Should You Trust Your Faith or The Vaccines to Protect You and Your Family From COVID?

Takeaways:

  1. Relying on faith as your strategy for protecting yourself and others from COVID is unbiblical.
  2. Relying on faith as your approach to protecting yourself and others is inconsistent with your own belief system.
  3. Reliance on faith as your approach to protecting yourself and your family from COVID doesn’t make sense.
  4. Reliance on faith to protect you and others from COVID is a perversion of what scripture teaches us.
  5. Reliance on faith to protect us from COVID damages our effectiveness as witnesses to others.

In the roughly ten years that I have been blogging, I rarely express my religious views. My blog has been primarily focused on health care administration, health care reform, health care innovation, health care law and, over the past year and a half, COVID.

Some time ago, a wise mentor told me that everything is spiritual. I rejected that premise at first, but I have come to realize more and more that it is true. Thus, I find that I cannot separate my recommendations for protecting Americans from COVID from the religious concerns that many are expressing to me lately.

In the past couple of months, I have probably had discussions with at least 50 vaccine hesitant folks, convincing at least 37 of them to get vaccinated. Initially, concerns mostly focused on medical and scientific issues. However, in the past month, by far, the most common reasons I hear from people are religious concerns. Weeks ago, the major concern was that the vaccines are the mark of the beast. Therefore, I wrote a blog piece as to why this view is completely contrary to scripture. In the past couple of weeks, by far and away, the most common rejoinder that I get to my encouragement to get vaccinated is that the person will rely on their faith. Worse, some religious leaders are providing reliance on faith as the justification for failing to implement measures to protect children and their families in religious schools. Thus, once again, I feel compelled to write another blog piece to expose the fact that this position is unbiblical in order that my fellow brothers and sisters are not mislead by what seems like, on its face, a noncontroversial position like we should rely on our faith to protect us.

Let me once again, make some disclosures, so that folks will understand my theology:

  1. I am a man of faith and a very devoted Christian.
  2. The denomination with which I affiliate is Southern Baptist.
  3. I believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God.
  4. I believe in the inerrancy of scripture.
  5. I believe that to discern truth, we are to test all things against what scripture says. 1 Thes. 5:20.

Should we rely on faith for our protection from COVID?

Reliance on faith for protection against COVID is unbiblical.

I have faith that there is a loving God, who sent His Son to die for my sins, and that because of my confession of sin and acceptance of Jesus as my savior I am promised eternal life. This is not blind faith – each element of this is supported by promises made in scripture.

On the other hand, no amount of faith will protect me from aging, disease, and death, unless the Rapture intercedes. The Bible tells us that we are not promised tomorrow. Prov. 27:1. Revered men of God, such as Billy Graham, understood that no where in scripture do God’s words justify reliance on faith to protect us from disease or to avoid physical death. The apostles were all men of faith. They are all dead. We all know people of great faith who have all aged, all deteriorated to some degree with age and all died. The Bible does not teach us that if we have faith, we won’t get diseases or get into accidents or die from those diseases or accidents. Similarly, God does not promise us and the Bible does not teach that persons of faith are immune to or will avoid all infectious diseases. Our hospitals are full of sinners, but not every patient is devoid of faith.

In fact, the Bible makes many references to the fact that Christians will be subject to trials and tribulations. (e.g., Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. James 1:2-3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Cor 1:3-4.) The book of Job describes great afflictions of disease and suffering on the part of Job, whose faith in God was affirmed by this testing. Many of us would have to ask ourselves on self-examination whether our own faith would hold up as strongly as Job’s did.

The devil tested and tempted Jesus by taunting Him to jump off the top of the temple and to rely on God and His angels to swoop Jesus up before He would strike the ground. Jesus rebuked the devil, telling him, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’” (NLT).

Clearly, scripture teaches us that we are not to purposefully put ourselves or others in harm’s way counting on God to save us or them. Don’t misunderstand me, I have seen miracles and I know God works miracles and is capable of performing miracles. But, scripture teaches us that we are not to put ourselves or others in danger and just assume that God will intervene supernaturally to protect us or them. When we avoid the protective measures recommended by public health authorities, that is exactly what we are doing.

As I said, my faith is grounded in the promises of the Bible – that because I have repented of my sins and accepted Jesus as my savior that I have the promise of eternal life. However, any faith that I have that because I am a child of God, God will ensure that I am not exposed to COVID, infected with COVID or end up seriously ill or dying from COVID is not only unjustified by scripture, it is unbiblical.

Reliance on faith for protection from COVID is inconsistent with your own belief system.

Now, it is true that I likely don’t know you, can’t know your heart and can’t possibly know how you put your faith into action, but I am making an educated guess here, because I am guessing you are not a Saint (my apologies to those of you who are).

But, let’s just think about this for a minute. I applaud you for your faith. But, while you may feel that your faith will protect you from COVID, I am wondering whether you extend this protection conferred by your faith to other parts of your life. Do you leave your house unlocked trusting God to protect you from would-be criminals? Do you allow your children to play in traffic, trusting God to protect them from harm? If you were having worrisome symptoms, would you refrain from going to the doctor for evaluation and treatment, trusting that God will fix whatever ails you? If you go on a camping trip, do you not take a tent or camper or protective clothing, assuming that God will protect you from the elements because of your faith?

If you answer all of these questions that you do indeed trust your faith to protect you and others in all of these instances and all other aspects of your life, then I apologize to you, am in awe of you, God bless you and this blog post is not intended for you. But, I doubt there are many of you that fit into this category. Even the Pope has bullet-proof glass in the Popemobile, counting on that to stop a bullet rather than his faith.

If you are only asserting protection based on your faith relative to COVID, but not the other areas of your life I have mentioned above and others, then an honest examination into why you adopt this inconsistency will be illuminating. I suspect that critical self-examination will reveal that your dependence on faith against COVID as opposed to all other areas of your life has less to do with your faith and devotion to God and more to do with your politics, ideology, or other nonbiblical influences on your life and decision-making and are more likely to come from Facebook than The Holy Bible.

Reliance on faith for protection from COVID doesn’t make sense.

If our faith is sufficient to protect us from COVID, then we must conclude that those who have been afflicted, hospitalized and died were not people of faith or had insufficient faith. Let’s just take the smallest number – the number who have died. Does it really make sense to you that the 4,315,821 persons across the world, or even just the 618,710 Americans who have died from COVID were all atheists? Or, if you attribute it to simply insufficient faith, as opposed to no faith, do you believe that you have greater faith than all of these people?

Reliance on faith for protection from COVID is a perversion of what the Bible teaches us.

In my medical practice, I have taken care of atheists and people of almost every religion. I also distinctly remember caring for three people I knew very well, knew their deeply-held religious beliefs and knew their commitment to living Christian values in their own lives. Two of them developed cancers and the third a non-malignant, terminal disease. This third person was in his thirties, had weeks to months to live, was estranged from his family and had no one to care for him and could not afford hospice care. So, my wife and I took him into our home and cared for him.

What I remember was the most painful thing for him was misguided Christians who felt compelled to share their unbiblical views that he was afflicted with disease and was dying because he did not have sufficient faith. I hope I have adequately made the point above that this is a decidedly unchristian and unbiblical view.

The Bible is also replete with passages that teach us to care for and protect children and the vulnerable. The Bible also teaches us that our religious leaders have great responsibility and accountability to God for acting in accordance with his teachings. I am praying that our religious leaders will see the errors of their ways when they advocate that schools should not take all possible steps to protect children, most of whom will be vulnerable, when they make a decision that is contrary to the advice of every public health organization. Unfortunately, these leaders must give an account to God for their actions and decisions. Romans 14:12. I feel confident that explaining that the decision was based on a survey of parents or emails received from these parents will not seem like a strong defense as they stand before the throne of God.

Reliance on faith for protection from COVID damages our witness to a lost world.

I was not saved until I was in my thirties. I remember that I was trying to figure out why my Christian friends seemed to have so much joy in their lives and I did not. I saw in them something I wanted and it drove me to Christ.

On the other hand, I fear that people will look at the ineffective leadership of many who hold themselves out to be Christians, the disdain that these leaders seem to have for those who do not share their beliefs or ideologies, their rejection of science and medicine, their embrace of lies and misinformation, and their promotion of self-interests and personal freedoms at the expense of others’ well-being and conclude that if that is Christianity, they want nothing to do with it. Further, the decisions by religious leaders that show no regard for the welfare of children is very likely to turn many away from the Church. Finally, one merely needs to watch a pastor yelling and ranting on social media that people wearing masks are not welcome in his church (as if it is his church) to realize how repulsive this will be to those who are lost, and see how supposedly being a God-fearing, Christian is role modeled.

It is not too late. If you do have faith and are using that as your strategy against COVID, then read the scriptural references above and pray to God that He will provide you with wisdom and insight. Then adopt these public health measures and encourage others to do so. Examine the witness that you are providing and determine whether it is one you will be proud of when you stand before the throne on judgment day. And take care of others as God commanded us all to do.

18 thoughts on “Should You Trust Your Faith or The Vaccines to Protect You and Your Family From COVID?

  1. Thank you for your Christian perspective as it relates to COVID vaccinations.  I want you to know that the wisdom you’ve shared played a tremendous part in the reason I went ahead and got vaccinated a few weeks ago.  I appreciate you, Dr. Pate and will never forget the compassion you showed me while Lynette and I battled breast cancer in 2017.

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    1. I am so glad to hear this. You and Lynette have been through so much, we have to keep you safe and healthy! Lynette and I still think of you from time to time and I am delighted you are well. Thanks for following the blog!

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  2. HI Dr. Pate! As always so enjoy reading your blog and your perspectives. I have a favor to request. Could you send me an email so I can share a contact name for you? They are looking to ask you a couple questions regarding a school program.
    Many thanks, Carmen Oldenburg

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  3. Thank you for this much needed wisdom and professional guidance, Dr. Pate. Sadly, I feel people are dying needlesly because they do not understand what you have expressed so well.

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    1. Thank you, Bill. I appreciate the encouragement. Unfortunately, too many have died from or are suffering with long-term effects of
      COVID, and I fear that many more will. As a physician, the unavoidable deaths are difficult, but the avoidable deaths are especially difficult to handle.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Please direct me to previous blog articles giving a similarly clear Christian perspective on health care administration, reform, innovation, and law. Specifically, I would like to understand if Jesus would prefer M4A (Medicare for All) or the current design of our nation’s health system. I am asking in all seriousness, because when health insurers and government programs repeatedly denied care for my child, I could do nothing But Rely on God.

    A recent (Nov 2020?) article in Christianity Today suggested Christians should support more community based health clinics, as the solution to our nation’s health crisis. Such a “solution” is inadequate. What is the answer to problems that plague the existing inefficient, costly, design of our Nation’s health system ??? As is, the “system” Kills as surely as Covid, and often more cruelly.

    Have you written previously on how faith should influence an individual’s stance on health reform? If not, please do.

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    1. Hi Linda,

      I have not previously written about the specific issue you ask in your question. In fact, as I write in my most recent blog post, I generally have not addressed theological questions on my blog until I felt compelled to do so with the last couple of blog posts I have written.

      My coauthor, Dr. Ted Epperly, and I have just finished writing a book on preparing for the next pandemic. We are working through the review and editing process of that book, but currently discussing writing a book next year on how to address some of the flaws of the American health care system – excessive costs, variable quality, access, health care disparities, drug prices, etc.

      I agree with you that I doubt community-based health clinics are the answer to all of the ails of the American health care delivery system, but I do think they can play a role.

      I am so sorry for the issues affecting the care of your child.

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  5. I have a question but, first want to share that I’m scared to get an Mrna vaccine because as I read it has never been previously used in humans prior to the clinical testing. I’m just not so sure about the science behind it. But, I been looking at J&J vaccine and noticed they don’t use Mrna because it’s a vector virus vaccine…. do you think avoiding Pfizer and Moderna and going with J&J is a smart choice for me? I’m a healthy 31 year old female. Thank you!

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    1. Tiffany,
      I am so pleased that you are going to get vaccinated and that you trust me enough to ask my advice.
      J&J would not be my first choice, but if you tell me that is the only one you would be willing to take, then I say, by all means, please get it and get it ASAP!
      But, let me tell you. There is nothing more important to me than family and I have received Moderna, my wife has received Moderna and my two daughters and my sister have received Pfizer. I have studied these vaccines carefully. We have more data on these vaccines than many other vaccines and many medications that people take without reservation. And, even with all the data and experience we have had since I got vaccinated back in February, in October, I will be getting my booster with Moderna and without one moment’s hesitation.
      So, with my assurances, if you are open to it, go get the Moderna vaccine tomorrow (it may be slightly better than Pfizer against delta, but not enough that if you can’t easily find Moderna, then just go ahead and get Pfizer).
      Please let me know what you decide. Thank you, thank you, thank you for getting vaccinated!

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  6. I am having trouble seeing all of your posts… the front page of wordpress only allows one to see a couple of posts and not any of the earlier ones. Could you please add a link to a list of prior posts on the front page?

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    1. Lynn,

      That is a fantastic suggestion; I just don’t know how to do that. Let me check with the website folks to see if they can explain to me how to do that. However, for now, you can go to the bottom post on the page, click on continue reading, and scroll to the end. then it gives the prior post that you can click on. You can continue doing so to go back to earlier posts. Obviously, not the most reader friendly way to to it, so I’ll look into other options. Thanks!

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  7. Hey! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and say I truly enjoy reading your articles. Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that deal with the same topics? Thanks!

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