On August 4th, 2009, George Sodini walked into a fitness center near Pittsburgh, PA and shot 12 people. Three women were killed, and Mr. Sodini himself committed suicide. The day before the murder-suicide, Mr. Sordoni wrote that he was going to “see God and Jesus” soon on his blog, saying:
Maybe soon, I will see God and Jesus. At least that is what I was told. Eternal life does NOT depend on works. If it did, we will all be in hell. Christ paid for EVERY sin, so how can I or you be judged BY GOD for a sin when the penalty was ALREADY paid. People judge but that does not matter. I was reading the Bible and The Integrity of God beginning yesterday, because soon I will see them.
The day after the shootings, Dr. Brown addressed the murder and these words on his Line of Fire radio show (the show is appropriately titled “A Once Saved Always Saved Murder?”). The audio is below, and provides a good overview of the situation and the doctrine in question:
Evidently, the gunman had been taught that because he had prayed a prayer asking Jesus into his heart at some point in his life, he would spend eternity in heaven with God, no matter what sins he committed or beliefs he espoused thereafter. Here are some thoughts on the subject I put together in an email shortly after the killings took place, and the news came out concerning the gunmen’s beliefs. I submit them for consideration:
I would venture to say that our life and faith in Messiah is in reality more about an organic, somewhat mysterious spiritual dynamic, than a doctrinal system that has as the main goal avoiding the bad place and going to the nice place upon death.
Of interest may be Richard Dawkins’ article after 9/11 that I reference in my Atheism article: where he says: “religion teaches the dangerous nonsense that death is not the end.”
Of course, his thesis has major problems philosophically (does not atheism teach the dangerous nonsense that our only punishment and reward are in this life?), but I actually AGREE with him that false and untrue religion is quite dangerous, and for people to blindly believe that they’re going to heaven the second they die, without feeling the need to have a bit of evidence that it’s true beyond the words of a religious teacher, is quite dangerous as well as perhaps a bit crazy.
But then, if as so many believe, we don’t need the tangible, objective, supernatural presence of God, nor as Mark Galli writes, any real difference at all in our lives from non-believers, to know that our particular doctrinal system is absolutely true, why should we expect people to not “misuse” a doctrine such as once-saved-always-saved, or believe a false religion like Islam? They believe what they believe for the same reasons we do, and with the same level of certainty.
All this to say, I wonder if the problem with this shooter was both an unbiblical belief and blindly believing something with no tangible evidence. Perhaps in his case a healthy fear of death and the judgment to come was in order, as well as a healthy skepticism.
If we require nothing of our religion, why should we expect our religion to require anything of us?
Is it any wonder that those of us in the Kingdom of God that are living and dying for the advancement of the gospel, spiritual revival, cultural reformation, and an increased depth in the Church find it so difficult to awake this “sleeping giant” (as Leonard Ravenhill called it), when so many of us in the Church require nothing of our beliefs beyond simply hearing them preached from a pulpit or reading them in a book?
Until men and women start taking seriously the question of why they believe what they believe, not only will they continue to subconsciously resist the leaven of the gospel from infecting their entire lives, but dangerous doctrines will continue to abound.
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