The subject of Capital Punishment, even in Christian circles, is a "hot" topic. For the Christian, of course, the Bible is the final authority. The only way that I can see for a Christian to deny capital punishment for murderers is to deny the continuing authority of the Old Testament. Unfortunately, many Christians do. We have written an entire course, Master Life, defending the unity of Scripture and showing how grace and law work together.
The following is an interesting e-mail in response to my article: Should Christians Support Capital Punishment For Murder? My reply is below the letter.
Your article Capital Punishment for Murderers? raised valid questions, esp whether O.T. Biblical Law should be applied today. Obviously, I do not condone murder. But even in the O.T., the Death Penalty was NOT universally applied, NOR was it prescribed for murder only, but for a HOST of other sins as well, including all sexual sins. King Manasseh murdered thousands of innocent people, repented, and was actually RESTORED to his throne. Talk about seeming partiality !!
Now, in the N.T., Saint Paul noted that the Christians were former murderers, thieves, fornicators, adulterers, etc. In no case, however, do we find in the Bible any instance of Saint Paul telling these people that they must surrender themselves to the political authorities to be punished for their death-deserving crimes. He HIMSELF was a former murderer, and a murderer of Christians to boot!! Did HE turn himself in to the magistrate to be punished for his former crimes? NOPE. And why draw the line at murderers? Why not insist that the Laws against adultery, fornication, sodomy, blasphemy, etc., many of which are still on the books (even though not enforced any more) be firmly enforced? Why not insist that your church members who have committed such deeds at any time, go to the authorities and insist that the authorities prosecute them and put them to death (as the O.T. law demanded??)
So many Christians pride themselves as being tough on crime. Well, they are…lucky that THEIR OWN hell-deserving sins aren't always against state statutes. This gives some Christians the false notion that they, themselves, really aren't deserving of anything serious in this life. They are under a delusion. Should murderers be put to death? They certainly DESERVE it. And in jail, they viciously prey on the nonviolent incarcerated people. But to advocate that the state put to death murderers in order not to offend God (by ignoring His Law), one must, to be consistent, call for the death penalty for anyone who violates any of the death-penalty laws of the Old Testament. And that would result in the execution of probably two thirds of a nation's population, if not more.
Thank you for your e-mail…You have some interesting points.
You mention that even in the O.T. capital punishment was not universally applied. God gives His requirements on capital punishment, but the Bible is an honest Book. The historical books tell us what happened - not necessarily that they did the right thing. The failure of Israel, in many aspects of God's Law, including capital punishment, and for most of its history, does not change God's standard.
If you read my article you will have noticed that I said we are ALL deserving of death and Hell…every human being. No one can stand before God. That is why God became Man in Jesus Christ. He, in fact, suffered capital punishment on our behalf. Those who accept what Jesus Christ did for them on the cross and willingly submit to His Lordship in their lives have, as far as the Law in relation to God is concerned already died. The Law can't kill you twice. This is the point of much of Romans and other sections of Scripture. This deals with original sin, our relationship with God.
All this does not change the fact that in our earthly relationships God has set certain sins as deserving immediate death by capital punishment [upon conviction in a court of law, of course]. God has delegated the responsibility to enforce certain of His Laws to governmental authorities. These delegated laws usually have to do with crimes which destroy the family [the basic building block of society] or society in general. If they are not dealt with then society degenerates and ultimately self-destructs. For example, 60 years ago or so the most common problems in schools were minor issues like chewing gum. Today it is robbery, rape and murder.
The subject of my article was murder; therefore, naturally it did not mention other Biblical crimes which are listed for capital punishment. In our current society most people can still agree that murder is wrong, although, with the rejection of Biblical Law, that is fast changing. Hundred of thousands of children are murdered under the legal protection of humanistic law, now euthanasia is being promoted, then it will be any elderly, then anyone with a disability, then anyone from an "inferior" race and then… [On our current path you would think the Nazi's won World War II.]
Speaking of Saint Paul, he could not turn himself into the Jewish magistrates as they were the ones organizing the murder! The Roman authorities probably would have been uninterested in his crime. In any case, I may be wrong in suggesting people should turn themselves in for serious crimes as part of their restitution. If you were a pastor and a man like Clifford Olson repented you might tell him to forget about his crimes and live a good life from then on. Personally [although I am not a pastor either] I would tell him he needed to turn himself in and also confess to any murders that he had done that had not yet been discovered in order to give the victim's families closure. But maybe you are right…
You correctly state that if all the Biblical capital punishment crimes were full enforced today the nations would be vastly depopulated. [Of course, the humanists do that through abortion against people who have committed no crime.] What you are really saying is that about two-thirds of the population is in direct, deliberate rebellion against the Lord Jesus Christ. This is, of course, treason. In any case, for any law to be effectively applied it must have the support of the majority of the citizens. Take the family/society destroying act of adultery, for example. Where the majority of people engage in, approve of, or even turn a blind eye to adultery no enforcement of any laws against adultery is possible. Where the majority of people in a society stand against God's Law we move from individual judgment on earth [although we all will stand individually before God at the Final Judgment] to a national judgment. God will bring His judgments against the nation for their violations or approval of violations of His Law. The only thing that will avoid this is if there is a large-scale national repentance and turning to God.
Thank you for bringing up King Manasseh. I am working on an article titled Does God Show Favoritism? I had not thought about him, but he will be a good case to look at. In any case, you will noticed that not long after King Manasseh God did bring national judgment for the sins committed throughout Israel's history and the nation was destroyed. Sometimes God is patient with a nation to see if they will repent, but if they do not then the day comes when God says, "It is enough" and judgments falls.
If the majority of citizens in a nation were supportive of God's Laws any capital crimes would be rare. There is also the possibility, as worked out by Bible Scholar Dr. Gary North in his book The Tools Of Dominion, that capital punishment for crimes other than murder was the maximum possible penalty not necessarily the required punishment in every case.
Finally, we have to make a distinction between religious forgiveness and civil forgiveness. Religious forgiveness is what happens when a person comes to God, repents of their sins, asks God to forgive them, and submits to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It restores their relationship with God. From that point on they stand before God in Jesus Christ as a new and innocent person. They have entered into the Kingdom of God and all the privileges and responsibilities of being a Christian. Heaven is a side benefit. However, although forgiven by God, there are still consequences for sinful actions. If those actions have involved Biblical crimes, including crimes which involve capital punishment, then civil forgiveness comes when restitution, as much as possible, has been made. Civil forgiveness is what happens in the human relationship level.
You are right that some Christians, past and present, have committed some very unpleasant and death-deserving sins. If they are truly Christians they have received religious forgiveness and are welcomed into the Church. How they work out civil forgiveness depends on the violation, the "laws on the books," and on what the Holy Spirit personally instructions them to do.
My site is basically geared toward Christians, although, of course, everyone is welcome. Some of the articles are intended to show how I believe God designed the world to operate for the benefit of all His creation. [Although in my limited knowledge I am sure I misunderstand some things.] Obviously, if we are far from the intended program we cannot instantly change. It will take time and even then, as stated above, it will only happen if the majority in a nation understand and support the final objective.
I also wanted to clear up one other point. You seem to be under the impression that I am a church leader. As I try to make clear in the About Us page, I am not. I am Joe Ordinary Christian, working 45 hours a week at a "box" store, spending time with my wife and children, and writing and maintaining this website in my "spare" time.