A man walked in to a small Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, outside of San Antonio this morning during worship and massacred the congregation. Nearly half the 50 attendees are dead, and 20 more (according to reports) wounded.
I am prepared to jump to a conclusion.
It was evil, and regardless of who did it and why, it was not done as a result of Christian teaching or actions. It was, in fact, done by a person who does not in any way follow Jesus Christ. Labels do not apply here. If the shooter was nominally a “Christian,” I say he was not.
A person who does this, however, could be of another religious persuasion, where many condone this kind of act.
There’s no possible way a Christian could do this. I am not falling into the “No True Scotsman” fallacy here. I mean this literally. A Christian produces the fruit of the Spirit of God–the Holy Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Murder is not a fruit of the Spirit. Nobody is commissioned as judge, jury and executioner in the Bible. This morning, at our church, the sermon turned to Numbers 15, where God ordered a man stoned to death for picking up sticks on the Sabbath.
Some will inevitably raise this kind of Scripture, whether the shooter turns out to identify as Christian, atheist, Muslim or whatever. They will draw an equivalence to other evil acts, essentially saying that God ordered murder–therefore God violates His own commandments and is evil.
Theologically, morally, and logically, the arguments are rubbish. The Scripture says “the Lord said to Moses, ‘The man shall be put to death.'” The punishment was harsh, but it was also for the individual, not for the crime. God didn’t say “all Sabbath-breakers must be put to death.” God is a perfect judge–the only perfect judge. God told Moses, and the congregation, acting as government, executed the sentence. It was the death penalty, and regardless of what we think about the penalty or the severity of the crime, it was God who ordered it under His authority.
The moral equivalence arguers will bring up Joshua’s conquest of Canaan. Joshua didn’t actually do what the Lord commanded, and many, many multiples of lives, over the number that God commanded Joshua to take, have been lost over the centuries.
Millions of Muslims today hold to a version of Islam that condones physical jihad against Christians, slaughtering them while they worship at church. It happened in Minya province last May in Egypt, where 28 Coptic Christians were killed and 25 were wounded in an attack on their bus. In December 2015, 25 Christians were murdered at church in a bombing. If the shooter was a Muslim, some other Muslims will cheer this act.
If the shooter called himself a Christian, we might puzzle over “what happened” but nobody can make the connection that a person with Christ in his heart could do this. Full stop.
I’m jumping to a conclusion that the shooter could have been an atheist. The shooter could have been an ISIS-inspired radical Muslim, following an interpretation of the Quran which has a serious theological following. But the shooter could not have been an actual Christian, for no serious Bible scholar interprets the Scripture in a way that condones mass murder of any group.
Call me closed-minded, or claim I’m falling for the “No True Scotsman” fallacy all you want. I don’t care if the shooter walked straight in from preaching at his own pulpit–he could not be a Christian.
This is the biggest problem the modern American church has. By refusing to call out sin where we find it–actual Biblical sin–we open ourselves up to anyone calling themselves “Christian” then going out and doing evil. This shooting was evil and sinful. Would God have forgiven it? The Bible says yes, although the shooter is dead and has no further opportunity for grace.
There’s only one category of Christian that matters: We are all former sinners.
I mourn the dead and pray for the survivors and the families of all in this horrific slaughter. But I won’t tolerate anyone claiming it was done by an actual Christian, no matter what he called himself.