Mass Murder: Did the Devil Make Him Do It?

America suffered another act of mass violence last week as seven were murdered in California. Acts of violence should make us ask: Where does evil come from?

In what has become a recurring nightmare in America’s social landscape, another mentally disturbed man has gone on a murderous rampage, killing seven people and leaving 13 wounded.

Elliot Rodger, 22, attacked sorority women in Santa Barbara, California, reportedly because he had been rejected by several women who belonged to the group. A self-made video of Rodger is circulating on the Internet that shows him describing, in detail, the reason for his rampage. Predictably, the news stories are focusing on two areas where the American social system might have broken down: gun laws and the mental health system.

However, these periodic, but increasingly common, rampages should make us grapple with a bigger issue: Where does evil come from?

Elliot Rodger’s video shows an extremely disturbed and hateful individual who clearly had allowed a spirit of hatred and vengeance to overtake him. We must make sure we resist that spirit in our lives!The root of all evil

The Bible reveals that there is a source of evil—a real being known as Satan the devil. His name, Satan, literally means adversary. He was given that name because he is the adversary of both God and human beings.

This is not an answer that appeals to the intelligentsia of today’s world, but it is what the Bible teaches. Humanity treats the devil as a fairy tale or a joke. In fact, in the 1970s, comedian Flip Wilson had a trademark line: “The devil made me do it!” This excuse for our own wrong choices is obviously ludicrous. But is the devil really something to laugh about?

The Bible teaches that a powerful angelic being known as Lucifer was originally given responsibility to oversee the earth under the authority of God. At some point prior to the creation of mankind, he rebelled against God and tried to defeat Him in a battle—with the goal of declaring himself “God” (Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:14-16; Revelation 12:3-4). But Lucifer failed and was defeated by God—being hurled back to earth. His rebellion transformed him into the adversary of God.

God’s ultimate purpose for human beings is to give us the opportunity to become members of His family (2 Corinthians 6:18; Hebrews 2:10). This means that human beings have an opportunity to be much more powerful than Satan, since he is on the angelic level (Hebrews 2:5). Because of this, Satan targets humanity. He is not only the adversary of God, but also the adversary of human beings. His goal has been, and continues to be, doing whatever he can to destroy human beings and to separate them from the true God.

Satan is called “the god of this age” who has “blinded” countless human minds from understanding and following God (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Satan’s influence over minds

The Bible reveals that Satan has the power to influence human minds as the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). He can broadcast negative thoughts and attitudes to human beings. We human beings tend to tune right into them because Satan operates on the principle of encouraging and enhancing our selfish desires (Titus 3:3; 1 John 2:16).

Elliot Rodger’s video shows an extremely disturbed and hateful individual who clearly had allowed a spirit of hatred and vengeance to overtake him.

The Bible does reveal that human beings can resist the “fiery darts of the wicked one” (Ephesians 6:16). Resisting that influence requires submission to God and an active resistance to Satan’s influence of our minds (James 4:7).

Unfortunately, people like Elliot Rodger and many other perpetrators of mass murder have allowed that influence to cause them to do abnormally evil things.

“The devil made me do it” can’t be your excuse

The good news is that there is a way to resist Satan’s influence in your life. The Bible offers many tools to overcome sinful desires and evil.

We send our sympathy and prayers for the families of those slain and wounded in California. In the wake of these tragedies, we point people to the ultimate solution to evil and suffering: the return of Jesus Christ. A time is coming when Satan and his influence will be stopped and the primary influence throughout the earth will be God’s law, the way that leads to blessings, happiness and peace (Isaiah 2:3).

There is a biblical festival that pictures the removal of the source of evil from this earth. Read “The Day of Atonement: Removing the Enemy, Reconciling All to God” to learn more.

Photo: by Daniel Parks/CC BY-NC 2.0

About the Author

M. Noland Morris and Erik Jones