Was Connecticut Shooting God’s Judgment?

Thank you for the responses to the post, Did God Cause the Connecticut Shootings. The responses came mostly through Facebook and other media.  Some thought the article didn’t go far enough. Others thought it went too far. So, let’s consider the objections in these two directions.  First we will consider the objection which says my view did not go far enough.

Basically, my argument is that the immediate cause of the deaths is rightly placed upon Adam Lanza, who alone was God's Judgment School Shooting Newtown Conn Sandy Hookresponsible for killing more than two dozen people in Newtown, Connecticut.  He will be held accountable by God for his sinful, murderous actions. However, God was not absent from the horror. Ultimately, God—secretly and mysteriously—was (and is) causing it all to work together for a greater, eternal good.

Objection one says that this argument does not go far enough. Instead, the argument should state not only that God was present, but that He was also present specifically to enact His judgment.  In other words, God caused the event to happen to exact His judgment against America and, especially, America’s schools.

So, the question becomes, was this an action of God’s judgment on American schools for rejecting Him and removing prayer?  No, I don’t think it was.

Here’s why I say “no.” I have no hesitation stating that God exacts His perfect justice against sins.  God punishes the wicked.  He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, but He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished (see Exodus 34:6-7).  Every evil action, thought, and deed will face the bar of perfect justice, and our God is a consuming fire! He will, in fact, cast souls into Hell (Luke 12:5), and He will ultimately usher in a new heaven and a new earth for all who believe. Thus, it is always a fitting word to say,

“See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven” (Hebrews 12:25).

Nevertheless, God’s judgment is better directed than the bullets at Sandy Hook. God’s judgment is precise and exact—even down to the thoughts and intentions of the individual heart.  So, what evidence is there which suggests these particular kids were guilty of the particular sins God supposedly judged on this occasion? The kids weren’t responsible for prayer being removed from their schools.  They probably had no knowledge of any of the lawsuits which led to the excising of God from student classrooms. Yes, God judges—but not haphazardly!

Consider Christ’s teaching in this regard from Luke 13:1-5,

Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

The Tower of Siloam

The Tower of Siloam (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Notice that there were people who wanted to ascribe a slaughter to the judgment of God.  Jesus quickly corrected those justice-mongers who hoped to tie the tragic events of his day directly to the hand of God.  No one knows for sure what event is being spoken of here in Luke 13, but the point is plainly stated. Jesus turns the situation into a rhetorical question of great significance: Do you really think these people died because of their particular sins? No, there was no way to tie their deaths to any immediate sin committed by them. Thus, the deaths could not be ascribed to the judgment of God in any particular sense.

The same is true for the tower of Siloam.  A dozen and a half victims unexpectedly perished in an instant, when the tower fell upon them. Was that the hand of God’s judgment against them? Jesus says, no. Whether slaughter (the Galilean example) or accident (the Tower of Siloam incident)—the lesson from mass tragedies is NOT to point the finger and say, “Those people must be great sinners, for God has judged them.” Rather, the point is for every survivor to point to himself and say, “God have mercy on ME, a sinner.”

Tragedies–whether tsunamis or school shootings–are reminders of the fixed reality of God’s ultimate judgment over humanity.  All are under the curse of sin and death. Thus, any could die at any given moment.  And we all need to seek the remedy God gives us in Christ.

Objection Two moves in the opposite direction and says, “God had nothing to do with Connecticut, and it is unhelpful, if not downright hateful, to suggest that he did.” The answer to this objection is next… stay tuned.

If You Don’t Judge Others, You Are Dumb

No Scripture is quoted more often than the proverbial, “judge not” passage of Matthew 7:1. Whatever its iteration, this statement appears welcome in every college classroom and any political conversation. It’s probably the only Bible verse with universal appeal. The sayings, “We mustn’t judge” or “I try not to judge others,” are threatening to overtake the frequency of expressions like “How are you?” on the list popular parlance.

At the risk of being a fish out of water, I baldly proclaim, “Refusing to judge others is the height of stupidity and a Judge Not But Judgevacuous absence of love.” There, I said it. The rest of my time will be an attempt to persuade my good readers to avoid this stupidity and, of course, be more encouraged to love.

It is a stupid thought to say that you mustn’t judge others.  If you fail to judge rightly between those who tell the truth and those who tell lies, you will end up believing lies and living an illusion. You will be a Yo-Yo for every fool who cries “Wolf!”  You will also be very poor, as you will believe every TV ad which commands you to act now on an offer you cannot refuse.  Failing to judge the veracity of others’ speech is simply stupid. You must judge others.

Typically, the judgment in question relates only to moral judgments. So, when people say “Don’t judge,” they mean don’t judge the morality of others—particularly their sexual morals. More often than not, quoting the verse “Judge not” refers to not telling others that their sexual preferences are wrong.  This refusal to judge is—in my humble opinion—vacuously unloving.  Here is what I mean.

Knowing what is known now about Jerry Sandusky (the former football coach at Penn State who has been convicted of serial child molestation) and Kevin Clash (the creator and voice of Elmo on Sesame Street), a parent would be criminally negligent to allow his son to be alone with either of these men. While Kevin Clash has not yet been convicted of any crime, he has been credibly accused by at least two men of having sex with boys under the age of 18.  Clash has not yet denied the charges. He only says that he is working to resolve his “personal matters privately.”

Sexual sins (as we learned in the case of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky) are supposed to be private matters and should not be any of the public’s business.  So, Clash is hoping to resolve his “private” sexual matters privately.  Any parent who buys that claptrap is foolishly unloving toward his child. Would you send your son off for a visit with someone about whom there is credible evidence of sexual exploitation? Sex is no longer a private matter when it threatens your son or daughter.

Lady Justice Judge othersWhile it is true that we must not judge Kevin Clash guilty of all the crimes he is being charged with until after a trial has brought forth all the evidence, it is also true that some measure of judgment is required already when it comes to protecting children. Clash himself understands this and, so, has resigned for now from Sesame Street.  Unfortunately, Sesame Street’s on statement is (again in my opinion) culpably weak, stating only that this is “a sad day for them.”  A sad day for them?  What about concern for the safety of children who may be targeted for sexual exploitation?

If you have any intelligence whatsoever, you will in fact judge the statements and actions of others. If you have any love in your heart for your children, you absolutely must make judgments about the sexual practices of your neighbors and about whether or not you want your children to spend time with them.  Matthew 7:1—like the rest of Scripture—speaks about how to judge rightly (from God’s perspective) rather than persisting in judging wrongly (from a self-righteous perspective). Maybe we would be helped by quoting John 7:24 more often: “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

Hellfire to Homosexuality?

I recently had a conversation with a friend in which he expressed his disdain for “Christian coercion.”  He didn’t exactly call it that, but I think that is an accurate description of what he meant.  His concern was that Christians under the threat of eternal damnation pressure others to go against their natural desires.  Specifically, the case about which we were speaking involved homosexuality, whether it is a sin punishable by death or a part of nature and, therefore, justified.

As I thought about the matter, I had to admit that I agreed with much of what was being said.  The notion of Christian coercion makes me cringe, too.  I have sat fidgeting uncomfortably while evangelists tell stories of folks who don’t come to Christ in a service and then are killed in car wrecks on their way home [thus, those at this particular service should “make a decision” right now or they, too, might be killed on the way home].  Such manipulation is ugly and demonstrates a lack of trust in the gospel.  A preacher need not resort to tricks and manipulation if the gospel really is the power of God unto salvation.  So, I think my friend and I agree that torturing people with thoughts of Hell to get them to make a decision is not acceptable.

That being said, more substantial issues remain unresolved.  For instance, even if we agree that coercion is an ugly thing and ought to be avoided, we still have not answered whether or not Hell is real.  In the conversation, my friend was opposed to the concept of eternal damnation for those who practice homosexuality.  To that opposition, I would simply say that I do believe Hell is real, but I don’t believe it is reserved for homosexuals.  It is reserved for all who remain under the curse of sin apart from Christ.  This is what the gospel is all about, of course.  All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  And, all of us are under a curse.  All of creation is under that curse so that the present course of the world is toward death.  The present course of those not covered by Christ is death.  (But the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord).

So, where does that leave those who practice homosexuality?  It leaves them in the same place as all the rest of us: Condemned already. [Whoever believes in Christ is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God… This is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light…].  To be sure, such a message is offensive to those who engage in homosexuality (assuming homosexuality is a sin or a mark of unbelief).  But the larger reality is that this gospel is equally offensive to all of us.  It isn’t just those who practice homosexuality who are condemned already.  It is all of us.

What this condemned already idea means is that coercion is not the point of our preaching.  While it is true that Hell exists and we ought to seek to avoid it, it is not the case that we brandish Hell like a torturer’s scourge until we get the confession we want.  Hell is the default setting for us all (gay, straight, bi, polyamorous, polyandrous, transgendered, or whatever).  Therefore, our message—like the message of Jesus—is “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”  It isn’t repent or you will burn in Hell.  It is repent so you will see the Kingdom of God.  Our message is inherently positive.  We are ministers of reconciliation.  We are proclaimers of good news.  We are preachers of eternal life.  We are not to stretch folks out on the rack of hellfire until we coerce from them a confession.  So, even if my friend and I don’t agree on anything else, we agree that far.

As to the rest of his questions concerning whether homosexuality is natural and therefore acceptable… I will try to post on that tomorrow. His questions are yet more penetrating and deserve a thoughtful response.

A Better Response

Pat Robertson made reference today to the supposed voodoo pact that Haitians made with the devil more than a century ago.  The insinuation was clear.  Haiti deserved the judgment she got.  This seems a wrongheaded response, particularly in such a tragic time.

A much better response is offered by Dr. Mohler, who asks whether God hates Haiti.  Dr. Mohler answers the question by stating that God hates sin.  Our response to tragedy is not to say that God must hate those who suffer; rather, our response should be (as Christ taught the disciples) “do you think they were more guilty than others” (Luke 13:4).  No, there is a judgment for all men.  There is condemnation for all men.  Death will reach to all men.

The glory and goodness of God is on display in the reality that love will reach to Haiti.  God’s people will spread God’s love to Haiti.  The gospel will reach Haiti.  God’s love is being poured out now on the people of Haiti.  Making assertions that Haitians deserve God’s wrath is forgetting that we do, too.

Sobering Sadness

I just read this sobering story about Major Philip Wise of the Salvation Army.  It is a sad and sobering reminder of what a sin-sickened world we inhabit.  You will want to be in prayer for this family.

Major Wise along with his 3 young children were in front of the Salvation Army headquarters on Christmas Eve, where they had traveled to pick up the Major’s wife to travel home for Christmas.  Two gunmen shot and killed Major Wise in front of his wife and children on Christmas Eve so they could have the coinage in his can.  What an awful tragedy.  Perhaps these men will be captured and face justice in this life before they die and face the justice of God for such an awful crime.  If justice prevails, they will be caught and executed for their crime; after which, the real judgment begins.

The best case scenario would be that the men are caught, tried, and executed (after the weight of their guilt drove them to the cross of Christ for mercy).