Why Being Pro-Life and Pro-Death-Penalty Isn’t a Contradiction

Why Being Pro-Life and Pro-Death-Penalty Isn’t a Contradiction August 20, 2018

It is almost an axiom of abortionist rhetoric to question the consistency of being pro-life and supporting the death penalty. The logic goes that since the pro-life position claims to be just that, pro, for, in support of life, it cannot consistently be pro, for, in support of the death penalty because the death penalty involves the termination of life.

It is important to note that this charge of inconsistency is an internal critique, the abortionist is, for the sake of argument, granting the pro-life position on abortion in order to argue for its inconsistency with the death penalty. The abortionist steps on to Christian ground, so to speak, to give an in-house challenge. Yet as an internal critique, its logic fails to impress when the reasons for being pro-life are explicitly Christian because in the Christian worldview there is no inconsistency between being pro-life and in support of the principle of the death penalty. In fact, the same basic reality undergirds the Christian’s support of both. We will see this by walking through the Christian arguments against abortion and for the death penalty in five points:

First, Christian pro-life advocates are just that because they believe that the Bible is the word of God. That is, the Bible is the final authority to which we must submit in every area of life. To use the post-reformation phrase, Scripture is the norma normans non normata, the norming norm which cannot be normed. Whatever Scripture teachers, the Christian must believe.

Second, the Bible absolutely condemns the murder of innocent human life. Exodus 20:13 is very clear, “You shall not murder.” Murder is also a violation of the command, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39), as well as the golden rule, “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12).[1] Since you do not wish your neighbor to murder you, do not then murder him. This is not a controversial point, murder is wrong.

Third, the Bible unquestionably views unborn humans as human life (Genesis 5:3, Exodus 21:22-25, Psalm 51:5, 139:13-16, Luke 1:15, 41-44) and therefore created in the image of God and possessing the most basic human right, the right to life. Therefore, it is murder to abort the unborn baby and destroy one of God’s image bearers. My intent is not to fully support this proposition (I have defended it briefly here) since this particular pro-choice argument is an internal critique and as such does not question this proposition but rather assumes it and challenges the pro-life advocate on consistently applying it (and point two) to the death penalty.

Fourth, the Bible also teaches that God has given government the “sword” (Romans 13:4, Acts 25:11), that is, the authority to act as God’s avenger and to punish the wrongdoer, culminating in capital punishment. During the Roman Empire, when Paul wrote his epistle, the sword was the instrument used for executing Roman citizens. Since we believe that this is what the Bible teaches and the Bible is the very word of God, we must submit to it regardless of whether it goes against our natural inclinations. In saying all this, I am not endorsing the particular method of capital punishment of any given country at any given time. It surely can and has been abused. Certainly not every use of the sword by sinful governments is just. What I am saying is that in principle the Bible grants the power of capital punishment to the government, whether or not the government exercises that power in a just manner is another matter altogether.

Fifth, the capital punishment is justly used in the case of murder because the crime is so grievous. Murder is a particularly grievous crime because it destroys an image bearer of God. In Genesis 1:26-27, “God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’…So God create man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” This text shows us that the foundation of human dignity and the very core of what it means to be a human is to be created in the image of God. If man were just another animal then murder would be no more sinful than a lion killing an antelope; it is because we are made in God’s image that we have dignity and human rights.

This very concept of the image of God comes up again in Genesis 9:5-6 when God makes a covenant with Noah and instructs him, saying, “And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” The last clause of verse six is incredibly important because it provides the reason why murder is a capital offence, namely, because man is made in God’s image. I take this to mean at least two things. First, man as the image of God is endowed with dignity and to murder an image bearer of God is a sin of the first order. Second, that man as the image bearer of God is also endowed with the responsibility to imitate God and act as judge by shedding the blood of the murderer (remember what God just did in Genesis 6-8). Therefore, it is, in principle, just for the state to use the sword in capital punishment.

This is important, because many Christians do in fact argue against the death penalty. I cannot go into all their arguments and exegesis here, but it may suffice to say that if they deny the justice of the death penalty in principle they inadvertently downplay the seriousness of the act of murder and by extension the dignity and value of the individual image bearer.

In conclusion, when the Christian worldview is reckoned with as a whole, we see that the very same reality – namely, that man is made in the image of God –leads us to conclude that abortion is murder and that murderers deserve the death penalty.[2] Therefore, when abortionists advance this argument against Christian pro-life advocates it is self-defeating, for they must admit point one, two, and three in order to challenge them on points four and five. But once they have granted points one through three for the sake of argument, they must also grant points four and five because they necessarily follow. In fact, it is enough for them only to grant point one for the sake of argument in order to be forced to grant points four and five, for those are manifestly taught in Scripture.

 

[1] It is interesting that Jesus sees both the greatest commandment (love God and love neighbor) as well as the golden rule as summing up all the Law and the Prophets, i.e. the whole Old Testament (Matthew 5:13, 22:40).

[2] This also suggests that just laws concerning abortion would have to take into account not only the prohibition of the act but the severity of punishment for the ones performing the act.

"This year another blogger in the Evangelical section of Patheos, G. Shane Morris, has posted ..."

Why Large Families Have Become Freak ..."
"Our resources are not endless---they are finite, and so is our habitat.We humans have caused ..."

Why Large Families Have Become Freak ..."
"What does it mean to be "In Christ"?What is "Christ in you, the hope of ..."

Why Evangelicals Need to Stop Saying ..."
"If this is Glory, I probably count."

Why Evangelicals Need to Stop Saying ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Evangelical
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Ted

    As is so often the case, this is an Evangelical blog written only for other evangelicals, who narrowly define “Christian” as those who share their same premises and views. Devoted followers of Jesus, from the very first decades, came in many different forms, as they do today. Fortunately, today they do not all support state-sponsored execution (oddly, the Roman execution device became the central Christian symbol, a perverted image to worship).

    • Carlos Santiago

      I wear any empty cross signifying he has risen. Other may wear a cross with Jesus signifying a sacrifice. Some a fish, others a dove.

      • Ted

        He rose from a cave. He was taken down from the cross.

    • What exegetical arguments would you provide for an alternative interpretation of Genesis 9 and Romans 13?

      • Ted

        I don’t use biblical exegesis to limit my compassion and love.

        • So in other words you don’t understand my argument. I am answering an internal critique posed by abortionist against Christians. Do you know what an internal critique is?

          • Ted

            I understand it and am pointing out it’s limited persuasiveness and usefulness. Like I said, not all Christians agree with your premises. For me and others like me (and now the Catholic Church, too), executions are not morally or religiously justified.

          • You are right, it is limited. It is intended to be. Every argument is limited in its scope. So to argue against it (like many are doing) without exegesis fails to understand the nature of the argument. It is an explicitly Christian argument meant to show the consistency of the Christian position. If you wish to argue against the position I take, you need to argue exegetically that the Bible condemns capital punishment in principle, and deal with the many texts (Genesis 9, Romans 13, Acts 25:11) which seem to support it. Otherwise you cannot make any believable claim that the Christian position is anti-capital punishment in principle.

          • Ted

            I don’t grant your premise that exegesis is primary. We fully understand your argument. We are just choosing not to limit ourselves to your small skill set. Jesus didn’t either. His compassion and love were greater than his strict adherence to literalism and scriptural interpretaion. He worked in metaphor and symbol and action. He uprooted dogma, not established it.

          • If you want to argue that the Christian should oppose capital punishment in principle (which is itself a dogmatic claim, just as the claim that they should support it is), how else do you propose do to that then by arguing from the biblical text which itself is normative for establishing Christian doctrine?

            It seems to me that you don’t have a good and consistent interpretation of the texts I mentioned and so it is easier to just brush them away than deal fairly with them. Furthermore, you make the claim that Jesus’s love and compassion was greater than his strict adherence to literalism – how do you know that except by exegeting the text? What ground would you have to stand on against someone saying the exact opposite and accused you of interpreting Jesus too “literally”?

            For reference, your claim that Jesus didn’t care much for what you call strict exegesis is flat falsehood. Here are some references on Jesus’s view of the Bible and His own words: Matthew 5:17-19, Matthew 7:12, Matthew 22:34-40, Matthew 24:35, Matthew 28:18-20, Luke 10:26, Luke 16:17, Luke 21:33, Luke 24:44-47, John 5:45-47, John 10:35. Many, many times Jesus references the Old Testament and expects his audience to understand Him, in addition He seems to lay down some pretty clear teaching which He expected His disciples to understand and follow.

            Take, for example, his answer to the question, “What is the greatest commandment?” in Matthew 22. Jesus’s answer is to quote two Old Testament passages, Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. Now, does it seem reasonable to think that we can read those texts interpret Jesus to mean that the greatest commandment is to wear blue jeans and drive German cars? Of course not. But why not? Because what Jesus said had actual meaning; meaning that is found in the way he strung together words to form phrases and sentences. This is why it is possible for us to communicate – we share a common language and understanding of words and grammar and syntax. I would misconstrue your words if I interpreted them to make any mention of a drum set – even if its based on the fact that symbol and cymbal are homonyms. The fact is you didn’t say anything about a drum set and I know it.

            Now, I think you will agree at least in principle that such an understanding is a necessary prerequisite to communication (and that Jesus wasn’t advertising for Volkswagen). I think our difference is that you wish to disagree with point one of my article, that the Bible is the norming norm which cannot be normed, and you wish to set up some more ultimate standard.

          • Ted

            Honestly, Taylor, the word salad of your replies makes me think of the devil in a zealot’s disguise. I look and feel for the expansive love and compassion of Jesus in people and in their positions. I have written this here before. Love trump’s all. I don’t care if Jesus ever said it (he didn’t); he enacted it. Paul said it, but Paul is not always a trustworthy and healthy character. If you want to argue that in some cases we should not value human life enough to preserve it, by all means go ahead. Put your exegesis and logic toward that task.

        • LastManOnEarth

          +++

    • CelestialChoir

      TED–Just to let you know, all evangelicals do NOT believe that the death penalty is just or should be administered.
      (Please see what I’ve written in response to the author of the article.) I am a Black Pentecostal Christian who
      votes Democrat, and I am opposed to abortion, the death penalty and war. I do not accept state-sanctioned executions
      as God’s will. Christians in many countries are all too often victims of state-sanctioned death penalties, executed by
      governments who believe our faith is a “crime against the state.” Also, I cannot see how any execution is a spiritual
      benefit to the “executioner”–the very act of taking human life turns executioners into heartless beings. Nor do I see
      how any governmental executioner can die with human blood on their hands and face the Creator with the excuse
      that “I was just doing my job.” One’s eternal salvation is too costly to risk on any interpretation of biblical text that permits
      human beings to drive the life force/soul/spirit out of a human body.

      • Ted

        Thanks. I did not mean to suggest uniformity among all evangelicals. I meant that he was writing in his echo chamber of faith and assumptions. That you for your thoughtful reply. I was too free with the term.

    • CruisingTroll

      Fortunately, today they do not all support oppose state-sponsored execution

      Fixed that for you.

      (or… it cuts both ways. There has been disagreement on this topic since the first century.)

      • Ted

        That’s what I said.

  • Shawn O’Brien

    “Christian arguments against abortion and for the death penalty in five points”, but meaning no disrespect, you don’t really make your points…

    You say…
    1. Bible is the Word of God, you have to do what it says – we could nuance that, but okay granted; not necessarily a point regarding abortion or death penalty however.
    2. Bible condemns murder – verses cited include ALL human life, not just “innocent”; this is a point against abortion AND death penalty.
    3. Unborn babies are humans – again, that could perhaps be nuance, but granted; this is a point against abortion and does not directly speak to death penalty (it speaks indirectly against death penalty if the concern is “destroying one of God’s image bearers”).
    4. Romans 13:4 and Acts 25:11 give permission for capital punishment. – the verse from Acts is Paul talking about the reality of the death penalty in Rome and how it applies to his situation; it is neither an argument for nor against. I haven’t done an in-depth study of the verse from Romans, but “sword” could simply mean the authority of government. Furthermore, Christians should not blindly follow governments. We follow Jesus who ate with sinners, not killed them. In fact, we believe in a Jesus who would rather die than kill his enemies. Perhaps in the spirit of Christ we should ask the government to stop killing people; ergo, this point is not related to abortion and is not a valid point relating to the death penalty.
    5. Genesis readings give permission for death penalty – You claim “murder destroys an image bearer of God” therefore we need to murder an image bearer of God. Sorry, this makes no sense. Murder is wrong, regardless of who is doing it (individual or government) and regardless of the sinfulness of the murderer/murdered. (Also see note on point 4 about Jesus not killing.) This is a point not specifically related to abortion and actually against the death penalty.

    By my tally, two points against abortion and one (two, indirectly) against the death penalty.

    I disagree with your conclusion that denying “the justice of the death penalty in principle inadvertently downplays the seriousness of the act of murder”. Murder is very serious and for the sake of civil order, those who do it often need to be removed from society. Christians, however, should always leave open the possibility of repentance (and the possibility of meeting Christ when we visit them in prison?; Matt. 25:36).

    As to your final conclusion, I understand your passion against those who favor abortion. However, killing them is not the answer. Also, when abortionists advance this argument against Christian pro-life advocates (that the death penalty is also bad) they have a valid point. The idea that your points make their points invalid just doesn’t make any sense. Perhaps a nice compromise would be considering the value of EVERYONE who bears the image of God.

  • James McClymont

    *yawn*

    Typical apologetics that only makes sense to people who already believe it.

    To the rest of the world, it is nothing more than mental gymnastics to try to rationalize a hypocritical position.

    • Carlos Santiago

      It is good the exercise your brain.

    • And how, exactly, is it hypocritical? Do you have any arguments or do you just like stating your opinion?

    • Ted

      word

  • Mary Burke

    I have read and heard this thought against abortion and against the death penalty before. I find it leaves an opening to government interpretation to other forms of death penalties such as euthanasia and to “just war”. One fact is that it costs the governments and penal institutions more to put a person to death than to have them remain in prison. There seems to be a very fine, thin line in scripture regarding the Lord giving authority to governments to kill, murder, do away with others because of heinous crime. What did God do to Cain, I’d like to know.

    • The government is not free to use capital punishment for any crime, only for the purposeful killing of another human being, i.e. murder.

    • CelestialChoir

      Mary Burke–Please see what I wrote in response to this article. I agree that the incredible abuse of the death penalty is
      the major reason it should be outlawed universally on the planet. I really do not see how it serves us as Christians who
      believe in redemption and the power of the Gospel to change sinners to advocate for a biblical reason to extinguish
      human life created in God’s image. Also, the idea that it is acceptable to turn medical personnel and government workers into
      purveyors of death does not strike me as something Jesus would advocate or do.

      You also brought up a good point about Cain, whose punishment was not death, but the mark God placed upon
      him so that others who saw him would NOT KILL him. (Genesis 4:10-15) The very first murderer upon Earth, who
      commits fratricide–did not receive the death penalty from God or man.

    • CruisingTroll

      One fact is that it costs the governments and penal institutions more to put a person to death than to have them remain in prison.

      That is a process issue, which doesn’t bear on the morality of the death penalty.

  • Johnny Davis

    No there is contradiction. But many conservative Christians are naive about the widespread abuses and injustices of the modern American legal system. We should be much more concerned about prison reform and judicial reform. The system is broken and unjust. The imprisonment of large numbers of drug addicts is wrong and criminal courts have many judges who have no regard for the rights of poor defenders. Most prosecutors have little sense of justice. Judges and prosecutors who abuse the system face little acountablity for their actions.

    • “I am not endorsing the particular method of capital punishment of any
      given country at any given time. It surely can and has been abused.
      Certainly not every use of the sword by sinful governments is just. What
      I am saying is that in principle the Bible grants the power of
      capital punishment to the government, whether or not the government
      exercises that power in a just manner is another matter altogether.”

      • Johnny Davis

        I agree but its sad that so little attention is paid to how the government carries out that sword toward the poor.

      • Ted

        “whether or not the government
        exercises that power in a just manner is another matter altogether.”

        Whether or not the Jewish leaders had the right to allow the money changers into the temple didn’t stop Jesus from his act of disobedience. Whether or not the elders had the right to stone adulters did not stop Jesus from disrupting that act of “justice.” Jesus didn’t consult theory or rights or principle when he raised Lazarus: he did these things from expansive compassion.

        • CelestialChoir

          AMEN!

        • Johnny Davis

          The Jewish leaders and stoning of the woman was a fraud by the Jewish leaders. They already agreed with Rome than only Romans could carry out executions and the Romans would never have bothered to execute an average jane Jewish woman for adultery. They just wanted to trip up Jesus. So Jesus was confronting leaders carrying out a illegitimate act.

          • Ted

            We agree on the act being illegitimate.

    • CruisingTroll

      Judges and prosecutors who abuse the system face little acountablity for their actions.
      Agreed. It should not be so.

      If a judge and a prosecutor conspired to frame an innocent man and send him to jail in order to cover up the judge’s heinous rape and murder of a child, what do you think would be appropriate accountability for the judge and prosecutor?

      • Johnny Davis

        My primary point is that there essentially nothing in place to hold judges and prosecutors accountable. They have been given a special place where nobody really holds them to account. We need to restructure the system so there is a meaningful overcite of judges and DAs.

  • Jesus clearly condemns judicial murder. See John 8:7.

    But the Bible commands priests to force women suspected of infidelity to have abortions. See Numbers 5:11-31.

    I can only assume the ‘religious right’ skip those texts when they read their Bibles, if they read them at all

    • First, Jesus does not condemn judicial murder. Even if the pericope adulterae is authentic (which is doubtful), Jesus says nothing about the validity of capital punishment in principle, but only of the case brought before him in particular. To quote T. David Gordon, “Since the Law required stoning adulterers, the Law also had provisions for capital crimes that were greater than for more ordinary crimes, and among those provisions were the requirement for multiple witnesses (Deut. 17:6-7) and the requirement that malicious witnesses who testify falsely may be put to death themselves (Deut. 19:16-19). In all likelihood, Jesus was writing on the ground information that would discredit the accusers and rend them liable to death themselves. That is, “he who is without sin” in this context means someone whom the Law permitted to sit in judgment of this capital crime, someone who was “without a disqualifying sin.” He may have even known that some of them were themselves adulterers, and he may have written the names of their paramours on the ground, implying that he might have grounds to charge them with the same crime.”

      Numbers 5 says nothing about abortions, it is a trial by ordeal. Drinking a little water with dust would ordinarily be harmless to a person.

      • Ted

        Yes, but the point remains that capital crime juries and judges and executioners are not selected by their moral fitness to dispatch the life of another human being, even when in service of the state. Soldiers, too, have murder and sin on their hands, yet their killings are excused similarly. We assume that these people are fit to judge and execute and do so fairly, but Jesus points out so clearly that this is often enough NOT THE CASE. If he had not intervened, one moral crime would have simply compounded another.

  • Paul Serwinek

    I agree with the logic here. Abortion is the killing of an innocent life and death penalty is killing of a guilty murderer.
    as long as the death penalty is used when there is no doubt of guilt (eye witnesses or confession) there is no worry of killing someone is found to be innocent later.

  • CelestialChoir

    I am pro-life and anti-death penalty. The death penalty is never just, because it forces doctors, the State or others to execute human life supposedly in the name of “the law.” There are certainly other punishments that can be levied against criminals. We do not need more people “playing God” and it is hard
    enough for people to make excruciating decisions to PRESERVE human life in all its forms. In this country, race, ethnicity and class have EVERYTHING to do with:

    1. How the alleged innocence/guilt of a suspect is determined;
    2. How well the suspect is represented;
    3. How extensive–or NOT–the initial criminal investigation is pursued and how many resources are allocated to it;
    4. What evidence is permitted or NOT permitted to be presented in court;
    5. How juries are selected;
    6. How a case is set up;
    7. What penalties the jury must determine;
    8. The severity/longevity of the penalty; and what deals are struck/modified
    9. The rate of incarceration and how probation is determined.

    In the United States, the death penalty has been used on COUNTLESS innocent people who should not have been incarcerated in the first place.
    The death penalty is ALWAYS used on: poor Euro-Americans; African-Americans; Latino-Americans and Native Americans.
    Frankly, I am not convinced that Jesus the Messiah wants Christians to advocate for the end of lives He died to redeem, nor for Christians
    to believe that executing people for whatever reason is really what the Kingdom of Heaven is all about.

    • “I am not endorsing the particular method of capital punishment of any given country at any given time. It surely can and has been abused.
      Certainly not every use of the sword by sinful governments is just. What I am saying is that in principle the Bible grants the power of capital punishment to the government, whether or not the government exercises that power in a just manner is another matter altogether.”

      No one is arguing for “executing people for whatever reason.” Neither is anyone arguing that this is a job for the church to carry out. It is a function of the civil magistrate.

      The existence of abuses of justice does not negate the reality of justice. The existence of abuses of the death penalty does not lead to the conclusion that in principle the death penalty is unjust.

      • CelestialChoir

        The existence of the abuse of justice is the main reason the death penalty is opposed worldwide.
        Christians cannot ignore the fact that civil magistrates in this country STILL execute innocent people–
        using your interpretation of scripture, the individuals who “carried out justice” because the state
        empowered them should ALSO be executed for murdering innocent individuals. This would also
        extend to ANY mother who sought abortion–the murder of a human-in-utero–and the attending
        medical personnel–all of whom are accessories to murder. Therefore, the fair and just application
        of the death penalty demands the state-sanctioned execution of ALL involved in abortion.

        The death penalty cannot be “fairly administered” by ANY human society, because faulty humans do NOT
        “administer the death penalty fairly.” While I do understand you believe the Bible sanctions the death penalty,
        I do not see how Christians–or anyone in human society–benefit from a declaration that the Bible sanctions
        the death penalty, or that God wants governments to exercise the power of life or death over other
        humans created in His image.

        • First, you simply assert that it couldn’t be administered fairly, was that true under the Old Testament when God instructed Israel to use capital punishment?

          Second, why not apply this logic to any sort of punishment at all? For example, because the government has unjustly punished car thieves, therefore government cannot justly punish car thieves and should not punish car thieves.
          Third, please offer some meaningful exegesis of Genesis 9, Romans 13, and Acts 25:11.

          • CelestialChoir

            Yes, it was true in Old Testament times that justice was RARELY, if ever, “administered fairly.” Aaron should have been executed for idolatry, since he was the one who forged the Golden Calf. But Moses did not have him executed. Capital punishment was supposed to be used for adultery; fornication; rape (in some cases, but not in war); homosexual behavior; bestiality; idolatry; and even against smart-aleck kids who disrespected their parents. The biblical record is clear–capital punishment was NEVER administered evenly or fairly and Israel’s citizens constantly lapsed into idolatry. By the Law’s standards, all those adulterous, fornicating kings who “multiplied wives unto themselves” and lapsed into and permitted idolatry SHOULD HAVE BEEN EXECUTED FOR THEIR TRANSGRESSIONS. All idolators, including perverted Levites, SHOULD have been executed, but they were NOT. Eli’s adulterous sons SHOULD have been executed–along with their co-adulterers–who committed adultery before the Tabernacle. King Saul should have been executed for consulting the witch of Endor and King David SHOULD have been executed for his crime against Uriah the Hittite and Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. Bathsheba SHOULD have been executed as a co-adulterer. Solomon should have been executed for adultery and
            idolatry–but he was never put to death for his transgressions.

            The Old Testament record speaks for itself–sinful humans just cannot handle capital punishment and ALWAYS abuse it.

            The Roman soldiers who executed Jesus the Messiah SHOULD have been executed for killing an innocent man.
            Stephen’s murderers SHOULD have been executed for killing an innocent man, whose only “crime” was preaching about
            Yeshua haMashiach. Saul/Paul should have been executed for slaughtering all those Christians in his rampages against
            the Nazarenes.

            Were the complete Torah rules for capital punishment applied uniformly and evenly today, how many churches or synagogues
            would have members? There would be very few adults left to attend services or raise the young in those houses of worship.
            Then there would be multiple executions applied for adolescents testing their parents; still others would be executed for
            fornication and adultery and witchcraft.

            But to your question of applying this logic to any sort of punishment–cars simply do not rank as valuable as human beings, who
            possess what ONLY God can give–life and an eternal soul. Only God, Who resurrects the dead, should be taking human life
            as “punishment.” Faulty human beings cannot give life back to shattered human bodies. There are other drastic punishments
            available for sinners who commit horrendous crimes.

            Any exegesis done by you or I cannot compete with the preservation of a human life and soul, created in the imago Dei.
            Jesus came to us pitiful humans because none of us, including prophets and kings, were capable of changing our
            sinful natures “from death unto life.”

          • Ted

            Celestial, you rock. But this writer’s emphasis on strict exegesis and textual logic will simply fold in on itself and shrink in self-preservation. Not really worth much effort to counterargue. But you do it well.

          • CelestialChoir

            Ted–thanks for the kind words. You brought up many good points in your arguments, including the story of how Jesus reacted to the woman caught in adultery. I always wondered why her sinful co-adulterer was not brought to Jesus, because he also should have been stoned as punishment. Your insights into what Jesus did and why He did it gets to the heart of the Christian proclamation and why God sent Jesus to this planet to redeem us sinners. The death penalty did not stop sin in Old Testament times, and still does not stop sin.
            Humans were not created to wipe out other humans–the more humans kill, the worse they get. That is true not only for criminals, but for the doctors and executioners who carry out capital punishment. For me, the only “consistent” position is that all human life is sacred, and only God should decide its end. I do understand the right of self-defense–death may be an unintended result. However, humans clearly were not created to kill, and those who do suffer in many ways. The case of the 2016 shootings of the nine AME church members in Charleston comes to mind–I was angry with Dylan Storm Roof for days. And yet, those family members told the killer of their familiy members that they forgave him. One older gentleman even started to preach the Gospel to Dylan by telling him to “take the opportunity to think about what you’ve done. If you accept Christ, no matter what happens to you, you will be alright!” Frankly, this shamed me and I realized that I had to forgive Dylan’s horrific offense. It cost me NOTHING to forgive Dylan–but it cost those victim’s families EVERYTHING to forgive him. That older man who preached to Dylan got it right–all those dead members had gone to Heaven but the one who sent them there was in danger of losing his eternal soul! That to me, is the crux and heart of our faith. I do not want Dylan to not be punished, but I also do not want the state to execute him. He’s locked up and away from society, but he still has the chance to repent and get his life straight with God. What God clearly wants for all humanity is for “all to come to the knowledge of the truth”–and I do not see how the Gospel is served by Christians advocating for capital punishment.

          • Ted

            Any idea why your brilliant reply to Taylor’s question to you about Biblical instances of inconsistent execution practices has not been moderated and posted yet? It’s the most direct answer to his query yet!

          • CelestialChoir

            TED–now you have me laughing about my “brilliant reply!” 🙂 LOL But to answer your question, I believe you encapsulated the reason when you wrote about “strict exegesis and textual logic” folding “in on itself.” For the author of the article, it’s all about the exegesis to support a consistent position on capital punishment in biblical texts. For me as an African-American Christian–a member of a persecuted minority population that was artificially created through slavery and genocide–“strict exegesis” has all too often led to literal EXTINCTION of human beings in this country, not to mention all the other excuses so-called “Christians” used to perpetuate slavery and its Jim Crow aftermath. Those excuses used to support the horrific Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and all its attendant evils were often based upon “strict exegesis” and justified by the use of both Old and New Testament texts. Thousands of “church folks” and “synagogue folks” in Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas convinced themselves that it was alright to decimate Indigenous peoples and enslave Africans; they were all convinced that native peoples and Africans were sub-human (even though they had no problem “committing bestiality” by having forced sexual intercourse with the “sub-humans” of color) and their reasoning was based upon their “exegesis” of biblical texts concerning slavery. I believe Christians have a greater responsibility to see and act beyond “strict exegesis” and exercise greater caution to how we interpret scripture when it comes to matters of life and death. While I understand the author’s intent was to utilize scripture to show that pro-abortionists arguments were inconsistent and that capital punishment was biblically defensible, I believe that the heart of the Bible–John 3:16-21–and the Good News of salvation is not served by the defense of state-sanctioned execution of human beings that Jesus shed His blood to save. Capital punishment has no power to create life or sustain it; nor does it bring back the victims or “redeem” those who shed human blood. Capital punishment has no power to create good. That is why I cannot sanction its use by any government; everything about it runs counter to the heart of the Bible, which is God’s agape love reaching out to us through the God-Man Jesus, to redeem all sinners, including murderers like Saul of Tarsus and the Roman soldiers who responded to the preaching of redeemed sinners.

          • Ted

            Thanks for sharing your background on this. I don’t know nearly as much as you about the Bible, but I am naturally suspicious of those who mine the text in order to target, divide, or harm. As you note, too often Christians have done this in the past in order to exploit power inequalities, at times in the most heinous of causes.

  • kathy

    It seems to me that there is confusion here between how Christians are to act as true followers of Christ under the New Covenant, and the instructions God gave to the Israelites in the days of the Old Covenant. Some of these instructions were given because God was making allowances for weaknesses in His people in those days. For example, He did not want them to have a king – He wanted them to be ruled (or governed) by Him. When He saw that they were so set on having a king, He allowed them to have one and gave them guidance in how to do this. However, a hierarchy of human government was not in God’s original plan for mankind and is not how the Kingdom of God operates.
    Because a Christ- follower is now a citizen in the Kingdom of God, they are not under the O.T. Law. They are under the headship of the LIVING Word of God – Jesus, the Christ. (These days I think many people are unaware that in the whole of the New Testament, the phrases, “the word of God” and “the Word”, refer to Jesus, not the whole of the O. T. which was the only “Bible” in those days.)
    For more information on the Kingdom of God, see Frank Viola’s recent book, “INSURGENCE: Reclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom “.
    Anyone truly learning to live by the indwelling life of Christ, will not (I believe) be led to commit murder (including executing any person, convicted killer or not). Although I certainly believe the whole Bible is inspired by God (thus it is His” written word”), the Lord Jesus (as His “Living Word”), gives us the Holy Spirit to guide us in its interpretation and application.

  • Alicia Simpson

    Anti-Abortionists are Wrong

    “Women die in childbirth!”
    “Yeah, but not very often.”
    “Okay, there is a guy who does bungee jumping, but he doesn’t get enough customers and his children might starve, so you have to go bungee jumping and give him business.”
    “Hey, bungee jumping is dangerous, people die bungee jumping.”
    “Yeah, but not very often. Okay, there is an amusement park that is failing, the owner has children, they might starve, so you an all your friends should go and patronize his park, go on the roller coaster.”
    “Whoa, those rides are dangerous, people can die.”
    “Yeah, but not very often.”

    This represents a standard argument against allowing abortion, that very few women actually die in childbirth. The problem is that this argument says that the unborn child has more worth than the mother. She must be willing to endanger her life for the sake of the unborn (and likely unwanted) child.

    Well, you say, she willingly endangered her life when she had sex.

    Okay, so if your child is killed in an automobile accident that is the other guy’s fault, you will just say, hey, he endangered his life when he willingly got into an automobile, so they guy at fault should bear no punishment.

    People place themselves in dangerous situations all the time, we do not require that they then ignore their rights because they put themselves in a dangerous situation.

    If you are injured (or killed) on a roller coaster, you (or your heirs) can sue the operator of the park.
    If you are injured (or killed) bungee jumping , you (or your heirs) can sue the operator.
    If you are injured (or killed) in an automobile accident , you (or your heirs) can sue the other operator or the maker of the vehicle.
    If you are injured (or killed) doing anything that has an element of danger , you (or your heirs) can sue the operator of what ever that thing is.

    However, you say, that when a woman gets pregnant, regardless of how it happened (really, you do not want to allow it in the case of rape) suddenly her safety, her life, her wants and desires, her needs are of no importance, ONLY the unborn child is important and the mother must willingly give up everything for the sake of the child.

    The reality is that those who oppose abortion are basically saying that a woman has no rights when she is pregnant and must do everything she can to ensure the child is safe and born live. The reality is that the mother’s life is at least as important as the unborn child’s and, since there is no guarantee that the child will live under any circumstances, somewhat LESS important.

    Another argument is Biblical. The claim the Bible says that an unborn child is human from the moment of conception.

    “Now the word of the LORD came to me (Jeremiah) saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you (Jeremiah), and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.””
    —Jeremiah 1:4–5

    They take this an generalize it to mean all unborn children. Of course, it could be applied only to those who have been born, assuming that God knew that those who were not born were not going to be born.

    In any event, they claim that since the Bible says they are human from conception killing them, for any reason, is punishable by death.

    “Whoever strikes a person mortally shall be put to death. If it was not premeditated, but came about by an act of God, then I will appoint for you a place to which the killer may flee. But if someone willfully attacks and kills another by treachery, you shall take the killer from my altar for execution.”
    —Exodus 21:12–14

    Here is the kicker though, the Bible does NOT say people are human from conception. Quite specifically, one becomes human at birth when you take your first breath and God breathes life into you.

    “the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.”
    —Genesis 2:7

    To further this argument…

    “When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman’s husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine.”
    —Exodus 21:22

    Killing an unborn child only deserves a fine as punishment, while killing a person requires the death penalty. Although we do see part of the problem, the Bible does not give the fine to the injured woman, the woman who lost her wanted child but the child’s father, But then the Bible often treats women as second class humans with fewer rights and less worth.

    We no longer ascribe to that. Today we know that a woman is in all way the equal of any man.

    A woman, every woman, has the RIGHT to make her own decisions about herself, she has the right to defend herself and her lifestyle, her wants, her future, her desires against any that would cause her harm.

    If someone threatened to harm the hands of a typist or pianist or anyone else who uses their hands to make their living, no one would argue that the persons has the right to defend their life and limb against any threat even to the point of killing the one who so threatened them. Well, unless it is an unborn child that is doing the threatening.

    When you actually stop to THINK about it, instead of having the knee jerk reaction that abortion is wrong, you will see that the knee jerk reaction is WRONG since it assumes that the value of the woman is less than the value of an unborn child. A child who might die for any number of natural reasons and so is not certain to ever be born under any circumstances.

    The only person who is actually in a position to protect the rights of the unborn child and to balance those right against the rights of the mother is the mother, no other human has any right to interfere with her decisions.

    I will also note that 2,000 years ago humans did not have the technology to keep people imprisoned for extended periods of time, the death penalty was necessary to protect society. Today we DO have the technology to do this, therefore the death penalty is wrong and unChristian.

  • phillip mutchell

    As a five point Calvinist it’s obvious that Abortion is a predetermined act of God demonstrating His mercy on those he has foreseen would be horrid sinners incapable of turning toward his proffered mercy and those who aren’t aborted are obviously chosen too at least hear the gospel and hopefully support a good reformed ministry but God knows. Allahu Akbar. Those the American State must slay as a sacrifice to their Sate religion are properly understood to be Caesars and even Jesus paid his taxes.

  • Alan

    Some of the arguments for capital punishment are: that it deters others from committing murder, it prevents the defendant from re-offending, it saves the tax-payer the cost of long-term imprisonment and it brings closure to the family of the murderer’s victim.

    Arguments against include the possibility of the defendant’s innocence, that execution reduces the State to the same level as the murderer, that it is ‘cruel and unusual’ punishment, and the potential subsequent effect on the conscience of the executioner(s).

    Christians who support the death penalty might also refer to the Old Testament’s laws regarding it and those who are against to Christ’s teaching on forgiveness in the Sermon on the Mount to which could be added that imprisonment gives a defendant a longer opportunity to understand and respond to the Gospel and thus be prepared for eternity.

    I also heard this view recently: if no crime deserves the death penalty, then it is hard to see why it was fitting that Christ was put to death for our sins and crucified among thieves. 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 demands of God? Denying the death penalty directly assaults God’s justice – the One who required His own Son to pay precisely that price in our place. If death is not the penalty for human sin, then Christ’s death on the cross cannot have been the atonement for human sin. That Christ was put to death instead of the guilty establishes and confirms that death is an appropriate punishment for those who are guilty of murder.

    • Ted

      Jesus’s death was the killing of a man deemed dangerous by a cruel hegemonic authority. Jesus died on a hill among many other victims of Roman repression. Jesus had done nothing to “deserve” execution, and his death was an injustice then and now. That God allowed it or knew of it in advance does nothing to make it a just death. Or else ALL killings are just simply because they occur in a world overseen by God.

  • Myles

    If you read your bible then there is no way christians could be pro-life. Pro-death is a lot closer to the truth.
    Trying to interfere in women’s health care is sick and immoral.
    The death penalty makes everyone who supports it as murderous as the original murderer. For christians that is no problem. Everyone else has no desire to have any part of your murderous death-cult. All life is sacred.