Picture above is taken at Newtown, CT
The Narrative for these past few years in the United States of America seems to be marked by mass murders at school, theaters, etc. Here is a timeline I got from Los Angeles Times and can be found at Deadliest U.S. Mass Shootings.
- 1991-2012: “A look back at some of the most notable mass shootings in recent U.S. history: from Killeen, Texas, in 1991 to recent rampages at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. and Sikh temple in Wisconsin.”
- Oct. 16, 1991 (Texas): “George Jo Hennard, 35, crashes his pickup truck into a Luby’s cafeteria crowded with lunchtime patrons and begins firing indiscriminately with a semiautomatic pistol, killing 22 people. Hennard is later found dead of a gunshot wound in a restaurant restroom.”
- Nov. 1, 1991 (Iowa City, Iowa): “Gang Lu, a graduate student in physics from China, shoots four people to death at the University of Iowa. Lu, who took his own life in the incident, was upset about not getting an academic honor. The dead included faculty members and the student who had won the honor. Two others were critically wounded.”
- July 1, 1993 (San Francisco): “Gian Luigi Ferri, 55, kills eight people in an office building in San Francisco’s financial district. His rampage begins in the 34th-floor offices of Pettit & Martin, an international law firm, and ends in a stairwell between the 29th and 30th floors where he encounters police and shoots himself.”
- Dec. 7, 1993 (Garden City, N.Y.): “Colin Ferguson shoots and kills six passengers and wounds 19 others on a Long Island Rail Road commuter train before being stopped by other riders. Ferguson is later sentenced to life in prison.”
- March 24, 1998 (Jonesboro, Ark.): “Middle school students Mitchell Johnson and Andrew Golden pull a fire alarm at their school in a small rural Arkansas community and then open fire on students and teachers using an arsenal they had stashed in the nearby woods. Four students and a teacher who tried shield the children are killed and 10 others are injured. Because of their ages, Mitchell. 13, and Andrew, 11, are sentenced to confinement in a juvenile facility until they turn 21.”
- April 20, 1999 (Columbine, Colo.): “Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, students at Columbine High, open fire at the school, killing a dozen students and a teacher and causing injury to two dozen others before taking their own lives.”
- July 29, 1999 (Atlanta): “Mark Orrin Barton, a 44-year-old chemist-turned-day trader, strolls into two investment offices and opens fire on fellow investors and office workers. The shootings at All-Tech Investment and Momentum Securities Inc., across the street from each other, leave nine people dead and 12 wounded. Barton eludes a manhunt for six hours before killing himself.”
- Sept. 15, 1999 (Fort Worth): “Larry Gene Ashbrook opens fire inside the crowded chapel of the Wedgwood Baptist Church. Worshipers, thinking at first that it must be a prank, keep singing. But when they realize what is happening, they dive to the floor and scrunch under pews, terrified and silent as the gunfire continues. Seven people are killed before Ashbrook takes his own life.”
- Dec. 26, 2000 (Wakefield, Mass.): “Michael McDermott, a 42-year-old software tester shoots and kills seven co-workers at the Internet consulting firm where he is employed. McDermott, who is arrested at the offices of Edgewater Technology Inc., apparently was enraged because his salary was about to be garnished to satisfy tax claims by the Internal Revenue Service. He uses three weapons in his attack.”
- March 5, 2001 (Santee, Calif.): “Santana High student Charles Andrew Williams, 15, fatally shoots two classmates and wounds 13 others on the campus. He is apprehended by police in the school bathroom, where his attack began. Williams is later sentenced to 50 years to life.”
- July 8, 2003 (Meridian, Miss.): “Doug Williams, 48, a production assemblyman for 19 years at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., goes on a rampage at the defense plant, fatally shooting five and wounding nine before taking his own life with a shotgun.”
- March 21, 2005 (Red Lake Indian Reservation, Minn.): “Jeffrey Weise, a 16-year-old student at Red Lake High School fatally shoots five students, a teacher, and a security guard and wounds seven others before taking his own life. Before his rampage at Red Lake, Weise kills his grandfather and his grandfather’s companion at their home on the Red Lake Indian Reservation.”
- Oct. 2, 2006 (Nickel Mines, Pa.): “Charles Carl Roberts IV, a milk truck driver armed with a small arsenal, bursts into a one-room schoolhouse and kills five Amish girls. He kills himself as police storm the building.”
- Feb. 12, 2007 (Salt Lake City): “Sulejman Talovic, 18, wearing a trenchcoat and carrying a shotgun, sprays a popular Salt Lake City shopping mall. Witnesses say he displays no emotion while killing five people and wounding four others. An off-duty police officer eating dinner with his wife exchanges gunfire with the Bosnian refugee before other officers arrive and fatally wound Talovic.”
- April 16, 2007 (Blacksburg, Va): “Seung-hui Cho, a 23-year-old Virginia Tech senior, opens fire on campus, killing 32 people in a dorm and an academic building in attacks more than two hours apart. Cho takes his life after the second incident.”
- Dec. 5, 2007 (Omaha): “Robert Hawkins, 19, sprays an Omaha shopping mall with gunfire as holiday shoppers scatter in terror. He kills eight people and wounds four others before taking his own life. Authorities report he left several suicide notes.”
- Feb. 14, 2008 (Dekalb, Ill.): “Steven Kazmierczak, dressed all in black, steps on stage in a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University and opens fire on a geology class. Five students are killed and 16 wounded before Kazmierczak kills himself on the lecture hall stage.”
- April 3, 2009 (Binghamton, N.Y.): “Jiverly Voong, 41, shoots and kills 13 people and seriously wounds four others before apparently committing suicide at the American Civic Assn., an immigration services center, in Binghamton, N.Y.”
- Nov. 5, 2009 (Ft. Hood, Texas): “Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, allegedly shoots and kills 13 people and injures 32 others in a rampage at Ft. Hood, where he is based. Authorities allege that Hasan was exchanging emails with Muslim extremists including American-born radical Anwar Awlaki.”
- Aug. 3 2010 (Manchester, Conn.): “Omar S. Thornton, 34, a driver for Hartford Distributors, emerges from a disciplinary hearing and begins shooting, killing eight people at the family-owned distributorship and then himself.”
- Jan. 8, 2011 (Tucson, Ariz.): “Jared Lee Loughner, 22, allegedly shoots Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the head during a meet-and-greet with constituents at a Tucson supermarket. Six people are killed and 11 others wounded. Loughner is identified by witnesses as the gunman who fired at close range with semiautomatic pistol before being tackled.”
- Oct. 12, 2011 (Seal Beach, Calif.): “Scott Dekraai, 41, apparently enraged over a custody dispute, allegedly walks into a crowded Seal Beach hair salon where his former wife works and opens fire. Eight people are killed, including a man sitting in a truck outside the salon. Another person is critically wounded. Dekraai has pleaded not guilty in the case.”
- April 2, 2012 (Oakland, Calif.): “One L. Goh, 43, a former student at a Oikos University, a small Christian college, allegedly opens fire in the middle of a classroom leaving seven people dead and three wounded.”
- July 20, 2012 (Aurora, Colo.): “James Holmes, 24, is taken into custody in the parking lot outside the Century 16 movie theater after a post-midnight attack in Aurora, Colo. Holmes allegedly entered the theater through an exit door about half an hour into the local premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises.” He faces charges of of killing 12 people and injuring 58 others.”
- Aug. 5, 2012 (Oak Creek, Wis.): “A gunman fatally shoots six people at a Sikh temple before he is shot and killed by a police officer. Authorities have identified Wade Michael Page, an Army veteran who was a “psychological operations specialist,” as the gunman.”
- Sept. 28, 2012 (Minneapolis, Minn.): “Andrew Engeldinger, 36, breaks into a sign company’s offices and opens fire, killing the owner and three others before turning the gun on himself. Four others are wounded.”
- Oct. 21, 2012 (Brookfield, Wis.): “A shooter opens fire inside the Azana Salon and Spa in Brookfield, Wis., killing three and injuring at least four others.”
- Dec. 14, 2012 (Newtown, Conn.): “Developing story: By late in the day, authorities said that the number of deaths overall stood at 28, including the shooter who was identified as Adam Lanza, 20. One person was injured. The victims included 18 children and six adults pronounced dead at the school, and two pupils pronounced dead at hospitals. Another person was found dead at a secondary crime scene.In emotional remarks from the White House, President Obama wiped away tears. ‘Our hearts are broken today,’ the president said.”
Pastor Greg Bahnsen said it best when it comes to evil,
It is important for the Christian to recognize—indeed, to insist upon—the reality and serious nature of evil. The subject of evil is not simply an intellectual parlor game, a cavalier matter, a whimsical or relativistic choice of looking at things a certain way. Evil is real. Evil is ugly.”
On December 14, 2012, Governor Dan Malloy said,
Evil visited this community.”
Evil took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. The murderer goes by the name of Adam Lanza who shot his mother on the face and then went to her classroom to kill around 20 of her students and around 6 more adults. What he did was evil and diabolical. It is difficult to express the emotions of the family members who are affected by this evil. My heart goes out to the families affected by it.
As a father of a young child, I am deeply saddened by what took place at Newtown. It is tragic that many of the children murdered, will not be able to experience future birthday parties, graduate from school, make ends-meet in order to provide for their loved ones; and will not be able to walk down the aisle with their children. And it’s because death snatched them away from this earth. Yesterday, those victims, took their last breathe. In light of the immense carnage that occurred, we must remain resilient because the God that is in control of this world is wise and knows what is good; therefore, I will trust in Him.
At a tragic time like this, I would like to take the time to pray for the family members who have lost their loved ones. The people who were afflicted by this suffering need our genuine love, prayer, and most importantly, they need our great God, great Savior, and great Lord, Christ Jesus. He is their only hope at a time where they are experiencing severe anguish that I cannot even begin to comprehend.
It is must be taken into account that death is an enemy that has no remorse, no mercy, no love; and does not discriminate against anyone. But the death that we can take comfort in, is Christ. Christ Jesus, died on the cross for sin and resurrected from the dead. He took our sin and hell; and bore our sin so that those who would run to Him in faith and repentance would have hope. Although Christ’s death may seem like a paradox to many because an innocent person suffered and died, we should also have hope, because in His death, He brings forth love and reconciliation for the lost, depressed, hopeless, and the contrite of heart.
The Big Question
As so many lives have been taken and with so many emotions running across the minds and hearts of people at Newtown, CT, I anticipate sooner or later—people will ask important questions that will open up a Pandora box. Some of the questions will be phrased in this matter, “Why does God allow Evil”? Some will ask in a malicious way in order to quiet down Christianity or some are simply asking because they are lost and are seeking truth (John 8:32).
That is a good question and I am glad people take evil seriously because it should be. And it is my prayer that those who are seeking answers of why evil exist will turn to Christ for hope. As Christians, this is an issue where we cannot avoid or pretend that it does not exist. People have questions, people are confused, and people want truth so that their souls would be healed (1 Peter 3:15).
Three Major Premises to Consider
The “problem of evil” is a buzzword in today’s world. Because evil exists, many believe it presents a real problem for the existence of God. As Christians, we know that is preposterious. To answer that question in detail, I would like to respond first by saying that there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Until we are in glory, the answer for the problem of evil will be answered perfectly by God. I will not be able to answer it perfectly. Until then, let us be reminded by this verse in Deut. 29:29, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.”
- There is no contradiction between the existence of God and the evil that exists in our world. Just because evil exists, does not in any way mean that God does not exist. Nor does it mean that the existence of evil pose a threat to God. He reveals himself via general revelation and special revelation.
- Christianity is the only worldview that can explain the reality of evil. Every other worldview is grounded in logical incoherence (biblical logic makes right sense); and is based on relativistic premises.
- Evil exists so that God may reveal the full glory of His attributes. Man’s evil, reveals that evil is a result of his heart. He keeps sinning while on the opposite spectrum, God, in totality, is perfect in all His attributes. In the midst of even, the glory of God’s attributes is expressed clearly and powerfully affects those who are suffering. For example, the love of God bandages their suffering wounds.
- The evil that exists today is the best world to bring God His fullest glory. Evil prompts us to see our sin before a Holy God. Evil is not limited to murderers only, but all who are outside of Christ are evil. When paired up with the cross, one should respond in this manner, “I am guilty even if I commit the sins that society does not deem to be a sin.” In other words, the evil that exists should bring us to the cross; and is a powerful reminder that we need to repent.
In light of the voluminous amount of evil, skeptics propose that there is a logical incoherence within the Christian worldview. As a result, the points mentioned above are important points to consider for the sake of this discussion. I will also point out three major premises that also will be addressed.
We should not have the mentality that as Christians, we are unable to the explain: the existence of evil-doing. To submit to their whimsical and evil notions would mean that the Christian faith is incoherent; and that Christians are unable to help those suffering from evil.
The 18th century Scottish philosopher by the name of David Hume, who many rationalists follow, expressed these statements regarding evil and God,
Is [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?”
In a nutshell, what Hume is saying is that these three premises are unacceptable and incoherent:
God is all-powerful, God is all-good, and nevertheless evil exists in the world.”
To Hume, an all-powerful God should be able to remove evil; to Hume, an all-good God should be able to remove evil; and because evil exists, God does not exist. George Smith further elucidates on the three premises in his book called, Atheism: The Case Against God,
Briefly, the problem of evil is this: If God knows there is evil but cannot prevent it, he is not omnipotent. If God knows there is evil and can prevent it but desires not to, he is not omnibenevolent.”
As Christians, we need to share with the skeptics that the existence of evil does not pose a problem for God; and it is not incompatible with God’s goodness or God’s power. There are no contradictions between the existence of God and evil in the world. God has a moral and glorious reason for the existence of evil.
God, in other words, has moral sufficient reason for the existence of evil. As a good and powerful God, He can choose to do that. God has no problem with evil because the Bible presents God as perfect. Evil is not a threat to God, nor is it a puzzle to Him. He is perfect, all-knowing, all-powerful, and sovereign. He is also perfect in character and perfect in everything He does. Evil is only a problem because people see it outside the lens of Scripture. When evil and suffering is understood properly, the problem of evil starts to fade away.
As a result, I believe that Christianity is the only worldview that explains best the reality of evil and suffering in this world because it can account for reality, knowledge, and ethics. The non-Christian worldview has a philosophical problem that is not grounded in absolute truth, but grounded on relativistic premises and theories that is not universal for all. God’s existence and Word has universal application to all. For example, the unbelievers’ definition of good and evil is different from another person’s definition of good and evil. But God’s definition of good and evil is the same for everyone.
The question remains concerning the unbeliever’s worldview, “What are the presuppositions concerning his moral judgments. The notion that a large number of people feel a certain way about something good or bad, does not in any way make them the entity that authenticate truth. Right ethics stems off from the Word of God. God’s Word is timeless and transcends the human mind.
If Scripture is not the authority then man’s ethics is reduced to subjectivism and it will prevent society from defining evil biblically and holistically. It cause people to look less of their sins and more of other sins such as massacres. Evil is not only limited to the massacre that took place at Newtown, but evil is also abortion (Jeremiah 1:5; Psalm 139:13-16; Jeremiah 7:6; Ezekiel 16:20; etc.) hatred/unholy anger (Matthew 5:22; Matthew 5:23-26), immorality (Hebrews 13:4; 1 Cor. 6:9-10), personal autonomy, etc. Ethics can never be defined by culture, but has to be defined by God. To define evil our ways, will not do any justice; nor will it help society because another society may have a different system of ethics or definition of evil. For example, in China or in other countries, prosecuting Christians and killing Christians is not evil, but good.
People have to be careful not to put God in trial because we are finite creatures and to question His character is to sin and to question Him is to step out from the Creator/creature distinction. He is our Creator and we are His subjects. It is my prayer that whenever people are affected by evil, they would turn to God and seek His truth (John 8:32). In light of much that has been noted, people will further ask, “Is there morally sufficient reason for the evil which exists?”
Is There a Morally Sufficient Reason for Evil?
We need to understand and trust God (see Job). God works everything for His glory (see Ephesians 1). The Bible indicates that God will always do what is right (Gen. 18:25). Humans, not God, brought evil and suffering into this world. God created the world and it was good (Gen. 1:31), but man rebelled by eating the fruit, even when God warned them beforehand (Gen. 2:16-17). We are the ones to be blamed for evil. God gave man volition and a free-will before the Fall. In his original state, he had the ability to choose between good and evil. Instead, man chose evil and he paid the price for it (Rom. 8:22). I like what Dr. Bahnsen has to say about the morally sufficient reason for why evil exists,
Think of Abraham when God ordered him to sacrifice his only son. Think of Job when he lost everything, which gave his life happiness and pleasure. In each case God had a perfectly good reason for the human misery involved. It was a mark or achievement of faith for them not to waver in their conviction of God’s goodness, despite not being able to see or understand why He was doing to them what He did.”
And in terms of the greatest evil in history, read carefully what Pastor Piper has to say about it. It is a very sobering and mysterious way of how God works through evil, but at the same time, it brings glory to God.
Form all these prophecies, we know that God foresaw and did not prevent and therefore included in his plan that his Son would be rejected, hated, abandoned, betrayed, denied, condemned, spit upon, flogged, mocked, pierced, and killed. All these were explicitly God’s mind before they actually happened as things that he planned would happen to Jesus. These things did not just happen. They were foretold in God’s word. God knew they would happened and could have planned to stop them, but didn’t. So they happened according to his sovereign will. His plan.
And all of them were evil. They were sin. It is surpassingly sinful to reject, hate, abandoned, betray, deny, condemn, spit upon, flog, mock, pierce, and kill the morally perfect, infinitely worthy, divine Son of God. And yet the Bible is explicit and clear that God himself planned these things. This is explicit not only in all the prophetic texts we have seen, but also in the passages they say even more plainly that God ordained that these things come to pass.”
What Pastor Piper said, reminds me of a particular solemn passage in Acts 2:22-24 that is very clear concerning the murder of Jesus Christ,
“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— 23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. 24 But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.”
It is apparent and clear that evil and ugly, but one should also be careful not to be too consumed in it. We need to trust God and not worry about tomorrow (Matt. 6:34). God will one day bring judgment and righteousness to this sin infected world and sin cursed world. He will make things right (Acts 17:30:31; 2 Peter 3:8-13; Rev. 21:1-6; 22:1-5). Vengeance is the Lord’s and He will carry it out perfectly! He will bring the murderer(s) who died without Christ in His courtroom.
Often when people do not understand the problem of evil, they find it hard to have faith in God and trust Him when we are not given the reason of why bad things happen to others and ourselves in this world. Unbelievers cry for answers concerning evil, but the truth is that as Christians we could only reveal what is in Scripture; and we need to inform them lovingly that God does not always provide clear cut, methodical answers. The Bible says, “The secret things belong to God” (Deut. 29:29). We may not even be able to understand God’s wise and mysterious ways, even when He told His people (cf. Isa. 55:9). As a result, we can safely say that God does not always tell why misery and suffering are part of His plans for mankind.
War is in the Human Heart
Many times when tragedies like this occur, people often provide ineffective solutions. The solution is not banning the second amendment right, but the solution is to cure the heart. Jesus said it eloquently in Mark 7:21,
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries.”
The war is in the human heart. Sin resides in the human heart. The person who hates, lies and commits sexual immorality is just as guilty as the murderer according to God’s standards. In a time like this, perhaps we can learn that out of this evil event that took place—instead of focusing on the murderer—man in his sinful condition, needs to examine himself and herself before the Holy God of the Bible because no one is pure without the forgiveness that comes from Christ (Job 15:14; Job 25:4). Pastor John Piper states it best in this manner,
And it is exactly what Jesus said again when people pressed him to talk about the time Pilate slaughtered worshippers in the temple. Instead of focusing on the slain or the slayer, he focused on all of us:
Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. (Luke 13:2–3).”
Please refer to some of these good links below concerning the tragedy at Newtown, CT.
This is a good post by Pastor Piper on how one can approach the situation in a Christ-centered manner when a tragedy like Newtown occurs: A Lesson for All from Newtown
This post by Pastor Piper is a powerful reminder of God’s love and compassion for those who suffer. Jesus understands suffering and evil better than anyone in this world: How Does Jesus Come to Newtown?
In this post, Justin Taylor discusses the 10 Reasons Why God Allows Suffering.
Dr. Albert Mohler does a post concerning the massacre and urges Christians to be Christ-centered in their approach towards the situation. He also briefly discusses the after-life of young children who are unable to discern good and evil (Deuteronomy 1:39): Rachel Weeping for Her Children — The Massacre in Connecticut
In light of all that has been stated, what do you all think about evil?
*Some concepts were adapted from, Michael Vlach, “Apologetics 701” (unpublished syllabus, The Master’s Seminary, 2011).
Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith (Nacogdoches, TX, Covenant Media Press), 164.
John Piper, Spectacular Sins (Wheaton, IL, Crossway Books, 2008), 102-103.
John Piper, “A Lesson for All from Newtown,” Desiring God, http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/a-lesson-for-all-from-newtown (accessed December 14, 2012).