Dr Kevin Blackwell

Information on Church Health, Disciple Making, Ministry Leadership, theology and Spiritual Growth

From Eden to Mandalay: Reflections on the Las Vegas Massacre

Early this morning while most of us were falling into a deep sleep, sheer panic and absolute terror was occurring in Las Vegas, Nevada.  The count now numbers 59 dead and over 500 injured in what is being called the deadliest mass shooting in US history.  While the debates about gun violence and gun rights will undoubtedly gain steam in the coming days (and this article is not about gun rights or political opinion), this tragedy actually points to something beyond the barrel of the high powered guns.  It more points to the heart of the man who pulled the trigger.  Stephen Paddock was by most reports, not a threat to the American public.  A retired accountant living in a retirement community in Arizona with no connections to any terror organization and only a minor citation on his record. He certainly didn’t fit the profile of one that would murder in cold blood 58 innocent people.  Four days before he checked in to two rooms at the Mandalay Casino and Resort and smuggled as many as 10 guns.  He even made gun stands of which he could fire his altered automatic weapon into a crowd of 22,000 people. All of this took careful, methodical and strategic planning. He knew of the concert, he knew of the best angle of which to inflict the most damage and he had for weeks schemed and organized. We can only surmise how long Paddock had been thinking of this scheme, but one thing is for sure, its foundations began long before Stephen Paddock was born.

Without a doubt this is evil at its worst.  It plunges deep into the deplorable and could only be carried out by a sick and twisted mind.  What goes through a man’s heart and mind as he is preparing to set up a killing field?  How can this even be possible?  Actually, it points to a deep theological and anthropological truth.

 The heart of man is capable of the worst of atrocities and often without a single hint of remorse.

The reality of this truth didn’t begin in Stephen Paddock’s mind, it began by one cataclysmic event thousands of years ago in a place called Eden.  Some are tempted to ask, “How could God have allowed this to happen?” I want to be clear, this was not God’s plan for his creation.  He created man in his own image (Genesis 1:26) and even breathed His Spirit into Adam’s nostrils (Genesis 2:7).  The mark of God was forever implanted within humankind at creation. The image of God (Imago Dei) was so prevalent in human kind that God said of it, “It is very good.” (Genesis 1:31).  Yet something very tragic happened shortly afterwards as the Imago Dei was marred through the sinful and willful choice of mankind. (Genesis 3:1-7). A heart that was created to worship became fallible to the point of total corruption. In Genesis 4, we find the first murder and by Genesis 6 God was “grieved in His heart” over the absolute deplorability of creation.

The events in Eden are directly connected to the room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Casino and Resort.  The potential of evil in the heart of an unredeemed man is unthinkable. Jesus said, “From within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man unclean.” Mark 7:21-23.  In Jeremiah 17:9 the Lord spoke of the potential of Man’s heart, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?”  A redeemed man must guard his heart from such natural inclinations, but an unredeemed man without the conviction of the Holy Spirit is susceptible to anything.  Columbine, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino and now Las Vegas are all dark events in our nation’s history each pointing to a deep seeded reality.  Adam and Eve’s fateful decision is still having a deadly and grievous impact on our world. Satan is the prince of this world and his aim has not changed.  He still exist to “steal, kill and destroy.” (John 10:10).  The same serpent that slithered into the garden was, no doubt at work on the 32nd floor of the resort. We can only guess all that the devil whispered to the heart of Stephen Paddock in the last few weeks. There is no doubt that his presence filled that hotel room.

Events like this remind us that we live in a dangerous place.  This world is not our home and these events point to the reality of this truth.

My heart is grieving today. I am heartbroken for those many families who will have an empty chair for the holidays this year.  My heart breaks even more that a very bad choice thousands of years ago has led us to this point. Adam is no father of mine and he is no friend to the world’s morality. I have been adopted by a Heavenly Father who has placed eternity in my heart. We are never fully protected from the evil of this world, but for those who are saved we have an eternal hope that this sin sick world will soon pass away.

We should fervently pray for the church to be at its best in the days ahead so that we can minister to the hurting, weep with the broken hearted and tell of the love of Christ.

Lord, this event reveals to us the potential of evil in the heart of every man and it points to a greater reality. You told us that “in this world we will have tribulations” but we rest in the promise that you have overcome the world. Be with those who are grieving today and bring healing to our nation as we find our hope in you.


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About Me

I have been in ministry for 29 years serving in various capacities including senior pastor, youth pastor, education and associate pastor. I serve at Samford University as Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the Ministry Training Institute. I am co-author of the book, Cultivate Disciple Making. I received his Bachelors Degree from Samford, a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Master of Theology from the Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His doctoral work was in the area of church health and revitalization.  I am currently a Ph.D. candidate at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His dissertation thesis is An Analysis and Critique of Disciple Making Within Ecclesial Movements in the United States, 1970-2020, With a View Toward Implementing a Faithful New Testament Missio Ecclesia


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