Dr. Morrison had previously interviewed Gacy, along with many other serial killers, in an attempt to isolate personality traits that were common among such ruthless murderers. Now at the request of Gacy’s family, Dr, Morrison was going to remove the brain of the notorious serial killer in hopes of discovering some sort of physical abnormality that would provide answers for why Gacy destroyed so many innocent lives.
From Person to Patient
After a society puts to death the concept of sin and moral responsibility, it will anxiously search for alternative explanations for the reasons why mankind commits such heinous acts against itself. Although the culture wants nothing to do with a God that calls men into account for their actions, it still cannot run from the moral consciousness that the Creator has embedded deep within each human heart. Although the fall of man was great, the fingerprints of God still remain on every soul, and it is this universal moral law that the amoral man desperately tries to come to terms with.
What path does such a society walk down to explain man’s inhumanity to man? For a clue, you just have to view the sad interviews of mothers who have watched their children be locked up for crimes that are incomprehensible to them. Almost always you will hear something to this effect: “He’s a good boy; he’s just … sick!”
This, then, is the answer. The problem has nothing to do with outdated concepts like sin and morality, but it is pathological in nature. The person is really a patient – one that is marred in some way – and one who is just manifesting their disease. With this identity swap comes the elimination of real responsibility. After all, someone who is sick generally doesn’t want to be sick and didn’t ask for the illness to come upon them. They have no choice but to act in the way they did. Because of this, society’s response isn’t one of punishment, but one of proposed healing. The person merely needs to be cured of their sickness and then all will be well. Such is the secular humanist view of wrongdoing.
How does the Christian worldview differ from this stance? Surprisingly, there are some very close similarities, but some very large differences as well.
The Concept of Depravity
“I was born that way”, is often the cry of those wishing to justify a lifestyle that stands in stark contrast to what God’s Word teaches. The reasoning is that if they were born with a certain predisposition – such as a leaning towards homosexuality – then it must be natural and normal. The fact is, the identification of the perceived genetic disorder is correct, but the conclusion of the defect being morally acceptable is a far cry from the truth.
The Word of God makes it clear that each one naturally born is infected with the sickness of sin. Romans 5:12-13 states, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” Paul continues this thought in Romans 5:19 when he states that all were made sinners through the disobedience of Adam. It is very true that we all are ill with a sin nature. Any person with children who doubt this should ask themselves at what point they taught their toddler to be selfish, self-centered, or prone to ill-tempered outbursts.
It is also true that some dislike what they find when they peer inside themselves, whether they are Christians or not. For example, many homosexuals no more wish for their sex drive any more than they desire a third eyeball. So powerful is the sin nature that it wrestles strongly against the work that the Holy Spirit is doing inside of true believers and occasionally it wins out. Paul himself says in Romans 7:18, “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.”
Because of this, it must be acknowledged that just because someone is born with a particular predisposition, it does not mean that it is “normal” or moral. There have been a number of studies suggesting that alcoholics are the end result of inborn chemical events that occur in the brain, yet no one would encourage a person to plunge headlong into alcoholism. There is a very real difference between physical human characteristics and leanings that are of a spiritual nature, which should be resisted for the benefit of one’s own good and the good of those around them.
As many preachers of God’s truth have well said, man is not as bad as he can be, but he is as bad off as he can be. Depravity’s wrecking ball has left lasting damage to all persons – saved or unsaved – in this life, and whether the world acknowledges the true source of its pains or not, depravity will continue to take its toll until the Savior returns.
The cure for depravity is the putting to death of the ingrained sinful nature that exists in us all, and the acceptance of a new nature that starts to grow when a person believes on Christ. The problem is that many Christians fail to understand that this new nature does not instantly appear, but instead takes time to mature. Justification – our standing in the sight of God – does occur immediately upon being born again, but sanctification – the inward cleansing that produces purification and holiness of character – it is a process that takes a lifetime.
God’s cure for depravity is real and brings about true healing, where society’s secular attempts at changing Mr. Hyde back into Dr. Jekyll produces nothing but frustration and fails to affect real change.
Freedom of Choice Exists
Society tries to say that a person acts poorly for a variety of reasons that are beyond their real control. It believes John Wayne Gacy must have suffered from some physiological problem that drove him to kill. For certain, various disorders do exist, but the vast majority of evil committed in this world is of a voluntary nature. We choose to do good or opt to do evil. This is the free will that God has designed – a will that can turn its back and walk away from God (as the young rich ruler did Jesus) – or one that admits its weakness and embraces the salvation and transforming power of the new birth.
It has to be this way. As A.W. Tozer said, “Where there is no freedom of choice, there can be neither sin nor righteousness.” Odd isn’t it that secular society honors itself when it makes what it considers to be freely chosen right choices, but then turns around and denies any real responsibility for the bad choices it makes.
It is a rather unsettling thought to realize that the first person born to human parents became a murderer. God warned Cain that sin was crouching at his door – that its desire was to have him, but that he needed to master it. Cain didn’t and the end result was the murder of his very own brother.
We must all master sin, but we can’t do it alone. Only the power of the resurrected Christ indwelling each of us provides the victory over the sickness of sin and its end result, which is physical and spiritual death.
What were the results of Dr. Helen Morrison’s examination of the brain of John Wayne Gacy? Simply that he had a normal male brain. No defects. No abnormalities. No excuses.
They failed to find their scapegoat because they could not see inside the dark heart of their patient where the real culprit had lived.