Archive | May, 2011
The End Wasn’t As Near As He Thought: The Non-Existence of “Secret” Bible Codes

The End Wasn’t As Near As He Thought: The Non-Existence of “Secret” Bible Codes

There was a great deal of news the past few weeks about the possibility of the Rapture (or Day of Judgment, depending on your perspective) occurring last Saturday.  Harold Camping, the 89 year-old founder of Family Radio, made claims that he had discovered a complicated formula in the Bible “that would probably crash Google’s computers” revealing that Jesus would return to earth sometime around 6 PM on May 21.  Obviously, that didn’t occur.  I sound pretentious writing a post “after the fact,” but I did plan to post this Saturday morning until something more important came up- playing bubbles with my daughter.  My purpose to go ahead with this post is to remind us that we will see the likes of false teachers like Harold Camping again who claim to have found mysterious “codes” in the Bible and that we should not be led astray.

In 1994, Camping made a claim that the end of the world would occur in that year.  Afterward, he said he miscalculated and that this time he was more than certain about the May 21, 2011 date (Camping said yesterday he has miscalculated again and the actual date is Oct. 21).  Camping told New York magazine, “There’s nothing in the Bible that holds a candle to the amount of information to this tremendous truth of the end of the world. I would be absolutely in rebellion against God if I thought anything other than it is absolutely going to happen without any question.”  Apparently, Camping’s followers were just as certain.  They spent a very large amount of money putting up over 3,000 billboards across the globe.

Here are a few of my observations and some lessons I think we can learn based on this incident with Harold Camping:

One, and most basic, is that Camping’s teaching stands in egregious opposition to the clear teaching of Scripture.  For someone who claims to have studied the Bible so thoroughly and knows its innermost “secrets,” this is either a gross oversight or prideful refusal to adhere to the truth.  Matt. 24:36 states of the Second Coming, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”  In Acts 1:7 when the early church asked if Jesus was about to consummate His Kingdom, He replied, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.”  We must always remember that the Bible emphatically states that no person will ever know the date of the return of Christ.  No matter what you hear, or how convincing the argument and evidence may seem, always reject any teaching that claims to know what Jesus said was unknowable

Two, we need to be careful with the cult-like following most false teachers such as Harold Camping generate.  On Camping’s website he states, “However, it was not until a very few years ago that the accurate knowledge of the entire timeline of history was revealed to true believers by God from the Bible.”  Note that only “true believers” are privy to the secret knowledge.  The “true believers” are followers of Camping.  As with most false teachers of a religious genre, we need to always ask if this person is genuinely trying to help people or simply trying to make a name for himself and get rich doing so.

Three, hidden or mysterious “codes” latent in the biblical text that only a certain few have the good fortune of being able to decipher do not exist.  I am certainly no scholar, but I have been a student of the Bible for all of my adult life, hold a doctorate with an emphasis in biblical hermeneutics, and teach New Testament and hermeneutics adjunctly for a seminary, and have discovered nothing remotely close to any legitimate evidence of Bible codes.

Grant Jeffrey published a book titled “The Mysterious Bible Codes” in 1998 where he claims the Bible secretly predicts the events of World War II, the death of Princess Diana, and the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building to name only a few.  Jeffrey makes this claim based on a dubious formula known as ELS- equidistant letter sequence.  This method takes each letter in an arbitrary sequence and spells out some hidden name or word.  For example, according to Jeffrey, if you begin in Deut. 10:17 in the Hebrew language and count every 22nd letter the word that results is “Hitler.”  The problem is that there are no rules.  You can go forward or backward, start at any verse you want, and choose whatever number sequence you want to employ. This method essentially lets anyone make the Bible say whatever they want it to say.  There is also a question of whether such formulas are carried out in the original languages of Hebrew or Greek, or in English.  It appears that Camping has done his research in an English Bible.  If God were to hide a code in the text, would He not have done so in the original languages?

The point is that “hidden” codes betray the very reason God gave us the Bible in the first place- to reveal Himself and His truth to us.  The purpose of the Bible is not to further obfuscate faith in God, but to make it clear that God exists, created the universe, sent His Son to die on a cross for our sins, etc.  We do not need complicated mathematical formulas to understand the message of the Bible.  The truth it reveals is plain and clear.

Four, though we should not be surprised that Harold Camping was wrong about the return of Christ, neither should we be relieved.  As Christians, we are to eagerly anticipate the Second Coming.  Heb. 9:28 states, “So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”  We should never get so comfortable in this life that we lose sight of, and passion for, the next life

It’s fitting to end this post with the next to last verse in the Bible- Rev. 22:20- “Surely I am coming soon.’” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

 

Growing in the Word podcast: 5-22-11

Growing in the Word podcast: 5-22-11

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from May 22nd, 2011.

Victory in the Midst of Defeat

Victory in the Midst of Defeat

Seventy years ago last Sunday, on May 15, 1941, the New York Yankees suffered one of their worst defeats in Yankee Stadium- a 13-1 thrashing by Chicago.  By all accounts, it was an embarrassing game to forget.  However, in the midst of that great loss was one sparkling gem- the beginning of an incredible accomplishment no one on the team that day would have known of.  It was in that 13-1 loss that Joe DiMaggio got his first hit of what would become a record, (of all the records in sports) that many believe will never be broken- his 56 game hit streak.

In John 9 we read about a man who was blind since birth.  The religious leaders ask Jesus whose sin was the cause of the blindness: the man’s sin or the sin of his parents.  Jesus responds in v. 3, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”  I can only imagine the dark defeat this man lived in for his entire life.  In first century Palestine, being blind meant he was unable to properly support himself and he faced the constant shame and stigma from others that sin was the cause of his blindness.  In other words, “he got what he deserved.”  No doubt this blind man wrestled with the theodicy issue: “Why did this happen to me?”

Then he encounters Jesus Christ.  In a moment he learns that his entire life, and subsequently his blindness, was on a God-ordained collision course to have this one meeting with the Savior.  Suddenly he learns his blindness is not what he “deserved” and he finds the answer to the question “why?”  This man was born blind so that Jesus would have the opportunity to show some religious leaders, a community, and the entire world- present and future- that Jesus is the Son of God who alone has the supernatural power to heal disease and forgive sin.  What an amazing victory that day in the midst of a life of defeat!

The same is true for us.  There are many days and times in our lives that seem like such defeat.  We wonder why what is happening is happening to us.  We wonder what we did or what others did to be the cause of the darkness.  These are things that cannot be easily answered.  However, we know that if we, like the blind man, have faith in Jesus and His sovereignty, we can always see victory in the midst of defeat.  How so?  We have a Savior who came to die for our sin and deliver us from the bondage of the penalty and power of sin.  As a result, this life is not all there is and I do not have to face the hardships of life on my own.  In the midst of darkness, you have no idea what collision course for God’s glory and provision He may have you walking.

The Yankees had no clue that something amazing was beginning in the midst of their worst defeat.  Be faithful! Trust your Savior and His plan.  He certainly wants to use your every circumstance for His glory.

 

A “Fairy Tale” Existence: Can Evangelicals Be “Thinking” People?

A “Fairy Tale” Existence: Can Evangelicals Be “Thinking” People?

As a pastor and a trustee on the board of two institutions of higher learning, I often encounter the paradigm that conservative, evangelical Christians cannot be “thinking” people.  Rather, a belief in the Bible as absolute and propositional truth can only mean that one is an unintelligent, closed-minded, bigoted, irrational Bible-thumping, hillbilly bumpkin redneck (incidentally I have been called all of those names).  My point in this post is to simply attempt to demonstrate that conservative, Bible-believing Christians can and are capable of high levels of critical thinking and that belief in God does not in any way mean that someone has checked their brains at the door.

Stephen Hawking, the brilliant physicist, made the news yesterday by stating that, “There is no heaven or afterlife; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”  His comments illustrate what I have mentioned above- people who believe in God are like children reading stories at bedtime.  These claims are made by Hawking, Dawkins, Tyson, et. al. who, incidentally, often sound much more like evangelists than scientists.  Their campaign against the existence of God is based on their epistemology of empiricism and thus they roundly reject any notion of the existence of or faith in God.

But think with me on this.  These now well-known champions of empirical reasoning who base everything on the evidence always throw that perspective out the window whenever religion comes up.  We are told that the scientific evidence “proves” the theory of naturalistic evolution as the answer to our origins.  However, any armchair apologist (either Christian or atheist) who is honestly and objectively looking at the evidence could not possibly claim that naturalistic evolution can be empirically “proven.”  So, because belief in God is irrational, much of the scientific community approaches this topic with extreme pre-commitments.  In other words, “Believing in the supernatural is such an uneducated approach, I will make the evidence say what I want it to say.”  Phillip Johnson, in his book Darwin on Trial, adeptly refers to this as the “fact” of evolution.  The scientific community makes the assumption that God could not exist and so all evidence is viewed through this skewed filter and considered “fact” when in actuality it is not.

My point is that the scientific community stops using their powers of empirical weighing of the evidence when it comes to religion.  The reality is that there are very good scientific and philosophical reasons, arguments, and evidence for the existence of God and creation.  And yet these prophets of doubt and reason will not even consider weighing evidence that any theory other than Naturalism could possibly explain our origins and responsible worldview.  This lack of consistency by the scientific community is alarming and also leads them to stand on quite shaky ground in their own claims (although to question the “fact” of evolution will at worst get a science teacher fired or at best be branded unintelligent).

For example, in the movie Expelled, Ben Stein shows a clip of an interview of Richard Dawkins where he makes the same claim as Hawking that those who believe in God are believing in “fairy tales.”  Stein then shows interviews of renowned scientists trying to answer the question of how life on earth began.  It was long believed that life began when the first life forms were formed in the primordial ooze.  The famous Miller-Urey experiment supposedly replicated what happened billions of years ago in the primordial ooze thus “proving” that naturalistic evolution started it all.  However, science has now admitted that the Miller-Urey experiment was not an accurate depiction of conditions on early earth and in fact the entire notion of the existence of a primordial ooze has been dismissed.  So, how did life begin?  Their answer today sounds something akin to Riley Poole in National Treasure– “The aliens did it.”  Francis Crick, discoverer of DNA, has postulated that some form of primordial life was shipped to the earth billions of years ago in spaceships- by supposedly more evolved (therefore advanced) alien beings.  One wants to ask, “Who are the ones believing in fairy tales?”

I deeply respect the amazing intellect of Stephen Hawking, but wish he would use those same powers to give consideration to the evidence of the existence of Jesus and His resurrection.  Just reading that last sentence will cause some to say, “Come on! Are you kidding!”  But again that demonstrates my point of the “fact” of evolution and that biased pre-commitments to its veracity hinder science from objectively exercising their worldview.  Our culture sees Hawking as the intellectual giant, and rightly so, but Christians as pitiable children unable to think properly.  Is that correct?  Consider this poignant response to Hawking by N.T. Wright:

“As for the creation being self-caused: I wonder if he [Hawking] realizes that he is simply repeating a version of ancient Epicureanism? i.e. the gods are out of the picture, a long way away, so the world/human life/etc has to get on under its own steam. This is hardly a ‘conclusion’ from his study of the evidence; it’s simply a well known worldview shared by most post-Enlightenment westerners… The depressing thing is that Hawking doesn’t seem to realize this and so hasn’t even stopped to think that there might be quite sophisticated critiques of Epicureanism, ancient and modern, which he should work through.  Not least the Christian one, which again focuses on Jesus.”

In conclusion, science should give the evidence for the existence of God a “fair shake.”  Yet it refuses to do so because of its pre-commitments, which is anything but an objective measuring of the empirical evidence.  It is not irrational to believe in God.  From the evidentiary cosmological arguments of the Anthropic Principle to the solid philosophical reasonings of First Cause, there is ample reason to believe in God.  Yes, we believe in God and His Word on the basis of faith, but such things illustrate that faith is not unintelligent.

Dr. Hawking stated that Christians are afraid of the darkness.  Given what you have just read, is it possibly more accurate to say he is afraid of the light?

 

Growing in the Word podcast: 5-15-11

Growing in the Word podcast: 5-15-11

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from May 15th, 2011.  Pastor Todd continues his series in the Gospel of Mark, looking at the healing of the paralytic.

The King James Only Controversy: Can I Trust Modern Bible Translations?

The King James Only Controversy: Can I Trust Modern Bible Translations?

Last week the King James Version of the Bible celebrated its 400th birthday.  At the time of its publishing, the KJV was the summum bonum of Bible translations in the English language.  Its style and scholarship stood above other translations and would stand for centuries as the standard translation used by English speakers all over the globe.  From time to time, I am asked about what is known as the “King James Only” controversy.  In short, there are some who believe that the only credible (some would say the only inspired) translation of the Bible is the KJV.  They claim that all modern English translations of the Bible, such as the NIV, NASB, etc. have been intentionally altered by the translators/editors to lead people away from true Christian faith and doctrine.

Space and time are limited for me to go very deep into these accusations, but suffice it to say they are arguments made without any objective study of the scholarship and textual scrutinization behind modern translations.  In addition, “KJV Only” proponents build their case on very broad based misunderstandings.  “They” is used to refer to all modern biblical scholars and translators who do not hold to their view and are thus attempting to delude readers.  There are certainly some translations of the Bible that do this- namely those produced by popular cults.  However, not “all” scholars and in turn not all translations are trying to deceive or be anything but faithful to the biblical text.

Let me take a moment and attempt to explain why I think modern English translations are credible, important, and necessary.  To do so, one must highlight the advantages of modern translations over the KJV.  Thus I want to make the caveat that I deeply respect the KJV and believe it to be a very fine translation.

In the last half of the sixteenth century in Great Britain, there had been no fewer than seven English translations made.  These included excellent works of scholarship by men such as Tyndale, Coverdale, and Whittingham.  By 1600, it was confusing as to which of these translations was the best one to use.  In 1604, King James I commissioned a committee of 50 scholars to translate the Bible from the original languages and to serve as the standard bearer for English translations.  The first edition was printed in 1611.

One of the editorial objectives listed by the translators in the preface of the KJV was to give a great variety of language usage in English.  This would turn out to be one of the “weaknesses” of the KJV.  Recall that these were the days of Shakespeare and a flourishing of English language and drama.  The KJV was not only an opportunity to create the benchmark of English translations; it was also the chance to put the eloquence and richness of the English language on display.  What this meant was that the KJV translators used a variety of different English words to translate the same Greek word even when it appeared in similar context.

For example, the Greek word “katargeo,” (generally translated “to destroy”) occurs 27 times in the N.T. However, it is rendered 18 different ways in the KJV: e.g. abolish, cease, cumber, deliver, destroy, do away, become of no effect, fail, loose, bring to naught, put away, vanish away, make void.  The opposite of this practice is also present in the KJV.  There are instances when different Greek words are translated with the same English word.  For example, the English word “trouble” is used to translate twelve different Greek words.  The English word “bring” is used to represent 39 different Hebrew words.

When I get into debates with KJV Only proponents, I am often told their Bible is uncorrupted because it is the original 1611 edition that hasn’t been touched by future editions or works of scholars.  However, that is false.  The history of the printing of the KJV is very interesting.  In 1611, there were two (some argue three) folio editions with 200 variations in the text.  One is the “He” edition and the other is the “She” edition involving the text of Ruth 3:15 that renders “he went into the city” and “she went into the city” respectively.  In 1611, English spelling had not been standardized (e.g. “speake” instead of “speak”) and thus numerous corrective editions were made.  Some changes were made in 1613.  The Cambridge versions of 1629 and 1638 tried to clear up a number of discrepancies.  By the mid eighteenth century, so many misprints and reprints of the KJV had been made it became something of a scandal in Britain.  Francis Sawyer Parris, a Cambridge scholar, issued a revision in 1760.  It is interesting to note the changes of his edition and the original in 1611.  For example, 1 Cor. 13:1-3 in the 1760 version has eleven changes of spelling, nine changes of typesetting, three changes of punctuation, and one variant text- the 1611 renders “not charity” in v.2 and is replaced with “no charity,” in the mistaken belief that the original reading was a misprint.

Finally in 1769, Oxford scholar Richard Blayney produced an edition that has rarely been changed to this day.  This edition serves as the text for most present day printings of the KJV.  Thus, if someone is holding a KJV Bible and claim it to be a 1611 edition, they are in all likelihood incorrect. The movement in contemporary versions started in 1885 with the printing of the Revised Version in England.  Its counterpart was the American Standard Version printed in 1901.

The importance of modern English translations compared to the KJV can be seen in the following areas:

New discoveries in biblical manuscripts

The manuscripts used by the KJV scholars were, in general, more than a thousand years removed from the originals.  What they were using had accumulated centuries of scribal error, though none of these errors were significant in terms of doctrine.  Today we have complete copies of the N.T. approximately 600 years older and fragments 900 years older than those possessed by KJV scholars.  In addition, the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were not discovered until 1947, are over a thousand years older than O.T. manuscripts used by KJV translators.  In essence, we have a significantly greater quantity of ancient texts (many place the number of texts available to KJV scholars around 500 compared to over 5,000 today) that are much older than those available to the KJV scholars.  Furthermore, the Greek version of the N.T. used in translating the KJV was by Erasmus (also known as the Textus Receptus, or Received Text), which the vast majority of scholars now believe to be corrupt and was a Byzantine text type, rather than Alexandrian, meaning it is not as old.

Improvements in scholarship

The last one hundred years alone has seen developments in understanding the language and grammar of the original languages.  This is due in part to the discovery of older manuscripts (mentioned above) and findings in archaeology.

Here is a good example of this point: 1 Sam. 8:16 in the KJV reads, “And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to work.”  In the NIV, the phrase “goodliest young men” is changed to the word “cattle.”  Why did the NIV translation team make this change?  The KJV team was using a newer Hebrew text while the NIV team was using an older Greek text of the O.T. (the Septuagint or LXX).  In Hebrew, the word translated “young men” is bhrykm.  The word translated “cattle” is bqrykm.  The difference in the words is very slight and is understandable for a scribe to make the error.  The older LXX renders the word for “cattle,” not “young men.”  Additionally, notice the couplets in 1 Sam. 8:16- menservants and maidservants; young men/cattle and asses.  “Cattle” obviously fits the couplet better than “young men” and so the NIV translators made the change.

Findings in Archaeology

Science today is unearthing records from long ago which continue to open windows in understanding the biblical text.  One example of this is found in Prov. 26:23.  The KJV renders this verse as, “Burning lips and a wicked heart are like a potsherd covered with silver dross.”  It seems odd that clay pottery would be covered with silver.  The phrase “silver dross” in Hebrew is kesef sigim. A discovery in modern times found a Ugaritic text containing the phrase kesef sigim with the usage “like glaze.”  Glaze, rather than silver, better fits the context of a coating for pottery.  Modern English translations translate the phrase “glaze.”

Changes in the English Language

The changes that have occurred in the English language from the time of 1611 to the present day are a significant reason for the importance of modern English translations.  The very heart of the Bible is revelation- to communicate to people God’s truth.  However, communication is hindered if the language is difficult to comprehend.   Simply stated, the English spoken in 1611 and the English spoken today (particularly in terms of vocabulary) are quite different.  For example: Ps. 119:147 in the KJV says that God “prevented the dawn of the morning.”  Is this like the miracle of nature when the sun stopped in Josh.10?  No, in 1611 the word “prevent” meant “precede.”

Some words and phrases in the KJV are obsolete and unintelligible to modern English speakers such as:

  • “And of the rest durst…”- Acts 5:13
  • “Churl”- Isa. 32:7
  • “Cieled”- Hag. 1:4
  • “Clouted upon their feet”- Josh. 9:5
  • “Collops”- Job. 15:27
  • “Wimples”- Isa. 3:22
  • “Sackbut”- Dan. 3:5
  • “Fanners”- Jer. 51:2
  • “Implead”- Acts 19:38
  • “Glistering”- Luke 9:29

Another problem of seventeenth century English is that same words or expressions can have completely different meanings.  For example, in Luke 19:3, the KJV says that Zaccheaus climbed into the tree to see Jesus because of “the press.”  Modern English speakers would read that as Zaccheaus having some problem with the news media and reporters that were on the scene.  However, the word in the day of the KJV meant “crowd.”  The KJV will also often use the word “charity” for “love” and “ghost” for “spirit.”

There can also be confusion in understanding English grammar and structure compared with today.  One almost humorous example is the KJV rendering of 1 Kings 13:27- “And he spake unto his sons, saying ‘Saddle me the ass. And they saddled him.”  One might be confused on exactly who was saddled.  The NASB renders the same verse as, “Then he spoke to his sons saying, ‘Saddle the donkey for me.’ And they saddled it.”

In conclusion, KJV Only proponents claim that modern English translations are man-made attempts at corrupting the true biblical text and promulgating false doctrine.  Many of the arguments made go so far as denigrating or even denying the existence of many of the ancient texts used to translate modern translations.  It is ironic that the preface to the original 1611 KJV written by the translators actually denies a great number of the things many KJV Only proponents affirm, namely:

  • The authority of Scripture is in the original autographs, not the KJV
  • The biblical authors were inspired, not the translators of the KJV
  • They did not condemn other translations and affirmed the value of Greek and Hebrew texts
  • They did not believe varying translations affected doctrine
  • They were not opposed to the future changing and editing of a translation

Yes, not all modern translations are helpful or accurate, and some are not even translations at all, such as paraphrases like The Living Bible.  But overall, modern English translations are a helpful tool for today’s disciple to read, study, and apply the Word of God.

If you are interested in further study, James White has written an excellent book about the topic of this post titled, “The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust the Modern Translations?”  You can see it here:

King James Only Controversy

Take Care of the Little Things

Take Care of the Little Things

I recently had a conversation with my oldest daughter who is ten that was very enlightening for me.  She told me that it hurt her feelings that I no longer sit on her bed and talk with her at bedtime.  This is something I used to do when she was smaller, where we would simply talk about random things or events of the day.  However, in the last year or so she has become a voracious reader.  So, I stopped our little bedtime talks thinking she would want to read instead.  After all, the content of those chats were rarely substantive.  I had no idea how important they were to her and that just a small amount of my attention communicated that she was important to me.  What I thought was inconsequential, she found very important.  My daughter reminded me that many times in life the seemingly simple and insignificant can be quite invaluable.

I was reminded of a story I have told before in a sermon about a man named Charlie Steinmetz. Charlie was a little person who was physically disabled; he was also a genius on the subject of electricity.  Steinmetz was the mastermind behind the massive turbines and generators that powered Henry Ford’s first automobile plant in Dearborn, Mich.  Thanks to Steinmetz, the cars began to roll off the assembly line and profits poured into Ford’s pockets.  All went smoothly for the first several months until suddenly everything shut down.  Mechanic after mechanic tried to fix the problem, but to no avail.  Finally, Ford called Steinmetz.  He showed up and went to work.  He fiddled with a few switches and a gauge or two.  He pushed a few buttons and messed with a few wires.  Then he threw the master switch and everything came back on.  In a few days, Steinmetz sent Ford a bill for $10,000.  Ford sent it back with a note attached that read, “Charlie, doesn’t it seem a little steep to charge me $10,000 for tinkering around with a few wires and switches?”  Steinmetz rewrote the bill and sent it back to Ford.  It read:

For tinkering around on the motors: $10.00;  For knowing where to tinker : $9,990.00.

What seemed mundane to Ford was actually of vital importance from Steinmetz’s perspective.  We need to remember this in life.  Those apparently mundane talks, fishing trips, and being at the ballgames/performances are of immense importance to your kids.  It’s the seemingly minor things that make marriages flourish.  It’s little things that often guard our hearts from straying away from the Lord and our time with Him.  Take inventory of your life and in the relationships you value the most: what you consider trivial, routine, or insignificant may well be extremely important things after all.

 

Growing in the Word podcast: 5-8-11

Growing in the Word podcast: 5-8-11

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from May 8th, 2011.  Pastor Todd continues his series in the Gospel of Mark.

Rejoicing and Grieving Over the Death of Bin Laden

Rejoicing and Grieving Over the Death of Bin Laden

I’m sure most of you were like me and stayed up into the wee hours of Sunday/Monday to watch the media coverage about the death of Osama Bin Laden.  As I watched the coverage, I wasn’t sure what I thought about the celebrations in front of the White House and at Ground Zero in NYC.  One wag on Twitter stated the celebrations “Make us look like a third world country or one with a really good soccer team.”  I was reminded of the images I saw of people in other countries celebrating the tragic events of 9/11.  It seems to me that we need balance in our response to the death of this man.  I have observed the social media feeds and seen many people expressing a very wide range of responses.

We cannot ignore the fact that Bin Laden was a mass murderer who killed thousands upon thousands of people in the evil name of religious abuse.  It is certainly a good thing that he will no longer be able to mastermind atrocities against humanity.  We must also remember the words of Rom. 13:4- “For he [governing authorities] is God’s servant for your good. But 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.”  Paul reminds us here that God has ordained government to carry out justice- something for which we should be very thankful.  Justice was certainly done Sunday night when Bin Laden was killed.  As someone said Sunday night, “We should celebrate justice, not death.”

On the other hand, I am concerned with the celebratory response of others to Bin Laden’s death.  One TV personality showed video of the celebrations in the streets and then said something to the effect of, “Is this what we do? We look like those celebrating after 9/11 handing out candy to children?  Are we not better than them?” At first I thought he was about to make a great point that we should rise above the behavior of those who oppose us.  Then he said, “You bet we’re better than them!”  He then brought on a marching band, confetti fell from the ceiling, and he handed out cookies.  Is this a right and biblical response to the death of someone?

Ezek. 33:11 states, “Say to them, ‘As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.’”  God does not rejoice over the death of the wicked.  It is God’s preference that the wicked repent of their sin and turn to Him.  Each of must remember that without Christ, our sin makes us no different than Bin Laden (in a spiritual sense) and as Christians it should burden us that another soul has perished without knowing and loving their Creator.

I drafted a statement in effort to strike a balanced and biblical approach to Bin Laden’s death that I posted on Facebook.  Many have told me it helped them articulate what they were feeling.  The statement is:

I am GRATEFUL the evil caused by OBL is gone (Prov. 11:10- “When the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness”).  I am GRIEVED he has entered hell (Luke 13:5- “But unless you repent, you will all likewise perish”).  I am HUMBLED that without Christ, my destination would be the same (John 3:16- “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”).

We should be thankful that one horrific source of the scourge of terrorism and religious abuse is no longer among us.  However, Jesus warned us in Luke 13:1-5 that the demise of others is always an opportunity for us to reflect on our own spiritual condition.  Instead of raucous celebration, perhaps we should think on Bin Laden and how we can make sure that evil and murderous thoughts, words, and deeds can be confessed to the Father and removed from our lives.  “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

 

Growing in the Word podcast: 5-1-11

Growing in the Word podcast: 5-1-11

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK on May 1st, 2011.