Thursday, May 5, 2011

Archbishop Rowan Williams is "Uncomfortable" About bin Laden Killing

Tim Ross, writing in the Daily Telegraph, reports on Archbishop Rowan Williams' response to the US finally getting the terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden this week. Is he happy to see justice done? Is he glad that the terrorist organization has had its leadership decapitated? Do his thoughts immediately go out to the 9/11 victims and how they have suffered?

Well, no, actually. He equivocates in the most disgraceful manner and lets the enemy know that he can count on liberal, Western, religious leaders to bow and scrape before their intimidation.

Dr Rowan Williams warned that the shooting dead of the unarmed al-Qaeda leader meant justice was not "seen to be done".

The differing accounts of the American special forces' operation which have emerged from the White House since Monday "have not helped", he said.

At a press conference at Lambeth Palace, The Daily Telegraph asked Dr Williams whether he thought the US had been right to kill bin Laden.

After declining to respond initially, he later replied: “I think the killing of an unarmed man is always going to leave a very uncomfortable feeling, because it doesn’t look as if justice is seen to be done in those circumstances.

“I think it’s also true that the different versions of events that have emerged in recent days have not done a great deal to help here.

“I don’t know full details any more than anyone else does. But I do believe that in such circumstances when we are faced with someone who was manifestly a war criminal, in terms of the atrocities inflicted, it is important that justice is seen to be observed.”
This kind of servile self-loathing only encourages the fantasies of Islamists worldwide. This one decisive action taken by the US may save thousands of lives by making terrorists come to grips with reality, while all the liberal platitudes and posturing in the world by self-important religious leaders will only make things worse.

I don't know how justice could not be seen to have been served in this case. There must be some other reason why Williams is "uncomfortable." Maybe it is that every instance of capital punishment is a case of "killing an unarmed man." So, perhaps he is saying that he is against capital punishment for a bloodthirsty, fanatical, war criminal. Does he really think that society owes him room and board and lots of lawyers for the rest of his natural life after what he has done? He got exactly what he deserved.

I think Dr. Williams should worry more about why the Church of England is in such decline and why the Anglican Communion is falling apart and rather less about telling the government what to do.

When one reflects on the reaction of Europeans to this event, Americans must be able to understand now that it was not George W. Bush they hated - it was the free country he represented. If I were an American I would be wondering if it isn't time for Europeans to pay for their own national defense and why not bring American troops home.

And when one reflects on this kind of reaction, one can't help thinking that bin Laden was right about Europe but wrong about America when he made his famous "weak horse, strong horse" remarks.


NathanColquhoun said...

Dr Carter, while I generally enjoy your blog because I find it refreshing to read someone who has opposite views of myself but is quite a bit smarter than me, I find this post to be empty of grace, forgiveness and peace.

Craig Carter said...

I never have been able to understand what people see in Rowan Williams' thought. Whenever I criticize him, I get flak, but for the life of me I can't understand why.

What about his theology is even remotely attractive to you? I really would like to know; it is an honest question. I regard his theology as vastly over-rated and his leadership (both ecclesial and political) as a disaster. His political views are so utterly conventional and predictably secular left-wing that I fail to see how anybody could view them as radical or especially Christian. His theology is brilliant in its summary of other positions but utterly vague and even inarticulate when it comes to stating his conclusions and convictions. If I could understand what about him is viewed as admirable, perhaps I could gain some appreciation for something about his words and actions.

NathanColquhoun said...

Dr Carter, I wasn't even promoting him or saying I like his theology, I don't even know it, all I know is what you quoted. I was just thrown off by your strong way of disagreeing with someone. I don't see how you can take someone's compassion toward victim's of violence (even if it is Osama), and even after reading your previous post on how we should react, and turn it into that person being self-loathing, telling the government what to do and questioning his compassion toward 9/11 victims. I just don't see how he was saying anything you said he was saying. I posted recently a list of articles that have stood out to me in terms of a proper way to view and understand Osama's death.

These articles, much more than yours, seem more conscious of a bigger problem of evil in the world and understanding that the killing of one evil man isn't even something to find "sober satisfaction" in, it's something to grieve as we still await some real satisfaction.

Gregarious said...

Since Osama's execution does not engender "real satisfaction" what would constitute "real satifaction" when it comes to Osama? I wonder if you can give an orthodox answer to the question.

It disgusts me that you could even consider the notion that Osama was a victim of violence! (Unless of course you mean his own violence, as Carter has said, but you clearly don't.) The fact that you're blinded to Western liberalism's self-loathing is telling. All you should have to do is reread the articles you've posted links to to be face-to-face with it.

Your problem is that you want a theocracy. You want the so-called Christian ethics of non-violence to determine how the state should function.

Who should show this "grace, forgiveness and peace" you speak of? Dr. Carter certainly showed grace in his post, since he could have easily been much stronger in his condemnation of William's perverse and pernicious teaching. But why should Carter show "forgiveness and peace?" Williams has not repented of his false teaching nor is Carter personally injured by Williams. So it is not within Carter's power or right to grant forgiveness. In fact, to do so would itself be a grievous error by making himself out to be God. But neither can God forgive Williams until he confesses and repents. What about "peace?" How has Carter not been peaceful? Attacking with the pen (or keyboard?) was so ruthless and wreckless of Carter, wasn't it?

Or maybe you have in mind that it's really the US government that should have shown "grace, forgiveness and peace" to Osama bin Lucifer? If so, there's your theocracy showing its lovely head again. The problem then is which divine law are you thinking should be instituted? Well, I'm guessing it's not the law of "you shall show no pity" which God established in the Torah for all those found guilty of murder.

The real issue is with "real satisfaction," though.

I say, "Cheers to the death of Osama! I hope he rots in Hell!"

Oh wait, to you he's probably not even in Hell.

In spite of Bell's horrendous perversion of Scripture, I echo Driscoll's summation: "Justice wins!"

NathanColquhoun said...


This will mostly be a response to your comment, so excuse the all over the placeness.

Real satisfaction, I'm assuming this is about the only thing we can agree on, and it probably has something to do with vengeance in God's hands and not our own, Jesus on the cross and his ressurection. Our enemies being killed? Not so much. I'm sorry you are disgusted of my sympathy towards that man. I have lots. He was a victim as much as all of us and I mourn his death as I mourn anyone else's I do not know.

I still do not understand the reference to self-loathing.

I do not care how the state should function, at no point do I mention or comment about my convictions in hopes that the state does what I want or acts. This is a Christian blog speaking to Christians. However, I do think that as Christians we can have feelings towards actions of the state, and I was unimpressed with Dr. Carter's (and now yours) response to the death of Osama. This has nothing to do with how the state acts or does not act, all about how we act.

Who should show this grace, forgiveness and peace? You, me and Dr. Carter. Just because you restrain yourself from condemnation does not mean you are showing grace. Also, maybe I misread you, but it came across as if we only have a duty to forgive if someone requests it?

Speaking about the violence and death as if it is "justice" is not peaceful.

I don't know why you say things like "maybe you have in mind" and then proceed to critisize something I didn't say but that which you assume I would think or say.

While you cheers the death of your enemy, I will do my best to love them and refuse to rejoice in their slaughter.

Craig Carter said...

You seem to be personalizing the relationship between you and bin Laden and assuming that you are responsible for killing him or not killing him. You also seem to be assuming that there is no difference between you as a private citizen killing someone who annoys you and the State killing aggressors in war. You also seem to be assuming that the issue is revenge. I think all these assumptions are theocratic thinking and invalid.

What happened to bin Laden was justice not revenge. He died in a war he started and his war was unjust. The defensive war by the US in response to the Islamist aggression was, on the other hand, just.

Secondly, it is the responsibility of the State to punish war criminals like bin Laden. If the US government did not punish bin Laden and defend justice and the innocent from his attacks, it would be neglecting the duty God has given it. (Rom. 13)

Thirdly, the Christian Church is not identical with the secular State. The State has responsibilities the Church does not have. A Christian is both a Church member and a citizen. As a citizen, a Christian must approve of the actions of the State when it acts justly and criticize it when it acts unjustly.

I think you are criticizing people (Christian citizens)for simply doing their civic duty and asking for the State to stop enforcing justice and being grateful when it does. Maybe you would view it differently if the police stood by while your wife was raped and beaten. Maybe then you would agree that the State has a duty to defend justice and restrain evildoers even if force was necessary.

If you still in that situation did not want the State to use force, then you have basically assumed a separatist stance like the Amish and that is your choice. But then you would be highly inconsistent (and anti-biblical) to try to tell the State not to protect others.

NathanColquhoun said...

Dr. Carter.

I don't feel like I'm personalizing my relationship with him anymore than I would personalize my relationship with Ghandi, Hitler, Johnny Cash or Princess Diana. I don't know them, I don't care to and I certainly don't hold myself responsible. I do have empathy for the situation/family and the entire state that the world is in that these systems and sin creates men like him.

I do not make the same separation as you do between how I think the government should act and how I should act. I think the responsibility is the same, since the government is just a representation of a group of people (and it's not a representation of only Christians), and I think people should be non-violent, so I think governments should be non-violent. I don't see the death of Osama as revenge, but I don't see it as justice either, I see it as a repetitive cycle of death that I do not promote or believe in. And if you allow for my responsibility as a Christian to critisize the state when they act unjustly, then I think i can critisize the state when they act in violence, since I think all violence is unjust.

I see your reference to Romans 13, but that's not sufficient enough proof to suggest that the responsibility of government is to punish as you suggest, especially since Bush hasn't been punished yet and there are plenty of governments all over the world that would love to punish him and consider him a war criminal. I feel like you are saying that everything that the state does is good and just because God established them. I do not see what they do (most of the time) as good and just at all.

The state only protects their own. I think the state should protect all but no state is like this, so I do not depend on any state to uphold this freedom for me and I do not depend on the state to enforce justice, as I do not think justice can be enforced. Justice only comes at the hand of God through death, not the state using force to kill a bad guy.

Craig Carter said...

It is a very serious thing to say that the State does not have the duty to punish those who do evil and reward those who do good in a fallen world. This is the consensus of all Christian orthodoxy in all ages and places (and the teaching of both Testaments). Essentially, you have taken a fanatical position outside the mainstream of Christianity alongside such tragic figures as Peter the Hermit and Thomas Muntzer.

You may cherry pick certain verses of Scripture to support your radicalism but your interpretation of those verses (such as the Sermon on the Mount) cannot be reconciled with other teachings of Scripture, which means that you cannot affirm the authority of Scripture as a whole - which means you have assumed a stance of authority over the Word of God. No interpretation of any verse is true which brings that verse into contradiction with other teachings of Scripture. This is a basic principle of hermeneutics in mainstream Christianity.

Nonviolence has assumed the central place your hermeneutic, a place which only Christ should occupy. I am sorry if I previously led you and others to think such a position was viable, but I never taught that pacifism was the master teaching that all other doctrines must be revised by. And I never taught that a secular State like the Roman Empire or the US should be pacifist in a fallen world.

As for your remarks about President Bush, I can't believe you accused me of being uncharitable toward Rowan Williams only to slander and slam an honest and sincere man who did what he thought was best under very trying times. Calling him a war criminal is to lose all sense of proportion and to fail to discriminate morally between good, bad and worst.

As for lot's of "governments" all over the world wanting to punish Bush, you need to realize that many of those same people want to kill you too. It's easy and cheap to slam the person who, in the Providence of God, makes it possible for you to sleep safely at night.

And as for the word "Justice," I don't think it means anything like the same for you as it means for me. Actually, I don't think you could give a consistent definition of it that fits all the varying ways you use it.

NathanColquhoun said...

Dr Carter,

Serious or not, I'm positive I'm not alone with a view like mine, and I still hold it because I do not see how anything you have said (nor proven) would have me believe otherwise. Please don't cherry pick the words that I am saying and reduce my view on one theology to a poor view on scripture as a whole. Teach me where I'm wrong, I'm open to correction, don't just tell me where my view leads without any direction of how I am mislead.

Your last comment was empty of any conversation at all. You didn't teach me anything, you didn't correct me at all, you didn't help me understand your view at all. You told me I was outside of Christianity, that I think non-violence is more important than Christ, that I am failing to discriminate between good and bad, that i took a way that was easy and cheap and that I am unable to give you definitions of words.

Give a guy a break. Converse with me a bit. Stop trying to pigeonhole me into your categories and see me as someone who is trying to understand the world as best as he knows how in light of Jesus. I recognize you are more intelligent than me, but you are condescending at best and far from the teacher that you should be. So maybe rewrite your last comment and talk to me like I'm your student and try to help me understand what your saying and where I'm mislead.

Craig Carter said...

I'm not trying to be condescending at all; I really am concerned for you as a brother.

You ask me to argue, but when I pointed out Romans 13 you just dismissed it. To interpret the Sermon on the Mount as applying to government makes it contradict Rom. 13. So how can God's Word contradict itself?

I'm really not trying to pigeonhole you in my categories; I'm trying to get you to face up to the true implications of what you are saying. It isn't about what I believe; it is about objective reality and truth. The truth is not necessarily identical with what either of us believes, but it is above us and it exists objectively. Our task is to seek it like pilgrims and not to reject the bits of it we manage to find.

Let's talk about justice. The classical definition of justice common in the ancient world (held by Greek philosophy, Roman lawyers and political theorists and by the authors of the NT) is receiving what one is owed. If I owe you money and I pay it that it justice. If I owe you respect and don't respect you, that is injustice. It is all about what you and I (and God) deserves. We owe God worship; this is the assumption that makes Rom.1 make sense, for example. They recognized God, but did not worship him - that is the basic sin for Paul.

Now this concept of justice makes the Gospel really good news. We deserve punishment, but God offers eternal life and rescue from punishment to all who believe on His name. (Jn. 1:12).

If justice is not assumed, the Gospel is obscured and becomes trivial. In much of Liberal Protestantism there is no belief in Divine wrath or in hell, so the Gospel is rather trivial and boring: God loves you, He loves everybody, that is His job. That is not the Christian Gospel. The Gospel is that while we were still sinners, (with all that implies about God wrath etc.) Christ died for us.

Now the modern use of justice in the social justice movement, inspired by Marxist thinking, redefines justice to mean that everybody deserves the same: equality. So what is the problem with that? Well, if I work hard and earn an income, I deserve my pay. But if I choose to sponge off others, I don't deserve any pay. Marxism says the reason we must redistribute wealth is that the poor deserve the same as the rich, the not-so-talented deserve the same as the highly-talented and the idle deserve the same as the hard working. They still use the terms "deserve" and "justice" but there has been a radical re-definition of the meanings of those terms. Justice becomes "entitlement" instead of desert and these are two different things. If you are entitled you don't have to merit or earn it.

(continued in next comment)

Craig Carter said...

Marxism corrodes the Christian message insofar as Christians accept its teachings because it rejects private property, justice as getting what you are owed and the idea that charity is the answer to the problem of poverty. Charity is anathema to Marxists because it the complementary concept to justice. Justice is what we are owed, what we deserve, but charity is getting what we don't deserve and are not owed.

Justice is a fundamental element of reality that Marxists want to redefine out of existence and once this is done on the human level it soon is applied to the Divine level. If we are all entitled to have the government take money from hard-working people and give it to us even if we are lazy and selfish, then God must owe us salvation too. No, it is not logical but this is how many people think.

Christians believe in helping the poor so Marxism is not morally superior at that point. Marxism claims to be morally superior because it claims the poor are entitled. But, in fact, the poor are not entitled and neither are sinners like us.

There is an analogy between God's justice and our's. We are to imitate God. But we can't imitate God by showing grace and mercy to the poor just as He has shown grace and mercy to us when we think the poor are entitled to our charity without meriting it. The analogy breaks down. Then we consider ourselves entitled to Divine favor and salvation. The Gospel is destroyed.

bin Laden deserves punishment and that is what he got from the State. This is true to the Christian worldview. If bin Laden had repented of his sin and trusted Christ for salvation, he could have become a Christian brother. But if you don't believe bin Laden deserved what he got, then you don't have a Gospel of free grace to share with people like him. Jesus did not die for us because we are entitled. It was sheer grace. Without the traditional definition of justice, there can be no grace.

NathanColquhoun said...

Dr, Carter, thanks for this last comment, better helps me understand what you are saying.

I didn't feel like I was arguing for Marxism, or even a specific definition of justice. I didn't mean to dismiss Romans 13, but you just "pointed" to it and I just said I don't see how pointing to a chapter in Romans proves that God gave governments the responsibility to kill people. Is this what you are extracting from the text? I certainly don't see it that way, so maybe you can explain that better?

I don't have too many problems with your definition of justice, my problems would lie more with what you imply this definition of justice means. So justice is the fact that God offers us eternal life (rescue from punishment) even when we deserve punishment. I can agree with this.

However, I don't see death by the hands of government as "punishment" like you seem to see it, just as I don't see the disciples martyrdome as punishment but as being put to death by someone. This is the connection that I don't understand that you are making. You seem to say that justice is not recieving the punishment that we deserve, but what happens to the people who believe in his name that recieve the same punishment as those that do not? This is why I don't that Osama's death has anything to do with justice.

Of course I believe Bin laden deserved what he got, technically, we all did or do now deserve to be killed. I don't think this is are argument. I think are argument is more "how should we then act now that another man has been killed." Do we rejoice? Or is the Christian to respond differently? My argument is more how we should respond rather than arguing about if justice was realized in his death. According to your view, which I find contradictory right now, when anyone dies justice is realized. I'm just not sure what to do with your view when a Christian dies? Is justice realized then? Maybe I'm missing something?

Craig Carter said...

OK, let's take your questions one by one.

First, Rom. 13:1-7 specifically says that God has ordained human government in a fallen world to use the sword (symbolizing coercion) to punish evil deeds and reward the good. This is God's common grace that is not in any way sufficient for salvation, but it does allow for society to survive without degenerating into chaos and anarchy. Canada is relatively stable and Somalia is not. This is a result of human government working well in Canada and not in Somalia. I'm glad we have a relatively just government.

Second, there are just and unjust governments and almost all governments commit both just and unjust acts. We need to be able to differentiate between just and unjust acts: otherwise we slide from civilization into barbarism. It is just for the government to execute the murderer but not just for the government to kill a person just for being a Christian. Justice and injustice correspond to good and evil. What bin Laden's death has to do with justice is that he received the just punishment for his murderous deeds. If the government punished you or me when we never murdered anyone, that would be unjust.

Third, I have to sharply contradict you when you say that we all deserve to be killed by the government. Some are innocent of murder and some are guilty of it. Now, we are all under Divine wrath, but the government only deals with external deeds in this life, but God judges the heart for eternity. We have to keep God and the government separate. (If you meant that we all deserve death from God, I agree. But that is different than what we deserve from the government. Not all sins are crimes.)

However, there is an analogy between Divine and Human justice. In any analogy (a technical theological term) there is always more difference than similarity. Nevertheless there is a similarity and it is the task of theological reason and exegesis to find that similarity.

The similarity is that the State is supposed to be submitted to good and evil, just as God is good and rejects evil. Of course in a fallen world, the State is never perfect. But the old USSR was an awful lot more imperfect than the USA. The Roman Empire under Nero was much more evil than the Roman Empire under Constantine.

Fourth, "when someone dies" is not the same as "when someone kills." What we are talking about is whether or not the government has the authority to kill the murderer for his crime. If the State does have that authority that emphatically does not mean it has the right or authority to kill anybody anytime. If someone does not get what he deserves from the State (ie. is punished for a crime he did not commit) then that is unjust.

When an Islamic court or government orders a woman to be stoned because she was raped, that is unjust. But when a mass murderer is executed by the State (whether Islamic, Western or other) that is just.

When there is a war and one soldier kills another that is not murder. Not all killing is murder and it is murder that is forbidden in Scripture, not killing in general.

I'm simply arguing that there is a meaningful difference between good and evil, right and wrong, and justice and injustice. While human justice is never perfect, there are varying degrees of just States depending on how closely they approximate God's Divine law written into creation. Just because all states are imperfect that does not mean they are all the same. Phil Kessel and I may both be imperfect hockey players, but that does not mean that I deserve to be on the Leafs just as much as he does.

NathanColquhoun said...

OK, this helps me a lot more, thanks for this comment. I can even buy into the role of the government, I don't see this being problematic.

My problem lies still though with the response of Christians to the death of this man? Should it be that of rejoicing that (human) justice has been served? I think this is why I left my initial comment, the way you speak comes across as joyous because this man was killed. I just don't understand that attitude towards the whole situation.

Craig Carter said...

Why be glad that bin Laden has been killed in a dramatic raid by the US military?

How about this for a reason: it may stop some young men from joining the Jihad and blowing up an innocent young couple and their 3 year old in a future attack in Washington or Ottawa or London or New York.

Right now there are gullible, young men in London, New York, Toronto, Islamabad, Cairo and many other places being recruited and indoctrinated by fire-breathing, anti-Western, Muslim clerics who are filling their heads with visions of the fall of the corrupt, decadent West and the establishment of a Global Caliphate. These young men are teetering between falling in with Jihad or pulling back and living a normal, middle-class life. The Jihadists need constantly to convince new recruits that they can win and the cause is strong.

This is a lot harder when the iconic and spiritual leader of the Jihad has a Navy Seal bullet in his brain and has become shark food.

A friend of mine recently visited a large Ghanian Baptist church in innner-city London, England and the pastor, in response to a question about what is his biggest challenge, replied: recruitment by Muslim agitators and inciters of violence.

If the bin Laden killing slows down the rate of recruitment of young men, such as the ones who bombed the London subway on 7/7, it will save lives. We will never know how many. But we do know that if a terrorist mastermind can get away with murder just by moving to Pakistan, then we will never overcome this scourge.

Stopping the next bombing of innocent civilians is a cause I can get behind.

NathanColquhoun said...

I understand why I might feel joy about those things you are mentioning, but I still don't think it's a valid response for Christians. No where do I see in scriptures the suggestion to rejoice when our enemy falls (in fact, it says the opposite). I'm told to love my enemy. I'm told to have all the opposite reactions as you are suggesting. So while you might be able to point to some good that comes out of his death, I don't think that makes his death good, nor do I think that it calls for rejoicing on our part.

NathanColquhoun said...

Dr. Carter, I'm wondering if you can respond to my last comment?