Is it wrong for pro-lifers to get the vaccine when it was developed through cell lines that come from aborted fetuses? Are Christians obligated to get the vaccine out of love for their neighbor? Scott and Sean discuss these questions, and many more, related to the ethics behind the COVID-19 vaccine.

Episode Transcript

Sean McDowell: Welcome to Think Biblically, conversations on faith and culture, a podcast from Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. I'm your host today Sean McDowell, professor of apologetics. Well, today we're going to bring to you a longer conversation, a bonus episode on one of the most important ethical issues that Christians are wrestling with, which is the morality behind vaccines. For example, we're going to explore questions like, is it wrong to get the vaccine because it was developed with a cell line from aborted fetuses? Why are atheist far more likely to say they will get the vaccine? About 90% compared to white evangelical protestants, 54%.

Is getting the vaccine conceding to government control? Some have suggested is the vaccine safe? Who should be prioritized? These kinds of questions, including some that people have even said that getting the COVID vaccine is the mark of the beast. Now we recorded this first on my YouTube channel because as you know in the Think Biblically Podcast, we typically have episodes about 30 minutes and we wanted to go into some more depth on this because there's so many questions about the ethics of vaccines and also wanted to take some live questions.

So we just recorded this on my YouTube channel, downloaded the audio and are making it available to you as soon as we can. So we hope this will give you just some wisdom and reflection to think through biblically, how we can approach vaccines. And as always, if you enjoy it, we hope you'll share it with a friend. Is it wrong to get the vaccine? Because it was developed with a cell line from aborted fetuses? Today, we have a very important and timely conversation related to all ethical issues, tied to the vaccine with the COVID virus. And I have a guest today who is eminently qualified to talk about this. He is a friend, he's a colleague at Talbot, my co-host for the Think Biblically Podcast. He's also has his doctorate in ethics and written a number of books, including this book moral choices would be, and is one of the leading Christian ethicists of our day. So Dr. Scott Rae, thanks for coming on.

Scott Rae: Hey, my pleasure, Sean. Glad to be able to actually see faces instead of just doing audio like we do for our podcast.

Sean McDowell: That is very true. That makes it fun. Well, let's jump in because people have a lot of questions about this. You contacted me and said, "We need to do a show on this." Tell me why you're so concerned about this right now?

Scott Rae: Because I'm, I'm alarmed at the percentages of people that I hear that are refusing to get vaccinated for COVID. And it's in some quarters that you might not expect. I mean, I've heard of frontline healthcare workers refusing to be vaccinated, firefighters refusing the vaccine and then the statistics among religious affiliation conservative evangelical Christians tend to be some of the lowest in terms of willingness to get the vaccine as opposed to other religious groups or even non-religious groups. Our brothers and sisters in Christ seem to be some of the most skeptical about the vaccine. And so I figured there are probably some ethical or theological reasons for that and I figured we might as well tackle that.

Sean McDowell: Well, maybe let's start there and then we'll get to the question of the vaccine being developed from aborted babies. But from the peer research I looked at today, it said evangelicals 54%, white evangelicals, have said that they will get the vaccine. 90% of atheists said they would get the vaccine. What is going on here?

Scott Rae: Well, I think some of those I think are probably people who are just anti-vaccines in general, for a whole host of reasons that have to do with the cell lines from aborted fetuses like you referred to, to a libertarian view of government where there's just a higher level of mistrust of government and a mistrust of science. I mean, and those reasons they're all across the board on that. So it's a little hard to categorize and pinpoint just one.

Sean McDowell: That's fair, but that is a huge difference between atheists and Christians and we need to think hard about and see if we have any blind spots about this. Well, let's jump into one of the more controversial questions for Christians that I've seen a lot of discussion about and you have spoken up on issues of pro-life. So have I in my writing and discussions and debates. If you are pro-life how can you support a vaccine developed from a line of aborted babies?

Scott Rae: Well, I actually, yeah, I think our pro-life chops I think are beyond dispute for both of us. And there's plenty of material in print from both of us to attest to that, but I think it's possible to be an advocate for vaccines and be pro-life at the same time. And here's the reason for that. It is true that there are cell lines that were begun many years ago from aborted fetuses whether they were electively or not, I think is still up for grabs, but let's assume the worst case scenario that it was from electively aborted fetuses. The cell line that is used in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine is different than the one that's used in the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca cell lines.

I think what your listeners, I think may not grasp is there's a big difference between using fetal remains directly for a treatment and using the tissue from aborted fetuses to start a cell line. Because once the cell line is begun and the one that just so your listeners will know, just for a point of reference, the cell line that's used for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine is called HEK 293. What that stands for I don't have any idea nor do we need to know. That was harvested in the Netherlands in 1973. That cell line has been active for 40 plus years.

What happens is once the cell line is begun, it becomes what's called immortalized, which means it is capable of dividing and reproducing and continuing on and on indefinitely if it's in the right laboratory conditions. Once a cell line is immortalized, it contains no fetal remains, no fetal parts. The fetal parts are used just to jumpstart the cell line. Now this particular cell line is used in, I mean, just tons of treatments. It's used in the vaccines for mumps, measles and rubella. It's used in treatments for diabetes, for arthritis, for, I mean, just all ... I mean, if you did not use anything that had this cell line involved with it, you'd probably have to become something akin to a Christian scientist and step out of medicine altogether.

It's been that impactful in medicine. Now, I think what is important, I think to recognizes how the cell line is used in the vaccine itself. Because there's a difference between a cell line being used in the production of a vaccine and being used in the testing of a vaccine. So for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the HEK 293 cell line was used only to test in animals to test the efficacy of the vaccine. Basically to make sure it works. And they use a bit of the cell line to see if the antibodies are actually being produced by the vaccine. None of the cell line is used in the actual production of the vaccine and none of it is used except for a very small part in the test and there are no fetal remains in any of the vaccines.

Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccine is a little bit different because the cell line there is actually used in the actual production of the vaccine. So not just the testing, but in the production. And even the cell line ... I didn't know this until I started looking into this in a little more detail, but that particular cell line was harvested in the Netherlands, which in 1973, when it was harvested, only abortions, when the life of the mother was in danger, were legal in-

Sean McDowell: Interesting.

Scott Rae: ... the Netherlands at the time.

Sean McDowell: Wow-

Scott Rae: So whether that proves that it came from a morally justifiable termination of pregnancy or not, we can probably debate that, but I think at least the likelihood is that it came from an abortion that I think most people would recognize as being morally legitimate. So then again, this is different. Using this to produce a cell lines is different than using stem cells from aborted fetuses that are being aborted today to directly treat disease.

Sean McDowell: Got it.

Scott Rae: I guess here's the way I put the ethics of this. I think there's a difference between impact and complicity. But just because something has an impact on a medical practice, doesn't automatically make you complicit with the evil action. For example, one of the other well known cell lines that's been produced, your listeners may be familiar with the African American woman, Henrietta Lacks, she had a tumor that the cell line was developed from. She's an African-American woman and this was done back in the '30s where consent was not really what it is today and being African American, her consent was considered irrelevant in any case. And so it's morally tainted because consent was not properly obtained, but the cell line has continued to be useful in treatments along the way even when none of us were complicit in the lack of consent, none of us who benefit from that are complicit in the abortion that took place to form these cell lines.

So it's also like back in World War II, the Nazis did some really grizzly experiments on Jews in the concentration camps. And there was a lot of debate over whether we ought to be able to use the data that was gathered from those experiments.

Sean McDowell: Interesting.

Scott Rae: Now if those experiments were going on today, we would say whether you use the data or not is completely beside the point, you got to stop those experiments. And I would say to the use of the cell lines from aborted fetuses, if we were using aborted fetuses today to found cell lines, then we ought to just stopped doing that. Whether we can use the cell line or not is beside the point, we got to stop the practice. Okay. But we have stopped the practice. Now stem cells and cell lines from aborted fetuses are still being used for a lot of things, but the stem cells are not what's at stake here. It's a cell line that was begun years and years ago and has been immortalized. And I think that the proximity to that immoral act if it was indeed that at all, which I think is questionable, is so distant and so far removed that I think it takes away most allegations of complicity and renders them groundless.

Sean McDowell: Tell me if you'd agree with this analogy. I heard a medical doctor who is Asian described that some of the railways across the US were built on the backs of some Asian migrants who were deeply mistreated. Now, some of the area where that was built, they have new tracks and new trains, but they're using some of the groundwork that was laid unjustly, but in rebuilding it and using what is there, it's not complicit to the wrongs that were first done.

Scott Rae: I completely agree.

Sean McDowell: Okay.

Scott Rae: None of us were around. Just because you benefit from an illicit practice doesn't necessarily give you guilt or complicity in it.

Sean McDowell: So let me hear the quick answers. So do any of the vaccines contain-

Scott Rae: Oh, were mine too long here to start?

Sean McDowell: No. That's not what I meant. We need-

Scott Rae: I'm just kidding.

Sean McDowell: ... the clarity. We need the clarity with this, but I want to hear the bullet point answer so to speak, just for clarity. Do any of the vaccines contain fetal tissue or offshoot?

Scott Rae: No.

Sean McDowell: Okay. Were any actual cells taken directly from fetuses used in this research?

Scott Rae: No.

Sean McDowell: Do any of the vaccines-

Scott Rae: And that applies to both of them.

Sean McDowell: Okay. To both of them.

Scott Rae: That applies to all four vaccines.

Sean McDowell: All four vaccine. Okay. Last questions. Do any of the vaccines encourage more abortions for medical research?

Scott Rae: No.

Sean McDowell: Okay.

Scott Rae: No. And the reason is because they're not necessary. I mean, the cell lines are immortal. I mean, they're going to go on forever.

Sean McDowell: Here's a question from a pastor and a friend of mine, friend of Biola's that I know you thought about this. Evan Wickham says, "How do you respond to the pushback, trust the science? Well, haven't science and Christianity been in odds plenty of times before?"

Scott Rae: Yes and no. I want to restate your question, Evan, just a little bit. I think it's not that Christianity and science are at odds. It's that the worldview of Christianity and the world view of naturalism are at odds. And there's no question that they are significantly at odds in multiple places. But I don't think that just because the world views are different, I don't think there's any reason not to a trust science in areas that are not worldview dependent.

Sean McDowell: Okay.

Scott Rae: So, I mean, on origins, yeah, I get a lot of questions about origin, because those questions are worldview dependent. But there's nothing about the vaccines in my view that are worldview dependent in the same way. So I think the way the question is stated, I think is not quite the way I would state it, because I think Christianity and science have always been in a court. It's just the worldviews underlying the two are what are so different.

Sean McDowell: Scott, because I know you personally for a while and you're my co-host I know you read a ton and try to get both sides of an issue, but I'm seeing people all over the place buying into fake news on this and it's even hard for me sometimes to go, "What is true? What's not true?" What advice would you have for people to not buy into fake news and find trusted sources on this issue?

Scott Rae: Well, I'd say don't get your news in an echo chamber would be for one. And don't get your news only from sources that you tend to agree with. Look at a variety of sources. I think some of the best place to get this I would think are some of the websites from the National Institutes of Health, the CDC, I find some of the sources to be the most objective in my view like the Atlantic, I think is very helpful. And I always, I supplement what I hear on Fox News with what I hear on CNN. And usually where those two sources agree, I think we've got a pretty good indicator that it's not fake news. I'd be careful of getting my news from Facebook sites. I'd be a little leery of that. And at least get your news from sources that require vetting and they require confirmation of stories before they take them on the air.

Sean McDowell: A few people have expressed suspicion about the pharmaceutical companies and the money that's behind this. So let me throw a question up here from redeemed channel and get your thoughts. It says, "What about profit motive? Are we allowed to question these major corporations?"

Scott Rae: Yeah. Those are two different questions. So let me answer the second. The second is definitely we are allowed to question major corporations. But to question them about what, I think is the more appropriate question. There's nothing wrong with the profit motive. In fact, I think for most companies they would admit that the profit is not what they seek, it's a byproduct of putting out their product or service with excellence. And it's what they expect to earn for their shareholders or for their owners as a result of doing that well. And this is where corporations, I think are analogous of what the professions were in Adam Smith's time, where a doctor or a lawyer, the goal was to serve the community well with their product or service by doing so they could expect a reasonable return and a reasonable standard of living.

And I would say profits a little bit like food for a company. You have to have it to survive, but if that's all you focus on, we say there's something not quite right with that picture. And so I would say profit's a byproduct, not the goal. And if it becomes the goal, then I think it's out of balance. But there's nothing evil about profit. Profit is just a market signal that you're using your resources well. Now I don't know what the pharmaceutical companies are making out of this. I don't know what each dose sells for. My guess is that they have a contract with governments and state agencies to provide this at a considerable discount as compared to other drugs. I doubt that they're charging the federal government, $1000 a dose for this. I could be wrong about that, but I think if they were, somebody would have already raised the spectra of price gouging already.

Sean McDowell: Okay. All right, good. That helpful. From an ethical standpoint, what people should be prioritized in getting the vaccine?

Scott Rae: Yeah, that's a really good question and that's a much tougher question because when we talk about distributive justice or the basis on which the goods of society ought to be distributed, there are a whole host of criteria that philosophers have put forth for some time and it could be based on, I mean, commonly based on need or on merit or on social worth or on ability to pay or a whole host of other things. I think we have chosen correctly here to base this on the basis of risk/need that those who are the most at risk of bad outcomes from getting COVID are first in line, which are people over 65 and those with underlying health conditions.

Also the people who are most at risk to the public health in general, which I think justifies putting healthcare workers at the very front of the line. People who are waiting tables in restaurants and handling food closer to the front of the line. My youngest son is 24. He's waiting tables in a restaurant in Los Angeles. He's already gotten one dose of his, and I think he got the second one over the weekend. I think that's fine too. I think when it comes to the rest, then I think it probably should be more be done at random or on a first-come first-served basis. We get a bit of an analogy to this back when dialysis first came on the scene in the 1960s, there were far more people who needed dialysis immediately than there were machines available. And they had to make some really tough calls about how they distributed those.

And after they went on the basis of need, because everybody needed it and it's everybody was on the same level playing field in terms of need, they decided that social worth that that's not fair and they ended up basically choosing it by lot or by doing it at random.

Sean McDowell: Interesting.

Scott Rae: Because that was the only way that they could come up with a way that was fair to allocate that scarce resource. Okay? Now the difference would be with the vaccine, if we had a limited number and we weren't going to get any more, then I'd say we pick it at random. But we are eventually going to have enough where everybody's going to be able to be vaccinated. So it's really about timing, not so much about access. And I think we've been right. I think we've been right ethically the way we've done this.

Sean McDowell: Okay, good. There was a question that was next on my list and Jason asked it, so I'm going to pull his question over and see what your thoughts are on this one. He says, "Should vaccine be mandatory by the government Dr. Rae like California's SB 276?

Scott Rae: Tell me what SB 276 is.

Sean McDowell: I assumed you might know. I don't know. So let's just-

Scott Rae: I don't know. Jason, I'm asking Jason. This is, I think a really tough one. I would not be in favor of government mandating vaccines. Though I do think it's okay for restaurants, for schools eventually to treat the COVID vaccine like schools, for example, like schools treat the mumps, measles, rubella vaccine. That you don't have to get it, but if you don't get it, you can't come in the door. I don't have a problem with an organization setting that standard. I mean, most restaurants now, you're not allowed without a mask to come in and everybody's gotten used to that. But originally, I mean, I was in restaurants where people loudly objected to having to wear masks and the management just politely threw them out.

Sean McDowell: Wow.

Scott Rae: And I think they were justified in doing that because it's their establishment and they're allowed to set the rules within limits. But I think that would be a case of government overreach if they mandated that everybody had to be vaccinated.

Sean McDowell: So essentially the concern for the government requiring it, even though there would seemingly be a net positive gain in health is the negative side of just government forcing people to do something against their will. Is that fair?

Scott Rae: Yeah. And the reason, yeah, I mean, there's a precedent in the law for that already. I mean, Sean, if you're taken to the hospital and let's say you're a Jehovah's Witness and you say absolutely no blood transfusions and they give it to you against your will, those physicians will go to jail for battery. And that's the same for injections. Government forcing someone to get an injection against their will is tantamount to battery under the law already. So I think there's a well established tradition of consent for medical treatments. Add some caveats to that, like if it's an emergency or with a child, parental consent is considered sufficient. But in general, I think the law has already spoken on that and I think rightly so.

Sean McDowell: There's some great questions coming through here. I'm doing my best to navigate them. I've got a couple more for you and then we would jump to-

Scott Rae: Why don't you answer some of them?

Sean McDowell: I haven't written a whole textbook on ethics, although I've written a student book on ethics. So you're doing great by the way. These are tough, really tough questions.

Scott Rae: They are hard questions, yeah. Agreed. You got good thoughtful listeners here.

Sean McDowell: There are, yeah. There's some great people on all sides of this issue. One of the issues we've seen is people jumping the line to get the vaccine. Seems obviously wrong and out of place in most circumstances. At best, maybe I could think of somebody who just needs it urgently to survive, but that person aside, what are your thoughts on that phenomenon?

Scott Rae: Well, that's a hard one to justify, with this one exception. So the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have a expiration period on them. Once they're thought out they're only good for a relatively short period of time. And I'm familiar with stories from a number of distribution sites for the vaccine that at the end of the day, had doses left over and were going to go bad and they were going to be forced to throw them out. And so they allowed for some of their employees and their family members who were not yet qualified under state guidelines to get the vaccine. And I think that's okay because a worse scenario was avoided which would've been throwing them out.

Other than that I can't think of too many exceptions that I think would be morally justifiable. And so my wife is in an age bracket where she has no under underlying health conditions, she's in an age bracket that's it's not next up, but it's close. And she's tempted, I think, tempted to jump the line, but as said she's not going to do that. my understanding is you don't have to prove that you have a preexisting condition in order to get in line.

Sean McDowell: Sure.

Scott Rae: I mean there are a lot of people in underserved communities that just don't have access to a physician to prove that. And so my understanding is we haven't required that kind of proof in order to get a spot in line. I mean, you do have to prove other things that are provable without a burden, like your age or your employment. If you're in a necessary industry or something like that. But preexisting medical conditions, you don't have to prove and I think that's probably right not to make people prove that because that's awfully tough on lots of people who don't have good access to medical care.

Sean McDowell: Scott, here's probably about as tough of a one as I can ask you. And I don't expect you to have a perfect answer for it, but maybe just give us some moral principles, how to think about this. Is there some people who have said the distribution of this should favor certain races who have been historically marginalized and today have less access, like you said, say to a medical doctor and a proper diagnosis? What are your thoughts or how at least should we think about that question? Because I know as Christians, we want to help those who have less access. We want as many people to be helped as possible, but also want to be wise in terms of how this is distributed.

Scott Rae: Well, the Bible's pretty clear that I'm supposed to love my neighbor and I think it's equally clear that I have special obligations toward my neighbors who are poor, needy and marginalized and who just don't have access to the kinds of things that people who have more resources have ready access to. So I don't have a problem with prioritizing some of these I underserved communities. I think as long as we recognize that even in underserved communities, you have a fairly wide variety in the distribution of income in the first place. And so [crosstalk 00:31:16] race per se, because I don't necessarily equate race or ethnicity with being socioeconomically disadvantaged. Now that often is the case, but I don't think that's a necessary conclusion to draw.

Sean McDowell: Okay. That's great. So here's one that's come up. There's a Washington Post article about this. Somebody commented on the side about COVID vaccine being the mark of the beast. Now, before you answer that, we're going to have some time for questions to come in. I'm going to do my best to pull those in. Obviously if they relate. So if you can start loading in some of your comments we'll do our best to tackle them. But is there reason to believe that the COVID vaccine is the mark of the beast?

Scott Rae: Not any more so than the bar codes at the grocery store. That was supposed to be ability to have the mark of the beast scanned, 20 years ago. I don't see any reason to think that that might be the case.

Sean McDowell: It's interesting to go back through history and you see when social security numbers came out, there was concern about the mark of the beast, credit card numbers, phone numbers. I mean almost every time some numbers applied, people apply it to Revelation 13. And frankly Revelation is one of the hardest books to interpret that Christians differ over whether it's all in the past, in the past and the future, entirely in the future. There's such a range of interpretation. I tell people to go back and read Revelation 13 carefully. And I think reading this vaccine into it is a big, big stretch for a range of different reasons. And-

Scott Rae: Well, you have to read Revelation too, in terms of whether it's figurative or literal because there's a lot of very vivid figurative language there that is not intended to be taken literally. It points to a literal underlying reality ...

Sean McDowell: Sure.

Scott Rae: ... but the figure of speech itself is not to be taken literally.

Sean McDowell: One of the questions that's come up a few times is more medical about concern for the future. Three, five years down the road, are we injecting ourselves with something that we'll look back and be like, "Oh my goodness, we had no idea." Because as of say infertility or cancer or some other physical effect by this.

Scott Rae: Yeah. That's actually a really good medical question that we should get an MD in here to answer. But I think the risk, I think would be similar to maybe the overuse of antibiotics today and that you have some people who are just, they're resistant to antibiotics and some bugs that are resistant to antibiotics. Some bacteria are resistant. It may be that as viruses mutate, I think there is a question about how long lasting the immunity is from COVID. But I think five years from now, we'll have to see. But I think the risk to public health in a wide variety of forms at this point, I think outweighs any reasonable risk that people are foreseeing in the future. Now to be sure nobody's prophetic, and we don't have omniscience about the future, but I don't think there's any reason to be skeptical about the vaccine and what it might produce.

Then the only thing I could see even remotely on the horizon would be something like viruses that become resistant to vaccines.

Sean McDowell: Got you.

Scott Rae: But if we don't vaccinate now, the virus is going to run rampant and if something may run rampant five years from now, but I don't think that's relevant to the idea that we we got to take care of what's running rampant now and we'll assess the risks of that later, but the risks of not vaccinating people now are so huge. I mean, there's no way to get the herd immunity that we need without probably three quarters of the world's population being vaccinated.

Sean McDowell: Three quarters. Wow. That's a lot. I appreciate that you say, we don't know for sure three to five years down the road. These are trade offs and educated guesses. But as far as what I understand, and I'm not obviously a medical doctor here. There is no chance, at least the Moderna and Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines that somebody could get the vaccine and end up getting the virus itself. You're not getting a simple dose of the virus that builds up natural immunity. It's a different process, correct?

Scott Rae: That's correct. Live virus is not in any of these. So the in fact they've tried this process for many years in the past, but this is the first time they've been able to get this process to work. And there's a molecular tweak that they've made, that has made it work for these that prove that they just were not able to get done in the past. So yeah, I can't see five years in the future, but I can see six months in the future if we don't use vaccines.

Sean McDowell: Okay. Scott, what would you say to somebody who says, "Look, this particularly would be a Christian, probably the certain theological bent. Getting a vaccine shows a lack of trust in God. You're trusting science rather than trust in God. Why don't you have more faith and believe that God is sovereign?"

Scott Rae: Then I would say that to be consistent with that you need to be a Christian scientist.

Sean McDowell: Okay. You mean-

Scott Rae: You don't forego ... [crosstalk 00:37:46]

Sean McDowell: ... a Christian who is a scientist. You mean Christian science.

Scott Rae: No, a Christian science practitioner ...

Sean McDowell: Got it.

Scott Rae: ... that forgoes all medicine, largely for those reasons. It reminds me a bit of the guy who's stuck in the flood waters and prays to God for deliverance. And guy comes along in a boat and says, "Hey, hop in, I'll take you to safety." And guy said, "No, I'm waiting for God to provide for me." And helicopter comes down with a rope and says "Come grab on, I'll take you to safety." The guy says, "No, I'm waiting for God to provide for me." And finally he drowns and gets to heaven and asks the Lord, "What happened?" And he said, "Hey, I sent you a boat and a helicopter. Why didn't you take advantage of those?"

Sean McDowell: Got it-

Scott Rae: I think God would say, "I'm sending you medicine too."

Sean McDowell: Okay.

Scott Rae: And theologically, from our view of general revelation and common grace, medicine I think is one of the great gifts of God by virtue of common grace to help alleviate the general effects of sin in the world. And so, I mean, yeah, within boundaries, of course, but I think to that skepticism about vaccines, for reasons of lack of faith needs to be taken, I think to its logical conclusion. And I don't know too many people besides Christian science practitioners who are willing to live with that.

Sean McDowell: That's fair. When it's all said and done, you and I both don't understand the science behind this. We haven't had a view into the kitchen, so to speak where this is made. So whether or not we get the vaccine is a matter of trust. That's really what it's going to boil down to. So tell me why you trust the process here and why you think other Christians and non-Christians should also trust it.

Scott Rae: Well, because so much of what we do day in and day out is based on trust. And it's mostly trusting of non-believers to do their jobs. I got in my car to go get lunch before coming on this with you. I trusted that when I hit my brakes, my car was going to stop. I trust the people who manufactured and engineered my brakes that they're going to do their job. I trusted that the food that I got from Chipotle is safe and not going to cause damage to me. I trust that when I get on an airplane again, that the pilot knows what they're doing. We don't have space in our lives to verify everything that we put our trust in as a matter of habit. And again, medicine has an overwhelming, trustworthy track record.

Yeah, there have been some things where medicine has stepped way over the line. And though some of those are in the past, some of those are more recent but I think overwhelmingly, we take those as exceptions to the general rule that physicians and healthcare professionals are in their business in order to serve their patients and to provide for the best interest to their patients. That's why we say doctors and healthcare professionals have fiduciary obligations to their patients where the interest of their patients always trumps the physician's self-interest.

And that's the definition of a fiduciary relationship. And I trust the scientific community. I trust peer reviewed research that's subject to rigorous review and assessment. I trust the pharmaceutical companies in general, whose work the FDA requires usually years and years of rigorous testing that's peer reviewed. So I think it's a bit irrational not to trust medicine, given how much we trust other things in other institutions, just as a matter of course. I mean, our lives would come to a grinding halt, if we had to verify everything that we trust in today.

Sean McDowell: Fair enough. I got one last theological question for you and then a practical one that I think is interesting. Jamie Massengale says ... Oops, I commented the wrong one on here. Asked a question. Oh, it was stated, well, let me see if I can find this very quickly. Oh, here it is. Jamie Massengale says, "What about when God sends plagues? Should we interpret this as a plague?" And I think the heart of the question is I saw some Christians early on saying, for example, in New York, because it was hit it so hard. This was a result of say the abortion bill that was passed and cheered in that state. Maybe God is bringing a judgment on them. And I have serious reservations with that interpretation, apart from God directly telling us this. Do you read anything theological into the plague?

Scott Rae: I say, yeah, with your caveat because the difference is in biblical times, the prophets actually told people directly, this is what's happening. And the mosaic law actually was structured in such a way that their national prosperity and obedience was dependent upon their obedience to God's law. And the law has some of the covenant cursings being plague, pestilence, drought, things like that. But the New Testament's pretty, we're not under the law today as a rule of life and no country today has the same theological standing before God that the nation of Israel did in the Old Testament. No country today has that same covenant relationship to God. Now I think there probably are some cause and effect things. I think you can make some cause and effect things that an alcoholic who has liver disease. Does God send that? Oh, well I say there, you reap what you sow, as a result of the natural order of things. But I think what you've described there in New York, I think is a stretch because that doesn't really fit the natural order of things.

For example, we saw surges in the virus after Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I think that's because of the natural order of things that people were less careful and less protected and therefore we have these really significant surges. Is that God sending those? Other than they're being consistent with the general order of things that work in a cause and effect world, I still think we have a lot of evidence biblically to suggest anything more than that.

Sean McDowell: I think that's wise. And I would definitely agree with that holding judgment. I remember one conservative a while ago pointed towards the flood that happened in New Orleans and said, "It's God judging the wickedness there." And then the same person supported a political party, which was rained out at their convention. It had issues and I thought, "You know what? We tend to be selective of who do you think God is judging. We all have those blinders myself included." So I think that's good wisdom.

Hey, those of you watching this, Dr. Scott Rae is one of the leading Christian ethicists in the country and beyond. We are co-hosts for the Think Biblically Podcast. If you've enjoyed that, I don't even know if there's a link below, but check it out. We put out a weekly podcast on theological, cultural and apologetic issues and I think that you would really ... Well, that's great. There's a number of comments. People who agree, people who disagree, but certainly this has given you something to think about. Those who are watching theologically and ethically and if you differ, go back to scripture and just make sure you're being as consistent and thoughtful as you can be, because lives are at stake with this. We need to be careful how we approach it. So Scott appreciate a ton you coming on-

Scott Rae: Hey, this was fun.