Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Osama’s Death, and Fuzzy Christian Thinking

May 2, 2011

It was the news the world has been waiting to hear for a decade now. Finally it has come, and celebrations have erupted around the globe, especially in America. With the leader of al-Qaida now finally killed, one small – but significant – step in the war against terror has been completed.

Of course he has been leading the terrorist organisation for more than twenty years now, but the West only came to learn about him big time after 9/11. The attack on America was only one of his many acts of terror. But with his death, one chapter in this ugly terrorist assault is now closed.

There will certainly be many who will seek to take his place, and reprisals may well be forthcoming. So how all this exactly pans out in the days ahead remains to be seen. But I for one rejoice at this news. It is a case of justice being meted out to a very evil person.

But already in all the early discussion about this, a lot of very fuzzy Christian thinking is emerging. Lefties and pacifists of course only think this is bad news. They trot out all the usual tired arguments about how all killing is wrong, and how violence never solves anything.

Indeed, so much silly thinking on this has appeared in such a short period of time that I am quite amazed to be honest. We expect non-believers to come up with such silliness, but for believers who should know something about their Bible to do so as well is simply sad.

For example, some have said that the use of violence only leads to more violence, and we should have nothing to do with the use of force. The short answer to this is quite simple: try telling that to the prisoners at Auschwitz. Try convincing them that the use of force never achieves anything.

Try telling them that all killing is only always evil, and that the Allies were so very wrong to try to stop Hitler and liberate the concentration camps. Only someone who has never experienced such horrors could make such ludicrous statements.

Then some believers rather foolishly tried to make the case that all killing is murder, and that God condemns all killing. Never mind that God in fact has condoned at least three types of killing: capital punishment, self-defence and just war. But some believers just don’t get it – or don’t want to get it.

This inability on the part of some Christians to make the most basic of mental and moral distinctions baffles me. The Bible is quite clear on this: not all killing is morally taboo. Yet some of these believers think they know better than God, and are more moral than God. They actually sit in judgment on God, insisting that he confirm to their morality. But I speak to these issues here:

Other objections were less reckless, and were even sincere. Some asked about Matthew 5:44 for example, with its call to love our enemies. Briefly stated, this was a personal ethic mentioned by Jesus, which must be seen in the light of the social ethics elsewhere defined in Scripture.

Paul for example examines the use of force – even killing – by divinely-ordained government, as he writes in Romans 13:1-7. I have dealt with these issues quite often elsewhere, for example here:

Then another person raised the objection of Matthew 28:19-20 which speaks about the Great Commission – our responsibility to preach the gospel to all people. I assume this person meant that we should never kill anyone because that takes away their chance to hear the preaching of the gospel.

But that is not a very thoughtful objection. Indeed, just take it to its logical conclusion: if we want everyone to have as many chances to hear the gospel, and for the longest possible amount of time, then we should be doing everything we can to ensure that people live as long as possible.

Any scientific scheme to extend our lifespan should be welcomed unconditionally, and anything which might reduce it should be resisted at all costs. And by this reasoning, all killing whatsoever should be resisted, since it lessens the time a person has to hear the gospel.

Thus we were quite wrong to kill Hitler, or Saddam, or bin Laden. If an armed rapist breaks into our home, it would be wrong to try to resist him – at least by killing him – because that would shorten his time to hear the good news and repent.

But this is rather silly. God has appointed a time for each person on earth to leave this world. Many people die in infancy. If God has allowed this, then he is wrong, according to this kind of reasoning, because the person did not have a proper opportunity to encounter the gospel.

The truth is, we do have an imperative to tell everyone the gospel. But when it is time for people to go, that is the end. And if God has ordained for example the state to punish evildoers, and that includes the death penalty, then God is not unjust to send them to an early grave.

But I again have dealt with these matters earlier. In these two articles and the comments below them I also address some of these objections:

Another person raised Proverbs 24:17-18: “Don’t rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the LORD see it and be displeased.” Yes that is a biblical principle, but it is not the last word on the subject.

Indeed, any one verse alone can be used to say anything. But we must let Scripture interpret Scripture. Another Proverb that can equally be used here is Prov. 11:10: “When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.”

There are many such passages. When we look at the issues of evil, justice, and judgment on wrongdoing – both divine and human judgment – we see lots of passages which actually speak of rejoicing over the destruction of the wicked, of seeing justice triumph, and so on.

We certainly find this in the Wisdom literature, of which Proverbs is a part. Many psalms for example speak to this as well, such as Ps 44:7-8; Ps 60:12; Ps 118:6-7; etc. As but one example, consider a passage like Psalm 139:21-2: “Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.”

Of course readers today need to take care with such passages. But there are plenty of them. Many of these are known as imprecatory psalms, and they offer quite a different take on these sorts of issues. But they deserve an entire article to properly do them justice, so stay tuned for that.

Or read the Song of Moses in Exodus 15, wherein God’s people rejoice and exalt in the destruction of their enemies. After Moses and the Israelites sing this song as an act of worship, we read these words in vv. 19-21:

“When Pharaoh’s horses, chariots and horsemen went into the sea, the LORD brought the waters of the sea back over them, but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground. Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. Miriam sang to them:
‘Sing to the LORD,
for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
he has hurled into the sea’.”

Then there is the climax of history when a heavenly praise meeting erupts because of God’s judgment on the wicked. The people are finally vindicated and they celebrate God’s judgment of the enemies of God and his people. Read Rev. 18:20; 19:1-3 for example.

But all such discussions are not in fact new – these are rather old debates really. Should Christians be pacifists, or is there a case for just war? Is there a proper and moral use of force? How should Christians think about international relations – and more recently – the war on terror? There will always be disagreements on these sorts of issues.

Some Christians will never shake their pacifism, and there is little anyone else can do to convince them otherwise. So we will just have to learn to agree to disagree here. But one thing we all can do is sharpen up our intellectual skills and our moral reasoning. There is far too much sloppy thinking and mushy moralising out there in some Christian circles.

This rather confused and muddled thinking does not really bring clarity and help to the debate. We all at least need to be willing to trade in any preconceived ideas and agendas for what the Word of God actually teaches. But nonetheless we can expect that these sorts of debates will keep bubbling along nicely.

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106 Responses to Osama’s Death, and Fuzzy Christian Thinking

  • Hello Bill.

    Although I don’t rejoice at anyones death, any person with a decent sense of justice would be glad to hear the news of Bin Laden’s death. He richly earned this.

    As to the comments by Christian pacifists that God doesn’t condone any killing, they often interpret God’s command “You shall not kill” wrongly. A closer look at the literal interpretation and people will find that God said in the Ten Commandments “You shall not *murder*”. Big difference.

    Morris Otte

  • Thanks Morris

    Yes I make that distinction in the articles linked to above, and it is an important distinction which we need to keep in mind here.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill, I pretty much agree with all of this, so I’m going to copy and paste the link to my facebook page. You’d also need to convince me that Prov. 11:10 is prescriptive and not descriptive. The other verses you mention speak of praising God when good triumphs over evil which, of course, I agree with. But that’s a far cry from celebrating the fact that someone’s in Hell.
    Marcus Anderson

  • I wonder how many pacifists would argue that because, on some occasions, police officers are required to kill public enemies this constitutes a justification for the elimination of Police Departments from society?
    Dunstan Hartley

  • Thanks Marcus

    Yes that Proverb is certainly descriptive but I find no reason why we cannot also see it as prescriptive. But even if we don’t, as I mentioned, there are plenty of other passages one can appeal to in that regard.

    Your last remark is rather odd however since nowhere in my article do I even mention hell. But since you raised it, I will go along with the biblical authors in asserting that God is fully just in all his judgments, and that would include his justice regarding the fate of the lost. I, along with all God’s people, will rejoice in God’s just judgments throughout eternity.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Dunstan

    Sadly there would be such people. And many in the Anabaptist tradition (Quakers, etc) would argue that no Christian can ever serve as a policeman, or in the military, etc.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Good riddance to Obama. (oops, Freudian slip!)

    Mansel Rogerson

  • Thanks guys

    A lot of similar objections were raised by the leftists and pacifists four years ago when Saddam was dispatched from this life. I wrote it up at the time:

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks again Bill,
    it seems to me that the pacifist position is linked to a confusion about kingdoms. God’s kingdom and earthly kingdoms are, of course, different. Until there is 100% heaven on earth, humans will be responsible for executing judgements and punishments in these earthly kingdoms because of sin, leaving some room (restraint/mercy), we hope for grace.
    If there were only one kingdom….then given the circumstances of life on earth, almost every Christian would be requried to take up arms and kill…perhaps a little like our militant radicalised Muslems.

    I also appreciated how you note the difference in the way a principle is applied to individual actions and self-defence compared to say, a nation, defending itself from an unjust aggressor.

    As for the particulars around Osama’s death, it seems rather complicated. Let’s hope US gov and military and our own try at all times to stick to ethical principles of defence.

    Luke McCormack

  • Thanks Luke

    Yes we will be very confused if we don’t recognise the biblical truth that we are dual citizens, with responsibilities and obligations to both kingdoms. There will always be a bit of tension in living simultaneously in these two kingdoms, but that is what we are called to do. Such dual citizenship explains the seeming differences between the personal ethics as found in the Sermon on the Mount, and the social ethics found in Romans 13. While I can choose to turn the cheek in response to a personal insult, the government cannot be so lax – it has a God-given obligation to uphold justice and punish wrongdoers. And it has been allowed to use force to do so.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • On hearing the news that Bin Laden is dead I was pleased. But let’s be clear about exactly what it was that pleased me. I wasn’t celebrating the fact that someone is now in hell (see Marcus Anderson’s comment above). What I am celebrating was the fact that he is no longer on Earth, free to terrorise, bully, manipulate and kill.

    Bin Laden chose his destiny. He chose to ignore the free gift of eternal life that we can all either accept or reject. Instead he chose damnation. I’m simply happy that he isn’t here to do any more damage.

    Peter Howard

  • Good news Osama dead. Bad news Obama (re election) resurrected.
    Barry Koh

  • This has definitely given me something to think about… but in all honestly the rejoicing over his death (eg crowds at the White House waving flags and yelling “USA! USA!” or the PM saying she welcomes news of his death) sickens me a bit. Yes he’s dead. Yes it is justice, and he most surely brought it on himself. But is that cause for a party? Bittersweet, in my opinion.
    Christie Ewens

  • Thanks Christie

    But respectfully, being as far removed as we are from all this, it is rather easy for us to make such rather glib judgments. But if you were there, and had for the last ten years wept constantly for your lost mother, brother, husband, baby son, or whoever, you too might be very glad indeed to see this evil monster gone. Rejoicing in the just judgment of evil is not a party, as you put it, but it is biblical. I have no problem with it.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Very true Bill. I was more commenting on the examples I gave. I agree that it is right to rejoice in the just judgement of evil, as you said; but it seemed to me that the crowds et al weren’t thinking about it like that. It appeared to be rejoicing in death rather than rejoicing in (biblical) judgment. I hope that distinction is clear. All this said though, I am in no ways feeling sorry for him now. It’s just that I feel more relieved, and perhaps reassured that justice has occurred (as you said) rather than pleased.
    Christie Ewens

  • Turning the other cheek is a personal choice as it was with Christ turning the other cheek. But beyond that we have an obligation to society and God. Having disarmed Satan, Christ will one day hurl Satan in the eternal fire. There will be no bleeding hearts on that day.

    2 Samuel 19 :1-7:
    Joab was told, “The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.” And for the whole army the victory that day was turned into mourning, because on that day the troops heard it said, “The king is grieving for his son.” The men stole into the city that day as men steal in who are ashamed when they flee from battle. The king covered his face and cried aloud, “O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!”
    Then Joab went into the house to the king and said, “Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines. You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead. Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the LORD that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come on you from your youth till now.”

    David Skinner, UK

  • David Wilkerson is dead. I am sad that a great man has left this world. I rejoice that he is now with God free from pain and suffering and sorrow.

    Osama bin Laden is dead. I am glad he is not longer able to do evil in this world. I am glad he has been brought to justice (or at lest killed, I would have preferred a trial but that is not always possible). I cannot rejoice that someone has gone to hell.

    Ez 33:11 says God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He is just and give out punishment to those who deserve it but I don’t think our loving God enjoys or takes pleasure in meeting out justice on people. Jesus died for every sin Osama committed, it has been paid in full already but Osama decided not to accept the check.

    Perhaps I am wrong and am making myself “more loving than God”, but I cannot rejoice in an unsaved person’s death. However, as you say, maybe I would feel differently if someone I loved had died on that day.

    Kylie Anderson

  • P.S. I agree whole heartedly with everything you said about killing, murder, justice and the state bearing the sword.
    Kylie Anderson

  • Hi Bill,

    I am curious to get your thoughts on something I’ve been thinking about today… Although I am not a Catholic I was an admirer of Pope John Paul II while he was alive. With his beatification in the news last night I was reminded of the time he visited the man who tried to assasinate him, to tell the man that he had forgiven him. It struck me as a very Jesus-like act. Do you think there was perhaps an equivalent course of action with regards to Osama that we somehow missed?

    Steve Marion

  • Osama got his just desert and for that we should be glad. Besides this, the world is a little safer place with his death.
    Damien Spillane

  • Thanks Steve

    I actually already addressed that, at least partially, in my article. If someone who lost a loved one at 9/11 met with Osama and offered forgiveness, that is entirely up to them. But that is not the role of the state. Individual Christians can forgive, but governments – as demanded by God – must administer justice. No judge or policemen can say to a murderer for example, “Well I am a Christian so I forgive you – off you go”.

    The state is ordained by God to administer justice and punish wrongdoing, as Rom. 13:1-7 makes so very clear. So again, an individual Christian can turn the other cheek, and pray for someone like Osama, but that is not the job of the state. And an individual Christian also has the right to protect an innocent third party, as I mention in the articles I linked to above.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Re ” I assume this person meant that we should never kill anyone because that takes away their chance to hear the preaching of the gospel.” Such people forget that a mass murder is potentially killing thousands before they had a chance to hear the Gospel. So this would be a good reason to kill the one for the sake of the thousands.
    Jonathan Sarfati, US

  • So glad you have addressed this situation Bill.
    Margaret Makewell

  • I agree with Christie (above) regarding the party like atmosphere in the US that the news is reporting. Some people I know are updating on facebook the booze up they are having in NY while they are there. The notion of death as an excuse for a party sickens me also. However, people do react in all sorts of fashions to such a massive event in history. I, myself, while far removed from the tragedy of 9/11, feel sombre at the thought of a 10 year chase finally coming to an end. It is a good thing for the world, but still a violent and bloody thing that would have happened.

    I do think a note regarding our desensatization regarding blood and death could be helpful here?

    Jess Hagen

  • We heard news yesterday in Victoria of a murderer who after he had already served time in jail for a previous murder, was released and murdered again. If the state had administered justice the first time, his second (or was it his third) victim would be still alive today. And as Jonathan says above, I wonder if those Christians who oppose capital punishment are at all concerned that the murder victim whose life was cut short was perhaps robbed of a chance to hear the Gospel before dying?

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria

  • Thanks Jess

    To be honest, I “think a note regarding our desensatization regarding justice could be helpful here”. I am amazed at so many limp-wristed believers who actually seem to be in mourning over his death. They need to exult in God’s just justice and the end to one vile chapter of evil here. We have become so mushy in our post-modern times that we are trying to divide God’s mercy and grace from his holiness and justice. And again, you are too far removed from all this, and therefore far too cavalier. Those who have been heavily grieving for ten years over the loss of loved ones can rightly let off some steam at this news. I don’t call this partying, I call this agreeing with God over justice being served.

    “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” Romans 13:4

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Colour me sceptic Bill but I’m with Ann on this one. It’s too clever by half. Too many questions making this look like a fraudulent set-up to distract attention from his shaky position. Check out Ann Barnhardt’s web site amongst others.

    Obama is in a desperate position as questions abound about the fake long form birth certificate and the earlier short form being altered. This seems to be a desperate measure from a desperate man who should be arrested as a common criminal just on his his fake birth certificates alone.

    Keith Lewis

  • I find it to be very fuzzy Christian thinking that people think that God is not pleased about bringing His Holy wrath to bear on Osama bin Laden or any other sinner whom he sends to an unrepentant death.

    Think how silly this is. Our God is in the heavens and He does whatsoever He pleases. He has ordained whatsoever shall come to pass, including the pouring out of His divine wrath upon sin, either upon His elect people whom He has chosen to show mercy to by pouring out His wrath for their sins upon our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus upon Calvary’s cross, OR to pour out His wrath upon the unrepentent sinners for their sins for eternity in the lake of fire.

    God has decreed this. Would He decree then His own eternal unhappiness because His Holiness and Justice (which we rightly praise and glorify Him for) demanded such? Would YHWH, our eternal, glorious, holy, merciful, just, loving God decree an eternal “bumfest” for Himself over the destruction of the wicked who spat in His face and rebelled against His law which He implanted on their hearts (Romans 1)? These wicked rebels from the unrepentent fornicator to the legalistic pharisee to the mass murdering muslim terror leader ALL have incited the King of Kings to anger and His hatred burns against them.

    If He was pleased to put His only Son our Lord to grief on our behalf. To smite Him who knew no sin on Calvary in order to bring about our redemption, then why should He not be pleased and not saddened to open up death’s gaping pit to miserable wretches who, though knowing that God ought to be worshipped, created for themselves false gods and worshipped them for their own benefit.

    The reason I think we Christians ought to be more soberly thankful to God and not going hog-wild over OBL’s death is because WE are no better positionally if it were not for Christ. There but by the grace of God the Father sending Christ the Son and being born again to new life in Him by the Holy Spirit, go we. If it were not for God’s gracious mercy and NOTHING of our own doing, we would be just as guilty and condemned as Osama bin Laden and deserving of God’s eternal anger and wrath as he (Osama) is.

    God’s Love, God’s Mercy, and God’s Justice must ALL be seen and balanced with God’s Holiness. Anecdotally, it was not “Love, Love, Love” or “Merciful, Merciful, Merciful,” or “Just, Just, Just” the angels were crying about the throne in Isaiah’s vision, but “Holy, Holy, Holy.” It is in that context that God is fully Just, fully Loving, fully Merciful, fully Angry towards sin. He is Holy. We are not.

    He is not saddened by His pouring out of wrath. The oft mis-applied passage from Ezekiel must be interpreted in its proper context. And its proper context and place in ALL of scripture certainly rules out a kind of “peanut butter” love for all men. It means that God’s plan was to redeem a people for Himself. His purposes for judgement were for chastisement to bring about repentance for a particular people. That’s a far cry from assuming that God would make Himself miserable for all eternity for what His Holiness and Justice require.

    I rejoice that an evil man has been removed from this world. I weep for our nation that collectively spits in God’s face anyway even after He has removed this thorn from us, and we still refuse to repent and believe, even after His display of sovereignty in using our own troops to effect the mortal removal of this wicked man.

    And I also thank God that by His mercy, I was drawn away from the path of the wicked and given a new heart that I would repent of my sins and turn in faith to Christ.

    May the Lord of Glory do right.

    James Robertson, Arizona, US

  • Thanks guys

    “God took out Osama bin Ladin. And he will take me out. And you. And everyone else. Only different ways. (Deut 32:39; Job 1:21)” – John Piper

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I may be a sceptic a cynic, but I stand very firm by the belief that this was a staged and falsified execution by a very desperate and pathetic attempt to sway the american population into voting for barack abama at the upcoming federal election, in his bid to withhold a presentable and formidable opponent who only last week caused a tiny uproar within the american government as to whether the birth cerificate was an original extract as to prove whether he was really born in the united states, further more, in 2003 goerge w bush admitted on national tv that america went in to Iraq under false pretences.
    There is more to what has been on the news that people care to realize.
    Fivos Panayiotou

  • Thanks Keith

    It is early days yet, and I don’t for a moment discount the possibility that Obama might stoop to something like this. Their real problem is claiming they disposed of his body at sea, leaving us with no hard evidence. We have yet to see any photographic evidence. I guess we will see what develops here.

    But assuming he was killed, I again state my position – it was a good thing that he was killed, and we have no reason to mourn over this. He had all the time in the world to become a Christian if he wanted to. But he met his just fate and now it is too late for any second chances. Sometimes we Christians think we are more compassionate and loving than God is. It is time we start agreeing with God for a change, instead of always putting him in the dock.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks James

    I am with you, but one minor distinction if I may. In terms of a holy God, yes, absolutely, we are all equally sinners and all deserve a lost eternity. So whether we have a few sins or many, all sin is horrendous, because it is aimed against an infinite holy God.

    But in terms of seeking to achieve some earthly justice in a fallen world, we can and should make moral distinctions. We should reject moral equivalence in this world. That is, we should not equate a bin Laden with a Mother Teresa. We should not make moral equals between the Allies and the Nazis, etc. There are real moral differences in this life, and they should not be overlooked. If we do not make moral distinctions, we will be paralysed by inaction, and never work for justice in this world, and never fight against evil. We would then be wrongly tempted to say, “Yes, Osama is evil, but who am I to fight against him? I too am evil. Yes this rapist who is about to attack my wife is sinful, but who am I to defend her? Both she and I are sinners too.”

    But yes, in God’s eyes, we are all sinners and we all deserve the wrath of God. Thank God that we have found his mercy. We have met Jesus now as Redeemer, whereas others will have to meet Jesus later as Judge.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Keith,

    Honestly, I don’t see how this helps. We on the conservative side still remember how vehemently he opposed military action and how he has been apologizing to the muslims ever since he took office.

    I doubt he’d try and take credit and risk their terror wrath unless Osama was actually killed and thus Obama wants to stick to Allinsky’s rule #1: Never let a crisis go to waste.

    I’m apt to believe it simply because he’s now pompously claiming credit he doesn’t deserve in the slightest over an act which is more likely than not to incite to wrath the very people he’s been slavishly been bowing down to since January 2009.

    I’m also apt to believe it because even the excuse for no body makes sense from an Obama point of view (I think we should have taken photos and then buried the body with a pig…. but that last bit could just be my depravity showing its ugly head). That, and I think there’d be too many involved who’d come out really soon and say “Actually no we didn’t,” if this was all an elaborate hoax.

    James Robertson, Arizona

  • Bill, I agree with you. That’s why I said “positionally,” as in, in relation to God.

    In that sense there are only two positions: pardoned by the blood of Christ or guilty.

    Among the guilty yes there are distinctions and we should distinguish among them in this mortal realm. I was thinking more, however, in terms of God’s holiness.

    Many of us who have been pardoned by His blood never came close to doing what Osama has done in terms of sheer unrestrained evil, yet God’s wrath was so great that quenching it required the sacrifice of the sinless Son of Man. That same sacrifice was also required for the pardon of the murderer Saul. We who committed lesser sins had the same guilt as the great persecutor of the early church.

    All sins share the same level of guilt. That was my point. I apologize for not clarifying that that was the extent I was talking about. Because I fully agree with you that not all sins share the same severity of response from those who bear the sword in this life.

    James Robertson, Arizona

  • Hey I am with you all the way James. Thanks again.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks guys

    Many Christians are offering Ezekiel 18:23, 32 as a sort of trump card, saying we have no right to celebrate the death of Osama. John Piper spoke to this passage years ago in his very important book, The Pleasures of God. He updates this here in a helpful discussion:

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Is there a place for being in between? Can I not be stricken with grief over this death and also not be throwing a party.

    Can a judge rightly sentence someone to death and not feel bad about it but at the same time find it a sombre thing to do and not rejoice in it?

    One final question: Are you saying that as long as we are alive God longs for us to turn to him, but once we die unrepentant he rejoices in our eternal punishment?

    Kylie Anderson

  • Bill, I do not wish to dominate your comment section (especially since you and I agree and this is your blog), so I’ll leave with this final help to add to the resources on fully understanding Ezekiel 18 (just an fyi, I am but a layman. The man in this video is one of the elders of my church teaching gathered believers):

    I do hope the commenters who dissent will take the time to carefully and thoughtfully consider their position and come to a prayerful change of mind, that they would better worship God for who He really is. That is, after all, theology’s true purpose.

    James Robertson, Arizona

  • Thanks Kylie

    You can grieve for anyone you like. You can grieve for Hitler if you so desire. I won’t be. And God won’t be grieving over those who reject him either. He will at all times be fully satisfied in his own justice.

    And no I am not saying that, re your last question. God always rejoices in his own justice and holiness, and he always rejoices that his judgments are right, true and just all the time. And so should we. “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25). Ultimately people send themselves to hell, and they get what they deserve.

    I encourage you to read the very brief article by Piper here to get some of the biblical balance which we need:

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • On John Piper: Once again the answer is both. God is able to balance that which seems paradoxical to our finite minds. And so we argue back and forth because we cannot understand with our finite minds how God’s infinite mercy and infinite holiness intertwine.

    One thing I do know, whether I approve or disapprove of the way God’s people, on either side, react to Osama’s death, when I stand at the final judgement all (not just God’s people) will agree with him.

    Kylie Anderson

  • Thanks again Kylie

    You are quite right about your final point. The only thing I would add is this: the ideal is for Christians to now, in this life, fully agree with him as well, and to seek to get as many non-believers to see the truth of God as well, agree with him, and turn to him in repentance and faith.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Perhaps the actual ‘celebration’ of Osama’s death has provided a slightly jarring note…
    We might well agree that the war of terror’ is justified and that Osama bin Laden’s death is part of that campaign – and that his death has removed someone responsible for a great amount of suffering.
    However, the ‘party atmosphere’ and ‘celebration’ of Osama’s death reminded me of the Muslims in various places around the world who held parties following 9/11, celebrating the deaths of the people in the twin towers.
    In that light, perhaps a more restrained response to the death would be more appropriate…
    Jenny Stokes

  • Thanks Jenny

    Maybe so, but… I already cited some biblical passages which can only be described as depicting a “party atmosphere” when God’s people dance, sing and celebrate divine justice taking place.

    And I again repeat: if you or I had lost a husband or wife or son or daughter at the hands of this creep and mass murderer, we too would very likely be letting off some steam right now, and even joining in with the celebrations.

    The truth is, there is a massive moral difference between Muslims dancing in the streets rejoicing in the death of 3000 innocent men, women, and children, and people celebrating the death of a mass murderer like Osama. So we need to avoid moral equivalence here as well.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Yes Bill I do agree that we should aim for the best understanding of God that is possible this side of heaven. I have been attending church for nearly 35 years, I went to Christian Union at university as well as numerous Bible studies and conventions. All this to say I don’t think this topic EVER came up. I am not here to be a dissenter, I am here because I am working though an idea that is foreign to me and seeking to align myself with God’s word.
    Kylie Anderson

  • Thanks Kylie

    Yes you are quite right. We are all fallen and finite and fallible, and none of us have perfect understanding about anything, so we need to keep seeking to align ourselves with God’s word as you say. And these sorts of exchanges help all of us hopefully to do just that, and to clarify our positions and strengthen our understanding. So thanks for all your contributions.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks again guys

    Lest it appear that I am completely inflexible here, in addition to allowing my many critics on board here, let me draw your attention to a new article which at least partially runs counter to my own, but with the views of my critics. I quite like Al Mohler, so I always take note of what he has to say. I don’t agree fully with everything he says here, but I alert you to this article nonetheless.

    He too is squeamish about the public celebrations and says this: “But open patriotic celebration in the streets? That looks far more like revenge in the eyes of a watching world, and it looks far more like we are simply taking satisfaction in the death of an enemy. That kind of revenge just produces greater numbers of enemies.”

    Well, yes and no. Those who are our enemies will always hate us, no matter what we do. Some hate America and the West with a passion, and whether we have a million such celebrations or none will not make the least bit of difference to these folks. We will always have enemies, no matter how circumspect we seek to be.

    And it is somewhat sloppy to conflate satisfaction about justice achieved with revenge. If you see your favourite footy team beat an arch rival, you will loudly and wildly shout at the end of the game. You are glad your team won. Does that mean you are taking revenge, or engaging in a horrendous and out of place response? Anytime a win is celebrated, that in effect means you are glad that the other side did not win. Is that always a bad reaction?

    And of course there would be a mix of people at these public celebrations, just as there always are. Some may just want an excuse to party, while others were genuinely celebrating the defeat of a horrible man who caused them so much personal pain and injury. No public meeting will be free of such an admixture. I for one would rather those genuine victims be given a chance to celebrate, then force them to some PC agenda where we worry about making our enemies even more angry with us than they already are.

    But I can see where he is coming from, and I certainly endorse the rest of his article, so I commend it to you as well. Whether you in turn use it as a weapon to beat me with, as an act of revenge, is up to you!! (Just kidding.)

    His article is here:

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Just some quick thoughts…

    A lot of people are hailing this as justice. I’m not so sure about that. The reports are that he was killed by a bullet to the head in a firefight with US forces in the middle of the night and his body whisked away who knows where. That isn’t justice. In fact, an argument could be mounted that he went down in a blaze of glory.

    Justice would have seen him arraigned before a court, his crimes read out, a verdict delivered, and a fitting sentence handed down — all in the light of day, and in full public view.

    One wonders what a fitting sentence would be to the crimes committed by Osama Bin Laden. A quick bullet in the head doesn’t seem adequate.

    Therefore, I think that we have to wait until the event described in Revelation 20:11-15 to see full justice done.

    I’m inclined to see this a bit differently — it is more of a military victory. Al Qaeda declared war on the free world, and now their leader has been defeated and killed. We can celebrate this victory if we wish, but a celebration of justice seems premature.

    (By way of analogy, has Adolf Hitler received justice? He didn’t get hauled before the courts at Nuremberg like many of his Nazi accomplices — instead, he committed suicide in his bunker.)

    Jereth Kok

  • Hi Bill,

    Thanks for this article and the links. I’m fairly new to this sort of topic. I do have a questions that is loosely related to this issue of justice and law. When Jesus was confronted with the woman caught in adultery, he didn’t carry out the OT law of stoning her, but challenged the Pharisees and scribes with “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (Jn 8). My question is, how are we to relate to the OT laws and what difference does Jesus and the gospel make to them this side of the cross.

    David Roberts

  • Thanks David

    It is a good question. The short answer is he did not abrogate the law. He instead confronted the accusers for not fully meeting the conditions of the law in this case. But I deal with this at greater length about mid-way through this article:

    And even if we do read this as Jesus somehow setting aside the requirements of the law, that does not mean he is arguing for the abandonment of all social and legal justice in this world. We still have passages like Romans 13 where we read of the state as ordained by God to punish evildoers. So the passage from John cannot be used to dismiss many other important segments of Scripture.

    But I may yet write an entire piece on this, so thanks for the question.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Re putting Osama on trial, that would have been good only if it were something like the main Nuremberg trials by the International Military Tribunal. The Nazis who were convicted and sentenced to death were hanged relatively quickly. Same with the Eichmann trial. Not a criminal trial in modern day America, where shyster lawyers would demand vital intelligence secrets, and if convicted he would linger on death row for a long time. And terrorists might well threaten to torture or kill hostages unless he was released, or a soft-headed politician or judge might just release him like the Lockerby bomber.
    Jonathan Sarfati, US

  • Just saw this from Cal Thomas:

    Media reports in the aftermath of the president’s announcement said the key for the American forces hunting bin Laden was one of his most trusted couriers, identified by men captured shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. If this is true, and if those captured were taken to Guantanamo and gave up information after “enhanced” interrogation techniques, denounced by then-Senator Obama and his Democratic colleagues, this would be a vindication for the policies of Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush.

    The political implications of this successful operation are already being debated. President Obama will probably get a bump in his sagging poll numbers, which is fine, after all bin Laden was killed on his watch. But this operation was a team effort fanned out over three administrations. The war isn’t over, though, as President Obama said.

    Since Osama bin Laden dropped out of sight, with only the occasional message filtered through al-Jazeera, his effectiveness in planning new terror attacks has always been problematic. Surely he trained and inspired a new generation of terrorists who will now take up his mantle and seek to use whatever “martyrdom” they can sell to new recruits to encourage others to join the war against the “Great Satan.”

    It is good that bin Laden was killed in Pakistan and not captured and brought to America to stand trial, where Attorney General Eric Holder has suggested he would receive full constitutional rights. Imagine the circus that would have been with lawyers using the American system of justice to try to free him, citing supposed violations of his constitutional “rights.”

    Jonathan Sarfati, US

  • Thanks Jonanthan

    Yes you are absolutely right. If he had been caught and put on trial in America, there would have been no justice – certainly not for all his thousands of victims. As you say, all these do-gooder lawyers and civil libertarians would make sure that most charges against him were dropped or reduced, and if he was found guilty for anything, he would likely get off with good behaviour after three months in a cushy jail cell!

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Agreed, Jonathan. What has happened to him is probably better than the kind of soft “justice” that exists in modern Western nations. When I said that it would be desirable for Osama to be brought to proper justice, this was by no means the kind of “justice” that I had in mind!!
    Jereth Kok

  • Jereth I also mentioned I would have liked Osama to be brought to proper justice above but I don’t think Osama is the type of man that would ever be captured. Whether it be a fire-fight, suicide or an order for his own men to kill him before letting him be captured. I don’t think Osama would have let his fate be left in the hands of his enemies.
    Kylie Anderson

  • Thanks Kylie

    Yes he said quite clearly that he would never allow himself to be taken alive.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks again David

    I have taken your good question and turned it into an entire article:

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I am pleased that Osama Bin Laden has been killed – like some bloggers here, I too believe that if he had been captured and taken for trial, he would probably have many lawyers fighting to free him, to say nothing of the leftists who would help make appeals on his behalf.

    I remember the celebrations when the 2nd world war ended – people danced in the street and partied with gay abandon, and who could blame them! Adolf Hitler was dead, and the Japanese had surrendered. If now, people are glad that Bin Laden has been killed, they are celebrating a pause in what will be a long and terrible war.

    Joan Davidson

  • I guess you edit out anyone who disagrees with you, then?

    The killing of OBL is an act of revenge, not justice, and will come back to bite America on the backside; just like the acts of violence in Afghanistan and Iraq.


  • Thanks kphunter

    Puh-leeese, spare me. I edit out comments by those who obviously cannot read and follow my clearly stated commenting rules which require a full and proper name. So let me call your bluff. And no disagreement allowed huh? Then how do you explain the fact that so many critics of my position have already been allowed on here?

    And your foolishness about revenge I have already spoken to. You might as well make the ludicrous claim that the ‘attempted killing of Hitler is an act of revenge, not justice’. Administering justice, and defeating an aggressor who slaughters innocents with relish, has nothing to do with revenge. Those unable to make such elementary moral distinctions do not really deserve a lot of time here to be honest. Indeed, if you want to defend a creep like Osama, feel free, but not on this site.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Yes, those who kill the innocent, especially when they target Christians, deserve to be killed. And it is fair enough for us to be happy if they are killed.

    Yes, Saul/the apostle Paul, should have been killed for targeting Christians for death. And so we should be unhappy that he wasn’t put to death. (?)

    Could someone please explain the inconsistency that seems apparent here.

    Graham Preston

  • Not sure if I follow you Graham.
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Reading through all the comments on the death of UBL I am struck by those who express “Christian-sounding” sentiments, but who seem to have only a shallow grounding in Holy Scripture. Differentiating between (thou shalt not) “kill” and (thou shalt not) “murder” is not a difficult exercise if you have even an average understanding of biblical principles. I refrain from reiterating them as they are well-expressed throughout this thread.

    Indeed, the inconsistencies expressed by Christians are no more stark as between capital punishment (death penalty) and abortion – the latter being permissible (with all the appropriate, smarmy comments justifying the act as favoring the mental state of the mother) and the former a black mark against civilized society (regardless that a convicted murderer has no concern for acting in a civilized manner in our free and open society). Again, resort to Holy Scripture would disabuse them of their self-serving (and extremely judgmental) attitudes.

    Faux-Christians do seem to have a propensity to display their bruised feelings regardless. The deserved death of UBL at the hands of the state is a delight to those who expect such protective state to at least make the attempt to balance the scales of justice. I may be forgiven if I fail to disguise my disdain for those soft-headed commentators herein who in light of the proffered scriptural reasoning still mourn the death of the man who allowed himself to be possessed by Satan – a deceiver who yet runs to and fro in this world seeking to devour those he may. UBL made his choice and just maybe we can be happy that he had God-given free will – and received his just desserts after he perpetrated his evil deeds.

    FB Adams

  • Now is the time to recognise the Death of Bin Laden and relegate him to his earned position of an obnoxious footnote in History. Any celebration in his name is too good for him.
    L.C. Dines

  • Thanks FB and LC
    I am with you, although I do require a full name, as per my commenting rules.
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Who’s defending OBL? But seriously, if Americans want to be known as the good guys, you need to show you know the difference between revenge and justice; you need to show you respect the rule of law.

    Back in the 70s, when we in the UK had a problem with terrorism originating with the IRA, some of the front men went to the USA on a fundraising mission.

    Would you have been happy if the British SAS landed on your shores, mounted a full armed assault in a residential area and summarily executed a group of people?

    Katherine Pearl Hunter, UK

  • Thanks Katherine

    But all we are getting from you is more lame and irrational anti-Americanism. And after all that I have said here, it is clear that you are the one who still cannot make the basic distinction between revenge and justice. And of course the rule of law is a principle which is true both in nations and between nations.

    But let me call your bluff on your less than helpful scenario. If the US government was foolish enough to let a few IRA types into the nation temporarily to do fundraising, then those responsible for letting them in should be given the sack. That of course is completely different from allowing a known mass murderer to live permanently in your land as he continues to mount terrorist strikes around the world, and do nothing about it.

    But because of delicate PR issues, we will never know how much Pakistan in fact cooperated with the Americans in taking him out. They are rightly worried about adding further fuel to the Islamists in their own nation, so they are not exactly excited about publicising any involvement that they might have had here.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hi Graham,

    I don’t think there’s any inconsistency here. It would have been completely right for Saul/Paul to face justice from the State for his past crimes. If I were a Christian prosecutor at the time, I would see no inconsistency whatsoever in both recognising Paul as an apostle and sitting under his teaching, but in my God-ordained role as prosecutor using all lawful means to bring him to justice. I don’t think Paul would have had a problem with this and would have willingly faced his trial and pleaded guilty.

    As for our feelings of happiness or sadness about such events, we must distinguish between our feelings for the process and the ends that result.

    In Osama’s case the right process was followed (yes a trial would have been better, but clearly not practical here), and the end result was a good one (Islamism weakened, we hope); so I think we are justified in being doubly happy here.

    In Paul’s case, if he were brought to trial and executed, then we would be happy that the right process was followed, but unhappy we had lost a brother. We could be consoled, however, that we had done what was right and God, knowing all things, will work it for the good of those who love him.

    Mansel Rogerson

  • Osama dead, Justice shines.
    Daniel Kempton

  • Saul (the future apostle Paul) actively engaged in hunting down and putting to death Christians. That would seem to be not dissimilar behaviour to that of modern-day terrorists such as bin Laden.

    If we are going to say that it is a good thing for modern-day terrorists to be shot down and that we can be happy should they be killed, it would seem to follow, if we are going to be consistent, that we should say that Saul should have been killed and that since he wasn’t we should be disappointed that he wasn’t.

    But of course we are not disappointed that Saul/Paul was not killed for his “terrorism” – we are delighted in fact. Saul, the greatest of all sinners, became the great servant of God, Paul.

    The conversion of Saul to Paul was probably as unimaginable for the Christians of that day as it would be for us today to imagine bin Laden being converted and becoming a true man of God.

    In saying that bin Laden ought to have been shot down, and that it is appropriate to be happy about his subsequent death, it seems to me that those who hold that position believe that they somehow infallibly know that bin Laden couldn’t possibly have been able to have been wonderfully converted as Saul/Paul was. That seems to be a very arrogant position that cannot be substantiated.

    Of course, if the fact that bin Laden was killed (presumably) without converting is taken as providing incontrovertible evidence that he could never have been converted (because of not being one of the elect) then it would seem that any further discussion of the matter becomes null.

    Graham Preston

  • Thanks Graham

    But I still find your remarks rather odd, and your reasoning rather cloudy. All you seem to be doing here, in a not really very convincing manner, is telling us that you are against all use of force, and maybe even against all law. Hopefully you are not an anarchist, but you seem to think that all killing is immoral. I have already discussed this quite often. You are free to believe this, but then you are saying God is wrong, is immoral, and is not as compassionate as you are. That is a rather scary position to be holding to.

    As I said, it is God who ordained the state and ordained the use of the sword – including capital punishment – to maintain justice in this fallen world and punish evil. If you don’t like that, then you, as a believer, need to take that up with God.

    And Mansel has also shown some of your inconsistent and unconvincing reasoning here. If Saul was guilty of murder, then he deserved punishment for it. As I have said before, it is one thing for Christians to choose to turn the other cheek, but that is not an option for the state.

    Sure, Christians are happy that Saul converted and that he became the Apostle Paul, but I am not aware of any Christian who thinks what Saul was doing was acceptable or somehow above the law. Sorry, but I find your logic here to be quite curious.

    We know of course that you are strong on the abortion issue. Some Christians seek to argue that they must therefore be ‘pro-life’ in every area, including hard core pacifism and the like. It is known as the “seamless garment” argument. I think it is an unbiblical and illogical argument, and I have discussed it elsewhere, eg:

    So if you are simply telling us you disagree with the biblical position on killing, that’s fine. We shall simply have to agree to disagree here.

    And I already discussed your specious argument about allowing people to live longer that they might repent. If you really believed that, then you would and should fully support all the creepy new bio-technologies which seek to extend human life, the quest for immortality in this life, and things like human cloning.

    And Jonathan above already also answered this as well. Osama was killing thousands, depriving them of their chance to hear the gospel. Moreover, Osama would have had plenty of chances to hear the gospel over the course of his long life, and it is clear that he fully rejected it. But again, you seem to be saying that you are more compassionate than God here, and if you were God, you would have allowed him to live to be 160 or so. Sorry, but I am just not with you on this.

    But thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I wonder why there is not the slightest hint of a suggestion that any of Paul’s contemporaries in the early church sought to have him executed – either before or after his conversion?

    Do you advocate that Peter, James, John, etc, held to the “rather scary position” that “God is wrong, is immoral, and was not as compassionate as they were”?

    Of course I am not saying that what Saul did was acceptable. My point is that had he been executed for those actions (let’s say either just before or just after his conversion), as you and Mansell have advocated and presumably would have been prepared to carry out, then obviously most of the New Testament would be missing.

    Arguably if bin Laden had not been executed he may have converted and we may have missed much much helpful input that he may have given, just as we would have if Paul had been executed.

    Yes, I do argue that we should help people to live as long as possible and while they have life pray that they will convert before death. But no – and there can be no suggestion that I have – I do not argue, and never have argued, that immoral means should be used to prolong life. To infer that I have is just wrong.

    Yes, bin Laden was probably responsible for many deaths (how many Saul was responsible for we don’t know either) and he may have had opportunities to hear the gospel (but you can’t know for sure that he ever did hear the gospel clearly before his death), and Saul also may have heard the gospel well before his Damascus Road experience, but with all due respect, who are you to decide that bin Laden had had enough of a chance to repent? Older people can and do become Christians.

    Graham Preston

  • Hi Bill,

    Andrew Bolt has a wonderful photograph neatly encapsulating the difference in attitude between bleeding-heart lefties and normal people over this issue. Sums it up brilliantly. Well worth a look:

    Mansel Rogerson

  • Thanks again Graham

    But sadly I find nothing in your latest comments of any help at all. I just find more moral and mental confusion. You continue to be confused about all sorts of basic issues. It is not the job of individuals to execute anyone. That is the job of the state which God has ordained for this very purpose. You continue to judge God for ordaining both the state and the death penalty. You really need to deal with that issue Graham.

    And really Graham, your reasoning continues to be unimpressive. Please show me one text anywhere by “Peter, James, John, etc,” that they in any way renounced the biblical understanding that not all killing is murder. Please show me just one passage Graham.

    As to Saul, he of course was not executed. The Christians had no power to do this, and if you knew your early church history, you would realise that the Jews has very little power to do this either under Roman occupation. As to why the Romans did not get involved in all this after the fact we are simply not told.

    And of course by your reasoning, it was wrong to seek to stop Hitler or any Nazi on earth. After all, they should all have been allowed to live, enslave the world, and rule with terror and bloodshed, and kill every last Jew, because some of them might have found the gospel. Thus you would also think that God was absolutely wrong and immoral to say that the time for the Canaanites was up, and using Israel as a tool of his wrath and justice was quite wrong.

    After all, some of these Canaanites might have come to know Yahweh if they were allowed to live longer. So you are telling us that the Israelites should have disobeyed God’s express commands here, because God was obviously not being as compassionate as we think he should have been.

    And of course Jesus too was obviously quite wrong and immoral. When he talked to soldiers, he should have said, if you want to follow me, you must immediately get out of the military and never kill again. Instead, he foolishly said of one of them that he had “great faith” (Luke 7)!

    And when you start talking like this – “Yes, bin Laden was probably responsible for many deaths” – then I do have to start questioning your arguments big time. “Probably”? “Many”? Sorry Graham, but he did absolutely and most assuredly viscously kill many thousands of innocent people all around the world – thus preventing them any chance of hearing the gospel and repenting.

    As to “who are you to decide that bin Laden had had enough of a chance to repent?” I am not in a position to decide anything along these lines. Only God is. He knows when a person has had enough opportunity to know of him, repent, and be saved. And he appoints the times and seasons of men. He gives life and he takes it. And part of the way that he governs in this fallen world is to declare that those who forfeit their right to life shall in fact lose it.

    We already know that you think God is wrong to do things this way, but as I say, you had better sort that out with him. When he ordained – with full justice and righteousness – the death penalty for murder, he had every right to do so. If you think God is immoral for doing so, you simply put God in the dock and say you are in a better position than him to run the universe. Respectfully Graham, atheists and abortionists also see things this way.

    But thanks again for sharing your thoughts. It looks like we might have to agree to disagree here – big time!

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks for that Mansel. Yes it is quite telling.
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • The Hebrew word used in both sets of the Ten Commandment doesn’t represent kill which is qatal, but to take anothers life without cause which is Murder so those who continue in a pacifist ideology are actually miss interpreting the Bible. Now It is sad when anyone dies in a lost state which is exactly what has happened with Ben Laden He is now awaiting the Great White throne Judgment which will come at the end of time until then he is with the rich man from Luke 16:-31 in Sheol a place of torment read Luke and see it is not a parable but a witness from the son of God to the truth of hades, Sheol, and finally Hell. It is appointed unto man to die and ten Judgment, jesus confronted the Pharesees, and Saducees and scribes for their worship of Religion rather than God he called them brood of Vipers, White washed Tombs full of corruption on the inside ad a pertty shell on the out side John the Baptist warned the same groups you brood of Vipers who told you to flee the coming wrath so Osama Is in good company awaiting the final Judgment ad the lake of Fire but I still say we should pray for our enemies and do good for those who spitefully use us; with the understanding that we are heaping hot coals on the enemies heads.
    John R Bloxson Jr

  • Isn’t it the case that Saul never converted to Paul? Saul was his Jewish name and Paul was his Greek name. Also, is there any evidence that Saul/Paul was guilty of murder himself or did he just condone murder by others?

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria

  • I guess Jesus was just kidding when He said that our war is not against flesh and blood but the principalities of darkness. . .Mr. Muehlenberg with all do respect I feel like you are disposing words that Jesus said for the sake of “commentary” which I’m sure you found by reading other books written by MEN not the WORD which has been proven to TRULY be ordained by God. . .Jesus is capable of loving far beyond what our wicked hearts can come close to imagining. Jesus never used “logic” to defend who He was or why He was here, rather than “logic” Jesus said those that have FAITH in Me will see my father in Heaven. Faith in Jesus, Faith in the Word of God and God alone. . .I thank God for our military but I HATE the things that they feel they have to do because we would rather “do unto others before they do unto us” as opposed to what Jesus taught which is, “do unto others, as you would have them do unto you”. . .God did not ordain the death of Bin Laden, nor did He ordain the tragedy of 9/11. . .both of those were done by man, under the influence of the true enemy, Satan. . .I acknowledge that we did what we FELT like we had to do, but that doesn’t make it right according to God’s standard, even though we justify it within ourselves. This is why Jesus had to die on the cross, because it is impossible for us to love God the way He loves us. With that said, I thank God for our brave men and women for they are merely doing what they are told to do, and they do it very well if I can say so myself. My brother served in Iraq and the last thing I want to do is offend ANYONE that is associated with US military because they are the bravest people on Earth. However, I will not suspend my own Biblical convictions even though my personal emotions want to rejoice in the recent events, I cannot ignore the things that Jesus taught in order to do so. I apologize if I have offended anyone but this is what I read in scripture, so take it or leave it.
    God bless,
    Michael Hodges

  • Thanks Michael

    But you evidently have not read my article where I point out the biblical distinction between personal and social ethics. And you evidently have not read the Bible very well either. Jesus never said anything about our ‘struggle against flesh and blood”. It was Paul of course who said that in Eph 6:12. And obviously he was referring to our spiritual struggle with heavenly forces. That has absolutely nothing to do with the God-ordained institution of the state and its God-ordained use the sword to maintain justice and punish evildoers. By your rather sloppy reading of this passage, we should have no police, no armies, no courts and no judges.

    And who said here that God directly ordained the death of Osama or 9/11? What I have said is God has ordained the use of the sword and the death penalty to maintain justice in a fallen word. That was carried out, justly, in the case of his death.

    And with all due respect, your obvious dislike of logic, careful reasoning, and clear thinking and reading certainly does show up here I am afraid.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I beg to disagree with almost everything you said. You say someone who does not agree with rejoicing over death of an evil man is silly. And someone who believes that violence is not the answer is calling themselves a higher power than God. I am one of those people and I do not feel that way at all. I am not rejoicing the death of any person. Yes violence and death happen. Cannot be stopped. But to be gleeful for someones death? I find that to be unpleasing to God. If a rapist came to my house to get my children, I probably would protect my kids whichever way I can. If death is the conclusion, I certainly cannot see myself rejoicing in their death. I believe that Christ is LORD and I will do my best to live like him. The God I know and serve would not turn his back and withdraw his grace. I am very disappointed in this article. I teach my elementary students even to live for others not ourselves. Even they know better. Shame on you.
    Hannah M.

  • We are explicitly told to follow Jesus’ example of not retaliating and not making threats when we are persecuted. Rather, we are simply to trust God who judges justly, and that is it. (I Peter 2: 20-23) We are not told to take up weapons, just as Jesus did not. We, as Christians, are to be prepared to die, not kill, just as Jesus died and did not kill.

    Of course it can be perfectly rational for the non-Christian to kill when they may be under threat but the Christian is a follower of Jesus and Jesus told us to be ready to die every day, not to kill. (Luke 9:23) This is a distinguishing feature of the Christian – we give our lives, as Jesus did, rather than take lives, as the non-Christian does. Just because a Christian refuses to kill, as I believe they should, does not mean that the Christian should do nothing . Our reliance though should not be on the weapons of this world.

    The state has been given the sword but the state is not the church, at least in my understanding. As noted above it can be quite rational for the non-Christian to rely on physical weapons to kill and a secular state may quite reasonably go down that path. Christians do not have the same agenda as the state however and we are not to give absolute allegiance to the state as that would be idolatry. So when the state calls on the Christian to kill we are to refuse because Jesus told us to love our enemies and he shows us what that means by setting us the example of dying for his enemies rather than killing them. (Romans 5:10)

    Your put down of claiming that I am trying to be more compassionate than God just does not work. We are told to follow Jesus’ example and Jesus died for his enemies, he did not kill them. Yes, I know Jesus will return and there will be a judgment, but now, while we are alive in this world we are to follow the example of the suffering servant who gave his life rather than take the life of others.

    You will probably say that if Christians refuse to fight we would be wiped out by the likes of bin Laden or Hitler. Quite possibly many or perhaps most Christians could be killed but we know that the church cannot be totally destroyed. (And if the Christian should be killed he loses nothing and gains everything, whereas the one who dies in his sin loses everything.)

    If the world were to see a people who were prepared to die for their enemies rather than kill their enemies, that may bear the profoundest of witnesses.

    Graham Preston

  • Thanks Hannah

    But you already have a few strikes going against you. My rules clearly state that I need a full name to post here. And your rather nasty and judgmental attack on me is not all that edifying. I will let other readers decide if there is shame on me.

    But just a few quick responses if I may. I said we should all rejoice when justice is administered. If that means some people, especially those who lost loved ones at Osama’s hands want to rejoice, so be it. Many Jews rejoiced when Hitler finally was no more, and rightly so.

    And readers can also decide just who is being biblical here. I mentioned there are actually a number of texts which counter your rather humanistic sentiments. Just one will suffice:

    “Then in the morning, when Nabal was sober, his wife told him all these things, and his heart failed him and he became like a stone. About ten days later, the LORD struck Nabal and he died. When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Praise be to the LORD, who has upheld my cause against Nabal” (1 Sam 25:37-39).

    So I guess you would also say ‘shame on you David for praising the Lord at the defeat of your enemy. Even school kids know better’. Once again we have contemporary Christians thinking they are more moral and spiritual than the inspired writers of Scripture, and even God himself

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks again Graham

    But now we are starting to go over old ground. I explicitly said individual believers are not to execute justice, but states are permitted – even commanded – to by God. Indeed, it seems that you are imposing your rigid ideological pacifism grid over Scripture and theology, and that grid determines how everything is thought about or discussed. All the biblical data I have presented here you have simply ignored, dismissed, or been unable or unwilling to answer.

    And it gets a bit disturbing when you now apparently want to rather glibly dismiss the very real evil of Osama and Hitler. Try telling the prisoners at Auschwitz that killing and the use of force is always morally wrong and something Jesus utterly condemned. Indeed, he would have to condemn himself if that is true. He did use a whip as he overturned tables rather forcefully, and will use much more force than that when he comes back to mete out just judgment on the unrepentant.

    Sorry but taking a handful of texts of Jesus, and ignoring the rest of the biblical canon to push your pacifist ideology just does not impress to be honest. Your rather reckless call for Christians to never use force or kill runs counter to what we find throughout the NT. God ordained the state to use force to promote righteousness, and Christians can fully be involved in the state. I just wrote an entire article on this, providing some of the relevant examples:

    I and others applaud your strong anti-abortion stance, but I for one find your ideological pacifism to be rather unbiblical and unreasonable. But as I say, we may have to each go our own way, agreeing to disagree here. Thanks again.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill,
    You are quite right. Who are we to say and dictate how the families of the victims of 9/11 should react to the news of Osama’s death? Do we even have the right to chastise them if they choose to rejoice, even if we think we would have reacted differently? Bear the pain and sufferings they bear, then we will be thinking differently.
    Barry Koh

  • Bill, I am afraid, but your earlier comparison with the celebration at a foot ball game was not accurate. Both teams would have had an equally valid right to win. With UBL and what he stands for, we have a definite struggle between good and evil, where the destiny of evil is to be exterminated.
    I have enjoyed this discussion immensely, learning a lot of what has changed in the public perception of justice in just 60 years in the comparison between how things were handled at the end of WW 2 and how it would be handled now. Oh, how far we have fallen and how confused we have become.
    As to Graham’s comment on inconsistency in treatment of people, are we giving God enough room to move here? Only God himself could be “just to forgive” as in 1 John 1:9, because He was the one who was able to and prepared to pay the price that justice demands. Because we are not able and therefore not required to pay that price, we should not think that we can nut it out with our patchy knowledge and finite reasoning capacities. “the Lord knows who are His” 2 Tim 2, in the end we need to trust in that. It is possible, though unlikely that UBL has repented, an interesting question to put on the shelf until it can be answered in heaven. God certainly gave him enough time.
    God told Samuel to stop grieving for Saul, 1 Samuel 16, but He gave him time to sort himself out.
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

  • Thanks Ursula

    Hey, no analogy is perfect, and no analogy-maker is perfect, but your point is taken. And your other points are helpful as well.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Perhaps a more useful question is “relief or gloating”? It seems clear to me that Osama deserved what he received, and that one God-given role of government is to administer justice.

    But God also says “It is mine to avenge; I will repay”. It is good to be glad for justice when evil is brought down and evil-doers brought low. But we must consider our hearts: are we celebrating justice, or asserting our moral superiority over those so punished?

    Moving to the political domain, Mohler raises a good point. Westerners found it unseemly and offensive when some in the middle east danced in celebration at the September 11 attacks. To respond in kind to Osama’s death carries equal offense. Westerners might respond “we are in the right and you are not”, but that misses the point. They celebrated because their perceived enemy was harmed; and that is – in some instances – what is happening here also. It’s hard to see chants of “U-S-A, U-S-A” as being equivalent to “justice is done”.

    A better response would be approval and relief, and then go about our business. To loudly celebrate frankly gives the man more kudos than he deserves.

    Andrew White, NSW, Australia

  • Andrew,

    The chant USA USA tells you there is a war going on, not between two nations but between the USA and terrorism. I am sure they cheered USA USA when Hitler was defeated. No difference, except the style of war.
    Barry Koh

  • Barry,

    Shame on you for using leftist politically correct speech 🙂

    The war is between the USA and ISLAM.

    Mansel Rogerson

  • Mansel,
    Sorry, thanks for correcting me.
    Barry Koh

  • Mansel,
    But again I think radical Islam is more correct. I have to admit there are also some moderate and some “liberal” muslims.
    Barry Koh

  • Thanks guys

    I think the real question is not, are there moderate Muslims, but, is Islam moderate? Both Obama and Bush wrongly said our fight is not with Islam. I think it is. The jihadists and Islamists all find full warrant for what they do from the Koran, the hadith, and the life and teachings of Muhammad. But I discuss this elsewhere, eg.:

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hi Barry,

    I’m sure we’re both on the same page here. But as for semantics I think it makes most sense to reserve the word ‘Muslim’ for someone who actually follows the Koran and Hadiths. The unmistakable message of these texts is to continually commit acts of violence and oppression against non-Muslims. So it is the Osamas of this world who are the real Muslims.

    Of course, there are plenty of people who call themselves ‘Muslim’ but who do not really believe or follow their own religion’s teachings, just as there are many who call themselves ‘Christian’ but have little idea what the Bible says. I think a better way of describing these people is as ‘cultural Muslims’.

    Mansel Rogerson

  • Paul answered: “I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!” (Acts 25:10-11)
    Jonathan Sarfati, US

  • Bill just a basic point from me.
    Am i wrong, because i thought this battle we are in, is a fight to the death. Osama was going around killing people, plotting to kill people, training people to kill people. The people prayed, God please stop him.
    Daniel Kempton

  • Bill, I have now read a few articles that say the intent was never to capture bin Laden but that the soldiers were given a direct kill order and that bin Laden was unarmed when killed. It may be semantics but to me it seems that he was assassinated and not kill in an attempt to capture. So then the question is, is it ever right to order an assassination of someone rather than try to bring them to justice? Does this make any difference on whether Osama’s death happened in line with God’s commands?
    Kylie Anderson

  • Thanks Daniel

    I am with you. I am sure many people were praying that we could be rid of this mass murderer, just as many people prayed that Hitler would be brought to an end. I believe in both cases we can speak of prayers being answered. Osama had declared war against us, and until he was stopped from doing this, the carnage would continue.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Kylie

    Details continue to emerge about this, so it may be premature to say what exactly in fact happened. But here is a short reply. Osama had declared war on the US and the West. He had shown his intentions time and time again by killing thousands of innocent people. He was an aggressor in a time of war who deserved to be stopped. Just as Japan declared war on the US, resulting in the US seeking to defend itself, even overseas, so too here. The Japanese said they would never surrender, so actually going to Japan was part of the way America had to defend itself. In the same way, the US had to go to where Osama was and take him out, by capture or killing. Even if it turns out to be an assassination (although assassination has to do more specifically with a political killing, whereas in this case it was more a situation of national self-defence), then I think it was wholly justified, and in accord with traditional just war thinking.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • What is the difference between dropping a bomb on the building and killing him or the way they did it? Realistically the only difference is the order of magnitude of collateral damage and their own casualties. The action taken held the highest risk to the American forces and minimized collateral damage. Dropping a bomb would have been the reverse.
    If they had dropped a bomb would you have cared about whether he was armed at his time of death? He was a military target because of his violent and malicious actions. As a soldier he knew the price of his actions and he paid that price. It was no assassination.
    Aaron Downs

  • I am with you Aaron.
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I’m not so sure justice has been done or seen to be done with Osama Bin Laden. He was an unarmed, frail looking, middle aged man at the time of his death. Not much opposition for highly trained Navy Seals! As difficult as it may have been, I believe it would have been better to have captured him and put him on trial before the International Criminal Court. Whilst his contempt for the US and Jews is well-known, we still needed to join the dots and prove his guilt. I think Osama was a man very poorly understood by most Westerners. There is a decent account in The Bin Ladens, the story of a family and its fortune (Steve Coll 2008). Another point is, we need to be careful about calling the opposing view foolish or fuzzy because it is simply contrary to our own viewpoint. Otherwise thanks for the article Bill.
    Mark Apeness

  • Thanks Mark

    Sorry but I am not with on this one. The way you seek to paint the picture, Osama was some poor, kindly Sunday School teacher who wouldn’t hurt a fly. You might as well try to argue that Hitler was a misunderstood humanitarian who liked to go on picnics and sat around crocheting. And of course he should have been put on trial since we “we still needed to join the dots and prove his guilt”. With all due respect, I would argue that your comment is an example of foolish and fuzzy thinking (not because it is contrary to my viewpoint but because it is so obviously contrary to common sense and basic moral reasoning). Otherwise thanks for the comment Mark.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks guys

    Here is another good article on this:

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I don’t know that God rejoices at the death of any. The argument that we should not kill anyone because it robs them of their ability to possibly respond to the Gospel is very valid. The moral issues that ensue when seeking life forever through medicine are against God’s law and even love. The sin in this world that causes death to infants is much different the man killing man. I think biblical wisdom outlined in the Bible can not be a pick and choose based on our convictions and just because people rejoice because oppression is gone does not mean that is the Character of God, that is people responding. Again in the Psalms it is a mans response not God’s.
    There is a fine line between the way a fallen man reacts to events than the way God reacts. We can not assume God is like us in this way but we do need to be moving toward being like him.
    The ‘game’ changes with the death of Christ on the cross. I think that the church is now the arm of love toward the world that has been missing in the world all existence. We don’t do a good job at it possible because we do not have the mind of Christ which is Humility, not looking to right as our approach to humanity but laying that aside to serve.
    Jason Stewart

  • Thanks Jason

    While God may well not wish to see the unrepentant spurn him and die, everything that He does he delights in, including rendering just punishment (and death) for the unrepentant. And given that God himself has instituted things like the death penalty, he obviously does not share your belief that people should live as long as possible in the hope that they might one day repent. And of course God himself and all his angels rejoice when the wicked are judged – try reading Rev. 18-19 for starters. And I also quoted a number of texts in the Bible where the saints rejoice with God over the defeat of those who are evil. I prefer to side with Scripture here.

    And no, nothing changes in one sense after Calvary. The character of God for example does not change one iota. His holiness, righteousness, and hatred of sin are exactly the same as before. And the two institutions which God has established (and which you seem to confuse) are still fully valid. He established the state to maintain justice and punish evil, and he established the church to evangelise the world and show forth the gospel of God. Both have their God-given roles, and both are fully ordained by the same God. So it is no use pitting them against each other – both are part of God’s purposes for us.

    And the Psalms are of course the inspired word of God to us. Indeed, they were sung by ancient Israel as part of their worship of Yahweh. So they are fully relevant and applicable here, and can’t be so easily dismissed.

    But we may have to agree to disagree on some of these matters here. Thanks for sharing.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

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