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LETTER (#3 FROM ANDREW) OBJECTING TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT Print E-mail
Written by Kevin L. Howard   
 

Letter (#3 from Andrew) responding to article "Christians and Capital Punishment"

 

Kevin,

 

All I could really say after reading your response is, "Wow."  I never imagined that my intelligence and honesty would be criticized when I decided to respond to your article.  I tried to be civil in all my responses, and I'm sorry if I somehow insulted you without knowing it.  I tried to not speak too harshly in this e-mail, and I'm sorry if I do, but I am angry that you said my argument was unintelligent and dishonest.  Of course, I'm talking about my dismissal of the Romans 13 passage.  I'm conceding the unbiblical accusation, because how can I give a biblical reason to show why a Bible passage should be applied to modern times.  It's not like there is somewhere in the Bible that says Romans 13:1-5 is applicable from now until the end of the earth.  So, there is no way, but to give reasons that aren't biblical as to the applicability of Bible passages.  Going back to the unintelligent and dishonest accusations.  I don't understand how dismissing this passage is the easy way out, or why the easy way out can't be intelligent, honest, and biblical.  That just makes no sense.  I originally dismissed the passage because it makes no logical sense to support it in modern times.  Romans 13:1 says, "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God."  If you permit me to go back to Hitler, this passage, if applied, obviously shows that Hitler was established by God to be the authority in Germany.  I can say, that I truly do not want to believe in a God who establishes monsters like Hitler in high authority positions.  So, to me it's logical to see that our great and awesome God did not establish Hitler.  If we can't apply this passage to all situations in modern times, then we can't apply it at all.  This was my original problem with the passage.  I realized that if Paul didn't mean it for everyone in the future, then there must have been a good reason for him to tell the Romans.  This is why I turned to my professor for help on the historical context of the passage.  With the context given by my prof. and my logical assumptions, I dismissed the passage.  I, honestly, don't see how this dismissal is at all unintelligent, dishonest, or the easy way out.

   

But, if you do want to see something that is clearly unintelligent and dishonest because it is unbiblical, I would look at your own comments.  At the start of the James 2 section you say, "Your statement, '. . . since we are all equally as guilty of all sin . . .' misses the point of what I said in my last reply.  We aren't all equally as guilty of all sin."  If you had actually read James 2:10 you would see that it says, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it."  Also, I would like to add the fact that we are all sinners given by Romans 3:23 which says, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."  Since we all have sinned, we all have stumbled at one or more points in the law.  So, given James 2:10, every sinner is guilty of breaking all of the law.  If every single person is a sinner, and we are all guilty of breaking all of the law, then I would conclude that this makes us all equal in guilt.  So, we are all equally as guilty of all sin.  That is easy to see if you would read James 2:10.  So, your response says exactly the opposite of what the Bible says.  If that is not unbiblical than I don't know what is.

 

Now, looking up to the John 8 section, I just want to say something about the Ananias and Sapphira passage from Acts 5:1-10 that you brought up.

 

You ask, "Was Peter acting in the spirit of John 8 as he brought the death sentence to them?  Why didn't God just let them live?  After all, wouldn't the compassion lesson that Jesus had taught in John 8 dictate this?"  I'm not going to try to guess at God's reasoning for killing those two.  If God wants to kill two people for whatever reason, then I will go along with it, and support it.  If God wants to come and kill everyone on Death Row right now, then I can't say anything to object.  He has His reasons and I"ll believe in Him and support Him.  This passage in no way shows that God likes or dislikes capital punishment.  This passage shows nothing about the state killing Ananias and Sapphira because the state didn't.  God did.  I will wholeheartedly approve of every execution that God wants to enact.  It is when the government is the one with the say in it, that I wholeheartedly disagree.

 

I think you actually said exactly what I believe in the next paragraph.

You said, "God utterly hates sin and will deal with it in the harshest terms one day."  God will deal with our sin in his own time.  We shouldn't try to take God's role by dealing with someone's sin before He deals with it.  That is not our place.  In fact we are called not to judge everyone else.  They are just as guilty of sin as you and me.

 

In conclusion, this is my last response to your comments.  I lost just about all respect I had for you when you end your comments with accusations and insults, which leads me to not want to respond to you anymore.  If you ask for someone's thoughts and opinions, which you did at the end of your article, you shouldn't insult their arguments later on.  All I wanted was to show you why I oppose the death penalty, and I'm sorry if I ever insulted you (even in this response, because I feel like I might have been too harsh).  I ask that you don't stoop to that level in future responses to your readers who just want a civil argument about your differences on whatever topic.

 

Sincerely,

Andrew _________

 

 

My reply to Andrew's 3rd letter

(responding to my article "Christians and Capital Punishment")

 

Andrew,

 

You get the last word on this topic.  We obviously disagree on many things.

 

As to your character, I wasn't trying to hurt your feelings or insult you.  Sorry about that.

 

Peace,

kev

 

Letter #1 from Andrew

Letter #2 from Andrew

Christians and Capital Punishment

 

 
LETTER (#2 FROM ANDREW) OBJECTING TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT Print E-mail
Written by Kevin L. Howard   
 

Letter (#2 from Andrew) responding to article "Christians and Capital Punishment"

 

Dear Kevin,

 

I've been meaning to send you my comments on your comments, and have finally gotten around to it.  I'll stick to the same headings that you did.

 

John 8:

 

During my original argument, I don't think I showed my argument very well.  Jesus obviously made it so that he was the only one who could throw the first stone at the adulterous woman.  As you said in your article, "all it shows is that Jesus was compassionate and gracious." Romans 8:29 shows that God's plan for every Christian is to "be conformed to the likeness of his Son."  Since our goal in this life should be to become like Jesus, we should try to show the same compassion and graciousness to every sinner.  Even if the OT demands death for the sin, we should follow Christ and give the person mercy.  I agree with you that Jesus wasn't specifically talking about the death penalty in this passage, but he was giving us an example.

 

Also, reading back over your article, I don't understand why you included the last sentence about Jesus throwing over tables and casting his enemies into hell.  I don't understand how that at all fits into your argument.  In those instances, Jesus is displaying righteous anger.  In the first instance, the people were defiling the house of God.  In the second, Jesus has already given his enemies enough time to believe in Him and turn to His side, but they don't, so he puts them where they deserve to go.  It just seemed to me that putting in that sentence you were trying to show a contradiction in Jesus' message and actions.  Sorry if I took that wrong.

 

James 2:

 

I agree with you on most of your comments about James 2.  I believe that what "James has in mind [is] that all people are equally sinners not that all people sin equally."  But, since we are all equally as guilty of all sin as the next person, how can we justify punishing anyone?  In my previous arguments, I had offered prison as an alternative to the death penalty.  To tell you the truth, I only offered prison as a compromise between those who believe in capital punishment, like you, and people like me, who don't.  I really don't think that prison is justified.  You said, "Based on your reasoning of James 2, how could you justify prison?  If James 2 bans capital punishment, it also bans prison."  You hit on exactly what I believe.  Prison was just a cover that I tried to find biblical backing for, simply as a median point between our views.  But given this, I don't think criminals/sinners should run rampant.  I believe that police and other law enforcement have the obligation to care for the greater good, which involves getting criminals off the street.  I would propose, no punishment, but a counseling requirement.  This isn't punishment.  It is just us trying to help the other sinners of the world get past their sins and become better people.  This is where I would look back to John 8.  Since no one condemns the woman, Jesus tells her, "Go now and leave your life of sin."  I would try to follow this example in our goal, as Christians, to become like Christ.

 

The OT and the NT:

 

I again didn't explain myself well in my previous argument.  What I meant is that we must look at the OT laws through post-crucifixion/resurrection eyes.  We need to evaluate what in the OT still applies to us keeping in mind that Jesus died for our sins.  I agree that it is still wrong to covet.  It is still wrong to commit murder, idolatry, adultery, etc.  But given that Jesus died for these sins, we do not have to die for them.  In that way, everything changed.  Our view about the laws has to change from views of the laws before Christ.

 

The Cross:

 

My use of the word "absolved" was a little strong.  All I meant was that the punishment for our sins has already been paid.  You say in your article, "Christ had not sinned, but was dying for the sins of sinners.  God is just and requires that sins be paid for."  This is exactly my point.  God requires that our sins are paid for, but he already provided the person to pay for those sins.  God gave his only Son to die on the csins [sic].  We don't have to pay the punishment because it is already paid.

 

Prison:

 

I think I shared my true views on prison above.  I would also like to explain why an extra-biblical solution is needed.  As shown in my arguments, the Bible does not permit capital punishment.  Also, I agree that it doesn't permit a life sentence in prison.  So, if we have no explicit biblical backing left for any earthly punishment for sins, what are we to do?  Our only option is to think of something ourselves that doesn't go against the Bible.  This is my reason behind promoting a counseling approach, which is not a punishment, just a way to help those who sin.

 

Romans 13:

 

You mentioned twice in your comments that I should look at Romans 13:1-5.  In your article you say that God "has chosen to use governments to bring about his justice.  That's exactly what Rom 13:1-5 teaches-God uses governments to carry out his good plan of justice."  First of all, I'd like to think of this passage in terms of known history.  I don't understand how you can profess this interpretation of Romans while knowing about the atrocities performed in history.  Are you saying that God established Hitler as the ruler in Germany to carry out his good plan of justice?  Did God think that it was good for Hitler to put all those Jews to death?  Is this form of capital punishment good because as you say "God uses [the death penalty] for the good of the people?  Sorry for putting this strongly, but the answer to all those questions is HELL NO.  You are taking this passage way out of context.  So, let me try to explain the original context.

 

I'm going to include a message from one of my professors at college who has studied Romans exclusively, including writing a book about it's [sic] historical context and getting a Ph. D. in New Testament.  Here is what she says:

 

"We should start by saying that Paul only ever wrote letters to particular churches--usually churches he had planted. Paul could not have imagined life in the 21st, or even the 2nd century. We who come along later have to figure out what he wrote that still can apply, and what was just for his own time and situation.  I believe that 13:1-7 was meant specifically for the Roman house churches and cannot be used universally. The Jewish Christians in Rome at that time were in a vulnerable position. About 7 or 8 years earlier, in AD 49, the emperor Claudius had kicked out the Jews because of some public disturbance. That would have included Jewish Christians as well. Now Claudius is dead and Nero is emperor, so the previous laws are no longer in effect. So the Jews are returning to Rome. But it cannot help but be scary for them, since they don't know how Nero will react. Plus, many of them would be quite resentful of giving up their homes and being refugees for many years. Paul does not want them to make a public fuss and jeopardize the Christian house churches of which they are a part.  So, Paul is counseling being peaceful and staying under the radar. This section already begins in the previous paragraph where he tells them to bless those who persecute them and do not pay back evil for evil. Instead, feed your enemies and overcome evil with good. Then he also asks them to obey the authorities and pay their taxes. Otherwise they will run into trouble. In fact, he is probably speaking more directly to the Gentile Christians who have not been expelled and who now are being asked to be hospitable to the returning Jews (12:13). I also think that these instructions apply most specifically to police action. Ideally, police 'are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad' (v 3)."

 

So, we cannot apply this passage to our governments now.  Also, we should not just blindly follow national rules. Paul would not have agreed.  He was imprisoned and flogged countless times, he says in 2 Corinthians 11:23-25, because he challenged political powers of either the Jews or the Romans.

 

So, Romans 13:1-5 has no impact on our discussion of capital pu [sic] time [sic], so, he didn't give us any advice on how to deal with a democratic government.

 

I hope that crystallizes my views on the subject of capital punishment.  Please give me any comments that you most likely will have.

 

- Andrew

 

 

My reply to Andrew's 2nd letter

(responding to my article "Christians and Capital Punishment")

 

Andrew,

 

As in our previous exchange, my replies follow each of your comments.

 

John 8:

 

You write, "Since our goal in this life should be to become like Jesus, we should try to show the same compassion and graciousness to every sinner.  Even if the OT demands death for the sin, we should follow Christ and give the person mercy." 

 

According to your reasoning of Jesus' example, I should try to show the same compassion and graciousness to a pickpocket as to a murderer.  I'm not sure how you could come to this view with the John 8 passage (or with Rom 8:29).  Should we love others?  Yes, but does that mean allowing murderers to live, either in prison or in a counseling institution?  You can hardly support your opposition to capital punishment with John 8 (or Rom 8).  What about showing compassion on the rest of innocent civilization who might otherwise be harmed by those allowed to live in prison or in a counseling institution?  Isn't it compassionate to the masses to execute a murderer and thus ensure he harms no one else, including other inmates? 

 

[This is a bit of an aside, thus I'm bracketing it, but here are two articles by Dennis Prager that show how allowing murderers to live the remainder of their days in institutions can lead to more innocent people being murdered:

 

1) "Capital punishment -- another argument for it" (http://www.townhall.com/columnists/DennisPrager/2006/12/12/capital_punishment_--_another_argument_for_it)

and

 

2). "George Will and Capital Punishment" (http://www.townhall.com/columnists/DennisPrager/2003/11/04/george_will_and_capital_punishment). 

 

Also see this quote about a murderer: "While in prison, LeBaron continued to order his remaining followers to murder his opponents, including some of his wives and children.  It has been estimated that upwards of 25 people were killed as a result of LeBaron's prison-cell orders." (Taken from Internet on 06/21/08 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ervil_LeBaron)]

 

Then you say, "Also, reading back over your article ['Christians and Capital Punishment'], I don't understand why you included the last sentence about Jesus throwing over tables and casting his enemies into hell.... It just seemed to me that putting in that sentence you were trying to show a contradiction in Jesus' message and actions."

 

Too often love is associated with a distortion of compassion, like letting a murderer live.  In John 8, Jesus allowed an adulterer to live, not a murderer.  Secondly, Jesus wasn't the soft guy who overlooked sin, as people often make him out to be.  John 8 doesn't teach about forgiveness as a blanket civil response to all sins.  Many people today would perceive Jesus' teaching in Matt 18:15-17 as harsh, yet it shows that Jesus' compassion and rough treatment of sin go together, not contradict.  Your view fails to reckon with this tougher side of Jesus. 

 

What about when Ananias and Sapphira died for lying to God in Acts 5:1-10?  Was Peter acting in the spirit of John 8 as he brought the death sentence to them?  Why didn't God just let them live?  After all, wouldn't the compassion lesson that Jesus had taught in John 8 dictate this?

 

God utterly hates sin and will deal with it in the harshest terms one day.  Again, I included those sentences--about Jesus throwing over tables and casting his enemies into hell--in my essay, "Christians and Capital Punishment," to show that judgment also, and not just love, has its place in Christian doctrine. 

 

James 2:

 

Your statement, ". . . since we are all equally as guilty of all sin . . ." misses the point of what I said in my last reply.  We aren't all equally as guilty of all sin.

 

In light of your belief that prisons are also biblically unjustified, you say, "I would propose, no punishment, but a counseling requirement.  This isn't punishment.  It is just us trying to help the other sinners of the world get past their sins and become better people." 

 

Of course, this counseling phase would have to be held, essentially, in the context of a prison, since most hardened criminals wouldn't comply with it.  (Remember, we're talking about murderers and the vilest of society.)  You'd have to lock them in the counseling institution at least for a while, which would posse the same problems for your view as a prison per se.  But even for the few who might comply with such counseling, your assumption seems to be that these people just need pointing in the right direction, even though it may take several years.  If they get the right counseling, then they'll be safe and stable.  Your assumption seems to be that people in general aren't totally depraved, and that these criminals aren't living in the most extreme sinful state of depravity.  If so, you will have a difficult time reconciling such a view of humanity with Scripture.

 

And, just for the record, I don't think James 2 bans prison or capital punishment.  My argument was that if it bans one, it would likewise ban the other.

 

The OT and the NT:

 

No comments needed.

 

The Cross:

 

Most relevant to our discussion is your comment, "We don't have to pay the punishment because it is already paid." 

 

Let's say I murder someone in cold blood.  Even though I am a believer (or at least up to that point have claimed Christ and shown the fruit of the Spirit), should I not also pay for my crime while on this earth?  Even if I am truly born again, Christ's work on the cross doesn't set me free of the earthy institutes he's set up to punish such sins (Gal 6:7).  Thus, if I believe even someone who has shown evidence of being born again murders but should have to die for his crimes, it should be clear what I think should happen to the unbelieving who do the same.  (See later discussion of Rom 13:1-5.) 

 

Prison:

 

Here, you reply, "So, if we have no explicit biblical backing left for any earthly punishment for sins, what are we to do?  Our only option is to think of something ourselves that doesn't go against the Bible." 

 

You jump to the conclusion that there is "no explicit biblical backing left for any earthly punishment for sins."  If there are no punishments left, then Christians might have to reason their way to an extra-biblical solution, but this is the very element of your argument that you need to flesh out.

 

Again, your whole unsupported assumption is that execution is wrong.  If you can promote extra-biblical solutions, which may or may not be acceptable, why can't I promote a view that has more biblical support than yours?

 

Romans 13:

 

Now, more of your comments: "Are you saying that God established Hitler as the ruler in Germany to carry out his good plan of justice?  Did God think that it was good for Hitler to put all those Jews to death?  Is this form of capital punishment good because as you say 'God uses [the death penalty] for the good of the people?'"

 

We both agree that Hitler was an evil man and did very little to carry out justice.  His extermination of 12 million people was heinous and God thought it was evil.  That's part of the reason Hitler burns in hell, even as we write.  You've used a straw man to try to counter my argument from Rom 13:1-5.  Hitler wasn't carrying out a just form of capital punishment, nor have I argued such.  He was simply murdering people he didn't like.  Your view states that such a heinous person as Hitler does not deserves to die swiftly for his crimes, but should rot in prison.  Your view, while on the surface looks compassionate, essentially devalues life by asserting that the deaths of 12 million people aren't worth even one life--Hitler's.  The biblical view values life and says, some things cross a line that require a person to die for his crimes. 

 

Then you say, "So, we cannot apply this passage [Rom 13] to our governments now.  Also, we should not just blindly follow national rules.  So, Romans 13:1-5 has no impact on our discussion of capital pu [sic] time [sic], so, he didn't give us any advice on how to deal with a democratic government."

 

Unfortunately, you dismiss Rom 13:1-5.  Should we reason the same way with Rom 13:9, just a few verses down?  What if we took the same approach to Rom 8:29 and said that it has no universal impact or import?  What about other places in the book of Romans?  That's exactly what homosexuals do with the latter part of Rom 1.  If Rom 13:1-5 sheds no light on this issue, then you have a responsibility to flesh out this view in detail.  Your professor's comments don't prove your position but only state her views on the matter.  I'd encourage you to look at some more commentaries, like Douglas Moo's and others, on that same passage.

 

Many OT passages and Romans 13:1-5 hinder your arguments against the death penalty, and perhaps that is why you must dismiss them.  Saying that "we cannot apply this passage to our governments now" should come as the result of a weighty and solidly biblical discussion, not as a passing comment piggybacking someone else's work.  Your dismissal of this passage is the easy way out, not the biblical, honest, or intelligent way.  What if we dismissed the John 8 passage the same way?

 

Sincerely,

kev

Letter #3 from Andrew

Letter #1 from Andrew

Christians and Capital Punishment

 

 
LETTER (#1 FROM ANDREW) OBJECTING TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT Print E-mail
Written by Kevin L. Howard   

Letter (#1 from Andrew) responding to article "Christians and Capital Punishment"

 

June 10, 2008

 

Mr. Howard,

 

I just stumbled upon your site recently when I was looking at arguments for and against capital punishment.  I got a link to your "Christians and Capital Punishment" article.  I am a Christian and am strictly against the death penalty.  I saw that you offered a couple questions for those Christians like me who opposed the death penalty.  So, I will try to explain my view on the subject as well as show some false points that I see in your argument.  Hopefully you will see that my viewpoint is based in Scriptures just like yours.

 

Genesis 3:6 - Adam obviously sinned when he partook of the fruit.  God did not kill Adam on the spot.  But, Adam did eventually die for his sin.  He was still given the opportunity to remain as God's child and teach his offspring about God and God's great mercy. 

 

As you said, Adam's life degraded some until he eventually died.  This is what I would propose for murderers.  We stick them in jail, which obviously doesn't allow them to live the fullness of life, just like God didn't allow Adam to live the fullness of life.  Then we let them stay in jail until they die naturally.

 

John 8 - Adulterous Woman Story - I agree with you when you say that Jesus never said that she should escape stoning.  But you also said that Jesus "set the situation up so that she would not be put to death."  This is untrue.  He set the situation up so that she could still be put to death, but the person that could throw the first stone to start the killing would be him.  In the story, no one condemns the woman, and Jesus says, "Then neither do I condemn you" (NIV).  I believe that this shows that if we see someone who has committed a sin, we should follow what Jesus said to  the Pharisees and teachers of the law who brought the adulterous woman. "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."  Since everyone is a sinner, how can we throw the first stone, or to put in modern times, how can we flip that electrical switch to pump electricity through the accused, or push that needle into the arm of the accused.

 

James 2:10 - The NIV Bible has this verse saying "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it."  I know that I am a sinner.  Everyone is a sinner, since the only sinless person to ever walk the earth was Jesus.  So, I may stumble at a point in the law about coveting, and this verse shows me that I am guilty of breaking all of the law.  All of the law entails murder, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, etc.  If someone else stumbled at a point in the law about murder.  That person is guilty of all of the law, just like me, according to this verse.  So, how can I condemn someone to death with the death penalty, if that person is just as guilty as me, according to the Bible.  If we keep the death penalty, we might as well kill everyone because everyone is as guilty as the murderers that you want to subject to the death penalty.

 

Well, that is all I have for right now, because I have to leave my computer now.  But one last thing can be said.  Your second to last paragraph in your article says that "the people who argue against capital punishment have to at least be consistent in their position."  I can't speak for all people who oppose the death penalty, but I definitely believe that no one should ever die by the death penalty.  I don't care about what atrocities they committed.  I believe that people like Hitler, Stalin, Hussein, Bin Laden should never face the death penalty.

 

There is my response and basis in Scripture for opposing the death penalty.  I would very much appreciate any response you have to my arguments.  Thanks for your time.

 

Andrew __________ [last name deleted by NNF]

 

*PS--I e-mailed you earlier today about this same topic, trying to provide some Scriptural backing to the arguments against the death penalty.  As I was thinking about it, I realized that I left out a big point in my argument.  So, here goes.

 

In your argument, you spent a lot of time on the Old Testament and its teachings.  I would agree that there are many examples of the teachings for death as punishment in the OT.  I agree, that if we based all our beliefs off of the OT teachings, I would be an advocate for the death penalty.  But, we have to look at the NT, and really only at one specific action described.

 

The act of Jesus dying on the cross is what I'm talking about.  He died for the sole reason of letting us live.  Jesus Christ died for our sins.  Not just for Christians' sins, but everyone's sins.  He died for the sin of murder, for the sin of lust, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, etc.  So, to put it plainly, someone already died for our sins, why should we kill someone else for a sin, when Jesus already died so that person could live.  Jesus' death changed all the laws in the OT.  We shouldn't exact punishment for sins that have already been absolved by Jesus' death.  The reason I believe in prison as a better choice, is because it gets the people who harmed innocent people off the streets.

 

So, my final argument is the fact the Jesus' death made it so we don't have to die for our sins!

 

Please respond with your thoughts on this argument.  I'd appreciate them!

 

*[Originally, this PS came as a separate email, but has been included here for simplicity sake]

 

 

My reply to Andrew's 1st letter

(responding to my article "Christians and Capital Punishment")

 

Dear Andrew,

 

Here are my comments, for whatever they're worth.  I've limited them to the essentials of your argument and added sub-headings to make my response more readable. 

 

John 8:

 

Regarding John 8--Adulterous Woman Story--you make a good point when you say, "[Jesus] set the situation up so that she could still be put to death, but the person that could throw the first stone to start the killing would be him."

 

But then you say, "I believe that this shows that if we see someone who has committed a sin, we should follow what Jesus said to the Pharisees...who brought the adulterous woman.  'If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.'  Since everyone is a sinner, how can we throw the first stone, or to put in modern times, how can we flip that electrical switch to pump electricity through the accused, or push that needle into the arm of the accused." 

 

Was Jesus' (or John's) point that no one should ever die for a crime?  Your position assumes that Jesus was discussing capital punishment in John 8.  John 8 shows Jesus exposing the hypocrisy of his opponents.  He wanted them to see that they had left out the male adulterer.  Where was he?  Why did the hypocrites only want to stone this woman and not the man?  Note that Jesus never says capital punishment is wrong.  He's telling them that they've misunderstood God's law and that they're being hypocrites by bringing only the woman to be stoned and not the man also.  They're trying to trap Jesus but he is too cleaver. 

 

James 2:

 

Now onto your comments about James 2:10.  "If someone else stumbled at a point in the law about murder.  That person is guilty of all of the law, just like me, according to this verse.  So, how can I condemn someone to death with the death penalty, if that person is just as guilty as me, according to the Bible.  If we keep the death penalty, we might as well kill everyone because everyone is as guilty as the murderers that you want to subject to the death penalty."

 

If you're just as guilty as everyone else, why should you not be in prison too?  And if everyone is as guilty as everyone else, why try to punish any crimes?  (Perhaps James has in mind that all people are equally sinners not that all people sin equally.  In other words, we have all sinned and all deserve hell but this doesn't wipe out a distinction between those who only murder within their hearts and those who actually murder.  That I think about stealing my neighbor's bike shows I'm a sinner and have thievery in my heart but it would be worse to actually take his bike.  Someone who thinks about stealing a bike and someone who purposefully kills a five-year old should not be punished equally by their government.  Are both sinners?  Yes.  Do both deserve hell?  Yes.  Do both deserve the same earthly retribution for their sins?  No.  The Bible doesn't say they deserve the same earthly punishment.  Even hell has its varying degrees of severity depending on the sinner, Luke 12:46-48.) 

 

Based on your reasoning of James 2, how could you justify prison?  If James 2 bans capital punishment, it also bans prison.  God knows that all have sinned, and you are right to identify yourself as a sinner, yet God still institutes governments (usually secular) to deal with criminals.  See Rom 13:1-5.

 

Regarding your statements, "...I definitely believe that no one should ever die by the death penalty....  I believe that people like Hitler, Stalin, Hussein, Bin Laden should never face the death penalty," at least you're consistent.

 

The OT and the NT:

 

You say, "I agree, that if we based all our beliefs off of the OT teachings, I would be an advocate for the death penalty.  But, we have to look at the NT, and really only at one specific action described." 

 

I wouldn't be so quick to disallow the OT a voice in the matter.  Most everything Jesus and the NT writers say roots itself in the OT.  God isn't a God of wrath in the OT and a God of love in the NT.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever more (Heb 13:8).  Some things changed with the coming of Christ, but not everything.  (So, I disagree with your latter statement, "Jesus' death changed all the laws in the OT."  Many things changed, but not all.  It's still wrong to covet, for example.  Also, you would do well to interact with the Rom 13:1-5 passage dealt with in my paper, "Christians and Capital Punishment".)

 

The Cross:

 

Concerning the cross, let's look at your statements first: "The act of Jesus dying on the cross is what I'm talking about....someone already died for our sins, why should we kill someone else for a sin, when Jesus already died so that person could live.... We shouldn't exact punishment for sins that have already been absolved by Jesus' death." 

 

Absolved isn't the right word--if all sins were absolved then all would be forgiven and Scripture teaches the opposite (Proverb 16:4; Luke 16:23-26; Romans 6:23a; 1 Corinthians 6:9‑10; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9; James 1:15; Revelation 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8).  And beside, if you really believed that all were absolved of their sins, you could not justify prison.  If they're absolved, who's to put these people in prison?

 

You're right to point to the cross as a possible solution to this issue--to execute or not.  The cross does help us understand this topic.  Here are my comments from my paper:

 

"Does the cross of Christ shed any light on the matter of capital punishment?  When Jesus hung on the cross, he said of those executing him, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do' (Lk 23:34).  Doesn't this prove that Jesus would have forgiven murderers today?

 

"Jesus' words of forgiveness show that God hates sin and approves of the execution of Christ.  It also shows that he has a heart to forgive (1 Pet 2:23).  Christ had not sinned, but was dying for the sins of sinners.  God is just and requires that sins be paid for.  Christ's forgiving words uttered from the cross weren't a blanket forgiveness for his accusers.  He was expressing his heart, not making a statement about the destinies of his torturers.  He was full of love even though they were full of hate.  If his crucifiers were to be saved, they'd have to repent and believe.  In fact, this same loving Christ will one day reek havoc on his enemies (Rev 20:11-15)."

 

And to your statement, "So, my final argument is the fact the Jesus' death made it so we don't have to die for our sins," I say that we still have to die for our sins.  But those who trust Christ do not face eternal death--never-ending punishment in hell.  Those who die without Christ, however, will suffer forever in hell (Mt 25:46; Jn 3:36; Rom 11:22).

 

Prison:

 

Now, let's conclude, again with your thoughts first.  "The reason I believe in prison as a better choice, is because it gets the people who harmed innocent people off the streets."  Regarding prison, you've offered an extra-biblical solution.  It's nowhere suggested as the solution, not even Adam's slow death suggests it.  My view at least has biblical warrant for capital punishment being justified in some cases.  The reason you have to find an extra-biblical solution is because you've ignored a key solution that Scripture gives, that is, execution.

 

Thanks for your comments and for looking into Scripture for the solution.  You have attempted to answer my two questions, (scriptural support for opposing capital punishment, and if not capital punishment, what?) but I think you still have to deal with some other issues and passages in the NT.

 

Blessings,

kev

 

Letter #2 from Andrew

Christians and Capital Punishment

 

 
TENNESSEE'S DEATH PENALTY MORATORIUM Print E-mail
Written by Kevin L. Howard   
Are death penalty moratoriums a good thing?  David Gushee, in a February 2007 article (http://countercultureblog.com), argues that Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen's temporary suspension of all executions is indeed a good move.  In fact, Gushee wants a longer moratorium in Tennessee and nationwide.
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CHRISTIANS AND CAPITAL PUNISHMENT Print E-mail
Written by Kevin L. Howard   

Review of Clouds of Witnesses by M. Noll and C. Nystrom

Academic Wordiness: Humility Meets Clarity

 

Table of Contents

 

 I. Introduction

II. What does the Old Testament say about capital punishment?

          A. The image of God

          B. Man as a judge

          C. God's covenant

III. Questioning the death penalty with the Old Testament

IV. What does the New Testament say about capital punishment?

          A. The adulterous woman

          B. Turn the other cheek

          C. Put away your sword

          D. The government

          E. Vengeance is mine

          F. The Cross

V. What crimes, if any, merit the death penalty?

VI. Christians opposing the death penalty

            A. The value of life

B. Problems with the death penalty

                       1. Hasn't the death penalty failed to prevent crime?

                       2. What about discrimination and the finality of this decision?

            C. Questions for thought

VII. Summary and conclusion

 

 

Introduction 

Frank sits on death row the night before he goes to the electric chair.  His brown eyes move back and forth examining his green cell walls.  But nothing of beauty hangs there.  The bear and ugly walls remind him of his own empty and unattractive soul.  His darting eyes track his thoughts as they trace his life and how he ended up where he is. How could he have gotten into this mess?   

 

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