In what has become an all too common occurrence I was recently asked to comment on a mass shooting, specifically I was asked what is the cause of the rise in mass shootings and what can be done to mitigate the risk in the future and how should we a Christians think about mass shootings. While I may have some ideas about the why and how of mass shootings, what I can speak definitively about is a Christian perspective on mass shootings. And we find that perspective in Romans 5.
Before we get to Romans 5 I’ll simply say this, I don’t think any conversation that is limited to guns is a serious discussion about why there has been a drastic increase in mass shootings in the U.S. and what can be done to reverse or slow the trend. The difference between American society in 2018 and American society in 1988 is not the availability of guns. For that reason I think that any discussion that doesn’t include the explosion in prescribing rates for psychotropic medications (particularly SSRI class antidepressants and ADHD drugs), the proliferation of internet pornography and its dehumanizing effects, and the confluence of high resolution in utero imaging and staunch abortion advocacy by otherwise respectable members of society, isn’t much about mass shootings. Rather I think those kinds of discussions are more about virtue and political orthodoxy signaling. To paraphrase my friend and fellow contributor Zach Puthoff, if your first instinct after a mass shooting is to argue about gun control, whether for or against, you need to slow your roll.
But those are just my thoughts, take them (with a grain of salt if you want) or leave them. But when it comes to the actual cause of every individual mass shooting and how as Christians we should think about them, I can speak more definitively.
While we may never learn the personal motivations of a particular shooter (and I don’t think it is all that healthy to speculate about them) as believers can know with certainty why any shooting and every other act of evil you’ve ever heard of occurred. “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned (Rom 5:12).” And we know that because this is a spiritual problem, there is no political solution to it, as Psalm 146:3 says “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.” Neither solutions from the political left or right are of any consequence, rather there is but one solution. “But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many (Rom 5:15).” The only solution is the gospel, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men (Rom 5:18).”
As believers we are, of course, heartbroken when we see the evil that flows out of the hearts and hands of men when God does not restrain it, but as believers we understand the hope that is only found in Christ.
The bottom line is that this is not a political problem or even a cultural problem, this is a heart problem. Within one generation of Adam’s sin, man was a murderer (Gen 4:8). And the first law given after the flood was the law proscribing capital punishment for murder because it was an affront to the imago dei (Gen 9:6). As soon as sin entered into the world man became a murderer. And murderous men have always murdered in violation of the law and for most of history in most places they violated the law under pain of death. Only the renewal of the mind, and the replacing of the heart of stone with a heart of flesh (Ezek 36:26) that comes with regeneration turns a murderous man, enslaved to sin and bent on destruction and mayhem from the pursuit of that destruction and mayhem. But God does change the hearts of evil men. He did it to me, and if you are a believer, He did it to you too.
If someone says to you “where was your God when this happened.” You can lovingly say on His throne, explain why this thing happened, why everyone must be ready for eternity and how God graciously provided for salvation and life in Christ for those who repent and believe. In other words, provide them with a true Christian perspective. Who knows, God may work through your words to change the heart of someone on the road to wreaking mayhem.
[And a couple of years ago I wrote a bit about the Christian and gun ownership here.]