Drinking Deeply

Monday, December 19, 2005 at 1:01 PM

Death Penalty (4)

This post will be an attempt (in question and answer form) to respond to some questions I would imagine an objector would have. Many of these are made up and I use them more for a launching pad for what I believe.

Q) The right to take a life is in God's hands, not man's. The usage of the death penalty is playing God.

A) While I would agree that the right to take a life is in God's hands, and sometimes He uses that right without using an intermediary, I believe that God does extend that right to the authorities. I see it as similar to the authority that God grants the man as the head of household and the elders as shepherds of the church. I believe Romans 13 is explicit about how God uses the authority as a servant to bring God's wrath.

Q) What about when Jesus says to turn the other cheek in Matthew 5:38-42? If we are to turn the other cheek why should we seek vengeance in the form of death?

A) I believe we, as individuals should not seek vengeance in any form. Paul even points out in 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 that it would be much better to be wronged than to go to court. But notice that Matthew 5 and 1 Corinthians 6 do not support any kind of punishment by individuals for wrongdoing, so if we are to use the verse to apply to the death penalty, we should use it in application to all things. Stealing should not be punished, murder should not be punished, drunk driving should not be punished.

The distinction I am pointing out is that between the individual and the government. As an individual I don't believe it is right at all to peruse vengeance. We can and (and if our hearts are right) should ask for justice from God, but not from the courts. At the same time though, the government is responsible for protecting society and preserving order. That is why they are a terror to bad conduct but not good. This is similar to what I would say about Romans 12 as well, which I mostly addressed in my last post.

Q) If you put someone to death, there is no chance for repentance.

A) That’s true, but if the authorities are acting as a servant of God, then it is God who is putting someone to death, and if that is the case, we cannot question God, whose ways are just. Nonetheless, there does exist the possibility of grace and repentance prior to execution. With the authority to put someone to death comes the authority to set someone free for true and honest reform. If someone who was on death row was convicted of his sin and seriously repented of what he had done, then even though he was justly being put to death, he would have nothing to fear.

Q) The death penalty has been abused and our judicial system is corrupt.

A) That may be true, and those may be reasons not to have a death penalty, but this series of posts was not to advocate having a death penalty, but rather to eliminate the argument "the death penalty is unbiblical in NT times." I will say that if I were on a jury and was convinced that the defendant had committed the crime and it was serious enough that I felt death was warranted and the death penalty was allowable, I feel like I could vote for the death penalty with a clear conscience with the knowledge that God is using me to do His work. Of course, since capital crimes were tried "beyond a reasonable doubt" a lot of questions would have to be answered before I was that fully convinced.

For some futher reading:

Capital Punishment - Third Millenium Ministries

The Sermon on the Mount - Vincent Cheung (note the chapter on retaliation)

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Blogger v'lu said...

165 innocent men have lost decades of their lives to wrongful convictions, and dozens have lost their lives all together.

all of these men sentenced to death. how can you possibly support such an openly legal form of murder? how is that any different from what the men and women are being charged with in the first place? we are killing innocent men. as long as there is even .0001% chance that we're killing innocent men, the death penaly should be abolished. when every single death sentence is cast down with 100% certainty of guilt, then, and only then can any good human being with a heart support it.  

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