Thursday, June 5, 2008

How to Think Like a Christian About Capital Punishment

I know that this is a risky topic. I could very well offend a lot of people, regardless of what position I take on the issue of capital punishment. So you do not have to worry about what I will say, or what side I am on, I am against capital punishment. Now, let's talk about why.

To begin with, I am well aware of the biblical requirements of an eye for an eye. I know that the Old Testament standard was that justice would be meted out in a tit for tat fashion. There are some problems with this, however.
  • It is in the Old Testament. However, Jesus, in the New Testament, admonished his followers to love and forgive everyone. He said that he had fulfilled or completed the law.
  • The death penalty in the Old Testament was administered by God through a prophet, judge or king. The judgment of guilt, and the sentence of death came from God. There is no way that thinking Christians can follow this sort of system in modern times.
  • It is virtually impossible to determine guilt to an absolute certainty. Over and over again we hear stories of convicted, death row inmates who are exonerated through modern DNA testing. How many innocent people have we already killed?
  • The Apostle Paul was very possibly a murderer. We know that in his pre-conversion days he was a zealous defender of the Jewish faith. As such, he went to great lengths to persecute and imprison Christians. Many of those Christians that Paul, then known as Saul, put into prison were no doubt killed. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that Saul himself participated in executions and worse. If the death penalty were strictly enforced, Saul would have been executed before his conversion.
  • If prisons and the justice system are for the purpose of rehabilitating criminals, then by executing them we deny our system the opportunity for effectiveness. Although this is not a "Christian" argument, we must take into account the consistency of our efforts and attempts to change people.
  • When we execute criminals, even the worst, we do not allow them the opportunity to experience repentance, forgiveness and grace. In essence, when I execute an offender, I am sentencing him to hell. I believe that God's grace is high and wide and broad and deep enough for everyone. I should not eliminate some from being in Christ no matter how unsavory they seem to me.

I know that I have not won many (any) converts to my way of thinking today. But it is important that if we are going to be pro-life, we need to be completely pro-life. We must advocate for life by opposing abortion, capital punishment and euthanasia.


a.mills said...

Hi, Dewey, you have given me some food for thought. I must say that I agree with you about your pro-life statement. As a Christian, I have struggled with sending people off to kill others in war. I don't want to raise a big issue, but I really struggle with this. How does that fit into the pro-life statement? I enjoy reading your blog even if I have never commented!
Amanda Mills

Dewey said...

Thanks, Amanda. I think I agree with your statement. I do not think that I am a pacifist, strictly speaking, but I am not sure that there has been a "war" in my lifetime (for America)that could not have been avoided. Good food for thought. I may have to write an entry on war now.