Does the greater good justify using aborted fetal cells to develop vaccines?

Andrea Gambotto, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, said about the controversy over the use of aborted fetal cells in the development of the coronavirus vaccines, “It’d be a crime to ban the use of these cells.” He added. “It never harmed anybody — it was a dead embryo so the cells back then, instead of being discarded, they were used for research.” Is this argument valid? Can the use of aborted fetal cells in medical development be justified by the good it accomplishes?

Before answering this question, a few disclaimers need to be given. This article is not about the morality of the use of aborted fetal cells in the use of vaccines or any other medication. This article is not about if people should get vaccinated or about the various vaccine mandates in America. The question at hand is narrow and regards the perception that the greater good justifies wrong behavior.

Another repsonse, similar to Mr. Gambotto’s, protests that if it is immoral to use products developed wth aborted fetal cells, then say good bye to modern medicine. Is this a valid argument? Does the great good accomplished by vaccines or other modern pharmacology outweigh any harm that may have been caused in the origin of the fetals cells?

A simple illustration may make the question more clear. Doctor’s discover that a young man has a an enzyme in his blood which immediately stops the spread of any cancerous cells in his body. Even more amazing, this enzyme is reproducible and can quickly be made available at low cost to cancer patients around the world. This one man’s blood could end cancer for everyone. This hypothetical scenario has two difficulties. First, to get enough of the enzyme to assure success doctor’s will have to drain his body of blood, killing him. Second, he does not want to die and will not consent to the procedure. Is it ethical or moral to take that man’s life so cancer can be completely cured?

Of greater importance than our feelings about the justification of certain ethical and moral decisions is the Bible’s evaluation. What does the Bible say about judging immoral actions by the good they produce. Two examples from the Old Testament should be sufficient to show God’s perspective. The first example involved King Saul. In 1 Samuel 13 King Saul was preparing to lead the army of Israel against the Philistines. Before the battle they waited for the prophet and priest Samuel to offer a sacrifice to God. But Samuel did not show up at the appointed time, and the army of Israel began to drift away. The Philistine army approached and it seemed the army of Israel would be routed. So King Saul called for sacrificial animals to be brought to him and he offered sacrifices to God. The problem is, Saul had no right to offer sacrifices. Only the priests could do that. Saul did wrong in order to maintain the army of Israel and gain the victory in battle against the Philistines. Considering that God had commanded the Israelites to defeat the Philistines, this is a good result. However, God was not pleased. Through Samuel God told Saul, “Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: Now thy kingdom shall not continue.” (1 Samuel 13:13-14)

On a later occasion, during the reign of King David, God shows again His view about doing wrong to accomplish a greater good. The Ark of the Covenant had been stolen by the Philistines, but was returned to Israel. Because the Ark of the Covenant was the center of Jewish worship and the place where God’s glory rested in the Tabernacle, King David went out to bring the ark to the capital city of Jerusalem. However, David made a serious error. He had the ark hauled on an ox cart instead of carried by priests as God had commanded. At one point in the journey the cart shook and the ark began to fall off. Uzzah reached up and held the ark on the cart. God had specifically commanded no one was to touch the Ark of the Covenant and warned that whoever touched it would die. (Numbers 4:15) God struck Uzzah dead. Uzzah’s action accomplished great good, keeping the ark from falling to harm. But God requires obedience, not pragmatism. He punished Uzzah for disobedience.

God is not impressed with human justificaitons and rationalizations. He requires obedience to Him above all else. Any good that may come from doing wrong never justifies the wrong done.

What is justice?

Justice continues to be a major concern for Americans, and rightly so. All citizens have good reason to be concerned that we live in a just society. Americans should lawfully oppose and correct injustice. Americans should pursue justice. God requires His people “to do justly.” To do justly the Christian must first have a right understanding of justice. To pursue justice, the citizen must have a correct understanding of what he is pursuing. How does the Bible describe justice?

This article will not examine everything the Bible says about justice. The aspects of individual justice will be untouched to focus instead on governmental and legal justice. The starting point to understanding justice is the character of God. Justice must conform to the character of Him who is Just. Any law or judgment that does not conform to the character of God is inherently unjust. For example, the laws which decreed blacks to be 3/5ths of a person were unjust and laws which decree homosexual relationships to be moral are equally unjust.

Only one nation has received its laws and jurisprudence directly from God. That nation is Israel. As a result, Israel is a case study in Divine justice in a society. However, not all of Israel’s laws are directly applicable to modern day nations. Few would suggest that it would be just for any nation today to impose penalties on those who eat shellfish. Nor can it be said that Israel’s system of laws is the absolutely perfect ideal. Jesus Himself declared that portions of the law were given as an accommodation to the sinfulness of men. (Matthew 19:8) Despite these limitations, principles of governance that transcend cultures are found in God’s instructions to Israel.

Certain of the universal principles found in the law of Moses are restated in the New Testament. God specifically ordained governments to oppose evil and promote good. (Romans 13:3) Governments are ministers of God for the good of their citizens. Governments are to execute wrath on those who do wrong. (Romans 13:4) The role of government is retributory, bringing consequences on those who do wrong. This includes execution of certain criminals. (Roman 13:4; Genesis 9:6) How the government is to exercise this responsibility is not directly addressed in the New Testament, but it is modeled by Israel in the Old Testament.

Israel’s laws reveal that God’s justice is concerned with equal treatment of all individuals. Equal treatment is founded on the truth that all people are created in the image of God. No person is a lesser being because of their position in society. All are equally bearers of God’s image. Biblical justice treats all equally, regardless of citizenship, power or wealth. (Deuteronomy 27:19)

Justice is also concerned with the protection of the weak. Governments are to ensure that the powerful do not take advantage of the weak (Exodus 22:22; Leviticus 19:14) and that the seller does not take advantage of the buyer. (Deuteronomy 25:13) The government should take care to protect the weak from being wronged by the powerful, but in criminal matters it is never to give special consideration to a person’s financial status or social condition. (Leviticus 19:15) In general, Biblical justice is about protection of individuals, equal treatment under the law and judgment of evil that is exacted without regard to the status of the person.

However, the Bible also teaches that injustice will persist in this world. This is not intended to produce apathy towards injustice in this world. Instead, the Bible points Christians to the future that they may be faithful to perform and promote justice now. The Christian can continue to pursue justice in this world because in the end justice will be perfectly and fully executed. When Jesus returns He will judge the world in righteousness. He will punish all sin with perfect justice. He will establish righteousness across the world. He will judge all people based upon full and exact knowledge of all sin and without favor towards their status, wealth, ethnicity or culture. In the end none will escape justice, and none will be cheated the justice they deserve.

Is Social Justice Biblical?

Social justice is defined as “the redistribution of resources and advantages to the disadvantaged to achieve social and economic equality.” The aim of social justice is to tear down all distinctions between social classes and income disparities so that all are financially and positionally equal. Another has defined social justice as “the ability of people to reach their full potential within the societies in which they reside.” Notice, that definition says “ability” not “opportunity.” Some versions of social justice seek to redistribute resources, but not equally. Those in the lower classes would be given more to help them reach the level of the upper classes. The redistribution of resources by taking more from the wealthy and giving more to the poor is a key component of social justice.

God is deeply concerned with justice. God is described “a just God” (Isaiah 45:21) who requires His people to “do justice.” (Psalm 82:2-3; Proverbs 21:3; Isaiah 56:1; Micah 6:8). However, Biblical justice is far different from social justice. In short, the Bible is not concerned with equal outcomes, or even equal opportunities. Income inequities are a non-issue in Scripture. Biblical justice is concerned with protecting individuals, especially the weak, from abuse (Leviticus 19:11-14), fairness in business (Proverbs 20:10, 23) and punishment of evil doers (Proverbs 18:15; Leviticus 5:17).

The Bible holds every person responsible for their own decisions. Social justice treats people as a group. It assigns group guilt and looks for group solutions. Personal liberation is achieved through group liberation. The Bible teaches that each person will stand before God and be judged according to his own works. (Revelation 20:12) Condemnation and salvation is individual. “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” (Ezekiel 18:20) The salvation God offers is not the salvation of a system or a group. Salvation is personal. Romans 9 denies that any person is condemned for being a member of a particular group or is saved by being part of a particular group. Instead, God puts no difference between any people group. “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

The Bible does not teach forced equality of outcomes. Instead, Scripture teaches charity and generosity, but not financial or positional equality. In Israel God provided compassionate means to care for the poor. He gave the Jews certain laws that required charitable actions. The Israelites were commanded to leave the corners of their fields unharvested so the poor could come in and harvest food for themselves. This practice should be significant in the discussion about social justice. The landowners were not required to evenly distribute their profits to the poor. The government did not confiscate the land’s produce to distribute it equally to all citizens. The poor did not receive a gift of grain. A small portion of the fields were left for the poor to labor in so they could earn their food through their own efforts. Those who did not labor were not given food. God commands His people to be compassionate (Deuteronomy 15:7) and He shows special care for the poor (Proverbs 14:31), but the Bible does not teach that inequalities in condition or income are wrong.

Biblical justice does not insist upon equal outcome but upon equal treatment of all under the law. Israel was to have the same laws for foreigners as for those born in Israel. In other words, immigrants and citizens were under the same law. This same law put equal responsibility on the immigrant and the citizen. Immigrants were not exempted from obedience to the requirements of Israel because of their immigrant status. (Numbers 15:30) They also were not denied justice because of their status. (Exodus 12:49) Immigrants were protected from harassment and oppression. (Exodus 22:21) Everyone in Israel was to be treated the same in punishment and protection, regardless of their national origin.

Social justice believes the social status of the individual should be taken into account and benefits given to members of the lower classes. The laws of Israel make a specific point of teaching that wealth and status must never be a factor in dispensing justice. Judges can not take bribes. They must not rule in favor of the rich because of their influence. Judges must not show favoritism toward the poor. The difficulties of a person’s situation never justify their breaking the law or gain them advantage in the eyes of the law. The poor ought not be awarded a judgment because they are poor. To give preference to one because of their financial condition is injustice. (Leviticus 19:15)

The laws of Israel are an excellent case study on God’s views regarding justice in a society. Since all the laws given to Israel were given by God for the governance of His chosen nation, then the reasonable conclusion is that Israel’s law is God’s definition of social justice. God’s justice does not match modern conceptions of justice. This does not mean God is unjust. God is perfectly just. His instructions on justice ought to be considered justice, not the definitions of critical theorists. We need to correct our definitions of justice to bring them in line with God’s justice. “Shall mortal man be more just than God?” (Job 4:17)

The Bible is generally unconcerned with income and class distinctions because the wages of sin is death. The reality is that every person has a brief life on this earth. What matters most is not that poverty be eliminated. What matters most is that God has provided everyone the same opportunity for forgiveness of sin and eternal life. The greater need is salvation. That has been provided. Jesus gave up the vast riches of His glory to become a man and suffer the penalty of sin for humanity. His gift of forgiveness is available freely to all who believe Him. “He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” The redistribution of sin and righteousness is the redistribution we should be most concerned about.

For more on social justice tune in to 92.7 FM on Sunday, September 26 at 9:30 AM to hear Everlasting Truths Radio.

Does God Hate Homosexual?

Probably everyone has seen images of people carrying signs declaring, “God hates homosexuals.” Is this true? Does God hate homosexuals? The sin of homosexuality is despicable to God. (Leviticus 18:22) Those who live in homosexuality without repentance will not enter heaven. (1 Corinthians 6:9) The spread of homosexuality is the judgment of God upon a nation. Homosexuals are under the wrath of God and their homosexuality is the wrath of God upon them. (Romans 1:25-27) The Bible clearly condemns homosexuality, in the Old and New Testament. However, the Bible never says that God hates homosexuals. The Bible says God hates sin and He hates sinners.

The Bible says God hates sin. Several sins are listed as especially despicable to God, such as: pride, deceit, murder, fraudulent business practices, injustice and homosexuality. These lists of abominations do not single out homosexuality as unique among sins, nor do they minimize homosexuality’s sinfulness.

Yet, the Bible says that not only does God hate sin, He hates individuals. Hosea 9:15, “I hated them: for the wickedness of their doings.” Leviticus 26:30 warns the Israelites that if they did not obey God’s commands then God will say to them, “My soul shall abhor you.” Psalm 5:5 says simply, “(God) hates all workers of iniquity.” So, yes, God hates homosexuals. He hates homosexuals in the same way He hates all those who rebelliously and willfully persist in sin.

If you are still reading at this point you are probably demanding to know how the God who is Love can be said to hate anyone. God’s hatred of sinners is not a petulant or arbitrary hatred. God’s hatred does not in any way restrict the expression of His love. While a complete and satisfying reconciliation of God’s hatred and God’s love is not possible, the Bible clearly declares both. God is love and He hates sin and sinners. We must recognize that God’s love is not contradicted by His hate. The the hatred of God expressed in the Bible must not be confused with the unrighteous animosity common in human hatred. God can love the sinner perfectly while also hating them for their sin. In the end, the love of God for all men is unquestionable and undeniable. John 3:16 declares, “For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” God’s love for the world is so great that while we were still in our sin He gave His Son to die for our sin. (Romans 5:8) “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10) God’s love extends to all humanity, regardless of their sin.

The reality is that all people are separated from God. No one is righteous. No one seeks after God. (Romans 3:10-11) Every person is naturally alienated from God and an enemy against Him. (Colossians 1:21) Every person is by birth the child of wrath and the child of disobedience. (Ephesians 2:2-2) Despite our sin God in His love gives the offer of salvation freely to all. God in His love gives salvation freely to all who trust Jesus for forgiveness. God does not exclude homosexual from His grace anymore than he excludes those who were once murderers, blasphemers or persecutors of Christ. (1 Timothy 1:12-14)

Homosexuals are under God’s wrath. They are dead in trespasses and sins just like everyone else. As a result, homosexuals are sinners in need of the mercy and grace of God. Because they are sinners they can be saved. They are not outside the reach of God’s love. Homosexuals are no less able to be saved than any other sinners because God loves them.

Is it a sin to not get vaccinated?

An official in the Russian Orthodox church recently said that those who refuse to get vaccinated against the coronavirus “are committing a sin they will have to repent for the rest of their lives.” According to this official, “The sin is thinking about yourself instead of thinking about other people.” Is it a sin to not be vaccinated against this current pandemic illness or against any other severe, widespread illness?

This question is not about vaccines, but about sin. To rightly understand what is sin it is essential to know who has the authority to declare something a sin. Things are not sinful because a church official declares them to be. No one- not a pastor, bishop, church, prelate or pope- have the authority to declare items as sin. Something is not sinful because a culture or society treats them as if they are sinful. Sin is only defined by the Word of God. Sin is violation of the commands of God. “Sin is the transgression of the law.” If the Bible says something is a sin, it is a sin. If the Bible does not give a direct declaration that something is a sin then great care needs to be exercised before condemn that thing as sin.

The Bible explicitly declares some things are sin. For example, “Thou shalt not bear false witness” and “Thou shalt not steal.” The Bible gives many principles which are then applied to circumstances. “Love you neighbor as yourself” is a command but the application of it varies from situation to situation. In one case it is loving to take a neighbor a loaf of fresh baked bread. In another case it is not loving to take a gluten-intolerant neighbor a loaf of fresh baked bread. The Bible does not contain any direct command about vaccination, illness or pandemics. Therefore, the Christian must examine the principles of the Bible to see which ones apply to this situation and then carefully work through how those principles apply in his life.

In some cases it is a sin to refuse a vaccine because of specific Biblical commands. The Bible commands Christians to obey their governmental authorities. A person who can be vaccinated and lives in a country where their government requires them to be vaccinated but refuses to do so that person is sinning by breaking the command of Romans 13:1. In some cases it is a sin to be vaccinated. If a Christian cannot be vaccinated with a clear conscience then it will be a sin for them to be vaccinated because of the principles found in Romans 14:23.

The most common Christian argument for getting vaccinated is the argument from love. The Bible is clear. Christians must love one another. No right thinking Christian can deny this command. The argument then is that getting vaccinated is loving to your neighbors, therefore, every Christian must be vaccinated. To not get vaccinated is selfish.

The problem with this is that it assumes the answer. It begs the question of the lovingness of being vaccinated. In applying the command to love your neighbor, the thing that must be proved is how getting vaccinated is actually and always showing Christian love and how not getting vaccinated is always selfish. A full discussion on the connection of love to vaccines is outside the scope of this article. This is a question too complex for the overly simple answers that seem to dominate the discussion. Christians need to be careful to give grace to those who reach different conclusions on this topic.

Christians must recognize that what something can only be declared a sin after careful and proper application of Biblical principles to a specific circumstance. Some things will always be sin no matter the situation. However, many principles can be applied in different ways in different times and situations. Christians need to be careful about absolutizing their application of Biblical principles. Sin is that which clearly violates the Word of God, not that which violates my application of the Word.