Don Carson presented four lengthy lectures at Oak Hill Theological College in 2001 before September 11.
Shortly after that, he turned those lectures into the book Love in Hard Places (Wheaton: Crossway, 2002).
TGC hosts a free PDF of the entire book.
Carson updated his notes after 9/11 to include a 37-page section entitled “Hard Case Two: Osama bin Laden” (pp. 108-44).
Here’s an outline:
- It may be helpful, first of all, to reflect on pacifism and “just war” theory in the light of the biblical commands to love and forgive.
- On the other hand, all war, even just war, is never more than rough justice. Even the just war is prosecuted by sinners, and so injustices will occur.
- Several other factors are often thrown into the debate about how we should respond to Osama bin Laden and other terrorists.
- Historically, wars have changed their form from time to time, generating fresh discussion about just war theory. It is time to begin this process again.
- As with racism, so here: Christians need to reflect on how some of the fundamentals of the faith bear on just war.
- One more theological reflection is relevant to the concerns of these lectures. Complex discussions about justice, forgiveness, enemies, and just war theory may entice us to forget that they were all precipitated by the effort to think exegetically and theologically about love.
Therefore, in the present struggle, even while we must try to prevent the terrorists from doing more violence, we must eschew a vendetta mentality. Love demands that we do not demonize Osama bin Laden. He is a human being made in the image of God. He is an evil man, and he must be stopped, but he is a man, and we should take no pleasure in destroying him. Vengeance is the Lord’s alone. Do not offer the alternative, “Should we weep for Osama bin Laden or hold him to account for his genocide and prevent him from carrying out his violent intentions?” The right answer is yes.