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The death penalty for murder - a Biblical duty of well governed states

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Many claim that the European aversion to the death penalty arises from theological grounds. John Paul II's encyclical Evangelium Vitae certainly captures the thought of the age, 'the overall message, which the New Testament will bring to perfection, is a forceful appeal for respect for the inviolability of physical life and the integrity of the person.' The sixth command absolutely prohibits state executions, 'As explicitly formulated, the precept "You shall not kill" is strongly negative: it indicates the extreme limit which can never be exceeded.' He cites the New Catholic Catechism with strong approval,

Public authority must redress the violation of personal and social rights by imposing on the offender an adequate punishment for the crime, as a condition for the offender to regain the exercise of his or her freedom. In this way authority also fulfils the purpose of defending public order and ensuring people's safety, while at the same time offering the offender an incentive and help to change his or her behaviour and be rehabilitated. 47

It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.

In any event, the principle set forth in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church remains valid: "If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority must limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person"

It is ironic in the extreme that the Church of Rome should teach such things without any reference to its own history, which is literally drenched in blood. The Frenchman Baron Antoine de Ponnat wrote in his 'Histoire des variations et contradictions de l'Église romaine', published in 1881, 'Roman Catholicism was born in blood, has wallowed in blood, has quenched its thirst in blood, and it is in letters of blood that its true history is written'. He wrote this before the Holocaust, for which the Vatican and Protestant theologians laid a substantial foundation. Millions of peaceful fellow citizens, who were
Jews, Albigenses, Waldensians, Protestants and even Catholics, have died at the instigation or with the connivance of Roman authorities. Here is the account of the martyrdom of godly John Huss. It is understandable that serious evidence of contrition and attempts at restitution should be made for these mass murders, but not to acknowledge them and then to pretend to act as a moral arbiter is not only deeply unpersuasive it is hypocritical in the extreme.

However it is not just Roman Catholic authorities that oppose the death penalty on theological grounds. Liberal churches who have embraced evolutionary views of human nature's innate goodness and progressive development, reminiscent of Pelagius' worst poison, also virulently oppose execution. No wonder, once death itself is no longer perceived as the Divinely imposed penalty for sin, indeed the very notion of Divine retribution is regarded as primitive and retrograde, for execution acts as an unwelcome reminder of God's real nature and the real demands of His justice. For let us strike to the core. At its root this is not a debate about the inadvertent death of the mistried, or about a failure to attempt reform the most serious criminals, or even about the value of capital punishment to deter. For all these antagonists it is fundamentally a question of who God is, and what He is like. In this respect, we shall demonstrate, this general position is not merely a belying of God's revealed character, nor a denial of His will, nor just itself a piece of primitive and pagan theological make believe, but a rebellious hatred and suppression of His warning, 'in the day that ye eat of it, dying ye shall die'. The curious thing is that evangelicals often embrace this antinomian policy too, without exposing it.


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Some pertinent texts:

Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. Romans 1.29-32.

And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man.Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.   Genesis 9.5-6

Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest.
For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar  Acts 25.10-11.

And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand.
And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. Acts 28.3-4.

The duty of ministers of state

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:
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. Romans 13.3-4.

The widespread denial of retribution in law is a dangerous and cruel attempt to suppress the reality of Divine anger

If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,
The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. Revelation 14.9b-11.

Earthly punishments are ordained as a small glimpse of the eternal Divine wrath which will surely and shortly follow upon the impenitent

To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste. Deut. 32.35 

Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people. Deut 32.43

And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? Rev. 6.10



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