Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Death of Bin Laden: How Christians Have Responded - Part 2

Yesterday I posted a portion of a Christianity Today article which was released several hours after the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed was released.  The tweets of many Christian leaders is fascinating and I know that those that I follow did surprised me.  The immediate response to conservative Christians was predominately celebratory without any care about how their words were being perceived.  We are Christians who live in America and rightly celebrate with our country when necessary.  But whenever we sound more like an American than like a Christian, we ought to take serious caution.  There is good reason to rejoice in the justice of the world's most evil man.  But at the same time, Scripture is clear and the gospel demands a more sober response when it is a lost soul that is taken, forever separated from His Maker.

Though military might has its place.  The world will not change unless the gospel goes forth and transforms the people of the world.

Below is a sampling of some of the responses from those who approve of the raid.  You will find these quotes a little more sober than the original tweets, but I do encourage you to consider their words and critique them - good or bad - with the gospel.

Christopher Morgan - Grieving, Rejoicing that Osama bin Laden is Dead | This is one of the best responses I have come across.  Morgan presents the paradox we Christians live in:  grace and justice. 

Osama bin Laden is dead.

How do we as Christians respond?

As I watched the news reports, various passages came to mind–everything from Jesus’ teaching on loving and praying for enemies, to James’ forceful picture of a future slaughterhouse coming upon oppressors of God’s people. The more I reflect on it, the more I realize that my internal tension is similar to another one I have felt many times before–a tension related to the biblical doctrine of hell . . .

Yet hell is also portrayed as God’s triumph. Hell is linked to his righteous judgment and the day of Yahweh, even called “the day of God’s wrath” (Rom. 2:5). As such, hell answers (not raises) ultimate questions related to the justice of God. Through the coming wrath, judgment, and hell, God’s ultimate victory is displayed over evil, and his righteousness is vindicated. There is a “comfort” to hell (2 Thess. 1:5-11; James 5:1-6; Rev. 18-22), as its hard reality offers hope to and encourages perseverance in persecuted saints. God will judge everyone, and he will avenge his people; God will win in the end, and justice will prevail. And through his righteous judgment and ultimate victory, God will glorify himself, displaying his greatness and receiving the worship he is due (e.g., Rom. 9:22-23; Rev. 6:10, 11:15-18; 14:6-15:4; 16:5-7; 19:1-8).

Though the comparison is by no means perfect, and though it is on a much smaller scale, I tend to think that we can rightly grieve that Osama bin Laden opposed the true and living God and will be punished accordingly. But we also can rightly rejoice in the defeat and judgment upon people who are evil–and he was clearly evil and deserving of every punishment earth can give. The dancing in the streets may not merely be American nationalism, but an appropriate response to the partial display of human justice as we await the final and perfect display of divine justice in the coming age.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr. - The Trial that Still Must Come — The Death of Osama bin Ladin and the Limits of Human Justice |

The death of bin Ladin was fully justified as an act of war, but not as an act of justice. The removal of a credible threat to human life — a clear and present danger to human safety — is fully justified, especially after such an individual has demonstrated not only the will but the means to effect murder on a massive scale . . .

And yet, there are two troubling aspects that linger. The first is the open celebration in the streets. While we should all be glad that this significant threat is now removed, death in itself is never to be celebrated. Such celebration points to the danger of revenge as a powerful human emotion. Revenge has no place among those who honor justice. Retributive justice is sober justice. The reason for this is simple — God is capable of vengeance, which is perfectly true to his own righteousness and perfection — but human beings are not. We tend toward the mismeasure of justice when it comes to settling our own claims. All people of good will should be pleased that bin Ladin is no longer a personal threat, and that his death may further weaken terrorist plans and aspirations. But revenge is not a worthy motivation for justice, and celebration in the streets is not a worthy response . . .

We did the best we could do, and that is often where we are left. We are left with a sense of sober satisfaction. This is no small comfort to all those who are still grieving — the loved ones of September 11, and the loved ones of all who have lost their lives while wearing the uniform of the United States fighting bin Ladin and the forces of terror.

But, as is always the case, we are left with a sense that a higher court is still needed. Christians know that Osama bin Ladin escaped the reach of full human justice and a trial for his crimes, but he will not escape the judgment that is to come. Bin Ladin will not escape his trial before the court of God. Until then, sober satisfaction must be enough for those still in the land of the living.

Denny Burk - Some Thoughts on the Death of Osama bin Laden | Consider particularly point 3. 

1. Romans 13:4, “It does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.” If ever there were a just use of force, this was it. The U.S. government carried out its God-ordained task and has acted as God’s minister bringing His wrath upon one who practiced evil. The U.S. government isn’t God’s only minister of the sword. But tonight was our night, and I am grateful that justice was served. 

2. Hebrews 10:31, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Isaiah 33:14, “Who among us can live with the consuming fire? Who among us can live with continual burning?” I shudder to think of what Bin Laden is facing right now. I do not question the justice of it, but I can hardly bear to contemplate the horror of it. If my thinking is defective now, it won’t always be. The day will come when God will command me to rejoice in His justice in the damanation of the wicked (Revelation 18:20). Until then, the horror should serve as a motivation to warn people to flee the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21). 

3. I think Christians are right to contemplate how jubilation (like we see on TV right now) is consistent with Ezekiel 33:11, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live.” It is no surprise that many Christians are asking, “If God is not delighting in the death of the wicked, then how can we?” I think there is confusion on this point because this verse is easily misunderstood. The second part of the verse is key to understanding its meaning. The text is not trying to say that God never delights in the death of the wicked. Rather, the verse means that God prefers for sinners to repent rather than to perish. If they refuse to repent, God delights in His own justice enough to punish them appropriately (e.g., Psalm 1:5-6; 5:4-6; 68:2; Isaiah 13:1-22; Jeremiah 18:11). For this reason, we have to be willing to praise God for His justice one way or the other (Psalm 139:19-22; Proverbs 11:10; 28:28; Revelation 19:1-3).

Justin Taylor - How Should Christians Think about the Death of Osama bin Laden? | In the following quote, Taylor offers a more sober response to the news that Osama bin Laden is dead. 

Doubtless there will be much commentary in days ahead about the appropriate Christian response to the death of Osama bin Laden.

I think it’s appropriate for Christians to intermingle grieving and gratitude.

Grief for a life made in the image of God but so destructive of human life and so dishonoring to God.
And gratitude for justice being served as an instrument of God’s wrath.

If it’s true that “God’s emotional life is infinitely complex beyond our ability to fully comprehend,” it should be no surprise that his followers would reflect some of that complexity as well. After all, we are the people who are “sorrowful yet always rejoicing.”

Matt Kaufman - Osama bin Laden |

Two main points need to be made.

(1) Killing bin Laden is being described with just the right word: justice. Specifically, it's civil justice — exactly the sort of thing for which God gave government to bear the sword. Many actions by the U.S. government can be challenged. Not this one. This one is clear cut. This is retaliation by a nation's government against an attack on the nation's people, directed against the attacker himself.

(2) God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and neither should we. He allows us no exception for the really, really, really wicked. Not Hitler, not Stalin, not a child molester. And not bin Laden. As C.S. Lewis summarized it, "We may kill if necessary, but we must not hate and enjoy hating. We may punish if necessary, but we must not enjoy it."

There is room here for a kind of grim satisfaction that justice in this world has been done. Not for whooping and hollering and high-fives. Not for Christians.

Kevin DeYoungOsama bin Laden and the Value of Justice |

In the end, though there are mixed emotions from last night’s announcement, at least one of the attitudes should be thankfulness for the bravery of the men who, with proper authority in a just cause, killed a man who deserved to die. I thought President Obama’s remarks last night struck the right tone. There was a sense of gratitude without gloating. The dominant theme was justice. In our every day lives in this squishy pomo world, we have a hard time with justice. As a nation we feel sorry for people better than we feel joy over justice. But sometimes we need to be reminded that we live in a moral universe where actions have consequences. And when deathly consequences are merited by despicable actions, we should be glad the world is working as God designed.

Chad Brand - Justice and Retribution:  bin Laden

The answer is that God has ordained that justice in this age, for the matters of this life, in so far as justice can possibly be meted out in this age, should be carried out by governments. That is Paul's whole point in Romans 13:4. The government has been given the power of the sword and is a "minister" of God to the end of justice in this age. In other words, for governments not to carry out that role would be an abandonment of their calling. The US military forces that killed Bin Laden were doing their God-ordained duty, even if they did not see it in just those terms. Just yesterday I had a conversation with a 94-year old man who spent three years fighting the Nazis in France and Belgium. As he put it to me, "We were doing the Lord's work." Indeed they were, and I told him so! The men who lifted their weapons yesterday and drew down on this terrorist were doing the Lord's will every bit as much as pastors, standing in the pulpit, bringing the Word to his people yesterday, were doing the Lord's will.

I am not glorifying death. I am not in any way a hater of Muslims, though I reject Islam as a false gospel. I am not a hawk, calling for more war and death and destruction. I love peace, and I would wish that no other person, American or otherwise, would have to die for his country in war. But what I am saying is that the American government had a God-ordained duty to bring this man to justice, dead or alive. It has done so, and our attitude ought to be one of gratitude, of solemn recognition that our sins will find us out, and of knowing that every person will one day stand before God to be judged according to the deeds done in the body. We may take a moment to rejoice, but we also need to look to ourselves to be sure that our hearts are right before God.

Justice cannot always be meted out in this age. Adolf Hitler had to face the Lord without temporal justice being passed on him. On May 1st, 1945, it was announced to the world that Hitler was dead; exactly sixty-six years later, May 1st, 2011, it was announced that Bin Laden was dead. Our government has done the right thing. I am grateful to the President, to the American military, to the Pakistani government, and to Bible teachers and readers who still believe that justice is important in this age, as well as in the age to come

Catholic Herold - Christians should not rejoice at death of Osama bin Laden, says Vatican spokesman | The Vatican has already come out and encouraged fellow Catholics and Christians not to rejoice in the death of Osama bin Laden.  Interesting.

Christians should never rejoice at the death of a man, Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi has said following the death of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan yesterday . . .

But Fr Federico Lombardi said in a statement this morning in Rome that we should not rejoice at the death of a human being.

He said: “Osama bin Laden – as we all know – was gravely responsible for promoting division and hatred between peoples, causing the end of countless innocent lives, and of exploiting religions to this end.

“Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibility of each and every one of us before God and before man, and hopes and commits himself so that no event be an opportunity for further growth of hatred, but for peace.”

Chicago Sun-Times - Huckabee Says to bin laden, "Welcome to Hell" | I know this is from former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and not a leading Christian theologian, but Huckabee was a Baptist minister for sevearal decades and is well-known for his Christians beliefs, thus his reaction is from a Christian perspective though admittedly very clouded with political rhetoric.

Former Arkansas governor and 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said Americans and “decent people” have reason to cheer the death Osama bin Laden and told the Al-Qaida leader “Welcome to hell.”

According to Huckabee, “It is unusual to celebrate a death, but today Americans and decent people the world over cheer the news that madman, murderer and terrorist Osama Bin Laden is dead.”

Continuing, Huckabee said, “It has taken a long time for this monster to be brought to justice. Welcome to hell, bin Laden. Let us all hope that his demise will serve notice to Islamic radicals the world over that the United States will be relentless is tracking down and terminating those who would inflict terror, mayhem and death on any of our citizens.”

Peter Heck - We Did Not Fail | The following quotation is taken from a Christian news organization.  Though little is said about God or Christianity, it does reflect how some Christians have responded to the news.
We did not waiver, we did not tire, we did not falter...and we did not fail.

After nearly a decade of spent American blood, sweat and treasure in an arduous struggle against those who perpetrated the most brazen and dastardly attack on the American homeland in our nation's history, the United States military has struck its most significant blow.  Osama bin Laden is dead.

Those simple words mean much.

They mean closure -- or as close to it as is possible -- for the families who suffered the death of loved ones in the fire and rubble of 9/11.

They mean a sense of peace to those who have watched their sons and daughters volunteer to serve the great cause of freedom on distant and hostile shores.

They mean dread confirmation of the reality our enemies face that no matter how long it takes, the American military will get their man.

They mean justification to a former president who had vowed to his people that justice would be served.

They mean vindication to a current president whose commitment to the war against terror had been criticized and questioned.

And most importantly, they mean exactly what they say: that a murderous butcher who had masterminded countless plots to kill innocent people in pursuit of his unholy and mad designs no longer treads our sod, and has been dispatched to deal with an Authority far greater than any earthly judge

For more:
Christianity Today - American Christians give their verdict on bin Laden's death 

Blogizomai - "Justice Has Been Done":  President Obama Announces tohe Death of Osama bin Laden
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