Ignorance And Inoculation

Ignorance And Inoculation

Neal Pollard

Stephen Coss, author of The Fever of 1721: The Epidemic That Revolutionized Medicine and American Politics, relates the fascinating story of the first widespread inoculation effort in the fight against the deadly plague of smallpox. At a time when medical practice was steeped in vast misunderstanding and wrongheaded medical treatments (more than half a century later, George Washington’s doctors would facilitate his death by treating his cold and fever through bloodletting!), two unlikely men were able to withstand the withering criticism of the local medical community and superstitious Boston residents who adamantly vilified them both. One was a physician, Zabdiel Boylston, ostracized, threatened, and condemned by his peers and the town’s council. The other was Cotton Mather, forever infamous for his superstitious influence in the Salem witch hunt and trials that led to the execution of over 20 innocent people a quarter-century earlier. Both believed that by infecting a person with a small amount of smallpox, they could prevent death and even a serious, scarring case of the frightening disease. No less than young Benjamin Franklin piled on with criticism and satire against the two men’s campaign, but both were ultimately vindicated as the inoculations proved far superior in saving lives in Boston’s deadliest smallpox outbreak. It took a lot of courage and conviction for these men to persist in the face of resistance from the highest places of their society.

What if there was a disease that threatened one hundred percent of the global population, one that proved one hundred percent fatal if untreated? What if there was a remedy available that was proven to save every patient from otherwise certain death? What if you knew it worked? Would you have the courage and conviction to offer it to the infected, even in the face of intimidation and threat?

Over 600 years before Christ, a prophet wrote, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of the daughter of my people not been restored?” (Jer. 8:22). The balm of Gilead, who was also the Great Physician, came to be the remedy and administer it to the willing (Mat. 9:12; Mk. 2:17; Lk. 4:23; 5:31). He left us in charge of offering this remedy and trying to prevent spiritual death (Jn. 8:21,24) in as many people as possible. Most will reject or at least ignore the offer, unaware of the gravity of their condition. That cannot deter us! Jesus is counting on us to apply His blood to rescue the perishing and care for the dying. A day is coming when there will be no more remedy (cf. 2 Chron. 36:16), but we must be out sharing it until that moment! There are people out there searching for a cure (Mat. 7:7-8). Whatever it costs us, let’s not stop until we’ve helped as many people as we can!

Painting of Zabdiel Boylston
Handling Thorny Issues

Handling Thorny Issues

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard

Christians live on planet earth and aren’t immune to social issues. The vaccine is one of them. This article is NOT about vaccination specifically. I am not qualified to write about it, but this wouldn’t be an appropriate forum even if I was.

However, this issue has influenced the church in a few timeless ways: misapplying scripture, creating division, and engendering hostility.

Misapplying Scripture: Applying Romans 13 to this subject is not appropriate. Nothing about the passage sheds light on which governing authority we should follow. What if federal law contradicts state or local law? Which do we follow then? I Peter 2.13-14 does address varying levels of governing authority, but does not specify which takes precedence. Both passages demand submission to everyone who has authority over us because it’s what God wants. As it stands now, neither passage applies to this issue. We cannot use God’s word to enforce or condemn issues that have no bearing on salvation. When state or local law is in conflict with federal law (or vice versa) and the issue at hand isn’t a salvation issue, it falls under the jurisdiction of Romans 14.

Creating Division: Differences in opinion aren’t new to the church. No reasonable person will call this a salvation issue, so it does fall under the purview of Romans 14. We need to remember the commands in this passage: accept those who have different opinions (1), do not think poorly of those who disagree (3), do not judge someone who exercises preference (3), make decisions based on conviction (5), do not condemn each other over opinions (13), don’t let opinions destroy relationships (15), and don’t let your decision become a problem (16). What does this mean for us? Respect your Christian family’s decision, do not think less of them because of their decision, make the decision you feel is best for you, don’t condemn someone based on their decision, and don’t let an issue that has no bearing on our Christian lives become a source of division.

Hostility: The previous point addresses this somewhat, but sinful behavior has come out of this. Thinking less of a Christian who gets the vaccine is sinful. Thinking less of a Christian who doesn’t get the vaccine is sinful.

Nothing about this issue is new or different. Controversial opinions over military service, firearms, holiday observance, or vaccination are not handled any differently. God expects us to put these kinds of issues in their proper place: the back seat.

“We have to love each other, because love comes from God and everyone who has love belongs to God and knows him. Anyone who doesn’t love doesn’t know God, because God is love” (I Jn. 4.7-8).

“Love each other deeply with a pure heart” (I Pt. 1.22).
“You must continue to love each other” (Heb. 13.1).
“Pursue righteousness, godliness, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness” (I Tim. 6.11).