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Facing a Common Christian Argument in Support of the Death Penalty



This'll be a brief little treatise. I don't have a whole lot of time before I leave for DC for a couple of days. But I'd like to address an argument that I hear a lot these days when it comes to the death penalty, most especially (if not solely) from Christians.

This argument stems from the admonishment in Romans 13 to submit oneself to governing authorities:

13 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

As a Christian myself, I must admit I have some difficulty understanding exactly what the inspired author means here.

On the one hand, Christians wil stand up and defend with great fervor against the injustice of attacks on religious freedom. And thus we have things like "Fortnight for Freedom." There are throngs and throngs, hundreds of thousands all over the United States that protest yearly (if not more often) against the government-sanctioned abortions in our country. Not to mention the use of euthanasia and assisted suicide. These, I would posit, are all worthy things to protect and should be protected.

We face a government of men, run and founded by men, who happen to be -- well, men, and therefore -- fallen. We all have made some mistake, misjudgment, and who in power these days could be said to be totally free from all wrongdoing or possible misjudgment on some topic or other?

Frankly, with everything going on with our government and the NSA, drone bombings, and Sebelius's so-called "death panels," I am skeptical of their ability to make just decisions based in the Law of God.

But does our view of what is good and true give us the right to protest and fight against a governing power, if, according to the inspired Scripture, "whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves"?

The death penalty is often, like other government actions, instituted unjustly and without the proper safeguards to ensure that we are not killing the innocent. Not to mention, I don't believe it thoroughly honors and respects the life and dignity of the human person (especially because our worth is based in our humanity, not in our innocence, age, size, location, dependence, ability, or circumstance), and, as such, we should be fearful of our government, unjust as it has shown us to be, of being given the opportunity to kill citizens according to its own form of so-called "justice."

If our government (according to Scripture, that which God has placed over us, and against which we should not rebel), like China's, required a one-child policy for the safety of the people and forced abortions on our women, would we merely have to submit to such unjust practices that denegrate the life and dignity of the unborn human person? What then?

I'm not entirely sure what the answer is; I'm curious as to what you have to say . .

Disclaimer: The views presented in the Rehumanize Blog do not necessarily represent the views of all members, contributors, or donors. We exist to present a forum for discussion within the Consistent Life Ethic, to promote discourse and present an opportunity for peer review and dialogue.

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