A number of years ago there was a column in the local newspaper written by a psychologist. The column was what one would expect as it dealt with the problems common to people, like depression, anxiety, relationships and so forth. Since the psychologist did not possess a biblical worldview, terms related to nature or nurture, mental illness and the various treatments were common until one day it all seemed to unravel for this particular psychologist.
The psychologist (not a religious person by his own admission) had a patient that he could not neatly fit into the DSM IV categories. The reason? The psychologist came to believe the man he was counseling was simply evil. The psychologist seemed to conclude that the man did not possess a moral barometer (something Christians would call a conscience). The psychologist was shaken by his conclusion and it led him to consider the spiritual nature of people-something that his training had not explored or considered as it applied to human behavior.
That is what came to my mind in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre. What we heard by way of explanation was that the shooter was “crazy”, “sick”, “distraught”, “unhinged” and so forth. All of that was followed by the usual blame the gun, blame politicians and pleas to “do something” while never suggesting anything specific that would have mattered.
Psychology does not consider evil like the Bible does and our culture is fully immersed in psychological (mostly materialistic\Darwinian) explanations and categories.
Psychology does not consider sin (although a religious psychologist might) and is thus reluctant to deal in moral categories and thus would not label a heinous act as evil\sin but rather as a type of disease, sickness or temporary insanity. That’s what bothered the psychologist I mentioned above. He dealt with mental illnesses, not moral categories and certainly not people given over to evil and the revelation shocked him.
The Bible, on the other hand, diagnoses our fundamental problem. Here is the apostle Paul quoting from, mostly, the Psalms in the Old Testament:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
The passage turns on its head the notion that people are “basically good” and when they do bad, evil things like mass murder, they have some mental illness or disease. While not all people act out all the evil they are capable of (thank God), some do and we witness it on a daily basis. Yet, the majority of people remain blind to “the evil within.”
We really should not expect an unbelieving world to grasp all the ramifications of evil since the unbelieving world does not have a fear of God (vs 18). Without that fundamental fear of God the world will always look for solutions for people’s problems apart from considering “the evil within” and will continue to treat evil as a mental illness and\or blame game to gain political points.
Every time there is a terrorist attacks or a mass murder I go into a frustrated funk and grieve about our sin sick world. It takes me a day or two to once again comprehend what is truly going on.
A western person given over to evil can orchestrate a Las Vegas type massacre just as easily as a religiously minded Islamic terrorist. There is little difference since both spring from a belief system that does not consider the God of the Bible nor mankind’s essential problem of the evil within us all.
What are we to do?
Our theology will control our reaction to these things or something else will. At the very least we can come to understand that God can use horrible evil situations to draw attention to the fact of evil (and the spiritual realm in general) and begin to open the minds of survivors to truth and thus provide the one and only remedy to the evil within us all:
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”