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The Bipolar World of Death Penalty Politics

By Jeff Ziegler
Published May 1, 2000

God has instituted three great spheres of government to restrain the inherent wickedness of man and to further His kingdom throughout the earth. The state, the church, and the family, when harnessed under and according to the law of God, function to augment each other in their respective duties to God. Each of these establishments have powers, both negative and positive, which either reward righteous behavior or punish long term lawbreaking.

The family is given the power of inheritance and disinheritance. The church wields the power of the keys to bind into fellowship or to excommunicate. Whereas the state is charged by God to visibly reward righteousness, and to repress wickedness with the power of the sword. The negative sanctions outlined in each of these governing institutions are all under attack in the modern era. The notion of disinheritance is deemed primitive and against egalitarian models of familial love. Antinomianism within the church has made corrective discipline and excommunication relics of a bygone age. So too, the state has neutered the sanction of the death penalty.

In fact, death penalty politics run to bi-polar extremes that are bereft of any immutable ethical anchor. On one hand, the federal government enacts laws which extend the death penalty to crimes which the Scriptures do not support nor warrant. Continued unchecked and driven by political whim or expediency, such frenetic legislative fits erect the foundations for tyranny. On the other hand, liberal humanistic political paradigms promote the rehabilitation of criminals whose heinous acts demand the death sanction. The liberal humanist denies the inherent sinfulness of man and blames all miscreant acts on the environment. Hence, if you change the environment, you have the chance, in their minds, of reforming the lawbreaker.

The conservative demands justice and claims that the death sanction is a deterrence to crime. The liberal views the death penalty as barbaric and inhumane. Following conservative logic to its ultimate conclusion, all crimes should have the death sanction so as to deter all crime. Consistent humanistic liberalism would punish no one for anything in particular, as all behavior would be reformed through an environmental change and enlightenment.

Therefore, the great malady with both neo-conservatism and liberalism concerning the death penalty is their divorce of penology from the confines and requirements of biblical law. The Scriptures give the immutable standard for the application of the death sanction. Not only are such crimes defined and limited in the Scriptures, the process of carrying out the sentence is also carefully and precisely prescribed. Moreover, the Scriptures give the divine rationale for law itself; that is, to restore the victim of crime, as best as possible, to his original state, through acts of restitution by the perpetrator. This concept of an “eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” or proportional restitution, is fairly easy to work out regarding crimes of real property. However, as in the case of murder, no monetary or like value can be given to restore the deceased individual to his original state. Therefore, the life of the perpetrator is required, and the state is the chief institution to enforce this sanction.

While many secularists view the Scriptures to be harsh and unyielding regarding the sanction of death, the reality is, that far more grace and liberty are found in Holy Writ, than in the avalanche of federal and state laws which dictate the ultimate sanction. For example, the Scriptures require two or three witnesses to any offense that demands the death sentence; whereas the state can and often does convict individuals through circumstantial evidence alone. Beyond this, the state often turns rogue in executing men, women, and children in paramilitary exercises, ignoring due process of law. Witness Attorney General Janet Reno and her 1993 assault on the Branch-Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. In juxtaposition, the Hebrew Commonwealth and Israel under monarchial reign, rarely executed offenders because of the heavy burden of proof mandated for such action.

It is true that many conservatives track closer to biblical paradigms concerning the death sanction. However, they still miss the salient points of restoration, restitution, and retributive justice that Scripture demands, focusing on the theoretical fear or deterrence that death penalty laws engender. While deterrence is certainly a biblical by-product of all sanctions, in application such deterrence is lost through countless appeals, through selective enforcement, and through the mindless attachment of the death penalty to a myriad of anti-biblical laws and regulations.

The humanist-liberal is, of course, even further away from the biblical reality in denying original sin and the reprobate element; their policies put at risk the peace and stability of the community or nation. The belief that all men may be reformed to a more peaceable life is a direct result of the lamentable doctrines of Quakerism, Arminianism, and antinomianism. Liberals claim that the Scriptures are without compassion or mercy. Yet, through their Pollyanna utopian policies, evil is rewarded and the innocent are punished. There is no compassion in leading the innocent into harm’s way.

The clarion call of our day is to abandon the bi-polar, liberal-conservative standard of justice in favor of the immutable counsel of God’s inscripturated will. Then, true liberty and justice will walk hand-in-hand together; indeed, “mercy and truth” will have met together.

Your comments are welcome!

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The Four Keys to the Millennium (Book)

Foundations in Biblical Eschatology

By Jay Rogers, Larry Waugh, Rodney Stortz, Joseph Meiring. High quality paperback, 167 pages.

All Christians believe that their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will one day return. Although we cannot know the exact time of His return, what exactly did Jesus mean when he spoke of the signs of His coming (Mat. 24)? How are we to interpret the prophecies in Isaiah regarding the time when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:19)? Should we expect a time of great tribulation and apostasy or revival and reformation before the Lord returns? Is the devil bound now, and are the saints reigning with Christ? Did you know that there are four hermeneutical approaches to the book of Daniel and Revelation?

These and many more questions are dealt with by four authors as they present the four views on the millennium. Each view is then critiqued by the other three authors.

$12.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

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Amazing GraceAmazing Grace: The History and Theology of Calvinism (DVD)

Download the Free Study Guide!

Just what is Calvinism?

Does this teaching make man a deterministic robot and God the author of sin? What about free will? If the church accepts Calvinism, won’t evangelism be stifled, perhaps even extinguished? How can we balance God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility? What are the differences between historic Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism? Why did men like Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, Whitefield, Edwards and a host of renowned Protestant evangelists embrace the teaching of predestination and election and deny free will theology?

This is the first video documentary that answers these and other related questions. Hosted by Eric Holmberg, this fascinating three-part, four-hour presentation is detailed enough so as to not gloss over the controversy. At the same time, it is broken up into ten “Sunday-school-sized” sections to make the rich content manageable and accessible for the average viewer.

Running Time: 257 minutes

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Dr. Francis Schaeffer - A Christian Manifesto (DVD)

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.

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God's Law and SocietyGod's Law and Society (DVD)

Download the Free Study Guide!

God’s Law and Society powerfully presents a comprehensive worldview based upon the ethical system found in the Law of God.

Speakers include: R.J. Rushdoony, George Grant, Howard Phillips, R.C. Sproul Jr., Ken Gentry, Gary DeMar, Jay Grimstead, Steven Schlissel, Andrew Sandlin, Eric Holmberg, and more!

Sixteen Christian leaders and scholars answer some of the most common questions and misconceptions related to this volatile issue:

1. Are we under Law or under Grace?
2. Does the Old Testament Law apply today?
3. Can we legislate morality?
4. What are the biblical foundations of government?
5. Was America founded as a Christian nation?
6. What about the separation of Church and State?
7. Is neutrality a myth?
8. What about non-Christians and the Law of God?
9. Would there be “freedom” in a Christian republic?
10. What would a “Christian America” look like?

Perfect for group instruction as well as personal Bible study.

Ten parts, over four hours of instruction!

Running Time: 240 minutes

Watch over 60 on-line video interviews from God’s Law and Society.

$19.95 — ORDER NOW!

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