A Biblical Understanding of Suicide

As is often the case, I start study projects not knowing where my study of scripture will lead to.

This study project is possibly the most surprising.

(Just a warning.  Please take a minute to collect yourself before commenting.)

Last week I heard that Rick Warren’s son Matthew Warren had died and I was admittedly surprised but also saddened by the news.  Not only had he died, but he had committed suicide and had apparently made plans to do so for at least a short time (purchasing an unregistered gun online means it had been on his mind for days, if not more).  I don’t state these things to revel in them or mock Warren’s pain, but only to point out that Matthew was a troubled man who had suffered from depression and had entertained suicidal thoughts for a long time (at least 10 years according to Rick).

I don’t delight in anyone’s pain and I’m definitely not going to try to pin the blame for Matthew’s death on Rick Warren (as some are doing).  Christians who verbally revel in anyone’s grief and suffering are unquestionably sinning (Eph. 4:29-32) and possibly even giving those around them good evidence to doubt the authenticity of their claims to Christ (1 John 4:20-21).  That being said, the issue of suicide is a thorny one for Christians, comes up fairly frequently, and is quite awkward when it comes up.  I’ve heard many people attempt to give a “biblical” presentation on suicide but the pressure to give a favorable answer to the “do people who commit suicide go to heaven?” is incredibly strong; most say that Christians who commit suicide go straight to heaven and “Murder is sin and Christians have their sins forgiven so Christians who commit suicide are okay” or “Even a Christian can commit a grievous sin and be forgiven“, though everyone agrees that suicide is horrible and lamentable.

I don’t want to be arrogant or unloving, but the Bible talks plainly about suicide and is sufficient to give us an answer for this and all other questions.

***When I’m talking about suicide, I’m also talking about something along the lines of the general type of suicide addressed in reports like this.  Generally speaking, I’m talking about people taking their lives as a (self-professed) last ditch effort to escape whatever situation/pain they’re facing and not people dying in some sort of self-inflicted way in war/by accident/against their will.***

The Bible mentions seven specific people who committed suicide: Abimelech (Jud. 9:54), Samson (Jud. 16:26-31), Saul (1 Sam. 31:4), Saul’s armor-bearer (1 Sam. 31:4-6), Ahithophel (2 Sam. 17:23), Zimri (1 Kin. 16:18), and Judas (Matt. 27:5).

Now, right off the bat I’m basically going to dismiss Sampson as a relevant suicide simply because of 2 facts:

(a) His death was simply necessary for the slaughter of thousands of Philistines (Jud. 16:30).  I’m sure if Sampson would have had another way to slaughter Philistines without it costing him his life, he would have.

(b) His death came about as the answer to prayer; God is the one who strengthened Sampson to collapse the temple of Dagon (Judges 16:28) and without God granting him his supernatural strength, he never would have died in the way he did.

Now again, not all actions resulting in one’s own death would be properly considered suicide.  The death of Sampson was akin to a soldier going on a mission that he knows he will never return from; a “suicide mission” isn’t a soldier committing suicide but rather laying down his own life for the sake of the mission.  It’s an honorable sacrifice and there’s nothing shameful about it (i.e. like Christ dying on the cross…).  Sampson died honorably in war.

Let’s examine the other six suicides in order and make some observations:

1. Abimelech – Abimelech was the son of Gideon, judge of Israel.  Abimelech murdered all 70 of his half-brothers (he was the son of a slave girl – Jud. 9:18) in order to be crowned king of Shechem.  Only one of his brothers escaped: Jotham (9:4-5), who cursed both the men of Shechem and Abimelech (9:16-21).  God then turned the leaders of Shechem against Abimelech (9:23) and did so because God intended to kill Abimelech for the murder of his brothers, as well as kill the leaders of Shechem (9:24).  Abimelech then fought with the Shechemites and their new leader Gaal, son of Ebed (9:26-44), sacked Shechem (9:45), burned the tower of Shechem and killed everyone in it (9:46-49), and then moved on to lay siege against Thebez and the tower of Thebez in the same manner that he did Shechem and the tower of Shechem (9:50-52), but got a millstone upside the head that put him at death’s door (9:53).  Out of trying to save his reputation, Abimelech got his armor bearer to run him through because it was better for a child to kill him than a woman (9:54).  Judges 9:56 then closes off the story with “God repaid Abimelech for the evil he did to his father by murdering his seventy half-brothers.”

So Abimelech committed assisted suicide, but there are 2 things to note: (a) he was already mortally wounded in battle, and (b) God orchestrated the whole scenario to give him a shameful death.   Abimelech was an evil man who did evil and was repaid for his evil by the Lord giving him a shameful death and I have serious fears about the eternal destiny of someone when God almighty puts out a hit on them.

2. Saul and his armor-bearer – Saul was in battle with the Philistines and his 3 sons Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malki-Shua fell (1 Sam. 31:2).  Saul was then wounded by an archer (31:3) and asked his armor-bearer to kill him lest the Philistines would torture him but his armor bearer would not, so Saul fell on his own sword (31:4).  His armor bearer then did likewise once he saw that Saul was dead (31:5).

This is a short death tale that closes the final chapter in the downward spiral of Saul.  Saul is rejected by the Lord for his continual disobedience (1 Sam. 15) and his life then quickly spirals downward: the Lord sent a demon to torment him (16:14) and Saul was consumed by jealousy of David (18:8) that quickly turned into a murderous rage (18:10-11, 19:9).  Saul had an irrational fear of David (18:12, 18:28-29) that led to Saul not wanting David around (18:3), setting up traps that he hoped would lead to David’s death (18:24-26) and outright commanding his soldiers to murder David when his traps didn’t work (19:1, 19:11).  Saul hated David so much that he attempted to kill his own son when he thought they were in league (20:30-34), and Saul’s conspiracy theories consumed him so much that he even slaughtered 85 priests of the Lord and the entire city of Nob (22:11-19).   Saul then pursued David for years, during which David spared his life twice and had to hide out among the Philistines (1 Sam. 23-30).  By this time in his life, the Lord was no longer directing Saul and wouldn’t speak to him through any of the prescribed means (28:4-6) so Saul turned to a medium (28:7-8) who successfully contacted the dead prophet Samuel and delivered the Lord’s last message to Saul:

“Why are you asking me, now that the Lord has turned away from you and has become your enemy? The Lord has done exactly as I prophesied! The Lord has torn the kingdom from your hand and has given it to your neighbor David! Since you did not obey the Lord and did not carry out his fierce anger against the Amalekites, the Lord has done this thing to you today. The Lord will hand you and Israel over to the Philistines! Tomorrow both you and your sons will be with me. The Lord will also hand the army of Israel over to the Philistines!” (1 Sam. 28:16-19)

So at the end of his life, God said that he had turned away from Saul and called Saul his enemy.  As for Samuel saying “tomorrow both you and your sons will be with me“, I would suggest that is talk of being with Samuel in death, not in Heaven (The Lord’s enemies aren’t in Heaven).  Again, not a great way to go.  God handed Israel over into the hands of the Philistines so that Saul would be killed.

3. Ahithophel – Ahithophel was the chief (military) adviser of Absalom; he gave Absalom counsel and Absalom rejected it in favor of the counsel of Hushai the Arkite (2 Sam. 17:1-14).  Husahi passed the king’s plans on to the priests (1 Sam. 17:15-16) who passed them on to their sons, and their sons were seen but evaded capture and delivered Absalom’s plans to David (17:17-21) who successfully escaped Absalom’s army (17:22).  2 Samuel 17:23 reads “When Ahithophel realized that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey and returned to his house in his hometown. After setting his household in order, he hanged himself. So he died and was buried in the grave of his father.”

Again, this story has some interesting and negative details.  Ahithophel has betrayed David’s rule and sided with Absalom, so David asked God to curse Ahithophel’s counsel ( 2 Sam 15:31).  God fulfilled that curse when David left Hushai the Arkite behind in Jerusalem to confound the counsel of Ahithophel and report Absalom’s plans to David through Ahimaaz and Jonathan, the sons of the priests Zadok and Abiathar (2 Sam. 15:32-36).  Ahithophel was the one who advised Absalom to defile David’s concubines on the roof of the palace for all to see (2 Sam. 16:20-22) and Absalom listened to this mad idea because Ahithophel’s counsel was spoken of as highly as that of the prophets of the Lord (2 Sam. 16:23).  Ahithophel’s further counsel to Absalom was ignored because the Lord was against Absalom (2 Sam. 17:14).

Ahithophel was a man who was only as good as his last counsel, and once his counsel was not heeded, he had no reason to live (in his own mind).  Ahithophel’s death was a sad end to a shallow man who was cursed by God.  It seems like we’re seeing a pattern here, and it’s not a good one.

4. Zimri – This one is fairly straightforward.  Zimri got the throne (for only seven days) by leading a revolt against Asa while the army was away (1 Kin. 16:15), but when the army found out about the coup, they made their commander (Omri) king instead of Zimri and returned to kill Zimri (16:16-17).  When Zimri saw that the city was captured, he fortified himself in the palace and lit it on fire, killing himself (16:18).  1 Kings 16:19 gives divine commentary on the whole story of Zimri, saying “This happened because of the sins he committed. He did evil in the sight of the Lord and followed in Jeroboam’s footsteps and encouraged Israel to continue sinning.”

Again, not any sort of good or hopeful example. Zimri was an idolater in the same manner of Jeroboam, and he usurped the throne through a cowardly coup.  He died in the manner he did due to his sins, and the Lord remembers him as an evil man.  Not something you want on your tombstone, especially if the Lord has the chisel.

5. Judas – This one is also fairly straightforward.  Judas is called the one “who had betrayed him” (Matt. 27:3) and when he realized what he had done, he unsuccessfully attempted to return the money he had been paid to betray Jesus (27:4).  Judas tossed the coins into the temple, left and went out and hanged himself (27:5).

If there’s anyone in the scripture who is a bad test case of suicide, it’s Judas.  Judas Iscariot, the one who plotted with Jesus’ enemies against him (Matt. 26:14-16).  The one of whom it was said that it would have been better that he had never been born (26:24).  The one who is known for all history as “the betrayer” (26:48).  The one who was indwelt by Satan himself (Luke 22:3).  The one who was a thief who ripped off Jesus’ money throughout his ministry (John 12:6).  The one who’s betrayal had been foretold by David (Acts 1:16).  Does anyone think that Judas, the Satan-possessed career thief is in Heaven?

It’s not something humorous or trivial, but every single instance of suicide in the Bible is an example of someone who is an enemy of God being punished for their sin.  Let’s put it another way; nobody in the Bible really committed suicide.  Everyone who dies at all dies at the Lord’s time and in the Lord’s circumstances, and in all the above examples the Lord put wicked men to death by their own hand.

Ouch.

Harsh.

Well, like if or not, that’s the consistent Biblical pattern and it’s not pretty.  Every single example fully fits the pattern.

I’d even go further and suggest that God is in full control of every aspect of your life, including the end.  The circumstances and deaths of wicked men in the Bible are always shameful and tragic (Ex. 14:27-29; Lev. 10:1-2; 1 Sam. 4:18; 1 Kin. 14:6-16; 1 Kin. 22:29-40; Acts 12:22-23, etc.), but the righteous seem to consistently die old and having lived a full life (i.e. Gen. 25:8, 35:29, 50:22; Num. 33:39; Deut. 34:7; Jud. 8:32; 1 Chron. 29:28; Job 42:17, etc.).  The way a person exits this world isn’t any sort of infallible “report card” on their lives, but yet there is a fairly consistent pattern in scripture that is established by hundreds of examples and one would be foolish to ignore.

So what about martyrs?  Well, I’d argue that their deaths, and all deaths for the sake of righteousness, are honorable (i.e. Rev. 20:4, Matt. 5:10-12).

What about people who die from illness?  Accidents?  War?  Well, those things all occur and are not a consistent and direct result of personal sin; they’re part of living in a post-Genesis 3 world (1 Tim. 5:23; Luke 13:4).

What about people who chose suicide as opposed to another form of inevitable and imminent death?  Well, that’s exactly what Saul and his armor-bearer did and the scripture paints him in a frightening light.  Yet, the Bible has many other examples of the Lord saving people from what appeared to be inevitable and imminent death and portrays them all as examples of faith (i.e. David and Goliath, Daniel’s three friends in the fiery furnace, Daniel in the lion’s den, etc.).  It’s not like God is unable to save people in unfathomable and dire circumstances; his business card has the word Saviour on it in bold print (1 Sam. 10:19, 17:46-47; Ps. 7:10, 20:6, 37:40, 106:21; Is. 45:15; Hos. 13:4; Jude 1:25).

So am I saying that all people who commit suicide go to Hell without question?

Really?

Well, no.

I cannot say that because the Bible doesn’t explicitly spell that out (that decision is ultimately always up to God), and yet the scripture weighs fairly heavy against my efforts in trying to find all sorts of hopeful loopholes through which anyone and everyone can sneak into Heaven.  The scriptures force me towards the following:

1.  The Bible consistently paints a totally consistent picture of people who commit suicide dying outside of a right relationship with God and dying due to personal sin (as demonstrated above).

2.  People who commit suicide often do so out of impulse (though not always), sure, but those murderous impulses are the tip of an iceberg of preceding sins that reveal a life characterized by continual sin (i.e. the life of Saul).  Suicide is never the first sin but it’s always the last on long list.

3.  Anyone who lives a life characterized by sin and claims to know God is a liar (1 John 3:6-10).

Generally speaking I would say that, it seems that as far as I see and understand scripture, Believers can’t commit suicide.

This isn’t to say that Christians are physically incapable of it, but rather that the action of suicide reveals an unbelieving heart.

Unbelieving heart?

Well, suicide is the exclamation point at the end of the statement “God cannot help”.

Suicide is hearing Paul say “And my God will supply your every need according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19) and responding “not this need”.

Suicide is hearing Christ say “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29) and responding “Sorry Jesus.  You’re wrong.  Your yoke is heavier than this and and you cannot teach me to deal with this.  You cannot offer my troubled soul rest.”

Suicide is hearing God say “To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life” (Rev. 2:7) and responding “well, I don’t want to conquer this!”

Suicide is hearing the Spirit say “all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11) and responding “I will not be trained by this! I don’t want righteousness!”

Suicide is being overcome by fear like Elijah (1 Kin. 19:3), fleeing your problems like Elijah (1 Kin. 19:3), longing to die like Elijah (1 Kin. 19:4) and then running off and diving off a cliff instead of running to the Lord in the place where you can find him (For Elijah, it was at Horeb – 1 Kin. 19:8-18, but for Christians, it’s in the word of God incarnate and inscripturated – John 1:1-18; Heb. 1:1-3).

There is no possible sin or scenario that is beyond the power and grace of Christ to redeem you from if you call out to him for salvation and wisdom with a willingness to trust and obey.

As always, I welcome disagreement and correction.  I’m sure many will have disagreement with me here.

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “The Armchair Theologian” Unger

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29 thoughts on “A Biblical Understanding of Suicide

  1. I’m confused about your position on salvation security. Are you saying that in Saul’s case he lost his salvation or that he was never saved?

    • “I would say that, it seems that as far as I see and understand scripture, Believers can’t commit suicide.

      This isn’t to say that Christians are incapable of it, but rather that the action of suicide reveals an unbelieving heart.”

      Saul was never saved.

      • It seems to me that these statements,

        “I would say that, it seems that as far as I see and understand scripture, Believers can’t commit suicide.

        This isn’t to say that Christians are incapable of it, but rather that the action of suicide reveals an unbelieving heart.”

        is self contradictory. It seems like you are saying that no one who is a believer can commit suicide. But then in the next sentence you are saying that Christians aren’t incapable of it. I don’t understand your point.

      • Ah. I see.

        Christians could physically kill themselves, and Christians are even hypothetically capable of killing oneself (i.e. Sampson), but suicide (in the sense discussed in the post) reveals that someone most likely isn’t a Christian.

        I most certainly differentiate between killing oneself and suicide (which I would consider the murdering of oneself, and the Bible strongly differentiates between killing and murder). Sampson and Saul didn’t die in similar circumstances, except as viewed in the absolutely broadest of categories.

  2. Hi there,

    Thanks for an interesting post which got some scenarios bouncing around my head.

    1. a Christian with incurable cancer, suffering what to that person feels like unbearable pain/suffering ends their life. And for sake of the scenario let’s say no medical cure on the horizon. 2. on 911 in one of the Towers, a Christian jumps rather than waiting to burn.

    It seems that in both scenarios the Christian is taking control, perhaps giving into fear rather than trusting, believing God will assist them in their circumstances.

    In these scenarios are the Christians betraying their unbelieving hearts?
    Hence you write ‘believers can’t commit suicide’ while allowing that suicide is not something that inevitably gets the person buried outside the faith (in olden days weren’t suicides not allowed to be buried in church graveyards).

    And here is a suggestion: you may wish to consider augmenting this post with another post outlining how you would pastor a grieving family dealing with the aftermath of a suicide in their family and with the funeral sermon.

    A further post might help a pastoral search committee reviewing your blog – since at first read your bolded statement “believers can’t commit suicide” may get you off lots of pastoral candidate short lists.

    blessings on you and yours

    Larry S

    • Thanks for the thoughts Larry. I’ll respond quick since I’ve got other things on the go.

      1. Christian with cancer – Does excruciating pain make adultery acceptable? Stealing? Idolatry? If not, then why murder? If pain re-writes whatever you understand to be “biblical morality”, then it’s not really biblical. God has a purpose in pain, and God has a righteous end that is possible for all suffering, regardless of intensity.

      2. Christians leaping from a burning building – Most likely not, but that could be a highly complex scenario. Are they leaping to hasten their death or thinking that they’d have a more likely chance surviving a 10 story fall than a 2,000 degree fire? There’s a reason God evaluates these specific and highly abnormal scenarios, and not me.

      Are either ones betraying unbelieving hearts? The first seems fairly possible and the second seems to need a lot more information.

      3. I may wish to consider a lot of things. I have a wife, a full time job, two kids and responsibilities at church. I have counseled suicides, and I ignore all the pointless “eternal destiny” speculative questions. I focus on the gospel and direct my attention at those who hear the message of the gospel. I tell people, “here’s the gospel. If you repent and believe, Christ himself declares that you’ll spend eternity with him. If so-and-so did, then they’ll be waiting for you with Christ.” I also weep with those who weep, attempt to share in the pain of losing one that is loved, and attempt to offer them comfort in Christ, the gospel, and the promise of the resurrection.

      I have no knowledge of what thoughts run through people’s minds in their final breath and once people are dead and gone, concern for them is handed over entirely to God alone and I have no interest in speculating on matters upon which I am highly under-informed.

      4. I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at with the whole pastoral search committee point. What exactly am I supposed to re-write or clarify? Are you suggesting two separate clarifying posts or simply one?

      It seems to me that if people only read the bold print and form opinions on what’s in bold, they’re not really interested in understanding what I have to say and probably won’t read any clarifying posts…?!?

      Maybe I’m completely missing you here.

  3. Pingback: Who am I to say that Judas wasn’t forgiven? | Chase This Light

  4. Thanks Lyndon,

    Interesting food for thought as always. My “comment” reply got too long, so I posted to my blog with a link back to yours… but just to summarize I just don’t see how Judas’ sincere-sounding repentance and affirmation of Jesus’ righteousness and his own sin in betraying him (Judas’ last recorded words in Matt 27:3-5) can be seen as ineffective in secure his salvation, even in light of his “emotional” breakdown and subsequent suicide (seemingly brought about after the humans present rejected his confession and ill-fated attempt to “make good”). What am I missing?

    The penitent thief similarly defended Jesus’ identity and righteousness to an accuser, and additionally called directly on Jesus (who was physically present) to save him eternally. If Jesus had been present, would he have rejected Judas’ clear “returning” — when he embraced the thief on the cross?

    I’m not saying we have all that’s needed to declare positively in favor of Judas’ eternal destiny — ultimately we’re not in a position to make that call of anyone — I’m only calling into question the idea that the evidence we do have leads us in a negative direction.

    More such thoughts and rambles in response can be found here:
    http://chasethislight.com/ethics/who-am-i-to-say-that-judas-wasnt-forgiven/

    Al

  5. Thanks for responding Lyndon, it seems that two of us (Doug and myself are having difficulty understanding what you are trying to say in your suicide post).

    This is what I thought u were trying to say: suicide is bad. if a Xtian suicides, at best, is an indication of their ‘unbelieving heart’ (I tend to agree). Now, your last response to Doug (Apr-19 2.14 a. m.) has me confused – since we are trying to understand what you meant in your original post (but hey, lots of grace since u are dealing with either pre-birth or post-birth issues). However, I think the suicide post is something you dug out of your files….. so let’s try to drill down a bit by dealing with your response to me (when u have time):

    I think u should read my post a bit more carefully: my jumping out of a burning building scenario was set in the 911 Tower – no rescue possible. I’m trying to compare the terrible suffering of an incurable cancer with the people jumping out of the Twin Towers on 911. The only discernible difference I can see is timing. The Towers is very short. The other, incurable cancer, is longer.

    With the cancer scenario, we Xtians think about the mysterious purposes God has in the journey. When dealing with the jumpers of 911, I’m wondering if we think or hope that “There’s a reason God evaluates these specific and highly abnormal scenarios, and not me” but at the core aren’t they the same thing – other than duration?

    Your opening Thread, however, promised a GREAT deal: “I don’t want to be arrogant or unloving, but the Bible talks plainly about suicide and is sufficient to give us an answer for this and all other questions.” So what can we say about the 911 jumpers or to the family of someone who ends their life through suicide?

    My gentle suggestion about the pastoral committee was my hope that your pastoral heart would come through in dealing with the inherent ambiguities surrounding suicide because your heart didn’t come through to me at least in the opening thread – not until your last response to me. (I was only suggesting one pastoral type response to augment the initial Thread).

    – continuing on another track: I did ponder your treatment of Sampson’s death. I think you may be reading a bit into the OT narrative (I didn’t review your other OT suicide texts). You likened Sampson to a heroic soldier going into an action from which he knew he could not return. The text doesn’t require such a reading, and I suggest you are reading into the text.

    you write a) his death was necessary for the slaughter of the Philistines. Really? Couldn’t the Philistines have died and the Temple’s pillars/ceiling have missed Sampson? Surely, God could have arranged that and we would have had a blind Sampson as an older, hopefully wiser judge. Why was Sampson’s death necessary?

    b) Yes: Sampson’s death was an answer to prayer. The prayer was consistent with the selfish way Sampson seems to have lived his life: he is tired of being blind, tired of being a tortured prisoner with whom the enemy makes sport and wants it to end (selfish, narcissism).

    I’m wondering if our aversion to suicides predisposes us to sanitize this OT story? I think v.23 gives us a clue as to the narrative’s direction: the philistine’s god doesn’t win, Yahweh wins over the non-god’s of the philistines even if Sampson’s death seems ambiguous to us.

    take care, Larry S

    • Larry, do I know you from somewhere? You’re talking as if we know one another and it would probably change the way I address you if I knew who you were.

      – Either way, well, I see some serious differences between cancer and fire. For starters, one’s cancer, and one’s a fire. There’s a lot more differences, like the nature of the scenario, the duration of the suffering, the premeditated nature of the ending of life, etc.

      – “So what can we say about the 911 jumpers or to the family of someone who ends their life through suicide?” We can say a lot about the jumpers. Wildly general information combined with a question (a dude jumps out of a building that’s on fire and dies. Is it sin?) leads itself to an equally general response:

      It might possibly be sin.

      If you don’t like that answer, then give me some details from which to apply more specific principles.

      The same general answer applies to the same uselessly general question about someone who’s sick and in pain. If someone’s sick and in pain and they end their life, is it sin?

      Maybe.

      If you want a specific answer, ask a specific question. I’m not telepathic.

      – One response? Cool.

      – Pastors heart? Well, that may not come out in a blog post addressing the theology of an issue. That tends to come out in conversation where abstract principles and specific biblical truths (like what I wrote about) are applied to a real life, highly specific scenario.

      I mean honestly.

      Are you a pastor or do you do any serious writing? Do you write academic papers like you’re talking to a grieving widow?

      – “Couldn’t the Philistines have died and the Temple’s pillars/ceiling have missed Sampson?”

      Nope. The pillars held up the roof. He was under the roof. (Judges 16:26)

      – “Why was Sampson’s death necessary?”

      It was necessary to bring down the roof and kill the thousands of Philistines that were in/on the building. Sampson didn’t have to kill them all, but the only way he could have killed them all was in the way he did. Blind men don’t usually do well in a sword fight, regardless of whatever ninja movie you’ve watched that suggests otherwise.

      – “I think v.23 gives us a clue as to the narrative’s direction:”

      Nope.

      You’re quick and sharp to know that narrative is driven by dialogue, but the dialogue that is significant isn’t the passing dialogue of tertiary characters.

      – “I’m wondering if our aversion to suicides predisposes us to sanitize this OT story?”

      Well, show me from the text, playa.

  6. On Sampson’s Death and sanitizing the narrative

    You see Sampson’s death as necessary in order to kill the Philistines. But God could have kept Sampson alive by causing the temple debris to miss him (no ninja moves necessary). Sampson’s request (v. 30) supports this possibility otherwise the prayer is superfluous. I think you may be reading the necessity of Sampson’s death into the text. This reading of the narrative sees Sampson as a heroic warrior on one last mission. Yes, the heroic warrior motif is consistent with other parts of Sampson’s life (the jawbone of an ass, city gates, etc.). However, I’m suggesting that Sampson’s prayer nicely couples with both the warrior and narcissistic aspects of Sampson’s life (especially when the revenge aspect of Sampson’s prayer v 28 is considered).

    Does either reading of the text change much about suicide? Probably not. I’m merely pointing out that you are reading into the narrative and that is where the sanitize comment came from since any ambiguity about suicide is removed from the text. I find it interesting that God grants Sampson’s death wish. Having said that I don’t think the Sampson story supports a Christian’s suicide.

    As to the direction of the narrative: Yahweh wins – I guess we’ll just agree to disagree.

    My suggestion about a further post: I get that a blog post isn’t a monograph. However, developing a theology about suicide doesn’t need to be divorced from heart. Specially, with a bolded statement like: Believers can’t commit suicide, which is quite eye catching.

    To answer some of your other questions: nope I’m not a pastor. Yes I do some serious writing but my current serious writing is within the Canadian criminal justice system. You and I haven’t ever met. But we know one another from on-line exchanges – the MB Forum and a few years ago some dialogue here on your blog.

    I continue to wish you well.

    Larry S

    • 1. The prayer isn’t superfluous. He needed the strength.

      2. I agree that “Sampson’s prayer nicely couples with both the warrior and narcissistic aspects of Sampson’s life”. He died both a narcissist and a heroic warrior.

      3. God didn’t grant Sampson’s death wish. God granted Sampson’s request for strength. Sampson used the strength to fulfill God’s mission for him as best he could.

      4. We will disagree on the narrative.

      5. “developing a theology about suicide doesn’t need to be divorced from heart”. Agreed. This is a blog though, not a pastoral counseling session. I’m not exactly sure what you’re looking for. How about you write a 2,500 word post and show me what you mean.

      6. Good to know that we’ve interacted. What was your handle on the MB forum? Sudsy? Marshall? Mennonightmare? Larry S? (I don’t remember a Larry S).

      Blessings on you and yours!

      • 1 + 3 He asked God for death. There is more than one prayer in the narrative. I’m reading v.30 as a prayer. It was either that or a muttered death wish. Hard to tell when u think about it.

        The notion that Sampson’s death was necessary is something absent from the story. His death as necessary keeps any ambiguity out of the narrative. The ambiguity is this: why would God allow Sampson to die when he had asked for it. conceivably this could undermine your overarching anti-suicide case.

        Can you see how you are reading his death as necessary into the text. Temple pillars+roof don’t make the death necessary. this is an assumption on your part.

        5. I’ll get right on my 2500 word essay 🙂 . the pushback came from your bolded statement. which as both myself and another commenter pointed out appear to contradict another statement you make – a Xtian who suicides has an unbelieving heart.

        6. WCFOM (westcoast frame of mind)

        Larry S

        (on meticulous providence (your Boston bombing post) – I’ve found Dr Roger Olson’s two posts last week very helpful and quite a different view: Where was God when the Fertilizer Plant Exploded and his A Non-Calvinist, Relational View of God’s Sovereignty.

        all the best – now it is off to work for me.

        • Hi Mennonite, when doing Bible Study (very seriously and each day), I recall how “Pharmakia” is discussed. x I believe it’s in the Book of Revelations. x Thanks for all your help x I will read the recommended articles x wow x so many complex responses at such a busy time in the family!!! In Christ, Marie

      • Westcoast? Welcome! I’m surprised that you found my blog. What a small world!

        1. We’ll simply disagree on Sampson and move on. Not much use kicking a dead horse.

        2. Well, okay. It seems to be a general and hard-to-escape conclusion from the scripture that people who claim to be Christians and commit suicide reveal that they were never Christians…just like people who claim to be Christians can go to church for a while, make a profession of faith, tighten up their morality, and then abandon that profession without ever actually being authentic Christians (but this opens up the Calvinist issue, and I do my best to keep out of that on this blog. I can only fry so many fish at once, and there are many out there far better at swashbuckling that issue than myself.)

        3. Calvinism? Just a note for you: I didn’t mention it in the post, and I don’t make a habit of discussing it. I don’t use the title for myself since it basically carries a load of baggage with it, 98% of which I don’t subscribe to.

        If someone wants to bring it up though, I will discuss it for as long as the discussion goes. If you want to drop it, I’m also game.

        As for Roger Olson, I’m familiar with his large and small works on Arminian Theology, as well as the “relational theism” concept. Olson, for all his talk, has all the same old Arminian problems:

        a. He absolutely refuses to properly represent Calvinists. I don’t recognize his caricature of Calvinism and I would join him in rejecting the silly and deceitful straw man he presents. i mean, he says things that are outright stupid:

        “I suspect that deep in the recesses of their minds some believers in meticulous providence who live within a 100 miles radius of West, Texas are thinking it (the fertilized plant explosion) might have something to do with the annual “Czechfest” which is like an “Octoberfest” held in the Czech-settled town. Lots of drinking goes on there.”

        Honestly Roger? The “good” that God was wanting to bring about was the cessation of a stupid drinking festival? THAT is the big problem on God’s radar?

        *facepalm*

        Olson’s view of Calvinism comes from confused and Baptist pastors who don’t know the difference between “tradition” and “scripture”, which I would simply dismiss as ignorance if he didn’t have a PhD, wasn’t teaching in a Seminary and wasn’t a well known evangelical theologian.

        Olson’s been corrected by a veritable who’s who in reformed evangelical circles, and he completely refuses to listen to EVERYONE. What do you call that?

        What do you call a man who know’s better but simply keeps on repeating the lie? I’d say he’s working around 1.5 hours away from the school he should be teaching at, under their new vice president of academic affairs.

        b. Olson is primarily philosophical in his presentation and defense, and he introduces scripture as a necessary evil. Arminianism stands or falls on the exegesis of scripture, and Olson boldly professes:

        “Rather than focusing on proof texts of Scripture or philosophies, this relational view of God’s sovereignty arises out of and is justified by a synoptic, canonical, holistic vision of God drawn from the biblical narrative.”

        That’s accademic-code for “I can’t find this in the Bible, but if you ignore the words of scripture and talk about themes, hermeneutical trajectories and metaphors, it’s all over the place.”

        Arminianism isn’t in the scripture and Olson full well knows it because he’s been shredded on an exegetical level. In “Against Calvinism” he goes so far as to say that if he was clearly shown that the God of Calvinism was in the Bible, he’d reject him as a false God.

        I’d suggest that happened to Roger Olson a long time ago.

        c. He presents blanket dismissals as some form of refutation. Saying broad statements like “Divine determinism of any type cannot explain how God is good in any meaningful sense or how people are responsible for the evil they do” doesn’t prove a thing, but it rather assumes that your readers will take what you say “on faith”. That’s neither argumentation nor making a case for anything.

        d. He cannot escape the logical ends of Arminianism. It’s funny how he talks about “process theology” and “open theism” in terms of refinement, but not refutation (i.e. “process theology needs a more omnipotent God…then it would be better…). I predict that 15-20 years from now, when Olson has gone the way of Clark Pinnock, nobody will be surprised.

        In other words, I’d suggest that I don’t hide from Roger Olson’s writing, but it’s simply not even in the same area code as “convincing”.

        Roger Olson, along with Norm Geisler and several Mennonite theologians/pastors I’ve run across are the reasons behind my Calvinism. I kept evaluating their attacks on this “Calvinism” thing against the very passages that they were quoting me, and they ended up pushing me to the theological position that they so vocally hated via their shameful attempts to escape the clear meaning of the biblical texts.

  7. the ‘you may wish to consider’ comment comes out of how we underlings in the system dare to suggest that criminal court judges do something the writer is suggesting. “The Court may wish to consider……” 🙂

  8. Perhaps your comment is a joke, Larry S., I see it much differently. Have never doubted Mennonite’s Devotion to speaking The Truth based upon his own studies and knowledge. Yes, I have done a long post where I am quite confused. It means I’m confused though, and wanting further explanations.

    On the subject of suicide, at least one family member on each side of the family (as when I was married) chose it. When I was very young, a boy my age chose it. Now, I am aware there is a definitive passage in The Bible that states ”there is no greater ….” and goes on to say than a man laying down his life for others. If you think about it, Our Lord Christ did the same for us. I recall when Warner became popular and seems like I have a radar in me to steer me away from people I should not listen too. I have questions as well: what bout suicides induced by antidepressants? We are never given via the news the medications being taken by those who have done heinous crimes. Sometime told me “we are, under the Public Information Act” well why isn’t it part of the news picture, then? The answer is very self-explanatory: the industry itself would not care for such information to be known. Generally, I am in agreement with Mennonite on this issue. It makes me sad, because I suspect my Grandmother in particular had possibly at least one of chronic illnesses symptoms, yet here she was a catholic, knowing their belief system, and still ended her life with a short note saying ”she couldn’t take it anymore” what was it she couldn’t take?

    There’s also a verse where it is stated “Only God knows a man’s heart” well in the religion I was raised in and have left yet still bear scars from, I was taught at a young age: those in deepest darkest Africa all go to hell because they are not made aware of The Christ. I don’t believe that and said so at a very young age, I fought it. It made no sense. There is another verse I so wish I could recall that does discuss those who have not been told will somehow know.

    At the Libyan Embassy where we still do have explanation for in America there were two soldiers who disobeyed order to not get involved. Yes, there were American troops standing by as it all occurred. Those two soldiers died, placing each in the category of “There is no greater glory than laying down one’s life for another…”

    What bout abortion…the baby is not making the decision. Adults are…a different subject for a another time. I am no-choice no-abortion yes-adopt.

    In Christ, Marie

    • Marie, short note as it’s bed time for me.

      With regards to people who are on mind-altering medications, I simply don’t have enough knowledge to give an educated opinion and would reserve comment.

      I’m also against abortion and would agree that babies do not, and basically cannot, commit suicide.

  9. Mennonite, our messages crossed. I mentioned recalling in The Book of Revelations “Pharmakia” is referred to as one of the aspects of the coming times. In meantime, I am going to have to slowly study your writings. Thanks for the recommended articles. “When it rains, it pours” as far as responses these days!!! Christ’s Blessings upon your family and family is first. +++

  10. Hi Lyndon:

    I am a long time follower of your blog, and tend to agree with your perspective on most of your posts.

    I do want to get your perspective on a point in your “suicide” post. Of course, I realize that you wrote this several weeks ago, but I still hope that you see my comments and they don’t just sit here in cyberspace.

    I work for a Christian ministry in the Fraser Valley of BC, and we have been contacted by a church in eastern Canada where the senior pastor has just taken his own life during a bout of deep depression. The elders of his church had given him a leave of absence and had a plan in place to restore him once he was able to be refreshed. Unfortunately, this never occurred. This pastor, from all indications, was soundly evangelical in theology, but struggled with this mental illness. I had the opportunity to meet him a number of years ago when he candidated as the senior pastor of the church I attend in Abbotsford, BC. He didn’t get the position and moved back to the church he was pastoring in Ontario. Needless to say, the staff and membership of this church is reeling with the shock of this news, not to mention the horror this is to his wife and kids.

    I am not suggesting that suicide is not a sin, but in a case of deep depression when you are not acting rationally, how would that fit into your understanding of the issue?

    • I’m certainly not Mennonite, far from it. I do empathize with your loss and questions. It has occurred (suicide) on each side of the family. I am wanting to acknowledge the pain and loss and have no clear-cut, evidential reasoning to supply you with, I do wonder what the particular mental illness was and if he was or was not medicated. I know my grandmother was medicated yet it was long prior to use of ”pharmakia” my son first noted this term in Revelation. I am sorry, very sorry, your loss has affected many people and I am sure caused them to try to understand as well. There’s only one Mennonite, though, and I’m certain at some point he will respond to your questions and concerns. a fellow believer in Our Lord The Christ +++

    • Hans,

      Welcome! Thanks for commenting and bringing a good, difficult question!

      That is a horrific example and I definitely feel for the church and the loved ones left behind in that circumstance.

      I also have actually counseled someone through a similar circumstance years ago where a friend of mine took and associate role at a church where the senior pastor walked outside one afternoon, went out to the treeline behind the church, and simply shot himself in the head.

      The senior pastor was apparently well-adjusted, happy, and wasn’t some obvious and raging heretic or anything. In fact, the senior pastor had a doctorate in clinical psychology and was a professional counselor for years.

      I’ll never forget getting the phone call after my friend found the body. That was an incredibly difficult time, and that event is part of what got me going down a long journey that ended up with me discovering nouthetic counseling/biblical counseling.

      So, I’ve got two ideas to pass on:

      1. I don’t know a person’s heart situation and how things sit with anyone. I have assurance of salvation for myself, but I can’t do that for anyone else, not matter their doctrine or life situation. I cannot say if someone who commits suicide goes immediately to hell, and that’s not the conclusion that my study led me to. I only ended up recognizing the consistent negative pattern of suicide in the Bible and now, as a result of my study, am far less quick to simply say “well, they were suffering but God is gracious and I’m SURE they’re in Heaven”.

      I don’t know who’s in Heaven, but I have far less hope for people who die in suicide than I did before. That’s not to say that I have NO hope, but the Bible peels away much of the false hope that I previously held on to.

      2. I don’t believe in mental illness.

      I’ve done everything in my power to not toss that bombshell out, as I don’t really have time to sufficiently hammer out a defense of the statement, but, well, I don’t believe that mental illness exists as it’s commonly defined by the DSM IV and the field of psychiatric medicine. The Bible talks a lot about depression, but it’s always the result of sinful thinking leading to sinful reactions to life situations producing sinful emotional responses. Depression exists, but it’s not a mental illness that “happens” to people. It’s the result of sin.

      I know. I’m absolutely crazy. I get that a lot when this issue comes up.

      Also, I’ve suffered from “depression” before, just in case someone wants to toss out the “well, you’ve OBVIOUSLY never been clinically depressed before”. Been there. Done that. Repented and recovered.

      In Mennonite circles, this idea is about as foreign as hearing a sermon in Klingon. I know.

      I just don’t by the whole “well, he was depressed and so he get’s a pass on sin” line (though it’s never that explicit).

      • Such a kind and honest answer to a very intricate question. I am myself comforted and leave it with the Lord to analyze why maternal grandmother, Also, the ex-grandfather. Also, Bradley, so young and yet rigged a rifle in his room to ensure it would trigger upon entry into the room. I hereby give it all to my Dear God in His Son’s Name, for many times we shall never know the resolution and it is Him Who State He knows all hearts. Thank you, please Bless Mennonite and family and all who write-in legitimate questions. Amen. +++

  11. Thank you so much for your responses, Lyndon and Marie. I appreciate your time.

    I firmly believe that the Bible considers suicide a sin, in fact it is murder of oneself. On the other hand, I don’t believe it is an unforgivable sin either, although you obviously can’t repent afterwards.

    Lyndon, I wondered whether you could clarify your statement that you don’t believe in mental illness. For instance, if an individual has deep depression or another mood disorder due to the brain not producing sufficient quantities of a chemical that would regulate that mood, would you categorize that a physical illness rather than mental?

    • Hans, you’re tracking with me. Here’s a simple way to think about it. If medicine can cure the problem, then it’s a physiological problem with the brain; a neurological/physiological issue. If patient A doesn’t have chemical B being produced, then the artificial introduction of chemical B in the form of pills/diet/whatever actually cures the patient and the symptoms disappear.

      A majority of things labelled “mental illness” don’t have causal physiological conditions, but rather concurrent physiological conditions, meaning that medication can often be partially helpful to alleviate symptoms, but not curative in the sense of “return to norm”. Often there is a lack of clarity if the emotional state produces the physiological state (i.e. low chemical B) or if the physiological state produces the emotional state.

      That’s also a big reason why there are so many schools of “successful” counseling/psychiatric practice. Narrative therapy, Regressive therapy, Hypnotherapy, Behavioural therapy, etc. all can “get results”, but I would argue that such results coming from such opposing systems suggests that there’s far more going on underneath the surface and the surface “results” are only symptomatic variance, not actual cure.

      • Even though I’ve experienced a very taxing day, I still want to express my thanks for this Mini-Sermon and all others. I am increasingly drawn back to the Study of the Bible. I comprehended the information and it led me to think as well how many resources in our world are now mutated, such as Monsanto receiving years ago permission to genetically modified foods, esp. wheat. He is drawing me back to Him like a magnet. A person could study the Bible for a lifetime and still find new information revealed to them. Thanks. +++

  12. I came back to explain a few examples. I do believe in transparency. I have panic attacks. The first time was when a dentist overinjected directly into my system seven injections of anaesthetic and I was taken to an emergency room. Two weeks later, the same symptoms again occurred and did not cease. After 3 years on xanax, I was able to walk away both from the drug and the disorder.
    A few years ago, the panic attacks returned, except this time my blood pressure would rise to very dangerous levels. In the e.r., I was asked if I had ever considered taking my own life. I responded “no, never, but I can relate to why some do” that statement alone got me placed in the Mental Ward. Except, I’m not ”mental”. In fact, panic disorder is not considered a mental illness. They have given up on finding the ”reason” because my psychiatrist, who is a Christian, stated tons of research led nowhere and he had patients from all walks of life coming in with the same symptoms. In the meantime, since he did not belong to that hospital, I was removed from the xanax, causing seizures. I was placed in a room with an older woman who was psychotic. There is a point to this experience. The Nurses started complaining they felt I did not belong in the unit. Then, it turned out insurance companies do not believe panic disorder requires being hospitalized, either. The staff also could not understand why my bp would go so high and would have preferred me on a heart ward. The Ward was furnished with items not even the Salvation Army would have accepted and the facilties were ancient. Even tho I should have been legally released the first day, the doctor in charge milked the situation to make it four days. Now, I asked myself and God ”why”? and when the psychotic woman would stand over my bed night-after-night threatening me constantly, I realized the Lord was taking me back to the days of my youth. You see, when I’ve been asked about my now-gone mother, my answers indicate she was a psychotic. I asked ”then why would she stop what she was saying to me when someone else came in the room?” The answer: psychotics are extremely intelligent. I carried that abuse with me and here I was illegally held with a psychotic woman night-after-night standing over my bed accusing me and threatening me. Yet when she knew someone was coming, she would return silently to her bed. You cannot outsmart The Trinity. For three nights this went on and I would look at the wall and pray to Him. I began to lose the fear of my childhood memories. I began to understand the good in the situation in having to endure as an adult yet another psychotic. It healed me in many ways. I understood God through His Son was at work for my own good and healing. Meaningless, cruel, senseless wounding words said to a child dissipated in the face of encountering the same as a adult. I cannot say the situation occurred in any positive manner other than demonstrating psychotics are mentally ill and a lot of past damage became understandable, even laughable. My psychiatrist was not thrilled with the illegal treatment. That’s the sentence that got me in to the ward: “Would you ever commit suicide” and my response “No, I would not, but can understand why some would” …. and I walked away from it more healed and more wise. Panic disorder is now considered physiological yet I won’t trust any doctor but this psychiatrist to treat me medically. I get to see a lot of cases there in the waiting room. From A-to-Z. Praise God for the understanding and wisdom that comes from experience and observation. +++

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