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Can We Understand Rev. Knodel?

  • Greg Welty,
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Letter to the Editor: Comments on "Can We Understand Osama?" by Rev. R. E. Knodel, Jr.

I hope you won't take this the wrong way, but this article seems terribly confused at best, and mostly irrelevant to the present crisis!

Knodel's main point seems to be that the US State Department doesn't understand bin Laden. The "ultimate solution" to this crisis is an evangelistic one of preaching to the Muslims that (1) they lost out to the Jews on God's original blessing, but that (2) they can regain God's blessing by being grafted into the New Covenant.

Well, I'm sorry, but preaching the gospel does not constitute national defense! Six thousand civilians were cruelly murdered at the behest of this man and his pan-national terrorist network, a network most likely funded by foreign states. While the ultimate spiritual solution to the existence of criminals is their conversion to Christ, this has little to do with a policy of defending oneself from the activities of present criminals. On Knodel's logic, the US should disband its domestic police force, state by state, since apprehending criminals and deterring crime by force is "confused" and not an "ultimate solution." After all, there will always be more criminals. Rather, all policemen and military forces should turn into gospel preachers.

The fundamental confusions of the article are these:

[1] The idea that the US State Department is trying to pursue an "ultimate solution" to this crisis. Despite some early bluster from President Bush, no one seriously thinks that the US is going to destroy all terrorists for all time. Rather, the goal is to disrupt and destroy present terrorist networks, in order to greatly reduce the threat to US security. What does preaching the gospel have to do with that? And why does it have to be an either/or situation? Why can't American churches, and churches around the world, continue their witness to the Muslim world, while at the same time the US government devote itself to national security? Why does one goal have to be replaced by the other? Why is the one goal essentially confused, while the other has the exclusive stamp of Biblical approval?

[2] The idea that Islam can be identified with Ishmaelites. How insulting to and ignorant of the ethnic diversity of Muslims across the world. Are all Arabs Muslims? Are all American Muslims Ishmaelites? This equation doesn't make any sense, though it's convenient for a quick-and-easy "Biblical" solution to the problem.

[3] According to Knodel, bin Laden's greatest problem is that he doesn't understand covenant theology, not that he's a sinner. Knodel never mentions this once! What an insult to the thousands who died! Are terrorists murderous thugs who need to be apprehended by the government? Do terrorist networks that have shown both a willingness and an ability to murder US citizens on a vast scale need to be disrupted and destroyed? Knodel doesn't tell us.

Just a few comments on some specific statements in the article:

"This angers Bin Laden too, because he says, 'That's our oil and land, not yours!' So he interprets it as a commercial and political trespass as well as a religious one!"

When has bin Laden spoken of our presence in commercial and political terms? It is always religious.

"But his basic complaint is simply that we're desecrating holy ground. Simple and yet so complex. We have been told this by neither our media nor government."

First, if neither media nor government has divulged this, then where did Knodel get his exclusive info from? Second, the claim is just false. Every newspaper in the world has coverage of bin Laden's videos and interviews where he explicitly frames the issue in terms of "desecrating holy ground"! This "basic complaint" has been aired in the news ad nauseam.

"But the Saudi Royal Family would not let him lead the defense of their land. He was poised to bring a mujahedeen army from Afghanistan to defend Saudi Arabia. But instead, the royal family invited the infidels (read USA) in to defend them."

US military presence in Saudi Arabia dates from 1946, not the 1990s!

"Our government's greatest mistake is trying to solve this problem in an atheistic, secular manner. Whatever force is now needed, the ultimate solution will come through reassessing our approach! Bin Laden himself admits that Islam's problem with the Jews goes 'way back.'"

What is Knodel's policy on mafia-style executions and hitmen? Are they crimes? If I hire a hitman to take out Knodel's entire family, and then announce I have several other families on my list, would his "solution" be to ask the government to preach the gospel to me? Or would it be to ask the government to use all necessary force to apprehend me and utterly deprive me of my ability to repeat my attacks?

The point is that it is not a "mistake" for government to seek to protect the lives of its citizens by force. What in the world is Romans 13:4 all about? The "greatest mistake" is rather to criticize the government for not laying down the sword and preaching the gospel to Muslims instead. It's as if Knodel wants the US government to abandon its God-given role, and do something else instead.

Again, Knodel's reference to an "ultimate solution" is a non sequitur. What government (besides Nazi Germany) tells its citizens it has an "ultimate solution" at hand for the world's problems? Of course the conversion of sinners through the preaching of the gospel is the ultimate solution to all of mankind's ills. But how is that relevant at all to how the government should proceed in this case?

It is grounded in the fraternal jealousy of Ishmael (Abraham's son of faithlessness through his slave Hagar who became the father of the Arabic tribes and nations!) for Isaac (Abraham's son of faith, through his wife Sarah, and ultimately the father of the twelve tribes of Israel through his son Jacob!).

And how is this relevant to modern Muslim terrorists who are not descended from Ishmael? Radical Islam is an "international" phenomenon; the al-Qaeda training camps draw devotees from all over the world. I can't think of a comment more designed to confuse issues than the one above.

"But in this manner, America appears even more obnoxious to the world of Islam. We appear as atheists and infidels, people without any religious sophistication whatsoever."

Gimme a break. And if we preach the Christian gospel to them, and tell them that they're cursed if they're not grafted into the New Covenant, we'll look less like infidels to the Muslim? As long as we are faithful to the gospel, and condemn Muhammad as a false prophet, we'll always be infidels!

They may hate those of Isaac/Jacob, but at least they are distant "brothers." Secularism isn't even on the historical charts!

Bin Laden's and radical Islam's hatred of Jews is intense and non-negotiable. They have publicly and repeatedly called for the extermination of all Americans and Jews. There's no "soft spot" in the heart of Muslim terrorists for Jews.

"Our anti-Christian prejudice has hence gotten us into an even 'stickier wicket.' Our approach ought to be: (1) Showing respect for their faith, even if we disagree with it as Christians. Don't treat them as 'towel-heads' and 'camel-jockeys,' but rather as a great people (the Scriptural position! - Gen.17:20). The Ishmaelites ultimately supplanted the original Canaanite tribes, so that today we literally have the Isaac/Jacobites living as an island amongst a sea of Ishmaelites! How can we disdain this insight and hope to go forward? (2) Exhorting them along Biblical lines: Their 'problem' is basically a family problem that has gotten out of hand! The jealousy of two brothers of different mothers! And by reminding them that, despite their royal heritage as biological sons of Abraham, they must ultimately swallow their pride in order to remain spiritual sons of Abraham."

Horrible, horrible, horrible. Thousands of American citizens have been murdered by an organization that has vowed to do it again and again on an ever increasing scale, and Knodel's advice is to show respect for their faith, and exhort them that they have a "family problem." This is Knodel's advice to the US State Department? I guess the government really does bear the sword in vain!

"While they hold Abraham dear, they must come to grips with the fact that their father's blessing went to Isaac, and was ultimately perfected in Abraham's unique "seed," even Jesus Christ. (Gal. 3:29). '[I]f you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs, according to the promise (of God to Abraham).'"

In other words: Osama, your problem isn't that you're a mass murder who needs to repent, but that you're ignorant of covenant theology and have a family problem. God save us all from such irrelevance, especially at a time like this. Debating "justice" with the world of Islam, from the position of secularism, goes nowhere. No one's "debating justice." We're disrupting and destroying terrorist networks, and punishing the states that harbor and fund them.

Knodel's position seems to be: if a course of action doesn't do everything, for all time, then it does nothing, and should not be pursued. He thus performs a reductio ad absurdum on 99% of human activity. We should all just stay home and sleep in.

"But even the modern Ishmaelite can understand the father's right to bless the son of his own choosing. They may not like it, but in God's grace, they may - in time - come to accept Abraham's/God's sovereign decision. It is at least 'speaking their language.'"

What? That's Knodel's "ultimate solution"? That "they may -- in time --come to accept Abraham's/God's sovereign decision"? That's it? Murderous thugs terrorize and massacre American citizens, and our solution is that God may have elected them?

"All men, not just the Ishmaelites, must bow their knee to God's ordinations. The wants/passions of men are not God. Our foreign policy then would be one of evangelism, albeit from an informed and affectionate position."

Eh? Knodel really wants our foreign policy to be evangelism rather than retaliation and defense, because the latter is confused while the former is ultimate?

"Until our State Department admits that it cannot solve this riddle without themselves first repenting, we will be throwing good money and lives after bad!"

The State Department needs to repent for the crime of defending American citizens? This is insanity. That is its job.

"Can the reader not see how God has trapped us, as Americans, into an insolvable labyrinth - as long as we disdain the Bible?"

Apparently Knodel would like to see more Americans trapped in burning, collapsing towers, as the US government does nothing but express to terrorists the sentiment that they may in time come to accept God's sovereign decision concerning an ancient real estate deal. To do anything else is "confused."

"Similarly, the secular West will not be able to force the Ishmaelites to accept their atheistic secularism, in as much as God has given a certain glory to the Sons of Ishmael."

Another non sequitur. How is the US "forcing" Muslims around the world to accept atheistic secularism?

"In a sense, it is the God of the Bible versus the state departments of the world. In America's case, our's is indeed located in Foggy Bottom. It is hopelessly confused here. It is like the blind leading the blind! Until our State Department regurgitates it's own secular contempt for the God of the Bible, they will be just like the Jews and the Arabs: Trying to solve the insolvable!"

More non sequiturs. Why is the State Department "hopelessly confused"? Because it takes its job description to defend US citizens, rather than preach the gospel abroad? Attention all Muslims around the world: Our official foreign policy is now to ask you to accept that Abraham got the blessing the first time around, but you can get in on it via the New Covenant. Thank you. This ultimate solution to all Muslim discontent brought to you by the US government.

"God yanked the land deed from the Ishmaelites in the Book of Joshua. He did the same to the Jews in A.D. 70, having plainly prophesied of His nation-covenant-cessation-curse in Matthew 23:38 (which quotes from the imprecatory Psalm 69:25). This curse was pronounced by the Great Prophet, even Jesus Christ. He says He leaves them their house 'desolate!' Any and all old claimants to this land are today simply 'squatters.' They hold no legal deed from God."

Muslims of the world! Don't hate us! Don't bomb us! Just believe the Bible!

The irony here is that the "hopeless confusion" and "the blind leading the blind" belongs to Knodel, not the US State Department, for Knodel seems hopelessly confused and utterly blind as to what the God-given responsibilities of the US government are in this situation.

Blame the church for not preaching the gospel accurately and winsomely enough, but don't blame the US government for not doing what God never told it to do! And don't undermine its righteous resolve to destroy the murderous thugs who threaten American citizens!