Christ Over All is a new online venture that attempts to teach Christians about how the Bible applies to all of life. This is an important and necessary venture. However, it is also a difficult venture. Ideally Christian discipleship involves training Christians for vocations in a myriad of fields. Christians with exegetical and theological expertise should partner with Christians with expertise in the various aspects of life to which the Bible is being applied. However, there is a danger when Christians with exegetical and theological expertise wrongly diagnose the situation to which they are applying Scripture.
Stephen Wellum’s article, “Thou Shalt Be Vaccinated: When “Love Thy Neighbor” Does Not Fulfill the Law,” in an example of this. Wellum argues against the claim that persons should vaccinate themselves against Covid-19 on the basis of the love command. He claims:
For what we now know about the truth of this vaccine (which doesn’t necessarily apply to other vaccines) is that it causes more harm than good, as I’ll show below. As such, if we truly love our neighbor, Christians should lovingly warn others of its serious consequences.
Wellum rightly understands that in order to apply the Bible to a situation, we have to understand that situation. Because he thinks that Covid-19 vaccines are harmful, he thinks the way to live out the love commandment is to warn people of their danger. Hence, he charges those who exhort people to receive the Covid-19 vaccines on the basis of the love command of a misuse of the command.
The question is whether Wellum rightly understands the situation to which he is applying the love command. Are the vaccines in question are helpful or harmful? Wellum cites left-leaning organizations like BioLogos as supporting vaccination, but conservative organizations like Creation Ministries International also support vaccination. He notes that left-leaning organizations like BioLogos appeal to the love command, but so do theologically conservative ones like CMI. See CMI’s lengthy article, “Should Christians Vaccinate?” The CMI article is more detailed, makes use of more reliable sources, and represents its sources more accurately than Wellum’s article does.
Ironically, by linking the name of Christ to warning Christians against the vaccine (“if we truly love our neighbor, Christians should lovingly warn others of its serious consequences”; “we can make a strong case that to truly love our neighbor would be to abstain from taking it any further”) Wellum may be guilty of the very charge he makes against those who claimed that to take the vaccine was to love their neighbor.
There are at least two lessons here for those who desire rightly seek for the Bible to rule over all of life.
1. Distinguish between applications are clear and necessary and applications that require a great deal of additional research or inference. Moving from the Bible to real world biblical application on some issues requires right understanding the situation to which the Bible is being applied.
A few qualifications:
a. This is not an argument against making such applications. It is an argument for awareness of the necessary work involved in making such applications—and a spirit of charity towards Christians who interpret the situation differently.
b. Nor is this to say that in complicated situations any Christian interpretation of the situation is acceptable. The Christian must still seek for a true understanding of the situation. Misdiagnosing the situation can result in misapplying the Scripture, and that is not of minor concern.
2. Christians seeking to develop a biblical view of life cannot work in isolation but must work with other mature Christians who together have a deep and wide understanding of both God’s Word and God’s world.