What happens when evangelical leaders link arms with a radical government agenda? Nothing good.

Last week, Megan Basham of Daily Wire published an exposé titled “How the Federal Government Used Evangelical Leaders to Spread Covid Propaganda to Churches.” It is a well-written, soundly researched, and devastating indictment of such evangelical leaders as Wheaton College Dean Ed Stetzer; Pastors Tim Keller and Rick Warren; Christianity Today’s Russell Moore; theologian N.T. Wright; columnist David French; and, most of all, the (now former) National Institute of Health Director Francis Collins.

Collectively, these, along with many others, represent what is increasingly—and disparagingly—called “Big Evangelicalism” or, shorthand, “Big Eva.” I have been sounding the alarm about many of the people who appear in Basham’s article for some time now, but for somewhat different reasons. They are, I fear, leading a generation of young believers straight off a theological cliff as I have explained elsewhere. In light of the considerable (and despicable) efforts to silence me that I have not yet made public, it gives me a great deal of pleasure to see someone else take up the banner. 

Basham essentially picks up where I left off in my columns “Tim Keller, John Piper, & Donald Trump,” “On Christian Conscience and Vaccination,” and “Conservative Collaborators.” But where my concern centers on a lack of biblical integrity in preaching and teaching (and tweeting) on critical cultural issues like socialism, Marxism, racism, and Christian conscience, she goes on to reveal a largely hidden alliance that allowed the Biden administration to use the (albeit waning) credibility of Big Eva pulpits to promote a government COVID agenda to evangelicals and attack the dissenters among them.

Francis Collins’s Evangelical Credentials

At a superficial glance, Collins’s evangelical credentials seem strong. He first gained the attention of evangelicals with his 2006 bestseller The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. A friend and theologian, offering his private review, called it “theologically insubstantial.” But timing is, as they say, everything, and that book was published at the height of the New Atheist onslaught—in which I was deeply engaged—and evangelicals were, I can tell you, desperately looking for champions to defend them from the pseudo-science of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris who told them their God was a fiction. Collins’s views escaped any real scrutiny as evangelicals readily seized upon him as their Tim Tebow of science.[1]

If it was a strong defense of the biblical worldview Christians were hoping for, and it was, Collins did not provide it. My friend and “debate partner” (as he called me in Vanity Fair) Christopher Hitchens rightly ridiculed aspects of Collins’s argument that bordered on the mystical. Worse, Collins punted on almost every issue of importance to Bible-believing Christians, from Creation to abortion. Hitchens privately told me that he considered Collins an eminent scientist who “didn’t really believe the Bible.” Ironically, I briefly encountered Collins at Hitchens’s memorial service in Manhattan in April 2012. My enduring impression was merely that whatever his abilities as a scientist, he was a bloody awful musician.

The Church Connection

Realizing his subordinate Dr. Anthony Fauci had no credibility with evangelicals who were wary of government mandates if not vaccines, Collins leveraged his Christian celebrity and assumed not only the mantle of science, but the theological authority of a guitar-toting high priest. In that role Collins, with the aid of French, Keller, Moore, Stetzer, Warren, Wright and others, ran a political con against people who were told they could—no, should—trust him.

One might have thought that if atheist Christopher Hitchens, who had only a superficial acquaintance with the Bible, could see that Collins was, at best, theologically muddled, that such luminaries of the Christian faith as the aforementioned pastors and writers would immediately perceive it, too.


As Basham reveals, the opposite was true. Collins received hearty endorsements from the Big Eva bigshots who portrayed him as a kind of oracle. Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren called him “a man you can trust” and columnist David French, who makes far too many appearances in unhappy columns of this sort, labeled the NIH director “a national treasure.”

But it gets worse. Collins isn’t merely “theologically insubstantial” as my theologian friend and Hitchens observed. Writes Basham:

Going by [Collins’s] concrete record, however, he seems like a strange ambassador to spread the government’s Covid messaging to theologically conservative congregations. Other than his proclamations that he is, himself, a believer, the NIH director espouses nearly no public positions that would mark him out as any different from any extreme Left-wing bureaucrat.

He has not only defended experimentation on fetuses obtained by abortion, he has also directed record-level spending toward it. Among the priorities the NIH has funded under Collins — a University of Pittsburgh experiment that involved grafting infant scalps onto lab rats, as well as projects that relied on the harvested organs of aborted, full-term babies. Some doctors have even charged Collins with giving money to research that required extracting kidneys, ureters, and bladders from living infants.

He further has endorsed unrestricted funding of embryonic stem cell research, personally attending President Obama’s signing of an Executive Order to reverse a previous ban on such expenditures. When Nature magazine asked him about the Trump administration’s decision to shut down fetal cell research, Collins made it clear he disagreed, saying, “I think it’s widely known that the NIH tried to protect the continued use of human fetal tissue. But ultimately, the White House decided otherwise. And we had no choice but to stand down.”

This goes far to explain Collins’s full-throated endorsement of Democrat policies that cannot be described as anything other than a war on Christians in the name of science and health—and Big Eva assisted Democrats in doing it. Yes, as Pastor John MacArthur and the members of Grace Community Church were being threatened with crushing fines and a forced shutdown by California Governor Gavin Newsom because they dared continue meeting for worship, Pastor Tim Keller was platforming Francis Collins, and together they effectively sanctioned Newsom’s persecution of Grace Community Church, suggesting MacArthur was in the wrong.

Were They Hoodwinked?

Perhaps you think this was all a misunderstanding, and that Collins simply hoodwinked these poor evangelical leaders, seducing them with his apparently harmless and somewhat goofy demeanor and cynically using them for his own political ends. If that is the case, none have said so. There have been no renunciations of Collins or his views, and not one of these pastors has expressed regret for promoting both.

Besides, in the case of Keller, for instance, the relationship with Collins goes well beyond a podcast or two. Indeed, Keller has fully embraced Collins’s foundation BioLogos and has done so since at least 2009 when he served as host and co-sponsor for the first “BioLogos Theology of Celebration Workshop” in New York City.[2] It stretches the imagination to believe that Collins’s positions on abortion, homosexuality, organ-harvesting, and a plethora of other morally significant subjects were not well-known to him.

The “Christian Application”

Every good sermon ends with a “Christian application,” a takeaway of some sort, and the application here is a jarring reminder that Christians must, like the Bereans in Acts 17, test the teaching of their leaders against the teaching of scripture. Christian celebrity has its pitfalls, and here it manifested itself in a startling unrepentant arrogance that led pastors to move out beyond their biblical mandate.

The point isn’t whether you should be pro- or anti-vaccine. That is a personal question to be decided by each individual as his conscience dictates.

Nor is the point a political one, though it might have political ramifications.

The point, rather, is that Christian leaders are entrusted with the spiritual shepherding of God’s people, and whatever their personal foibles, struggles, or sin, they must never harness their teaching to a wicked end as was done here.

I encourage you to read Megan Basham’s article.

[1] For a much better analysis of the God vs. science debate I can point you to none better than Has Science Buried God? by my friend John Lennox. John is Professor of Mathematics and Philosophy of Science at Oxford University. He flinches on neither the science nor scripture.
[2] Interestingly, I recall Keller ordering a DVD of our 2007 debate between Oxford Professors Richard Dawkins and John Lennox, “The God Delusion Debate.” If his involvement with BioLogos is any indication, Keller never watched it.
Larry Alex Taunton is an author, cultural commentator, and freelance columnist contributing to USA TODAYFox NewsFirst ThingsThe AtlanticCNN, and The American Spectator.  In addition to being a frequent radio and television guest, he is also the author of The Grace  Effect and The Gospel Coalition Arts and Culture Book of the Year, The Faith of Christopher Hitchens. You can subscribe to his blog at larryalextaunton.com.

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