From Sandy Hook to Uvalde: A Moral Tragedy or Triumph of DNA?


“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Genesis 1:1


“I am the resurrection and the life.  The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.  Do you believe this?”

Jesus, John 11:25, 26


“In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor justice.  The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good.  Nothing but blind, pitiless, indifference.  DNA neither knows nor cares.  DNA just is.  And we dance to its music.”

Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden


Introduction

You are, of course, asking “why?!” regarding the horrific mass shootings that have been increasing in America from the 70’s and have been escalating in the past 5 years.[1]  The mass murder of little children at Sandy Hook[2] and most recently at Robb Elementary[3] school are especially egregious.  These atrocities demand an explanation.

Some say there are no explanations.  Others point to violent video games or the proliferation of firearms and lax gun laws.  Others point out the lack of school security or a lack of funding.  Added to the list are behavior monitoring and psychological assessment.  As causes and preventative measures, these are not necessarily mutually exclusive and must be seriously considered.  Yet, given the increase of such events, one can detect a deep perplexity at explaining them and an even deeper inability to remedy this problem.  Some voices, out of desperation, are emphatically shouting, “We have to do something!”

But perhaps these explanations and suggested remedies, as essential as they are to consider, are too superficial to explain such horrendous acts.  Perhaps they do not get at the root of the problem of such wanton disregard for human life.  We need to be about answering the “why” question that haunts such events and seems to elude us.

The Importance of Worldviews

Let me suggest a first step at getting to a satisfactory answer to the “why” question.  Stepping back from the barrage of information and causes the media, politicians, criminologists, psychologists, etc. suggest to us, let’s try to reduce the problem to its most basic level, that is, one’s worldview.  A worldview amounts to the set of facts or beliefs a person claims provide the best explanation for what they experience of all that is going on in the world around them and inside them.  It is what they strongly believe.  It usually rises to the level of conviction.  It is the way a person understands, explains and claims makes the most sense of reality.  Worldviews are just that – the ways in which we “see” the world which cause us to think and act in certain ways.

Each of us embraces some worldview whether we recognize it or not.  Adam Lanza (Sandy Hook) and Salvador Ramos (Uvalde) each had a worldview, as did their parents and family members.  The parents of those who lost their children and the people of Newtown have certain worldviews by which they live.  The victims of Sandy Hook and Uvalde were in the process of forming their worldviews.  Most people have not carefully thought about their worldview but they have one nonetheless.  It can also be said that America’s history provided it with a consensus worldview.  Taken as a whole, at any time in the past, our land – as with all nations – had and still has an identifiable worldview.[4]

Most fundamentally there are only two worldviews.  One worldview rejects belief in the existence of God.  This is the atheist worldview.  This worldview includes naturalism which is the belief that the physical world is all that there is.

The other worldview is the theistic worldview.  Here I will deal particularly here with Christian theistic worldview.  It holds that a creator God does exist and has made himself known in nature, conscience, the Bible and ultimately in Jesus Christ.  In the Christian theistic worldview, God exists and plays an active role in history and our personal lives.  More on this later.

Interestingly, a corollary of this theistic worldview was expressed as another cause for the tragedy at Sandy Hook when the Connecticut governor stated that “evil visited this community today.”  I also heard this description applied to the recent tragedy in Uvalde, TX.  The thing to note is that it expressed something that the atheist naturalist worldview cannot logically affirm in a world made up completely of physical matter without remainder.  For the atheist, as I will discuss below, there can be no objective grounds for claiming that acts are good or evil.  Rather, the governor’s statement affirmed the presence of actual evil in the world – something that accords with theism but not with atheism.

The Search for the Truth About Things

I think most people would agree that we should be involved in a search for what is true, not just what we would like to believe.  Now the truth will betray itself by its explanatory power and explanatory scope, that is, its explanations of things will be more logically consistent and coherent while also explaining more of those things in that way.  A worldview worthy of intellectual assent and personal commitment should have explanatory power based upon all types of evidence.  The explanations will not be subjective or ad hoc and will be supported by argument and evidence.  They will demonstrate correlation with reality.  We should seek to believe and live by the worldview that best exhibits these criteria. The true worldview provides better answers to the questions and issues of life as compared to other worldviews.

Moral Values and Duties: Objective or Subjective? [5]

Attempts to understand what has occurred at Sandy Hook, Uvalde, et al force us to soberly consider our worldviews.  Here I will examine the worldviews of atheistic naturalism and Christian theism with respect to their implications upon our moral sensitivities and standards that the Sandy Hook, Uvalde and other horrendous events so acutely raise.  Although “the problem of evil” has direct bearing on these events, here I seek to reflect only upon whether atheism or theism best explain the moral outrage we feel given such events.[6]

These events obviously have profound moral dimensions that we feel deeply.  How such an immoral act could be perpetrated by a human being upon other human beings, especially little children, is one of our deepest questions and a source of genuine intellectual and moral perplexity.  But that is the point here.  The fact that we have such an intense moral reaction to these killings requires explanation.  Why can’t a person go about killing other people if they so desire?  Who determines whether such acts are right or wrong, good or evil?  The point is that we have a vehement moral reaction which seems to presuppose an objective moral standard.  We call these acts immoral and evil, but on what basis?  What can provide satisfactory grounds for our moral outrage?  Is our outrage warranted, or might it just be subjective, that is, that the acts are defined as “right” or “wrong” by persons themselves – perhaps like the perpetrators who might have believed there is nothing wrong in what they did?

Now, this raises the further question as to the source of these moral standards.  Many will blame God for either causing or at least not preventing what happened.  They use the fact of such evil in the world to dismiss the existence of a good God.  Interestingly, the atheist will also utterly condemn such events and view them as tragic.  But don’t we need a transcendent moral standard by which to determine an act as right or wrong, good or evil?  It seems that God is the only one that can provide us with a moral standard which would apply to us all.  Whatever conclusions one might come to about a good God’s role in these events (i.e., the problem of evil), only the existence of such a God can make sense of our outrage regarding these killings.  Only the existence of a good God grounds our moral sense in an objective, authoritative standard; the type of standard we need if we are going to be rational when we declare an act right or wrong, good or evil.  Rational moral outrage requires the existence of God who is holy and pure, loving and compassionate.  It also requires God to be just.  Our moral outrage includes the requirement that justice be done.  But often the perpetrator also dies in the event.  Only the existence of a just God can make sense of the requirement that justice ultimately be done.  For who can ultimately provide justice in such circumstances except a good God that has the power to do so?

And yet, the atheist will immediately assert that to introduce the supernatural is only wishful thinking – God and evil are delusions concocted for emotional and psychological comfort.  But what about the atheist’s own moral abhorrence at these killings and sense that justice needs to be done in these circumstances?  Can atheism provide this moral standard?  Is atheism logically consistent with the atheist’s moral outrage?  If there is no transcendent God, then who provides objective grounds for their moral values and duties?  Who decides what is moral or immoral or right or wrong?

The atheist leaves us with only two options – mere personal preference or societal consensus.  Certainly, the atheist can act morally, and hold to a moral standard.  But that is not the point here.  The issue is whether the atheist has sufficient objective grounds for the moral standard he holds to and for expecting others to abide by that standard.  I contend that he has no objective grounds upon which to establish a moral standard and therefore his moral outrage lacks justification.  His moral “standards” and judgments about what is right and wrong are merely subjective.  These “standards” have limited weight in that they are defined either by individual persons or the consensus of a larger group.   In contrast, the theist grounds moral values and duties in the God who reveals himself in nature and conscience and in his Word both written, and incarnate, that is, in Jesus Christ and the Bible.  And since this God reveals himself to all people, and stands in authority over all people, these revealed moral standards have an objectivity and authority that transcend personal preferences or merely what society decides what is moral at any given time.  Ask yourself, from where did we get our moral sense upon which we have established our laws which are to be obeyed by all?  

Therefore, practically speaking, we should carefully consider whether a decline in a God-centered worldview is the fundamental reason for the moral perversions, hopelessness, lawlessness, disregard for human life and acts of violence we are experiencing in our day.[7]  A person’s worldview influences their thinking and behavior.  Again, any particular atheist may be a moral person by our presently accepted standards, but that results from his own subjective and ungrounded choice to obe moral in that way. But what about the person who comes to realize the moral subjectivity of atheism and its inability to provide moral clarity? They may take an opposite course from the “moral atheist” and there is no good, objective reason why their behavior could be objectively deemed wrong or evil. Interestingly, rather than dismissing God, the seemingly “natural” reaction for many people during these tragedies is to seek refuge and comfort in God as exemplified in individual acts of religious devotion, assuring the suffering that they are “in our prayers,” and the convening of “prayer vigils.”  As responses to such events, they are not ultimately explicable on atheism.  Where did the idea of God come from in a world constituted of the interaction of merely natural processes?  This spiritual and theistic component of humankind is rather very telling as to the reality of God’s existence and that we are made in his image.  Indeed, recourse to God for help is affirmation of another important reality that might give us insight into determining the truth of the theistic worldview over the atheist worldview and provide an answer to the difficult “why” question.  This recourse to God as a helper in sadness and loss implies that God is good, yet something very evil was at work.  These polarities strongly suggests that there exist evil entities in the world and that these really did visit Newtown and Uvalde on those days.  These theistic reactions and beliefs have no logical place within the atheistic naturalist worldview.

Therefore, if we do not a priori assert that God does not exist, we can ask, “Does a theistic or an atheistic worldview offer a more substantive, coherent framework through which we can get our minds around the moral issues raised by such events, thereby indicating that worldview to be closer to the truth?  Does the nature of such events and all the accompanying facts and dynamics, especially the moral outrage, lead us to believe that theism or atheism is the most plausible worldview and the best explanation of these facts and dynamics?  I submit the following for your consideration.

Atheism: A Morally Irrational Worldview

Around 2005 there was a resurgence of atheism in Western culture through the works of people like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett.  These “four horsemen” of atheism came to be known as the leaders of the “New Atheists.”  The negative ramifications of this revival of atheism on the moral standards and behavior in our culture have been profound.

Regarding objective moral values and duties, John Lennox, in his book, Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists are Missing the Target[8], points out the incoherence and inconsistency of the position of these so called “New Atheists” on morality.  If atheists, by definition, claim God does not exist, then from where do they get their moral “standards” to make moral judgments?

“The New Atheists are gunning for God not only on the scientific level, but also the moral level.  Their attack has two prongs.  Firstly, they fulminate against what they perceive to be the primitive, unacceptable, indeed, for them, abhorrent, morality of the Bible.  Secondly, they claim that God is unnecessary for morality.  They tell us that they are not rejecting morality as such – simply the traditional view that morality is somehow dependent on God.  In short, their view is that we can be good without God.

Christopher Hitchens thunders about the “nightmare of the Old Testament”[9] and the “evil of the New Testament.”[10]  Richard Dawkins loves to shock audiences by reading aloud a blistering invective against the God of the Old Testament, describing him as “arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction.”[11]  Hitchens, in debate with me at the Edinburgh Festival, made no bones about his abhorrence of a God who, in his view, is a tyrant and a bully, always watching us.  In his view, “God is not Great.”

Now all of these New Atheist criticisms of God are clearly moral criticisms…Now, moral crusades must be squarely based on moral standards, otherwise it would not be possible to distinguish evil from its opposite.  Indeed, in this particular case, those standards must be very lofty, since they are used to justify an extremely vehement intolerance of religion.  We naturally are led to ask: where do such uncompromising standards come from, if God is not in the picture?”[12]

Lennox continues,

“Logically speaking there is only a limited number of possible sources on which to base morality.  Traditionally, in the West, at least, God has been the transcendent ultimate guarantor and source of morality.  If there is no God, then we are left with raw nature and society, or a mixture of both to source morality.  It is here the problems begin.”[13]

Regarding whether raw nature as understood via the empirical scientific method – which is the only recourse for atheistic naturalism – can produce objective moral standards, Lennox cites Einstein who stated that,

“You are right in speaking of the moral foundations of science, but you cannot turn round and speak of the scientific foundations of morality…every attempt to reduce ethics to scientific formulae must fail.”[14]

We should note here that scientism (the claim that the only knowledge that is true and rational to believe is that which is gleaned by the empirical scientific method of observation, testing, verification, etc.), fails because some necessary moral standards, which are not the result of empirical scientific observation, are presupposed in the doing of science itself.  These moral and ethical standards, without which science would fail, are not first discovered by science.  They are brought to the scientific task.  They are essential metaphysical concerns that are an a priori foundation for the performance of any science in the first place.  It’s bad science to rig an experiment or fudge the data.  Science depends upon moral and ethical behavior for it to be meaningful.  Therefore, scientism’s claim that it is the paradigm of truth and rationality is simply short-sighted and false.[15] Lennox also quotes Richard Feynman, a Nobel prize-winning physicist, as saying,

 “Ethical values lie outside the scientific realm.”[16]

The thing to observe is that you cannot derive what you “ought to do” simply from scientifically examining “the way things are.”  You cannot get an “ought” from an “is.”  The atheist can examine the events and details of these mass killings, but this will tell them nothing about what Adam Lanza and Salvador Ramos ought to have done or not done.  When we condemn the actions of Adam Lanza and Salvador Ramos as “wrong” we are making a judgment based upon some prior over-arching moral standard and prior moral convictions which in such circumstances are binding upon us all and we therefore all affirm.  Lennox writes,

“Science can tell us that if you put strychnine in your grandmother’s tea it will kill her.  Science cannot tell you whether you ought or ought not to do so in order to get your hands on her property.”[17]

The atheist naturalist claims that morality can be grounded in science, yet they must presuppose some moral standard to begin to do science in an effective way – in honesty, integrity, fairness, etc.  Empirical science does not give you that.

This is the error Sam Harris makes in his book The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Moral Values.  Lennox cites Harris as stating,

“We simply must stand somewhere.  I am arguing that, in the moral sphere, it is safe to begin with the premise that it is good to avoid behaving in such a way as to produce the worst possible misery for every one.”[18]

Lennox then comments,

“Thus Harris begins by assuming a moral conviction then brings his science to bear on deciding on whether a given situation conforms to it.  That is a very different matter from what is implied by the subtitle of his book: How Science Can Determine Human Values.[19]

…if the unscientific prior is a moral assumption, then Harris cannot claim to deduce morality from science.  By the same token, we note that Harris cannot rule out the prior assumption of God.”[20]

Life Without God: Meaninglessness, Despair and Death

Atheistic naturalists who have misrepresented science as the only means to truth and the definition of rationality, while irresponsibly and inaccurately asserting that “Darwin explains life,”[21] maintain that there is no God.  Atheist Jacques Monod states,

“Pure chance, absolutely free but blind, is at the very root of the stupendous edifice of evolution with the result that man at last knows that he is alone in the unfeeling immensity of the universe…Neither his destiny or his duty has been written down…He must realize that, like a gypsy, he lives in the boundary of an alien world; a world that is deaf to his music and as indifferent to his hopes as it is to his suffering and his crimes.”[22]

Lennox comments that

 “The very concept of meaning itself is therefore an inevitable casualty of Monod’s view.  Singer expresses it: “Life as a whole has no meaning.  Life began as the best available theories tell us, in a chance combination of molecules; it then evolved through random mutations and natural selection.  All this just happened; it did not happen for any purpose.”[23]

Lennox concludes that,

“It is evident that if there is no personal Creator responsible for the universe, then the universe and human life are accidental products of impersonal, mindless, and therefore aimless, natural processes – what other possibility is there?”[24]

He continues,

“We are clearly dealing here with an extreme form of materialistic reductionism[25] that views human beings as nothing but their genes.  The logical implication, then, is that morality must be based on the genes; though apparently the prime, indeed the sole, purpose of the genes is not to reproduce further human beings, but to reproduce themselves – a strategy is written into the genetic code in every cell in our bodies and brains.  Generations of human beings are merely machines or vehicles for reproducing what Dawkins calls “selfish genes.”

But in what sense, then, is it possible to base morality on human genes?  Michael Ruse joins Edward O. Wilson to explain how they think it can be done: Morality, or more strictly our belief in morality, is merely an adaptation put in place to further our reproductive ends.  Hence the basis of ethics does not lie in God’s will…In any important sense, ethics as we understand it is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to co-operate.”[26]

But if a person is nothing but his/her genes, and these genes control his/her moral behavior, how could s/he ever be blamed for doing wrong, or praised for doing right?  In any case, what sense would that make if the concept of morality is a genetically induced illusion?  One cannot resist the temptation to think that it is a very strange kind of ethics that is founded on such an unethical trick as deception by an illusion to get our cooperation!  And why stop there; what reason is there then to think that this theory is not itself a genetically generated illusion?”[27]

Lennox points out a further incoherence in the atheist evolutionist position.  Speaking about atheist John Gray’s position against humanism but for Darwinian natural selection he writes,

“His philosophy, he admits, undermines truth: ‘Modern humanism is the faith that through science humankind can know the truth – and so be free.  But if Darwin’s theory of natural selection is true [sic!] this is impossible.  The human mind serves evolutionary success not truth.’[28]  But what about Gray’s own mind, when it lends him to write of philosophy over the past 200 years: ‘It has not given up Christianity’s cardinal error – the belief that humans are radically different from other animals.’[29]  One must suppose, according to Gray, that his writing this sentence “serves evolutionary success”.  Well, it certainly would appear to serve the success of evolutionary theory, if it were true.  But then Gray has undermined the very concept of the truth, and so has removed all reason for us to take him seriously.  Logical incoherence reigns once more.”[30]

And that is not the end of the incoherence the atheist naturalists insist we embrace.  It is stated that the sole end of evolution is the survival of the race.  The survival of the fittest is the goal of natural selection and natural selection is driven by the information in our genes.  Our DNA determines who we are and what we do.  But Richard Dawkins attempts to remove himself from the moral quandary his atheistic naturalism has created for him.  Lennox writes,

“Richard Dawkins nonetheless tries desperately to construct some semblance of a basis for morality in general and altruism in particular by saying that, even though man is nothing but his genes, he can somehow rebel against his genes when they would lead him to do wrong: “We are built as genes machines…but we have the power to turn against our creators.  We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.”[31]

We use the word “desperately” advisedly, for at the beginning of the very same book Dawkins says: “We are survival machines blindly-programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.”[32]  But then he appears to retreat from this position in the final chapter of his book: “For an understanding of modern man, we must begin by throwing out the gene as the sole basis of our ideas on evolution”;[33] and gives us as his grand conclusion the encouragement to rebel against a genetic tyranny.

But how can we rebel, if we are nothing but our genes?  If there is no non-material, non-genetic, element or force within us, what is there in us that could possibly have the capacity to rebel against our genes and behave morally?  Nowhere does Dawkins tell us about the origin of such a capacity.  And where would we ever get any objective moral principles to guide us in that rebellion?  Dawkins gives us no answers.

The attempt to derive morality from genes is reminiscent of the futile attempts to derive morality from instinct, as C. S. Lewis pointed out.

Suppose you are sitting in your home one evening, when you hear outside a terrified shriek for help.  You immediately feel an instinctive urge to go to the rescue of whoever is in need.  But then the contrary instinct of self-preservation surfaces and urges you not to get involved.  Now, how shall you decide which of these two instincts to obey; in other words, what your duty is?  It is clear that whatever it is that tells you what you ought to do, when your instincts are delivering conflicting advice, cannot itself be an instinct.”[34]/[35]

Fyodor Dostoievski in The Brothers Karamazov has Ivan observing that “If God does not exist, then everything is permissible.”  Lennox notes that,

“Dostoievski was not arguing that atheists were incapable of moral behavior, of being good.  That would simply be slanderously false.  Indeed, many who claim to be Christians are put to shame by their atheist neighbors.  The point Dostoievski is making is not that atheists cannot be good, but that atheism does not supply any intellectual foundation for morality.

…The greatest irony in this saga is that it is Dawkins himself who confirms Dostoievski’s dictum, by delivering the death blow not only to the attempt to get a gene-based morality, but to the concepts of good and evil themselves on which morality is based.  He [Dawkins] writes,

In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor justice.  The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind, pitiless, indifference. DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.”[36]

One would presume that these are carefully crafted words and therefore represent the author’s considered opinion.  Obviously, their implications for morality, or more accurately for the lack of it, are profound.  Dawkins explicitly denies the very existence of categories of good, evil, and justice in the name of a deterministic interpretation of the function of DNA.  His naturalistic atheism leads him, quite logically, to conclude that not only is there no basis or morality, but that ultimately there is no such thing as morality.

Dawkins wishes us to imagine a world without religion.  But just imagine his deterministic world of blind physical forces and genetic replication.  In such a world we would have no other option than to say that the suicide bombers in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, the schoolboy who murdered half of the teachers in his school in Erfurt, Germany in April 2002, the London tube and bus bombers of July 2005, and a seemingly endless list of others, were simply dancing to their DNA.  The architects of genocide in the killing fields of Cambodia, Rwanda, and Sudan were, likewise, following the dictates of their own inbuilt genetic programmes.  How, then, could anyone blame them for what they did?  Indeed, in such a deterministic world, the word “blame” would itself have no meaning.

And if some people felt that abusing or cutting babies to pieces was their idea of fun, would that simply be them dancing robotically to their DNA?  If this is the case, then none of us can help being, what some people misguidedly call, morally evil.  Indeed, the very categories of good and evil are annihilated into meaninglessness.  They simply do not apply to a population of biologically pre-programmed robots.[37]

It is not hard to imagine the consequences of teaching such nihilistic ideas to young people, whose sense of responsibility is already being eroded by contemporary Western culture to the extent that the tragic toll of vicious juvenile knifings and shootings is mounting rapidly in country after country.  To tell them that their behaviour is nothing but a dance to the music of their DNA, with the implication that they have no responsibility for their behavior or its consequences, would be a recipe for social catastrophe.  Do we really want to throw petrol on the fire?”[38]

We can see how one’s worldview has important implications for understanding the why question raised by what was perpetrated upon the children and adults at the Sandy Hook and Robb Elementary schools.  The last paragraph in Lennox’s text above brings to light the practical ramifications of the indoctrination of atheistic naturalism into our culture and the minds of parents and children today.  When people are taught that they are nothing more than molecular machines and chemical reactions going on in their brains they despair of meaning and purpose in life.  Atheistic naturalism teaches people that they have no God-given soul or spirit that animates the body, mind, thought and will, but rather people just act out what a universe of “blind physical forces and genetic replication” determines that they do.  On atheism, there is no “rhyme and reason” for what happens.  There is no personal responsibility to be sought or justice to be done.  Life is “blind, pitiless and indifferent.”  Such a worldview fosters a disregard for human life and despair.  Hence the general pattern of the commission of mass murder and then the mass murderer taking his own life.

In contrast, on Christian theism, every person is a unique individual, created in the image of God.  This fact gives each person human dignity and self-worth.  Both the sanctity and dignity of human life are established by the biblical teaching that we are all made in God’s image.  Every person has equal value in God’s eyes.  He loves each of us as his image-bearers.  This image bearing quality makes us suitable for a personal relationship with him.  Like God, we are rational beings with minds, souls and wills that are free to choose.  And when we are told that our living reduces merely to chemical and physical processes in our brains and therefore there is no design, purpose or meaning to our lives and no such thing as good and evil, this contributes to the warped thinking and evil behaviors we witness in these mass killings.  The atheist will object that many atheists are moral people as proof that their worldview is not a factor in fostering such behavior.  Again, that would miss the point. The point is that whether given atheism the atheist can coherently object to these mass killings.  Surely, he cannot object given his atheistic determinism.  Human actions are determined by mere physical, chemical and electrical events in our bodies and brains.  There is nothing more to us than our physical bodies.  Even though the individual atheist may act morally, the best that can be said about this atheistic worldview is that it offers nothing to ground and rationally support individual meaning, value, purpose, and self-worth.  Young people see this and conclude life is meaningless.  On atheism, it is just as Dawkins describes it, “…there is, at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good.  Nothing but blind, pitiless, indifference.  DNA neither knows nor cares.  DNA just is.  And we dance to its music.”  Conclusion?  Do whatever your DNA is telling you to do.  There is nothing about you to cause you to do otherwise.           

Christian Theism: A Worldview With Moral Grounding, Existential Meaning and Good News

Seeing that atheistic naturalism fails, we can now consider the theistic worldview.  It provides the moral grounding for transcendent, objective moral values that anchor and inform personal moral values, duties and responsibility.  And because of how God made us, we have free will.  As such, we can also now honestly describe these event as what they are – moral atrocities – rather than simply an “inconvenient event,” or an “incident” determined by Adam Lanza’s and Salvador Ramos’ DNA.  We need not accept the moral indifference which would be perfectly consistent within the atheistic worldview.

Again, let me be clear here.  I am not saying that atheists are morally indifferent or that they cannot and do not act morally.  What I am saying is that they have no objective basis for their moral convictions and behavior.  I submit that this lack of coherence indicates that their worldview is wrong and therefore destructive in the ways Lennox has pointed out above.  Chad Meister, professor of philosophy at Bethel College puts it this way,

“In believing in morality without justifying morality, the New Atheists are confusing an epistemic (knowledge) issue with an ontological (foundational existence) one.[39]  Believing something is one thing – having a foundation for that belief is quite another.”[40]

Let us see what grounding or foundation the Christian theistic worldview has to offer.

From a theistic perspective the heinous acts of these mass shootings certainly raise the very pertinent and challenging question, “Why did God allow such a thing to happen?”  This question would bring us down the road to examining the problem of evil and suffering from a Christian theistic perspective.  I cannot do that here.  I encourage all of you to carefully pursue a biblically accurate and philosophically sound perspective on that question.[41]  Suffice it to say that perhaps we should not thoughtlessly demand that God intervene in such incidences while we choose to continually ignore the revelation of his intervention in our world in ways that are perhaps more far reaching, far more indicative of his grace and love, and provide for ultimate solutions to the problem of evil, death, and the sadness and grief we inevitably experience.  Perhaps while we ask, “Why would God allow such a thing to happen?” we should also seriously seek God’s mind on what is wrong with the world.  He does tell us.  In the frantic search to “do something” about these mass shootings several people have astutely observed that these mass killings are “a heart problem.”  I agree.  From the very beginning chapters in Genesis, God has provided us a written record in the Bible of man’s “heart problem” – which is the problem of sin.  What are the results of sin?  The apostle Paul contrasts the works produced by the sinful nature and desires of “the flesh” with the “fruit of the Spirit” at work in those who believe in and belong to Jesus Christ.  Paul writes,

“Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I am warning you about these things—as I warned you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.  Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:19-25, CSB)

The contrast is stark between those who practice the “works of the flesh” and those “who belong to” or believe on Christ Jesus.  There are two opposing worldviews here.  Which one do you think will provide the remedy to these mass killings?

The point is that we should inquire as to whether God has done anything that would enable the prevention of such terrible acts while remedying the ultimate causes and the resulting impact of the sin in the world exhibited in such acts.  He has.  The remedy is found in believing the “good news” of our salvation that is found in Jesus and living by the Spirit of God within.

As understandable and even legitimate as the cries of, “Where was God?” and “He should have done something to prevent this!” are, they may be too short-sighted. Certainly, the conclusion, “I don’t believe there is a God,” made on the basis of thinking that “If there is a God, things like this would not happen,” is not even logically self-evident and a premature judgment in the matter.  The assertion that if evil exists, then the God of the Bible – an all-powerful, all-knowing and perfectly good being – does not exist, simply does not follow.  Perhaps there are good reasons for such a God to allow evil.  It appears that the depth of the problem demands an equally profound solution – one that I submit only God can provide.  Perhaps what we are witnessing has foundations in a more comprehensive cosmic struggle affecting the whole of creation – a struggle we are not privy to unless revealed to us by God himself.  What I am saying is that we ought to be asking whether God has sufficiently revealed the nature of the struggle and whether he has effectively dealt with it in Christ; a remedy that personally and lovingly includes us in both its temporal and eternal benefits.  And if so, we must also therefore ask whether we have availed ourselves of this remedy.  Is it really God who is the problem?  Perhaps we are the problem.  And if God has provided a solution to the problem in the gospel message, perhaps it is we who have rejected it.  We therefore reap what we sow.

But here I want to concentrate on the sufficiency of the Christian theistic worldview to ground moral value and duties.  I want to show that this worldview provides meaning, value and hope to our lives.  It also provides the power to live a morally upright and productive life, as Paul explained in the Galatians 5 passage above.

Let us focus on Sandy Hook for a moment.  The fact that this occurred during the Christmas season can be instructive.  I heard that some in Newtown were removing their Christmas decorations in honor of the victims and as a sign of solidarity with those who are mourning.  Yet the irony is that the Christmas message is the only message that can provide real, lasting comfort and hope to the grieving parents and provide solutions to the personal struggles of individuals and wisdom for the national dilemma of violent behavior.  The question has been raised “Why didn’t God show up at Sandy Hook that day?”  Well, the Bible records that God has shown up!  The Christian (Christmas) message is that because God loves us he sent his one and only Son into the world to die as the remedy to the problem of sin that is at the root of this horrendous act. (See John 3:16)  In Matthew’s gospel we read that Isaiah prophesied of Jesus when he spoke of “Emmanuel” which means “God with us!” (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23)  The Bible says, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:9, 10)  The personal application of this theological truth should not be missed.  God showed up and continues to show up in the proclamation of the gospel!  God knows and feels what those parents who have lost their children in an unspeakable act of violence are experiencing.  He knows and feels all the implications of all such evil acts.  God himself, God incarnate in the person of his Son Jesus, not only died a torturous death on a Roman cross, but in doing so he also took upon himself, in a way only God could do, all our sin – the sin that will bring judgment upon us if we do not believe and have our sins covered by the blood Christ shed on the cross.  Jesus took upon himself Adam Lanza’s and Salvador Ramos’ sin.  He took upon himself your sin and my sin.  In attempting to grasp the “why?!” of such evils we cannot bypass the reality of sin and the cross of Christ.

The biblical worldview maintains that we have a Creator and therefore we are dependent creatures.  Our first parents freely rebelled against that reality, severing their proper relationship with God, and thereby they brought sin into the world.  Our sin nature has separated us from God.  The misery and death resulting from sin is real as witnessed throughout the world and especially in these shootings.  But the good news is that God has sent his Son to conquer sin and death.  He bore the sins of the world upon himself on the cross so that we could be reconciled to God and have eternal life. (Isa. 53; 1 Pet. 2:22) God, in his grace and love for us, provides us with the hope we need for this earthly sojourn and the hope of life eternal.  We know this because God raised Jesus from the dead. (1 Cor. 15:3, 4)[42] By resurrecting Jesus God vindicated everything Jesus said he was and did as the Son of Man and Son of God.  The power of the resurrection is the power available to change lives here and now and gives the hope of life eternal for those who believe that God has made Christ both Savior and Lord and receive this gift of salvation in repentance and faith.  Christ’s death saves us from our sin.  Sin has caused the separation in our relationship with God and that separation is the cause of objectively immoral acts and ultimate physical and spiritual death.  Human nature is broken.  Things are obviously not what they should be.  But the Bible gives us answers to the nature of the problem and its solution.  Through Jesus’ death, sin has been atoned for and Satan is defeated.  In Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, death has been conquered and the sure promise of everlasting life is secured for all who live believing in these truths.  The reality and power of Jesus’ resurrection assures us of God’s victory over death and that those who believe will not experience spiritual death and will experience a physical resurrection of our bodies which will then live forever.

Suffice it to say that perhaps the existence of an all-good, all-powerful, all-merciful, all-loving and all-wise God is not mutually exclusive with the presence of evil in the world.  And before we go blaming God for not intervening in mass murders or declaring his existence to be incompatible with such evils, we should reflect on the fact that as moved as we are with the heroism of the school principle and the teachers at Sandy Hook who died protecting their children, that,

“…while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. How much more then, since we have now been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from wrath. 10 For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life… where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness, resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 5:6-10, 20-21, CSB)

The fact is that God has demonstrated his love to us through the death of Jesus Christ on our behalf.  The gospel is a message of God’s love to all and his defeat of the devil who “was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.” (Jn. 10:44) But Jesus declared, “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.” (Jn. 12:31) Satan and death are defeated enemies of God and therefore no power in heaven or on earth can pluck out of his hand those who believe and trust in him. (see Jn. 10:27-29) The biblical “good news” is that there is salvation, hope, meaning to life, eternal life and peace with God through Jesus Christ.

This love God has for us demonstrated in the death of Christ on the cross provides psychological and emotional integration and support for us as creatures dependent upon our Creator.  As human beings we need the love and acceptance of our Creator God, the God that gave us life, sustains it and takes it when he wills to do so.  We are made in the image of God for the very purpose of having an eternal relationship with God.  God’s act of reconciliation provides the security and hope we need in this present life when other loves and forms of security fail us.  Men will fail us.  Police cannot always protect us.  But God is always faithful to his word and promises.  This trust in God, this faith, is rooted in the various forms of evidence that he exists and cares for us.[43]  Free will decisions form our characters and in turn influence our actions.  Belief and trust in God provide the framework for good, moral decisions which provide the basis for a virtuous character, psychological health, emotional stability and a moral life. Isn’t the lack of these at the root of these horrendous acts?

Summary Observations

Is the universe really of the type that we should expect if at bottom there is “no design, no purpose, no evil and no good?”  What is the explanation for Sandy Hook and Uvalde et al if there is no such thing as evil or good?  Suppose we have inherent in us a real and inescapable need for an objective sense of meaning and purpose? Suppose free will is real and therefore we can control and are responsible for our choices which have real and lasting consequences?  What then of Dawkins’ worldview?  Is the world really of the type we would expect if there is no God, or does the preponderance of evidence reveal that the world certainly is of the type we would expect if there is a God?

I submit that both the inability of the atheistic worldview to provide sufficient grounds for objective moral values and duties and the ability for theism to coherently do so, is a powerful argument against atheism and for theism as the true worldview.  Given the full scope of the evidence, the universe we observe has precisely the properties we would expect if there is a God.[44]  The worldview of atheistic naturalism fails to meet the criteria of a worldview that is true to reality (i.e., a worldview that evidences coherence, correlation, comprehensiveness, consistency, and warranted commitment.) [45]

The Insufficiency of the Atheistic Worldview

1) Atheistic naturalism cannot provide an objective basis for moral values.  Atheistic naturalism is a worldview that fails to provide an objective basis for moral behavior to which we as individuals who are part of a society may all refer.  It appears that the New Atheists want to acknowledge a moral standard that we should all adhere to.  But attempting to ground it solely in physicalism or naturalism via the scientific method in biology or other sciences is impossible.  It is impossible to ground moral values objectively apart from the existence of God.  The atheists desire for some moral framework has no credible or compelling objective foundation. It is merely subjective – a matter of personal preference.   Therefore, the atheist worldview lacks essential characteristics for it to be plausible, that is, it lacks the coherence and comprehensiveness that warrant intellectual and personal commitment.

2) Atheistic naturalism cannot provide an objective basis for moral duties.  It cannot provide real moral direction because it lacks the objective foundation upon which to determine an accurate definition of moral goodness and moral evil.  Ultimately, why should I not do as I please?  Who will decide what we should do and why?  Science and scientists?  Have I shown that science presupposes moral values and duties for it to go about its tasks.[46]

3) Atheistic naturalism eliminates free will, thereby also diminishing the personal responsibility involved in character formation.  In fact, on atheism, Adam Lanza could not do otherwise.  According to Dawkins he was merely dancing to the music of his DNA.  Atheism completely eliminates the freedom of the will necessary for personal responsibility, and personal responsibility is a critical component in character formation.  True to the implications of atheistic naturalism, as of the original writing of this essay I heard on the morning news that they are now seeking the gene that caused Adam Lanza to do what he did!  This presupposes that Adam Lanza is merely a conglomeration of chemical elements and synaptic firings in the brain that interacted in such a way to cause him to do what he did.  He has no immaterial, immortal soul, mind or will of his own, that is a mind and will under his control, by which he did what he did.  How then is what he did wrong? How is it his responsibility?

Let’s not ignore the forest for the trees.  Continued personal choices establish a person in their character.  Much of life is what we have chosen to make it over time.  Free will decisions over time create one’s character.  Claiming that it is our genes and DNA that determines what we do becomes too convenient an excuse for doing as we please.  This renders any distinction between “moral” acts and “immoral” acts ultimately meaningless.  It becomes convenient to use science to redefine moral and immoral so that we are free to create our own morality.  If the atheist calls for personal responsibility, we are left wondering upon what objective ontological basis they can make such a claim.

Moreover, it cannot credibly be maintained that because we have science and the scientific method of discovery therefore God is a delusion.  The full scope of the evidence, including the scientific evidence, does not support atheism.  Rather, it would seem, atheists have developed their own “faith,” that is, scientism, because they want to do away with God, define moral accountability as they please and do away with the concept of judgment altogether.  They want moral license, and therefore the God that stands in their way with his moral character, moral law and ultimate judgment, must go.  Any other god will do, just not a God of the type you find in the Bible.

You can readily see the connections here.  If God does exist, doing what we want to do without reference to his design for us as his creatures, and casting off his moral law and any accountability to him, is the ultimate “mental illness.”  Living as if God does not exist is the delusion.  It is a distortion of reality and will inevitably lead to the most deceitful and violent behavior as the subjective self rules the life in place of God.  Is this immorality not what we find infiltrating our culture in every aspect? We are witnessing an ethical crisis of lying, cheating, stealing, and murder in politics, business, and family life as the result of a rapid departure from an objective basis for moral values and duties rooted in God and his revelation in Scripture.  The creature has no source of life within himself and no resource to ground moral values and duties.  That is why God said, “the day you eat of it [the fruit of the knowledge of the tree of good and evil – that is, embrace the attitude of disobedience, rebellion, proud dismissal of the loving, gracious command of God to trust him completely and avoid evil], you will surely die.” (Gen. 2:17) And sin, in its myriad of expressions, is what mankind has been experiencing ever since.

4) Atheistic naturalism cannot provide any objective basis for the value and dignity of human life.  Given atheistic naturalism, “So what?” or simply “Well, that’s just the way natural selection and our genes, DNA, etc. cause things to happen” would be a consistent and coherent response to the Sandy Hook massacre.  When the atheist does advocate for ethical and moral standards, and exhibits “shock” at such so called “immoral” behaviors and “atrocities,” he is being inconsistent with his atheistic naturalism.  His worldview does not inform his reactions, or the reactions are not consistently reflective of the implications of his worldview.  The worldview fails in explanatory scope and credibility. It fails at grounding these as genuinely heinous acts.

5) The atheist naturalist worldview is empty, rendering life ultimately meaningless and purposeless.  It cannot provide for a life of meaning, purpose, and hope.  It provides no ontologically transcendent, substantive, ultimate meaning to one’s existence.  We simply come to exist, function deterministically according to our biological processes, and then die.  We then cease to exist.  Concepts like hope, justice, and love are meaningless.  Life has no purpose.  There is no meaning to “justice.”  It too is an empty concept.  The violent acts, the victims, the survivors have no grounds or recourse for their sense of being wronged. 

The Sufficiency of the Theistic Worldview

1) The theistic biblical worldview provides an objective basis for moral values and duties.  These values and duties are grounded in the very nature and revealed will of God.  This revelation, if not ignored, can form our character and actions in the way of love and righteousness.  “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13; Deut. 5:7), is a command that only remains pertinent and effective when it remains rooted in a theistic worldview.  It certainly provides a moral anchor in a culture searching for answers to this problem of wanton killings.  The foundation for a real solution to immoral acts can only be found in the reality of God and therefore in the transcendent, spiritual reference point he alone provides.  This problem of mass murder is a heart issue.  The grace God has exhibited in Christ’s death and resurrection, and the promise of that the Holy Spirit comes to reside with those who believe, provides the power for moral action (righteousness), love of neighbor, the promise of life in the present and life eternal, and ultimate healing and hope.  The apostle Paul wrote,

5 “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin — 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” (Rom. 6:5-14)

The apostle continues,

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” (Rom. 8:1-11)

2) The biblical worldview grounds the death of these adults and children as genuinely heinous acts because we are made in the image of God. (Gen. 1:26-27) Being made in God’s image means that all human persons have dignity and value.  The actions of Adam Lanza and Salvador Ramos were heinous precisely because they took the lives of other human beings made in God’s image.  The biblical truth that we are made in the image of God provides the rational grounds for societal expectations, criminal laws and judicial wisdom in the face of such crimes.  We read in Gen. 9:5-6,

And I will require a penalty for your lifeblood; I will require it from any animal and from any human; if someone murders a fellow human, I will require that person’s life.

Whoever sheds human blood,
by humans his blood will be shed,
for God made humans in his image.” (CSB)

Being made in the image of God is an innate, inalienable and unalterable quality of all human beings.  As granted to us by God, it is an abiding principle that has many applications.  Therefore, the magnitude of the grief evidenced in such crises has its foundation in the real ontological status of these human beings as creatures created in the image of God.  Because we are not the result of non-rational, impersonal, mindless physical processes, but made in God’s image with the attending implication that we are loved and given physical and spiritual life by him with divinely intended purposes and meaning, the murder of a fellow human being is a horrendous act punishable by death.

3) The biblical worldview also provides an explanation of the formal cause of the horrendous act that took those lives.  Satan is real, and as he is evil himself, therefore evil are real.  Mankind is fallen in sin.  Death is the result.  To choose to live depart from God’s provision of the Spirit and grace is to leave oneself vulnerable to the direct work of Satan or the myriad of other forms of sin that are rooted in his activity and influence in and through sinful mankind.  In Romans chapter 1 Paul describes what generally characterizes those who suppress the truth of God’s existence and what can be known about him and do not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God (see Romans 1).  He states that,

“…God delivered them over to a corrupt mind so that they do what is not right. 29 They are filled with all unrighteousness, evil, greed, and wickedness. They are full of envy, murder, quarrels, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, arrogant, proud, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 senseless, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful.” (Romans 1:28-31, CSB)

Doesn’t this describe the increasing and persistent individual and social evils we find in our world today?  And how about what we find deep down in our own hearts?   Sin is real.  But so is salvation in Jesus Christ.  Paul writes, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Roman 6:23, CSB)

4) The biblical worldview provides supernatural comfort in this life, the hope of salvation, and eternal life.  The concept of justice remains intact because there is a righteous Judge who rules over all.

Lennox observes,

“If there is no base for values external to humanity, how can Dawkins’, Hitchens’, or anyone else’s standards be anything but limited human conventions: ultimately meaningless products of a blind, unguided evolutionary process?  Thus, far from delivering an adequate explanation for morality, this particular New-Atheistic acid dissolves into incoherence…

The New Atheists increasingly appear to be “soft atheists” who have not really begun to understand the implications of their own atheistic beliefs.  “Hard” atheists like Nietzsche, Camus, and Sartre would ask the New Atheists how they can rationally justify their absolute-sounding commitment to timeless values without implicitly invoking God.  They would say that this is impossible: the existence of absolute values demands God.

Consequently, all of the New Atheists’ moral criticisms of God and religion are invalid not so much because they are wrong but because they are meaningless.  If such a denial of ethics is the heart of the God-delusion hypothesis it does not take a rocket scientist to see where the delusion really lies.  After all, if DNA neither knows nor cares and we dance to its music, how is it that most of us both know and care?”[47]

Conclusions

I believe that the atheistic worldview has a strong hold over our culture and fails to provide the objective grounds for moral values and duties.  As such, immorality, violence, self-centeredness and murder is on the rise.  The suppression of the knowledge of God and rejection of his revelation and moral law have set people adrift on a sea of subjective morality.  This is contributing to the transgender sexual perversions, the complete disregard for the value of human life and a crisis of moral indifference that leads to the meaninglessness of life, hopelessness and despair.  These are the sources of the mental distress that culminate in all forms of violent activity. 

Thus, it appears that on the basis of moral considerations, reality necessitates the Christian answers.  The ultimate answers will not be found in our well-intentioned efforts, as necessary as they might be, to make ourselves safe from those who are evil and would do us harm.  It has been said that we must “harden” the schools and buildings that are targets for mass killings.  This is impossible and does not address the root problem here which is the “hardening” of people’s hearts against the things of God. We do not need to “harden” our society when the hearts of the people are “soft” towards God.

President Obama appeared genuinely moved by the atrocity at Sandy Hook.  He stated, “This is our first task — caring for our children.  It’s our first job.  If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right.  That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.”  But note, this is a worldview statement.  We need to ask, “Judged by whom and by what standard?”  He went on to say, “And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we are meeting our obligations?  Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children — all of them — safe from harm?  Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know that they are loved, and teaching them to love in return?  Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?”[48]

Measure.  Obligations.  Love.  Happiness.  Purpose.  At bottom these are all worldview values that beg the question as to which worldview can coherently provide for such values.  The President professes to be “Christian.”  But is the President’s professed theistic worldview consistent with his words, values, and actions?  If “truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose” is such a high priority, why does he support the murder of untold millions of them in the womb?  Weren’t the twenty children murdered in Sandy Hook at one time children in the womb?  Is life sacred or not?  On which worldview is life sacred and on which worldview is life meaningless?

A culture of moral disintegration and death has gripped our nation due to the infiltration of a worldview that cannot provide any foundation for personal responsibility and human dignity.  This atheistic naturalism cannot coherently support ultimate meaning and purpose to human life.  The President added, “In the coming weeks, I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens — from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators — in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this.  Because what choice do we have?”  Choice?  There is no choice on atheistic naturalism, we are just acting out what the physical events in our brains dictate we do. Free will is an illusion.  There is no objective right or wrong behavior.  As Michael Ruse and E. O. Wilson stated, “…ethics as we understand it is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to co-operate.”

But we do have another choice that should not be neglected.  We have the choice to worship the true God, fill our minds and hearts with his Word and accept and proclaim his salvation.  Adam Lanza had the choice to worship God or fill his mind and heart with evil.  We who are still living have this choice.  God gives us life and breath for this very purpose – that we would believe, love and serve him.  Perhaps the mental disturbances, violent video games, and senseless mass shootings are only the symptoms of a deeper worldview problem – a godless worldview that places man at the center of his universe rather than the rightful Creator.  We are raising a whole society of individuals who refuse to acknowledge God and as a result he is giving them over in wrath to their own desires.[49]

Does all this sound reminiscent of the Genesis account?  Evil did visit the communities of Newtown and Uvalde, as evil visited the world in the beginning as Scripture records.  Given that the Evil One was already on the scene of world history, God gave Adam a loving, gracious, and protective command, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Gen 2:16, 17) Then they had the first visit from Evil incarnate.  Satan’s tactic that caused relational separation between God, man, and creation, psychological fear, blame, and confusion, along with spiritual and physical death, is still the same today – to invert the loving and proper Creator / creature relationship.  The devil’s strategy is to instigate proud rebellion against our Creator by misrepresenting, disparaging, and fomenting doubt regarding the truth of God’s Word.[50]  “He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?…You will not certainly die,…For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:1-5) Then, Adam and Eve both rejected the word of God to them, substituting their own wills in the place of the loving purposes of God for them.  Evil visits wherever the Evil One is made welcome by the rejection of God’s loving, protective word and authority – and spiritual and physical death certainly follow.  Scripture reveals the pattern.  “The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.   Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry?  Why is your face downcast?   If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?  But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”  Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.” (Gen. 4:4-8)[51]

We should not miss the theological emphasis of this portion of Genesis.  God is the God of life, love, compassion, protection, and provision.  Satan is the author of doubt, destruction, and death.  The solution to the sin problem that the free rebellion of our first parents brought about is found in the magnificent redemptive plan of God in Christ Jesus.  We need a more substantive, universal, permanent, and profound solution than fallen man from his own mind and resources can provide.  It is the solution of a new creation that God himself has already provided.  The apostle Paul writes,

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new hascome! Everything is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed the message of reconciliation to us.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21, CSB)

To reject this solution as individuals and a nation is only to bring upon ourselves more and more of these atrocities.  Newtown, CT, Buffalo, NY to Uvalde, TX, and as I write this article another shooting has occurred in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  If this is truly a heart problem within humanity, and the evidence reveals that it is, then the answer is not less guns and “hardening” targets but a revival of Christian truth in our land.

The primary question we need to ask is whether each of us, as an individual, will avail ourselves of this truth and the remedy for our sin that God has provided us in Jesus Christ.  Real personified Evil entered the world at the beginning and is the ultimate explanation of atrocities like these.  But God showed up in Jesus.  God leaves you a genuine choice as to whether you will believe the gospel message and commit your life to him on the basis of what he has revealed of himself in “the two books” – the “book” of nature and the Bible.  Be reconciled to God and you will be reconciled to others.  Believe and trust in his work in Christ Jesus on your behalf and he will grant abundant life and life eternal. (Jn. 10:10) You cannot earn God’s favor or salvation through religious good works or your social position, economic status, or intellectual prowess.  Salvation comes simply by believing that you are a sinner like everyone else and that Jesus died to take away our sins and reconcile us to God.

Therefore, you are not merely material substance – the product of blind, impersonal, non-rational forces.  You are both body and soul.  In fact, you are a soul that inhabits a body.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made – a creature made in the image of a loving, personal, rational God who himself died to save you from your sins.  You have worth and dignity.  God’s word to us is found in the gospel message.  This “good news” is the news of his love, grace, and salvation which continues to come to us today.  Now is the hour of salvation.  Jesus says, “The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.  Do you believe this?” (Jn. 11:25, 26).


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[1] List of mass shootings in the United States – Wikipedia

[2] December 14, 2012, Newtown, CT.  Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting – Wikipedia

[3] May 24, 2022, Uvalde, TX.  Robb Elementary School shooting – Wikipedia

[4] Interestingly, it was the theistic worldview.  I cannot elaborate on this here, but all one must do is read our founding documents, the walls on our memorials, and the historical records of our nation’s founders, presidents and peoples to see their acknowledgement of a Creator God and their personal trust in him.

[5] See “The Moral Argument” in William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth in Apologetics, 3rd ed., (Wheaton: Crossway), 2008, 172-184. 

[6] For more on the problem of evil see William Lane Craig’s Defenders Podcast Series 3, Section 4 “Excursus on Natural Theology,” Parts 30-33 – “The Problem of Evil and Suffering” and Part 34 – “The Emotional Version of the Problem of Evil.”   Excursus On Natural Theology | Reasonable Faith  Last accessed May 30, 2022.

[7] See “Chapter 2: The Absurdity of Life without God,” in William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth in Apologetics, 3rd ed., (Wheaton: Crossway), 2008, 65-90. 

[8] John Lennox, Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists are Missing the Target, (Oxford: Lion Hudson, 2011).

[9] God is Not Great, p. 97.

[10] Ibid., 109.

[11] The God Delusion, p. 51, 59.

[12] John Lennox, Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists are Missing the Target, (Oxford: Lion Hudson, 2011), 97, 98.

[13] Ibid., 99.

[14] For this and Einstein’s stance on religion and science see the definitive work of Max Jammer, Einstein and Religion, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1999.  The citation here is from page 69.

[15] Other realities science presupposes are the law of causality, the rational intelligibility of the universe, language, the rules of logic, mathematics, etc.  As such they were not discovered via the scientific method.

[16] Richard P. Feynman, The Meaning of it All, London, Penguin, 2007, p.32.

[17] John Lennox, Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists are Missing the Target, (Oxford: Lion Hudson, 2011), 101.

[18] Harris, The Moral Landscape, p. 39.

[19] Perhaps Harris is vaguely aware of this himself, since, towards the end of his book, he attenuates the claim of his cover sub-title to the lesser and very different “claim that science could have something to say about values” (The Moral Landscape, p. 189.)

[20] John Lennox, Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists are Missing the Target, (Oxford: Lion Hudson, 2011), 102.

[21] See “The God Delusion Debate” held in Birmingham, Alabama between John Lennox and Richard Dawkins.  Richard Dawkins vs John Lennox | The God Delusion Debate – YouTube  Last accessed May 30, 2022.

[22] Jacques Monod and A. Wainhouse, Chance and Necessity, London, Collins, 1971, pp.110, 167.  From Gunning for God, p. 106.

[23] Peter Singer, Practical Ethics, 2nd. Ed, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1993, reprint 1999, p. 331.

[24] John Lennox, Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists are Missing the Target, (Oxford: Lion Hudson, 2011), 106.

[25] Materialistic reductionism holds that everything can, in the end, be reduced to nothing but physics and chemistry – that is, to matter and its behaviour.

[26] Michael Ruse and Edward O. Wilson, “Evolution and Ethics”, New Scientist, Vol. 108, 17 October 1985, pp. 50-52.

[27] John Lennox, Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists are Missing the Target, (Oxford: Lion Hudson, 2011), 107, 108.

[28] Gray, Black Mass, p. 26.

[29] Ibid., 37.

[30] John Lennox, Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists are Missing the Target, (Oxford: Lion Hudson, 2011), 108.

[31] Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1976, p. 215.

[32] Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, p. ix.

[33] Ibid., p. 205.

[34] See Lewis, The Abolition of Man, p. 28.

[35] John Lennox, Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists are Missing the Target, (Oxford: Lion Hudson, 2011),111.

[36] Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden, New York, Basic Books, 1992, p. 133.

[37] Steven Rose, who has no quarrel with Dawkins over evolution itself as a biological theory, argues strongly against the reductionism that lies at the heart of Dawkins’ determinism.  He thinks that it is simply wrong: “I am distressed with the arrogance with which some biologists claim for their – our – discipline explanatory and interventionist powers which I certainly does not possess, and so cavalierly dismiss the counter-evidence” (Lifelines, London, Penguin, 1997, p. 276.)  He goes on to say: “The phenomena of life are always and inexorably simultaneously about nature and nurture, and the phenomena of human existence and experience are always simultaneously biological and social.  Adequate explanations must involve both.” (Lifelines, p. 279).

[38] John Lennox, Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists are Missing the Target, (Oxford: Lion Hudson, 2011), 98, 112, 113.

[39] For more on this see Paul Copan, “The Moral Argument,” in Philosophy of Religion: Classical and Contemporary Issues, ed. Paul Copan and Chad Meister (Oxford: Blackwell, 2008), pp. 127-41.

[40] Chad Meister, “God, Evil and Morality,” in God is Great, God is Good: Why Believing is God is Reasonable and Responsible, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 110.

[41] I suggest that the answers lie along the lines of God’s decision to make a certain type of world, thereby excluding all other types of worlds that he was free to create.  Yet once, in his creative wisdom, he created this type of world, he thereby abides by his self-imposed “limitations” with respect to it.  God abides by his own creative decisions.  Thus we have natural laws that he does not regularly interfere with – a fact from which it certainly does not logically follow that he cannot intervene in his world or never has and never will.  The fact that he is the supernatural Creator precludes us from coming to such a conclusion.  And also therefore we have the reality of human freedom.  It is within the nature of God to love; not that he needs love, but that he loves his creatures defined as a gracious giving of oneself to them.  He thus created creatures in his own image for his loving, giving purposes.  This is clear throughout Scripture.  But love that is predetermined is not love in the way intended, and therefore there was a certain degree of freedom (not absolute) given to mankind that God does not violate.  This freedom was ultimately abused.  Sin entered the world.  Yet God, in his love, has not been indifferent to what has happened to his creature.  Any solution to the problem of evil has to include the cross of Christ – God himself fully identifying with and experiencing evil and death.  We cannot cavalierly ask “Where was God in these atrocities?” in light of the cross.  God took upon himself the sin of the whole world.  The “problem of evil” cannot justify disbelief in the existence of God when it was God himself that both suffered that evil and took it upon himself so that we may live in peace here and now and in the end all will be made right.  The point is that the divine plans, purposes, and interactions of God with his creation and his human creatures is larger, broader, and deeper than whatever we experience in this fallen world.  We are living in the midst of some dark divine secret.  God does not intend us evil neither does he do evil.  God has brought salvation and works in us by his Holy Spirit for our sanctification and freedom from sin.  What God is up to in all this also needs to be kept at the forefront of our thinking as we attempt to make sense of moral evil.  See C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, (New York: Macmillan, 1962) and Mere Christianity, (New York: Macmillan, 1978).  Also see C. S. Lewis’ essay, ‘The Trouble with “X”…’ in C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), 151-155.  For insight into the issue from within the Calvinist/Arminian debate see Bruce A. Little, “Evil and God’s Sovereignty,” in Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five Point Calvinism, ed. David L. Allen and Steve W. Lemke, (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), 275-298.  Again, on the problem of evil see William Lane Craig’s Defenders Podcast Series 3, Section 4 “Excursus on Natural Theology,” Parts 30-33 – “The Problem of Evil and Suffering” and Part 34 – “The Emotional Version of the Problem of Evil.”   Excursus On Natural Theology | Reasonable Faith  Last accessed May 30, 2022.

[42] For the evidence of the resurrection of Jesus see William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth in Apologetics, 3rd ed., (Wheaton: Crossway), 2008, 333-404.

[43] See William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth in Apologetics, 3rd ed., (Wheaton Crossway), 2008.

[44] See Gregory E. Ganssle, “Dawkins’s Best Argument Against God’s Existence” in Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, Contending with Christianity’s Critics: Answering New Atheists & Other Objectors, (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2009)

[45] See Robert B. Stewart, “The Insufficiency of Naturalism” in Come Let us Reason: New Essays in Christian Apologetics, eds. Paul Copan and William Lane Craig (Nashville: B & H, 2012), 81-96

[46] C. S. Lewis reflected much on this problem of science and scientism as this powerful video communicates. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPeyJvXU68k

[47] John Lennox, Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists are Missing the Target, (Oxford: Lion Hudson, 2011), 114.

[48] http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2012/12/16/news/obama-newtown-vigil-text-of-his-speech/

[49] See Psalm 9 and Psalm 10 where the psalmist struggles with similar issues that have been raised in our minds by the Sandy Hook tragedy.

[50] Jn. 1:1-5, 9-14, 16-18. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

…The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

…From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.”

[51] See also Heb. 11:4 and 1 Jn. 3:12.

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