it comes to our freedom then, well, we will likely get what we deserve. Consider some quotes:

    “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Ben Franklin

    “Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficient…The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.”
    Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.” CS Lewis

    So, speaking of discernment, freedom, and “the greater good.” PLEASE be more discerning, at least for the greater good. Vaccinate if you so choose, but that is the point, let us all have the freedom to choose.

    If we willingly forfeit our freedom for a real or perceived benefit of security or health then we will ultimately have none of the above.

    • I’m not saying vaccines should be compulsory by law. I’m appealing to people in freedom to make wise choices. I’m using my freedom to blog to appeal to other’s freedom to think and make choices. That’s not really anti-freedom.
      But the US Supreme Court has ruled that in the case of a national outbreak it does fall to the government to make vaccines mandatory. I think that’s also a balanced use of the government’s power to protect her citizens.

  • Clint

    I think this is a very dismissive post. It doesn’t seem like you really have taken the concerns of Christian parents seriously. The “love your neighbor, suck it up and join the herd” argument isn’t satisfactory. And frankly, it isn’t persuasive. First, many parents would be more comfortable with vaccinating for Measles if the MMR vaccine was separated out–instead of combining Mumps, Measles and Rubella. As much as I hear the “debunked study” talk, no one seems to respond to the cases in which the federal court has quietly admitted a link between MMR and neurological disorders (Google it. So, without losing your perspective that Christian anti-vaxxers are uninformed, and by implication, selfish, why don’t you help them get safer options? I mean, we have flouride-free toothpaste and alchohol-free hand sanitizer but we can’t more ethically and safely vaccinate our children for Measles? Consider me a brother who’s weak in faith, fine. But, don’t try to twist my arm so I’ll trample on my own conscience.

    • No arm twisting man. Just an appeal. My words aren’t strong enough to twist your arm.

  • Tony Huy

    Jesse – Your point #3 is a big struggle for me. In it, you are making some pretty big assumptions. You are assuming that there is no credibility to the many parents that have seen their kids affected by vaccines, you don’t account for the gov’t setup fund that pays out hundreds of thousands of dollars for vaccine injuries, and I think you missed a good middle ground that Christians who use common sense should lean towards, and instead it seems like you have taken the extremes and want people to pick one of the two. For what they are worth, here’s some thoughts to balance out your post:

    (1) If you vaccinate, use common sense – I have 7 kids. In that time span, the required vaccination schedule has doubled. Pediatricians want to give multiple shots with multiple live vaccines in them all in the same visit. What sense is that? They do that because they don’t trust parents to come back the next week to complete the shots. We don’t do that. We work with our pediatrician to spread out the shots in a way that has some sanity to it.

    (2) Should all vaccines be taken – That’s a personal one. Take the chicken pox vaccine. Is that needed? Every family must decide. Most of our kids have actually had the chicken pox and are now immune. Which is better? Which is safer? Let’s do some careful study before we make some judgement call across the board against believers and their “narcissism”. How about the HPV shots? Do we take it because the statement “vaccines are safe” is used to broad stroke all vaccines that doctors say are ok? Who needs the HPV vaccine? What do we make of the fact that not all pediatricians recommends it? What do we make of the rumour that the leading scientist of that vaccine does not recommend it? is that rumour true, is it not? There’s lots of factors here besides “narcissism”

    (3) Where’s the data – Have you looked at the historically mortality rate of measles? Here’s an article I encourage everyone to read and then to do your own study! http://www.vaccinationcouncil.org/2014/06/24/measles-and-measles-vaccines-fourteen-things-to-consider-by-roman-bystrianyk-co-author-dissolving-illusions-disease-vaccines-and-the-forgotten-history. Look at that graph (which is taken from the data of this CDC report – http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/vsus/mort63_2a.pdf). Please study it! Do some analytical analysis on it. Make some sane interpretation on the vaccine. As a math major, I look at that and what I see is that the vast, vast, vast majority of decline of death from measles was not from the vaccines, but other factors (perhaps better overall health, living standards, etc). Did the vaccine drop the already almost gone rate of death. Yes. But now, let’s make further comparision – in the very very small change that the vaccines provided, how has that historically compared to the reported injuries (i.e. to the gov’t and validated) from the vaccine.

    If you are going to encourage us to use common sense and not buy into the online rhetoric and use words like narcissm, please provide actual research data and not just use the rhetoric of “safety” that is out there. Please be specific. if you are rebuking parents for not taking the measles vaccine, please research the measle vaccines and provide data for that. Please provide pastoral wisdom for your listeners. Gray areas are that – gray – because there’s likely a scaled contextual response to the situation.

    (i.e. We just adopted a girl from China two weeks ago. 10 years old. No vaccination records. So they want to give her 10 shots to catch up. The only problem was, they didn’t want to run a test to see what she’s already vaccinated for. Why bother they said. Let’s just do it. Our response – “we’ll we’re open to it, but she’s just started horrible steroids for a severe kidney infection and nephrotic syndrome, you just diagnosed her with epileptic seizures and put her on some new brain medication. So while we know vaccines are “safe”, what common sense does it have to load her up with 10 shots right now just because you think we have to do it before we leave the hospital. How about we work out a schedule that makes more sense.”)

    • The point of the gov. fund: that it is in the common good to make these cases go away, because the more publicity they get, the more others might avoid vaccines. The problem though is that many of the cases are so flimsy that the court isn’t paying anyway, so the system has pretty much broken down. With that regard, I guess I agree with the anti-vaxxer crowd.

  • Tetje

    Please everyone, please remember who you are to represent, the Lord Jesus Christ and let your speech not be ungracious to one another. We won’t always agree but need to conduct ourselves graciously.

  • Jess

    Here lies my concern with this article Titus 3:9-11, it seems like you are putting a matter that isn’t biblical and pitting one Christian against another? Why should this be a concern for any of us when one chooses one or the other is God not in control of the outcome no matter how many vaccinate and how many don’t? Romans 8:28 does it not apply to both sides if we are all believers? What about 2 Timothy 1:7 it seems like the measles supposed out break is using fear to force parents to do something and fear should be our last reason to do anything.

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  • With 125 comments, I think this has run its course. I deleted some of the redundant comments. Thanks to Eric for keeping a lid on things while I was traveling, and thanks to everyone for reading/participating. Grateful for all the comments, even those that were disagreeing with me. Everything for the most part was very respectful. If you want to keep the conversation going, find me on Twitter.

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