Leap Year Lesson #348: Evil Is Real, and So Is the Cure

Posted: December 14, 2012 in Christianity
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Deliver Us From EvilLike many of you, I found myself shaking my head in disbelief and shedding some tears over the unthinkable tragedy today at the Newtown, Connecticut elementary school where more than two dozen children and adults were senselessly murdered.  Nobody with a heart could watch the story unfold without getting a sickening feeling in their gut.

As a parent and grandparent, I can’t imagine what the families of the victims are going through tonight.  My heart goes out to them as their lives are forever changed, their futures rewritten in a moment, and every December holiday season yet to come destined to be a painful reminder of that terrible day.

When things like this happen, we always ask “Why?”  While each incident has a web of contributing factors – anger, failed relationships, mental illness and more – I look at today’s tragedy and say with confidence that evil is real.  It has been real since the fall of man and will continue until a day in a new heaven and a new earth with no more tears, no more death, no more pain.

As a Christian, I can’t look at the world except through my Christian worldview.  That requires not just that I claim the faith and selected portions of the Bible.  It requires that I accept the Bible as the ultimate authority for all matters of faith and practice, even when politically incorrect, and that I believe what it teaches even if I do not understand completely.

Part of what it teaches is that evil is real.  Evil is based in rebellion against God.  We all have a sin nature that inclines us toward evil, but there is a way through repentance and faith in Christ to shed the old nature and take on a new one – to have one’s heart changed forever by its Creator.

We can argue about gun control, laws, and what could have been done to prevent today’s tragedy, but I only know one biblical cure – a heart changed by the grace of God.

Galatians 5:24 says “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.”

Leap year lesson #348 is Evil is real, and so is the cure.

  1. One of the first thoughts I had this morning was how there are people in this world that do not believe the devil exists.

  2. Jeff Ross says:

    Susanna, great question. I certainly don’t equate mental illness with evil. We need to do a better job of recognizing and intervening in situations where mental illness is a factor. From a big picture perspective, though, the connection is that we live in a fallen world where death and sickness of all kinds stem from that fallen state according to scripture. We need to do whatever we can from what we have learned regarding mental illness while also attempting to reach everyone with the life-changing Gospel. So it’s both-and.

  3. Jeff Ross says:

    Here are a couple of other articles on the subject:
    1. from Billy Graham: “Suffering: Why Does God Allow it?” – http://www.billygraham.org/articlepage.asp?articleid=1373
    2. from Dr. Russell Moore: “School Shootings and Spiritual Warfare” – http://www.russellmoore.com/2012/12/14/school-shootings-and-spiritual-warfare/

  4. Susanna says:

    Thank you for the response and references, which lead me to another question: Do you think that seeing/identifying evil makes it easier or harder for people to do good (Platt suggests God uses evil to bring about good). Does good come directly from the evil or because evil inspires good people to do good things?

  5. Jeff Ross says:

    I don’t think that good comes directly from evil, but that in the midst of evil, God can still act to bring about good either on his own or through the actions and reactions of others.

    As I come across other references I’ll continue to add them below. I have a few from John Piper to add next.

  6. Jeff Ross says:

    Articles 4, 5 & 6 below are from John Piper.
    4. “How Does Jesus Comes to Newtown?” – http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/how-does-jesus-come-to-newtown
    5. “A Lesson For All From Newtown” – http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/a-lesson-for-all-from-newtown
    6. “How Shall We Minister to People After the World Trade Tower Terrorism of September 11, 2001?” – http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/articles/how-shall-we-minister-to-people-after-the-world-trade-tower-terrorism-of-september-11-2001

  7. Jeff Ross says:

    7. from Al Mohler: “Rachel Weeping for Her Children — The Massacre in Connecticut” – http://www.albertmohler.com/2012/12/14/rachel-weeping-for-her-children-the-massacre-in-connecticut/

  8. Susanna says:

    Honestly, the links you sent just add to my confusion. You talk about the possibility of mental illness and how that would require treatment but Mohler says that’s nonsense and an excuse. He also talks about punishment – jail, death sentence, judgement day, but Wilson talks about forgiveness. Even the death sentence (a possible solution to evil) has contradictions. One link talks about how all killing is evil but Mohler talks like death isn’t enough justice.

    In essence, the causes of trajedies like this are complex, as you stated. Many factors are involved ranging from person to societal and divine. The solutions or responses are also complex as indicated by the links you sent and your own words (personal/societal/divine). But the construct that is evil is pretty black/white. It’s either good or it’s evil. Do you think people look for black/white solutions to a black/white construct? Yes it feels like it’s easier to understand something black/white but I don’t think it helps solve the problem or bring about good from it.

    Also, if God is using evil as a means to bring about good, then is it really evil? Or is evil a necessity because without it you wouldn’t have good? (the yin/yang argument, you can’t have light without dark and visa versa).

  9. Jeff Ross says:

    First, Susanna, I commend you for reading more of the other resources. Most people won’t do that.

    On the matter of people preferring black & white ways of looking at things, I think you’re right that people do so to try to simplify what may be very complex, hard-to-understand situations. That doesn’t mean that at a high, macro level the black & white analysis is not true. But it seems the more focused we try to get on one particular event such as Newtown, the more we become aware of the personal, societal and divine elements. At the macro level, I do believe that all sickness and death stems from man’s rebellion against God at the beginning of humankind, and we are the unfortunate descendants of that nature. I believe that God will ultimately usher in a new heaven and earth where there is no more sickness, dying or pain. At the micro level of a particular incident like Newtown, we have the intellectual obligation to understand all the factors we can from every angle while still holding to the macro beliefs that guide us.

    When I read the other resources that were shared from Mohler, Piper, Platt and others, I do not see them as contradictory. Rather, I think they are complementary, much like the old analogy of the three blind men describing an elephant where one is holding the trunk, another is touching a leg and a third is holding the tail. Each describes something very different, yet they are all right because they are focusing on just one part of something that is much larger. Each of the writers responding to Friday’s events is focused on some truth or question, and each is supporting his positions soundly from biblical teachings.

    In the end, it is OK on some matters to simply acknowledge that we might not understand it all fully. We try to understand and work toward that, but if we find ourselves unsatisfied rationally in the end, we can still hang on to other lasting truths that do satisfy.

    For me, I will still hold to the following:
    – God is sovereign and his purposes will ultimately prevail.
    – Not all that happens at the micro level is caused by or the direct will of God.
    – In the aftermath of terrible events, God can still work for good.
    – Bad that happens is due to sinful human nature and our separation from God.
    – Not even mental illness is beyond the reach of an omnipotent God to overcome, whether by medical or miraculous means.
    – We don’t really want God to always intervene and prevent bad things from happening, because that would mean we have no free will.
    – I do not understand all that happens inside a person – not even myself, much less anyone else.
    – People are responsible for their own actions, but have no control over the consequences of those actions.
    – Those who repent of their sins and place their faith solely in Jesus Christ will be forgiven for their sins and inherit eternal life, although sin will still be an unwelcome part of this life even for the believer.
    – God’s word – the Bible – is truth, and if we are wise we will devote much time and study to it, trusting him to make us wise the more we seek to know him and his word.
    – Faith does not require us to rationally understand everything, although we should use the brains God gave us to the best of our ability.
    – Faith requires us to ultimately trust a good, creator God who loves us and gave himself for us on the cross of Christ, defeating sin and death, taking our punishment on himself so that we might have the opportunity to share in eternity with him.

    Dealing with Newtown is a process, just like growing as a Christian is a process. I don’t understand either perfectly, but I can trust in the one who does understand.

    Thank you for the continuing conversation, Susanna. I’m enjoying and benefiting from this myself.

    • Susanna says:

      Thank you for the thoughtful response. It’s enjoyable to converse with someone who appreciates complexity and nuance while remaining true to his principles.

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