Christianity and the Death Penalty Reaction Paper
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She answered that no one had condemned her. Jesus then said to her, "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin" (John 8:11).
Because the woman was not stoned in the end, many interpret it to mean that Jesus changed Mosaic law and then this argument is extended to capital punishment in general. However, Jesus still left the opportunity for her to be stoned. If one of the people in the crowd had been without sin, then the woman would have still been stoned. He did not tell them not to stone her, he only set a condition on who should cast the first stone. He said nothing about the second or third stone, only the first. Luckily, for the woman, there were no qualified takers who could cast the first stone. Therefore, Jesus did not abolish capital punishment in this passage. Instead, he raised the bar for those who are making the decisions to punish others. They should lead their lives free from sin, if they are going to punish the sins of others. Therefore, Jesus did not attempt to change Mosaic Law or to abolish capital punishment. The practice of capital punishment still remained a practice that was mandated by law.
Romans 13:2-4 states that, "God's vengeance is in the hands of the civil government." Therefore, the state should mandate capital punishment as a tool to use for God to carry out his punishment of the unjust. Regardless of the Biblically based arguments, there are still those who argue that capital punishment is unjust from a Christian perspective. For instance, Christians who accept humanistic and evolutionary concepts also argue for the loss of personal accountability for one's actions (Moyer). However, this argument is not Biblically based. Nowhere in the Bible does God eliminate personal accountability for one's sins and actions against man. Furthermore, as we found from an examination of the Old Testament, capital punishment is clearly called for in the Bible.
Positions that do not support the death penalty attempt to base their arguments on the Bible. One of the key arguments that is used by this faction is that Kind David was not put to death for his capital crimes. The verse most widely quoted on the subject reads, "As the Lord lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die" (2 Sam 12:5). The reasons for David's exoneration are situational and cannot be taken as a blanket rejection of capital punishment. David was one of God's chosen and he acted in accordance to God's wishes. Sometimes a person's job is to carry out God's punishment and judgment on earth.
The most widely used argument against the death penalty is that the state if committing murder in violation of the mandate that, "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13). However, the words "to murder" are used 49 times in the Old Testament, always in reference to premeditated murder (Anderson). However, the prescribed punishment for breaking this commandment was death (Numbers 35:16-21). Therefore, the act of carrying out a death penalty is not the same as murder by the state. This is one of the most widely posed arguments by Christians who are opposed to the death penalty, but it only stands as a valid argument when taken out of context. When placed within its proper context, this proves to be an invalid argument and the Bible continues to support the death penalty.
Support for the
death penalty differs among various denominations. For instance, nearly 74% of evangelical Protestants support the death penalty, while among those who do not claim a religious affiliation, only 58% support the death penalty (Ruby). New Mexico's recent decision to substitute life without parole was considered a major victory among death penalty abolitionists (Gramlich). Many churches have issued official position statements regarding their position on the death penalty. The coalition to abolish the death penalty continues to gain wide support from a number of groups (Rust-Tierney).
The death penalty has clear Biblical support throughout the Old and New testament. Much of the support is found in the Old Testament. The Bible clearly prescribes the death penalty for certain actions and sins. It provides the authority for the state to issue and carry out the death penalty. Yet, many Christians and Christian groups continue to oppose the death penalty.
The two primary arguments from those who oppose the death penalty are based on the commandment, "Thou shalt not murder" and Jesus' solution to the stoning of the woman in the Sermon on the Mount. However, as we have demonstrated, both of these arguments are taken out of context in discussions regarding the death penalty. When one places them in the proper context, these instances continue to support the death penalty.
The basis of Christian thought and politics should be the Bible, period. What is mandated by the word of God is the final ruling on the issue. No man's personal opinion or feelings can change the word of God. It is difficult to understand how Christian groups can be opposed to the death penalty, particularly in the face of extraordinary supporting evidence that the death penalty is not only allowed, but mandated in certain sins.
As Christians, we have the obligation to support positions that echo what is written in the word of God. We have the obligation to base our individual and collective decisions, not on what we may believe, but on what the Bible tells us to believe. Throughout this research, no support was found that supports abolishment of the death penalty. All of the evidence found was in support of capital punishment from a Biblical perspective.
However, support of capital punishment does not decrease the responsibility that goes along with it. Rather, it increases the responsibility to deal out this punishment with extreme caution and attention to fairness. As Christians, we have the responsibility to be the promoters of God's rules and positions. Therefore, Christians must not shirk their duty to punish those who have committed the most heinous crimes. The Biblical position on capital punishment is clear, but there are many specific situations that must be considered in order to fulfill our duties as the body of Christ.
Anderson, Kerby. "Capital Punishment." Leadership U. 2010. Web, 5 May 2010.
Croucher, Rowling. et al. (2003). "Death Penalty in the Bible." John Mark Ministries. Web, 5
Gramlich, John. "Death penalty rift in states continues." Thursday, March 19, 2009.
Stateline.org. Web, 5 May 2010.
Moyer, Doy. "Capital Punishment in Biblical Perspective." Web, 5 May 2010.
Ruby, R." An Enduring Majority: Americans Continue to Support the Death Penalty." LEGAL
REPORT December 19, 2007 by Robert Ruby, Senior Editor, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life . Web, 5 May 2010.
Rust-Tierney, Diann. "NCADP: Devoted to Abolishing Capital Punishment." National Coalition
to Abolish the Death…
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