I wrote this blog post 14 years ago -- long before we knew the word COVID. We were in the middle of my first wife Lorie's cancer battle at the time.  The perspective we struggled to gain through her suffering seems even more relevant today.  Our current moment made it seem good to update and republish it.


Timothy Dwight, president of Yale University from 1796-1798, was no dummy. He had taken academic prizes in Latin and mathematics. He was also part of an extended family that included a Supreme Court Justice and famous preachers. Still, even with all that brilliance, he joined the initial outcry against the development of vaccines—something both Catholics and Protestants initially opposed. He is reported to have said:

“If God had decreed from all eternity that a certain person should die of smallpox, it would be a frightful sin to avoid and annul the decree by the trick of vaccination.”


Religious people have a reputation for this sort of thing—opposing innovations and science dabblings, and then later coming round to see the benefit. They move from not opposing the will of God to participating as co-creators with God as each new wave of scientific discovery changes society and eases suffering and benefits can no longer be denied.

This is not to say that all scientific work is noble and contributes to our well-being.  Let’s not forget Nazi attempts to genetically engineer the human race. And let’s not forget some of the clinical trials perpetrated on unsuspecting people. Even the initial development of the small pox vaccine by the British Doctor Edward Jenner in 1796 had a few ethical problems with it. As the story goes, he forcibly injected an eight year old boy with both cow pox and then small pox. No medical consent form anywhere in sight.

But how shall we know when a line has been crossed and benefit to society is no longer the end pursued by scientific research, rather knowledge for the mere sake of acquiring knowledge, or worse, just keeping the grants rolling in? I think this question supplies part of the answer–keeping the right end front and center and focused. What we do must attempt to bless generations beyond our own lifetime and not just provide benefit for the moment.

This is what kept our family going through more than sixteen years in my wife’s cancer battle–through surgery, endless doctor appointments, experimental protocols and years long harsh chemotherapy regimen. We battled this disease, not because God willed it, but because with God we opposed what takes life, cheapens it, shortens it, reduces it, or crushes it.

-mark l vincent

Mark L. Vincent
Post by Mark L. Vincent
March 31, 2022
I walk alongside leaders, listening to understand their challenges, and helping them lead healthy organizations that flourish.