Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Who Will Throw the First Stone?

Is capital punishment a Christian position?

I write this because of the recent Norwegian mass murder. Anders Behring Breivik is charged with murdering 77 people, in two connected attacks. These were heartless and calculated crimes.

Opponents of capital punishment cite New Testament passages such as “turning the other cheek” to counter. Jesus stopped a capital execution by saying, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”[1] How can one reconcile Christ’s act of forgiving his Roman executioners with the administration of sodium thiopental to a death row felon? Who has a right to throw that stone?

Yet capital punishment seems clearly biblical. Yahweh declared in the Law, “Anyone who strikes a man and kills him shall surely be put to death.”[2] No negotiation. There are numerous examples of God instigating executions.

Christ Himself, along with two criminals, died by crucifixion, the Roman form of capital punishment. He referred to Pilate’s authority as “given … from above.”[3]

There are two aspects of punishment, - human and Divine. In the 1995 movie “Dead Man Walking,” Sean Penn plays a cold-blooded killer who seemingly escapes Divine punishment, only to be executed by men. Forgiveness is one thing. Consequences of our actions is quite another. The Bible condones an avenger who kills his loved ones’ murderer as “without being guilty of murder,” [4] provided it was done within the legal framework. Executing a serious offender is sanctioned.

How can a loving God endorse the death of a person? Could it partly be the deterrent effect the death penalty has? One study concluded that from 1977-97, each additional execution decreases homicides by about five.”[5]

Norway has no death penalty. Anders Breivik faces a maximum of 21 years in prison under Norwegian law. It seems Norwegian lawmakers could not envision such a horrific crime. Breivik faces 99 days for each life he took unless the sentence is changed. Does the punishment fit his crime?

The criminal crucified near Jesus admitted, “… we are getting what our deeds deserve.”[6] That is the tenor of the Bible regarding capital punishment. Some crimes “deserve” the life of the perpetrator, while others do not. It is right that a judge should have the option of capital punishment.

Should Breivik get the death penalty if he is finally convicted? Definitely. Would God spare him from Divine punishment if he repents of his sin of murder? Yes, He will.

After all, He doesn’t cast stones.

[1] John 8:7 NIV Bible
[2] Exodus 21:12 NIV Bible
[3] John 19:11 NIV Bible
[4] Numbers 35:27 NIV Bible
[5] “Getting off Death Row: Commuted Sentences and the Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment,” 1995, by Naci Mocan (University of Colorado at Denver) & R. Kaj Gittings (Cornell)
[6] Luke 23:41 NIV Bible

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Quotes of Note ... The Invisible World

“Spiritual warfare is learning to recognize the strategies, refusing to cooperate with them, and aggressively cutting off the schemes of the devil in Jesus’ name.” Dean Sherman

“those who protest that God cannot exist because there is too much evil evident in life… Evil exists; therefore, the Creator does not. That is categorically stated… If evil exists, one must assume that good exists in order to know the difference. If good exists, one must assume that a moral law exists by which to measure good and evil. But if a moral law exists, must not one posit an ultimate source of moral law, or at least an objective basis for a moral law? By an objective basis, I mean something that is transcendingly true at all times, regardless of whether I believed it or not.” Ravi Zacharias

“But the Devil is no big threat to God’s purposes; he is not even remotely comparable in power. He has been given a limited time before his final judgment to try to prove his case, just as all other moral beings who have chosen to live in rebellion against heaven.” W.A. Pratney

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I've served as a life-long missionary in Samoa, the Pacific region, India, and now in Pennsylvania. The Christian faith is reasonable and works in real life. It is true to the facts. Hope you enjoy some of the thoughts. I appreciate feedback.

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