1. Assassination is not necessarily an ungodly tactic. Ehud was a righteous judge in Israel, and he was used by the Lord in the assassination of Eglon (Judg. 3:21). It is not to be condemned out of hand.
2. The biblical response to this kind of thing is not uniform. There is a sense in which we are to say that God does not delight in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 33:11), and that would include the death of this wicked man. Yet there is another sense (not contradictory, but in paradox), in which God delights to execute judgment in the earth. As believers, we do not privilege one over the other. We long for Him to judge the nations with equity (Ps. 98:9), and this means that some people are going down. Lest anyone say that this is an Old Testament mentality, I will just say that the only time in the New Testament when the saints say Hallelujah is when they are watching the smoke ascend from the ruins of Babylon. And so how do we reconcile this love of mercy and this longing for justice? To reapply a comment of Spurgeon’s, we don’t. There is no need to reconcile friends. God gave us two hands, and mercy goes in one and justice in the other, and we lift them both up to God. The judge of the whole earth will do right.
3. In moments such as this, secularism leaves us bereft of any appropriate response. If there is no God above us, who trains our Seals for battle (Ps. 144:1), then we are left with two options, both of them bad. We are left without an appropriate vocabulary for our victories. Either we get a glorying in American military prowess, of the chest bumping variety, which is just obnoxious — what Obama called spiking the football — or we mistreat our warriors the way David did after the defeat of Absalom. But the only real alternative is to give glory to God. But that turns it into a religious war, and the secularists can’t have that. So we are left with hubristic Americanism, or skulking home after the triumph. Gakk.
4. As military operations go, this one was exquisite. As PR follow-up operations go, this was a bumbling farce. Not only did Obama not spike the football, he laid it very gently on the ground and then tripped over it. Burying bin Laden at sea was nicely done, but apart from that, the management of the narrative post-assassination was the equivalent of 13 clowns tumbling out of a little car at the circus. For example, whatever could they have been thinking, deciding on the fly whether or not to release the photos?
5. A few on the hard left are being consistent, and are condemning the raid in much the same way they would have if Bush had given the order. But a large portion of the left has piped right down — despite the fact that Obama has extended the Patriot Act, continued the practice of rendition, kept Gitmo open, kept two wars in the Middle East going while piling into a third one, and topping it all off by deploying a Dick Cheney death squad team to wax Osama. Obama . . . we hardly knew ye.
6. We have had no shortage of Monday morning quarterbacks, from me to the Archbishop of Canterbury, not necessarily in that order. But all of us who weigh in with our opinions about this, from Chomsky to Sheryl Crowe, should be prepared to answer and fundamental question about this. The question is, “By what standard?” What laws, whether of men, gods, or God, govern this kind of thing? Without an answer to this question, all opinions are just aimless yelling and gesticulating at the scene after the men of action have come and gone. One of the bummers related to the triumph of secular thought is the realization that you cannot banish transcendent standards and still have them around. This is a drag because there are times when they would be handy, like now. And so the brick house of the way things actually are just sits there, and the little piggy of realpolitik is ensconced inside, and all the pundits of the world huff, and they puff, and they blow nothing down.
7. As I have written before, we must not allow our awareness of our own sinfulness, and the fact that all of us die as a result of that sin, to flatten the distinctions between sins. There is such a thing as great evil, and to recognize the fact is not the equivalent of denying that you yourself have sinned. A man can say, with the old Puritan watching a man being taken off to be deservedly executed, “There but for the grace of God go I,” without saying, “There am I, the grace of God notwithstanding.” Christians should be the last people to allow the grace of God to be used as an instrument to blur moral distinctions. When Paul tells us that the magistrate does not bear the sword for nothing, but rather wields it to whack evildoers (Rom. 13:4), he does not hasten to add that the Roman cops are actually, theologically speaking, evildoers themselves and so should hasten to fall on their own swords. As I say, he does not say that.