Should Christians support the death penalty?

Discussion in '2005 Archive' started by jdcanady, Apr 23, 2005.

  1. jdcanady

    jdcanady
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    I want to continue a discussion we were having in a different forum concerning whether Christians should support the death penalty. Let's stipulate that a person is guilty of murder. He will either go to prison for the rest of his life with no chance of parole, or he will be put to death. Should a Christian support the execution of this man?

    Further stipulations:

    God instituted the death penalty in the Mosaic Law. It may or may not have been repealed in John 8.
    Paul mentions that secular governments have been given the "sword" to keep order. (Rom 13)

    My argument is this. Christians should not support the death penalty because (1) every person is created in the image of God (2) once they die, there is no chance for salvation (3) just because God has used other evil men or governments to punish murderers doesn't mean Christians should be a part of it (4) we have been saved for the purpose of spreading the gospel, not pushing for death. It is unseemly for Christians to support the death of another person.
     
  2. Soulman

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    We were origionally created in the image of God. Jn 8:44 says that we are of our father the devil. We lost our Godlike image when we were cast out of the garden. Jn. 3:17 states we are condemned already without Christ.

    We will answer to mans laws.

    If I get a D.W.I. I can repent and be forgiven but I will still be in court Monday.
     
  3. Martin

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    First let me say that this is a matter of conscience. I would never ask anyone who, as a matter of conscience, opposed the death penalty to support it. So this is not a debate post...I am just giving my view of this.

    You said:
    "Let's stipulate that a person is guilty of murder. He will either go to prison for the rest of his life with no chance of parole, or he will be put to death. Should a Christian support the execution of this man?"

    ==Personally I believe we should. Why?

    The death penalty is something that God has given to human government in all dispensations. Before the Law we read that God said to Noah:

    "Whoever sheds man's blood,
    By man his blood shall be shed,
    For in the image of God
    He made man" -Gen 9:6

    In that passage, which is a pre-Law passage, God tells Noah that those who kill should be killed. Why? Because they have killed a being who was created in the image of God. The punishment God, who owns all souls (Ez 18:4), prescribes for this person is death.

    This can also be seen during the period of Law. During this period, for national Israel, there were several sins that would result in the death penalty (just read Leviticus). In Exodus we read that:

    "He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death" Ex 21:12

    That punishment was to be given to those who willfully killed another person. They were to be put to death by the human government. Now God did give an exception clause for accidential homicide (vs13). That person is not to be executed, but rather is to flee to a place of protection (Numb 35:6-25, and Deut 9:1-15).

    In the New Testament there is no direct statement on the death penalty. The reason for this maybe that the Old Testament Law was written, in part, to govern national Israel. The New Testament was written to point people to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and to show Christians how to grow. In Romans 13, however, Paul does say that God has given the government the sword to use against law-breakers. Paul does not go into detail explaining what he meant, but a little historical background helps. In that day the sword was used in battle, it was used by what we would call police, and it was used to inflict the death penalty. Notice that Paul does directly say that this sword is for the use of wrath (vs4). That would seem to indicate that God, through Paul, still gives human government (and nobody else) the right to execute certain criminals.

    In John 8 Jesus is not repealing the death penalty. These pharisee had brought this woman to Jesus unjustly. Where was the man? They had no concern for justice, they were just trying to trap Jesus. This event does not speak to the larger issue of the death penalty. After all Jesus Himself came to suffer the cross (the death penalty). As far as I know Jesus did not speak on the issue of the death penalty.

    ______________________________

    You said:
    "Christians should not support the death penalty because (1) every person is created in the image of God"

    ==This is a good point. However I would point you to Genesis 9 where God uses this very reason to have the death penalty:

    "Whoever sheds man's blood,
    By man his blood shall be shed,
    For in the image of God
    He made man" -Gen 9:6
    ___________________________________

    You said:
    "(2) once they die, there is no chance for salvation"

    ==This is also true. However the Bible no place gives this argument any support. Certainly there should be "missionaries" to those who are on death row, and each condemned person should be given the chance to repent (though this will not change their sentence).
    _______________________________

    You said:
    "(3) just because God has used other evil men or governments to punish murderers doesn't mean Christians should be a part of it"

    ==I point you to the information above, reference the Old Testament.
    _______________________________

    You said:
    "(4) we have been saved for the purpose of spreading the gospel, not pushing for death. It is unseemly for Christians to support the death of another person."

    ==The Church is not allowed to execute people, only the government. This is true in both the Old and New Testaments. We as Christians should never celebrate the execution of a person, true. However if a person has murdered the government does have the God-given right to execute them. And, as representatives of God, we should not oppose them. However we should also reach out to the prisoner and witness to them.

    We should also work to make sure that only guilty people are executed. In our day of politically motivated prosecutors who ignore evidence to support their case, we should always seek to verify the case against the person.

    In Christ,
    Martin.
     
  4. Logos1560

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    How can you validly claim it to be unseemly for a Christian to accept the greater wisdom, justice, and righteousness of God who you acknowledged established or instituted the death penalty?
     
  5. jdcanady

    jdcanady
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    To Soulman:

    In John 8:44, Jesus tells the Pharisees who were wanting to kill Him that they were acting as if Satan was their father because Satan is a murderer and a liar from the beginning. Those who desire to kill others have Satan as a father.

    Although our image was distorted by the fall, we did not lose the image of God. Gen. 9 clearly is after the fall, and God reiterates that man was made in His image. Thanks for the post.
     
  6. jdcanady

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    to Logos1560

    Because God never said for Christians to actively seek the death of anyone. God often uses ungodly men to carry forward His purposes in the affairs of men. Christians should have a different attitude.

    Jesus, in Luke 6:34, says "But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men."

    Paul was a murderer of Christians, and yet God transformed him into a great missionary. In 1 Tim. 1:15-16 he says, "It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life."

    Jesus Christ used Paul as an example for all Christians for follow. We must have the same kind of patience and grace toward others (even murderers like Paul) as Jesus had. Our focus should be on saving murderers, not killing them. We have no idea when the Holy Spirit might call someone to Christ. Shouldn't it follow that, as Christians, we would want them to have every chance possible for the rest of their natural lives?

    Again, it strikes me as unseemly for a Christian to actively seek the death of anyone.

    Thanks for the post
     
  7. jdcanady

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    To Martin:

    First of all, Gen. is part of the Mosaic Law. Even though the events of Gen. are prior to Moses, it was written by Moses and has always been considered part of the Mosaic Law.

    We must always consider a text in context. Gen.9 is just after the flood. Before the flood, God had given men only the fruit of plants to eat. After the flood, God gave them animals to eat as well. It is here that God makes a distinction between man and animals. He says men are not to kill other men because they are made in the image of God. This is not the establishment of the death penalty. It is a prohibition against killing human beings. There is no thought here about crimes or governments or any such thing. It is a prohibition against killing. Just because God says that He will use other (evil) men to take the life of a murderer, doesn't mean Christians should push for the death of anyone.

    I agree Christians should not try to overthrow a government. We are in a unique situation in this country, however, to actively influence its laws. It would be appropriate for Christians to seek to overturn the death penalty as a punishment for crimes, and I think we should.

    I would also point you to my response to Logos1560 concerning my view of an appropriate Christian attitude in this matter and the reasons for it.

    thanks for the post
     
  8. Pastor Larry

    Pastor Larry
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    Genesis is not a part of the Mosaic Law. It predated the Mosaic Law by at least 2000 years.

    Secondly, the Gen command is tied to a universal truth of God's image in man. It is not tied to the Law and social conventions.

    John 8 has no reference to the death penalty because 1) the Jews were not acting as government and 2) Christ was not guilty of anything for which God commanded the death penatly.

    In sum, Christians should support hte death penalty because 1) God commands it; and 2) it shows a high view of human life.

    Any case where the death penalty is used, a very high standard of guilt must be attained so as to avoid putting an innocent person to death. If there is doubt, then don't do it. But where there is no doubt, then do it immediately.
     
  9. gb93433

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    Form a practical point of view: If someone could assure me that an innocent person would never die then I would be for it.
     
  10. jdcanady

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    Pastor Larry

    You are correct that Gen.9 is tied to the universal truth of God's image in man. That is exactly the point! We shouldn't support the death penalty because man is made in God's image.

    God does not command anywhere that Christians should support or carry out the death penalty. Rom. 13, in context, says that Christians should not revolt against the government and the "sword" is threatened for those who do evil. It does not say Christians should seek to put anyone to death. Early Christians were more likely to be victims of the death penalty.

    John 8 is exactly about the death penalty and carrying out the Mosaic punishment for adultery. If Jesus was interested in killing, He would have commanded both the man and the woman to be stoned. Instead, He said that the death penalty can be carried out by those who are without sin! That means He alone is worthy to make that decision. In the case of the woman in John 8, Jesus knew full well she was guilty, but chose to show mercy instead. We should follow His example.

    Again, it is unseemly for Christians to desire the death, immediately or otherwise, of anyone.

    thanks for the post
     
  11. Wes Outwest

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    Why? In Genesis, God destoyed all mankind with a flood save for 8 humans.

    He further destroyed the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah, killing all the inhabitants save for Lot and his two daughters.

    The earth God created has earth quakes, floods, fires etc. that all kill humans.

    In Revelation 20 we see that God "kills" everyone who does not believe in Him.

    So why is it unseemly that Christians should condone the taking of the life of one who has deliberately taken the life of another? Scriptures demand it of us!
     
  12. jdcanady

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    To Wes,Outwest

    I notice that all your examples are of God taking peoples lives. Only God has the perfect judgment and righteousness to carry out such a penalty.

    No where in scriptures is it demanded of Christians to kill anyone. Indeed, it seems we are commanded to pursue people with the gospel, having grace and mercy. See my response to Logos1560 above concerning the reasons for this.

    thanks for the post
     
  13. Michael52

    Michael52
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    "Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth..."

    Justice = getting exactly the punishment we deserve

    Mercy = being spared (by grace) the punishment we deserve

    A secular state (government) has the "power of the sword" and is (can be?) constituted by God. Thus, the state has the right to impose what it deems appropriate punishment.

    In this country, thank God, we citizens have the right and obligation to choose, by our vote, the appropriate punishment under the law.

    If you are a Christian who seeks to understand and apply the justice and mercy that God would have us to do, I don't see how one is necessarily wrong regardless of which side of the issue their conscience falls on. As posters have pointed out, we can find justification from the Bible for both sides. I cetainly hope that whatever we choose to do, is done fairly and consistently. God help us! [​IMG]
     
  14. Martin

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    You said:
    First of all, Gen. is part of the Mosaic Law. Even though the events of Gen. are prior to Moses, it was written by Moses and has always been considered part of the Mosaic Law.

    ==The point is that God gave Moses the command for the death penalty prior to the Law. Yes the book is part of Moses' Canon but the events in it pre-date Moses and the Law. It shows that God had established the death penalty prior to the Law.
    _______________________________________

    You said:
    We must always consider a text in context. Gen.9 is just after the flood. Before the flood, God had given men only the fruit of plants to eat. After the flood, God gave them animals to eat as well. It is here that God makes a distinction between man and animals. He says men are not to kill other men because they are made in the image of God. This is not the establishment of the death penalty.

    ==Well what is the punishment for a man who kills a man? Death.

    "Whoever sheds man's blood,
    By man his blood shall be shed,
    For in the image of God
    He made man" -Gen 9:6
    _______________________________________

    You said:
    It is a prohibition against killing human beings. There is no thought here about crimes or governments or any such thing. It is a prohibition against killing. Just because God says that He will use other (evil) men to take the life of a murderer, doesn't mean Christians should push for the death of anyone.

    ==There is nothing in the passage about God using evil men to take the life of the murderer. That is simply not there.
    _________________________________

    I noticed you did not comment on other portions of my response. Portions that dealt with God commanding the death penalty and in Romans 13. Why not?

    I have added it again here:
    The death penalty is something that God has given to human government in all dispensations. Before the Law we read that God said to Noah:

    "Whoever sheds man's blood,
    By man his blood shall be shed,
    For in the image of God
    He made man" -Gen 9:6

    In that passage, which is a pre-Law passage, God tells Noah that those who kill should be killed. Why? Because they have killed a being who was created in the image of God. The punishment God, who owns all souls (Ez 18:4), prescribes for this person is death.

    This can also be seen during the period of Law. During this period, for national Israel, there were several sins that would result in the death penalty (just read Leviticus). In Exodus we read that:

    "He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death" Ex 21:12

    That punishment was to be given to those who willfully killed another person. They were to be put to death by the human government. Now God did give an exception clause for accidential homicide (vs13). That person is not to be executed, but rather is to flee to a place of protection (Numb 35:6-25, and Deut 9:1-15).

    In the New Testament there is no direct statement on the death penalty. The reason for this maybe that the Old Testament Law was written, in part, to govern national Israel. The New Testament was written to point people to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and to show Christians how to grow. In Romans 13, however, Paul does say that God has given the government the sword to use against law-breakers. Paul does not go into detail explaining what he meant, but a little historical background helps. In that day the sword was used in battle, it was used by what we would call police, and it was used to inflict the death penalty. Notice that Paul does directly say that this sword is for the use of wrath (vs4). That would seem to indicate that God, through Paul, still gives human government (and nobody else) the right to execute certain criminals.

    In John 8 Jesus is not repealing the death penalty. These pharisee had brought this woman to Jesus unjustly. Where was the man? They had no concern for justice, they were just trying to trap Jesus. This event does not speak to the larger issue of the death penalty. After all Jesus Himself came to suffer the cross (the death penalty). As far as I know Jesus did not speak on the issue of the death penalty.

    Martin.
     
  15. jdcanady

    jdcanady
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    To Martin

    My point in the Gen.9 passage is that the focus is not on establishing the death penalty. The focus of the passage is on establishing the unique nature of man (created in God's image) as opposed to animals. Because of the unique nature of man, we are told not to kill others. That God indicates a person who murders will forfeit his life is to boost His statement that man was created in His image and that his life is precious. It should in no way be assumed from this passage that Christians are the ones to put another person to death! Indeed, from other passages we see that Christians are called to pursue people with the gospel and grace.

    In ref. to the Rom.13 passage, the context is this. Christians are told not to revolt aganist the government. That the secular government has the "sword" as a means of maintaining order is a threat to the Christians not to be involved in evil deeds, most likely refering to open opposition to the secular government, perhaps because of high taxes. In no way does God, in Rom.13, command Christians to seek the death of anyone.

    One question to you if I might? Suppose a Roman governor had been converted to Christianity early in the life of the church. Suppose that same governor had to try a case of murder, in which a Pharisee from Jerusalem had been seeking out Christians for punishment and death. As governor, he had broad powers in administering justice.

    In this case, would Saul (later Paul) deserve immediate execution because he was responsible for shedding the blood of innocent Christians? (I know Paul was a Roman citizen and could appeal to the Emperor for judgment, but that is besides the point) Should Christians seek the death of this murderer?
     
  16. av1611jim

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    In all fairness jd; it appears to me that you are supposing that we christians who support the death penalty are also the ones who would carry it out. That is an assumption you have inserted which is not what we are saying.

    Unfortunately, the thread you have continued here was closed in the other forum. Had it not been closed, I would have liked for you to give your reasons for rewarding a guilty murderer with food, clothing, shelter, medical care and entertainment for the rest of his life.

    Can you show me where God has anywhere stated that a man shall not reap what he sows? We are not talking about the salvation of a mans soul. We are talking about justice for the peaceful existence of society.


    In HIS service;
    Jim
     
  17. Martin

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    You said:
    My point in the Gen.9 passage is that the focus is not on establishing the death penalty.

    ==Whether that is the "focus" or not, it still does establish a death penalty for murderers.
    _________________________

    You said:
    Because of the unique nature of man, we are told not to kill others. That God indicates a person who murders will forfeit his life is to boost His statement that man was created in His image and that his life is precious. It should in no way be assumed from this passage that Christians are the ones to put another person to death!

    ==Christians are not the ones putting people to death. I have already said that this is applied, in the Old and New Testaments, to the government and not the church. In the Old Testament it was the government of Israel, in the New it is the government of the various nation/states. I don't know of anyone advocating Christians putting people to death. No.

    Btw, your statement: " boost His statement that man was created in His image and that his life is precious" ...takes all meaning from the Genesis 9 passage. Does it mean what it says? I think so. There is no indication here that God is just "supporting His case" with strong wording. What about the God enforced death penalty in the Old Testament?
    ___________________________________

    You said:
    Indeed, from other passages we see that Christians are called to pursue people with the gospel and grace.

    ==I agree, but we are to leave room for the wrath of government and God (which God uses government). See Romans 12:9-13:7.
    ____________________________________

    You said:
    In ref. to the Rom.13 passage, the context is this. Christians are told not to revolt aganist the government. That the secular government has the "sword" as a means of maintaining order is a threat to the Christians not to be involved in evil deeds, most likely refering to open opposition to the secular government, perhaps because of high taxes. In no way does God, in Rom.13, command Christians to seek the death of anyone.

    ==We are not talking about Christians seeking the death of anyone. Let's get that strawman out of the way right now. We are talking about the state, not the church, enforcing its laws. And that is what Paul is talking about in Romans 13. Yes Paul says we should obey. We should obey so that we will not fear the authority (vss 3-4) and because of conscience (vs 5). What do we fear the state government for? Because God has given it permission to use the sword (deadly force) against people who do evil.
    __________________________________

    You said:
    One question to you if I might? Suppose a Roman governor had been converted to Christianity early in the life of the church. Suppose that same governor had to try a case of murder, in which a Pharisee from Jerusalem had been seeking out Christians for punishment and death. As governor, he had broad powers in administering justice.

    In this case, would Saul (later Paul) deserve immediate execution because he was responsible for shedding the blood of innocent Christians?

    ==If he had been arrested by Rome for killing people (which would not and did not happen) and was convicted of murder yes he probably would be put to death. In fact Paul state that he did not object being put to death if he had done anything worthy of death (see Acts 25:6-12).

    However that is a bit of a strawman because it avoids the teachings of Scripture in order to focus on a "lets say.." situation.
    _________________________________

    You said:
    Should Christians seek the death of this murderer?

    ==Christians should seek justice and salvation. We should seek the justice of God in time and eternity, and we should spread the message of salvation.

    Martin.
     
  18. David J

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    Yes we should support the death penalty.

    The gospel should be presented to them prior to being put to death but accepting or rejecting salvation should not pardon a murderer.

    If we put hardened criminal to death then we would not have repeat offenders. How many rapes and murders are committed by repeat rapist and murderers? How many lives would be saved if these criminals were held accountable?
     
  19. av1611jim

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    DavidJ;
    That is EXACTLY my point.

    Very well said. Kudos brother. [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Martin;
    Thank you for pointing out the straw man. I was trying to defeat that thing and didn't know what to call it.

    In HIS service;
    Jim
     
  20. av1611jim

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    jd;
    When are you going to address my point?

    "Whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap."

    How does that excuse killers from responsibility in the name of "christian love"?

    And why won't you also address the issue of rewarding killers with food, shelter, clothing, medical care and entertainment for the rest of their lives?

    In HIS service;
    Jim
     

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