Monday, May 2, 2011

Bin Laden and the Bible

In case you've been in a coma for the last 24 hours let me share with you the welcome news that Osama Bin Laden has suffered an American bullet to the brain and has shuffled off this mortal coil.

Now, because I'm a Christian, I've had the pleasure of hearing a lot of Christian's react to this news. They have been varied, to say the least. My wife and I popped a bottle of champagne (I'm sorry to say we hadn't been saving it for the occasion, it was simply an ordinary bottle lying around), many took to Facebook to get in their two cents, and my father honked his horn and relentlessly banged garbage can lids to roar his approval.

It is the the second reaction, the comments on Facebook by Christians, that I would like to set down and chat about for an extended minute. I went to Mark Driscoll's Facebook page, where he had posted comments to the effect that justice had been done, and what he had was at least a thousand comments of people reacting to him. To sum up the responses I will give you the two quintessential things that were said:

Not in support of being glad at the death of OBL:

Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; Lest the LORD see it, and it displease Him (Proverbs 24:17-18) Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die..." [Ezekiel 33]

In support of being glad at the death of OBL:

 Romans 13 "there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God...if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer." When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers. -Prov 21:15 

I have what I think is a slightly radical proposition for you to consider. I may be wrong, I am not 100% confident in the following assertion, but I like my way better than what I have displayed above, so please consider the following:

God is not a verse, he is a person. 

God is not even a cluster of verses, he is a person. You cannot sum up the whole of who I am by looking at some words that I have written. If you cannot understand the whole of who I am, then you cannot know how I would react to any given situation and all of its billion billion variables. This business of looking at a verse written 3,000 years ago so that I can know with certitude what God thinks of blank today is nothing short of a farce. A quick Biblical example:

The Bible is full of contradictions (not as many as you and I are full of, to be sure). Consider the following verse from Proverbs: "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself." Now this verse, also from Proverbs: "Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes." Remember, Christians believe this Bible is the very word of God, is infallible, and is good for teaching. Yet this is clearly a contradiction. These two verses prescribe the very opposite behavior to the same problem. How can this be? And it gets even better—these two verses are right next to each other, the second follows the first.

Now, unless God was drunk, which I don't think you want to accuse him of, there was a purpose behind the contradiction. And think about it for a moment, you'll see—are all fools created equal? Have you ever met two exactly the same? Sometimes it is good to rebuke someone, they happen to be a coward and it shuts them up so people can once again conduct themselves in peace. Sometimes it's good to keep your mouth shut, saying anything, no matter how reasonable, will only add fuel to the fire. It's not always easy to know which road to take, most of the time you can't know in advance—depends on the situation.

Are you starting to see why we can't glibly know what God thinks, what his will is, in every single particular we find ourselves facing? Life is too complicated to always accommodate a quick and easy answer. Remember that THEN is not NOW, THAT was not THEN, HE was not HER. Dueling Verses (or Verse Wars) doesn't help you know what God thinks about this thing right now, it only helps to confuse you about God. Your only hope to get an idea of what he thinks about blank NOW is to look at the entirety of who he is, that is, the biggest picture that you yourself are able to get of him, and mediate on that for a bit.

So if we are to argue over what God thinks of Bin Laden's death, and therefore what we should think of it (by the way this is an argument that I'm not all that interested in, nor I am confident that we can come to a satisfying conclusion), please let our arguments begin with something like "I think God is like this, therefore" rather than "This verse says this." God is a person in three parts (though they are one), he's not a book. If my words on a page I wrote yesterday can't tell you how I would react today, how much less can a book tell you what the infinite God is thinking right now? Before I cause you an infarction let me just say I am speaking specifically to this Bin Laden situation. I know that God, revealed through his word, was very clear on a lot of things. My only point is that he wasn't clear on everything about everything, and this would be one of those everythings.

Another thought: Have you ever felt two things at once? Maybe even three? Are you willing to let God do that as well?

Final Thought: Several years ago Driscoll preached the story of God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son. Abraham raised a knife over his son, and was about to sacrifice him at God's request, and at the last moment God stopped him. Driscoll said that to even get that far would take an unimaginably strong faith in God, and he admitted that he didn't think he was there yet.

And so, if it really is true that God takes no pleasure in Bin Laden's death, indeed he didn't want me to be happy or knock back a glass of champagne, then all I can do is plead Driscoll's excuse and hope that there is forgiveness for me as well; if that's what is required of me as a Christian, then I'm just not there yet.


Sydney said...

I think this is one of my favorites posts that you have written. It is well written and I enjoyed your views on why we can't say without absolute certainty what God thinks, half the time we don't even know what we entirely think of a situation. I, unlike you, did not celebrate but I don't condemn those that did. I try to picture things from a parent's point of view, (isn't that essentially God's?). If my child committed a terrible act, my love for him would never cease even though I would despise the act itself. I think, that that's the closest I can come to understanding how He would feel about this. Anyway, good post! Glad you wrote it.:) Neidy

Jason Dean said...

Huh...kinda looks like Sydney's comment got deleted (Blogger was having issues yesterday). Anyway, thank you for kind words! I couldn't agree with you more in trying to see the world through the eyes of a parent, as He is the ultimate parent...