Culture

12-Year-Old School Shooter in Finland – Tragedy That Can Teach

Joonas Laajanen

I received a message from my stepfather. A school shooting had taken place in Vantaa, Finland. I quickly went online, only to be shocked that the assailant was a 12-year-old boy. One child was killed and two others were wounded, also 12-year-olds. As I write, articles on how to help children deal with anxiety and trauma are published. Thousands of children with access to mobile phones may be scared and uncomfortable as they try to make sense of the event.

I admire all those who want to help in situations like this. Care for others, especially children, does showcase God’s image in all of us. But when it comes to actual answers, only the Christian worldview will put evils like this in proper context. The naturalistic worldview behind much of the education in Finland does not have correct or satisfying answers. As I minister in Finland, I do not want to keep silent. I feel obligated to say that Christianity has the crucial answers. I will present how they differ from the prevalent worldview of our day. In God’s kindness, perhaps you will read and understand.

The World is Broken

In a naturalistic worldview, good and evil are societal concepts that describe the currently accepted or rejected behavioral patterns. In other words, the world is not objectively broken, we simply live as if it were a moral universe due to evolutionary reasons. After all, chaos, death, and pain have been a natural part of human life from the beginning. But, is it so?

God tells us that in the beginning, He created the world and humankind. Death, tragedy, and evil were not part of it. All things were “very good”. Not good in a convenient manner but in reality. God Himself was the standard against whom the created order was measured. And when God looked at His handiwork, there was nothing in it that stood against infinite goodness, truth, and beauty.

The world is broken because man did not persevere in his privilege as an image-bearer of God. Man was tempted to be independent of God, to do things apart from Him and for his ends. Adam and Eve broke the covenant they had with God. And so “sin entered the world.” The world was once good. Mankind was once good. By what standard? By the standard of the unchanging God, not by the standard of a constantly changing world.

In a naturalistic universe, 12-year-old murderers could have existed from the beginning. And it would not be good or bad. The universe is amoral. Therefore, nothing has ultimately gone wrong. The consistent naturalistic answer to anything is the nihilistic “It is what it is.” This kind of absurdity will lead to cognitive dissonance. We know this was not supposed to happen. The killer and the victims are not mere accidents of nature. Something did go wrong regardless of how we feel or agree. Even when fallen, they bear the image of God and possess an eternal soul. This reality could lead Christ to utter these words about our responsibility toward little ones:

But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. (Matt. 18:6 NKJV)

Fallen From the Womb

One of the prevailing ideas in our time is that people are good. No one is born inherently sinful. Bad parenting, injustice in society, and many other outward influences lead good people to do bad things. The recent tragedy is a reminder of how foolish this notion is. One has to actively deceive themselves to believe that a 12-year-old killer is originally a good person who now did a bad thing due to factors outside of his control. Yes, outside influences do matter. Yes, possible psychological issues do play a part. Nevertheless, out of the heart flow all things:

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him. (Prov. 22:15 NKJV)

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. (Ps. 51:5 NKJV)

Christians believe that the heart of man needs to be tamed. God Himself by His common grace restricts the evil that is in man. In the Bible, discipline, guidance, and parental authority are highly emphasized as matters of either hating or loving your child. Why? Because without proper discipline, the wickedness which is bound in the heart of the child will control them. We need to be trained to do good and to fear evil. Without this, people will act on impulse, lacking self-control and humility because by nature they have none of these things. But even in the best environment, the well-raised children remain sinful. In our hearts exists the same potential for evil. We rightly condemn the school shooting that took place, but when we do that based on our goodness, we condemn ourselves (Rom. 2:1). You might want to argue with that but this is basic Christian confession:

There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one. (Rom. 3:11–12 NKJV)

The bottom line is this: the 12-year-old killed other kids because he is a fallen, sinful, rebellious son of Adam. The shocker for many is, that he is not unique in this. We are rebellious creatures who love ourselves more than God. We do our will, no matter how harmful it is to others. Without God’s control and His established means of limiting our evil, we would have many more school shooters going around. One of our greatest needs is to confess our darkness. Let us stop bragging about our supposed goodness. It was not there when it was needed.

What Doth Every Sin Deserve?

That is the question of an old Christian catechism. The answer is simple: “Every sin deserves God’s wrath and curse, both in this life and in that which is to come.”

Tragedies like this school shooting can lead people to react in very opposite ways. One is the humble realisation of our fallenness which leads to seeking God’s mercy and revelation. The other one is anger and bitterness rising from self-righteousness. When man’s heart is hardened, he raises his fist against God and says: “How could you allow this?” This will not do. God’s compassion and kindness are available to all who are broken-hearted. He hates evil and injustice more than any of us can imagine. He will judge all things rightly. But never, even amid a tragedy, are we justified in aiming our fist against Him as if He was under any obligations to us. This is a hard pill to swallow, as it is true of everyone: anything short of hell is mercy. We deserve His wrath and curse now and forever. We have become so accustomed to His kindness and mercy that we believe a life without pain is owed to us. It is not. God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance:

Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds” (Rom. 2:4–6 NKJV)

Those who are grieving and hurt should not kick against the pricks. Humble yourselves under God’s hand and you will see that He is always on the right side of things. God who humbled Himself and became a man in Jesus of Nazareth, does indeed understand the pain of loss. He desires to comfort and to give rest to all who come to Him in faith:

He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. (Is. 53:3–5 NKJV)

Not long ago, there was a school shooting tragedy in a Christian School located in Nashville. The pastor’s daughter died alongside other precious children. The response of the people showed that no matter what, true knowledge of God will make us run to Him, not to blaspheme Him. The only real place of healing is at the feet of Jesus.

All Things Will Be Good Again

No objectively good, true, or beautiful future is available in the naturalistic worldview. The future will be like the past and when the end comes, it will be for nothing. What then is the Christian hope (certainty) for a world where children murder other children? The restoration of all things in Christ Jesus.

Jesus will return to create the New Heaven and the New Earth in which righteousness dwells. What is now broken, will be made whole and even better than it was in the beginning. This however will include judgment. The wicked will be turned to Hell. Like Johnny Cash used to sing, “Everybody won’t be treated all the same.“ God owes us nothing but misery. Our tragedies don’t change that, they are evidence of it, as Jesus testified (Luke 13:3). In His infinite goodness, God provided one way to eternal life. Only God could make the way and He made it in Jesus Christ. Only His gospel saves because only He has paid for sins and risen from the dead. The Lion and the Lamb. The Judge and the Savior. Those in Him truly have hope and this hope is offered to you as well. Come and welcome to Jesus Christ:

And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:3–4 NKJV)

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