May 16, 2021

You Can’t Have Mercy Without Justice

Alone amongst the dead header

One of the hardest things when it comes to a debate is to realize both what is your key point and where you are weak. You also need to know exactly what things you can afford to compromise on and what you cannot.

In this debate I’m having with Amanda, she believes that mercy is the point of the discussion and wonders why I gloss over this to focus on the justice aspect. It’s specifically because of this:

Perhaps I should say that regardless of whether or not the death penalty is just (and I do not think it is), I believe that it matters more if it is merciful. [emphasis mine]

I’ve attempted in the past to try to explain why the question of justice is important, and for some reason I believe that I’m failing. And yet, as I just stated, it’s key to my position and also to whether or not mercy can be shown. So let me put it this way:

If capital punishment is unjust, it should simply be abolished. There is no need to ask the question of whether it’s merciful to spare someone. The very point would be that it’s unjust.

That said, I move on and I’ll do it with three points.

It is Just

When I made my argument in the last post based on justice I made reference to two distinct bodies of Scripture and I did so with two distinct purposes. The one I used to express the belief that God is just and that He is just in commanding even those rebellious children being put to death. On this point, we agreed.

The second passage (which actually came first) is the one that I believe Amanda missed:

Gen 9:6 – Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

While every single other law that I quoted was for the Jewish people in the land of Israel and therefore can make the point that God can be just for telling man to invoke the death penalty, this statement is not a part of the Jewish law.

This statement has two different facets.

  1. It’s given at a time when there were very few laws and it was never rescinded.
  2. It’s basis is not cultural or bound to a specific country. It simply states that man should die for killing another because God made man in God’s image.

So, there are scriptures giving a decree that are not within “the law”.

The Adulterous Woman

Amanda used in her original defense of being anti-capital punishment this statement:

And we have Jesus’ words. In John 8 he prevented a woman’s execution. He told us to turn the other cheek. He taught compassion, forgiveness, and mercy.

The problem with this is what the passage says, but to catch you up, the religious leaders found a woman that was committing adultery and wanted to test Jesus

John 8:10-11 – When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

If a murderer was to show up before the court and there was no one there to make the accusation, what would happen? The murderer would walk away free. Same thing in this case. The religious leaders brought her, but then they all backed out before presenting their case1 leaving her without any accusers, and this free to go.

Jesus showed both justice (you have no accusers so you are free to go) and mercy (I won’t accuse you, even though I know what you did). The other problem with using this to justify the removal of the death penalty, you’d have to say that the murderer get off with a warning not to do it again, and have no punishment whatsoever, since that’s what this woman got.

Back to Mercy

Which brings us back to what Amanda feels is the crux of the debate– mercy. Should we show mercy to someone that committed murder or another capital offense?

I think that to answer this you’d have to actually consider it on two different plains: To what degree, and for what purpose.

To what Degree

Are you saying, Amanda, that regardless of how great a scale the murder and how great a detachment from remorse the person has we should spare his life? So, it’s ok to let Sadaam, Hitler, etc. live?

For What Purpose

It was one thing for Jesus to not accuse the woman. It’s something for a person to have a chance for salvation, but that’s not a given in a secular government. And since it is the Christian’s duty to be merciful, not the government’s, I don’t see how sparing a man’s life (if it is just to take it) shows the Christian as merciful. I guess that you could argue that a Christian judge could be merciful, but again I would ask to what end.

To me, if there’s no repentance and no remorse, there’s no reason for me to be merciful. If you look at every instance of God’s justice / mercy balance in the Bible you’ll see that God was merciful on those that asked, those that showed remorse, or repentance. If you didn’t do one of those things you got what you deserved.

Or am I mistaken?

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  1. Obviously he was writing something in the sand that convicted them and they left, and there’s a lot of speculation about what that might have been, but it’s irrelevant for our discussion. []

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