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Newsweek cover story on evil lacks biblical view, Mohler points out

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–What makes a bomber strike, or a mom kill her kids?

Newsweek magazine asked that question recently for a cover story analyzing the nature and the root of evil. Its answer, though, fell short of a biblical definition of sin, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said during a nationwide broadcast of the radio program “Janet Parshall’s America” May 18.

The Newsweek cover story analyzed the problem of evil and examined the life of Timothy McVeigh, who is scheduled to be executed next month for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people. One article in the magazine, titled “In Search of the Roots of Evil,” concluded that much evil can be traced to a person’s childhood and upbringing. The article also pointed to possible biological factors.

But Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said the problem is much more basic.

“The worst thing about it is the way it psychologizes sin,” he said of the story. “It treats sin as some kind of warp in the human personality. But evil is deep within us.”

Parshall quoted a Newsweek poll which found that only 31 percent of Americans believe that everyone has the capacity for evil. Thirty-three percent of respondents blamed poor parenting, while 53 percent said religious and moral training is the best way to fight evil.

Mohler, though, said that everyone has the capacity to do evil. He told a story of how he was in Arkansas in 1998 when a shooter killed five people in a Jonesboro middle school.

“One of the psychologists that was on television was called to speak and give an explanation,” Mohler said. “I expected some kind of psychobabble or some kind of therapeutic answer, [but] he just looked squarely in the camera and quoted Jeremiah 17:9, ‘The heart is desperately wicked. Who can understand it?'”

That, Mohler said, should be the Christians’ response to questions about evil. He pointed out that every human being is corrupted with sin, and that everyone has the same sin nature as that of McVeigh.

“The fact is that we are all sinners,” he said. “There is no one who is in need of lesser or greater atonement. We’re all in need of absolute atonement through Jesus Christ, our Lord. The fact is that McVeigh and Adolf Hitler and Herman Goering … their sin is demonstrable. It is awful, and in its effect it is greater than the sins of most other persons. In its effect it’s greater, but in its heart it’s the same. That’s hard for us to realize.”

The program touched on a host of theological questions concerning evil. One listener e-mailed a question to Parshall, asking, “How do we handle the fact that Mr. McVeigh could ask God for forgiveness and accept Jesus as his Son at any time in the future, and would be taken to heaven when he dies? For that matter, what if at one time he did do that and he’s just lost his way?”

Mohler answered by saying, “I do not believe that a heart that has been regenerated by God — that a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ — could have done that crime. We need to make very clear that McVeigh has made no claim of such. But she raises a good question, and that is, if McVeigh came to Christ would he be forgiven of his sins? The answer is yes.”

Parshall opened the program by asking if it is logical to conclude that God created evil, since he created all things.

“It is not fair to say that God created evil,” Mohler responded. “As a matter of fact, we are told in the Scripture that God is light, He is love, He is perfection, [and] he is righteousness. All he has to do to be righteous is be consistent with himself. He is no way the author of evil. But God did create Satan. Satan is not some uncreated being. He was an angel who literally rebelled against God. So it’s fair to say that God has allowed evil to exist, but it is not fair to assign him the blame for evil.”

Parshall then asked Mohler if God knew that Satan would eventually rebel.

“Liberal theology tries to answer that by saying [that] God really isn’t all that sovereign,” Mohler said. “We know that that’s just not biblically acceptable. God did know what was going to happen, and you can look not only to the fall of Satan but you can look to the fall of Adam, and the fact that God created us in [God’s] image but knew also that we would sin. … God is glorified supremely in overcoming evil. So, to some extent — in a way that we can’t understand with our finite minds — God is more glorious for having allowed evil and then overcoming, than [for] having never allowed it at all.”

Many people, Parshall said, wonder why an all-knowing, loving God would allow something like the Holocaust in Nazi Germany to take place.

“That is a very difficult question,” Mohler answered. “The only thing we can do is to trust what Scripture says about God, and that is that his purposes are absolutely certain. And even in the most horrible of circumstances — in the face of the most horrible and atrocious crimes — he is still a just and loving God. … On the other side of that, his justice is going to require all these sins to be judged, and they will be. There is a judgment that is coming, and it will be one that will exact due punishment out of Adolf Hitler and out of Pol Pot and out of Joseph Stalin. But each of us will be required to give an answer.”

Sin, Mohler said, cannot simply be defined as the act of breaking God’s commands. Rather, he said, “It is robbing God of his glory, and it is breaking God’s law — his command — and refusing to come under submission to him.”

Parshall noted that when Christ returns, good will triumph over evil.

“We’re waiting for Christ’s glorious return,” Mohler said, “and we’re waiting for the judgment that is to come, and in between this time, Satan is running to and fro seeking whom he may devour. But his time is short.”

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  • Michael Foust