3 reasons Christians should vaccinate with confidence

February 3, 2015

The recent measles outbreak centered in California has brought up questions about vaccinations. You cannot turn on a traditional news source or social media outlet without seeing a related article about measles specifically or vaccination in general.

In my pediatric practice, questions about vaccines come up frequently. Your Facebook timeline, like mine, is often filled with vocal vaccine skeptics and critics who make us feel like we are in the minority opinion.

So, what is a Christian to do with vaccinations?

I believe they should vaccinate and vaccinate with confidence.


1. Christians should vaccinate because science confirms the effectiveness and safety of vaccinations.

Vaccines work. Vaccines have eliminated a significant amount of suffering and death from various preventable diseases. Let’s take measles as an example. Prior to the vaccination, four to five million people contracted measles in the United States per year. Complications of the measles included hospitalization (48,000 per year), encephalitis or brain swelling (4,000 per year) and death (400 to 500 per year). It was considered eliminated from the United States in 2000 because there were no new cases transmitted here. Worldwide, measles continues to be a significant cause of disease and death. There were 145,000 deaths from measles in 2014 alone. Measles is not the only example. Each infectious disease we provide a vaccination for has a similar story.

Vaccines are safe. Studies have shown this to be true over and over again. The basic science of vaccines is sound and proven. Additive ingredients in the vaccines are not “toxins.” They are chemicals that are found in nature. Your child will get more mercury from a tuna fish sandwich, more aluminum from breast milk or formula and more formaldehyde from a pear than they will receive from vaccinations. Population studies looking at vaccine safety have consistently shown they are safe. The biggest and one of the most recent studies from Australia looked at more than 1.2 million children and showed no association with autism for vaccination, MMR, thimerosal or mercury.

Many Christians have adopted the mindset that we should be skeptical of science. But to be skeptical does not mean to disregard. We should also be aware that the study of science is defined as the “the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation and theoretical explanation of phenomena.” The observation of the natural world that God created (Gen 1:1) and that Jesus upholds (Col 1:17) should only draw us closer to him and help us to understand him better.

We should weigh the evidence in light of a Christian worldview, but we cannot ignore overwhelming scientific consensus in favor of anecdote and theory. Evaluate the evidence from reliable sources, then pray and seek wisdom.

2. Christians should vaccinate because we love our neighbors.

Vaccination is not only best for your child, it is best for those around us as well. Despite what you might have heard, the science of herd immunity is solid. Using measles as an example again, the rate of infection in a fully vaccinated child exposed to measles in almost zero percent. Not zero, but close, which becomes important. The rate of infection in an unvaccinated child is 90 percent.

Because measles is contagious before children show symptoms, unvaccinated exposed children have a high likelihood of spreading the disease to others before anyone is aware that they have it. However, in an outbreak situation, even those who are vaccinated can become infected because the vaccines are not perfect.

The main issue is that the trail of unvaccinated infected children and adults creates a domino effect of exposures and infections that become difficult to contain. Add to that the fact that many who are asked to stay home in order to prevent the spread of the disease are refusing quarantine, which makes the situation even more tenuous.

Children who have not been vaccinated because of the choice of the parent are not just risking sickness for themselves; they are endangering others as well. Others at risk include children and adults who are immunosuppressed due to medical conditions, those who cannot receive vaccines due to medical issues and those less than one year old who have not received their first vaccination.

In this situation, we need to remember that we are our brother’s keeper (Gen 4:9). Choosing not to vaccinate and to hide in the herd of everyone else who is puts others unnecessarily at risk and, as we have seen these past few weeks, does not work. Vaccination is pro-life and pro-neighbor because it serves the public good.

3. Finally, Christians should vaccinate because we don't give into fear mongering.

I realize this statement could be made for either side. Remember that in fear mongering the subject is often exaggerated in order to generate the desired response. Telling the story of a child who contracted an infectious disease and had a terrible outcome is a valid public health strategy. It could be fear mongering but when those tactics are used, it should be supported with data that describe the reality and scope of the problem.

The reality is that the very accusation of fear mongering that is hurled at those who support vaccination is often the tactic most employed by those opposing. Most often the stories I hear are anecdotal, not verifiable. The studies do not support the likelihood that the adverse event could be vaccine related. The strategies employed play on our biggest fears as a parent, that we might do something that could harm our children. What they forget to mention is that by not vaccinating you are taking a bigger risk.

Unfortunately, they often don’t stop at your fears associated with your own child. They will also attack your foundational beliefs when it comes to how far you should go to help your neighbor, your Christian worldview, your pro-life stance and others. I encourage you to not make decisions based on these attacks, step back and think.

As Christians, we do not have to make decisions this way. We can seek out information, wise counsel and trust that God can and will lead us into truth. Decisions about vaccines are no different.

In the midst of all the confusion about vaccines, I believe that Christians don’t have to be the ones who are confused. We can use the gift of vaccines with confidence knowing that, ultimately, our lives and our health are in the hands of our Father.

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24