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Bethlehem and Sandy Hook and age-old questions

Horrifying! Six- and 7-year-old students hearing gun shots, then looking into the face of the man who was about to kill them and their teachers. The fear, the screams, and the evil of it all is more than anyone wants to imagine.

But it did happen on Friday morning, Dec. 14, at 9:30 a.m., in the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Dear little children dying in the arms of adults attempting to protect them. Funerals with little caskets and a grief stricken community which will never fully recover must find ways to cope, to live on, to try to sleep, to experience some degree of normalcy again.

Can we, who have watched the dark night of death and grief descend upon so many, do anything meaningful in response?

We can pray that God’s comfort will be realized by those who lost so much. Oh, that the gospel would be heard! We can pray that the children and their parents will find some measure of mental strength to go on and bring their community from the edge of the abyss of despair to shared love, support, and innumerable kindnesses. We can pray that the fear that haunts the children who saw their classmates killed will not paralyze them and take them away to a land where anger, depression, and hopelessness would shrivel their souls.

There has been no shortage of assessments that have been offered. Why did the killer do this? What was his motive? It strains the ability of the human mind to explain the thoughts of a 20-year-old man who could stand before innocent and helpless little children, look into their eyes, and pull the trigger.

Sadly, the attempts to unravel the mystery of the mind of a cold-blooded killer have revealed the hollowness of the moral bankruptcy of our culture. The conversation has been dominated by a crescendo of gun control advocacy.

Is the murderer not responsible for this heinous crime? This whole gun control debate deflects attention away from the real problem. A sinful human being was the problem.

Many in our society have been morally disarmed by their refusal to acknowledge the existence of evil and its companion, sin. In all the articles I have read and discussions heard on television and radio, I have yet to hear (with perhaps one exception) a cogent, moral explanation of the murder and murderer.

So much talk revolves around assault weapons, with high-capacity magazines, and the need for more gun control laws. Yet none of the existing laws would have prevented the wholesale slaughter in Newtown.

We are told that “mental health” screening must play a greater role in gun purchases and society in general.

The whole concept of mental or emotional illness is based upon a medical model of illness. Behavior that is difficult to explain is submitted to flawed presuppositions about the mind.

Is the mind merely a mass of tissue and chemicals? A “sick” mind, we are told, is the cause of murder and other aberrant human behavior.

A distinction must be drawn between organic diseases of the brain (brain tumors, cancer, strokes, etc.) and non-organic based processes of thought and behavior for which an individual is responsible.

The truth is that there is a “sickness” in the human heart. The final authority on human nature, the Lord Jesus Christ, said that “out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:19).

Our culture has created a host of psychological categories which, in effect, are an attempt to change the subject from personal responsibility and sin to that of “disorders” and lack of “mental health.”

Psychological, sociological, economic, and political explanations are woefully inadequate for coming to grips with what is wrong with human beings and why some have no conscience about taking a weapon and without flinching, denying others the right to live.

It is noteworthy that one editorial columnist in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution offers a “model that already exists to address (the) societal problem” of mass killing and gun violence (Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012).

Essentially this proposal is that we follow the same legal and social path that has contributed to the decline of traffic-related alcohol deaths. Such measures as increased liability, required licensing for gun ownership, and other legal restraints should be incrementally pursued to “reduce the number of deaths caused by firearm use.”

Did it not cross his mind that laws could be put in place to begin stopping the slaughter of millions of babies in the womb, children who cannot defend themselves? Why are those who are clamoring for more gun control laws not willing to apply their zeal to an abortion industry engaged in mass murder on a daily basis?

There has been a discernible decline in the moral stability of civil society. University professors mock the idea that there is any objective truth. Hollywood movies have no time for God-consciousness other than profaning His name. One listens in vain to hear the word evil in the context of mass murder.

Could the reason be that one has to believe in the existence of God in order to think in terms of good and evil?

To believe in God is to acknowledge accountability. This is not acceptable in a society where many believe that people can do what is right in their own eyes (“no judgmentalism please”).

Also missing in the national media is the connection between the Sandy Hook massacre and the breakdown of the family. Broken homes, fathers who are absent, and children struggling with the problems of life cannot be ignored.

In the little town of Bethlehem in the first century a child was born to Joseph and Mary. This child was a king. When King Herod learned that a king had been born in his region he felt threatened and outraged. In order to secure his throne against any challenger Herod out-sourced the murder of scores of boys, age 2 and under. Parents grieved in Bethlehem as their sons were ripped from their arms and slaughtered before their eyes.

Did Herod have a “mental health” issue? He certainly did. His jealous and angry heart bore no conscience in having innocent children massacred.

We are told in the Book of Revelation that Satan was ultimately behind the attack on the children of Bethlehem (Revelation 12:4).

We also read there that the king born to Joseph and Mary would one day rule all the nations with a rod of iron. The old dragon wanted to kill the King of kings and Lord of lords in order to keep his own kingdom of sin and death in power.

But it was not to be. Divinely delivered from the clutches of the devil the Christ-child lived to die another day. It would be a death by crucifixion with the triumph of the resurrection so that the death of Death would be accomplished by the death of Jesus Christ.

There is our hope. It is in Christ alone. There is no final safe place in this world. Safety and security can be found in the One who said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies” (John 11:25).

Dr. Howard E. Dial

pastor emeritus

Berachah Bible Church

Fayetteville, Ga.


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