Recommended

Are Christians allowed to invest in companies which use stem cells in vaccine development?

Pfizer
The Pfizer logo seen here in the company's New York headquarters. |

One thing I learned as a talk show host on Christian radio is that any question which has the form of "Are Christians allowed to X?" would fill the call-in lines in no time.

Another thing I learned is that whatever the question, the ones who answered "No!" would probably be overrepresented relative to the general Christian population. I would hear lots of callers who would say that Christians are not allowed to (fill in the blank): do Yoga, listen to secular rock music, watch R-rated movies, celebrate Halloween. And now, increasingly, even Christmas and Easter are under attack.

The silent (probable) majority would reach out to me privately explaining that they did not want to be publicly attacked. I'm noticing the same thing in the vaccine wars. Lots of acquaintances get vaccinated. Few of them say so publicly for fear of scolding. 

In a somewhat related area, I've seen a similar imbalance in my own profession (Christians in finance) in the public conversation around the question, "Are Christians allowed to invest in 'sin stocks'?" Those who answer a resounding "No!" to that question are vocal. Those who answer differently are relatively silent.

I've asked people who have been around this industry, even those who lead professional associations, how many Christian financial advisors actually screen out 'sin stocks,' and consistently I hear that it's probably only about 15%. Those who are against the screening and those who are for the screening both seem to agree that roughly 85% of advisors don't screen. But when I speak about this issue publicly the vast majority of public statements seem to come from those who insist on screening. The private statements come from those who don't. And they quite often tell me that they are hesitant to say so publicly for fear of being attacked.

Of course, the main point is not what the non-screening silent majority says, or what the screening vocal minority says, or even in general what the Christians-are-not-allowed-to-TBA group says, or the other group says. The main point is what the Bible teaches.

And this issue has taken on new urgency with the rise of the vaccine wars, and the related conversation about the role of cell lines descended from embryonic tissue that comes from abortions.

Here's what we've covered already:

The vaccines in question do not contain fetal tissue. They are not tested on fetal tissue. They are tested on cell lines from fetal tissues cloned over thousands of generations from abortions in the 1970s.

The Biblical accounts of the life of Jesus (eating with tax collectors, accepting gifts from a 'sinful woman', etc.) and Paul's teaching on meat sacrificed to idols are incompatible with the idea that it is a sin for a person to benefit from a sin committed by another person. The idea that defilement travels along from the sinful origins of a good or service and defiles a person morally when it enters into them is one voiced by Jesus' critics and one which He rejected.

Therefore, it is not a sin for Christians to use the vaccines. The past abortions with which they are distantly associated are sinful; a life was taken. However, (assuming for the moment that vaccines save lives,) that lost life from 1973 cannot be brought back, and depriving thousands of people of a possible life-saving preventative now does not atone for that past heinous killing.

But all of this leads to a natural question: Are Christians allowed to have the companies which produce these vaccines in their 401(k) and IRA accounts, etc.? Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Pfizer do use these cell lines in some ways. Is it a sin for them to do so? Is it a sin for Christians to own shares of their stocks?

In many ways, this is the same old 'sin-screen' argument tied to more up-to-date headlines.

But the principle still applies. If it is not a sin to benefit from the sins of others, then whether the benefit is purely medical or also commercial is beside the point. If it's not a sin to make and use stem cell lines to prevent a disease, then it's also not a sin to create economic value to do so. If everyone at Pfizer volunteered to do this work, and the work had been financed by donors rather than investors, the moral principle would be the same. Either we're allowed to do good things with the circumstances created out of bad things or we're not.

It might help to remember that meat sacrificed to idols was a commercial enterprise. Pagan temples committed acts of idolatry which involved animal sacrifices. Paul says "the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God." (1 Cor. 10:20 NAS) Yet nevertheless, Christians are permitted to eat, as he says later in the same passage "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Cor. 10:31 NAS).

Christians are not allowed to offer animal sacrifices, nor to participate in the rituals at "the table of demons," but when the by-product of these idolatrous rituals is commercialized through the sale of the resultant meat, Christians may participate (unless it causes those of weak conscience to stumble.)

Are Christians allowed to benefit materially through this? They were. Pagan temples subsidized the product for the meat markets. The pagan temples were publicly owned and therefore their revenues benefited the general public. Interestingly, it is highly likely that one of Paul's close associates, Erastus of Corinth, as City Manager was in charge of the budget for these temples, and therefore also benefited from them (details here: Are Christians Allowed To Participate In Pagan Economy? - Jerry Bowyer (townhall.com)).

Is abortion a sacrifice of Moloch? I believe it is. Much of our society is based on idolatry, evil, theft, murder. But our calling has always been to refrain from sin, not refrain from society. As Paul said "You would have to go out of the world" to avoid dealings with sinful people.

However, the Jesus example tells us more than that we are allowed to benefit from the 'ill-gotten gains' that are inter-mixed with our economy. It tells us not to waste those associations. We are allowed to open our mouths and eat from the table of tax-collectors, but we should also open our mouths to speak about their exploitation of their brothers. As Jesus said, "It's not the well who need the doctor, but the sick," which means that the sick (the 'sinners') need a spiritual and moral doctor.

So, for example, Pharmaceutical companies are permissible in the portfolios of Christians: you can eat from the table of tax collectors, but would it not be better to do more than just eat? As a shareholder, you have authority.

For example, I help design investment indices. I also personally invest in the companies in those indices. I use my authority to talk to them. This includes both Merck and Pfizer. As such, I've reached out to both companies to inquire about the use of embryonic tissue originating from abortions in the vaccines. Merck has simply refused to answer thus far. Merck's Investor Relations department is utterly non-responsive, not even acknowledging the question. Of course, I don't intend to let the matter go. There are ways in which shareholders can press the issue, and I plan to do so.

Pfizer, on the other hand, has been far more cooperative, explaining how such cell lines are, and are not used. I asked the company to respond to this report (MECH IWP Capital 2020 Annual Report (adobe.com)), and address the use of fetal stem cells in the vaccine development. At that time, the vaccine was still only a "vaccine candidate" not an approved vaccine. Here is the answer I received:

"Human fetal derived cell lines are not used to produce the candidate vaccine, which consists of synthetic and enzymatically produced components.  One or more cell lines with an origin that can be traced back to human fetal tissue has been used in laboratory tests associated with the vaccine program."

So, no fetal cells were used to produce it, but some are used in tests associated with it. I recently asked for clarification about what "associated with" means, but as of this time, Pfizer has not answered that question. I've asked for clarification about the company's policy on use of such cells:

"Does Pfizer have a policy position on this question? This is an area of ethical sensitivity and I wonder whether the firm has a position paper or some statement on the use of aborted fetal tissue in research."

The company responded with "Pfizer does not have a position paper that I can share." This is a somewhat ambiguous answer. Do they have no position paper, or do they have no position paper which they can share? I will continue to press for clarification.

As Jesus said, it's the sick who need a doctor, and even companies founded to treat the sick, need spiritual healing as well.

Jerry Bowyer is financial economist, president of Bowyer Research, and author of “The Maker Versus the Takers: What Jesus Really Said About Social Justice and Economics.”

Free CP Newsletters

Join over 250,000 others to get the top stories curated daily, plus special offers!

Sponsored

Most Popular