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May 1st, 2014
09:15 AM ET

Why Christians should support the death penalty

Opinion by R. Albert Mohler Jr., Special to CNN

(CNN) - The death penalty has been part of human society for millennia, understood to be the ultimate punishment for the most serious crimes.

But, should Christians support the death penalty now, especially in light of the controversial execution Tuesday in Oklahoma?

This is not an easy yes or no question.

On the one hand, the Bible clearly calls for capital punishment in the case of intentional murder.

In Genesis 9:6, God told Noah that the penalty for intentional murder should be death: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”

The death penalty was explicitly grounded in the fact that God made every individual human being in his own image, and thus an act of intentional murder is an assault upon human dignity and the very image of God.

In the simplest form, the Bible condemns murder and calls for the death of the murderer. The one who intentionally takes life by murder forfeits the right to his own life.

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul instructs Christians that the government “does not bear the sword in vain.” Indeed, in this case the magistrate “is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the evildoer.” [Romans 13:4]

On the other hand, the Bible raises a very high requirement for evidence in a case of capital murder.

The act of murder must be confirmed and corroborated by the eyewitness testimony of accusers, and the society is to take every reasonable precaution to ensure that no one is punished unjustly.

While the death penalty is allowed and even mandated in some cases, the Bible also reveals that not all who are guilty of murder and complicity in murder are executed.

Just remember the biblical accounts concerning Moses, David and Saul, later known as Paul.

Christian thinking about the death penalty must begin with the fact that the Bible envisions a society in which capital punishment for murder is sometimes necessary, but should be exceedingly rare.

The Bible also affirms that the death penalty, rightly and justly applied, will have a powerful deterrent effect.

In a world of violence, the death penalty is understood as a necessary firewall against the spread of further deadly violence.

Seen in this light, the problem we face today is not with the death penalty, but with society at large.

American society is quickly conforming to a secular worldview, and the clear sense of right and wrong that was Christianity’s gift to Western civilization is being replaced with a much more ambiguous morality.

We have lost the cultural ability to declare murder – even mass murder – to be deserving of the death penalty.

Oklahoma's botched lethal injection marks new front in battle over executions

We have also robbed the death penalty of its deterrent power by allowing death penalty cases to languish for years in the legal system, often based on irrational and irrelevant appeals.

While most Americans claim to believe that the death penalty should be supported, there is a wide disparity in how Americans of different states and regions think about the issue.

Furthermore, Christians should be outraged at the economic and racial injustice in how the death penalty is applied. While the law itself is not prejudiced, the application of the death penalty often is.

Opinion: End secrecy in lethal injections

There is very little chance that a wealthy white murderer will ever be executed. There is a far greater likelihood that a poor African-American murderer will face execution.

Why? Because the rich can afford massively expensive legal defense teams that can exhaust the ability of the prosecution to get a death penalty sentence.

This is an outrage, and no Christian can support such a disparity. As the Bible warns, the rich must not be able to buy justice on their own terms.

There is also the larger cultural context. We must recognize that our cultural loss of confidence in human dignity and the secularizing of human identity has made murder a less heinous crime in the minds of many Americans.

Most would not admit this lower moral evaluation of murder, but our legal system is evidence that this is certainly true.

We also face a frontal assault upon the death penalty that is driven by legal activists and others determined to bring legal execution to an end in America.

Controversy over an execution this week in Oklahoma will bring even more attention to this cause, but most Americans will be completely unaware that this tragedy was caused by the inability of prison authorities to gain access to drugs for lethal injection that would have prevented those complications.

Opponents of the death penalty have, by their legal and political action, accomplished what might seem at first to be impossible – they now demand action to correct a situation that they largely created.

Their intention is to make the death penalty so horrifying in the public mind that support for executions would disappear. They have attacked every form of execution as “cruel and unusual punishment,” even though the Constitution itself authorizes the death penalty.

It is a testament to moral insanity that they have successfully diverted attention from a murderer’s heinous crimes and instead put the death penalty on trial.

Should Christians support the death penalty today?

I believe that Christians should hope, pray and strive for a society in which the death penalty, rightly and rarely applied, would make moral sense.

This would be a society in which there is every protection for the rights of the accused, and every assurance that the social status of the murderer will not determine the sentence for the crime.

Christians should work to ensure that there can be no reasonable doubt that the accused is indeed guilty of the crime. We must pray for a society in which the motive behind capital punishment is justice, and not merely revenge.

We must work for a society that will honor every single human being at every point of development and of every race and ethnicity as made in God’s image.

We must hope for a society that will support and demand the execution of justice in order to protect the very existence of that society. We must pray for a society that rightly tempers justice with mercy.

Should Christians support the death penalty today? I believe that we must, but with the considerations detailed above.

At the same time, given the secularization of our culture and the moral confusion that this has brought, this issue is not so clear-cut as some might think.

I do believe that the death penalty, though supported by the majority of Americans, may not long survive in this cultural context.

Death penalty in the United States gradually declining

It is one thing to support the death penalty. It is another thing altogether to explain it, fix it, administer it and sustain it with justice.

We are about to find out if Americans have the determination to meet that challenge. Christians should take leadership to help our fellow citizens understand what is at stake.

God affirmed the death penalty for murder as he made his affirmation of human dignity clear to Noah. Our job is to make it clear to our neighbors.

R. Albert Mohler Jr. is president of  The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The views expressed in this column belong to Mohler.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Christianity • Courts • Crime • Death • Discrimination • Ethics • Opinion • Violence

soundoff (2,706 Responses)
  1. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    Anyone who supports the death penalty believes that the deliberately taking the life of the innocent is acceptable collateral damage.

    We know the 'justice' system is horribly flawed. There are so many death row convictions of people who did not commit the crimes for which they were tried. How can even one of these state authorized murders of the innocent be pleasing to God?

    May 1, 2014 at 10:51 am |
    • Theo Phileo

      "Anyone who supports the death penalty believes that the deliberately taking the life of the innocent is acceptable collateral damage."
      -----------–
      You bring up a very interesting point. Obviously the system is broken and needs fixing, and that's a whole other topic.... But when one sides with capital punishment, it as.sumes that the one convicted has been correctly and lawfully convicted. If there is every any doubt as to a man's guilt, execution should never be considered. But then, that's the issues brought up by Mr. Mohler.

      May 1, 2014 at 10:57 am |
    • jknbt

      we have a LEGAL SYSTEM as opposed to a justice system. If you want justice, go to God. Until Jesus comes back and establishes the millenial kingdom, what we have got will have to do. Yes, it can be improved. The use of dna evidence has cleared many ot the wrongfully convicted. Better forensic methods will be forthcoming.

      May 1, 2014 at 10:58 am |
      • igaftr

        "If you want justice, go to God"

        Since you cannot showe god to exist, you cannot get justice from "god".
        Justice exists fine with no gods involved at all.

        By your statement, if there is no god , a distinct possibility, there cannot be justice, and that is false.

        May 1, 2014 at 11:03 am |
        • jknbt

          the most severe justice of all is "you have to reap what you sow"....or as the baptist preacher said, "payday, someday"....

          May 1, 2014 at 12:22 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      "But when one sides with capital punishment, it as.sumes that the one convicted has been correctly and lawfully convicted."
      -------

      Theo that is a demonstrably bad assumption. Death is irreversible. Surely one wrongly executed person is one too many?

      May 1, 2014 at 10:59 am |
      • Theo Phileo

        "Surely one wrongly executed person is one too many?"
        ------------------
        Yup, I agree. Human life is far too precious a thing to be flippantly deemed worthy of death. As I said, our system doesn't work like it should. But there are indeed cases where a murderer has been caught with blood on his hands, or through other evidences that erase any doubt of his guilt. If that man remains unrepentant, then the Bible appears through several texts to give the state the justification for capital punishment. It is however a last resort, and only to the unrepentant and unregenerate.

        May 1, 2014 at 11:04 am |
        • samsstones

          theo
          Human life is far too precious except when god is feeling nasty and wants to wipe out as many people as he choses. Or even if god places a curse on a people, then they deserve to be slaughtered in the millions, it is all god's will. What a totally disgusting person you are.

          May 1, 2014 at 11:16 am |
        • Theo Phileo

          You call me disgusting when it is you who has not only a shallow view of justice, but you have no understanding of the severity and seriousness of even the smallest sin against the God who created you. If you understood that, you would know the seriousness of Israel's breaking of God's Covenant with them.

          May 1, 2014 at 11:20 am |
        • Akira

          He should have made man with so many flaws then.

          Shrug.

          May 1, 2014 at 11:26 am |
        • truthfollower01

          Sam,

          Answer a few questions for me if you would.
          1. How many lies would you say you’ve told in your life?
          2. Have you ever stolen anything regardless of its value?
          3. Have you ever used God’s name as a curse word? (called blasphemy)
          4.have you ever looked at a woman/man lustfully?(if so, Jesus said you have committed adultery with that person in your heart.)
          If you’re like me, you are a self professed lying, stealing, blaspheming adulterer at heart or some form thereof. A holy God must punish wickedness, otherwise He wouldn’t be just. Given your confession, will you be guilty or innocent? If you’re like me and everyone else on this board, you are guilty. However, God provided a way for salvation through the blood of His innocent Son who took the punishment on the cross, that we might be declared innocent. Think of it like this. You’re in a court room. you’re guilty as you’ve professed. Someone walks in and pays your fine for you. Now the judge can legally dismiss your case and let you go. This is the gospel message. What you must do is repent (turn from your sins) and follow Jesus as Lord. This following is enabled by God when He gives you new desires and a heart that wants to please God instead of the flesh.

          May 1, 2014 at 11:28 am |
        • samsstones

          Theo
          You make me laugh with your silly proxy threats, you do not seem to understand if you do not believe in the biblical guilt trip it does not apply. Your beliefs have turned you into a closed minded bigot, I truly feel sorry for you for the disgusting things that your delusion had caused you to believe.

          May 1, 2014 at 11:29 am |
        • Theo Phileo

          Ray Comfort? I use his tracks all the time!

          May 1, 2014 at 11:29 am |
        • sam stone

          we see that your god is a vindictive pr1ck, and that you are nothng but a snivelling toady

          tell us again how the jews deserved the holocaust, corn pone

          May 1, 2014 at 11:31 am |
        • Akira

          Yeah, that banana is obviously made by God, because look at it. Look at it!

          May 1, 2014 at 11:32 am |
        • truthfollower01

          Akita,

          Do you believe that your cousin to a banana as P.Z. Myers does?

          May 1, 2014 at 11:36 am |
        • samsstones

          truth...
          Another christian admitting what a disgusting person they are how can you live with yourself? None of your business really but I have not been charged by the state of any crime other than a traffic violation. Nice guilt trip you have got going there, no wonder you need someone to do the punishment for you, the cowards way out.

          May 1, 2014 at 11:38 am |
        • truthfollower01

          Theo,

          I really like the clear Gospel presentation of The Way of the Master.

          May 1, 2014 at 11:40 am |
        • Akira

          Are you talking to me, TF? Would you like me to change your name?

          May 1, 2014 at 11:41 am |
        • truthfollower01

          None of your business really but I have not been charged by the state of any crime other than a traffic violation."

          How do you stand before. Holy And morally perfect God? That is ultimately what matters.

          May 1, 2014 at 11:44 am |
        • truthfollower01

          Akira, yes and I apologize for the name error. Not intentional.

          May 1, 2014 at 11:46 am |
        • Akira

          Tf, I thought it was intentional since you've done it several times...I'm glad it's not.

          Back to Myers.
          You know he was satirizing Ray Comfort and that he doesn't really believe that, right?

          Of course we're not cousins to the banana. That's genetically impossible.

          May 1, 2014 at 11:51 am |
        • samsstones

          truth..
          How slow are you? I thought you would have figured out by now that I do not believe in a personal dod. Should I decide to chose one it would certainly not be the judgemental vengeful sadistic pr!ck of a god that you believe in. Try and understand. You believe because....
          You are blindly ignorant out of fear.
          You are blindly ignorant out of sheer arrogance.
          You blindly declare that you are right and all others are wrong by default.

          May 1, 2014 at 11:52 am |
        • samsstones

          personal god...

          May 1, 2014 at 11:53 am |
        • truthfollower01

          Akita,

          I took him as being serious in the interview. I understood him to mean that all living things are related on the evolutionary view.

          May 1, 2014 at 1:04 pm |
        • truthfollower01

          Sam,

          You believing or not believing does not determine the existence of God. He exists independent of whether you believe He does.

          May 1, 2014 at 1:06 pm |
        • igaftr

          belief follower
          Or "he" does not exist, regardless of your belief. ( Far more likely)

          May 1, 2014 at 1:12 pm |
        • truthfollower01

          IGA,

          On the atheist view, why does "something" exist rather than "nothing"?

          May 1, 2014 at 1:26 pm |
        • Akira

          TF, you aplogize for misusing my name and then in the very next post to me, do it again??

          May 1, 2014 at 1:39 pm |
        • truthfollower01

          Akira,

          When I type in "Akira", it auto corrects to Akita. I guess I overlooked it. Not intentional.

          May 1, 2014 at 2:57 pm |
        • joey3467

          Truth, why something exists instead of nothing is unknown at this time. In fact, there may not even be a reason why. It is entirely possible that the universe just exists for no reason at all.

          May 1, 2014 at 3:07 pm |
        • Sungrazer

          "I took him as being serious in the interview. I understood him to mean that all living things are related on the evolutionary view."

          I have only seen a transcript but that sounds right.

          May 1, 2014 at 3:39 pm |
        • igaftr

          belief follower
          "On the atheist view, why does "something" exist rather than "nothing"?"

          Who said nothing exists?
          On the christian view, why do you believe the obviously man made, flawed stories from the bible as if some god had a hand in it, when no gods can be shown to exist? No universal sentience can be shown to exist?

          It is FAR more likely that whatever is out there does not come close to the abrahamic definition of "god".

          May 1, 2014 at 3:45 pm |
    • Vic

      I beg to differ.

      Instead of cracking down on capital punishment, we should be cracking down on 'murder and wrongful convictions.' The capital punishment is the last line of defense in cracking down on murder.

      May 1, 2014 at 11:03 am |
      • Theo Phileo

        Well said.

        May 1, 2014 at 11:04 am |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        The capital punishment is the last line of defense in cracking down on murder.

        Why? It demonstrably does not work. So why continue with the charade?

        May 1, 2014 at 11:13 am |
  2. jknbt

    take a look at the results of not having a death penalty: in mexico, there is no death penalty and regular people are not allowed to have guns. Result: drug lords rule the countryside. Working people & farmers are not safe. Gun battles erupt in open daylight every day. The innocent are killed. The drug lords have no accountability.

    In Texas, just north of this chaos, there is a death penalty, and the regular people can have guns. Result: the drug lords are much more discrete in their activities. Most gang violence is against other gangs & drug dealers. For the most part, the regular people don't have to worry about daylight gang warfare with the bullets flying.

    Think about it, all you liberals that want to nullify the death penalty and confiscate our guns. It is your kids that will eventually be killed by the crossfire at a street corner while they are walking to school if you do this.

    May 1, 2014 at 10:50 am |
    • Sungrazer

      The death penalty has been abolished over virtually all of Europe, including some of the countries with the lowest crime rate in the world. It has been abolished in Canada, hardly a haven of drug lords. Perhaps you should be less simplistic in your thinking.

      May 1, 2014 at 11:16 am |
      • jknbt

        perhaps you should be more realistic. we do not live in canada or in europe.

        May 1, 2014 at 12:04 pm |
        • Sungrazer

          What I did was invalidate your point that the death penalty and gun ownership equates to less drug violence. New Mexico does not have the death penalty. According to you, it will soon simply be "Mexico North". Let us see. Whether or not it does, there are surely other factors at play. That is being realistic.

          May 1, 2014 at 12:32 pm |
        • joey3467

          We don't live in Mexico either, you dolt.

          May 1, 2014 at 3:09 pm |
        • Akira

          This guy sounds just like Kermit to me.

          May 2, 2014 at 1:06 am |
    • Akira

      I know many people who are liberals that support the DP....so your little partisan diatribe is total BS.
      Nobody wants to confiscate your guns. You probably shouldn't take Alex Jones as the defining expert on gun control. That's just silly.
      Look into the history of the NRA; they used to be pro-gun control...before it became abundantly clear that they could use this as an "us vs. them" wedge the has polarized our country politically.
      And the DP has done nothing to diminish gun deaths...so there's that.
      Because this is the topic of the article; the death penalty.

      May 1, 2014 at 12:01 pm |
      • jknbt

        the liberals in Connecticut and New York state are forcing a mandatory registration of guns. The next step is confiscation, just like in Germany in the 30's. So get real. These people want to take guns away from anyone who could stop them from installing humanistic socialism as the rule in this country. These people hate government by majority rule in a democratic country founded on Bible values.

        May 1, 2014 at 12:14 pm |
        • Akira

          No it's not. But that's all right.

          Why on earth would a person have a problem registering their guns?

          And really, turn off Alex.
          He wouldn't know a socialist if one rolled up to his double-wide in a bright pink Humvee with 'Socialist!' painted on the side, took him out for a fancy dinner at the Dairy Queen, then had his merry way with him out back by the dumpster.

          Gun control, or lack of it, has not done one thing to deter crime.

          I do, however, hope you feel better having vented about libruls in Murka.

          May 1, 2014 at 2:25 pm |
        • Akira

          And I find your use of the hyperbolic Nazi Germany reference to be particularly distasteful, given this is Rememberance Week for the victims of the Holocaust.

          Or are you one of those who thinks those victims deserved their fate, too?

          May 1, 2014 at 2:37 pm |
        • jknbt

          akira....I am talking to a liberal now..you are probably washing your pinko socialist wagon even as we speak...

          if you really believe in socialism, go get a work visa and move to greece....try to get a job there while you marvel at the wonders of their socialist civilization...retirement at 55! gov't freebies galore! just tax to death people who work so they can support those who don't or won't work...FREE IS GOOD...just get the gov't to print more money to pay for it all! Whhheee!

          May 1, 2014 at 2:48 pm |
        • Akira

          Wow. What a big, steaming bowl of supposition and conjecture. I will pray that somebody buys you a clue.

          akira….I am talking to a liberal now..you are probably washing your pinko socialist wagon even as we speak…

          This is hilarious. Communism and socialism are direct opposites and you're really showing your lack of education when you conflate the two. Have socialism pick you up on the way to its date with Alex. Maybe you can get a banana split for dessert if you're really, really good.

          if you really believe in socialism, go get a work visa and move to greece….try to get a job there while you marvel at the wonders of their socialist civilization…retirement at 55! gov’t freebies galore!

          I never said I supported socialism. Why do you lie to try and make a point?
          I said this country isn't going to become socialist just because Alex Jones (and the rest of the people who want to divide our country) said on entertainment radio that it is. I said Alex Jones doesn't know what socialism is. Because he doesn't.

          just tax to death people who work so they can support those who don’t or won’t work…FREE IS GOOD…just get the gov’t to print more money to pay for it all! Whhheee!

          We are at historically low tax rates. Want to go back to the good old 50's? Top tax rates were upwards to 90%.

          The rest is just regurgitated Drudge nonsense that no self-respecting educated person would take seriously.

          May 2, 2014 at 12:59 am |
        • jknbt

          hey Akira– I don't have time like you do for entertainment websites like Alex Jones....Drudge Report gives me a headache. But you seem to know all about these things. You speculate that I get all my information from them. Wrong.

          The country is 55 trillion in debt thanks to free spending Obama and the liberal Dems. They know better than to try to pay it off since there will have to be 95% tax rates on everyone to do that. No, they are going to wait until a few months before the next election to wreck the economy with hyperinflation. They will team up with their buddies in the Treasury and the Fed and the Big Bank Ogliarchy. The Republicans will get the blame just like Hoover did. Politics as usual in D.C. These people don't mind wrecking the world economy and causing a depression if it helps the liberal Dem cause.

          The goal: globalism and socialism. The government will have to confiscate everything starting with the gold and silver out there to pay the debt. And there will be "bail-ins" when the banks start to fail, just like in socialist greece. Better buy a floor safe while you can still draw your money out of the bank. Hide it well so the homeland security goons can't find it when they kick in your door to clean out your safe on a search warrant.

          Your comments are based on your unfortunately rosey view of everything. Take off your rose colored liberal glasses, smell the coffee, and wake up. The country is in big trouble due to overspending by big government socialism.

          May 5, 2014 at 12:05 pm |
  3. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    I saw the headline: "Why Christians should support the death penalty"

    and immediately looked for the author: "R. Albert Mohler Jr." and thought, 'well, that figures'.

    Bloodthirsty judgmental Southern Baptists again.

    May 1, 2014 at 10:48 am |
  4. Russ

    As a fellow conservative evangelical, i adamantly disagree with Mohler here.

    Most simply put: what does he do with Jesus himself?
    -falsely accused, wrongly executed
    -the death penalty was the ultimate travesty of justice
    -Jesus died to save others from such a death, even for those who *deserve* it (which now Mohler is advocating?)
    -the cross tells us that WE ALL deserve such a death, including Mohler

    yes, Paul makes allowance for the secular government – but is that the ultimate intention?
    or is that like Jesus saying of divorce "Moses gave you that concession because your hearts were hard"?

    to ask the question compassionately: isn't the economic cost of keeping someone incarcerated for life (instead of an execution) worth the *possibility* that they might repent? to Mohler I'd say: isn't that EXACTLY what you believe Christ did for you?

    bottom line: lock them away for life & hope that leads to repentance. you're buying them time – not to mention (as some very well publicized cases have demonstrated lately), you may find out you were WRONG & they did not commit the crime in the first place. and even if not – ask yourself: how did Christ act toward his betrayers & murderers?

    SUM: we evangelicals claim we are PRO-life. that should include AFTER birth.

    May 1, 2014 at 10:37 am |
    • colin31714

      You have contradicted yourself. You say Jesus was "wrongly executed" and then claim Jesus died as part of a grand plan to save others from death. Well, which is it? If it was all part of God's grand plan, how can it be wrong?

      May 1, 2014 at 10:44 am |
      • Russ

        @ colin: God's sovereignty does not excuse my responsibility.

        "You intended it for evil, but God intended it for good." (Gen.50:20)

        God is so powerful that he can even turn the most evil act in history (the cross) into a trophy of his grace.

        May 1, 2014 at 10:47 am |
        • colin31714

          But, under Christian doctrine, was it not God's plan from the beginning of time that Jesus be nailed to the cross? If it were God's plan, how can it be an act of evil. Is that not saying that God is evil? Christians believe that God required the sacrifice, sent his son to be sacrificed and caused the sacrifice to proceed. It cannot, therefore, be an injustice.

          May 1, 2014 at 10:50 am |
        • Russ

          @ Colin: you seem to have misunderstood.
          God is not the author of evil. He is just.

          The sacrifice is "required" as you put it because of what WE did. we rendered ourselves evil.

          note well the verses AFTER the most famous one in the Bible:
          "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son." (Jn.3:17-18)

          "...didn't come to condemn... we stand condemned already..."
          our actions & hearts condemn us. if God LEFT us to our own devices, that's our condemnation. (Check out Romans 1: the punishment is God leaving them to what they think they want).

          May 1, 2014 at 10:57 am |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      I applaud your position there Russ that execution is murder.

      May 1, 2014 at 10:46 am |
      • Russ

        @ GOP: thanks.
        i would hope to see evangelicals be consistent here: only the Author of Life has the right to give & take life.

        May 1, 2014 at 10:49 am |
        • igaftr

          the "author of life"...whatever that is supposed to be. We know life exists, we do not yet know how, so we have no idea how life came to be, I have no idea what the word author is doing there.

          May 1, 2014 at 11:24 am |
        • Russ

          @ igaftr:
          1) my response to Mohler was from one evangelical Christian to another. we believe this.
          i wouldn't think it would be offensive for you even if you solely took my comments in that vein.

          2) in that regard, "Author of life" is a biblical reference

          3) who is the "we" of whom you speak?
          clarify the group you are mentioning & i think there is more discussion we can have.
          note well: scientists have *many* different religious convictions. i think you are tipping your hand metaphysically...

          May 1, 2014 at 12:05 pm |
        • igaftr

          russ
          We meaning all of humanity. No one knows how life came to be. You have belief, not knowledge.

          May 1, 2014 at 12:41 pm |
        • Russ

          @ igaftr:
          1) your "we" is demonstrably false. MUCH (if not *most*) of humanity disagrees with you.

          2) you are not being honest about your own belief here.
          as i said before, you've tipped your hand regarding your metaphysics.

          a) you said "you have belief, not knowledge." this is a false dichotomy by your own scientific standards...

          "Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as science “without any presuppositions”…a philosophy, a “faith,” must always be there first of all, so that science can acquire from it a direction, a meaning, a limit, a method, a right to exist…It is still a metaphysical faith that underlies our faith in science."
          -Friedrich Nietzsche, "On the Genealogy of Morals"

          point being: what you are calling knowledge is contingent on your own set of metaphysical beliefs.
          it's not a battle between science & religion here, but rather a battle AMONG religions/faiths/metaphysical claims.

          b) to be pointed: science makes NO SUCH claim ("no one knows..."). naturalism does!
          you are doing metaphysics & calling it science. you have conflated the two.
          i don't have a problem with your science. i have a problem with your metaphysics/faith/religion/etc.

          3) your presupposition here (implicitly: there is nothing but the material universe) has led you to filter out any potential data to the contrary (i.e., existence itself).

          a) ironically for you, that (filtering out data that doesn't fit your preconceptions) FAILS the scientific method – the very thing to which you are apparently appealing. it's becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

          b) note well that several renowned & adamantly atheistic scientists (e.g., Hawking's "Grand Design") have noted that existence itself is a substantial problem that must be addressed ("how did we get something out of nothing?"). if THEY see the problem from WITHIN a similar camp to your own, why wouldn't you concede it's really a problem for your position?

          May 1, 2014 at 1:49 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        "only the Author of Life has the right to give & take life

        That is a very consistent position to take and I appreciate you doing so.

        May 1, 2014 at 10:53 am |
        • Akira

          This has always been my understanding, as well.

          May 1, 2014 at 11:15 am |
  5. Concert in an Egg

    From "thou shalt not kill" to "off with his head!"

    Typical Christian nonsense.

    May 1, 2014 at 10:29 am |
    • Theo Phileo

      The word used in Exodus 20 is that used for "murder." It becomes evident when you take it in context – observe Exodus 21:12, and again in Numbers 35:17-21. So the text is more accurately rendered "You shall not murder."

      All murder is killing, but not all killing is murder.

      Look also at Genesis 9:5-6.

      May 1, 2014 at 10:35 am |
      • Concert in an Egg

        Excuses, contradictions, cherry picking, pure fiction. Whatever it takes to justify your asinine religion huh Theo?

        May 1, 2014 at 11:10 am |
        • Theo Phileo

          How am I cherry picking when I read the passage in context?
          OK, I'll do like you and attempt to interpret passages without the benefit of their context:

          "Judas went out and hanged himself."

          "Go and do likewise."

          May 1, 2014 at 11:13 am |
  6. Theo Phileo

    Great article Mr. Mohler.

    I believe the biggest question amongst all that were raised is in how to make the death penalty "rare."

    The correctional system exists in order that it may "correct" it's inmates – that is, to bring those found guilty of crimes to a point of repentance. Do we then only execute those to whom every resource has been exhausted to bring the guilty to a place of repentance?

    When it becomes apparent that a man can never be released back into society because of his unabashed unrepentance, how do we decide between a lifelong, isolated incarceration, or death? Will a private execution serve as a deterrant to others of committing the same crime? Or do those executions need to be public in order to serve as a deterrant to that crime?

    May 1, 2014 at 10:19 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      @Theo
      Do you agree that many of the crimes that have the death penalty assigned to them in the bible do not warrant the death penalty in the 21st century world?

      May 1, 2014 at 10:26 am |
      • Theo Phileo

        Absolutely. But then, we are not Israel living under the Mosaic Covenant.

        May 1, 2014 at 10:28 am |
        • Dyslexic doG

          Thanks. Glad to see some common sense.

          Let me ask then: if the bible is god's word, how do you know which of god's words must be obeyed and which of god's words no longer need to be obeyed?

          May 1, 2014 at 10:31 am |
        • Theo Phileo

          "how do you know which of god's words must be obeyed and which of god's words no longer need to be obeyed?"
          ------------
          First of all because the Bible is very clear that we are under a "New Covenant." No longer are we bound to the Mosaic Covenant that existed to show Israel that sin brought death. The New Covenant in Christ shows that, although sin brings death, for every man dies, he is now under grace – his debt has been paid by a substi.tute.

          BUT, there are still some death sentences in place in order to keep order in society. Romans 13:3-4, and Acts 25:11 show us that for certain crimes, the death penalty still exists.

          So how do we know what to obey, and what not to? (Such as burning witches)
          There are 3 ways to determine if an OT law is applicable to the NT church:
          a)Divide the Mosaic law into 3 components: Moral, Civil, and Ceremonial
          oThe Civil Laws are gone because we are not Israel living in that time period
          oThe Ceremonial Laws are gone because we have the Lamb slain once for all time (Jesus). As a part of this, the dietary laws are gone – see Acts 11
          oThe Moral Law (10 Commandments) ARE STILL applicable to the New Testament church today, except the Sabbath Law, the 4th Commandment. This is gone because under the New Covenant, we have a rest in Christ.
          b)The OT law is not enforceable unless the NT says it is
          c)The OT law is still enforceable unless the NT says it is not

          May 1, 2014 at 10:42 am |
        • Dyslexic doG

          but isn't this involving a lot of human interpretation and opinion? All the rules you just mentioned were decided on by men. I.e. men have decided which of god's rules they can now ignore and which are still applicable. If the bible is god's word, wouldn't he have been a little more specific in the first place, and not leave vast sections to be decided on by men?

          May 1, 2014 at 10:49 am |
        • Theo Phileo

          "but isn't this involving a lot of human interpretation and opinion?"
          ---------------–
          Not at all. As I have said in here before, God's nature never changes, but because revelation was progressive, He has chosen to govern the affairs of men through Covenants. It is very plain in scripture, and no opinion or interpretation is necessary...
          Adamic Covenant
          Noahic Covenant
          Abrahamic Covenant
          Israel Covenant
          Mosaic Covenant
          Davidic Covenant
          New Covenant
          Each Covenant corresponds to the given revelation of God at the time, as well as serving as a foreshadowing of the next Covenant to come.

          May 1, 2014 at 10:54 am |
    • Akira

      It's also called a penal system. It exists to punish the inmates. Penalty. Pretty much why it's called a death penalty.

      May 1, 2014 at 11:24 am |
  7. igaftr

    "The death penalty was explicitly grounded in the fact that God"
    Not a fact.

    Thou shall not kill...pretty much covers it.

    May 1, 2014 at 10:15 am |
  8. Vic

    ♰♰♰ Jesus Christ Is Lord ♰♰♰

    While I believe that the "Dispensation of Law" ended with the Lord Jesus Christ's Salvation, I view the capital punishment as a natural law and not religious. "Natural Law" is part of this creation, and it was incorporated into the Mosaic Law of redemption during the "Dispensation of Law," and it stands alone again since the "Dispensation of Grace." To me, the capital punishment is part of the "Natural Law" just as traffic law is.

    And no, I DO NOT support disparity, intentional murder is intentional murder, regardless of who the murderer is, and justice shall be to everyone and not by purchase.

    May 1, 2014 at 10:12 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      ♰♰♰ Dyslexic doG Is droL ♰♰♰

      May 1, 2014 at 10:18 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      what did your god say about traffic law in the bible?

      May 1, 2014 at 10:20 am |
    • Vic

      Speaking of justice and capital punishment, today marks the third anniversary of killing Osama Bin Laden for his murders.

      May 1, 2014 at 10:37 am |
  9. colin31714

    This article demonstrates how worthless the bible is as any kind ot moral compass. It can be used to support the death penalty; oppose the death penalty; support was; oppose war; support racial inequities; oppose racial inequities; support genocide; oppose genocide; support slavery and oppose slavery.

    That a book that is so completely bereft of any kind of unambiguous moral underpinnings is widely touted as one of the greatest moral codes ever provided to mankind is testimony to how little 99% of Christians know of this clumsy compendium of comical mythology.

    May 1, 2014 at 9:57 am |
    • samsstones

      colin
      Better not get the Southern Baptist crowd riled up. They would see you as a heretic and fair game.

      May 1, 2014 at 10:06 am |
    • awanderingscot

      one opinion, just as valid as your hate-filled opinion which tries to pillory millions of good people.

      May 1, 2014 at 10:12 am |
      • Sungrazer

        Not all opinions are equally valid, you mistake criticism for hate, and it is biblical morality that is being pilloried, not people.

        May 1, 2014 at 10:20 am |
      • Dyslexic doG

        keep wandering ...

        May 1, 2014 at 10:21 am |
      • colin31714

        How is my opinion "hate filled?"

        May 1, 2014 at 10:22 am |
        • Dyslexic doG

          Christians think that anything that points out the gaping flaws in their religion is hateful.

          May 1, 2014 at 10:28 am |
      • Akira

        How , in any way, shap , or form, is Colin's post trying to "pillory" anyone?

        May 1, 2014 at 10:50 am |
  10. Sungrazer

    "The Bible also affirms that the death penalty, rightly and justly applied, will have a powerful deterrent effect."

    Except that it doesn't, even if cases didn't "languish for years in the legal system".

    "American society is quickly conforming to a secular worldview, and the clear sense of right and wrong that was Christianity’s gift to Western civilization is being replaced with a much more ambiguous morality."

    What is being replaced is an ancient and sometimes barbaric morality. This quote reflects a desire to be told what is right and wrong as opposed to doing any real work and putting some thought into it. The "clear sense" leads to some objectionable morality. As Isaac Asmiov said:

    "Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right."

    May 1, 2014 at 9:57 am |
  11. Dyslexic doG

    I am god. Let me kill all you people in Arkansas and Oklahoma with tornadoes.
    I am god. Let me kill all you people in Florida with floods.
    I am god. Let me kill a few million unborn babies with miscarriages.
    I am god. Let me kill a few million born babies with starvation and/or disease
    I am god. Let me kill a few million adults with starvation and/or disease and/or war and/or violence

    Ahhh ... it's been a good week!

    May 1, 2014 at 9:56 am |
    • Akira

      Obviously those people broke a covenant or two.

      May 1, 2014 at 12:10 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      But wait. "Thank God" he saved the Minnesota town from the high-school shooter. They were good enough to save, but the kids in Sandy Hooy were too evil, I guess.

      May 3, 2014 at 12:13 am |
  12. colin31714

    This bit almost made me laugh, "In light of this, it is nothing short of comical that he says, "American society is quickly conforming to a secular worldview, and the clear sense of right and wrong that was Christianity’s gift to Western civilization is being replaced with a much more ambiguous morality."

    As if "a clear sense of right and wrong" has not been a part of every society, pre-Christianity, outside Christianity and in societies that have never heard of Christianity. Christians who think they somehow have a monopoly on, or were instrumental in developing moral codes are woefully ignorant of both history and geography.

    May 1, 2014 at 9:52 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      and given how much immorality is prescribed in the bible, Christianity has actually hindered moral development, not helped it!

      May 1, 2014 at 9:58 am |
  13. Dyslexic doG

    I am god and I say death to you all for any one of dozens of reasons ... oh and btw, I love you.

    May 1, 2014 at 9:51 am |
  14. samsstones

    God affirmed the death penalty for murder as He made His affirmation of human dignity clear to Noah. Really, that pr!ck of a god then proceeded to slaughter all but 8 people in a most horrible way, men, women and innocent children. Affirmation of human dignity my ass, what bullsh!t the whole ugly history of Christianity is.

    May 1, 2014 at 9:48 am |
    • awanderingscot

      tsk tsk. unregenerate God-haters once again trying to bait good God-rearing Christians. it must be hell for all the anger, hate, and inner turmoil roiling inside you due to your wicked unbelief; but it's nothing compared to pain you will feel when you meet Him face to face.

      May 1, 2014 at 10:24 am |
      • colin31714

        Of course, because a person who does not believe in the late Bronze Age Jewish mythology of the bible must clearly be driven by an inner hate, right?

        May 1, 2014 at 10:29 am |
        • awanderingscot

          of course, you're living proof.

          May 1, 2014 at 12:15 pm |
      • samsstones

        scotty
        Freudian slip there. God-rearing is absolutely correct. Man made up the gods and has been building them up for centuries, rearing if you like. I seldom see an atheist bring out the hate word, it is usually the christians that like to feel they are despised by everyone but their own cults; part of the low self esteem for being so deluded. God loves you is that not enough of a crutch for you.

        May 1, 2014 at 10:41 am |
        • awanderingscot

          only an unregenerate and hateful person such as you would come to that evil conclusion. you're pathetic.

          May 1, 2014 at 12:17 pm |
      • Akira

        If we took all of your miniature sermons and rolled them up into one long one, you could become the replacement at Westboro. Phelps had nothing on your fire-and-brimstone hyperbole. You would convert...no one.

        May 1, 2014 at 11:38 am |
        • awanderingscot

          were chosen to be sons of God puke, get over it.

          May 1, 2014 at 12:18 pm |
        • Akira

          Were chosen to be sons of God puke

          I am certain Jesus would not have used those words to describe a child of God. You may want to rethink you proselytizing style, Fred. And learn some punctuation.

          May 1, 2014 at 12:22 pm |
  15. colin31714

    I like how he cherry picks murder as if it were the only offense for which the Bible allowed the death penalty. The Bible not only allows or suggests, but mandates the imposition of the death penalty for:

    Working on the Sabbath or any other holy day
    Blasphemy
    Being gay
    The worship of other gods
    Enticing intimates to worship other gods
    Being a stubborn and rebellious son
    S.ex before marriage – we would have to have death rows on every college campus in America
    S.ex with an engaged virgin
    Striking one’s father or mother
    Cursing or saying cruel things to one’s father or mother
    Practicing as a medium or a fortune-teller

    May 1, 2014 at 9:48 am |
  16. Dyslexic doG

    Deuteronomy 22:20
    But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel:

    Deuteronomy 22:21
    Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die

    May 1, 2014 at 9:28 am |
  17. Dyslexic doG

    And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day.
    Numbers 15:32 Notes

    And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation.
    Numbers 15:33

    And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him.
    Numbers 15:34

    And the LORD said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp.
    Numbers 15:35

    And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the LORD commanded Moses.
    Numbers 15:36

    May 1, 2014 at 9:25 am |
  18. Dyslexic doG

    Exodus 21:17

    And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.

    May 1, 2014 at 9:22 am |
  19. Dyslexic doG

    If your own full brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife, or you intimate friend, entices you secretly to serve other gods …do not yield to him or listen to him, nor look with pity upon him, to spare or shield him, but kill him.
    – Deut 13:7-12

    Get to work Christians. Every word of the Bible must be obeyed right?

    May 1, 2014 at 9:20 am |
  20. Dyslexic doG

    If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father and mother, who does not heed them when they discipline him, then his father and his mother shall ... say to the elders of his town, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the town shall stone him to death.
    – Deut 21

    Get to work on your teenagers Christians. Every word of the Bible must be obeyed right?

    May 1, 2014 at 9:19 am |
    • awanderingscot

      your ignorance of scripture is manifest in that you only quote old testament without even knowing the theme or context. in the old testament our God and your God was making known what sin is and the penalty for sin. He is righteous and just in doing this because it's His creation and He can do as He pleases. subsequent to making it known to us we have a wicked sinful heart He in His mercy offers us amnesty in not giving us the death we deserve for our rebellion. anyone rejecting His offer of salvation will be put to death and that includes you. repent or die.

      May 1, 2014 at 11:33 am |
      • igaftr

        "repent or die"
        AHh ..the proxy threats commonly heard from christian bullies.
        No amount of repenting will prevent you from dying, so your statement makes no sense.

        May 1, 2014 at 11:37 am |
        • awanderingscot

          you won't be so bold when you kneel before Him pleading for your life.

          May 1, 2014 at 12:19 pm |
        • igaftr

          And you won't be so arrogant when you are hanging upside down before Quetzlcoatl and wants to know why you have worshipped the wrong god all these years.

          See, I can make empty proxy threats too.

          May 1, 2014 at 12:45 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.