Difference between revisions of "Death Penalty"

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The Old Testament Law with its punishments of death declared all the world guilty, by it none can be justified. We are all guilty of death before God, and should not cast the first stone unless sinless ourselves. We cannot expect God to forgive us unless we forgive others - "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." God is not mocked, we will reap what we sow. (Galatians 6:7)  
 
The Old Testament Law with its punishments of death declared all the world guilty, by it none can be justified. We are all guilty of death before God, and should not cast the first stone unless sinless ourselves. We cannot expect God to forgive us unless we forgive others - "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." God is not mocked, we will reap what we sow. (Galatians 6:7)  
  
===Not Out of Vengeance===
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===Vengeance===
  
Jesus gave individuals a new commandment, that rather than 'eye for an eye' we should not resist evil with evil but love our enemies, which Paul also reiterated. This is a hard saying to accept, and I personally question how much it applies when another is in danger, but the old pattern of vengeance is replaced with this teaching, that '''vengeance''' is to be God's, He will repay. This is based on an eternal perspective that those who do evil will reap what they sow unless they repent, and to do good to them will actually heap coals of fire on their heads if they don't turn from their wicked ways. (Romans 12:20)
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====Individuals====
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Jesus gave individuals a new commandment, that rather than 'eye for an eye' we should not resist evil with evil but love our enemies, which Paul also reiterated. This is a hard saying to accept, and I personally question how much it applies when another is in danger, but the old pattern of vengeance is replaced with this teaching, that vengeance is to be God's, He will repay. This is based on an eternal perspective that those who do evil will reap what they sow unless they repent, and to do good to them will actually heap coals of fire on their heads if they don't turn from their wicked ways. (Romans 12:20)
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====Government====
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Nonetheless, there may be exceptions to this when it comes to government, for again, the Apostle Paul says rulers can be divinely used as a "minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." (Romans 13:4)
  
 
{{cquote|Matthew 5:38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:<br> 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.<br> 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.<br> 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.<br> 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.<br> 43 ¶ Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.<br> 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;<br> 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.<br> 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?<br> 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?<br> 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
 
{{cquote|Matthew 5:38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:<br> 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.<br> 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.<br> 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.<br> 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.<br> 43 ¶ Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.<br> 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;<br> 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.<br> 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?<br> 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?<br> 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
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Romans 12:17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.<br> 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.<br> 19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.<br> 20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.<br> 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
 
Romans 12:17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.<br> 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.<br> 19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.<br> 20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.<br> 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
  
Proverbs 24:17 Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth:<br> 18 Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.}}\
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Proverbs 24:17 Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth:<br> 18 Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.}}
  
 
As such, governmental actions should be done, not for vengeance, but for justice and societal necessity, including the death penalty.
 
As such, governmental actions should be done, not for vengeance, but for justice and societal necessity, including the death penalty.
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This point was acknowledged by William Penn centuries ago, that God can guide governments to do His will and use violence in ways that Christians themselves are urged not to, for the sake of encouraging good works and discouraging bad ones. However, again, the death penalty is not a tool to be used lightly given the current failings of our justice system. If even one innocent person is being executed, that is too many. We need to produce justice and equity in our system before considering the widespread adoption of the death penalty.
 
This point was acknowledged by William Penn centuries ago, that God can guide governments to do His will and use violence in ways that Christians themselves are urged not to, for the sake of encouraging good works and discouraging bad ones. However, again, the death penalty is not a tool to be used lightly given the current failings of our justice system. If even one innocent person is being executed, that is too many. We need to produce justice and equity in our system before considering the widespread adoption of the death penalty.
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====Exceptions to Pacifism====
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::''See also [https://biblestrength.com/Pacifism#Potential_Exceptions Pacifism]``
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That there are exceptions is evident. Paul urges Christians to, "if it is possible, as much as lies in you, live peacefully with all people." (Romans 12:18) This passage thus shows that there will be cases where it is impossible, both given the circumstances and one's own nature, to live peacefully with others, even when committed to generally taking wrong and forgiving one's enemies.
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{{cquote|Romans 12:17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.<br>18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.<br>19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.<br>20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.<br>21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.}}
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Even Jesus could not stand the sight of all evil, and intervened using physical force when He saw God's temple being misused for material gain through fraud and dishonesty.
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{{cquote|Luke 19:45 And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought;<br>46 Saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves.<br>47 And he taught daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him,
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Mark 11:15 And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves;<br>16 And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.<br>17 And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves.
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Matthew 21:12 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,<br>13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.}}
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=====Declaration of Independence=====
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This is, essentially, the same argument made in the Declaration of Independence for creation of the United States, that the colonies had repeatedly attempted to compromise and seek a peaceful resolution with England, but that evils had become finally insufferable.
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{{cquote|We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
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Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that '''mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.''' But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world...
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In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
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Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends."}}
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=====Which Exceptions?=====
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======Defense of Others======
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There may be cases where defending others might be justified, particularly when it is a life and death situation. While we are commanded not to avenge ourselves, it is commonly recognized that defense of others when they are in mortal danger is honorable.
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======Government======
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As previously mentioned, the Apostle Paul stated that God uses government violence to encourage good works and discourage bad ones. As such, governmental violence can be used to further God's will by promoting good over evil.
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{{cquote|Romans 13:3 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:<br> 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.<br> 5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.<br> 6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.}}
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======Stopping Global Evil/Protecting the Church's Reputation======
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Per the Declaration of Independence, there is a point where, as Edmund Burke once famously noted, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." When it is in the power of good people to stop global evil, they are justified in exercising their inalienable rights per the Declaration of Independence.
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This principle can be, to a degree, observed in 1 Corinthians 6, where the Apostle Paul urges legal matters between Christians to be settled within the Christian Church. As Paul observes, Christians will ultimately judge angels, and as such are all the more suited to judge matters in this life. While Paul nonetheless urges them to just take wrong instead, he does state that when problems arise within the Church, they should be handled by the Church.
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{{cquote|1 Corinthians 6:1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?<br>2 Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?<br>3 Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?<br>4 If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.<br>5 I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?<br>6 But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers.<br>7 Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?<br>8 Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.}}
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This follows after Paul, in the previous chapter, urged Christians to expel those who are engaged in clearly evil lifestyles that the Church might not be defamed.
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{{cquote|1 Corinthians 5:1 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife.<br>2 And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.<br>3 For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed,<br>4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,<br>5 To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.<br>6 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?<br>7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:<br>8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.<br>9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:<br>10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.<br>11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.<br>12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?<br>13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.}}
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One might reasonably conclude that, were such a person unwilling to leave Church property while engaged in a lifestyle that destroys God's reputation, they could be forced to leave through force in the same way that Jesus used force to make those misusing God's temple leave. (Luke 19:45)
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===Rehabilitation and Mercy===
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It's important that very honorable, good people be in charge of parole boards with a high degree of wisdom. Many criminals will claim to be rehabilitated and become good people, to have seen the error of their ways. That doesn't mean much. Indeed, many leave prison and return to their evil ways, or even get 10 minute online theology degrees and then make the name of Christ look bad; committing evil in the guise of Christianity.
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While it is important that we be willing to show mercy for those who have seriously reformed, it must be with an eye to their actions, not their words or the appearances they put on. The goal should be to rehabilitate when possible, but prudence must guide the process as well. Those who have killed numerous innocent people are arguably so dangerous to society that taking the risk they may be rehabilitated may not be worth it.
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====The Law====
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The Old Testament Law was a just declaration of what is right and wrong (Romans 7:7,12) but according to that Law all are guilty before God, none will be justified by it. Jesus alone could be the only exception because He alone was declared to be God. (John 1:18)
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{{cquote|Romans 3:9 What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;<br> 10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:<br> 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.<br> 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
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Romans 3:19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.<br> 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
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Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;<br> 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:<br> 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;<br> 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
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Galatians 3:19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.<br> 20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.<br> 21 Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.<br> 22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.<br> 23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.<br> 24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.}}
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====Forgive to be Forgiven====
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Jesus showed with the adulteress we cannot justly put others to death via the Old Testament Law unless sinless ourselves. We are not to cast that first stone unless without sin, vengeance should be God's.
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{{cquote|John 8:7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.<br> 8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.<br> 9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.<br> 10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?<br> 11  She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.}}
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Since we are guilty of death before God, we are to forgive others if we want God to forgive us. If we do not forgive others, we cannot expect God to forgive us. Jesus in Matthew 18 gives the example of a servant who, forgiven a huge debt by his master, then has a debtor imprisoned for a small amount owed. The furious master then demands that the servant repay his debt in full and be imprisoned until he has paid completely.
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{{cquote|Matthew 6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.<br> 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.<br> 14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:<br> 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
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Mark 11:25 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.<br> 26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.
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Luke 6:37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:
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Luke 17:3 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.<br> 4 And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.
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James 2:13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
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Matthew 18:21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?<br> 22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.<br> 23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.<br> 24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.<br> 25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.<br> 26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.<br> 27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.<br> 28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.<br> 29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.<br> 30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.<br> 31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.<br> 32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:<br> 33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?<br> 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.<br> 35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.}}
  
 
==Sources==
 
==Sources==

Revision as of 00:12, 11 June 2019

For the sake of societal order prisons are needed, but ultimately there is only one perfectly all-knowing just Judge who demands "vengeance is mine, I will repay." (Romans 12) A just Judge will hold us likewise accountable, and those who fear His Judgment should by all means support life imprisonment as an alternative to the wrongful destruction of life that trying to execute God's judgment has created.

Justice

Now, with that being said, the death penalty was used during the time of Moses, even commanded. Some crimes are so heinous that there is no denying that those responsible should be put to death. In cases where the evidence is undeniable, there is a strong argument for the death penalty, so that those who have killed multiple people do not get out and become a danger to society, not just by what they themselves may do, but how they may influence others to imitate them once freed. Even while incarcerated they are a threat to less dangerous offenders, which is why many people die in prison. This need not be about vengeance; for practical reasons the death penalty makes a lot of sense societally.

Cost-Effectiveness

Furthermore, it makes sense that the most dangerous murderers be executed to avoid spending additional state and federal funds, placing a burden upon the government. It is appeals which raise the cost for government when they are on death row; however, under the 7th Amendment cases decided by juries should not be reexamined save under the rules of the common law (which likely involved those in which new evidence arose afterwards, perhaps due to suppression or other means during trial). Simplifying the appeals process with the numerous Political Reforms I have recommended so that cases only go to trial before a jury once would reduce the cost of using the death penalty and provide additional justification and fairness to the process.

Failings of the Justice System

See also Political Reforms

Human judges are ultimately prone to error, and 165 inmates have now been pardoned from Death Row, spending a total of 1,930 years (11.3 years on average) between the time sentenced to death and being exonerated.[1] Our system is wrongfully putting far too many people to death, and even if just one were being wrongfully put to death, that would be too many.

Unfortunately, our current system is showing itself incapable of dispensing justice, with large numbers of people exonerated from death row, often as the result of racial bias. Furthermore, tyrannical judges even on the Supreme Court pervert justice and destroy democracy, as occurred with Obergefell v. Hodges when 30 state ballot referendums declaring marriage between a man and a woman voted in favor of by roughly 40 million voters were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court on the basis of the 14th Amendment, even though the states which had voted in favor of the 14th Amendment had anti-sodomy and anti-abortion laws at the time (and thus clearly never intended to protect gay marriage and abortion under the 14th Amendment per the Supreme Court's revisionist history).

As such, any wide-scale implementation of the death penalty should occur only after the judicial system has been substantially reformed, to provide accountability for officials and false witnesses who, in falsely accusing or condemning others, run the same penalties as those they slander; return to an emphasis on the constitutional right to trial by jury per the 5th, 6th, and 7th Amendments while improving the juror selection process so that those guilty of false witness or felonies are ineligible to be jurors; and eliminate the unjust practice of plea bargaining whereby the innocent are coerced, through interminable imprisonment before ever seeing trial, to plead guilty to crimes they are innocent of just so they can stop being imprisoned.

A Biblical View

The Old Testament Law with its punishments of death declared all the world guilty, by it none can be justified. We are all guilty of death before God, and should not cast the first stone unless sinless ourselves. We cannot expect God to forgive us unless we forgive others - "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." God is not mocked, we will reap what we sow. (Galatians 6:7)

Vengeance

Individuals

Jesus gave individuals a new commandment, that rather than 'eye for an eye' we should not resist evil with evil but love our enemies, which Paul also reiterated. This is a hard saying to accept, and I personally question how much it applies when another is in danger, but the old pattern of vengeance is replaced with this teaching, that vengeance is to be God's, He will repay. This is based on an eternal perspective that those who do evil will reap what they sow unless they repent, and to do good to them will actually heap coals of fire on their heads if they don't turn from their wicked ways. (Romans 12:20)

Government

Nonetheless, there may be exceptions to this when it comes to government, for again, the Apostle Paul says rulers can be divinely used as a "minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." (Romans 13:4)

As such, governmental actions should be done, not for vengeance, but for justice and societal necessity, including the death penalty.

Government Violence Can Be Sanctioned by God for the Purpose of Global Order

As noted by the Apostle Paul, governments themselves can be directed by God to keep order in society, and even "bear the sword" to "execute wrath" for God's purposes.

Governments, after all, cannot abide by the same precepts as individuals in turning the other cheek if they are to exist. To quote William Penn's 1682 Province of Pennsylvania upon which the U.S. Constitution and Articles of Confederation are based:

This point was acknowledged by William Penn centuries ago, that God can guide governments to do His will and use violence in ways that Christians themselves are urged not to, for the sake of encouraging good works and discouraging bad ones. However, again, the death penalty is not a tool to be used lightly given the current failings of our justice system. If even one innocent person is being executed, that is too many. We need to produce justice and equity in our system before considering the widespread adoption of the death penalty.

Exceptions to Pacifism

See also Pacifism``

That there are exceptions is evident. Paul urges Christians to, "if it is possible, as much as lies in you, live peacefully with all people." (Romans 12:18) This passage thus shows that there will be cases where it is impossible, both given the circumstances and one's own nature, to live peacefully with others, even when committed to generally taking wrong and forgiving one's enemies.

Even Jesus could not stand the sight of all evil, and intervened using physical force when He saw God's temple being misused for material gain through fraud and dishonesty.

Declaration of Independence

This is, essentially, the same argument made in the Declaration of Independence for creation of the United States, that the colonies had repeatedly attempted to compromise and seek a peaceful resolution with England, but that evils had become finally insufferable.

Which Exceptions?
Defense of Others

There may be cases where defending others might be justified, particularly when it is a life and death situation. While we are commanded not to avenge ourselves, it is commonly recognized that defense of others when they are in mortal danger is honorable.

Government

As previously mentioned, the Apostle Paul stated that God uses government violence to encourage good works and discourage bad ones. As such, governmental violence can be used to further God's will by promoting good over evil.

Stopping Global Evil/Protecting the Church's Reputation

Per the Declaration of Independence, there is a point where, as Edmund Burke once famously noted, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." When it is in the power of good people to stop global evil, they are justified in exercising their inalienable rights per the Declaration of Independence.

This principle can be, to a degree, observed in 1 Corinthians 6, where the Apostle Paul urges legal matters between Christians to be settled within the Christian Church. As Paul observes, Christians will ultimately judge angels, and as such are all the more suited to judge matters in this life. While Paul nonetheless urges them to just take wrong instead, he does state that when problems arise within the Church, they should be handled by the Church.

This follows after Paul, in the previous chapter, urged Christians to expel those who are engaged in clearly evil lifestyles that the Church might not be defamed.

One might reasonably conclude that, were such a person unwilling to leave Church property while engaged in a lifestyle that destroys God's reputation, they could be forced to leave through force in the same way that Jesus used force to make those misusing God's temple leave. (Luke 19:45)

Rehabilitation and Mercy

It's important that very honorable, good people be in charge of parole boards with a high degree of wisdom. Many criminals will claim to be rehabilitated and become good people, to have seen the error of their ways. That doesn't mean much. Indeed, many leave prison and return to their evil ways, or even get 10 minute online theology degrees and then make the name of Christ look bad; committing evil in the guise of Christianity.

While it is important that we be willing to show mercy for those who have seriously reformed, it must be with an eye to their actions, not their words or the appearances they put on. The goal should be to rehabilitate when possible, but prudence must guide the process as well. Those who have killed numerous innocent people are arguably so dangerous to society that taking the risk they may be rehabilitated may not be worth it.

The Law

The Old Testament Law was a just declaration of what is right and wrong (Romans 7:7,12) but according to that Law all are guilty before God, none will be justified by it. Jesus alone could be the only exception because He alone was declared to be God. (John 1:18)

Forgive to be Forgiven

Jesus showed with the adulteress we cannot justly put others to death via the Old Testament Law unless sinless ourselves. We are not to cast that first stone unless without sin, vengeance should be God's.

Since we are guilty of death before God, we are to forgive others if we want God to forgive us. If we do not forgive others, we cannot expect God to forgive us. Jesus in Matthew 18 gives the example of a servant who, forgiven a huge debt by his master, then has a debtor imprisoned for a small amount owed. The furious master then demands that the servant repay his debt in full and be imprisoned until he has paid completely.

Sources

  1. N.a. (2019, March 28). "Innocence: List of Those Freed From Death Row." 'Death Penalty Information Center.
  2. Penn, William (1682, May 5). "Frame of Government of Pennsylvania." Lillian Goldman Law Library. Yale University. The Avalon Project.