Reflections on the Death of Osama bin Laden By Timothy C. Tennent

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

The death of Osama bin Laden has reminded me of the recent discussion surrounding Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins, about who might end up in hell.  It is interesting that modern discussions about such matters invariably find a way to put ourselves in the category of the “righteous” and hell is reserved for Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin and Osama bin Laden.  The Scriptures point us in a different direction.  Paul is determined to silence the endless self-righteous talk which ends in self-justification, whether stemming from Jews who live under the Law or Gentiles who do not know the Law, but only have their own conscience.  Paul finally bluntly declares that God’s righteousness is being revealed “so that every mouth may be silenced” (Rom. 3:19).

This is important because as Christians we must recognize that the evil which we so often want to identity in the “other” is actually in us as well.  We are capable of all the atrocities which we find so unimaginable, such is the depth of human depravity.  Osama bin Laden was, through his death, sent to a higher court for final judgement.  Someday we will stand at that same bar of judgement.  Paul declares that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10).  The only hope for any of us is in the grace which God has revealed in Jesus Christ.  He is the only one truly righteous.  Death, floods, earthquakes and tornadoes are all regular reminders of human frailty and that the whole of creation is “not right.”  We must cast ourselves on the grace of God in Jesus Christ.  Let Osama bin Laden’s death be a reminder not of the wickedness in the “other” who has “finally gotten what is due him,” but rather a sobering and humbling reminder of the nature of the human race to which we all belong.  Augustine wisely said that we are sinners by birth and by choice.  The whole human race is in rebellion against God.   We are “in Adam” and we are willful participants in that seminal rebellion.  The fundamental struggle of our time – or any time – is not about the West versus radical Islam.  The struggle is between the righteousness of God and the rebellion of the human race against God’s righteousness.  We are all part of that rebellion, right along with bin Laden and Pol Pot. Until we see ourselves in the Cambodian killing fields, the falling Twin Towers and Nazi concentration camps we really haven’t fully grasped the depth of our own human fallenness, nor the height of God’s amazing grace in Christ.


  • […] And Tim Tennent, president of Asbury Seminary, reflects on the death of Osama Bin Laden. […]

  • Timothy, I’m reminded of our first systematic’s prof’s opening lines,”one’s anthropology determines one’s theology.: Thanks for reminding us of our global solidarity as we point the finger back to ourselves. Blessings in Christ.

  • Holly Simons says:

    I continually stand amazed and in gratitude for the gift God has bestowed on you, Dr. Tim…. the ability to take what seems a complex dilemma and allow His Spirit to hone in on the deep core truths that inform the entire circumstance. This fundamental struggle could not have been better stated….. it is never about the “apparent” struggle, but the singular and deep struggle of our own sinful rebellion and God’s blazing righteousness….. which always leads to the heights of God’s amazing grace in Jesus Christ, as you stated. Only when my “heart is on it’s knees” at the cross do I truly begin to fathom the depth of my own sin, and cast in my lot with the Hitler’s and Osama’s of the world. I look up, and behold, the blood that cleanses has flowed down upon me… the only blood that makes sinners “white as snow”. Mystery upon mystery, Truth upon Truth. Thank you for this blog.

  • Dr. Tim’s great and deep thinker! Obama’s Death really separated us in reactions, thinking. some talk too bsic about the issues, some are understandable at all. Well, those books in the bible mentioned are very helpful for the christian to think better before letting un-necessary opinion go out from each mouth…

  • Greg says:

    Dr Tim, I appreciate you comments and you are right on with your interpretation of Paul’s teaching. But I get tired of hearing what terrible Christians we are or “Sinners saved by grace.” I know of course this is not your intention, but nevertheless there remains this underlying thought that although we are saved, its only barely. When are Christians going to celebrate the “abundant life,” we have in Christ. When are more Christians going to proclaim the sanctifying purity that is offered to us in Christ; that we may walk in the light as He is in the light. That God can make us holy as He is Holy. Paul’s teaching was focused upon the hypocrites, those who were deceiving themselves, not to those who have taken up their cross and are following him daily, and not to those who Love the Lord their God with all… And their neighbor as themselves…

    God bless and thank you for challenging more to”not think of themselves more highly than they ought.” But we have a “Good News” to share with the world: “that God is reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” 2 Cr 5:19

  • Dan says:

    There are degrees of judgment as seen in Jesus’words about the relative guilt of Corazin and Capernaum. But, you are right. We should not judge self-righteously, or judge period. Jesus is quite certain of a hell. He also is quite certain that those who will go there don’t expect to go. In regard to the condemnation of others, Jesus cautions us by commanding us to repent and not jump to conclusions based on pagan views.

  • John says:

    As far a the life, and death of Bin Laden is concerned I am reminded of two points to be considered, and one for reflection. First, let us remember that to his “people” he was a great hero, even as he was a great villain to most of us. I would remind you that George Washington shared a similar portfolio in the eyes of the British, and many American Tories, and were it not for the success of the American revolution, Washington, along with others, would have probably been hanged for treason.
    Second, let us remember Jesus’s words in respect to the government’s of men: “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s…” meaning, I think, that man’s judgments are not the same as God’s because we have little more than a base understanding of the big picture, which, more often than not, does little better than to “darkeneth the counsel” of God, as is demonstrated to us in the book of Job.
    And, lastly, a point for reflection: Do you not find it at least mildly coincidental that after almost ten years the most efficient military machinery ever assembled suddenly finds the opportunity to present the alleged “death” of the world’s most notorious terrorist to the news media for distribution on the heels of the revelations of what would be the greatest scandal in the history of American politics, that being the so-called “birther” issue brought to the fore by Donald Trump in the week prior? What a “lovely” happenstance!