• Guns, Satan, mental illness…who do we blame?

Guns, Satan, mental illness…who do we blame?

In the wake of the horrible events in Colorado this week, the blogosphere has been abuzz with people weighing in on the problem, who should be blamed, and what should be done about it.

Some have blamed Satan.

Some have blamed guns.

Some have blamed a society where mental illness can’t be detected and treated properly.

Who do we blame?

I am not going to offer an answer to that question. To do so would be a natural response and I don’t begrudge those who do seek to offer answers (though they should do so with fear and trembling, knowing that tragedy should never be exploited for mere pulpiteering).

What I posted on my Facebook feed is what I am most struck by:

Despite the best efforts by many theologians over the centuries to do otherwise, the Bible itself never gives a full explanation of where evil came from or the rationale behind it…I think this is one of the most profound truths and one that we should meditate seriously on. “Explainability” and “rationality” are both good things…at its core, the irrationality and inexplicability of evil become apparent–especially when things like today happen. We cannot explain evil’s existence or continuation…we can only trust in the One from whose nature all evil is a deviation.


A person who is mentally twisted to the point of unloading bullets into a crowded theater of men, women and children is as close to evil incarnate as we can imagine.

It’s so horribly absurd!

So cruel!

So pointless!

What kind of society would allow this to happen??

What kind of GOD would allow this to happen???

Events like this force us (whatever our religious beliefs!) to confront face to face the problem of senseless, gratuitous, mindless evil.

We can’t escape it–be it through pious determinism (i.e. “The Lord works in mysterious ways…”) or atheistic/pantheistic sophistry (i.e. “there’s no such thing as evil really, we’re just ‘dancing to our DNA’…” or “evil is merely an illusion that comes from an attachment to earthly desires…”).

The rampant evil in the world, the evil that we all KNOW deep down in the depths of our souls, will not let us settle for such easy answers.

And that, I believe, is worth seriously pondering.

Two theologians who have done remarkable jobs in helping Christians walk through the problem of evil with a mature and authentic faith are John Stackhouse and N.T. Wright. Their books “Can God Be Trusted?” and “Evil and the Justice of God” are numbers 1 and 2 on my list of books everyone should read dealing with the concept of evil in light of the Gospel.

Wright, especially, is emphatic that we must reject the simplistic answers that we simultaneously long for and loathe:

First, there are no easy answers, in Scripture or elsewhere. If we think we’ve “solved” the problem of evil, that just shows that we haven’t understood it. We cannot say, with that dreadful hymn, that “all our pain is good.” That induces a moral chaos worse than that offered by Job’s comforters. Nor can we say that evil is good after all because it provides a context for moral effort and even heroism, as though we could get God off the hook by making the world a theatre where God sets up little plays to give his characters a chance to show how virtuous they really are. That is trivializing to the point of blasphemy. So, first, no easy answers.

[From: http://www.spu.edu/depts/uc/response/summer2k5/features/evil.asp]

But perhaps one of the greatest theological depictions of pure evil ever written comes not from a scholarly treatise or book on theodicy, but rather from a science fiction book–the 2nd volume of C.S. Lewis’ “Space Trilogy”, Perelandra. In it, the hero, Ransom, finds himself on another planet with an old enemy, Weston, who has become evil incarnate:

A trail of mutilated frogs lay along the edge of the island. Picking his footsteps with care, he followed it. He counted ten, fifteen, twenty: and the twenty-first brought him to a place where the wood came down to the water’s edge. He went into the wood and came out on the other side. There he stopped dead and. stared .. Weston, still clothed but without his pith helmet, was standing about thirty feet away: and as Ransom watched. he was tearing a frog – quietly and almost surgically inserting his forefinger, with its long sharp nail, under the skin behind the creature’s head and ripping it open. Ransom had not noticed before that Weston had such remarkable nails. Then he finished the operation, threw the bleeding ruin away, and looked up. Their eyes met.

It looked at Ransom in silence and at last began to smile. We have all often spoken – Ransom himself had often spoken of a devilish smile. Now he realised that he had never taken the words seriously. The smile was not bitter, nor raging, nor, in an ordinary sense, sinister; it was not even mocking. It seemed to summon Ransom, with a horrible naivete of welcome, into the world of its own pleasures, as if all men were at one in those pleasures, as if they were the most natural thing in the world and no dispute could ever have occurred about them. It was not furtive, nor ashamed, it had nothing of the conspirator in it. It did not defy goodness, it ignored it to the point of annihilation. Ransom perceived that he had never before seen anything but half-hearted and uneasy attempts at evil. This creature was whole-hearted. The extremity of its evil had passed beyond all struggle into some state which bore a horrible similarity to innocence. It was beyond vice as the Lady was beyond virtue.

After that the golden sky and coloured waves returned and he knew he was alone and recovering from a faint. As he lay there, still unable and perhaps unwilling to rise, it came into his mind that in certain old philosophers and poets he had read that the mere sight of the devils was one of the greatest among the torments of Hell. It had seemed to him till now merely a quaint fancy. And yet (as he now saw) even the children know better: no child would have any difficulty in understanding that there might be a face the mere beholding of which was final calamity. The children, the poets, and the philosophers were right. As there is one Face above all worlds merely to see which is irrevocable joy, so at the bottom of all worlds that face is waiting whose sight alone is the misery from which none who beholds it can recover. And though there seemed to be, and indeed were, a thousand roads by which a man could walk through the world, there was not a single one which did not lead sooner or later either to the Beatific or the Miserific Vision. He himself had, of course, seen only a mask or faint adumbration of it; even so, he was not quite sure that he would live.

Indeed no imagined horror could have surpassed the sense which grew within him as the slow hours passed, that this creature was, by all human standards, inside out – its heart on the surface and its shallowness at the heart. On the surface, great designs and an antagonism to Heaven which involved the fate of worlds: but deep within, when every veil had been pierced, was there, after all, nothing but a black puerility, an aimless empty spitefulness content to sate itself with the tiniest cruelties, as love does not disdain the smallest kindness?

[From “Perelandra”, ch.9]


It’s this combination of the insidious and the inane that makes evils like what happened in Aurora (the likes of which happen daily in various manifestations all over the world, let us not forget!) so much more painful.

At times like these, we may be tempted to dismiss the idea that a good God exists (or if He does, that He cares about us), or we may be tempted to offer cliche platitudes of God’s “plan” to those whose hearts are reeling in pain and to whom such words are like acid poured over a cut.

May we do neither.

Instead, may we find a way to be the presence of God to those who need it most.

And may God Himself be moved to act, as the Psalmists cry over and over when faced with such evil, for the sake of His name and for the sake of His creation that groans in agony and longs for the day when it will hear:

“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

[Revelation 21:3-5]


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  1. Olatunde

    You were right my brother! This article very much resonates with me…so much so that it inspires me to write an article about evil! C.S. Lewis’ words are THE most powerful I’ve ever read about evil…I’ve never seen a depiction of evil more true than his words. I’m also going to quote part of that quote in my article.

    Powerful words man. Thank you for writing them.


    Comment by Olatunde on July 23, 2012 at 12:21 pm

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