Shortly after the shooting at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, I had the opportunity to speak with a seasoned firearms instructor about the incident. Obviously, many people were likewise talking about it and speculating on the why’s and how’s. Given that I am in the industry, I was already mentally preparing for the onslaught of screams for gun control that I knew would be forthcoming and I knew that I needed to start work on the Christian analysis of this event and what to do about it. It was in this mindset that I stumbled upon this interaction with the firearms instructor.
I overheard many asking why someone would do something like that. Was the killer part of some terror organization? Did he have too many gambling debts? Was he just mentally ill? As I listened, I began to be see that a simpler answer was staring us in the face. It was then that I spoke with the instructor and said that the answer to the “why” was rather simple: he was evil. His response shocked me: “Yeah, probably …”
Wait. Someone kills 58 people and injures (directly or indirectly) hundreds of others and the best we can come up with to the question of, was he evil, is probably?!? Anytime I am rocked back on my heels by an unexpected response, I take that as a God given opportunity to analyze my thinking for holes by going back to the Word. What sort of thinking would lead someone to make that statement? What seemed so obvious to me seemed to be perplexing to those around me and I needed to know why.
The answer to the question of if the gunman was evil is found in Matthew 7:16–20,
Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Our Lord made clear in this passage that the actions of a man and the man’s heart cannot be separated. Contrary to the pagan Greek dualism of the day which proclaimed the mind as good/higher and the physical as evil/lower, Christ tears down this false and abstract thinking with the concrete realities of His creation. Sin and evil are not things in and of themselves. They cannot exist on their own. To think so is to posit that evil is coterminous with good as Eastern mysticism does today with the yin-yang type thinking. Sin is an action that proceeds from an evil heart not inherent to the physical creation. Take away the person and you have no sin. Indeed, this is covered in a multitude of places in Scripture such as:
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. (Prov. 4:23)
The heart of the righteous studieth to answer: but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things. (Prov. 15:28)
And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:
That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. (Ezek. 11:19–20)
Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. (Matt. 12:33–35)
Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. (Matt. 15:17–19)
How do we see this thinking today? Besides the obvious statement of the killer as “probably” evil, we may hear things such as,
“He was such a good man. I can’t believe he did this.”
“I know he got mixed up with the wrong people, but he really is good at heart.”
Or the famous one:
“Hate the sin. Love the sinner.”
Dr. Rushdoony was once asked about this last point to which he replied:
“That involves a schizophrenic, a dualistic position. Because how can you hate the sin and love the sinner? The sin isn’t something separate from the man. The man and his sin are one. The sin is a product of his mind, of his heart, of his being. So, if you hate the sin, you’re going to hate the sinner, unless he repents. And that’s altogether important to emphasize.” (Tenth Commandment, Offenses Against Our Neighbor, Audio RR130BM118)
We need to recognize that man is born into this world totally depraved and thinking he is a god, determining good and evil for himself. This gunman in Las Vegas was no different: he chose to end the lives of many and that choice violates God’s law, is evil, and, therefore, he was evil. Apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit by the proclaiming and discipling of the nations by God’s people, evil men will “wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Tim 3:13) and be given over to their depravity (Rom. 1:21–32) as a judgment upon them and upon the nation for failing to enact God’s justice.
We need to also avoid the pitfall of blaming outside influences such as video games, drugs, guns, etc., as the reason for the evil or as evil incarnate. These things can certainly inflame an evil heart but ultimately it is the choice of the person to commit sin, not because some external entity “forced” them to do it. Men don’t like to think this way because it reveals two things: first, we are completely dependent on God for regeneration. We cannot do it ourselves and man wants to be in control. Second, that justice can only be implemented by obedience to God’s law.
So, as we are pummeled with all manner of reasons behind the shooting in Las Vegas, let us be found content with the clarity and, frankly, the simplicity of Scripture for the why. Man is evil unless God changes our hearts by His grace alone. We should walk in the faith of this truth and plan accordingly.