Today we have yet another sad reminder of the fact that we live in a fallen, cursed world: news headlines (Monday) that, in the worst school shooting in U.S. history, 32 people have been murdered (and 15 injured).
CNN and the Associated Press are reporting that 32 people were killed in two incidents when a lone gunman opened fire on the Virginia Tech campus1 in Blacksburg, Virginia. The shooter is believed to be among the dead. University President Charles Steger was quoted as saying that the shootings are “a tragedy of monumental proportions.”
Although this marks the worst school shooting incident in U.S. history, sadly it is not the first involving the loss of several lives. In 1999, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed 12 students and a teacher before killing themselves at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.
When such terrible acts occur (and sadly, random violence is occurring more frequently these days), they become the major topic of conversation on news and talk show programs. Quite often, church leaders are asked by reporters to give an explanation as to how someone can believe in a loving God when we see such tragedies happen.
Sadly, when it comes to what people would call “natural evil” (e.g., earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, etc.), I’ve heard many Christian leaders on television make statements such as: “We don’t know why such things occur—we just have to have faith—and we just have to trust God.” When it comes to “moral evil,’’ such as a person shooting fellow human beings, I’m sure most of these leaders would say that it was because of sin. However, if really pushed, many (just like the secular world), would not take all of Genesis 1–11 as literal history.
There’s an inconsistency here in taking Genesis literally to accept sin to explain moral evil, such as the shootings at Virginia Tech, but not taking Genesis literally in their acceptance of millions of years of “natural evil” before man (e.g., death, violence, catastrophe, and extinction of animals).
At Answers in Genesis, we have written articles (and books) dealing with this often-asked question of how a good God can allow all this suffering and evil. For instance, see our article on the Columbine school shootings in Colorado. And we also have an online book on understanding a God of love in the face of the death and suffering around us.
We now live in a fallen world where we have just a taste of what we really asked for in Adam, when the head of the human race disobeyed God’s instruction.
You see, when we accept Genesis as it was meant to be taken—as literal history—then we understand that death, disease, and violence are intrusions into this world, and that they occurred after Adam was created. Paul tells us in Romans 8:19–23 that the whole of the creation is groaning because of sin.
So, it’s not God’s fault that there is death and violence in the world—it’s humanity’s fault, because we rebelled against our Creator. Certainly, the shooter at Virginia Tech has to answer for his own sin. However, we still have to recognize that we now live in a fallen world where we have just a taste of what we really asked for in Adam, when the head of the human race disobeyed God’s instruction not to eat the fruit of one particular tree. In a real sense, we are all responsible for the death and suffering we see around us.
It’s also important to understand a concept that AiG presents in the book How Could A Loving God...? We read there:
Only the person who believes in God has a basis to make moral judgments to determine what is “good” and what is “bad.” Those who claim God does not exist have absolutely no authority upon which to call something right or wrong. If God doesn’t exist, who can objectively define what is good and what is bad? What basis could there be to make such judgments? The atheist has no basis upon which to call anything good or bad. They can talk about good and bad, and right and wrong—but it’s all relative, it’s all arbitrary. What’s “good” in one person’s mind might be completely “bad” in another’s.
Of course, from a biblical perspective, God must have morally good and just reasons as to why He allows bad things to happen. For instance, Christ’s death on the Cross was an evil event, but God allowed this for a wonderful purpose: to redeem sinful human beings.
We live in an era when public high schools and colleges have all but banned God from science classes. In these classrooms, students are taught that the whole universe, including plants and animals—and humans—arose by natural processes. Naturalism (in essence, atheism) has become the religion of the day and has become the foundation of the education system (and Western culture as a whole). The more such a philosophy permeates the culture, the more we would expect to see a sense of purposelessness and hopelessness that pervades people’s thinking. In fact, the more a culture allows the killing of the unborn, the more we will see people treating life in general as “cheap.”
I’m not at all saying that the person who committed these murders at Virginia Tech was driven by a belief in millions of years or evolution. I don’t know why this person did what he did, except the obvious: that it was a result of sin. However, when we see such death and violence, it is a reminder to us that without God’s Word (and the literal history in Genesis 1–11), people will not understand why such things happen.
There is another important lesson we need to be reminded of in the context of suffering and death in this world. In Luke 13:4–5, Jesus said: "Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish."
Jesus was reminding people that every person will one day die, and that they need to be ready! Those who were killed by this tower in Luke 13 didn’t know that when they arose that morning, it would be their day to die. The Lord Jesus, in saying “unless you repent,” was reminding everyone that they needed to be sure they were ready to face eternity.
This is the most important lesson for all of us to consider during this tragic time in American history, and to be reminded of what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 10:9:
That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.