The Death Penalty: Christian or not?

Discussion in 'Philosophy, Truth, and Ethics' started by Lowly Layman, Apr 12, 2015.

  1. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Should Christians support the death penalty or not?

    I am sceptical the death penalty could ever be applied fairly and in a way that respects a convicts and I have heard several convincing policy arguments against it. However, all of these arguments are separate and apart from any theological or biblical argument against it.

    And yet, I know some Catholic prolifers who argue that it's state initiated murder and therefore sinful and unjust. I think the scriptures would contradict that but I'd like to here your thoughts.
     
  2. highchurchman

    highchurchman Well-Known Member Anglican

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    We haven't had the death penalty for several years in this country! But I have always considered it a horrible way of dealing with a very real problem! After the war I used to go and demonstrate against, Fascism. The Fascists used to hold gatherings on bomb sites /building sites in Manchester trying to justify their place in the scheme of things and the liberal and socialist elements used to heckle them.
    We were questioned one time by the polis after the body of a' lady of the night' was found beaten to death. The polis arrested a man, a merchant seaman, and he was hanged. Later on an entirely similar occurrence took place and another man was arrested, ,he was tried found guilty ,he was hanged, but it didn't bring the unfortunate & innocent first sufferer back! Or , either of the sad victims. Further there were many cases of hanging where the doubts were massive and there is a legacy of such occurrences. I . I used to feel physically sick. I was against capital punishment and flogging even as a youth. Never more so than when an unfortunate woman was bludgeoned to death in a local town. The woman who, did, it was a lesbian confessed, as far as I remember, yet , even as an apprentice, what I saw was a woman being hanged , not for murder, but for being a homosexual and wearing men's clothes and clogs.
    I could never accept the penalty and the state violence. In my mind it conflicts with Christ's Message!
     
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  3. Cranmer's Crosier

    Cranmer's Crosier Member Anglican

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    Biblically speaking- yes there is room for the death penalty in Christian theology.

    The death penalty was utilized by the OT people of God and St. Paul offers the analogy in the new by saying the state does not weild the sword in vain and that they exist to punish wickedness and reward good (Romans 13 I believe).

    This theology is consistent with our formularies:

    The Laws of the Realm may punish Christian men with death, for heinous and grievous offences.

    It is lawful for Christian men, at the commandment of the Magistrate, to wear weapons, and serve in the wars.
     
  4. anglican74

    anglican74 Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I do not see what is intrinsically wrong about capital punishment. You punish someone according to what they deserve, how could that be wrong?
     
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  5. highchurchman

    highchurchman Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I feel that people should be judged and punished for murder & violence after a trial by their peers. How-and-ever,I don't feel that being put down in the name of the state is any better than being killed by a member of the public, as it were! Furthermore, in the case I mentioned above, the realisation tht she was being punished not for using a hammer in an untoward fashion, but for being a lesbian! As a child, or youth, I wasn't renowned for having a brilliant intellect or for being politically sharp of mind. Even so, I remember quite well the shock I felt when I realised what it was that antagonised the public against the unfortunate woman.
    I agree somewhat with your premise,'punish someone according to their deserts,' but, as a Christian, I feel that it should be incarceration in reasonable conditions. Or, as my niece put it, 'till they're better'!
     
  6. highchurchman

    highchurchman Well-Known Member Anglican

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    First of all, the Old testament was fulfilled by Christ's Gospel, it was not wrong, but it is outdated. At College, someone was criticised, heavily, for using the term nailing, when we reached a place in the O/T. A supporter of the Israelites used this method, whilst her enemies , or Israel's enemies slept, if I remember aright.. If it's a matter of choice, nailing is not an action I would suggest and it is noticably absent from the New Testament! I support self defence!
    Members of my family died in both world wars, as well as various young men who were friends of the various women members. A tragedy, but wether they were aware of what they were fighting at that time, is questionable. Even so Nazi Germany and its allies, invaded other countries and all the young men I knew volunteered in 1939 as did both my father & stepfather.
    Hitler & Mussolini,, to say nothing of other dictators also had their youth conscripted by the state, many of them were Christian, as indeed were the magistrates and the magistrates legality was perfect, Hitler was legally elected!
     
  7. anglican74

    anglican74 Well-Known Member Anglican

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    @highchurchman I do not believe anyone here advocates capital punishment to the unfortunate lesbian woman. This is a broader matter and more likely applies to criminals who have killed someone themselves (or even serially, multiple people!).
     
  8. highchurchman

    highchurchman Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I might have phrased it badly, I'm sorry! As I remember it of some 60 yrs or so ago,the woman did kill someone and was found guilty. But to my mind ,as a youth, she was found guilty not because of evidence, so much as her lifestyle! It might have been legal to execute her, but the bias was extraordinary!
    There were also other murders and a regular stream of executions' at one of the last executions, they hanged the murderer at eight of the
    morning We descend to Barbarismclock and at approx., four in the even, a tramp was kicked to death by a group of bullies, young men. This was at Armley Gaol, in Leeds!
    As a Christian, it is unseemly for us to even contemplate the death sentence as it were! We descend to barbarism .
     
  9. Cranmer's Crosier

    Cranmer's Crosier Member Anglican

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    Hi @highchurchman - I agree with @anglican74, however, I see this is an issue that is very close to you. So I want to approach our disagreement with humility as I certainly have not witnessed what you have.

    As to your statements -

    "First of all, the Old testament was fulfilled by Christ's Gospel" - True, but that does not mean that the OT should be ignored in matters of justice or law. We see how God feels about certain crimes by the judgments he prescribed for them.

    Also, we may not be required to practice justice the same way as Israel did in the Church age, but that in no sense mitigates the use of the death penalty as a good and godly response by the state towards particularly heinous crimes.

    Romans 13:1-7

    Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 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. 5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. 6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

    I don't think S. Paul is using "the sword" as a mere metaphor. The strong language of "bearing wrath", "minister of God", "a revenger to execute wrath" seem to indicate that the death penalty is probably in view.

    Faithfully,

    CC
     
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  10. Jason Crockett

    Jason Crockett New Member

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    im not sure i could agree with Romans 13:3 .. the conspiracy nuts go on about some pretty nasty spiritual practices of the western world leaders. i would name a few but googles full of it!
     
  11. Aidan

    Aidan Well-Known Member

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    Death penalty is a travesty so long as there's a chance of even one person being executed who is in fact innocent. I'd rather see a guilty man walk free than an innocent hanged
     
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  12. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Genesis 9:6 - Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.
     
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  13. Christina

    Christina Active Member

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    Not support it. Whilst someone is alive there is a chance of salvation whatever they have done if they truly repent. Also, I agree with Aidan's post above.
     
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  14. zimkhitha

    zimkhitha Active Member

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    I agree
     
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  15. Mark

    Mark Well-Known Member Anglican

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    So court trials are a travesty as long as one innocent man/woman can be denied their freedom. So the police should not arrest for they may arrest an
    innocent?

    Why is this absurd sounding? There have been men convicted of rape and other crimes who have spend decades in jail and are innocent.

    The human system of justice is not foolproof. Mistakes happen.

    If some one is given the death penalty, the case is reviewed automatically by higher courts. Lawyers are allowed to present any information they think
    needs to be present to the court to change the verdict. The State, once it hands down the sentence, automatically appears. Federal Courts review the
    States Courts.

    All of this is as God has decreed in the law. Have innocents been killed in the history of mankind? Yes. Have the guilty walked free? Yes.
    My brother in law worked death row for the state of Alabama for over 25 years. He helped execute over 20 murders and multiple murders.
    Most were very nice men. The vast majority did not regret the taking of a life. None had jail house conversions even though Chaplains came every week
    to see them. Some of them were on death row for decades as the State reviewed and reviewed and reviewed.

    I dislike the death penalty. I dislike murder. God has decreed that for some crimes the punishment is death. Are we more enlightened than God?

    Fr. Mark
     
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  16. Aidan

    Aidan Well-Known Member

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    Where God decrees that the punishment for certain crimes is death, I believe this refers to spiritual death. Lord Jesus supplanted the teaching of "....an eye for an eye"
     
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  17. Kenneth

    Kenneth New Member

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    I realize that not all will agree with this, but St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas both spoke in favor of the death penalty:

    St. Augustine

    The same divine authority that forbids the killing of a human being establishes certain exceptions, as when God authorizes killing by a general law or when He gives an explicit commission to an individual for a limited time.

    The agent who executes the killing does not commit homicide; he is an instrument as is the sword with which he cuts. Therefore, it is in no way contrary to the commandment, 'Thou shalt not kill' to wage war at God's bidding, or for the representatives of public authority to put criminals to death, according to the law, that is, the will of the most just reason.

    (The City of God, Book 1, chapter 21)


    St. Thomas Aquinas It is written: "Wizards thou shalt not suffer to live" (Ex. 22:18); and: "In the morning I put to death all the wicked of the land" (Ps. 100:8). …

    Every part is directed to the whole, as imperfect to perfect, wherefore every part exists naturally for the sake of the whole. For this reason we see that if the health of the whole human body demands the excision of a member, because it became putrid or infectious to the other members, it would be both praiseworthy and healthful to have it cut away. Now every individual person is related to the entire society as a part to the whole. Therefore if a man be dangerous and infectious to the community, on account of some sin, it is praiseworthy and healthful that he be killed in order to safeguard the common good, since "a little leaven corrupteth the whole lump” (1 Cor. 5:6).
    (Summa Theologiae, II, II, q. 64, art. 2)


    The fact that the evil ones, as long as they live, can be corrected from their errors does not prohibit that they may be justly executed, for the danger which threatens from their way of life is greater and more certain than the good which may be expected from their improvement.

    They also have at that critical point of death the opportunity to be converted to God through repentance. And if they are so obstinate that even at the point of death their heart does not draw back from malice, it is possible to make a quite probable judgment that they would never come away from evil.”

    (Summa contra gentiles, Book III, chapter 146)
     
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  18. zimkhitha

    zimkhitha Active Member

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    What has been the official Church teaching (not individuals) on this issue? Could it be a matter of conscience i.e to be in favor or against the death sentence.? I still maintain than I just cannot reconcile it with the mind of Christ, though fully aware that in the OT it was acceptable and practised).
     
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  19. Zoii

    Zoii New Member

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    I'm with you. the thousands executed in China, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria for all sorts of things. Are we saying well god would sanction those executions - after all death was given for some pretty small things in the old testament. The truth is no matter how close the old testament is to a lot of christian hearts, we choose to discard large chunks of it. We don't stone women, we do not give raped girls to their rapists to marry, we don't do a whole host of harsh punishments or traditions because they simply don't apply to today's world. Those laws were from tribal groups were were predominately illiterate and ignorant.
     
  20. Aidan

    Aidan Well-Known Member

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    While attending a Christian Brother Grammer School we were taught that the taking of life is permissible in self defence, where there is no alternative, and in the lawful execution of a legally convicted criminal. Personally I feel that it's better for a thousand guilty men to walk free than to wrongfully execute an innocent man. However, I don't believe that capital punishment per se is sinful though I don't support it.
     
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