Jihad, Crusades, the City of God, and other thoughts on the death of Osama bin Laden

Some people are happy about Osama bin Laden’s death. Others are disgusted by it. It is distinctly Christian to be asking how we should feel. In his article posted today on the Christianity Today website, Michael Horton takes us back to Augustine’s City of God, written after the sacking of Rome, to help us consider this momentous historical event from a biblical perspective.

But ideas like “Christendom” die hard. We saw that with the memorial service after 9/11. Held in a building popularly known as the “National Cathedral,” with military honor guards processing and the strains of “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” announcements of a resolve to secure infinite justice in an open-ended “crusade” provided fodder for Islamic extremists in their effort to replay ancient battles. A romantic patriotism has always seethed beneath the professed separation of church and state, as in the famous “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Written by a Unitarian, the hymn confuses Union victory with Christ’s final judgment. Something very close to “infinite justice.”

Cultures are the most dangerous when they invoke holy texts for their defense of holy land through holy war. However, Christians have no biblical basis for doing this in the first place. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus clearly abrogated the ceremonial and civil law that God had given uniquely to the nation of Israel. Now is the era of common grace and common land, obeying rulers—even pagan ones—and living under constitutions other than the one that God gave through Moses. As Paul reminds us in Romans 13, secular rulers are given the power of the temporal sword—finite justice—while the gospel conquers in the power of the Spirit through that Word “above all earthly pow’rs.”

I am grateful for Dr. Horton’s timely article. Understanding the legitimate but finite limits of justice in the City of Man helps us honor those who protect us without gloating over our enemies. Meanwhile, our hope in the infinite justice to be realized in the City of God where every wrong in this world will be put right humbles us to delight all the more in God’s mercy and emboldens us to call others to find hope in Christ.

You can read the rest of the article here.

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About David Lee

I am the pastor of New Life Mission Church of Fremont meeting in Newark, CA. I live in Fremont with my wife and three children. In my former life I was a history teacher at Irvington High School in Fremont. I love watching and discussing movies (but not at the same time), playing board games, hiking, visiting local cafes, and watching and complaining about (at the same time) Bay Area sports.
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