Wednesday, August 31, 2011


I still shutter when I use the word “evil.” It’s not that I don’t believe in evil deeds. I do, but I was immersed in the “psychological society” and thought and breathed the pop psychology that had been my nursemaid. I was therefore convinced that people weren’t evil. They might have been confused, troubled, misled, abused, and badly programmed. They might have been neurotic, psychotic, and acting out in ways that hurt others, but they weren’t evil according to the doctrine of the day. Therefore, I was convinced that if they were helped, loved, nurtured, affirmed, and had their needs met, they would naturally become loving and caring persons. After all, who wants to be evil!

Consequently, even after Christ had given me new life, I was confused by the many verses that spoke of evil people. Even the nation of Israel had become entirely evil:

• These are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the LORD'S instruction. (Isaiah 30:9)

I couldn’t understand this. Aren’t we motivated by our best interests, and wasn’t it according to Israel’s best interests to “listen to the Lord’s instruction?” Evidently, Israel simply failed to get God’s message. However, I later found that the entire Bible revealed how God had repeatedly tried to reason with Israel, assuring them that He would forgive their sins if they would only turn to Him. I found the individuals had also become utterly evil:

• Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, who leave the straight paths to walk in dark ways, who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil. (Proverbs 2:12-14)

• For they cannot sleep till they do evil; they are robbed of slumber till they make someone fall. (Proverbs 4:16)

It was hard for me to believe that people “delight” in evil. It flew in the face of everything that psychology stood for, at least in my thinking. I had heard about sadists and sociopaths who seemed to lack any semblance of a conscience, but it just didn’t compute with me. If our worldview is not detailed and accurate enough to accommodate fresh data, we usually discard the data.

We only recognize those things for which we have an open eye. I remember hearing that Eskimos can recognize 20 different types of snow. That’s vitally important to them, and they have distinctive words for each type of snow. My worldview had no category or word for an evil heart. Pop psychology had given me all the categories I thought I needed.

Years later, as a probation supervisor, I managed probation officers who had sex abuse cases. Therefore, we were required to go for specific training in this area. Before this, I had heard about innovative programs where the offender was required to sit and listen to someone who had been grievously sexually abused and the crippling effects it had on her life.

I thought that this concept was excellent. If the offender could only understand how much pain and destruction he had caused, he would certainly think twice or twenty times before he violated someone else. Although it made perfect sense to me, the training showed me how wrong I had been. Research has consistently revealed that many abusers actually enjoyed the pain that they were inflicting. To hear a victim crying about the abuse she had received only served to inspire the abuser to greater heights of sadism!

The abuser is not born a sadist. There’s a long process. The serial killer and sexual abuser, Ted Bundy, explained his personal evolution to the murder of 30 women:

• “Then I learned that all moral judgments are ‘value judgments,’ that all value judgments are subjective [it just depends on how you think about them], and that none can be proved to be either ‘right’ or ‘wrong’…I discovered that to become truly free, truly unfettered, I had to become truly uninhibited. And I quickly discovered that the greatest obstacle to my freedom, the greatest block and limitation to it, consists in the insupportable “value judgment that I was bound to respect the rights of others. I asked myself, who were these ‘others?’ Other human beings with human rights? Why is it more wrong to kill a human animal than any other animal, a pig or a sheep or a steer? Is your life more to you than a hog’s life to a hog? Why should I be willing to sacrifice my pleasure more for the one than for the other? Surely, you would not, in this age of scientific enlightenment, declare that God or nature has marked some pleasures as ‘moral’ or ‘good’ and others as ‘immoral’ or ‘bad’? In any case, let me assure you, my dear young lady, that there is absolutely no comparison between the pleasure I might take in eating ham and the pleasure I anticipate in raping and murdering you. That is the honest conclusion to which my education has led me – after the most conscientious examination of my spontaneous and uninhibited self.” (Christian Research Journal, Vol 33, No 2, 2010, 32)

Bundy wasn’t born a sadistic serial killer. We have a conscience that restrains evil. It sends out strong impulses accusing us of wrongdoing and enforcing these judgments with feelings of guilt and shame. However, some of us, through persistence in evildoing and rationalizations, have been able to silence our conscience, giving ourselves completely over to the evil in our hearts. Bundy had to first convince himself that “all value judgments are subjective.” This gave him the freedom to “become truly free, truly unfettered.”

Evil comes in many faces and forms. For any program or intervention to have any hope of helping others, it needs to able to distinguish between the proactive Bundies and those who are trying to restrain their evil. Without this discernment, our programs are doomed. When we send our charming Ted Bundies to the psychologist, they almost inevitably co-opt their psychologists to their way of thinking. I’ve had received numerous calls from these “help agents” telling me that Ted really wasn’t such a bad guy. Instead he had been misunderstood and deserved an early discharge from probation!

We all have evil in our hearts. We might not be a Ted Bundy and have not “achieved” Bundy’s degree of “liberation.” However, we all have a worsening problem. To some degree, we are “trapped by evil desires” (Proverbs 11:6), although many of us fail to realize this. This is because we have an amazing capacity to convince ourselves that we aren’t evil (Proverbs 21:2; 16:2).

We will not know that we are an alcoholic until we try to quit. Unfortunately, most of us haven’t tried to quit our evil.

We need to be born again. Without this, we can not even perceive the things of God (John 3:3-5; 1 Cor. 2:14) or even our own evil. All we can do is to cry out for the mercy of God, as the Bible instructs us to do in so many ways. Jesus said it this way:

• Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

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