by Andy Woods

– The Real Reason for Violence

Because of the recent shooting and stabbing spree by Elliot Rodger near Santa Barbara University last Friday, we are once again engulfed in a national conversation concerning what caused the killer to do what he did. When these types of tragic incidents occur, the killer’s destructive behavior is typically blamed on everything from a lack of access to affordable health care, to listening to too much political commentary, to the easy accessibility to firearms. In this particular case, Ann Hornaday, in a column published last Sunday in the Washington Post, opines:

Rodger’s rampage may be a function of his own profound distress, but it also shows how a sexist movie monoculture can be toxic for women and men alike. How many students watch outsized frat-boy fantasies like “Neighbors” and feel, as Rodger did, unjustly shut out of college life that should be full of “sex and fun and pleasure”? How many men, raised on a steady diet of Judd Apatow comedies in which the shlubby arrested adolescent always gets the girl, find that those happy endings constantly elude them and conclude, “It’s not fair”?1

Sadly, many even use a tragic event of this nature to advocate a political agenda that calls for greater control of government over our lives. The logic goes something like this: “Since weapons caused this tragedy, weapons must be illegalized.” Under such a philosophy, the basic Second Amendments rights of law abiding Americans begins to dissipate. Yet, in the midst of all of this pontification, few have adequately articulated the root cause of the problem.


The Fall of Man depicted in the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo

As tempting as it may be to blame such an unfortunate incident on a person’s environment, the root problem relates to man’s fallen nature. The human heart is sick. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” Ever since the fall of man in Eden, every human being has inherited a sin nature that is at war with his Creator (Ps. 51:5Rom. 5:128:7-8). Thus, Christ explained that the natural state of the human heart is one of violence and murder: “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as wellas deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed fromwithin and defile the man” (Mark 7:20-23, italics mine). James also spoke to the root of the problem when he explained, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel…” (Jas. 4:1-2, italics mine). Genesis 8:21 explained the violence (Gen. 6:11) of the pre-flood world as follows: “…for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth…”


The millennial kingdom will amply illustrate the truth that man’s evil emanates from his nature rather than his environment. Although the kingdom will start with believing mortal, tribulation survivors (Matt. 25:31-46), they will have children, and their children will have children, etc…until the entire earth is again repopulated. During this 1000 year period Christ will rule the world from David’s Throne in Jerusalem (Isa. 2:2-3), consequently ushering in a perfect environment for the earth’s inhabitants (Isa. 2:1-511:6-965:17-25). Yet at the end of this glorious era, when given the opportunity, mankind will participate in a universal revolt against God (Zech. 14:16-18Rev. 20:7-9). Quite clearly, man’s appetite for sin cannot be blamed on his environment since he had been living in a perfect environment for 1000 years before deciding to rebel against God.


For those that blame man’s evil propensity on adverse economic conditions, they need only remember that crime statistics actually fell during the Great Depression. From all accounts, Elliot Rodger was a child of privilege. For those that think a lack of education is the problem, they need only recall that one of the most educated societies of all time according to literacy standards was none other than Nazi Germany.2 In fact, Elliot Rodger was a college student in the process of pursuing higher education. As the old saying goes, “if you educate a thief, you only increase his capacity to steal.” For those that believe that a lack of government spending on social programs is the problem, they need only recall that we have spent trillions on social spending thanks to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. Despite these massive expenditures, violence, similar to what we have witnessed recently, continues unabated in our society.


The only meaningful solution to violence that emanates from man’s depraved nature is an internal transformation that only God can provide. People must trust in Christ (John 3:16) and consequently experience the new birth (John 3:3-6), receive the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9), and participate in the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4). Only such an internal restraint on man’s wicked heart will provide him with the internal conviction that he needs to deny his natural proclivity for violence. America’s founding fathers well understood that if man will not externally be restrained by the bayonette (the threat of punishment from the state) then he must be internally restrained by the Bible. As speaker of the House of Representatives Robert Winthrop articulated in 1849:

All societies of men must be governed in some way or other. The less they may have of stringent State Government, the more they must have of individual self-government. The less they rely on public law or physical force, the more they must rely on private moral restraint. Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled, either by a power within them, or by a power without them; either by the Word of God, or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible, or by the bayonet.3

Should such internal restraint be removed, our ability to govern ourselves becomes impossible, thereby leading to the end of the unique American experiment in liberty, independence, and limited and self government.


Given the current drift of our culture away from biblical truth, what surprises me is not the occurrence of violent episodes, like the one that occurred recently near Santa Barbara University. Rather, what surprises me is that these tragic events do not happen with greater frequency. The only lasting solution to man’s wicked heart is an internal transformation that only God can provide, and this is the root cause of man’s problem.



  1. Ann Hornady, “In a Final Videotaped Message, a Sad Reflection of the Sexist Stories We So Often See on Screen,” online:, 25 May 2014, accessed 29 May 2014. []
  2. John Eidsmoe, God & Caesar (Westchester, Ill: Crossway, 1984), 141. []
  3. Robert Winthrop cited in David Barton, Original Intent (Aledo, TX: Wall Builder Press, 1996), 329. []
Share This