Reflections on the Dunblane Tragedy

You are here

Reflections on the Dunblane Tragedy

Login or Create an Account

With a account you will be able to save items to read and study later!

Sign In | Sign Up


I will never forget March 13, 1996. I had been out most of the day and returned home around 10 p.m., just as the evening news was beginning. My wife and son were transfixed in front of the television. It was soon obvious why they wore looks of shock, horror and disbelief.

Over the next 30 minutes, I watched as the grim story unfolded. An unprecedented disaster had taken place that day in a quiet Scottish town, a town that I personally knew.

A local man had run amok with four handguns. He rampaged through the local school firing indiscriminately, then entered the gymnasium, where he systematically began slaughtering the first-grade children and their teachers. It was later revealed that more than 100 spent cartridge cases were found at the scene. The gunman killed or wounded 31 before turning a weapon on himself to take his own life.

That night it was impossible not to shed tears for delicate little lives snuffed out so brutally-as well as tears for the shattered lives of tortured parents, tears for the grieving families and tears for the devastated community.

The school's headmaster, Ron Taylor, commented memorably: "Evil visited us yesterday. We don't know why, we don't understand it, and I guess we never will." The sheer numbing horror of it all stunned a town, disgraced a shocked nation and dominated news headlines around the world.

Over the ensuing days, the facts behind the horror were painfully exposed and explored. Families and a quiet community known for its peace struggled to come to terms with their shattered world and overwhelming grief.

"Why?" became the dominant question. Why such violence? And why did this happen to so many utterly defenseless, innocent children? The parents, families, news media, government and nation all asked the same question. The stark message on one of hundreds of sprays of flowers asked simply, "Why?" Why did such an appalling evil take place in such a quiet, peaceful town?

Many issues were raised: control of firearms; school security; the man's twisted character and tortured psyche; his family upbringing; his psychological profile. Every effort will be made to understand why it happened and to learn lessons that can prevent similar tragedies from occurring. An official inquiry examined the event in painstaking detail.

Examining the spiritual dimension

Sadly, Dunblane is not the first, nor will it be the last, occasion when something snaps inside an inadequate, deranged mind and an explosion of violence rips apart multiple lives.

There is an important spiritual dimension to consider and understand in this tragedy. Yet this element will go largely unreported because it is so little comprehended.

Why did this happen? What is the spiritual dimension behind such evil? It all has to do with the nature of man and the forces that act upon us. This is not an attempt at some trite solution that ignores important sensitivities of this tragic situation. But so much flows from correctly understanding our nature: It is one more vitally important angle to take into account when we consider the underlying roots of this and similar disasters.

Dunblane caused many to ask where was God in all this. Did He care at all? Why didn't He prevent such carnage? To come to some understanding and comfort, let's look at the Bible, a book that authoritatively provides a vital and little-appreciated perspective on human nature. It gives a view that contributes enormously to understanding this and every other human tragedy. It provides a commentary on much of humanity's dark history. Man's inhumanity to his fellowman is, regrettably, nothing new.

A choice with tragic consequences

The biblical perspective goes back to the very beginning. We were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26, 27). God's intention was that humans would take on His own character-full of love and concern for others. His is a nature that hates evil, but does not hate mankind; a nature that does not hurt or harm innocent people.

Jesus Christ compared it to a childlike mind full of humility (Matthew 18:1-6), like that of those so unnecessarily slain. It is a mind with total concern and love for the well-being of children, ready to bless them in every way (Matthew 19:13-15). Put simply, it is a mind like that of Jesus Christ's, a Christlike mind.

In the first book of the Bible, God records that He placed a choice before Adam and Eve. It was symbolized by two literal trees in the Garden of Eden. The Tree of Life represented God's mind-the way of obedience to God and His revealed way. This choice would lead to every good result and to eternal life. In contrast, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil represented man's own way of self-reliance that would lead to every kind of evil and eventual death. It pictured rejection of God's way.

Adam and Eve, influenced and deceived by Satan, made the wrong choice. Their minds changed. The results were curses that have plagued humanity ever since. From that time forward, mankind has been cut off from the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:22-24) and generally denied access to the knowledge that would produce peace and happiness and lead to eternal life.

It is immensely difficult to appreciate the enormity of the impact of this ancient choice on our world at large, its history and its development. All of society-and each individual nature and mind-results from this seminal event in human history (Romans 5:12). Human nature, and all of human society, reflects these curses. Here is the dark side of our nature that surfaces to produce evil under certain circumstances and opportunities.

Biblical description of human mind

The Bible reveals that the natural human mind, cut off from God and influenced by Satan, hates God. It is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can it be (Romans 8:7). Further, it states that "there is a way that seems right to a man, but the end is the way of death" (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25), and "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9).

Look at this description of human nature: "Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Romans 3:15-18). Ask yourself what is the likely outcome when this type of mind-the natural human mind-is free to set its own course of action.

Our society-perpetuating the choices made by Adam and Eve-continues to reject God and His revealed way. When we avoid following God's ways, it should not surprise us that man's evil nature spills over in response to real or imagined stresses of every kind. Man's nature, under the sway of Satan, is evil. It is criminal, and it needs changing!

The spiritual perspective revealed in the Bible shows that this evil and unrestrained mind, hostile to God, is continually acted upon by Satan the devil, the great adversary, who is god of this world (Ephesians 2:2, 3; 2 Corinthians 4:4). The result is an enormously powerful recipe for great evil.

One of Satan's names in Greek is Apollyon, which means destroyer (Revelation 9:11). Unseen, unnoticed and unrecognized, he is our enemy and the true source of the problems that plague humanity (Ephesians 6:11-13).

Man's nature is none other than a reflection of the spiritual mind that dominates and controls it-Satan the devil. Influenced by him, all too often we try to resolve our problems and grievances through force, violence and destruction. Even the apostle Paul, a giant of a man for good, recognized the constant inner conflict caused by our human nature influenced by Satan (Romans 7:15-25).

God's plan to change man's nature

Thankfully, God has a plan to change human nature. That plan begins now for those God calls to see and acknowledge their sins-to repent, accept forgiveness through Jesus Christ's sacrifice and receive the indwelling Holy Spirit of God to transform the human mind. Such a changed mind is characterized by love, peace, gentleness and goodness (Galatians 5:22, 23). It is a sound mind full of love (2 Timothy 1:7). This is tremendous good news.

But this good news comes too late to prevent the Dunblane killer or to save the 17 innocent lives he erased. It comes too late to comfort the bereaved parents and families. Nevertheless, Jesus Christ says: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:28, 29). Part of this promised rest reveals even more good news and looks forward to a time when this whole world will find true rest from all its evils.

There is coming a time when God will intervene in the affairs of humanity by sending Jesus Christ to reign over the whole earth. The ancient curse on mankind will be lifted, and tragedies like Dunblane will cease to occur. God's ways will be taught throughout the world, and children will be safe and secure both in learning and at play (Isaiah 11:6-9)

Humanity will be delivered from its violence, corruption and evil. Satan will no longer hold sway over human nature because he will be removed and human nature will be changed. The result will be peace and solutions for all problems, a time of perfect justice and truth. To all who have lost little ones through calamity and tragedy there is coming a time when those precious little lives will be restored to life again, to live their lives to the full with their parents present to love and guide them. Truly that rest will be glorious (Isaiah 11:10)

Continue to read The Good News to learn in greater detail how God says these things will come to pass. You will find comfort and great hope for a sure future in which you will see precious loved ones restored to life once more.