Is This The Language Of Science Or Religion?

My kids got their COVID-19 shots yesterday. When my husband brought them home from Walgreens, he described it as a moment that felt sort of… holy. Parents were catching each other’s eyes, tearing up. Pharmacy employees exclaiming, ‘Congratulations!’ After so much hardship, a shared celebration. A collective moment of hope. A koinonia. Read more»

Kate Kooyman | “A Shot of Trust” | November 10, 2021 | HT: D. G. Hart


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  1. As a surgeon in training (and a reformed Christian), I sometimes think about how the OR is in a sense ‘sanctified’. Procedures to reduce the chance of infection set this space apart from the common hallway outside. This kind of language doesn’t necessarily imply idolatry, or a reliance on medical science instead of God. It is possible to recognise a surgical procedure, or a vaccine, as a particular means of God’s grace and be thankful for it as such.

    • Hi Ian,

      I’m glad for your training and skill. May the Lord use you to bless his image bearers.

      This way of talking and thinking, however, is the result of the neo-Kuyperian rejection of the distinction between the sacred and the secular and between nature and grace. Yes, we may speak of surgery and medicine as the product of common grace, that’s traditional Reformed theology but because it’s common its not sacred. It’s secular. It belongs to nature and not to grace proper, i.e., to saving grace. Thus, it wouldn’t be quite right to speak as Kooyman does above nor would I be comfortable thinking about sanitizing the surgical theater as “sanctification.”

      I found Kooyman’s language interesting because it supports my thesis that some people are speaking about what is properly a scientific matter, or a matter of nature, in what are clearly religious or sacred terms.

      This was my case in a couple of the articles linked below the quotation, in the resources.

      When people call for “trust” or “faith” in medicine or science, they are asking for a kind of trust that transcends science or medicine. My thesis is that if medicine or or science (or “climate change” or whatever) cannot be questioned, it’s not science. It’s a religious dogma. Clearly this has been the approach of the climate-change agenda. Anyone who questions it is a heretic. Lot’s of people have noticed the religious nature of such language. This phenomenon occurs in the advocacy of critical theory, as John McWhorter has been observing.

      I remember seeing a sign in a gas station: “In God we trust. All others pay cash.” That’s about right.

    • Hi Dr Clark,

      Thanks for your reply. I’m also glad for your training, skill, and time spent on the Heidelblog/cast/etc since I have found these very helpful.

      I agree that Kooyman’s language is unusual and probably unhelpfully imprecise. I’m not sure what she means by it, but I doubt she means that the vaccine is a vehicle of saving grace. If she does mean that, then she is wrong.

      My point was that holiness terminology in general is not uncommonly applied to things other than vehicles of saving grace, and therefore concluding Kooyman was implying cosmic value from the vaccine may not be warranted, or at least perhaps not without further context. For example, the seventh day of creation is ‘holy’, and in the OT I understand the root QDSH is applied to many things not directly related to salvation.

      Having said this, some of these things may legitimately point towards saving grace. So, perhaps the kind of separation between clean and unclean familiar to operating room attendings might serve as a helpful illustration of analogous gospel themes – without any suggestion at all that surgery itself offers salvation (other than a limited sense of postponing physical death).

      Beyond this, I’m not sure that calls for ‘faith’ in science or medicine usually mean a transcendent trust. It seems to me that every interaction I have with a patient involves them trusting the story I tell them about their disease. This is not trust without question – if the patient wants to have a discussion about evidence from clinical trials, we can have that discussion; and after all that they are absolutely free to disregard my professional opinion.

      It seems to me that science is useful because it helps us know how how the world works, and if we are wise we can apply this knowledge to act with prudence. Washing hands before operating on someone is prudent. Having a vaccine is generally prudent. There is nothing intrinsically religious about this. If some people are tempted to make an idol of medicine, we should point them away from the bronze snake and towards the Savior that it prefigures, but do this without undermining legitimate trust in medical or scientific understanding. Medicine cannot function without the doctor-patient relationship, and that is based on trust. We do not need to accept a false dichotomy between science or medicine and Christian faith.

  2. Is there continuity in some way between this “Reformed Journal” and the magazine of the same name I remember reading in print form back in the ’80s? If so, I guess I’m not surprised.

    • (never mind, I found it. “Sort of.”

      “The Reformed Journal was published from 1951 to 1990 by Eerdman’s and originally drew authors and readers primarily from the Christian Reformed Church. The mantle was then passed to Perspectives: A Journal of Reformed Thought, originally sponsored by the Reformed Church in America. Perspectives started an online presence with the introduction of The Twelve blog in 2011. Today’s digital Reformed Journal is not affiliated with any denomination or institution, but stands on the shoulders of both the original Reformed Journal and Perspectives. ”

  3. Science has become the new religion, so in my opinion, this is both. But still nothing new. worship creation instead of the creator is a tale as old as man.

    • True. We are ever hungering to find hope in what can be seen, rather than the invisible God. We want that which can be touched with our sin-polluted hands, rather than a holy God.

  4. How about just silly sentimentalism? Our kids got their shots back in the 1960’s: DPT, measles, polio. I don’t remember writing essays about it or reading them. As one who remembered the polio dangers of my own childhood, I was & am grateful for that vaccine. But “tearing up”? Holy moments? Somebody has lost sight or memory of reality, both sacred & secular.

  5. AMEN, Dr. Clark! I respectfully observe the following:

    1. It’s a *vaccine* (allegedly), NOT the Lord’s Supper.
    2. It’s a byproduct of secular science (of sorts), NOT a sacred means of grace.

    Israeli physician Benjamin Gesundheit authored an essay stating that those doctors who spare patients harsh but potentially helpful treatments could be consigned to Hell for missing oppor-tunities to save lives. HOWEVER, the statement also infers the critically-necessary inclusion of empathy and humility in the field of medicine: We The People rarely see such attributes in Dr. Anthony Fauci (and others of his ilk), who has been found to be a hypocritical liar about the safety/overall efficacy of the sea of “vaccines” out there.

    When God’s blessing of “science” is perverted and tainted by humankind’s evil…MARANATHA!

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