where is Osama bin Laden?

When I told my fourth and second grade children this morning that American troops had finally caught Osama bin Laden, I discovered that they had no idea who he was. That’s either a testament to my parenting skills, the quality of public school education, or the sheltered, peaceful lives that Americans enjoy. We must have it pretty good when our children don’t know the name of our country’s #1 enemy.

If bin Laden is our generation’s version of Hitler, then his death may provide a provocative conversation starter about the topic of hell. As I explain in Christ Alone, the question of hell must be determined by Scripture rather than by emotional arguments. However, the death of bin Laden may cause some supporters to reconsider the message of Love Wins.

As I see it, here are the different views of where bin Laden is right now:

a) American cultural view: he is certainly (and happily for us) in hell because of his evil acts. This is the dominant view in America—I would be surprised if any American leader suggests that bin Laden is anywhere else but hell.

b) Evangelical view: he is probably (and tragically) in hell because—as far as we know—he never repented of his sins and received new life by trusting in Jesus.

c) Love Wins: he may already be in heaven. Bin Laden has always been a son of God, and when given the stark choice between going to hell or rejoicing at his Father’s party, he may have already chosen the latter. If not today, then maybe tomorrow. If not tomorrow, then whenever he finally wants it. God tends to get what he wants, and so bin Laden will probably give in eventually and go to heaven.

Obviously, merely stating these options doesn’t prove anything. We must rely on what Scripture tells us about such things—but framing the question like this may motivate some people to take a harder look at the message of Love Wins and to take all of Scripture into account—including what it tells us about both the justice and love of God—as we think about “heaven, hell, and the fate of everyone who has ever lived.”

9 Comments

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  1. Paul D. Adams May 2, 2011 — 9:39 am

    Indeed bin Laden’s eternal fate should provide pre-evangelistic opportunities. Nevertheless, there are those who would still hold out some sappy, romantic sense of God’s love that is so large it eclipses all notions of justice. What evangelicals can retain and redeem in dialog is that sense of tragedy (which you allude to parenthetically in the 2nd option). “Though Scripture speaks plainly and boldly of Hell’s fury, it never does so without tears” (Carson, How Long O’ Lord, p. 104). We must weep with God for all whose fate is forever settled in Hell’s furnace. Yet, in our weeping we can point everyone to the magnitude and victory of God’s love found fully and finally in the cross.

  2. Michael Bowers May 2, 2011 — 3:22 pm

    I am wondering if those that subscribe to the post mortem chance(s) for salvation are happy that bin Laden is dead. Not only is the world rid of his evil, but his heart of stone can now begin to melt for God. After all to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. I have a hard time believing that truth applies to bin Laden.

  3. I was thinking the same thing.

    In the Rob Bell view God is at the big party pleading with Bin Laden, “Come here Osama. Come out of the corner and let me give you a big hug.”

    hmmmm

  4. d. Mike Wittmer Calvinist view : Everything Osama did was orchestrated and preordained by God for His good pleasure (WCF III) and Osama is EXACTLY where God wants him to be so who really cares?

  5. Phil Lawrence May 11, 2011 — 8:56 pm

    Does a father not love all of his children equally at all times?
    I do, I love all of my kids, even when they are bad, I get disappointed when they do wrong, but I still love them and I would gladly sacrifice myself for them with no question.
    Does our Heavenly Father not love his children the same way?
    Even when they are bad? Does he not offer his hand they way we as parents offer our hands to our children when they do wrong?
    Without love there is only hate and that means Love Wins.

  6. I realize that my views will likely be unpopular in this forum, but here goes:

    I hear a lot that we must not only focus on God’s Mercy, but also on God’s Justice. I couldn’t agree more. Knowing what scripture says about both means acknowledging both. I get that. What I don’t get is the idea that somehow, God, who is so much more benevolent, patient, and loving than any human could ever be, conceives it justice to punish the sins (however grievous), that span such a short time (from eternity’s standpoint), for eternity.

    One of the points that Bell makes is that most rational people would consider it child abuse to torture for torture’s sake, in the case of a child gone bad. We punish our children to rehabilitate them, to reconcile them to us, not to “make them pay” for no other reason than some twisted sense of justice.

    I believe it’s a mistake, however, to assert, as some folks here and other forums have have done, that Bell is merely relying on sentimentality to conclude his view of hell is correct. Bell does use scriptures, along with his interpretations of them, to attempt to support his view. Everybody is free to disagree, and that is the grounds for healthy debate.

    Instead, what I have read has primarily been ad hominem attacks on his character, his motives, and whether or not he could actually be a Christian. It’s curious to me how Arminians and Calvinists “agree to disagree”, and in the main accept that the other is still Christian, though their views of God are very different in many ways. Along goes somebody who dares suggest that there isn’t just those two views, and he’s a demon sent from hell to misguide believers.

    I would really enjoy a healthy debate, consisting of first, respect for those positing other points of view. Respect for the person is not the same as condoning their view, it’s merely the very same kind of respect I believe Jesus would afford others also.

  7. Alan:

    I think that you are inferring disrespect towards Rob that you may have heard from other sources. It’s actually a sign of respect to take his views seriously and call them for what they are and what Christians have always said about them.

    Love Wins does cite some Scripture for its side, but not in a way that anyone would tolerate if it was done with any other book. The biblical arguments are the weakest links in Rob’s case, and I haven’t heard from anyone–certainly no biblical or theological scholars–who thinks otherwise.

  8. Hi Mike,

    Bell’s book, unlike some others of it’s kind, doesn’t rely nearly as much on Scripture for support of it’s premises, as they do. That’s obvious to me as well. What is also obvious to me is that he didn’t intend it to be a tome on systematic theology, but rather wanted it to be a place for discussion to begin.

    There are numerous scriptures which I believe give support to his argument, and none of them are new.

    I wasn’t directing my observation toward you specifically, but I have encountered some troubling statements in your blogs by others less charitable.

    What troubles me is that so many dismiss his book, and even more so, Bell himself, as some kind of work of the devil. Bell’s been accused of being insincere and just trying to sell books via controversy, on the one hand, and of being willfully rebellious and intentionally spreading false doctrine on the other.

    Isn’t it possible that Bell reads the scripture differently than they do, yet believes in Christ just as fervently? I was just at his website, and I’ll paste his statements in another post to keep this shorter. I find little to disagree with, and I’m just as much a Christian as his detractors claim themselves to be.

  9. From Rob Bell’s Website:

    NARRATIVE THEOLOGY (Mars Hill Church – Rob Bell ~ Pastor)

    We believe God inspired the authors of Scripture by his Spirit to speak to all generations of believers, including us today. God calls us to immerse ourselves in this authoritative narrative communally and individually to faithfully interpret and live out that story today as we are led by the Spirit of God.
    In the beginning God created all things good. He was and always will be in a communal relationship with himself-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God created us to be relational as well and marked us with an identity as his image bearers and a missional calling to serve, care for, and cultivate the earth. God created humans in his image to live in fellowship with him, one another, our inner self, and creation. The enemy tempted the first humans, and darkness and evil entered the story through human sin and are now a part of the world. This devastating event resulted in our relationships with God, others, ourselves, and creation being fractured and in desperate need of redeeming.

    We believe God did not abandon his creation to destruction and decay; rather he promised to restore this broken world. As part of this purpose, God chose a people, Abraham and his descendants, to represent him in the world. God promised to bless them as a nation so that through them all nations would be blessed. In time they became enslaved in Egypt and cried out to God because of their oppression. God heard their cry, liberated them from their oppressor, and brought them to Sinai where he gave them an identity and a mission as his treasured possession, a kingdom of priests, a holy people. Throughout the story of Israel, God refused to give up on his people despite their frequent acts of unfaithfulness to him.

    God brought his people into the Promised Land. Their state of blessing from God was intimately bound to their calling to embody the living God to other nations. They made movement toward this missional calling, yet they disobeyed and allowed foreign gods into the land, overlooked the poor, and mistreated the foreigner. The prophetic voices that emerge from the Scriptures held the calling of Israel to the mirror of how they treated the oppressed and marginalized. Through the prophets, God’s heart for the poor was made known, and we believe that God cares deeply for the marginalized and oppressed among us today.

    In Israel’s disobedience, they became indifferent and in turn irrelevant to the purposes to which God had called them. For a time, they were sent into exile; yet a hopeful remnant was always looking ahead with longing and hope to a renewed reign of God, where peace and justice would prevail.
    We believe these longings found their fulfillment in Jesus the Messiah, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin, mysteriously God having become flesh. Jesus came to preach good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted and set captives free, proclaiming a new arrival of the kingdom of God, bringing about a new exodus, and restoring our fractured world. He and his message were rejected by many as he confronted the oppressive nature of the religious elite and the empire of Rome. Yet his path of suffering, crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection has brought hope to all creation. Jesus is our only hope for bringing peace and reconciliation between God and humans. Through Jesus we have been forgiven and brought into right relationship with God. God is now reconciling us to each other, ourselves, and creation. The Spirit of God affirms as children of God all those who trust Jesus. The Spirit empowers us with gifts, convicts, guides, comforts, counsels, and leads us into truth through a communal life of worship and a missional expression of our faith. The church is rooted and grounded in Christ, practicing spiritual disciplines and celebrating baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The church is a global and local expression of living out the way of Jesus through love, peace, sacrifice, and healing as we embody the resurrected Christ, who lives in and through us, to a broken and hurting world.

    We believe the day is coming when Jesus will return to judge the world, bringing an end to injustice and restoring all things to God’s original intent. God will reclaim this world and rule forever. The earth’s groaning will cease and God will dwell with us here in a restored creation. On that day we will beat swords into tools for cultivating the earth, the wolf will lie down with the lamb, there will be no more death, and God will wipe away all our tears. Our relationships with God, others, ourselves, and creation will be whole. All will flourish as God intends. This is what we long for. This is what we hope for. And we are giving our lives to living out that future reality now.

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