Whenever God is formally excluded from anything, we should always suspect a power play. The “exile” of God, the “death” of God, the “silence” of God, are always seen by the unbelieving heart of man as constituting some kind of a job opening. The primal temptation was “you shall be as God” (Gen. 3:5). In that case, it was in respect of knowing good and evil, but there are other offices of Deity that unbelieving man aspires to as well. In fact, unbelieving man eventually aspires to all of them.
“The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts . . . In the secret places doth he murder the innocent” (Ps. 10:4, 8).
We sometimes think that forgetting God means that we simply forget that He is the source of all law, that we forget that He is the foundation of all that is good. Forgetting this, we then slide into sinful behavior. It is true that this is how it frequently begins, but that is not how it ends. It ends with rebellious man wanting to become the source of all law.
While we do not yet know all the specific motives that drove Stephen Paddock into his particular form of moral insanity, we know the shape the insanity took. For the ten to fifteen minutes of active shooting, Stephen Paddock was a god of wrath, visiting destruction on the people below, just as he wished. He was above, high and lifted up, and they were below, walking around down there on the ground. He was not just famous for his Warholian fifteen minutes. For those fifteen minutes, he was a jitney-jehovah, coming in a day of visitation.
His choices were to be the final determination when it came to who would live and who would die. God was not within his thoughts, and so he determined to usher in his own version of judgment day. At the very end, he decided in an act of final defiance to turn the gun on himself. And that was the moment he discovered that while God was not in his thoughts, he was most certainly still in God’s thoughts. Not only did he think he could conduct his own final private apocalypse, he believed that he could escape the consequences of having done so. He thought he could, by an act of his own sheer will, escape justice. What he did was enter into everlasting justice, and nothing but justice.What he did was enter into everlasting justice, and nothing but justice.
Joseph Boot has written this:
“One further logical development of man’s dystopian will to power is the arrogation to himself of the power to judge and pour out wrath as the new god: in a world rejecting the living God, the need for judgment has not vanished” (Joseph Boot, The Mission of God, p. 179).
Now whenever a shooting like this occurs, the calls for gun control erupt while ambulances are still on their way to the hospitals. Those who are opposed to gun control retort angrily, and often an unseemly debate breaks out when we still should be grieving, helping, donating blood, and making public room for a careful investigation of what actually happened. Now when a debate over gun control occurs, there should be no mistake about which side I would be on. That’s as it may be. My concern here is to explain why feelings are so inflamed, why the debates in the aftermath of such events are so immediately full of hostility, and why so many ordinary Americans respond to the accusations by going out and buying more guns.
To the progressive, this pattern (repeated countless times) seems stupefying and mindless. Suppose there were a tragic incident where a group of children got into the Drano under the sink, drank it on a dare, and a number of them died. Suppose the story was widely reported, and the aftermath was that Drano sales shot up thirty percent. This is so counter-intuitive that liberals feel like conservative Americans must have some inexplicable fetish about guns, one that can only be explained in terms of mental instability. And so in the aftermath of events like this, the last thing we should want, they reason, is mentally unstable people with guns.
But there is a lot more going on. The inhabitants of fly-over country understand all of this differently, and I believe their instinctive reaction is much closer to a sane, biblical understanding than is the received wisdom at MSNBC/CNN on gun violence. Remember that in a secular state, when there is no God above the state, the state has become god. And normal people are perennially suspicious of anybody who wants to be a god.
“The terror involved in such a view is that this de-facto god, the power state, has no transcendent critique since there is no God in judgment over it” (Boot, p. 179).
But man cannot assume the prerogatives of Deity without assuming them, and one of the prerogatives of Deity is to manage and oversee wrath from above.
To take one pertinent example, the communists, in the course of their vile career, murdered approximately 100 million people. Whenever unbelieving man builds a Tower of Babel, it is so that he may make him a name, and so that the top can reach into Heaven (Gen. 11:4). And you cannot aspire to reach Heaven that way without aspiring to the prerogatives of Heaven. One of those prerogatives is to determine who lives and who dies—whether we are talking about famines aimed at Ukrainians, forceps aimed at second trimester babies, or death panels aimed at cancer patients in compassionate single payer countries. So whenever collective man sets his heart to reign from “that hideous strength,” the final result will somehow be to station “shooters” all around the upper rim of it.
So gun control is not about gun control, strictly speaking. Gun control is people control. Gun control is not about the abolition of gun ownership. Gun control is about a rearrangement of the gun ownership—where the people below give them up, and the people above keep all of theirs. But when you have had countless indicators that the people above despise you, and harbor nothing but contempt for your way of life, you will not be eager for them to gain any more power. For a very recent example of the mask slipping, right after the shooting a vice-president with CBS (since fired) said: “I’m actually not even sympathetic bc country music fans often are Republican gun toters.” Well, then.
Our government is a power cult already. Their aspirations are not small and insignificant. They really do want to ascend the sides of the north, and sit down above the stars of God. “Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit” (Is. 14:15). But God is in His Heaven, and instead of the sides of the north, like Stephen Paddock, they will only find the sides of the pit.
To all this it will be replied that I am hyper-ventilating again—America is just a little old democracy. “What kind of crazed loon would think that our federal functionaries want to be as God? Ho, ho . . .” Well, I don’t know. Maybe it is the way they are constantly demanding that I and all my fellow citizens behave all day long in ways that will help them out in their desire to control the weather.
So these debates do not explode because one group of citizens thinks we should turn left and another group thinks it should be a right turn. No. It is because one group takes any excuse whatever and turns it into an argument for immediately granting more control and power to those above us. And those below think that this is a very, very bad idea.
Episodes like this are horrendous, but they are horrendous in a microcosm. Normal folks are far more worried about the macrocosm, meaning the prospect of the government ever becoming an active shooter.