November 1, 2012

Judge, Jury and Executioner

This being a post on war, the death penalty and other touchy subjects is probably going to polarize people. The Bottom-line when it comes to just war is that the Bible doesn’t necessarily blow a horn and celebrate the death of anyone. It is God’s will that all will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ but in reality we know for certain this just cannot be the case. Therefore there a many people that run rogue of God and when one does they are prone to disunity, even within the faith. In my mind the extreme end of disunity is war and chaos. It is just the opposite of a God of order. Had all people been in Christ and obeyed God wars and disunity en masse would not happen. This is the whole idea of the Kingdom of God coming fully upon Jesus Christ’s return to reign forever. This is how that unity will be maintained. All will be in Christ and will be together in the Kingdom. Those that are not in Christ will be removed due to their own sin and rebellion against the will of God. It is a will that wills that we are all one just as Jesus and the Father are One (John 17:21).

Please do not get me wrong. I am not advocate of war or violence but as long as we live in a fallen world there will be fallen people doing fallen things like: violence, killing, etc. I man is within his biblical rights to protect himself and his family. The religions and denominations that advocate becoming a doormat or complete pacifism generally are a little shaky on their theology to begin with such as the Quakers, Mennonites and the Menno Simons. Like the idea of Peace on Earth at Christmas time, without Jesus Christ in the driver’s seat of an eternal theocracy, peace is just a pipe dream and people can keep wishing all they want…it isn’t going to happen. Man’s nature is to fall away from God, not towards Him. Romans 3 is overtly clear on the nature of all men.

On the issue of capital punishment I see a load of data on the pro-death penalty web sites dating back centuries. I am not so much interested or concerned with the implications involving the man-made laws governing or not governing them, I am more interested in the moral aspects and how the tie into a theocentric worldview based solely in an accurate interpretation of the Bible.

The way most of the data has been interpreted on pro-capital punishment websites can absolutely lead one to believe that capital punishment acts as a deterrent to others at large in the society that would consider committing a similar crime or completing an act that could eventually lead them to death row. One of the most annoying and overused argument against the death penalty is, “Two wrongs don’t make a right!” Let’s examine this statement logically. It assumes that the death caused by a murder is the same as a death of that murderer for what they have done. This is a false assumption. Murder as it is commonly understood is: The unlawful killing of a person with malice and aforethought.
So immediately we see an execution by the State does not fit this definition. Based on logic alone, the word murder cannot be used to describe executions since the death penalty is under law. This is like saying we should police officer should not shoot a criminal that is shooting at him because the officer trying to protect himself from a criminal would be in fact coming the same crime as the criminal: Shooting someone. This is absurd. The police officer is protecting himself and the criminal is wantonly and maliciously attempting to harm people. The “two wrongs done make a right” logic does not follow. Its circular reasoning, it assumes the criminal either has the right to do the shooting or the officer does not (therefore he cannot protect himself).

Second, we must deal with the motive.  As stated above, there is clearly a difference between a crime and a punishment. This is where the anti-death penalty advocates improperly frame their arguments again. A crime the caliber of murder with malice is a serious lack of moral judgment (not to mention ethics). A death penalty is a moral response to the actions of a person that commits and atrocious crime that warrants the death penalty. First and foremost to act as a deterrent to those that consider following in their depraved and wicked footsteps.

What I continue to find in many if not most of the pro-death penalty web sites are appeals and citations to human sources. They are usually entrenched in rationality and reason. There is nothing wrong with this but to rely on these sources solely somewhat diminishes a person’s moral position in terms of a higher moral authority beyond man. This therefore weakens one’s argument when it comes to moral objectivity. It forces them into a box mostly of moral relativity because they can only appeal to the authority of their own knowledge or to that of other fallen and flawed human beings. There are mentions of some religious affiliation but not for the purposes of referencing Scripture to back claims but rather for generalized moral principles (some of which are taken out of context).

In the end, I will state the following. God came to save all people that would repent of their sins. This includes murders and thieves. One of these entered paradise with Christ the day he died. In the end Jesus is the one who will judge all (Acts 17:31, Romans 2:19, 2 Timothy 4:1, etc). I do not stand on sufficiently stable enough moral ground to say yes or no to whether a person should be put to death. None of us are capable to make this decision alone as we are all worthy of death for our sins (Romans 3). But…those that stand in Christ and on the Word of God as their backing do have the right to make specific claims as long as they are backed solidly by Scripture. Even then we are not to solely and singularly be judge, jury and executioner. We are not to take vengeance in a retaliatory mode as vengeance is God’s territory. Only He is perfectly just and only He is on perfectly moral ground to do so and will do so in the end eschatologically, either at the end of a person’s life or on the Great Day of the Lord.

Finally, what I will say with some certainty and self-assurance is that God does seem to have given specific rights to those that rule over or govern people. It is the charge of the authorities and powers over us to keep order (Romans 13). In the end murder and crimes in general cause disorder and pain. This is not why governments are allowed in power to rule by God…at least not in the long view. They are to hold control over the order of society and are to instill terror in those that would do wrong (immorality). For according to Romans 13:4, rulers are not given a sword (power of life and death) for no reason (but to actually use that power/authority). The terror mentioned of course would act as a deterrent from doing wrong.

Romans13:1-4~ “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

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