CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

Christian or Unchristian?
Blake C. Lasslett

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OLD TESTAMENT

“Who so sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God made he man” Genesis 9:6

NEW TESTAMENT

“For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” Romans 13:4


INTRODUCTION

Many people today think that capital punishment is unchristian. In order to understand why, one must know something about the influence of humanism on our society. Humanism is a philosophy that emphasizes the all importance and pre-eminence of man. On the surface this seems to be a laudable goal. However, in its quest to exalt man, it has denied the Bible and relegated the God of the Bible to a rocking chair as a mere spectator in human history.

The Detroit News recently quoted a man as saying, “ . . . there is no way in the world to justify capital punishment and at the same time say that we believe in God.” The god of this mentality is not the God of the Bible but a god fabricated in the minds of men. The humanist has invented a god of maudlin sentimentality to replace the true God of absolute justice. We cannot make God what we would have Him to be. We must examine His word and see the picture which he has given us of Himself. “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” (Psalm 9:17). The humanist has one kind of god and the Bible sets forth quite a different picture. The Bible shows the Lord God of heaven to be a God of real love and mercy, but a God also of absolute justice.

The great moral decline in our nation is the direct result of a denial of the true God and His law. The humanist has little concern for absolute right and wrong. But rather he has a system of morality, if morality it can be called, called “situation ethics” or “relative morality”. Under this system, also called “the new morality”, there are no absolutes, everything is relative. There is no such thing as sin as anything might be alright under the right “situation”. More and more this kind of morality has controlled our society. The Bible has been rejected and now more and more we are seeing our laws being changed or re-interpreted to conform to the “new morality”. Pornography, homosexualism, abortion, etc., are no longer considered crimes. Motherhood, womanhood and marriage are utterly degraded by the “new morality”. Capital punishment is denied as “cruel and inhuman punishment”. The humanist by his own faulty logic is destroying the very human dignity and human freedoms that he seeks to gain. There can be no human freedom or human dignity without law and justice.

The Bible emphasizes the dignity of man and the freedom of man. Every man is free, under law, to do what is right and good (by God’s absolute standard). But if he violates the law by doing what is sinful and unjust he must be punished by society. (Romans 13:1-7). This punishment is not vengeance for the individual who has been wronged; but it is vindication of law and justice for society.

God instituted human government, after the heavenly pattern, for man’s good. The Bible teaches that all unjust violence: murder, rape, kidnapping, etc., are forbidden and under God’s law punishable by death. (Exodus 20:13; 21:13- 16; Deut. 22:23-27). Martin Luther speaking on Genesis 9:6,

This was the first command having a reference to the temporal sword. By these words temporal government was established and the sword placed in its hand by God. — Martin Luther “Genesis”

The strength of American law and justice has always been the fact that her system is rooted in biblical law. Today, we are seeing that system being eroded by the “new morality”.

II. CAPITAL PUNISHMENT IS NECESSARY

1. Because Of The Value Of Human Life

Man was created, “In the Image of God”, as a moral and responsible being. He has fallen from his original condition of innocence and sinlessness to a state of depravation. His corruption is so radical, that left to himself, he will not stop even at crushing out the life of his fellowman. Though fallen man is now marred and defaced because of sin, there still remains a semblance of that similitude of God In him. He is still the most valuable of all God’s creation. Because of this uniqueness in man (made in the image of God) murder is an atrocity of the greatest magnitude. A murderer crushes that which the infinite God of the universe has created in His own image (Genesis 1:27). God therefore instituted capital punishment early in human history, “. . . from man will I require the life of men.” (Genesis 9:5). Later God added His law, “Thou shalt not kill (commit murder) - (Exodus 20:13). God commands that capital punishment be carried out by a duly constituted officer of the government. “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” “By man” shall be the execution of capital punishment. “. . . for he is a minister of God, a revenger to execute judgment upon him that doeth evil.” (Romans 13:4). It is the will of God that society have judges to do their duty; to protect the innocent and to punish the evil. “ . . . from man will I require the life of man.” (Genesis 9:5). These words are imperative. Capital punishment is not optional, it is a command of God. “From man” (a duly authorized magistrate, “will I require (demand) the life of man.” God demands that every judge fulfill his God given duty.

2. Because To Fail Precludes The Blessing Of God

God blesses the nation that walks in His precepts. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” (Psalm 33:12). If America is to have the blessing of God she must be turned back again to His ways. “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34). Failure to exercise capital punishment is to fall short of true justice. The Bible teaches that murder is a defilement to a nation. “So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood (murder) it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood (life) of him that shed it.”  (Numbers 35: 33). Therefore we see a fundamental principle, “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7). May the Lord be pleased to give us God-fearing judges to replace the weak-kneed and irresponsible judges that now fail this nation. “He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.” (II Samuel 23:3).

III. CAPITAL PUNISHMENT IS A FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE

  1. For a stable government
  2. For equal justice under law
  3. For a peaceful and happy society

1. For a stable government

Capital punishment is a fundamental principle to a stable government. Someone has said, “If we learn one thing from history it is that we don’t learn anything from history.” How many times in history have good governments fallen because of chaos and lawlessness? No government can long continue whose laws are broken with impunity.

No free government, or the blessings of liberty can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality and virtue, and by a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles. — Patrick Henry

There are many people (university professors, news media people, college students, politicians, etc.) in our nation today who advocate and promote radical socialism or communism through revolution. One of their favorite methods, to this end, is to promote programs and laws that will bring a progressive breakdown in law and order. Revolution can take place only under a weak government. Contempt for law, a defective state of morals, and a corrupted public conscience, is incompatible with a free and stable government.

We must see a strengthening of law and justice, a reformation of morals and a renewed public conscience or we will surrender our free society to Communism. This can be brought about only as we return as a nation to God’s fundamental principles.

2. Equal Justice Under Law.

Capital punishment is a fundamental principle for equal justice under law. Those who oppose capital punishment say, “you might condemn the wrong man.” Biblical law gives instructions for extreme care to be taken in order that the innocent are not wrongly punished. Careful distinction is made between manslaughter and murder. In the case of murder, under biblical law, no man could be convicted without two or more witnesses (Numbers 35:30). God’s word teaches that in the case of murder the law can be satisfied with no other form of punishment, “but he shall be surely put to death.” (Numbers 35:31). Someone still argues, “But human error is inevitable.” That is true but, dare we say to God, “Lord I know I might fail therefore I will not even try?” The Lord commands every Christian, “Be ye perfect even as I am perfect.” Is this possible? No, but the Lord expects every Christian to aim for that high standard of Christ-likeness. People die every day in hospitals needlessly, by the stroke of human infallibility. Should doctors and nurses cease treating people because they are not perfect? We must use utmost care to guarantee equal justice for all under law. Equal justice does not stop at protection of the innocent; it must include punishment of the wrongdoers. The exercise of capital punishment upon the murderer produces a reflex action of protection for the innocent. Multitudes of innocent people are murdered by second and third offenders. Equal justice under law demands capital punishment.

3. A Peaceful And Happy Society.

Capital punishment is a fundamental principle to a peaceful and happy society. Equal justice means that the guilty are punished and the innocent are protected. The hue and cry of our courts today is towards rehabilitation and away from punishment. Many people in our day deny the bible and say that man evolved from a lower form of animal. “Man is not a sinner. Man is basically good and every day and in every way he is getting better and better. Therefore if there is no God, no bible (no right or wrong), and man is only a higher form of animal; then there is no need for punishment. Man has evolved beyond that primitive stage.” We cannot, we must not be guided by such philosophical infidels. “Beware lest man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world; and not after Christ.” (Colossians 2:8).

Punishment is not merely, “an ounce of flesh”. Punishment is vital to satisfaction of the law, protection of the innocent and discipline of the unruly. Without justice (satisfaction of the law) there can be no peaceful society, only chaos. When rehabilitation takes the place of punishment to fit the crime there will be no protection for the innocent. There can be no discipline, there can be no rehabilitation without punishment. Punishment, including capital punishment, is paramount to a peaceful and happy society.

IV. CAPITAL PUNISHMENT — A DETERRENT TO MURDER

The Bible teaches that capital punishment is a means of restraining gross evil in the land. “And all the men of the city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from you; and all Israel shall hear and fear and those which remain shall hear and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you.” (Deuteronomy 21:21; 19:20). God says that men shall hear and fear and be deterred from any more such gross evil.

Those who oppose capital punishment supply statistics which seem to imply that it does not deter killing. If CP does deter killing how can they come up with these statistics? First of all there have been so few executions in modern times that good scientific data is difficult to obtain. Secondly there are always exceptions. There are the hardened, calloused and conscience seared criminals. Those whom God has given over to a reprobate mind, “Who knowing the judgment of God that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” (Romans 1:32). Extreme violence (murder, rape, etc.) has gone unchecked for such a length of time that our society is permeated with hard core criminals. Thirdly, we allow a situation to perpetuate itself that produces less and less value for human life. Violence on T.V. and in the movies has helped give our people an unhealthy view of life. Hard core pornography degrades the dignity and the unique nature of man and woman (created in God’s image) and places them on the level of animals. Fourthly, man has a God given conscience. Conscience can be either misguided and hardened or it can be instructed rightly and made sensitive. The hardened conscience will be less moved by the fear of death than the sensitive conscience.

But in spite of all these conditions, hindrances and variables capital punishment has, does, and will deter gross evil. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isa. 8; 20). Those who deny capital punishment deny the Bible. Those who deny the Bible deny the God of the Bible.

Some object that capital punishment is uncivilized. The plain fact of the matter is that those who make such statements do not face reality. Sinful men in every age act like brute beasts. Man is a sinner. “The law is made for the lawless.” Men will cease to live as sinners, (many as barbarians) only when the Lord comes again and subdues every heart and will. Until that time capital punishment is one of the necessary principles for society in every age.


This article was taken from a booklet published by “Clarion Press Booklets” of Metamora, Michigan



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