Monday, March 9, 2009

Total Depravity: Church Shooting

What possesses a person to carry out an act such as this? (Rhetorical question)

MARYSVILLE, Ill. (AP) — A prosecutor says the 27-year-old man charged with gunning down a suburban St. Louis pastor in the middle of his sermon marked the day as "death day" in a planner.

Madison County State's Attorney William Mudge says investigators found the planner in the home of alleged gunman Terry J. Sedlacek (SEHD'-lack).

Mudge also says Sedlacek brought enough rounds of ammunition to First Baptist Church in Maryville on Sunday to kill 30 people. Investigators say four rounds were fired before the his gun jammed (sic).

The Troy man is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated battery in the attack that killed the Rev. Fred Winters and left two congregants with stab wounds.

If they witnessed the shooting, wrestled him to the ground, and got stabbed in the process, why is he still only the "alleged" gunman? I can't believe that he actually noted it on his planner, then carried it out.

Still think people are basically good?


  1. Why should anyone be quick to point the finger and say, "look! total depravity"?

    There was a man...whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.(from Job 1:1 ESV)

    Does the first verse of the book of Job provide any evidence that God was searching for depravity, corruption, wickedness and perversion in Job?

    Job turned away from depravity. But in Job 9:20, the righteous man states, ...though I am blameless, he would prove me perverse. Only by the grace of the living God was Job found blameless, since it is in the nature of the Father to find His servant blameless. But Job knew that the same God who is willing to forgive his sins, could easily find depravity in him. Job said it, not our loving God.

    The loving nature of the living God is found in this verse as well:

    For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.(Jeremiah 29:11 ESV)

    On the other hand, there is evidence in Job that the enemy wanted to expose Jobs depravity. Just lift that hedge for a moment. Destroy his family and possessions. Afflict "his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face."(from Job 2:5 ESV) But was the accuser successful?

    In the book of Job, a clear distinction can be formed between the words of our loving Father and the rhetoric of our accuser.

  2. I read a story a couple years ago about an Amish school shooting, after which the Amish immediately forgave the man and took care of his mother.

    Still think people are basically evil?

    In other words, one example, or even many many examples does not make a good argument that people are basically good or bad. All one has to do is provide counterfactual evidence. Life is so much more complicated than total depravity is willing to accept.

  3. Nik and Scott, thanks for commenting. First, I think I should point out that I only used the label "Total Depravity" as a nod to Jim West who uses it as a tag for news stories such as this one. I typically don't blog on theological issues here. My arena is biblical interpretation. Interpretation eventually can lead to theology or theology can color interpretation. Total depravity at its most basic means that everyone is a sinner with a sin nature living in a fallen, sinful world. Most Christians would agree on that point.

    Nik, I wouldn't be so quick to run to Job for an example of "our loving God." Job is an enormously complicated book. In the end, God grants his wish for a face to face hearing and bowls him over with an intense litany of rhetorical questions highlighting "I'm God and you're not, Job." Plus everything the friends say is incorrect according to God but Job was correct. Job is speaking in ch. 9. You quoted 9:20. What about 9:22? "He destroys both the blameless and the wicked." Look also at Lamentations 3 and Isa 45:7. Also, you said, "Job said it, not our loving God." As sacred Scripture, isn't it all considered God's words?

    Scott, you're right, for every example of great evil in the world that I find, you could counter with an example of someone doing something good. That doesn't prove or disprove "total depravity" by itself. Total depravity means that all humanity is sinful and fallen.

    To counter your Amish example, I read a news story a few years ago about a girl who'd fled from an Amish community and described her experience of repeated rape and sexual abuse by uncles, cousins, and others - known to her mother and other women in the community who turned a blind eye to it in her case and many others.

    Of course, you can be nit-picky about my use of the term "total depravity." The point of my post was that a terrible tragedy happened Sunday in Illinois. What pushes people to make the choice for evil and not good?