From Pastor Dan's Blog

After Las Vegas: What if Evil Needs no Motive?

A few days have passed

Prayers and support are rightly offered. Survivors and families are living in a daze, suspended in shock, trying to grieve, but finding the burden too heavy to process or escape. So also the nation.

We’ve also spun off, locked and loaded in our own ways, into gun debates. Some will clamor for more security. The headlines will generate hits and ad revenue until something else grabs the spotlight. But the headlines are puzzling over one issue that needs more thoughtful attention: there appears to be no motive.

We wonder if it’s possible that someone would simply and suddenly, after an unremarkable and crime-free life, turn into a mass killer.

Surely there’s a reason, even if we don’t get to know what it is. Maybe it all traces back to his criminal father. Maybe he covered signs of mental illness so well that even his family didn’t know, but those signs were there. Maybe he was manipulated by another organization. Maybe the cause is a malignant spiritual force. But we want a reason.

A causative reason, even an evil one, provides us a certain kind of comfort, because we can begin to understand why someone would do such a thing. An act may be senseless or violent on moral grounds, but not entirely without some sense from within the context of the broken mind, heart, or life of a murderer. If even the worst examples of humanity can somehow be understood, perhaps they can be reckoned with.

In the midst of chaos, we reach for some semblance of order. A motive would give us that. It could furnish something to do other than comfort victims, grieve, and feel helpless.

We could consult experts in law-enforcement, psychology, and security.

We could pass a new law. We could learn better to protect each other.

We could learn to love more.

That all may have value, but we too quickly embrace the thin assurance that because we understand better this time, next time will be different. We get ourselves back on top of the chaos and grief that erupts into our lives with the comforting idea that humanity is still on its way.

What we have trouble facing is the possibility that there be no known nor knowable motive, and that we may never understand. The senseless could be truly senseless.

What if we faced the reality that our explanations of evil don’t explain it enough?

What if the Las Vegas incident is one more piece of evidence that evil is a chaos ultimately beyond our power to manage?

What if we were brought humbly and tragically to our knees before forces greater than our knowledge or technology or humanity will ever be?

We could blame God.

Or we could see violence as a twisted part of the process of the survival of the species.

Or we could understand how deeply we human beings are fallen creatures and that the abyss into which we have pitched ourselves offers no escape on our terms.

Evil is evil. Sin must be exposed as utterly sinful. And when it reaches its full measure, we have only two options – look for a rescue from some other quarter or be swallowed up.

That sounds barely hopeful, but it is in reckoning with this problem of evil (theodicy) that I came to believe that the existence of evil does not, in fact, cast the good God’s existence into doubt, but rather points to God’s existence as a necessary answer, or even a requirement that the universe or humanity continue at all.

I was once afraid and lost. I am not now. Because the only God I can accept, and the one I know, is the One who confronted evil by suffering it Himself. He is near to those who mourn, and is the only sensible hope in the midst of the senseless.