By Glenn Dunehew
Published March 1, 1989
Dorm Bible Study Series
Whenever you bring up the subject of capital punishment, you can always count on a lively discussion with plenty of opinions offered – along with lots of questions.
“But doesn’t the Bible say ‘Do not kill’?”
“Who are we to cast the first stone?”
“Isn’t execution cruel and unusual punishment?”
Let’s look briefly at what the Bible has to say about this subject:
What Does Capital Punishment Accomplish?
Capital punishment is meant to be a deterrent to crime, specifically murder. Gordon Tullock, of Virginia Polytechnic Institute, states: “Eighty percent of the people who seriously think about crime think of punishment as a deterrent – except for the sociologists, and they wrote all the textbooks.“1 Statistically speaking, for each prisoner executed there are 50 murders averted. This has been documented in the U.S. between the years 1967-1984.2 During these years, capital punishment was abolished in most states and then reinstated with new guidelines. During the years that capital punishment was not allowed, murders began to rise.
Capital punishment places a value on human life; it says, in essence, “If you take a life, yours will be forfeited.” But the concept of capital punishment did not originate with men. It was God who originated it in the days of Noah, when He said,
“Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood will be shed, for in the image of God He made man” (Genesis 9:6).
Murder, then, is not just a crime against man … it is a crime against God who created man. For that reason, only the death of the murderer can satisfy God’s justice. Capital punishment is detailed in many places in the Old Testament – Exodus 21:12-15; Leviticus 24:17-21; Numbers 35:9-34; Deuteronomy 21:1-9. It is also clearly affirmed in the New Testament by the Apostle Paul:
“For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil” (Romans 13:3-4).
In order to preserve justice and maintain peace and order on earth, God established the death penalty and the institution that is to administer it – civil government. The death penalty was given to protect the innocent, and to insure tranquility and peace in society. Furthermore, the Bible states that murder pollutes the land, and that the only way to purge the land of this curse is by enforcing the death penalty. Numbers 35:33 states: “No expiation can be made for the land for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it.” In other words, until justice is carried out, the nation will carry the guilt of the crime as well.
But What If You Kill an Innocent Person?
In the United States, a convicted murderer goes through a long, laborious process before he ever reaches the electric chair. Three appeals are made, and the case is reviewed by several judges. This allows for the conviction to be thoroughly examined before anyone is proven guilty. Today, the number of appeals can be up to 20. By this time there is never any doubt as to the guilt of the criminal.
The Bible gives qualifications about capital punishment – and one of them is that at least two eye witnesses must testify against the accused. The Bible also calls for the decision to be made judiciously, impartially, and with proper legal proceedings. It is not to be administered in maliciousness or vengeance. God’s law also makes a clear distinction between involuntary manslaughter and premeditated murder.3
In ancient cultures, guilt by association with a crime could be punishable by death. The rule was often “Guilty until proven innocent.” But the Bible brought great reforms in the understanding of civil justice in the West. The rule eventually became “Innocent until proven guilty.” This is a biblical idea.
But Is Capital Punishment Humane?
In 1972, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down every state death penalty statute in the nation, it was declared to be “cruel and unusual punishment” and a violation of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. Then, in 1976, the Supreme Court reversed its decision, declaring that the death penalty was acceptable as long as the Court approved of the individual state’s punishment guidelines.
During the years that the death penalty was in limbo or was outlawed, the number of murders in the U.S. rose significantly – from 13,000 in 1967 to 19,555 in 1978. We should ask ourselves this question: Is it humane to allow convicted murders to continue to live, when the possibility exists that they will repeat their crime?
The founding fathers, when they coined the phrase “cruel and unusual punishment,” were not thinking of execution by hanging – which was the common method of that day. During the colonial period, there were from 10 to 18 capital offenses, including piracy, arson, rape, robbery, burglary, and sodomy.4 Says Raoul Berger, a Harvard law professor, “The founders were accustomed to punishments that by our standards would be regarded as excessive, and gave no inkling of an intention to bar them.” Article VIII of the Bill of Rights was not written to bar capital punishment, but to prevent torture or other barbaric practices which were common in that time.
The founders of America, because of their Christian backgrounds, knew the scriptural basis for capital punishment as a deterrent to crime. Again, we must see that it is humane to kill a murderer because it is actually saving lives which might later be lost if he were to go free. This is reinforced in the Bible:
“A man of great anger shall bear the penalty, for if you rescue him, you will only have to do it again” (Proverbs 19:19).
“When the scoffer is punished, the naive becomes wise” (Proverbs 21:11).
Consider the case of child killer Jimmy Lee Gray. Gray was sentenced to death for the 1976 sex slaying of three-year-old Deressa Jean Scales. At the time Gray murdered the girl, he was on parole after serving seven years of a 20 year sentence for the murder of his 16-year-old girlfriend. Gray was finally put to death after seven years and 82 judicial reviews by 26 state and federal judges.5
But Didn’t Jesus Abolish the Old Testament Law?
We’ve already seen, in Romans 13:3-4, that capital punishment is reinforced in the New Testament. We also have the testimony of Jesus Christ, who said:
“Do not think that I came to abolish the law or the prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).
God’s justice and His character must always be reflected in our laws. God created man in His image, but man does not always respect the value of human life. When a human life is taken, God’s justice must be enacted in order to protect society. Today, because of humanism in our courts and legislatures, justice is often not administered – and in its place we see man’s own ideas about what is right and wrong being promoted.
This can be seen in the fact that we justify the killing of innocent babies through abortion, but also allow convicted murderers to roam the streets on parole. Neither God’s nature or love are reflected in this. Yes, God is merciful. He loves and cares for us. But His justice demands that sin be punished.
1 “Capital Punishment,” Biblical Principles, (Plymouth Rock Foundation), 1984, p. 17.
3 Gary Demar, God and Government (American Vision Press: Atlanta) 1982, p. viii.
4 Raoul Berger, Death Penalties (Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA), 1982, p. 44.
5 Biblical Principles, p. 16.
Unlock the key of your success by Testking PMI-001 material along exam training e-book. By using our latest Testking 640-864 exam security questions and answers product and Testking 220-701 audio exams, you can easily pass with bright sense study package. Find superb formal dresses along with stylish beach wedding dresses collection here too.
Forerunner - Home » The Forerunner Newspaper » Government
Your comments are welcome!
That Swiss Hermit Strikes Again!
Dr. Schaeffer, who was one of the most influential Christian thinkers in the twentieth century, shows that secular humanism has displaced the Judeo-Christian consensus that once defined our nation’s moral boundaries. Law, education, and medicine have all been reshaped for the worse as a consequence. America’s dominant worldview changed, Schaeffer charges, when Christians weren’t looking.
Schaeffer lists two reasons for evangelical indifference: a false concept of spirituality and fear. He calls on believers to stand against the tyranny and moral chaos that come when humanism reigns-and warns that believers may, at some point, be forced to make the hard choice between obeying God or Caesar. A Christian Manifesto is a thought-provoking and bracing Christian analysis of American culture and the obligation Christians have to engage the culture with the claims of Christ.
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Special Two-Disc Set!
After 40 years of intense study and world-wide ministry, Dr. Francis Schaeffer completed his crowning work of scholarship – to present profound truths in simple film language. Dr. Schaeffer’s brilliant analysis of the past and predictions for current trends have proven so uncannily accurate that this amazing series still feels contemporary almost three decades after its initial release. Ultimately, Schaeffer concludes that man’s only hope is a return to God’s Biblical absolute, the truth revealed in Christ through the Scriptures.
Available for the first time on DVD, this documentary spectacular also includes intimate in-depth conversations with Francis and Edith Schaeffer. With the on-disc study guide, this presentation forms a unique course of comprehensive study. While this series forms an innovative analysis of the past, this outstanding work is more than history. Each episode focuses on a significant era, yet speaks clearly to 21st-century man with answers for modern problems.
$49.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
“When the lives of the unborn are snuffed out, they often feel pain, pain that is long and agonizing.” – President Ronald Reagan to National Religious Broadcasters Convention, January 1981
Ronald Reagan became convinced of this as a result of watching The Silent Scream – a movie he considered so powerful and convicting that he screened it at the White House. More recently, it was by catching just a glimpse of what this film reveals that Planned Parenthood director and abortion advocate Abby Johnson turned and became a strong advocate for the pre-born.
The modern technology of real-time ultrasound now reveals the actual responses of a 12-week old fetus to being aborted. As the unborn child attempts to escape the abortionist’s suction curette, her motions can be seen to become desperately agitated and her heart rate doubles. Her mouth opens – as if to scream – but no sound can come out. Her scream doesn’t have to remain silent, however … not if you will become her voice. This newly re-mastered version features eight language tracks and two bonus videos.
“…a high technology “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” arousing public opinion just as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 antislavery novel ignited the abolitionist movement.” – Sen. Gordon Humphrey, Time Magazine
Languages: English, Spanish, French, South Korean, Chinese, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese
Running Time: 28 minutes
$17.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Exposes the Dangers of Abortion to Women!
These shocking eyewitness accounts expose the dangers of abortion not only to unborn children, but to the health and lives women as well. An antidote to the smokescreens of the liberal media, these short clips show what really happens in and around abortion clinics.
Although the content is emotionally gut-wrenching, these videos have been used in church seminars and small groups to educate Christians on the abortion issue and to lead people toward a pro-life position. Contains 2 hours and 40 minutes of materials that can be shown separately.
Watch these pro-life videos on-line.
“These videos helped change my mind from pro-choice to pro-life. Your videos are what did it for me. I will be walking in next year’s March For Life in San Francisco.” — A. Jackson, California
“I was going to have an abortion until I saw your video. Praise Jesus!”
— M. Drew, YouTube Commenter
$4.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
What is true Revival and Spiritual Awakening?
Discover the answer in this eyewitness account by Dennis Kinlaw, President of Asbury College, Wilmore, Kentucky, who recounts the story of a visitation of the Holy Spirit in 1970. This is the presentation that has continued to spark the flames of Revival in the hearts of people around the world. Contains eyewitness footage from the Revival at Asbury College in 1970 in Wilmore, Kentucky.
Certain to challenge you to greater holiness and a deeper commitment to full-scale revival. Original news and private footage has been included. If you are a student who longs to see a spiritual awakening at your school, you must see this video!
“This simple video does a wonderful job of conveying something of God’s heart and power, Everyone we have ever shown this to has received an immediate impartation of faith for revival and the power of prayer.”
— Bob and Rose Weiner, Weiner Ministries Int’l
Running Time: 40 minutes
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)