However, 21st Century American society has largely abandoned the negative Christian anthropology and adopted an indomitably positive anthropology that believes men – in general – are innately good. So then, when tragedies happen like what occurred this week at a Parkland, Florida public school, Christians and secularists have startlingly different perspectives on the problem and thus, the solution. Secularists have no theological framework to accommodate for the notion of evil. Postmodern in philosophy, secularists don’t believe in an absolute truth, and without absolute truth, there’s no such thing as immutable morality. With postmodern philosophy, what is “right” and “wrong” becomes little more than subjective opinion. Likewise, secularists have no theological framework to accommodate for evil because they are evolutionist in their biology. If there is no God, there is no Law Giver, and if there is no Law Giver, there is no law. And if there is no Law, there is no “evil,” in any real or meaningful sense. Therefore, both philosophically and biologically, secularists have to find different reasons for mass murder besides sheer wickedness. Christians, much more easily, call such behavior “wickedness, sin, depravity, or evil.”
For secularists, there must be some reason why this gunman murdered 17 innocent people other than that he is evil. Facts that have surfaced which lead one to believe the shooter was paranormally influenced by Satan, such as the Daily Mail reporting he heard the voices of demons or that he cut himself and banged his head against the wall, are dismissed by secularists as nothing but mental illness. Testimonies from classmates that he was “dark,” “evil,” or “demonic” are quickly overlooked as synonyms for “crazy.” And while the use of prescribed psychotropic drugs is a clear common denominator among almost all mass shooters – including this one – our secular society assumes that such prescriptions are the source of the problem and not a mere symptom of it.
For other secularists, the problem isn’t only mental illness but it is a crime-investigation system that is dysfunctional. The FBI was warned that he publicly stated on YouTube that he was going to be a school shooter, and they didn’t forward the concern on to the local field office that could investigate further. His Instagram account was a vocal cry for help. He conducted training exercises with a supposed White Nationalist group. He bragged about hurting animals. He had taken ammunition and other contraband to school. He wasn’t even allowed to school with a backpack because of the obviousness of his threats. He was abusive to his girlfriend. He was expelled for fighting. He was a “Peeping Tom,” a stalker, and stopped his mental health treatment. He has a sibling who has suffered from mental illness. If someone could compile a list of warning signs, the gunman’s page would set a record for “should have seen this coming.” In fact, his classmates are on record as vocally supposing it was him even during the shooting. For anyone paying attention to the failure of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, they might include “law enforcement incompetency” as another reason why this tragedy occurred.
For even more secularists, the problem is the easy access to firearms. Like so many other mass shooters, this gunman chose as his weapon the most widely-owned rifle in America, the AR-15. It is a black, scary, and ominous looking rifle. For many, it doesn’t matter that this rifle has the same functionality as any semi-automatic rifle that is commonplace in more than forty million homes. It doesn’t matter, to many, that this carbine has no better functionality to kill than most hunting rifles. To those secularists, the problem isn’t that the gunman was evil; it’s that the gun itself was evil. Oddly enough, even a secular society can see evil within inanimate objects, even though they aren’t capable of seeing evil within the hearts of men. This is because for secularists, there really is no “heart” at all in an evolutionary view of humanity; there is only the brain, and that brain isn’t evil (because evil requires a good, and good is subjective), but it must be mentally ill. So then, Parkland Florida students and certain members of the community are shouting “shame on you” to legislators for not doing more to curb Second Amendment freedoms because to them, it’s the guns that are the problem.
However, for Christians, we recognize that sometimes the problems in someone’s head are nothing but an extension of the problems in someone’s heart. We recognize that some people are wicked, and they don’t shoot up innocent people because they’re driven to by madness, but by sheer hatred. More often than not, these mass murderers commit their crimes with cold calculation and forethought in a way that a truly mentally ill person is incapable. Their minds are functioning at high capacity; it is their soul that is ill.
Likewise, Christians recognize that if one evil man is a danger, then a hundred wicked men are even worse. We recognize that a society without a means to protect itself from a government that is more wicked than this mass murderer, it will lead to only more carnage but on a much more massive scale. We recognize that the words of Madison are still true, that it’s because of the evil of human nature that the Citizenry must always be prepared to curtail the power of a government that is comprised of men, who from time to time are capable of extreme wickedness. We, as Christians, are not blind to world history, in which an unarmed Citizenry has been murdered far more efficiently and methodically than this gunman could ever have imagined. This man’s offense pales in comparison to that of Stalin, Pol Pot, Hitler, Mussolini, Mao Zedong, Pasha, Kim Il Sung, Ho Chi Minh, Yahya Kahn and those mass murders conducted by countless warlords and despots even today, in smaller numbers and more easily overlooked because of their unfortunate impertinence to American life, but far more orderly and successful than any school shooting in the United States. We believe that evil on a small scale should not overshadow the possibility of evil on a large scale, perhaps even conducted by a legally constituted government.
It is the negative Christian anthropology that allows us to blame certain actions upon the not-overly-simplistic reality of evil that makes us unwilling to give up our only earthly defense against it, which is the use of force. Because we recognize that there will always be wolves, we refuse to turn ourselves into unarmed sheep. For the secularist who believes ultimately that the government is the closest thing to God in the world, they hold out optimistic hope that with enough laws and government control, tragedies will not occur. In doing so, they tragically overlook the reality that more times than not, the government itself can be a far greater evil. We Christians believe that evil will be in this world until Jesus comes in his fullness, and until then, we have to be realists and prepare ourselves to confront it.
From a Christian worldview, the ownership of weapons is a necessary protection against evil. While it is true that Jesus told Peter to put away His sword because he must be crucified for the sins of the world (Matthew 26:52), he told them that very night to buy a sword in advance of their coming persecution (Luke 22:36). While Jesus’ exhortation that we turn the cheek from insult (Matthew 5:39) has been taken by pacifists (defined by JD’s dictionary as “those who let others die for their lives and liberties”) to be the locus classicus text for passive non-resistance, a robust theology of persecution reveals that the thrice-holy God has indeed called his people to self-defense, protection of the innocent through violent means, and promotion of the general welfare through war. There is no logical reason to believe that God’s call to arms throughout Scripture has been abrogated in this current dispensation, for God does not change (Malachi 3:6) and his Word is immutable (Hebrews 6:17). Furthermore, the call to martyrdom that we see repeated throughout the New Testament does not imply that our death for the sake of the cross be a peaceful surrendering of ourselves over to injustice or voluntary death.
A thorough analysis of God’s divine hand guiding the body-politic of ancient Israel reveals an understood right of self-defense. We are to deliver the innocent from those that seek them harm (Proverbs 8:4). While murder is clearly prohibited (Leviticus 24:16-17), the taking of a murderer’s life is not prohibited and neither is it murder (Genesis 9:6). The qualifying distinctions between killing and murder are found in places like Exodus 21, Numbers 35, and Deuteronomy 19. In the commonwealth laws of Israel, delivered by God, one had the right to take the life of one breaking into their home in the night (Exodus 22:2). The general equity of this Old Testament law (to use words from the London Baptist and Westminister Confession) – that is, what is moral, universal and perpetual in nature – is that it is morally acceptable to take the life of one who will harm the innocent.
Even though our enemies are not flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12), the same is true for the Israelites as they were rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls, when they were instructed to arm themselves for potential conflict (Nehemiah 4:17). The realization of spiritual enemies did not negate the reality that there might be some people in need of a good killing, and God’s people were to be prepared to fight back. When Haman’s plans went awry because of Esther’s obedience, God’s people were instructed to kill those who sought their lives (Esther 9:2-5). When Abraham’s family was in jeopardy, he raised an army and killed their captors (Genesis 14:14-18) and was later blessed by God for that action.
David’s hands were taught to operate a lethal weapon by God (Psalm 18:24). And while we do not trust in our weapons, but in God (Psalm 44:7), this presupposes the ownership of weapons. On any given day, I may carry a number of different lethal weapons, but my trust is in God that they will fire properly, hit their target, or in God’s kind providence, I’ll find their use unnecessary.
Although we are, indeed, sheep sent out to wolves, the Good Shepherd never intended and neither does he ask us to provide a pacifistic buffet of mutton for any wolf that would seek to devour us.
So then, it is because of these deep-seeded differences in theological worldviews that we Christians refuse to be disarmed. We recognize that evil people will always do evil things and that they will find ways (guns or not) to accomplish such things. So then, recognizing the reality of evil, we’ve chosen the best course of action to repel that evil in the temporal realm; chiefly, this means having the right to keep and bear arms, a right our Constitution says, “Shall not be infringed.”
[Contributed by JD Hall]