Monday, May 02, 2011

Bin Laden's comeuppance

Grieving, Rejoicing that Osama bin Laden Is Dead

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.
As strange as it seems, hell is depicted in the Bible both as tragedy and victory. Hell is tragic, as it is awful that people rebel against God and persistently spurn the Savior. God is “slow to anger,” “abounding in love and faithfulness” (Exod. 34:6-7)...

In context, that’s directed at the covenant community.

...and does not take pleasure in the punishment of the wicked, just as he does not find pleasure in the existence of sin (Ezek. 18:23).

In context, that, too, is directed at the covenant community. So I don’t think either passage necessarily tell us anything about God's attitude in general, to humanity in general. You can’t extrapolate from those passages without further ado.

And I also think Ezk 18:23 is routinely quoted without regard to its broader context–as I pointed out in a recent post:

Jesus likewise grieved and wept over human lostness, sin, and the impending judgment (Matt. 23:37; Luke 19:41; 23:34).

Once again, the setting is more specific. Jesus is grieving for his own people-group. The folks he lived with, ate with, worked with, played with, growing up. Attended their weddings and funerals. Friends and relatives. He was part of an extended family: stepsisters and stepbrothers, aunts and uncles, cousins and second cousins, nieces and nephews, maybe grandparents, &c. As well as neighbors.

So he felt an emotional bond with them. We’re social creatures. That’s how God made us. As such, we’re naturally apt to identify with our social circle. The more so the more immediate the contact. Jesus has a human side.

While all these passages are consistent with a doctrine of God’s general benevolence, that’s not something you can infer from these passages.  


  1. The destruction of evil is always a cause for rejoicing. Frankly, I am not experiencing the Christian "tension" of the situation by wondering how I should feel about it; whether I should or should not rejoice in the death of the wicked.

    However, I would make a distinction between being relieved that a mass murderer has been killed by the constituted authorities God has put in place just for such necessities and the fact that we as individuals are not commanded or sanctioned by God to carry out judicial or vengeful acts on our own. Unlike Muslims, Christians are not commanded as individuals to murder unbelievers.

    For my part, I rejoice in the destruction of a mass murderer, the vile reprobate who cost so many their lives--the families of whom will suffer that loss until the day they die; a man who long ago ceased to be human through a seared conscience, and whose hatred of God, of His people, and all people, has taken its course and has placed him forever securely, as Screwtape would say, "in our Father's house."

  2. Yes because you can totally know that he's in hell.

    May the lord have mercy on his soul. I recognize that my goodness is only contingent, and I would be just as bad as him under different circumstances.