The Problem of Evil

by Bill Dye

Like you, I’ve been thinking about that shooter in Las Vegas and asking the same questions you are probably asking.

What could cause a man to do that? How much hate must someone have before he comes unhinged?

As I read various takes on this twisted and bitterly sad event I worry that, like most of the times when this sort of thing happens, the point is being completely missed.

A lot of people will say, “Why would God let this happen?”

In some backhanded way, God gets the blame for the most heinous of things.

Let’s settle this. God gives us a choice. I love what C.S. Lewis said. Lewis said that in order for there to be genuine love you must be able to choose love. If I have no choice in love then my love can never be real. Automatronic love isn’t love. So for there to be love there must be choice and in order to have choice there must be options. If I can choose to love God then I must also have the option of choosing to hate him. God doesn’t desire that option but its necessary to have choice.

 

People often say, “Why did God create evil?” as if evil were some commodity like pork bellies. Evil is simply the absence of God. The Bible often compares it to light and darkness. Darkness isn’t a commodity. Darkness is simply the absence of light. When I choose not to love God then I am in fact choosing to love darkness. Evil is the natural byproduct of a wrong choice.

Take our God and you get evil. Don’t blame evil on God. Blame evil on the fall.

At the same time that folks wonder about the goodness of God, they will also try to manufacture some psychological explanation.

We see this already. The shooter’s dad was a bank robber. He grew up in this terrible home. He’s the product of a bad seed in a bad home.

Yeah, that all comes into play. No doubt genetics and environment were involved. But I know a lot of people that grew up in just as bad even worse home situations that don’t kill 59 people and shoot 500 more.

So while the psychological profile might help us it doesn’t answer the question. In fact, this approach can actually mask the problem.

Some will say it’s the result of too many guns.

They will say we need to ban automatic weapons. I may be wrong but I thought automatic weapons were already banned. If that were true then how would banning them have prevented this? The guy that shot all those people owned a banned gun.

Stay with me for a minute and I promise this isn’t a talk about politics or a defense of the second amendment.

This is a talk ABOUT EVIL AND HOW WE RESPOND TO IT.

Let me preface this by saying that I am not a gun guy.   I don’t like guns. I don’t like shooting guns. I don’t like being around guns. Guns make me nervous. I own an old shotgun and if you give me some time I might be able to find it somewhere in our house. When I was younger I used to hunt ducks until I killed a wood duck and it’s mate kept circling the pond as her drake lay dying on the water. My friend said, “It’s always hard with wood ducks. They mate for life.”

That was my last duck hunt. I guess I’m just too soft-hearted.

So not being a gun guy I feel fairly objective in this.

I want to drill down on this for just a minute because this anti-gun reaction to gun violence is fairly normal. People tend to make decisions based on emotions instead of facts and sometimes that’s not a good way to form an opinion.

So I dug up some facts. Since 1966 crazed gunmen in mass shootings have killed 947 people. That works out to about 18 per year. And yes, it includes the shooting this week. If you figure the mean average population for America during that 51-year stretch is about 250 million then the percentage possibility of getting killed in a mass shooting is. 000000072% of the population. You are twice as likely to be struck by lightening.

Obviously, 947 people over 51 years is still way too many, but consider that last year over 38,000 died in traffic accidents.

I don’t mean to sound heartless in this, but I think we tend to react with passion and that causes us to miss the point. That’s all I’m trying to say.

Gun-related deaths, (and remember most of this is crime related), in 2016 came to 13,286 including accidental. Nearly 3 times that number died in car wrecks.

I get it, CAR WRECKS ARE accidental and GUN VIOLENCE is intentional. Guns give great power to wicked people. I get that. Again,  I don’t advocate for guns in any way.

I just don’t think the guns were the cause of this.I know a lot of gun guys. I live in the south. This is second amendment country. Many of my friends have concealed carry licenses. Most of the people who own guns will never kill anyone.

I know a lot of “gun guys.” I live in the south. Many of my friends have concealed carry licenses. Most of the people who own guns will never kill anyone.

In fact, in all my years as a southern boy I’ve never known a single person who ever shot or killed anyone.

For me the question isn’t, “What did this guy use to kill people?”  The question is, “Why did this guy kill all those random, innocent people?”

And the only answer I come to is this: HE DID IT BECAUSE HE WAS EVIL AND HE WAS DRIVEN BY EVIL.

If we shift all of the blame to guns we miss the point. There is something deeper in play than the weapons he used.

EVEN IF YOU COULD GET RID OF ALL THE GUNS IN THE ENTIRE WORLD EVIL WOULD STILL FIND A WAY TO HURT PEOPLE. How? I don’t know, maybe by plowing a semi truck through a crowd of people.

I say that because in this sophisticated postmodern naturalistic age we are dismissive of evil. Evil is a magician’s illusion or some cinematic chicanery.

Evil isn’t real. Evil can’t be real because we all know there is no such thing as the spirit and evil is a spiritual thing. Don’t we know that?

And yet here it is, staring down through a broken window from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel.

How do we look into the face of this much evil and still cling to disbelief? We try to explain it through psychological profiles and the proliferation of firearms.  What if it’s none of that? What if that guy’s actions were just plain old evil, impure and simple?

HERES THE PROBLEM: IF YOU SAY THIS IS A GOD PROBLEM, OR A PERSONALITY PROBLEM, OR AN ENVIRONMENT PROBLEM, OR A GUN PROBLEM THEN YOU MISS WHAT THE PROBLEM REALLY IS.

THIS IS AN EVIL PROBLEM.

What happened in Vegas forces us to admit that evil is alive and well on planet earth. The Bible has said that all along.

Ephesians 5:16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil.
1 Peter 5:8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Evil is real and active and doing whatever it can to create as much carnage and chaos as possible. Evil hurts people.

Like you, I read the stories of heartbreak and heroism in that concert arena as bullets flew all around them.   I wonder what I would do? How would I respond? It’s not hard to imagine the terror.

Men threw their bodies over their wives and girlfriends. One man raced between victims dragging and leading them to safety until a bullet struck him in the neck. He survived, but only just. We saw the pictures of the carnage and the lives destroyed. And we wept at the senselessness of it all.

It was all so unnecessary. People were just out to enjoy a concert. Why would this happen?

How could anyone do this to people that he didn’t even know?

That’s just what evil does.

Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).

If he can kill he kills. If he can steal he steals. If he can destroy he destroys.

Evil hurts people. And it doesn’t care who it hurts.

So what do we do with this? How do we respond?

I was talking to a group of men at our monthly men’s luncheon and here’s a list I pulled together.

Seven Habits to Handle Evil

1.    Be aware of evil

When we witness moments like this in Las Vegas we get it. Evil is … well… evil.

What we often fail to understand is that these broken marriages we see daily, this drug addiction we fight in our families, this gambling addiction, this lust and porn, this alienation between sons and fathers, all of that is just as much a product of evil as the crazed gunman on the 32nd floor.  We need to be aware of the presence of evil.

Ephesians 5:16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil.

2.    Don’t fear evil

We are never given permission to yield to fear even for a second.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.

We do not fear evil and we must not fear evil people. If you fear then evil wins. The only one that we are ever encouraged to fear is God himself. And the Bible says when we fear God he protects us from evil.

Proverbs 19:23 The fear of the LORD leads to life,
     So that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.

3.    Don’t toy with evil

Evil is like a poison that gets on you and in you. And once it takes root it’s hard to shake. That’s why the Bible says to avoid it at all costs.

1 Thessalonians 5:22 abstain from every form of evil.

In fact, we should train ourselves to hate evil.

Romans 12:9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.

4.    Don’t give back evil for evil

When evil hurts you don’t become evil and feel the need to retaliate in kind.

1 Thessalonians 5:15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.

5.    Resist evil

Whenever you see evil in any form you should take up the armor of God described in Ephesians 6 and resist it.

Ephesians 6:13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

6.    Trust the Lord to be your defense against evil

2 Thessalonians 3:3 But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.

7.    Do what you can to bring evil to the cross

This is why we are here. I really believe that God has left us on this planet to help evil find the cross. I read about the purpose of evil earlier. Its mission is to steal kill and destroy. But I left out the best part.

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I CAME THAT THEY MAY HAVE LIFE, AND HAVE IT ABUNDANTLY.

Evil seeks to hurt, but Grace always moves to heal. I suddenly realized, this is why we are still here. Evil is our mission.

WE ARE THE ENEMIES OF EVIL. OUR JOB IS TO ROOT IT OUT AND STRIKE IT WITH THE CRUSHING BLOW OF GRACE.

WE DO THAT EVERY TIME WE WIN SOMEONE TO CHRIST.

If there is a silver lining to this dark moment in Las Vegas it could be that for at least a brief pause Las Vegas, “Sin City,” is re-thinking spiritually.

City leaders called together a meeting and invited pastors to lead in prayer. Who would have ever thought that possible?

Los Angeles Time Newspaper reported this:

Pastor Mike Hatch of Prayer Center Revival Church said Vegas has been known as Sin City.
“The Bible says where sin abounds, grace does much more abound,” he said. “That means, where there’s a lot of sin, there’s a lot of grace.
“Guess what. We have God’s favor in this town.”
They lit 59 candles for the dead and sang praises to God.`
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