Three recent observations:
1. Word continues to reach us of self-identified Christians who have fallen ill with Covid. Some have required hospitalization experiencing severe pneumonia symptoms. Given current vaccination statistics, it is safe to assume that the majority of these individuals are unvaccinated. One hospitalized acquaintance reported that all their “Christian” friends encourage them not to get vaccinated.
2. I reviewed a recent survey compiled by George Barna entitled, “Do American Christians Actually Have Biblical Beliefs?”.
Journalist Jessica Lea writes, “New data from George Barna reveals that while 69% of American adults identify as “Christian,” only six percent actually have a biblical worldview. These findings, says Barna, show that Americans are not taking obedience to Jesus seriously—and the research should also lead us to be cautious when interpreting political data.
‘Christian’ has become somewhat of a generic term rather than a name that reflects a deep commitment to passionately pursuing and being like Jesus Christ.”
3. A lead article on the USA Today News website stated, “Some say ‘the mark of the beast’ is Covid-19 vaccine”.
Self-identified Christians who hold such a belief have a worldview shaped by dispensational doctrine. Dispensational teaching addresses such topics as the mark of the Beast, the antichrist, the tribulation, and armageddon.
Not everyone who self-identifies as a Christian, including myself, is a dispensationalist. I prefer to be influenced by Jesus’ prophecies about his Kingdom articulated almost 2000 years ago rather than John Nelson Darby’s dispensationalist doctrine. He publicized his dispensational paradigm a mere 200 years ago.
The common thread stitched through my three observations is the notion of worldview. All of us have a worldview, a grid through which we interpret life. One’s worldview influences the decision to be or not to be vaccinated. Pollster George Barna concluded that only 6% of the 69% self-identified American Christians have a biblical worldview. Some self-identified American Christians have a worldview shaped by dispensationalism. The lack of a biblical worldview contributes to an anti-vaccination mindset.
One revelation amid this current pandemic is that developing a worldview is more than just an interesting intellectual exercise. It is a matter of life and death.
I must admit that the response to this pandemic by many self-identified Christians blindsided me. As one raised in the Christian Church and serving in various leadership capacities in the Christian community, I learned to be wary of another’s self-identification as a Christian. Jesus’ counsel, “Therefore by their fruits, you will know them.” (Matthew 7:20, NKJV), remains relevant today. Barna’s survey noted above serves as an affirmation of my guardedness around self-identified Christians. I agree with Barna’s insight. “The label “Christian” has become somewhat of a generic term rather than a name that reflects a deep commitment to passionately pursuing and being like Jesus Christ.”
Three words come to mind as I catalog the major non-biblical worldviews of self-identified Christians I have witnessed during this pandemic, narcissism, anarchy, and irrationality. I will focus on irrationality in this text. I apply the descriptor irrationality to those who suspect, ignore, or defy best science. In previous blogs, I have addressed narcissism and anarchy. I will write more in a subsequent blog as to how these behaviors relate to a Biblical worldview.
The opening chapters of Genesis articulate the footings for my biblical worldview. The fundamental footing is theism.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1, NKJV)
An intelligent God exists. He created an intelligent universe. God created humankind in His image, endowed with His intelligence so that humanity could understand and manage His creation.
Following the creation narrative, there are three mandates given to humanity.
“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
(Genesis 1:26–28, NKJV)
“This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown. For the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.” (Genesis 2:4–6, NKJV)
“Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:15–17, NKJV)
The first two mandates are prescriptive:
#1. Be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth.
#2. Subdue the earth, have dominion over every living thing on the planet. Till the ground, tend and keep the garden.
The words “till” and “tend” are the identical Hebrew word in the verses cited above. The word “keep” is the Hebrew word “shaw mar” It means to have charge of, guard, keep watch, protect, and save life.
The third mandate is proscriptive:
#3. Do not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
On a positive note eating the fruit from all the other trees was permissible. Specifically mentioned is the tree of life.
Taken together, the purpose of these mandates is to preserve and promote human life on our planet. God’s mandates are applicable in addressing life forms such as viruses.
Viruses are a threat to the #1 mandate. Viruses unchecked threaten man’s ability to multiply and fill the earth. As of this writing, there have been 4.55 million reported deaths worldwide attributable to Covid-19. One can only imagine how many Covid related deaths go unreported. This statistic illuminates an enormous and tragic loss of life. 4.55 million deaths represent a severe setback in man’s ability to multiply and fill the earth.
The ultimate goal of the #2 mandate is to serve the #1 mandate. Viruses are “living things” and thus qualified to be dominated by humanity. Humanity must be proactive to fulfill the #2 mandate. Farming, for example, requires much more than just planting seeds. The farmer must prepare the soil and must tend the plants. A lazy farmer who lacks a basic understanding of the science of farming will not produce much fruit.
Mandate #2 provides the occasion for science. Through the disciplines of the scientific method, humanity is increasing in its understanding of God’s creation and how to best steward creation and fulfill mandate #1.
During this pandemic, some advocate a “let nature take its course” position. This argument assumes that the body should build its immunity rather than depend on a vaccine. I have several objections to this position. My primary observation is that the historical use of vaccines demonstrates that vaccines spare lives and protect the quality of life. Vaccines have eradicated deadly viruses from the globe. Smallpox and two of the three types of polio are examples.
The “let nature take its course” argument brings to mind social Darwinism. Absent vaccines, the physically fittest will be more likely to survive. The weak, those with underlying health issues, and marginalized society who lack quality medical care are more likely to die. Should they survive the attack, many may experience ongoing symptoms which will diminish their quality of life. I survived polio. The virus left me partially paralyzed. Fortunately, I lived in Canada, where prosthetic devices are readily available. Many polio survivors in third-world countries became known as “crawlers>” Prosthetic devices were not available for them. I have witnessed these “crawlers” first-hand in my international travels. My heart broke, and I counted my blessings!.
“Survival of the fittest, a term made famous in the fifth edition (published in 1869) of On the Origin of Species by British naturalist Charles Darwin, suggested that organisms best adjusted to their environment are the most successful in surviving and reproducing. Darwin borrowed the term from English sociologist and philosopher Herbert Spencer, who first used it in his 1864 book Principles of Biology. (Spencer came up with the phrase only after reading Darwin’s work.)
Darwin did not consider the process of evolution as the survival of the fittest; he regarded it as survival of the fitter because the “struggle for existence” (a term he took from English economist and demographer Thomas Malthus) is relative and thus not absolute.
Survival of the fittest is at odds with a biblical worldview. It ignores the #2 mandate. Also, the disciples of Jesus give voice to the weak, the marginalized, and the oppressed of society and proactively work to serve, protect, and liberate them.
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