May 20, 2024

Capital Punishment: Justice, Jesus and the Cross

Alone amongst the dead header

We start this round finally making progress in our debate on the Death Penalty. For starters, Amanda admits that she does not believe the Death Penalty to be just. This necessitates that she’s not providing mercy for the convicted convict, but instead arguing for justice for the convict, and therefore negates her previous statement that sparing someone is both merciful and just. It’s simply is just.

Is the Death Penalty Just?

As far as the next statement, the verse I quoted does indeed support capital punishment– perhaps I need to provide the verse in context:

Gen 9:1-7 – And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.

And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth [upon] the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.

Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.

But flesh with the life thereof, [which is] the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.

And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man.

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

And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.

This passage is after the flood, as God was setting up the first government for man. Specifically, God set the blood apart as special, requiring that the animal that killed man be killed, but then he goes a step further. He states specifically that he will require the recompense for the death at the hand of the brother.

This text matches what he sets up in the Mosaic law, where the Avenger of Blood (a male relative- father, brother, etc) would be charged to take the life of the murderer. This is far from the vague “If God wants to tell someone (audibly, with witnesses) to kill someone for killing someone else, then an argument could be made for capital punishment.” that Amanda wants to claim. God specifies not only that the death penalty is in effect, but specifies who should carry it out.

Now, the next logical argument she should put forth would be “but it’s the state that’s carrying it out now, rather than the Avenger of Blood.” The actor in the punishment does not negate the justice of the command. For example, if there were no male Avenger, who would then avenge? And in the OT law we see that the state or a collected group of people could affect other death penalty offenses.

Basically, I don’t see that she has a leg to stand on with saying that it’s unjust. As a recap:

  • We’ve already agreed that whatever God orders is just– He was just to order the killing of children based on their rebellion, and just for condemning adulterers to death.
  • We’ve also agreed that this verse references capital punishment for murder outside of the mosaic code– the OT law. Therefore it supercedes that law.

Is It Murder?

She now equates capital punishment with murder. So I have to ask, two questions:

By what definition do you make this claim? Since every definition I see states that it’s an unlawful death, and since Capital Punishment is currently law, it certainly doesn’t pass that test. You can claim it to be unjust, but not unlawful. In fact, there are many times where life is taken and it’s not “murder”:

  • Self Defense
  • War
  • Abortion (though I argue that this is killing an innocent, many would say that this is not murder since it is lawful)
  • Assisted Suicide

And since abortion could not be considered murder, it could not be considered murder to be killed via the Death Penalty. But if we entertain the idea that she’s right and it is unjust…

What would she do with those that carried out the executions, those that ordered them, etc.? Would they be sentenced to prison time without the ability of parole? Would you jail all of the doctors, the parole officers, the Governors and Presidents that either condoned this act or carried out the act to a life in prison? Or would they be paroled– or somehow grand-fathered? Are they all murderers with blood on their hands?

What about Mercy?

Again, this is the paradoxical argument, but let’s travel the road a little. So, let’s say that it is just to enact the Death Penalty. Shouldn’t a Christian be merciful? I mean, Christ did display mercy.

The problem with this line of questioning is that although Christ displayed mercy, every time it was directed at someone that sought Him out. Every time it was to someone that put their faith in Him, and every time it was accompanied by some kind of repentance.

Let’s take the ultimate example. Every person born stands in sin1. Every person that has sinned deserves eternal separation from God2. At this point, God had two choice, He could have wiped us all out (which would have been just), or He could provide a way to negate this wrong. He chose to provide a way, with a condition– faith on what His Son would do/did on the cross.

So, God is providing mercy to those that do something. If you choose not to repent. If you choose not to recognize your sin and need for a Savior you will end up eternally separated from God in judgement– which is just.

When I said “if there’s no repentance and no remorse, there’s no reason to be merciful” I was simply echoing God’s justice and mercy. God showed mercy on me, a sinner, and I’m grateful for it. I don’t deserve it. He chose me when I was His enemy. But there was repentance, a change of heart toward people.

Christ Himself, when He was on the cross, had two thieves next to Him. Both started off mocking Him, just like those on the ground, calling on Him to come down from the cross if He was the Son of God. As time passed, the one thief turned to Him, and believed on Him.

At that moment, Christ could have taken that thief down off the cross. He could have shown mercy and stopped the man’s punishment and healed him. What a testimony that would have been to all those that were watching of the power of Jesus as God. And yet Jesus let the sentence continue. Was He not merciful? No. He replied “This day you will be with me in paradise.”

For Christ, it was all about the spiritual life. For God, it’s all about the heart and the heart attitude toward God. It’s all about repentance, forgiveness, and showing remorse. The other thief was not blessed. The other thief chose to die (justly) for his sin without the Savior– and yet even the thief that repented died that day on the cross.

Again, I restate, why should mercy be shown when justice is being carried out? Under what conditions?

Focusing the question on me just deflects the issue, Amanda. By preaching the truth– that we are all sinners and all deserving death, and yet there’s something better I’m specifically preaching the message of the cross. By stating that it’s all about the spiritual life and this physical life is temporary I’m putting the focus where God and Jesus put the focus. And by telling the murderer that they will die for their crime, I may be giving them the best chance to express repentance and get right with God for they will be forced to death with their eternal destiny now, and not put it off to natural causes.

I have never killed a person though Capital Punishment. I am on the side of justice, however. I do show mercy in my dealing– with my kids, with my coworkers, etc. My position on the death penalty has nothing to do with who I am as a person and what my testimony for Christ is.

Jesus Christ is just– he is Holy first and foremost.

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  1. Romans 3:23 – For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. []
  2. Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord []

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