Like you, I’ve been following the Colorado theater shooting news. I’m saddened and sickened and somewhat afraid.
I watched The Today Show on NBC as broadcasters and commentators struggled to make sense of it. It’s a serious struggle indeed, but Christian theology seems to be uniquely equipped to enter into the difficulty and address the reality. David Zahl, of Mockingbird, mentioned in a conference message, “There’s no distinction between ‘reality’ and ‘Christian reality.’ There’s just reality. And Christianity either addresses it, or who cares?”
Zahl is right. I can’t help but think that Christian theology was made for days like these.
First, Christian theology holds that evil is very real, personal, and serious. This may offend modern sensibilities, but Christian theology makes space for an Adversary, the demonic, etc. This is important. Christian theology has an accounting for this. Not a perfect tidy explanation, but an address of the issue. I’m reminded of Sheriff Ed Tom’s musings in Cormack’s McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men: “…explains a lot things that otherwise dont have no explanation.”
Second, Christian theology has a very low anthropology, and for good reason. We believe that, by nature, sin, rebellion, and brokenness are cemented and situated at the very core of who we are, individually and corporately. This infection has invaded our being on every conceivable level. In classic terms, the depravity is “total.” This doesn’t mean that every person is as bad as they can possibly be. It’s a term of reach and scope, rather than one of degree.
And this infection is actually more than a sickness. The picture painted in Scripture is that of death. We are dead in our sins. Straight up. No qualifications. Depraved, dead-in-sin-people-walking shoot up theaters because they think they are the Joker or simply because they want to unlock a safety and spill blood. This is the reality.
As a result, we believe that human persons (not to mention the breaking and groaning universe) have to be re-made, re-born, and re-created. Hearts of stone must be made into hearts of flesh. Swords need to be beaten into plowshares. Lambs need to get cozy with lions. Infant hands must be made to pry around in adders’ dens. Nothing short of a New Heavens and a New Earth must arrive.
Our anthropology also has a caveat, an important nuance. We cannot trumpet “total depravity” without remembering the first pages of Scripture’s narrative. We must not forget that human-persons are also made in the image of God, bearing unique, precious worth and value. As CS Lewis reminded us, you’ve “never talked to a mere mortal.”
That’s why Christian theology can pray, “Oh Lord would you slay the wicked?” and “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” at the same time. Christian theology is capable of righteous anger and broken, crucified compassion simultaneously. Two very good resources on a day like today.
Third, Christian theology holds that this full-scale total work of redemption is exactly what we believe the God of the Bible to be doing in our world. Sin and evil are widespread and reach our world totally, but we believe that in the person and work of Jesus, sin’s curse is being turned on it’s head more totally, still.
One can feel the tension. There is a sinful, depraved reality and there is a new-creation, resurrection, redemptive hope. They exist simultaneously.
The resurrection hope happens to be more real than the depraved reality because it will endure.
I’ll never forget watching a video clip of a bull-fight on TV. The bull was bleeding, wounded, weak, scared and panicky. A mortal wound had been dealt. Its death was sure, but its death was not quite yet. Out of nowhere, it made a final surge, leaped the wall, jumped into the crowd of spectators and started thrashing about. It didn’t know what else to do. It was finished. It knew it. So it freaked.
There are lots of bull-thrashing-about moments in our lives and in our world. I propose the Colorado theater shooting to be one of those.
Sin. Satan. Evil. Death. Violence. Murder. Shooting-Sprees. Blood-thirst. Cancer. Pain. Bitterness, Hate, etc…fill in the blank. They’ve had their time and they might have some more time still. But, the clock is ticking, winding down. That is very certain and very sure.
Evil (personified in Anton Chigurh) in No Country for Old Men may be at large and roaming free in our world, ready to surface anytime and at any place, locked and loaded.
But, the Man, Jesus Christ, walked right out of the tomb. He is on the loose too, redemptively moving about, ready to show up. As Andy has reminded us, when a formerly dead, recently Crucified Man walks out of a tomb, nothing can be the same. The world is not quite what it appears to be. Something has been up-ended. Evil has been served notice. To death, a formal announcement has been declared.
This Crucified King will return and set everything right; the process is already underway.
None of this, makes dealing with tragic events easier. Let’s not pretend that it does. But it does pave the way for genuine and authentic hope. A hope that’s on the far side of struggle and pain, rather than a simplistic, not-wanting-to-deal-with-hard-things counterfeit hope.
So be encouraged and don’t lose heart.