Osama Bin Laden: Heaven and Hell Questions

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Osama Bin Laden: Heaven and Hell Questions

Here is Christian Post’s accurate and fairly detailed report of a talk I gave on campusfor those who might have continuing questions about my “orthodoxy” regarding heaven and hell.

Richard Mouw: Osama bin Laden Is in Hell
By Katherine T. Phan | Christian Post Reporter

Dr. Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, spoke for the first time this week on the death of Osama bin Laden, saying he believes bin Laden is in hell for being one of the “unrepentant wicked.”

His comments were delivered Wednesday during a discussion on Christian responses to bin Laden’s death at the seminary’s Pasadena campus. Mouw called the event an “important time for communal discernment and pastoral theological reflection.”

Speaking about the issue of heaven and hell as it relates to the al-Qaida leader’s death, Mouw said he couldn’t avoid the “Rob Bell discussion.” In March, the Fuller president had written a commentary defending Bell’s view on hell, saying he didn’t think the Love Wins author to be a universalist.

Following bin Laden’s death, someone called Mouw and asked, “So do you think Osama bin Laden went to hell?”

“I want to say yes,” said the evangelical leader during the discussion Wednesday. “Article 10 of the Fuller Statement of Faith says, ‘the wicked shall in the end be eternally separated from God.’”

“So far as Osama bin Laden is one of the wicked and one of the unrepentant wicked, I believe he is condemned to an eternity apart from God,” he stated.

Further exploring the topic, Mouw reflected on a “hypothetical” thought experiment regarding bin Laden’s salvation that was painted by Bethel Seminary professor Karl Roberts in an article entitled, “Is Osama bin Laden in Heaven?”

In the May 9 piece, Roberts pondered on whether the terrorist would have entered eternity if on the day prior to his death, bin Laden had found a copy of the New Testament, read it, repented of his sins, and trusted Christ for his salvation.

Mouw admitted it was a “wacky scenario” but arrived at the same conclusion as Roberts: Yes, bin Laden would be in heaven. He then quoted a line from the hymn, “To God Be the Glory,” stating, “The vilest offender who truly believes / that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.”

“Do you really believe that?” the Fuller president challenged the audience, “That if Osama bin laden had bound before the cross of Jesus Christ 10 minutes before he died, repented of his sins and acknowledged there is only one name under heaven that could save him, at that very moment he would have received a pardon for all of his sins.”

“That’s an amazing thing,” said Mouw. “I believe that with all my heart but I got to say that I have problems with it with all my mind and with all my emotion.”

Bin Laden was killed May 1 in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, by Navy SEALs. In a late night announcement that night, Obama told the American people that justice was done. It has been nearly 10 years since terrorists hijacked planes and killed nearly 3,000 people in the U.S. Bin Laden claimed responsibility for the 9/11 attacks.

During Wednesday’s discussion, Mouw offered his personal reflections on bin Laden’s death, saying his reaction to Obama’s announcement was that it was “good news.”

He said he was disturbed by Christian responses from one end of the spectrum saying that people should not rejoice in the news of bin Laden’s death and instead speak out against those who are in great jubilation over his death.

“It struck me as kind of weird response, kind of a cranky response,” Mouw shared.

Though he wasn’t happy with the “super patriotic” response that included people shouting “USA! USA!” Mouw said he didn’t think Americans should declare it as a day of mourning ether. He called the response of jubilation “legitimate” and an indication of a “deep desire for justice.”

“I think it was appropriate to feel something on that occasion. I was more toward jubilation than toward mourning,” he said.

Mouw related the response to bin Laden’s death to that of Holocaust survivors after the Second World War and to those who toppled over Saddam Hussein’s statue following the demise of his regime.

“I think there is a deep desire for justice that can be so easily be distorted in an illegitimate, perverted sense of vengeance and super patriotism. It is a deep desire for justice. ”

“I think we were seeing a sense of satisfaction that ‘Yes, President Obama we are with you and this is a good outcome of something we have been long been stressed about and something we’ve been long fearful of.”

Other reflections covered by Mouw in his talk included how Christians pursue just war theory or just peace-making when it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish who the enemies are and how Christian-Muslim or Muslim-U.S. relations can be improved now that a symbol of terror associated with Muslims is gone.

For those in theological education, Mouw asked them to reflect upon the soteriological and eschatological aspects of bin Laden’s death.

On the issue of soteriology and capital punishment, Mouw said: “The killing of Osama bin Laden did not atone for his sin. There is only one death that can atone for his sin and that’s the death that took place on the cross in Calvary.”

“Because we know that, we don’t have to thirst for that kind of satisfaction. That satisfaction has already occurred through the cross of Jesus Christ,” he stated.

On the issue of eschatology, Mouw affirmed that “things won’t be made right until the return of Jesus Christ” and called upon Christians to “live in the anticipation, in hope of his coming and be agents of peacemaking and working toward justice here in a world [that] desperately needs for the savior to come.”

Glen Stassen, the Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics, also provided some brief comments on bin Laden’s death, suggesting some nonviolent just peacemaking initiatives that U.S. and international governments can do to decrease the recruiting of terrorists worldwide.

7 Comments »

  1. Good to hear this. Bin Laden’s death was no cause for celebration for me but a moment to reflect on the future of Muslim-Christian dialogue. However, I too was struck with some of the weird Christian responses out there. Christ’s command to love one’s enemies is seriously transformational. And difficult…

    Comment by James Kim — May 13, 2011 @ 6:45 pm


  2. Thanks for posting this. I agree that the unrepentant wicked will be separated from God eternally. Of course, compared to God, all humans are wicked. At the same time, I agree that Osama could be in Heaven if he repented and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ before his death.

    As for those who rejoiced at Osama’s death, I made the following comment that day:

    “I am thankful for justice, but I do not rejoice in vengeance.”

    I think it is useful to clarify the focus of our rejoicing. Otherwise vindictive vengeance can sneak in disguised as justice. Indeed, God “takes no pleasure in the death of the wicket” (Ezekiel 33:11).

    Comment by Jeff Bjorck — May 14, 2011 @ 3:16 pm


  3. In the sight of God all are imperfect beings–some more than others. God wants all His sheep to be found. He does not wish that any should be lost. Why would God create beings and later destroy them? His mercy is too great for such vengence. “Walking All Over God’s Heaven,” published shortly before Rob Bell’s book, “Love Wins” includes this theme.

    Check it out on the above website

    Comment by Richard Roukema — May 16, 2011 @ 1:11 pm

  4. nice

    Comment by sagar — May 17, 2011 @ 5:34 am

  5. Just within the last week, I have been considering attending Fuller, looking through the website and found Dr. Mouw’s personal blog. I read what he had written about Rob Bell and, curious, got the book Love Wins anre read it. As I understand Bell, he would say that God is even now reaching out to Osama Bin Laden and that it would be up to Bin Laden to begin a long and difficult journey of transformation back to God. The basis of God’s continued reaching is the cross through which God is presently reconciling and redeeming all of creation — including Bin Laden.

    I remember reading in one of Ray Anderson’s books that someone once asked Karl Barth if he believed God was ultimately going to save everyone to which Barth responded, “Would you be mad at Him if He did?”

    I would not be angry with God if He ultimately found a way to reconcile all people to Himself through the cross — I would rejoice. I am after all a sinner saved by grace and I pray that God’s call to grace and mercy does not end when this life ends — but I believe the dangerous freedom God allows every person leaves room for ultimate choices and that there are ultimate consequences. I believe in the “in-between” time of heaven and hell, the resurrection of all people and the second death for those “not found in the Lamb’s book of life.” I believe in the ultimate annihalation of hell and death themselves in the great “garbage dump” following the final judgment. If God can save Bin Laden still, blessed be the name of the Lord. But if Bin Laden can never be saved, I will rejoice in the judgment that comes in the form of the second and final death.

    I appreciate the opportunity for reflection and discussion on these challenging issues. Tammy Kawashima

    Comment by Tammy Kawashima — May 19, 2011 @ 10:34 am

  6. however, what is so often forgotten is that the Lord Almighty does not automatically accept and approve of any person’s “supposed repentance” – he doesn’t need to and he is never forced to accept the “day before” belief of Osama – therefore, we don’t know that one is saved simply because one says “I believe” – a struggling believer in God, ron r

    Comment by ronald l redder — June 24, 2011 @ 8:45 am


  7. Looking forward to reading more. Great article.Much thanks again. Much obliged.

    Comment by Stephan Funderburg — January 4, 2012 @ 10:57 am

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