Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Capital Punishment and the Trial of Jesus

posted by Scot McKnight

Osler.jpgThis last weekend in our travel to Canada and back, I read lawyer and professor of law at Baylor University, Mark William Osler‘s new book Jesus on Death Row: The Trial of Jesus and American Capital Punishment
. There are two major highlights to this book, and I would commend it to church libraries across the land …

First, instead of trying to do what he doesn’t do — biblical and historical studies — Osler examines how a lawyer sees legal procedures at work in the Gospel narratives as they tell the story of Jesus’ trial and execution on a cross. Instead of imposing modern law on ancient texts, he sees principles of legal procedures at work that became elements of modern law. Hence, a welcome, chaste, and illuminating method that leads to one interesting result after another.

Here some elements of the proceedings against Jesus that he illuminates: investigation and inculpatory statements, paid informants, strategic arrests, maiming the slave, last meals and last suppers, trial witnesses, the prosecutor’s emotion, habeas corpus, humiliation, and cruel and unusual punishments. He has a section, too, on commutations and clemency.

Which leads to … What do you think of capital punishment? Is this the wisest and best of ways in our world today?



Second, Osler’s contention that Christians have a responsiblity to examine contemporary capital punishment in light of what happened to Jesus. Here are his statements:

“If we choose to worship an innocent who was executed as a criminal, shouldn’t we care about the execution of innocents in our time? Can we in good conscience continue to abide by a system that will continue to execute a large number of the guilty and a smaller number of the innocent, given a faith that values each life so dearly?”

“It seems that would be difficult for an intelligent, engaged politician, be it Bill Clinton or George Bush, to justify his support for a death penalty that kills innocents if he returns home on the weekend, goes to church with his family, hears from the Bible that ‘truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to the least of these, you did not do it to me’ (Matt 25:45).”

CapPun.jpg“But for those of us who are Christians, to which way of thinking are we called? Are we to be a part of that mob calling for retribution?”

What part does John 8 play in this? The text is suspect; very few doubt, however, that it is an accurate story about Jesus. Here Jesus comes upon a scene with a woman who had done something worthy of capital sentence and here are his words: “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:6-8 is context he cites).

“In the end, this might be the example that Christ offers as we consider capital punishment, suggesting that we remove ourselves from the mob and quietly hold up the question before our consciences and faith.”

I’m against capital punishment. What are your best arguments in favor of it?



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Matt

posted February 3, 2009 at 1:30 am


I would hope that we are against all forms of punishing the innocent, not just capital punishment. In Acts, Paul is falsely imprisoned for teaching against the law. Should we oppose imprisonment?
I don’t think that supporting capital punishment makes you part of a mob. Turning the other cheek is only a virtue when you are the victim. Turning the other cheek when others are victimized is supporting injustice.
John 8 is notoriously difficult to interpret. I tend to think that the background of the story is Susannah and that the woman may have been falsely accused. Jesus knew this and called her accusers out.



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Tyler (Man of Depravity)

posted February 3, 2009 at 2:05 am


Can’t disagree with anything here. Thanks for sharing this Scot.



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RonMcK

posted February 3, 2009 at 3:08 am


The adoption of biblical principles would make the death penalty very very rare. It would generally only be applied for extremely brutal murders. There are a few people who are so evil, that the death penalty is the only practical alternative, but these will be rare. The penalty should only be imposed when there are at least two independent witnesses who have not commited the same sin. Again this will be quite rare.
In most situations, restitution is a more practical and just solution. More here.



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James Petticrew

posted February 3, 2009 at 4:36 am


I served as police officer in Scotland and that included working in the mortuary at the PAM AM 103 disaster. I have been brought face to face with unspeakable evil and have often concluded that the death penalty would be appropriate in some of these heinous cases.
However I have to balance that against the fact that I have witnessed in my own country people convicted of such crimes subsequently cleared. This means had we being using the death penalty they would have had a posthumous pardon, which is worthless to the person concerned. I also know that no criminal justice system is foolproof, the innocent will be convicted on occasions and the guilty found not guilty.
Given that it seems to me that we have a choice. We can either have the death penalty and realize that over time inevitably an innocent person will be executed or we can reject it accepting that some of the most evil people in our society will not get the punishment that fits their crime.
Personally, this leads me to reject that death penalty as my conscious can more readily deal with given someone a pardon after years of wrongful imprisonment than a posthumous pardon. I would like to see at least in the UK more offenders in the most serious categories, child murder, terrorism etc get life and for it to mean life.



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RJS

posted February 3, 2009 at 7:47 am


RonMcK,
How would the adoption of biblical principles reduce capital punishment? One can get there from the NT, but only by reading intent. Certainly OT principles would increase capital punishment dramatically for “minor” offenses (failure to respect one’s parents for example).
I am with James on this for the most part. Because absolute certainty is hard to impossible – I don’t see capital punishment as a reasonable approach.



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Dan

posted February 3, 2009 at 8:04 am


Genesis 9:6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.”
We’re not bound by the Old Testament civil or ceremonial laws, but that’s a tough one to get around. I agree with Matt #1 and Ron #3. I’d limit it to brutal or multiple murders where the evidence is overwhelming.
And let’s remember that this is punishment for the guilty as opposed to ending the lives of the innocent, in the case of abortion. There is no conflict between capital punishment and pro-life ethics.



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RJS

posted February 3, 2009 at 8:49 am


Dan,
And what role then should repentance play?
Frankly I think that this kind of punishment for the guilty – judgment – is reserved to God alone.
Punishment is necessary – for correction, reproof, growth, deterrent, and to protect the society and innocents from those who will perpetuate evil.
But capital punishment is either vengeance – which should belong to God – or judgment, not in the sense of discernment but in the sense of damnation – which again belongs to God alone.
What makes us think that we are any more discerning than Calvin who condemned a “heretic” or those who self-righteously burned Wycliffe and others at the stake?
Simply considering ourselves to have the right or responsibility to condemn anyone to death damages our very soul.
Provocative enough?



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Travis Greene

posted February 3, 2009 at 9:28 am


Since I work at a nonprofit law firm that represents people on death row and capitally-charged defendants, I’ve written frequently about this on my blog. If you like, you can check that out here: http://mysticallimpet.blogspot.com/search/label/death%20penalty
But in the meantime, I’ll just quote myself.
“There are lots of reasons to be against the death penalty. There is exactly one reason to be for it: believing in the retributive justice of “an eye for an eye”. I have little to say to people of non-Christian faiths, or no faith, who support the death penalty for this reason, other than to reiterate all the practical problems with capital punishment.
But to my fellow Jesus-followers who support, or are ambivalent about capital punishment, I’d issue this challenge: You have placed your faith in violence and revenge rather than in the Jesus who taught us to forgive our enemies, who flatly rejected “eye for an eye” thinking, and who died to save even (or especially) the worst of us. Who is not willing that any should perish. Who begged for forgiveness for his killers, while they were killing him. Repent.”
Matt @ 1,
“Turning the other cheek is only a virtue when you are the victim. Turning the other cheek when others are victimized is supporting injustice.”
I don’t know where you got this idea, but it wasn’t from Jesus. You seem to think turning the other cheek means “do nothing”. It does not. Opposing capital punishment does not mean not caring about victims of murder. It does not even mean believing murderers deserve to live. It does mean, to borrow an idea from Sister Helen Prejean, that we don’t deserve to kill.
In your reading of John 8, if the woman had actually committed adultery, would Jesus have gladly joined in on the throwing of stones?
I say never.



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Travis Greene

posted February 3, 2009 at 9:33 am


Dan @ 6,
“And let’s remember that this is punishment for the guilty as opposed to ending the lives of the innocent, in the case of abortion. There is no conflict between capital punishment and pro-life ethics.”
This kind of thinking is exactly why America knows that Christians are not truly pro-life. According to your own statement, you’re not pro-life. You’re pro-innocent-life. That’s not a distinction we’re allowed to make.
And that quote from Genesis is truly exactly in the sense that “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword” is true. If you live a life of violence, you’re likely to be killed. It’s not a prescriptive law. God says he will take an account of life taken. Let’s let Him.



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Scott Lenger

posted February 3, 2009 at 9:54 am


I’m with @RJS in that it isn’t so much the issue of whether someone death row might actually be innocent of a crime, but the more basic principle that life belongs to God, thus we are not at liberty to take it.
“We resist one who is evil not because life is inherently sacred, but simply because life belongs to God…We do not value life as an end in itself-There is much worth dying for; rather, all life is valued, even the lives of our enemies, because God has valued them.”
From “The Peaceable Kingdom



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Nora

posted February 3, 2009 at 11:23 am


I am against the death penalty, but I am not sure that life imprisonment is the more merciful option. If I were wrongfully convicted and had to choose between life imprisonment and the death penalty, I would choose the death penalty. I wish there were a third way in this situation that didn’t result in long-term emotional torture for the innocent or the guilty.



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MattR

posted February 3, 2009 at 11:35 am


Intriguing thoughts Scot.
Looks like a good book.
For me…
All human life is created in and belongs to God.
Any system of human justice, no matter how good, will have some flaws… which means that innocent people will be judged guilty, and with the death penalty be killed! Of course, as mentioned here, Jesus is the ultimate example of a failed system.
In the Way of Jesus, everyone, no matter how heinous the crime, deserves the opportunity for repentance/restitution (kinda hard to do that after you’re executed).
So, I just don’t see any way around it…
As a follower of Jesus, I am against the death penalty.



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ChrisB

posted February 3, 2009 at 11:38 am


I’m not going to say I’m totally comfortable with capital punishment. I do think it’s a practice Christians can support. I do think our system needs serious reform.
The best argument against capital punishment I’ve found is that it ends the murderer’s opportunity to repent. But it also prevents him from committing further murders and ending their opportunities to repent. Don’t say it doesn’t happen. If you have any doubts, spend 10 minutes with Google.
The simple fact of the matter is that this system, with all its flaws and dangers, was instituted by God because human life is so valuable that the only appropriate penalty for taking a life is to forfeit yours. It is an appropriate punishment and, if properly used, a deterrent. It is not necessarily vengeance, nor is it usurping God’s role.
Mark’s comment in #1 is important — how far are you willing to take this concern that we might accidentally punish an innocent person?
Scot: John 8? You know full well that woman was being railroaded — where was her partner? Death was only permitted for catching them in the act.
RJS said: “Frankly I think that this kind of punishment for the guilty – judgment – is reserved to God alone.”
Apparently He disagrees.
Travis: Your interpretation of Gen 9:6 is obviously wrong: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.” The texts gives a reason why this is proper, not just so.



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Chris E

posted February 3, 2009 at 1:13 pm


ChrisB @ 13. I imagine this blog as a Victorian tea party with everyone trying to be nice and polite and then all of a sudden the cave troll from Moria bursts in an starts swinging that big ass club. I’m not sure if you’re the troll or the club being swung. Anyway, I love your bluntness.



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Travis Greene

posted February 3, 2009 at 1:27 pm


ChrisB,
“human life is so valuable that the only appropriate penalty for taking a life is to forfeit yours”
That’s called vengeance. And God says it’s his. It’s an eye for an eye thinking, which was instituted by God you say, but for a time, as a limit, not as a prescription. And Jesus did away with it.
I am utterly astounded at the interpretations of John 8 being thrown around. Are you saying that if they were caught in the act, Jesus would stand approvingly by as they were executed? That he would participate?
This really is the heart of what we’re talking about. All the other arguments are bogus. Capital punishment is no deterrent, it’s far more expensive than life imprisonment (yes, as counterintuitive as that is), it’s racially, class, gender, and geographically biased, and we will never eliminate the chance that we will execute the innocent. Not to mention the cases in which the victim’s family does not want execution (more than you might think, check out this organization http://www.mvfr.org/).
The only argument in favor of it is this retributive idea of justice: that if we do not punish murderers they will somehow have “gotten away with it”. I might feel that way if I were an atheist. But I’m not. I know that Jesus will save me, not my own violent heart.
I put this on the movie quotes comment section the other day, but I’ll use it again here:
Frodo: He deserves death…
Gandalf: Deserves it! I dare say he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death and judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured, but there is a chance of it.



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Bob Smietana

posted February 3, 2009 at 1:32 pm


I heard Justice Scalia and the late Paul Simon speak about death penalty a few years ago, along Beth Wilkinson, the prosecutor who argued the government’s case that Timothy McVeigh should be executed. Scalia was surprisingly cavalier, dismissing claims that innocent people might be executed by saying, in essence, that when you make omelette’s, you’re going to break a few eggs. Wilkinson wanted to see death penalty legislation reformed; Simon said that the death penalty is more but unwise-that no system of government is wise enough to wield it.



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ChrisB

posted February 3, 2009 at 1:41 pm


“Jesus is the ultimate example of a failed system”
Technically, Jesus was put to death for claiming to be the king of the Jews.
Which He did.
He wasn’t “innocent” in that sense. He was killed for claiming to be exactly who He was.



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Chris E

posted February 3, 2009 at 1:42 pm


The interpretive issues present in John 8:1-11 are just some of the reasons in favor of not accepting it as part of the canon of Scripture.
Setting that questionable passage aside for now, Travis, how would you interpret Rom 13:1-7? Is not the state to be “an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” and with the sword, not an instrument of punishment but of death, no less?



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Travis Greene

posted February 3, 2009 at 1:56 pm


Chris E: To be honest, I don’t know how to interpret Romans 13:1-7. But then again, when I don’t like or understand a passage of Scripture, I don’t just throw it out.
To start, I might consider it in light of what precedes it, Romans 12:17-21.
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”



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Travis Greene

posted February 3, 2009 at 1:58 pm


I might also contrast the state Paul was talking about with our own. The Christian community had no voice in what Rome did. The Christian community has a huge voice in what the United States does (or the state of Georgia or Alabama, or wherever).



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Chris E

posted February 3, 2009 at 2:15 pm


Excellent to bring in context. I got your shot about “just throwing out” parts of scripture. Good one. I am in excellent company to doubt the reliability of John 8:1-11 and one implication of this position is that I would not use that passage to make very difficult decisions like capital punishment.
I would quote the context you did and say that that makes 13:4 all the more striking. Paul is not an idiot; he didn’t forget what he had just written. I read him saying that individuals are to live lives free of vengefulness because that belongs to God who has placed some of this role in the hands of his appointed governmental authorities. The picture is of government killing wrongdoers. I think this passage is a key weakness in your position.



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Matt

posted February 3, 2009 at 4:11 pm


Travis #8,
Thanks for the thoughts.
“Turning the other cheek is only a virtue when you are the victim. Turning the other cheek when others are victimized is supporting injustice.”
I don’t know where you got this idea, but it wasn’t from Jesus.

I was thinking of Isaiah 5, especially verse 7: “The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.” God wanted his nation to be a place of justice, but instead Israel’s leaders were ignoring the cries of the poor as creditors ate up their land. God’s response was Assyrian invasion.
I was also thinking of James 4:17, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” In this case, failing to respond justly is “knowing the right thing one ought to do.”
While I think that non-retaliation and non-violent resistance are primary Christian virtues, I think they only apply to when we are being victimized. We don’t have the right to “turn the other cheek” on someone else’s behalf. The Scriptures have harsh words for people who have the power to promote justice and don’t.
In your reading of John 8, if the woman had actually committed adultery, would Jesus have gladly joined in on the throwing of stones?
I can’t say that I know what Jesus would do, but that wasn’t my point. I brought this up because there was a time in my life when I thought that John 8 was the “trump card” against capital punishment–that Jesus’ pronouncement clearly negated Genesis 9:6. I don’t think this any more.
The parallels between John 8 and Susanna suggest that Susanna is the background of John 8. She was falsely accused of being caught in the act of adultery and she was vindicated by Daniel. In John 8, the Pharisees cooked this story about the woman in order to test Jesus. They gathered a bunch of false witnesses to bring accusations against her. Jesus’ words, “Let he who is without sin throw the first stone” is a reference to Deut 17:7, in which the witness of a capital crime was to be the first to throw a stone at a condemned person. Jesus is accusing the woman’s accusers of being false witnesses. He says, “Whoever saw her do it, cast the first stone.” In this interpretation, the things Jesus wrote in the sand may have been Deut 17:7 and Exod. 23:1 (“You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness.”)
the “point” of John 8 seems to be to highlight Jesus’ wisdom by comparing him to Daniel, and to vilify the Pharisees by comparing them to false witnesses. It is not to condemn capital punishment.



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Chris E

posted February 3, 2009 at 4:28 pm


It is nowhere even hinted at in John 8 that she was innocent. In fact the narrative says that they brought a woman “who had been caught in adultery.” The narrator of John believed she had been caught. Assuming she was guilty, the point seems to be “We’re not killing folks for adultery anymore but it’s still sin and you should cut it out.” The absence of the male perp in the scene is inconclusive and Jesus does not comment on it. If that was a clincher that the charges were false it would have been shrewd of Jesus to ask about him.



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RJS

posted February 3, 2009 at 4:35 pm


Matt,
I am not a pacifist – and I think you are right that non-retaliation and non-violent resistance are primary Christian virtues but that they are not blanket commands in the face of victimization and injustice toward others – in the Nazi Final Solution most famously or other examples.
But Capital Punishment isn’t about stopping victimization. It is about passing judgment and exacting vengeance. I don’t think these are Christian virtues at all – from the the teachings of Jesus in the gospels through the letters of Paul, Peter, James, and John.



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Kenton

posted February 3, 2009 at 5:43 pm


Where to begin…
John 8: As I understand it, the mob did not have the authority to stone the woman caught in adultery. It seems like Jesus is addressing mob rule and hypocrisy more than capital punishment.
Capital punishment as passing judgment/exacting vengeance: Well, isn’t the whole of the criminal legal system about passing judgment? If we’re not going to pass judgment shouldn’t we open up the prison walls and free everyone?
Executing the innocent: Puh-lease – I know of NO ONE (yes, I’m screaming) who supports capital punishment that supports executing the innocent. Let’s talk reform of the system to ensure it doesn’t happen, but that’s a separate argument.
Being “consistent pro-life”: How about if I take this tact – I’ll continue to support and vote for GOP governors in my state (Texas), and when the governor fails to commute a death sentence, I’ll she d some crocodile tears and talk about how disappointed I was in his decision.



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Travis Greene

posted February 3, 2009 at 5:50 pm


ChrisE,
But we are the state, if we live in a democracy. It’s no good to talk about “the government” as if we have no say in what they do.
But anyhow, I heartily reject the way you seem to read and use Scripture, so I’m not much bothered by your reading of Paul.
Matt,
Good points all, but again, turning the other cheek doesn’t mean no response. RJS is right. Capital punishment isn’t about stopping murders from taking place. There’s a huge difference between using lethal force to prevent a crime like murder, and calmly and deliberately after the fact pumping someone full of poison until they die, even though it changes nothing about the crime.
No, John 8 isn’t primarily about capital punishment. But it is about judgment, and forgiveness, and rejecting violence as a solution.



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Matt

posted February 3, 2009 at 5:50 pm


Chris E #23
It is nowhere even hinted at in John 8 that she was innocent.
I think the parallels with Susanna would have brought that story to mind to the original audience. This is the narrator?s way of ?hinting? that she was innocent, even without being explicit about it. As far as other details of the story?the absence of the male perp (also parallel to Susanna) and Jesus? failure to ask about his whereabouts?the Gospel writers included what they wanted to make the point they wanted to make. They omitted what wasn?t important. In John 8, the writer doesn?t even say what Jesus wrote in the sand!
John 8 is notoriously difficult to interpret since the version that we have has been yanked from its original context. I would be very hesitant to develop much theology around it. (You seem to agree with this point in #21.)
RJS #24
But Capital Punishment isn’t about stopping victimization. It is about passing judgment and exacting vengeance.
I disagree with this assertion. It?s not an issue of vengeance, but of justice. Vengeance is ?You hurt me, so I?ll hurt you back.? Justice is ?You committed a crime and you are liable to retribution.? If imprisonment is only to prevent further crimes and not for retribution, then we have to ask whether or not it is effective. Crimes can and do occur in prison, and ex-cons often re-offend.
I think punishment goes beyond public safety. I would echo the comments on Romans 13 about ?the sword,? an image based on the state?s authority to carry out capital punishment. To me, this passage suggests a retributive function of justice, even for Christians. Punishment of crimes (including capital punishment) has to be seen as a combination of retribution, crime deterrent, and public safety.
While I won?t necessarily vouch for our legal system or the way that we carry out capital punishment, I disagree with the premise that capital punishment is off of the table for Christians.



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Travis Greene

posted February 3, 2009 at 5:57 pm


“isn’t the whole of the criminal legal system about passing judgment?”
I certainly hope not. I hope it’s about preventing crime. Punishment is part of this, but it’s not the main goal. Capital punishment, like abortion, is a main symptom of our culture’s utter disregard for human life.
And if you support reform of the death penalty, then let’s have a moratorium until we can address these issues.



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ChrisB

posted February 3, 2009 at 5:57 pm


Chris E, I didn’t mean to be unusually blunt; my phone rang four times while I was doing that comment — that may have made it more terse than it might have otherwise been.
Travis:
“That’s called vengeance.” No, that’s called justice. Brief aside: What is it with liberals today? Call charity justice and justice vengeance — why? Is this an attempt to short circuit debate using religious language?
“Jesus did away with it.” Feel free to prove that. Since we’ve been arguing about it for lo these many years, I doubt it’s an open and shut case.
“Are you saying that if they were caught in the act, Jesus would stand approvingly by as they were executed?” I don’t think we have enough information to answer that conclusively “no.”
All the other charges you raise against cap punishment are simply problems in our current system. “we will never eliminate the chance that we will execute the innocent.” I know. But with care we could drastically reduce the odds. You can’t be certain that you won’t be hit by a meteor tomorrow, but I doubt you’ve got insurance against it.
When you lower the odds of an escape below the odds of executing an innocent person, I’ll listen.
BTW, I love the LOTR references here today, but they’re not scripture.



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Travis Greene

posted February 3, 2009 at 5:59 pm


Vengeance is ?You hurt me, so I?ll hurt you back.?
Justice is ?You committed a crime and you are liable to retribution.?
I fail to see a difference between these two statements.



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RJS

posted February 3, 2009 at 6:10 pm


Travis,
Of course there is a difference between the statements – because justice assumes that there is an absolute “right” an absolute ethic that has been violated.
Matt, ChrisB
I firmly believe in judgment – but not by us, by God and God alone. There will be a judgment.
Given the way capital punishment has been abused – and we can look at the church first and foremost – the only reasonable conclusion is to take it off the table. Humans, even Christians, even searching for justice, even trying to follow God, cannot ever be trusted to exercise capital punishment. Those who burned Wycliffe at the stake honestly thought that they were righteous before God for preserving his church and exercising justice. Who are we to think that we are intrinsically any better? Any more just and righteous?
It seems to me – just from looking at history – that if we even think we can pass this kind of judgment, to intentionally kill to exact vengeance and justice – it damages our soul – our ability to follow God. Now – limiting it to mass murder may be “just” but I still think it does something to us that is not good and starts a “slippery slope” – even though I hat slippery slope arguments.



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Dan

posted February 3, 2009 at 6:11 pm


RJS 7 What makes us think that we are any more discerning than Calvin who condemned a “heretic” or those who self-righteously burned Wycliffe and others at the stake?
As I said, I think capital punishment should be reserved for only multiple murders where the evidence is overwhelming. As Paul said in Romans 13, the state carries the sword to punish the evildoer. I think we have to retain Old Testament commands that are confirmed in the New Testament. Genesis 9:6 seems to be a command, not an opinion of someone in the Jewish culture, but I sense that we have a different view on scripture itself.
Travis 9
“According to your own statement, you’re not pro-life. You’re pro-innocent-life. That’s not a distinction we’re allowed to make.”
And that quote from Genesis is truly exactly in the sense that “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword” is true. If you live a life of violence, you’re likely to be killed. It’s not a prescriptive law. God says he will take an account of life taken. Let’s let Him.
I disagree. I believe Genesis 9 and Romans 13 suggest that civil governments bear the sword to punish the evildoer. It is not a prescription for revenge carried out by the individual. It is a prescription for civil justice that is equal to the crime committed.
An I think being opposed to abortion and against capital punishment based on the guilt or innocence of the one whose life is ended is infinitely more consistent than opposing capital punishment while winking at abortion, showing more compassion to the guilty than to the most defenseless and innocent of all. Seems like those who lean to the left tend to get all upset about capital punishment and won’t lift a finger (or a ballot) to end government sanctioned, government condoned, government financed killing of 4000 innocents every day in this country alone.



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Joe

posted February 3, 2009 at 6:20 pm


What’s interesting is all those secular countries in Europe that don’t impose the death penalty, that see it as cruel and inhumane.
Is being a Christian mean identifying oneself with a practice that many others would see as inhumane? How does that reflect our image as followers of Jesus? That we’re more eager than a secular humanist to kill another human being, to take vengeance?
You could apply the same argument to health care.



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ChrisB

posted February 3, 2009 at 7:32 pm


Travis,
Vengeance is emotional and it is about me.
Justice is (or should be) cold and calculating and about society, absolute standards, law, and the victim.
RJS,
Killing heretics has arguably less scriptural support than murderers.
I do see the problems, the risks, the complications, but I think capital punishment — though its use needs drastic reform — serves important functions.
If we did away with capital punishment, how would our society interpret it? I think many would say that even murder isn’t that big of a deal. I think it would further devalue human life.
Which leads us to…
Joe,
As long as I’m convinced it’s biblical, I’m not concerned how anyone else sees anything.
I’ve even less concerned about what people who are ok with abortion, euthanasia, and eugenics call “inhumane.”



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Travis Greene

posted February 3, 2009 at 8:46 pm


“An I think being opposed to abortion and against capital punishment based on the guilt or innocence of the one whose life is ended is infinitely more consistent than opposing capital punishment while winking at abortion, showing more compassion to the guilty than to the most defenseless and innocent of all.”
Well, I’m opposed to abortion too, so you shouldn’t have any problem with me.
ChrisB, I think if we repealed the death penalty, it would show how much we value life. I think executions are one of the ways we don’t value life, along with abortion and embryonic research, euthanasia, and war. I think the South has higher crime rates partly because of the death penalty. And if you acknowledge that there are huge problems in the application of the death penalty, you ought to support a moratorium on executions while we study the issue as a nation. Many states have done that (New Jersey and Maryland most recently), and have realized that it simply isn’t worth the cost, pain to victims’ families (due to endless rounds of appeals and so on), racial bias, and risk of executing the innocent, even if one supports it in principle.
Oh, and 130 people have been released from death row due to innocence. Have that many people escaped from death row and committed more murders?



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Chris E

posted February 3, 2009 at 10:03 pm


>>But anyhow, I heartily reject the way you seem to read and use Scripture



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Travis Greene

posted February 3, 2009 at 10:28 pm


Fair enough. We’re not being very third way today, are we?



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Chris E

posted February 3, 2009 at 11:45 pm


Not so much, Travis, not so much. If you just wouldn’t be so wrong. :)



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ChrisB

posted February 4, 2009 at 10:25 am


“130 people have been released from death row due to innocence”
Demonstrating that our system works.
“I think the South has higher crime rates partly because of the death penalty.”
Not because we have a large concentration of poor people who’ve been taught all their lives that they’re poor because they’ve been wronged by rich(er) people?



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Travis Greene

posted February 4, 2009 at 3:35 pm


Yes, poverty has a lot to do with it as well. Poverty, substance abuse, mental illness or retardation, childhood physical abuse, and yes, good old-fashioned individual human sin all play a role. Those aren’t excuses, they’re explanations. And if we actually want less death, we’d do well to pay attention to them.



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