Ineffective Biblical arguments against capital punishment

gavel.jpgCapital punishment (CP) is a completely Biblical proposition if properly applied and is actually a pro-life position.  Having said that, in my next post I’ll make some arguments from a Christian worldview against capital punishment as currently administered in the U.S.  But first I wanted to address some anti-CP arguments that I would not use.

(Note that I don’t use the cost issues in either scenario – i.e., “Putting them in prison for life is too expensive” vs. “The legal costs of the death penalty are too expensive.”  Justice ain’t cheap.  We shouldn’t go one direction or the other just because it might cost more or less.)

I’ll address these arguments:

  • Jesus would forgive
  • We might be eliminating the condemned killer’s opportunity to place his trust in Christ and thus causing him/her to miss out on eternal salvation.
  • Jesus is against capital punishment / Jesus reversed the Old Testament teaching on capital punishment
  • We might be killing someone who is innocent
  • Capital punishment is not a deterrent
  • The Bible says, “Thou shall not kill”

“Jesus would forgive” – Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason points out that Mother Teresa once used this argument to argue against a California capital punishment.  It is flawed for a few reasons.

First, Jesus would forgive if the criminal repented.  I don’t know if the condemned killer repented in that case or not, but many times they do not.  And, of course, only Jesus would know if the repentance is authentic.

Second, Jesus offers divine forgiveness but He doesn’t always remove earthly consequences of our actions (examples abound – see King David & Bathsheba, other Bible characters, you, me and others).

Third, and most importantly, this argument proves too much.  The rationale that “Jesus would forgive” presumably means we shouldn’t apply the death penalty.  But those arguing against capital punishment typically drop back to a punishment of life in prison.  But if Jesus would forgive, how could we put this person away for life?  How about just 20 years in prison?  No, Jesus would forgive.  And so on.  The literal application of the “Jesus would forgive” position would keep us from punishing anyone, ever.  And no, that isn’t a slippery slope argument.  It just means that if you say society must forgive because Jesus would and you define forgive as eliminating consequences, then why apply any punishment?

Another bad reason for this and the remaining arguments is that the ACLU would just hate them because they mention the “J” word (sarcasm intended).  Actually, they might like the arguments.  Sometimes people are willing to relax their standards when something benefits their position.  I haven’t done precise Venn diagrams on this topic, but it seems like the “Jesus would forgive” crowd overlaps a lot with the “separation of church and state” crowd.

“We might be eliminating the condemned killer’s opportunity to place his trust in Christ and thus causing him/her to miss out on eternal salvation.” I am big on evangelism, and I love to hear the stories of people who repented and believed despite horrible circumstances and backgrounds.  David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam, is a powerful example.  I am involved with the Kairos prison ministry and support ministries like Prison Fellowship who take the Gospel to prisoners and care for their families.  But this argument just doesn’t work for me.

First, anyone who puts it forth would have to acknowledge that the murder the criminal committed is an even worse crime than the state recognizes.  After all, the government is punishing the person for taking someone’s earthly life.  If you truly believe that an opportunity for eternal life was taken then the crime is significantly greater, perhaps infinitely so.  That would imply the need for a stronger punishment, not a lesser one, so you are arguing against your own position.

Second, this argument ignores the sovereignty of God.  Both Calvinists and Arminians believe that God knows which way we’ll choose.  If someone holds a different view then they need to revisit my first objection.  I don’t think any non-believers will convince God that if only they had lived longer they would have repented and believed.

Third, it takes many, many years before a convicted murderer is put to death.  He/she has plenty of time to consider whether to put his/her faith in Christ.  Condemned killers probably have more time than their victim did and certainly a greater sense of urgency to consider their eternal destiny.

“Jesus is against capital punishment / Jesus reversed the Old Testament teaching on capital punishment” – This is much simpler to refute than most people realize.  Consider the following two arguments:

  • Capital punishment for murderers was God’s idea (For example, Genesis 9:5-6: “And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man.  Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.”).
  • Jesus is God.
  • Therefore, capital punishment for murderers was Jesus’ idea.
  • The Old Testament clearly teaches that capital punishment is an appropriate punishment for justly convicted murderers – both inside and outside the Israelite culture.
  • No New Testament teachings reverse this teaching.
  • Therefore, capital punishment is still an acceptable punishment for justly convicted murderers.

Foreshadowing: My next post on “(Somewhat) Effective Biblical arguments against capital punishment” will focus on the “justly convicted” part.

It is possible that Jesus could have changed this teaching, but there are no passages to support this notion.  The Bible indicates that capital punishment was prescribed for more than a dozen Israelite-specific transgressions.  But capital punishment for murderers goes back much farther, all the way to Noah.

Peter and Paul both point to the government having authority to punish people.  In Romans 13, Paul specifically mentions that rulers do “not bear the sword for nothing.”   Presumably, the “sword” was for capital punishment, not corporal punishment.

When Paul was threatened with the death penalty in the book of Acts, he didn’t object to the penalty itself, he just pointed to his innocence (Acts 25:10-11).  Jesus did the same when He was on trial.

The “turn the other cheek” passage sometimes used to assert that Jesus was against CP is a misapplication.  That teaching is about personal relationships when you are insulted, not for government punishments of condemned killers.  It is hard to turn the other cheek when you are dead.  Think about it.

And while turning the other cheek when you are insulted is noble and Christian, turning the other cheek when someone weaker is threatened or killed is cowardice.  Read it in context and you’ll see that it has nothing to do with the government administration of the death penalty:

 

Matthew 5:38-42 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

But what about the command to “love your enemies?”  Again, this is a passage to Christians, not the government.  It doesn’t even hint that the government wouldn’t hold people accountable for crimes committed against Christians.  If someone assaults you, you need to forgive them.  But jailing them may be the loving thing to do if it protects others (remember, you need to love your enemies and your neighbors).

Some people misinterpret the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) and think it means Jesus was against capital punishment.  First off, the earliest and most reliable manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not include this passage.  If it is authentic, it is not primarily about capital punishment.  It is about Jesus out-witting the Pharisses and pointing out their inconsistency and hypocrisy.  But note that Jesus applied the Biblical model: There were no longer two witnesses to condemn her.  He never revoked the penalty.  He told her to go and sin no more.  (I wonder if those who quote this against capital punishment also quote it to oppose adultery?)

To make the case that capital punishment in general is un-Biblical one would need at least one passage to that effect.  And it simply doesn’t exist. And of course, anyone who likes to argue from silence (“Jesus didn’t say anything specific about ____, so _____”) would have to concede that Jesus did not overturn the death penalty.
“We might be killing someone who is innocent” – If a Biblical model of justice is followed, the odds of this happening are very, very low.  And God was willing to take that chance.   This argument does have some merit, as the U.S. has drifted from a more Biblical model of justice.  I’ll address that in the follow up post.
This is an unusual side note, but please consider that if someone is truly innocent, then their conviction is much more likely to be overturned if they are given the death penalty than if they have a sentence of life without parole. This is because a death penalty sentence has automatic appeals and legal support not available to someone with a sentence of life without parole.  Ironically, then, an innocent person sentenced to life without parole is more likely to die in prison than an innocent person given the death penalty.  This isn’t a major point either way, just one of those unusual twists.

Keep in mind that many times there is no doubt about the guilt of the accused (Remember Karla Faye Tucker and “Free Tookie,” among others).

“Capital punishment is not a deterrent” – Is so.  Romans 13:3: “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 he will commend you.  For he is God’s servant to do you good.  But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing.  He is God’s servant, and agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”  Sounds like a deterrent to me.

Please spare me any statistics that allegedly show that capital punishment increases murders or has no effect.  I appreciate a good study, but if you can find one that eliminates all issues like more fatherless kids, less religious influence, etc. – not to mention the interminably long process required to carry out an execution – I would like to see that one.  When in doubt, I’ll stick with clear Biblical teachings over man-made surveys.

Also, I think it is rather obvious that stronger punishments are greater deterrents.  I can prove it in 10 seconds: Do you think driving behavior would change at all if traffic tickets only cost a nickel, or if the punishment was life in prison?  I rest my case.

And of course, we can be 100% sure that capital punishment certainly deters murderers from killing again.  Many murders have taken place when murderers were set free or when other prisoners were killed.  If we love our neighbors we will seek to protect them.

Does it deter everyone from killing?  Of course not.  But since when was that part of the criteria for establishing laws?  We have a criminal justice system because we know that some will always break the law.

“The Bible says, ‘Thou shall not kill’” Actually, it says you shouldn’t murder, which is killing an innocent human being.  And that is such a great crime that it brought the death penalty.  People who think that is ironic to kill murderes are missing the point.  Life is so valuable that to take a human life is to commit the greatest crime possible.  

Anyone making that argument had better be pro-life, or they need to be prepared for me to point out the hypocrisy of being for the legal killing of innocent human beings and against the destruction of guilty murderers.  Also see Abortion and Capital Punishment.

 

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40 thoughts on “Ineffective Biblical arguments against capital punishment”

  1. First of all, I agree that it is very difficult to make a Biblical case against the death penalty. The fact that it may be allowed, doesn’t mean it is required, however.

    So, the question is, if you believe it is justified, why limit it to murder, instead of broadening the use of the death penalty for all the other offenses described in the Bible as capital offenses? If you’re making a Biblical case, then shouldn’t you go all the way? Why pick and choose? If the death penalty is applied fairly, then apply it to all capital offenses. If it is a deterrent, then use it to deter all Biblically capital offenses.

    “If we love our neighbors we will seek to protect them.”

    And who is our neighbor? Are only the innocent our neighbors? I’m not sure even the most elastic definition of “protect” our neighbors means to strap them to the electric chair.

    “And of course, we can be 100% sure that capital punishment certainly deters murderers from killing again.”

    Only if we actually catch and punish the right person. Otherwise, we put to death an innocent person and the guilty goes free to kill again. Given that the people who we put on death row often live under the threat of death in their daily lives, the deterrent argument simply doesn’t make any realistic sense on either a personal level, nor given the statistics. I think the notion that the death penalty would deter a murderer is only persuasive for someone that can’t possibly imagine what that person’s life is really like. Heck, it isn’t even a deterrent for people like you and I, since we’d never do such a thing in the first place. It is convenient to simply define out of bounds any study you don’t like. But an honest and objective look at the studies would, at the very least, conclude that more study is necessary. Otherwise you’re simply arguing that, since there’s no evidence (to your satisfaction) that it isn’t a deterrent, it must therefore be a deterrent. I don’t find such logically fallacies persuasive.

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  2. Here is my take on this: as a Christian, those Biblical standards apply to me. (Not that I ever come even close to meeting them.) As an American, I must accept full responsibility for my country’s actions. We cannot isolate the actions of our government, as we are self-governing.
    That’s why I am not in favor of the death penalty. You will not, however, see me holding a useless candlelight vigil outside Stark or Sparks, or any other facility. I think that is not effective. I will work in other ways, though.

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  3. Whether or not the death penalty actually deters someone who has never commited murder from doing so is not the issue to me. The Bible clearly condones the death penalty for murderers – and it will be 100% effective in keeping that same murderer from killing someone else.

    Good post Neill. Well articulated.

    Forgiveness does not mean release from punishment or consequences. There are and should be consequences to our actions.

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  4. Hi Alan,

    “ . . .why limit it to murder, instead of broadening the use of the death penalty for all the other offenses described in the Bible as capital offenses?”

    Because most of the capital offenses in the Bible were for violations of the Israelite’s civil and ceremonial laws or were for the Israelite’s violations of universal laws where God raised the penalty for the Israelites only. I think it is pretty obvious that God was holding them to a higher standard and that those penalties were theocracy-specific.

    I see three general categories in the Bible. Most of the death penalty punishments fall into the 2nd and 3rd categories, but murder is in the first category and it came long before the Israelites.

    1. Universal laws with universal penalties (e.g., Gen. 9)
    2. Universal laws (e.g., Leviticus 18 and elsewhere, which obviously applied to more than just the Israelites) with Israelite-specific penalties (Lev. 20 and elsewhere)
    3. Israelite-specific laws with Israelite-specific penalties (i.e., ceremonial and civil laws)

    “Are only the innocent our neighbors?”

    Of course not. But unless your argument is that loving our neighbor means we can’t punish them then I don’t see how that has anything to do with whether capital punishment is a Biblically acceptable procedure or not. I don’t see anything un-loving about warning someone that if they take a human life then they may lose their own life. Was God being un-loving for approving of the death penalty?

    Re. deterrence, I’m not sure what logical fallacy you are talking about. It is intuitively obvious and Biblical as well that more severe punishments have a deterrent effect. Otherwise, why not just give everyone a $5 fine for any infraction of any law? Why give warnings against behaviors that may kill you (drugs, smoking, out-of-wedlock sex) if there is no deterrent effect? The burden of proof is on those who claim that more severe penalties don’t have a deterrent effect.

    And keep in mind that we’re talking about Biblical views here. I am not aware of any verses that even hint that there isn’t a deterrent effect. If God didn’t think there was a deterrent effect, then why did he up the ante for the Israelites on so many laws?

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  5. Well, now you’re taking what is, I think, a reasonable view of the death penalty, from a Biblical standpoint, and shifting it a bit into unreasonable territory. I don’t think God sanctioned the death penalty as a deterrent at all, nor can I think of any verses that support that view. Punishment in the Bible can be summed up with “Be holy because I am holy!” That is, people were put to death because they were an abomination before God. Though such punishment may have been seen by people as a deterrent, I don’t get much of a sense from the Bible that was His intention.

    Your parsing of the laws is very strange to my eyes. Where do you get that? I am well aware of the traditional understanding of the difference between ceremonial, moral and juridical laws in the OT, but I’ve never heard of your “category two” — Universal laws with specific penalties.

    The Westminster Confession states it this way:

    “This law, after his Fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon mount Sinai in ten commandments, and written in two tables; the first four commandments containing our duty toward God, and the other six our duty to man.

    3. Besides this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a Church under age, ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, his graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits; and partly holding forth divers instructions of moral duties. All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated under the New Testament.

    4. To them also, as a body politic, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any other, now, further than the general equity thereof may require.

    5. The moral law doth forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof; and that not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator who gave it. Neither doth Christ in the gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen, this obligation.”

    So is your view of the law a particular Methodist view that I’m simply not aware of, because I’ve never heard of that view.

    And where, according to your formulation, would capital punishment for dishonoring one’s parents fall? Honor thy father and mother is one of the 10 commandments — surely a Universal Law. Why would the penalty be Israelite specific? That is…if the laws are universal, where do you get the idea that the punishments aren’t? If “thou shalt not murder” is a universal law with a universal punishment, why isn’t “honor thy father and they mother” a universal law with a universal punishment (ie. stoning)? Pretty tough to parse the 10 commandments that way. There’s a stretch even I wouldn’t make. 🙂

    ” I’m not sure what logical fallacy you are talking about.”

    Sorry I wasn’t clearer. You say that you don’t think that there have been good studies to determine the deterrent nature of the death penalty, and then you proceed as if a lack of evidence proves your point. That’s the fallacy. You’re taking a lack of evidence as opposing evidence. In fact, if there are in your view, no good studies that show it isn’t a deterrent, can you show any good studies (again, in your view) that demonstrate it IS a deterrent?

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  6. The distinctions weren’t a primary part of my argument, just an answer to your question about why one wouldn’t apply the death penalty to all the crimes the Bible applies them to. Here’s the short version: Genesis 9 comes long before the Israelites came around. It comes right after God hit a major reset button. Seems universal to me. Most (or all?) the other death penalty examples are Israelite specific. That doesn’t mean the moral laws aren’t universal, though.

    Fair question about what verses back up the deterrent part. I’ll keep an eye out for them when I go through the OT. I think the mere existence of different penalties for different infractions points out a deterrent effect.

    Re. the studies – Sorry I didn’t make my point more clearly. I meant that some things simply don’t require studies. Do you really need to study whether more severe penalties are a deterrent or not? Do you need a study to answer whether people would like to get paid more money or less? If speeding became punishable by jail time or death, would people change their driving habits?

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  7. P.S. The “category 2” isn’t Methodist-specific doctrine (at least not that I’m aware of). I just thought it was obvious that God put serious penalties in place for the Israelites for various moral infractions.  The laws are still moral, though the punishments wouldn’t necessarily carry over to non-Israelite societies.  Of course, even if they did, that wouldn’t argue against my point of CP being a Biblical proposition.

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  8. Neil,

    I think the primary difficulty in your examination of the issue of forgiveness as it pertains to victims and nonvictims of the crime is tied up in the implications of capital punishment in a democratic society.

    We are a society that is ruled, not by external authorities, but by the consensus of the people. We choose those who will govern based on which representative we believe will best represent our own beliefs and interests. We vote as a people on matters of laws and justice. Serving on a jury is our civic duty; each of us sits in judgement over other citizens at one point or another, tasked to mete out justice to them and theirs.

    In such a society that is ruled by its own people, where consensus is everything and the primary work of government is to manipulate that consensus (whether honestly or dishonestly, through reason or through gross falsehood and emotional appeal), where those who murder a member of our body politic are judged by members of our body politic, how can we think that capital punishment is justified for any Christian?

    Within this society, ruled by our own consensus, we each bear the responsibility for everything our government does, whether we approve of it or not. When our duly elected representatives act, it is on our behalf, for our sake, and with our endorsement. When a man is sentenced to die, we delivered the sentence ourselves.

    As I said on Aric’s blog, There is no way out of this. There is no authority by which we can say, “Look, it’s not my fault, it was all decided for me.” It’s easy to deny that the people really do any governing, but such arguments are typically attempts to deny responsibility for our society while still reaping the benefits of being a part of it.

    The crime was committed against us. Against our body politic. Against the person of the ruler of the United States: ourselves. Therefore, even quite apart from our position as representatives of Jesus Christ on earth and members of HIS body, we have every right to forgive our enemies, who have wronged us.

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  9. Hi Paul,

    Welcome! Let me just focus on one of your arguments for now.

    I don’t think Jesus’ commands to forgive mean that millions Christians should “forgive” capital murderers just because as a part of a democratic society we play a role in the gov’t. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume you are right.

    If I read your comment properly, you are saying we must forgive convicted murderers such that we can’t assign the death penalty as punishment.

    Does that mean the punishment should be life in prison? But if we must forgive, how can we assign that? How about 20 years? No, we must forgive . . .

    Please let me know if I’ve misinterpreted your argument or if there is a reason this type of forgiveness wouldn’t extend to all punishments for all crimes.

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  10. You have indeed misinterpreted my argument. My argument is not that because we play a role in government we must forgive capital murderers, but that because of the full implications of democratic society for its citizens, we are the ones who were sinned against and the ones who are in a position to offer forgiveness. The person of the ruler of the United States was murdered: that is, a citizen; the person of the ruler of the United States (that is, a citizen) is therefore justified in offering forgiveness. Remember, neither the crime nor our judgment is considered to be an individual thing. Criminals are spoken, not of having a debt to the one they sinned against, but of having a debt to society itself. Our judgment is a corporate one just as the crime was a corporate one – a sin against society; therefore a corporate forgiveness is also applicable.

    But this was only one part of my overall argument.

    Prison is another matter, and a complicated one, but suffice it to say I would have no problem with prison if the purpose it served (and the aim towards which it was focused) was redemptive. It is, unfortunately, not redemptive, but geared towards the twin goals of retribution and deterrence. It is these that are un-Christian. It is these that no Christian in good conscience can endorse. What I call for is not an abolishment of the prison system, but a complete transformation of the prison system.

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  11. That was a long reply but didn’t answer the question. I’ll skip the new issues I disagree with and politely request an answer to the original question.

    Again: You claim we must forgive capital murderers. What does that look like – setting them free? How can you advocate prison for someone you have forgiven?

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  12. If you are looking for a simple answer, I have found that there is no such thing. A simple answer is an incomplete, often ill-considered one. The issue is a complicated one, and addressing it requires consideration and careful thought.

    This is not evasiveness: there is a lot to consider in your questions, and I have been addressing them as best I can. My point, again, was not as regards the imperative to forgive, but touched upon our right and our justification to forgive.

    My comments on the prison system were the answer to your question, in any case.

    I maintain that the prison system, in its current state, is ineffective and unjust. It is not simply a matter of executions, but also of the transformation of the body which occurs as a result of being subjected to the discipline and punishment of prison. As I said on Aric’s blog, the whole prison system in America is both un-Christian and un-American. It does not serve any kind of redemptive purpose whatever on the one hand, and it denies the proposition that all men are created equal on the other. Our prisons are about retribution, and about deterrence, and about the production of a permanent underclass: the ex-con. Again, men enter prison as convicts prepared to serve their sentence: they leave prison unable to be anything else.

    It is in this context (and in no other) that I say that it is better for all concerned that none be sent to prison. Not because prisons and the idea of prisons are inherently awful, but because our prisons serve the wrong purpose: to continue the existence of (and prolong the necessity of) the prison. But this is not the same as forgiveness. Forgiveness is not simply dismissive, but redemptive. Until our prisons can be that – reflections of the redeeming love of Jesus Christ on earth rather than factories devoted to the production of ex-cons, they will remain unjust.

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  13. I have answered your questions, Neil. Thoroughly. They are complicated answers, I admit. But complicated answers are necessary when you have complicated problems. It’s not sexy, and it doesn’t reduce to soundbites, but there it is.

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  14. Huh? Please indulge me, because your diatribe against the current prison system may have a degree of merit but didn’t answer the question.

    You have a convicted murderer set to die. You insist that Jesus requires you to forgive him. You support that view with verses like, “Turn the other cheek.”

    Now, please tell me precisely what you will do with him if he isn’t put to death. Life in prison? 20 years? 10 years? Turn him loose?

    You are the one claiming that the Bible requires you to forgive. I’m just asking for a little clearer picture of what that looks like.

    (Readers, this is a classic case of confusing forgiveness with consequences. God forgave King David, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t consequences in his life. I always forgive my kids, but that doesn’t mean their inappropriate actions never had consequences.)

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  15. And I have given this picture. Perhaps not in the way you wanted, but given nonetheless, and a simple feat of deductive reasoning should allow you to extrapolate from there. Nor will I reduce my argument to talking points. A simple answer to a complicated problem is no answer at all.

    “But you didn’t answer my questions” only works for so long as I have not, in fact, answered them. I have. Examine my arguments and you will find your answers. Your refusal to engage with my arguments is irritating, nor do I think that my irritation with you on this matter is unjustified.

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  16. No, Paul, you are dodging the questions here just like you and Aric did at his blog.

    You offer the lame argument that Jesus would forgive convicted murderers, so we must also. Then you offer the convoluted reasoning that you have the standing to forgive another person’s murderer.

    That illogic aside, it seems the least you could then do is say what you would do with said murderer. I inferred from your “Jesus would forgive” theme that you wouldn’t put him in prison. So there’s my extrapolation. You never corrected that saying that you would propose a prison term or other punishment, so I guess that is what your mysterious answer meant.

    And if you are going to project the capacity to forgive onto yourself for crimes committed against any of your fellow citizens, I thought you could share in the responsiblity of being more specific with how you would address those today, and not just in your fantasy world of a perfect criminal justice system.

    So in that case, I’ll merely point out what a ridiculous case you have made. Saying, “Jesus would forgive, so we must also,” with respect to the death penalty simply proves too much. That “reasoning” would mean we wouldn’t imprison any person for any crime, because “Jesus would forgive.”

    Forgive me if I don’t buy that.

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  17. I forgive you, Neil.

    “Now, please tell me precisely what you will do with him if he isn’t put to death. Life in prison? 20 years? 10 years? Turn him loose?”

    The answer to this question isn’t entirely relevant in the current context. In order to gain the proper context (which directly affects the meaning), please re-read the reply of mine which addresses the prison system. For your benefit, I repost it here:

    I maintain that the prison system, in its current state, is ineffective and unjust. It is not simply a matter of executions, but also of the transformation of the body which occurs as a result of being subjected to the discipline and punishment of prison. As I said on Aric’s blog, the whole prison system in America is both un-Christian and un-American. It does not serve any kind of redemptive purpose whatever on the one hand, and it denies the proposition that all men are created equal on the other. Our prisons are about retribution, and about deterrence, and about the production of a permanent underclass: the ex-con. Again, men enter prison as convicts prepared to serve their sentence: they leave prison unable to be anything else.

    It is in this context (and in no other) that I say that it is better for all concerned that none be sent to prison. Not because prisons and the idea of prisons are inherently awful, but because our prisons serve the wrong purpose: to continue the existence of (and prolong the necessity of) the prison. But this is not the same as forgiveness. Forgiveness is not simply dismissive, but redemptive. Until our prisons can be that – reflections of the redeeming love of Jesus Christ on earth rather than factories devoted to the production of ex-cons, they will remain unjust.

    Your answer is there.

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  18. OK, so you say no one should go to prison because you think they don’t currently serve the proper purpose. You wouldn’t mind if we let all the prisoners move into your neighborhood, would you? Seems to me that loving your neighbor means more than just loving prisoners. It also includes loving their past and potential victims.

    I’ll close out tonight by saying that you have grossly misunderstood the concept of forgiveness. Your reason against capital punishment was that we must forgive. So if forgiving means forgoing capital punishment, it follows that we wouldn’t apply another punishment. Then you wiggle around the absurdity of that by lamenting the state of the prison system.

    But even if it were to your liking you have said we must forgive – and you have defined “forgive” as eliminating consequences. That isn’t a good strategy for parenting, let alone for running an orderly society.

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  19. Neil, You continue to grossly misrepresent my position. I suppose it stands to reason: a straw man is easier to burn than a man made of flesh and blood.

    I am not against punishment at all. I am against retributivepunishment. The key there is, again, retributive. Punishment should always be redemptive..

    When punishment exists primarily to preserve the institution of punishment (as it does in the case of retributive punishment, working as it does towards the negative transformation of the body condemned), something is catastrophically wrong.

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  20. “Neil, You continue to grossly misrepresent my position.”

    No, Paul, you didn’t articulate it properly or you realized how untenable your “just forgive” position was and are trying to change the subject. I have given you many chances to clarify it and you kept coming back with these mysterious “read between the lines” answers.

    Thanks for finally clarifying your views – sort of. I still don’t know what you plan to do with these convicted murderers and other criminals while you wait for the utopian prison system, but at this point it probably doesn’t matter.

    I respect your right to hold an opinion that only redemptive punishment is allowable. I find it un-Biblical and unworkable, but feel free to hold that view.

    You see, the problem is that you tried to support your anti-capital punishment view with a “Jesus would forgive” line of reasoning, and that caused a lot of confusion. Trying to support your opinions with Bible verses taken out of context is rather unproductive, as the thread here and at Aric’s shows.

    Like

  21. A couple thoughts, first in response to Alan.

    And who is our neighbor? Are only the innocent our neighbors? I’m not sure even the most elastic definition of “protect” our neighbors means to strap them to the electric chair.

    The Lord spoke to Moses, saying… “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” – Leviticus 19:1, 18

    The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Say further to the people of Israel: Any of the people of Israel, or of the aliens who reside in Israel, who give any of their offspring to Molech shall be put to death; the people of the land shall stone them to death.” – Leviticus 20:1-2

    As revealed in the books of Moses, God doesn’t seem to have a problem teaching us simultaneously to love our neighbor (and not to take vengeance) and to command capital punishment 21 verses later.

    Neil, I’m actually not sure deterrence is the central theme of punishment in the Bible. I believe the central theme is the principle of lex talonis, proportional punishment expressed in the idea of “an eye for an eye”, which some strict pacifists now see as brutal but was actually less severe than the punishment in some of ancient Israel’s contemporary neighbors.

    “Punishment that fits the crime.” I think that’s the model that we see in the Bible; if you cause X amount of damage, the punishment corresponds to that damage. Your punishment is your “just deserts”, what your behavior merits. There is a deterrent effect, but deterrence isn’t the driving force behind the punishment, and lex talonis protects against both under-punishment and over-punishment, such as lengthy prison sentences for minor driving infractions.

    Paul, I agree that, particularly because we live in a representative republic, what our government does is a reflection (indirect and diluted as it may be) of our own decisiions.

    It would be wrong to hire a hitman just as it is wrong to murder, but if it is morally permissible or even obligatory for a government to punish a lawbreaker (and I believe it is), it is moral for a Christian to have a role in that punishment.

    We are all individuals, but we all also have roles to play in institutions that are larger than ourselves. It seems to me that most strict pacifists can see — ceteris paribus — the wisdom and morality of a father punishing his child for disobedience, even if that father is a Christian who affirms turning the other cheek.

    If a forgiving Christian is doing the right thing when he’s serving his role in the family by punishing his disobedient child, can he not do the right thing by punishing a convicted rapist?

    Paul, I imagine your answer would have to do with the distinction you make between retribution and redemption, that the father punishes the child to redeem / reform / rehabilitate that child. About this distinction you write:

    Prison is another matter, and a complicated one, but suffice it to say I would have no problem with prison if the purpose it served (and the aim towards which it was focused) was redemptive. It is, unfortunately, not redemptive, but geared towards the twin goals of retribution and deterrence. It is these that are un-Christian. It is these that no Christian in good conscience can endorse. What I call for is not an abolishment of the prison system, but a complete transformation of the prison system.

    You write, later:

    I am not against punishment at all. I am against retributive punishment. The key there is, again, retributive. Punishment should always be redemptive..

    When punishment exists primarily to preserve the institution of punishment (as it does in the case of retributive punishment, working as it does towards the negative transformation of the body condemned), something is catastrophically wrong. [emphais in original]

    Paul, Hell is emphatically a punishment that is retribution, not redemption. The Bible is clear, emphatic, and unambiguous in its denial of a universalism that would argue that Hell is a temporary punishment (i.e., purgatory) that prepares the soul for paradise.

    Not everyone goes to Heaven: many are condemned to Hell. And Hell is not temporary, it is eternal, which clearly means that there isn’t a redemption at the end toward which Hell is intended.

    “Punishment should always be redemptive,” you write. So does that mean that you oppose the Bible’s clear teaching that Hell is eternal?

    If the most severe punishment a soul faces is pure retribution, I don’t see why retribution must be entirely absent from lesser punishment.

    Like

  22. Neil,

    They are hardly taken out of context. You do me a disservice by attempting to reduce my argument to a single sentence: arguments can not be so reduced. Reductionism is false.

    Bubba,

    I do not view Hell as a punishment per say (though it may be viewed as such), but rather as the natural consequence of human free will.

    If we are free, we must be free to either choose to accept or reject God. Though our ability to do so comes to us by grace alone, it remains our ability to do so. And when Heav’n ruins from Heav’n – when we ultimately choose to turn our backs to the one who is the source of all Goodness, which includes existence itself – when we refuse to eat the only food which the universe can grow, what can we do but starve eternally?

    I think there is great truth in the words of Dante on the matter, and of his account of the words written over the gates of Hell in Divine Comedy.

    “Through me you go into the city of woe;
    Through me you go into eternal pain;
    Through me you go among the lost people.

    Justice is what moved my exalted Maker;
    I was the invention of the power of God,
    Of his wisdom, and of his primal love.

    Before me there was nothing that was created
    Except eternal things; I am eternal:
    Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

    The thought that Hell is not just about justice (though it may be said to be about that), but that it was also made by God’s primal love, is a startling one, but far more consistent with the character of God revealed in Jesus than a picture of a vast, terrible sky-bully who will spank you if you don’t do what you’re told. It is the final recourse of those who simply will not choose Him; Hell is therefore a monument to free will. A terrible, sin-stained monument to the choice God has willed be ours to make, by the love which moves the sun and the stars, in those lands where what is willed, is.

    This does not remove the component of justice, but it does show that even God will go to unimaginable lengths to ensure that punishment is not retributive. What are those lengths?

    The incarnation.
    The crucifixion.
    The resurrection.

    THIS is how far God is willing to go to ensure that none should perish, but have everlasting life. All the way to the death of the incarnate God; to the dreadful, soul-crushing despair of the cry, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”

    Like

  23. I agree that Hell is a consequence of God’s love for us — that He loves us so much that He keeps free will intact — but, alongside the cross itself (and indeed every act of a consistent and unchanging deity), the doctrine of Hell is an expression both of God’s love and of His justice.

    Nevertheless, Hell is clearly retribution. Because it is eternal, it cannot be redemptive, because the damned will never be redeemed.

    And it is frankly offensive, the degree to which you ridicule the idea that Hell is retributive punishment, to suggest that it amounts to “a picture of a vast, terrible sky-bully who will spank you if you don’t do what you’re told.” It’s offensive, stupid, juvenile, and petulant, and it’s beneath any mature Christian who is sincere in his attempts to engage his brothers with whom he disagrees.

    Like

  24. neil,

    this is a tough subject but you did well.

    just because death is sometimes a consequence of an action, forgiveness can occur. if forgiveness does occur, it does not mean the consequence is not required. earthly justice still may need to run its coarse.

    as for some of your older comments on hell, i agree that hell is not a punishment, per say, tut the result of our disobedience.

    there is a wide divide between the death penalty and being pro life. the two do not even belong in the same discussion. anyone who cannot see the obvious differences between the two do not want to see.

    kw

    Like

  25. I am so glad I stumbled upon your blog. I don’t even remember the path I took to get here. Your writings are well thought through and biblical in every way. You articulate Christian positions well. Thanks!

    Like

  26. Catholic and other Christian References: Support for the Death Penalty
    Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below
     
    Religious positions in favor of capital punishment are neither necessary not needed to justify that sanction. However, the biblical and theological record is very supportive of the death penalty.
     
    Many of the current religious campaigns against the death penalty reflect a fairly standard anti death penalty message, routed in secular arguments. When they do address  religious issues, they often neglect solid theological foundations, choosing, instead, select biblical sound bites which do not impact the solid basis of death penalty support.

    The strength of the biblical, theological and traditional support for the death penalty is, partially, revealed, below.
     
    Some references:
     
    (1)”The Death Penalty”, Chapter XXVI, 187. The death penalty, from the book Iota Unum, by Romano Amerio, 
     
    Thoughtful deconstruction of current Roman Catholic teaching on capital punishment by a faithful Catholic Vatican insider and expert theologian.
     
    http://www.domid.blogspot.com/2007/05/amerio-on-capital-punishment.html
    titled “Amerio on capital punishment “Friday, May 25, 2007 
     
     (2)  “Catholic and other Christian References: Support for the Death Penalty”, at http://www.homicidesurvivors.com/2006/10/12/catholic-and-other-christian-references-support-for-the-death-penalty.aspx

     
     (3)  “Capital Punishment: A Catholic Perspective”, by Emmanuel Valenza (Br. Augustine) at
    http://www.sspx.org/against_the_sound_bites/capital_punishment.htm
     
     
    (4) “The Purpose of Punishment (in the Catholic tradition)”, by R. Michael Dunningan, J.D., J.C.L., CHRISTIFIDELIS, Vol.21,No.4, sept 14, 200
    http://www.st-joseph-foundation.org/newsletter/lead.php?document=2003/21-4
     

    (5) “MOST CATHOLICS OPPOSE CAPITAL PUNISHMENT?”, KARL KEATING’S E-LETTER, Catholic Answers, March 2, 2004
    http://www.catholic.com/newsletters/kke_040302.asp
     
     
    (6) “THOUGHTS ON THE BISHOPS’ MEETING: NOWADAYS, VOTERS IGNORE BISHOPS” , KARL KEATING’S E-LETTER, Catholic Answers,, Nov. 22, 2005
    http://www.catholic.com/newsletters/kke_051122.asp

    (7) “God’s Justice and Ours” by Antonin Scalia, First Things, 5/2002
    http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=2022

     
    (8)  “A Seamless Garment In a Sinful World” by John R. Connery, S. J., America, 7/14/84, p 5-8).
     

    (9) “The Death Penalty”, by Solange Strong Hertz at
    http://ourworld.compuserve.com/HOMEPAGES/REMNANT/death2.htm
     

    (10) “Capital Punishment: What the Bible Says”, Dr. Lloyd R. Bailey, Abingdon Press, 1987. The definitive biblical review of the death penalty.

    copyright 1999-2008 Dudley Sharp

    Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
    e-mail  sharpjfa@aol.com,  713-622-5491,
    Houston, Texas
     
    Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O’Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
     
    A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.
     
    Pro death penalty sites 

    homicidesurvivors(dot)com/categories/Dudley%20Sharp%20-%20Justice%20Matters.aspx

    www(dot)dpinfo.com
    www(dot)cjlf.org/deathpenalty/DPinformation.htm
    www(dot)clarkprosecutor.org/html/links/dplinks.htm
    www(dot)coastda.com/archives.html
    www(dot)lexingtonprosecutor.com/death_penalty_debate.htm
    www(dot)prodeathpenalty.com
    www(dot)yesdeathpenalty.com/deathpenalty_co
    yesdeathpenalty.googlepages.com/home2 (Sweden)
    www(dot)wesleylowe.com/cp.html

    Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part,  is approved with proper attribution.

    Like

  27. Who gives forgiveness for murder?
    Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below

    Cornelus Garza told the murderer of his wife, Janie Elizabeth, “I don’t forgive you”(“You should be locked up forever,” July 07, 2007, Victoria Advocate).

    Even if he wanted to forgive the murderer, does he have that right?

    It is not up to Mr. Garza to forgive the murderer. It is up to the principal party harmed – Janie Elizabeth. No one disputes that all of those who loved and knew Janie Elizabeth were terribly wronged and hurt, severely, by her murder.

    If my uncle was robbed, what does it mean for me to forgive the robber? If anything, it is an insult to the harm my uncle has suffered.

    The act of forgiveness is quite unique.

    If we go by biblical instruction, it includes that the wrongdoer confess his wrong, find honest sorrow and remorse and state that he will do all he can to not harm again – to change his ways, prior to any forgiveness being given, by the specific party harmed.

    To forgive those who have not repented is to give approval of what they have done, while rejecting the importance of responsibility and atonement. It would not be mercy, but insult.

    Murder is unique, both biblically and humanistically.

    Biblically, the crime of murder is viewed as a crime against God, because man is made in the image of God. It is an eternal crime. Murderers can take responsibility for their crimes, they can work to change, but there can be no atonement for murder.

    Humanistically, meaning, with no expectation of a godhead or afterlife, it is only this earthly life that we have, so murder curtails an even greater portion of our lives.

    Can murderers be forgiven by God? Biblically, the answer is clearly yes. Can murderers receive true forgiveness on earth? The answer is clearly no.

    copyright 2007-2008

    Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
    e-mail  sharpjfa@aol.com,  713-622-5491,
    Houston, Texas
     
    Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O’Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
     
    A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.

    Like

  28. This recent, clear review by
    Andrew Tallman
    http://andrewtallmanshowarticles.blogspot.com/2008/04/why-i-support-capital-punishment-part-8.html

    “If Jesus elsewhere opposes capital punishment, then He is not only contradicting the Father but even His own words. ”

    “Typically, (the anti death penalty) view is that the harsh and mean God the Father of the Old Testament established execution, but the loving and kind God the Son of the New Testament abolished it.”

    “I’m pretty sure such people don’t realize they’re denying the Trinity when they say this.”

    “The doctrine of the Trinity affirms the eternal unity of all three persons of the Godhead, but such a fundamental disagreement between the Son and the Father would rupture this unity. In fact, if Jesus had contradicted any of the Father’s principles, let alone such a well-established one, that very disagreement would have immediately disproved His claims to be the divine Son.”

    “This was exactly the heresy the Pharisees were hoping to trap Him into when they brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus. Even His enemies knew that He absolutely had to affirm capital punishment in order to prove Himself not a false prophet. ”

    “How truly strange, then, that those who claim to love Him assert that He did exactly what His enemies failed to trick Him into doing! Far from opposing capital punishment, Jesus actually advocated it, as His unity with the Father required.”

    “Matthew 5:17-18“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished.”

    “Just a few verses later, He extends the prohibition against murder to hatred and condemns haters to “the hell of fire” in verse 22, which is very strange talk for someone who opposes capital punishment. It’s very hard to dismiss these verses because they occur smack in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, which is so often mistakenly offered as the repudiation of Old Testament justice.”

    “Later, Jesus scolds the Pharisees and scribes for teaching leniency toward rebellious children by quoting the Old Testament, “For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death.’” (Matthew 15:4)”

    “Subsequently, when the Romans come to arrest Jesus, Peter rather ineptly tries to defend Him by killing Malchus, but only succeeds in slicing off his ear. Jesus rebukes him with the warning, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.” Far from advocating pacifism, as this passage is often misused to do, Jesus here teaches Peter that using the sword (for murder) will only get the sword used against him (for execution).”

    “Shortly thereafter, Jesus tells Pilate in John 19:11, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above…” This authority to put Jesus to death would be odd if it didn’t entail the general power to execute criminals.”

    “Finally, when He is dying of crucifixion, Jesus accepts the repentance of the thief on the cross, who says to his reviling companion, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds….” (Luke 23:40-41)”

    “Had Jesus disagreed with this statement, responding to it with the promise of eternal salvation was a rather obtuse way to express the correction.”

    “Beyond all this evidence that Jesus affirms the consistent Biblical principle of capital punishment, there is yet one more vital concept to grasp. Christians believe that Christ died on the cross to pay for the sins of us all.”

    “Although His sinlessness merited eternal life, He endured the death we deserved to extend that gift to us. As Prof. Michael Pakaluk so perfectly expressed the point, “If no crime deserves the death penalty, then it is hard to see why it was fitting that Christ be put to death for our sins….” If we didn’t deserve the death penalty ourselves, then why would Christ need to suffer it on our behalf in order to satisfy the justice of God? Denying the death penalty directly assaults the justice of the Father, Who required His own Son to pay precisely that price in our stead.”

    “What about the rest of the New Testament?”

    “Since both Jesus’s teaching and His death affirm the capital punishment, it should come as no surprise that the rest of the New Testament reinforces this view.”

    “When confronting Governor Festus, Paul says in Acts 25:11, “If I am a wrongdoer, and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die; but if none of these things is true of which these men accuse me, no one can hand me over to them. He both affirms capital statutes and accepts them as binding on him if he has broken one.”

    “Later, in the New Testament’s most famous passage on the nature of government, Paul explains, “But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for [the government] does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.” (Romans 13:4)”

    “Finally, the same Bible which begins in Genesis 9:6 with the establishment of capital punishment, then carries the theme consistently throughout the text, and ends by reiterating it in Revelation 13:10, “If any one is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if any one kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.”

    “Literally from beginning to end, the Bible teaches that capital punishment is authorized and required by God.”

    Like

  29. The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents
    Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below
     
    Often, the death penalty dialogue gravitates to the subject of innocents at risk of execution. Seldom is a more common problem reviewed. That is, how innocents are more at risk without the death penalty.
     
    Living murderers, in prison, after release or escape or after our failures to incarcerate them, are much more likely to harm and murder, again, than are executed murderers.
     
    Although this is, obviously a truism, it is surprising how often  folks overlook the enhanced incapacitation benefits of the death penalty over incarceration.
     
    No knowledgeable and honest party questions that the death penalty has the most extensive due process protections in US criminal law.
     
    Therefore, actual innocents are more likely to be sentenced to life imprisonment and more likely to die in prison serving under that sentence, that it is that an actual innocent will be executed.
     
    That is. logically, conclusive.
     
    16 recent studies, inclusive of their defenses, find for death penalty deterrence.
     
    A surprise? No.
     
    Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.
     
    Some believe that all studies with contrary findings negate those 16 studies. They don’t. Studies which don’t find for deterrence don’t say no one is deterred, but that they couldn’t measure those deterred.
     
    What prospect of a negative outcome doesn’t deter some? There isn’t one . . . although committed anti death penalty folk may say the death penalty is the only one.
     
    However, the premier anti death penalty scholar accepts it as a given that the death penalty is a deterrent, but does not believe it to be a greater deterrent than a life sentence. Yet, the evidence is compelling and un refuted that death is feared more than life.
     
    Some death penalty opponents argue against death penalty deterrence, stating that it’s a harsher penalty to be locked up without any possibility of getting out.
     
    Reality paints a very different picture.
     
    What percentage of capital murderers seek a plea bargain to a death sentence? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment.
     
    What percentage of convicted capital??murderers argue for execution in the penalty phase of their capital trial? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment.
     
    What percentage of death row inmates waive their appeals and speed up the execution process? Nearly zero. They prefer long term imprisonment.
     
    This is not, even remotely, in dispute.
     
    Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.
     
    Furthermore, history tells us that lifers have many ways to get out: Pardon, commutation, escape, clerical error, change in the law, etc.
     
    In choosing to end the death penalty, or in choosing not implement it, some have chosen to spare murderers at the cost of sacrificing more innocent lives.
     
    Furthermore, possibly we have sentenced 20-25 actually innocent people to death since 1973, or 0.3% of those so sentenced. Those have all been released upon post conviction review. The anti death penalty claims, that the numbers are significantly higher,are a fraud, easily discoverable by fact checking.
     
    6 inmates have been released from death row because of DNA evidence. An additional 9 were released from prison, because of DNA exclusion, who had previously been sentenced to death.
     
    The innocents deception of death penalty opponents has been getting exposure for many years. Even the behemoth of anti death penalty newspapers, The New York Times,  has recognized that deception.
     
    To be sure, 30 or 40 categorically innocent people have been released from death row . . . (1) This when death penalty opponents were claiming the release of 119 “innocents” from death row. Death penalty opponents never required actual innocence in order for cases to be added to their “exonerated” or “innocents” list. They simply invented their own definitions for exonerated and innocent and deceptively shoe horned large numbers of inmates into those definitions – something easily discovered with fact checking.
     
    There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US, at least since 1900.
     
    If we accept that the best predictor of future performance is past performance, we can reasonable conclude that the DNA cases will be excluded prior to trial, and that for the next 8000 death sentences, that we will experience a 99.8% accuracy rate in actual guilt convictions. This improved accuracy rate does not include the many additional safeguards that have been added to the system, over and above DNA testing.
     
    Of all the government programs in the world, that put innocents at risk, is there one with a safer record and with greater protections than the US death penalty?
     
    Unlikely.
     
    Full report -All Innocence Issues: The Death Penalty, upon request.
     
    Full report – The Death Penalty as a Deterrent, upon request
     
    (1) The Death of Innocents: A Reasonable Doubt,
    New York Times Book Review, p 29, 1/23/05, Adam Liptak,
    national legal correspondent for The NY Times
     
    Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
    e-mail sharpjfa@aol.com 713-622-5491,
    Houston, Texas
     

    Like

  30. I agree with you, that it’s a very pro-life stance.
    It gives deep respect to the ones killed and those still alive that the threat is now gone, from that murderer anyway.

    However as I read your piece, I wondered what other argument someone might have, and one thing that came to me was Jesus saying, “Let he without sin cast the first stone.”

    They might look at that and get confused. How would you talk to them?

    Like

  31. Even  Sister Helen Prejean, from Dead Man Walking:: Even Jesus’ admonition “Let him without sin cast the first stone”, when He was asked the appropriate punishment for an adulteress (John 8:7) – the Mosaic Law prescribed death – should be read in its proper context. This passage is an entrapment story, which sought to show Jesus’ wisdom in besting His adversaries. It is not an ethical pronouncement about capital punishment .

    Misuse and misunderstanding of John 8:7 is quite common. See  Forgery in the Gospel of John 
    www(dot)religioustolerance.org/john_8(dot)htm

    Like

  32. The most common bumper sticker argument I hear against capital punishment is the “state-sponsored murder” line. But take a moment to think about it. Is imprisonment for the crime of kidnapping, state sponsored kidnapping? Is the confiscation of stolen goods state sponsored theft? Of course not, because we recognize context.

    If you walked past a bus stop and saw a young man pushing an old woman in front of a bus, what would think? What if he was pushing her out of the way of the bus? Context matters, and simple bumper sticker slogans simply avoid the issue to focus on morally equating the murderer with his innocent victim.

    Like

  33. Hi all, thanks for the varied dialougue.

    Interesting points re. the woman at the well. I added this bit to the post about that and try to answer Barbara’s question.

    Some people misinterpret the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) and think it means Jesus was against capital punishment. First off, the earliest and most reliable manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not include this passage. If it is authentic, it is not primarily about capital punishment. It is about Jesus out-witting the Pharisses and pointing out their inconsistency and hypocrisy. But note that Jesus applied the Biblical model: There were no longer two witnesses to condemn her. He never revoked the penalty. He told her to go and sin no more. (I wonder if those who quote this against capital punishment also quote it to oppose adultery?)

    Dudley, thanks for the information. I see you’re from Houston (we live just north of town). I imagine you saw how the NYT is boo-hoo-ing over Gov. Perry’s refusal to bow down to the World Court – http://lonestartimes.com/2008/07/21/ny-times-highlights-texas-intransigence-on-killer-medellin/ . They did a piece about the murderer’s grandmother. Too bad they didn’t include pictures of the victims and their families. He raped and murdered two girls.

    Like

  34. As Christians we are called to forgive those who sin against us. But we have not been granted the power to forgive sins against others, that power is reserved for God alone. Only God and the victim can forgive the murderer.

    Anyone who believes that they can forgive a murderer (other than personally, if they have been a victim in some way) should try walking on water.
    P.S. you should probably take a towel.

    Like

  35. Don’t forget too Neil that God isn’t above providing mercy. Although he declared death the punishment for murder, he allowed Cain to live and even protected him. My own hunch as to why. Cain didn’t know that Able would die (either he didn’t intend his death or no other human had died yet at that point) and therefore didn’t have the required Mens Rea to be held fully accountable for his brother’s murder.

    Like

  36. “And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: His body shall not remiain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.”

    -Deuteronomy 21:22-23

    Like

  37. All good points I wrote on paper on this in HS…
    Those saying it isn’t required well I would disagree…
    God holds justice as his statute other than love if this wasnt the case Jesus wouldn’t have died he would simply dismissed sin… meaning that its a moral imperative to have capital punishment(justice)

    Like

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