So What's This All About?

In case you didn't know, I'm in the multi-year-long process of posting a Christian devotional at the TAWG Blog. The TAWG Blog is, and always will be, mostly apolitical. For the most part, Bible-believing Christians will find little to disagree with there. But I also firmly believe that God's word can--and should--inform everything in life, and this should include politics and popular culture. How should we vote? How should we respond to hot topics such as abortion, capital punishment, taxes, and other issues? Which party, if either, is closer to the Biblical ideal? Tony Campolo and Ron Sider, Evangelicals whose political leanings are on the Left, have made the case in several of their writings that God wants his followers to vote politically on the Left more than on the Right. At times, some of them have gone so far as to equate voting on the Left with obedience to Christ, either subtly or not-so-subtly contending that the converse is true as well: If you vote Republican, you're sinning against the Savior.
I don't agree. I think that to the degree they actually resort to the Bible, they're misinterpreting it. With a whole bunch of caveats, I think politically conservative positions are a lot more compatible with the Scriptures than the Leftist positions.
Just to clarify, I would never accuse people who disagree with me--especially siblings in Christ--of what they accuse me of. I don't judge my own heart, much less anyone else's, and I don't equate political disagreement with theological fidelity to God. I have no reason to doubt their love for the Lord and "for the least of these," but I believe that they're sincerely wrong.
So there are two main purposes for this blog. One is to make a case for my political beliefs based on Scripture. The other is a bit more vague, basically to work out my political beliefs and figure out what's based on Scripture and what's based on my own biases. I certainly don't have all the answers. Some of this stuff I'm still figuring out. And I'm certainly open to correction. As long as you make your case civilly and based on Scripture, feel free to make a comment, and I promise I'll post it and consider your arguments thoughtfully and prayerfully. Who knows? Maybe we'll learn a little something from each other.
May God bless our common striving together towards both the "little t" truth and "Big T" Truth. Our watchword here is a line from C. S. Lewis's The Last Battle: "Further up and further in!"

P.S. -- Below on the left is "Topics I've Covered" which lists everything I've posted topically. It's come to my attention that some people would like to see everything just listed for them. If that's you, you can get it here. Thanks to my friend Stephen Young for the tip!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Why just for murder, some safeguards, and my fantasy proposal

Today I’ll post some (probably) final thoughts on capital punishment, since with this I’ve pretty exhausted what I have to say on the subject.
            The first thing I want to address is: Why are you only in favor capital punishment for murder? The Old Testament calls for the death penalty for about 20 crimes, such as cursing one’s parents, worshipping idols, breaking the Sabbath, etc. Why not those as well?
            All of those crimes were punishable under the Old Covenant. I believe that God feels just as strongly as ever about the principles behind those laws, but as a society I don’t call for them to be enforced by law. I’ll probably address this more in depth later, but for now my main passages on this are 2 Cor. 10:4-5 and Eph. 6:12, both of which present the principle that our tools in this age on spiritual matters are spiritual weapons used against spiritual forces, not physical weapons like guns or bombs.
            But basic order must be kept in society, and as a society we can’t just use spiritual means against them. Remember, we live in the age in which Romans 13 is in full effect, so obviously God hasn’t changed anything on that score. So I just go back to Genesis 9:6--which is addressed to all of Noah's descendants, which would include all of us. It pretty clearly calls for the death penalty for murder. All of the other capital crimes in the O.T. (e.g., for adultery) are under the Old Covenant specifically for the ancient nation of Israel. I believe in the principle behind all of the laws stated (more on that here), but I don't believe in the application of the penalty for anything but premeditated murder. 
            How about for rape or sexual abuse of children? No. As horrible as those crimes are, I think that the ultimate crime (murder) should have reserved for it the ultimate punishment. Life imprisonment? Yeah, I could go for that. Of course, this is not backed up by the Bible as much as the other stuff I’ve said.
            I mentioned yesterday that the Lord--along with instituting capital punishment--also put in some important and explicit safeguards against an innocent person being executed. First and foremost, he put in some pretty heavy penalties against perjury, specifically against false accusation. How severe? Let's say that you accuse a person of murder, and it turns out that your accusation was false. You get the death penalty for that.Why wouldn't you? You attempted to murder an innocent man, it just so happened that you tried to utilize the state as your weapon of choice. Also, the Lord specifically ordered that no one be convicted of any crime based on one person's word against another's. You had to have at least two or three witnesses who were willing to testify (who're likely very aware of the penalty for perjury). 
            On a last note, I want to call your attention to Ecclesiastes 8:11: “When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, people’s hearts are filled with schemes to do wrong.” People try to claim that the death penalty is not a deterrent (which, to be brutally frank, flatly contradicts what the Bible says), but within that nonsense there’s a kernel of truth. Part of my response would be “Of course it’s not really a deterrent when you kinda sorta carry out the death penalty but not really.” If someone murders someone and they spend 20-30 years on death row, that’s not capital punishment, at least not anything that the Bible would recognize as such. To me that seems a lot crueler than what I propose.
            I understand that we want to make every effort not to execute an innocent person. I get that. So here’s my proposal:
1)      When someone gets convicted of murder (not just negligent homicide, but the intentional taking of a human life, particularly if there’s premeditation involved), the clock starts ticking.
2)      One year after the conviction, we’re going to retry the case ONE more time. We use a different judge in a completely different jurisdiction, different prosecuting attorney, and a different defense attorney, and of course different jurors. And to add an extra layer of protection, let’s have the state spring some extra money for capital cases, so the defendant can have the best representation on the market, not a 3rd rate lawyer who barely passed the bar. I want the top-notch attorneys tripping all over themselves to represent defendants because they pay well.
3)      If the person gets convicted again under those same conditions, he/she is executed the next day. Not 20 years from now. Not after 20 more appeals. The next day.
4)      Also under this system, if you’ve killed a person unjustifiably, based on the same principle that we hold human life to be extremely valuable, the only two possible punishments are A) Death, or B) Life imprisonment.
      By the way, can someone explain this to me?  Let's imagine that you're accused of killing someone, and let’s assume for a moment that there are extenuating circumstances, or there’s real doubt that you did it (again, this happens a lot more on TV than in real life). Why is anyone let out of prison for that crime except in a coffin? Why is a man given 10 years for murder? Why is he given anything less than a life sentence? If I was the judge, I’d say “Tell you what—you’ll get out of prison once this person comes back to life. On the day, you’re a free man. Until that day, you’re never going to see the outside of a prison again.”

            You see, there’s an easy-to-see principle at work here. Gen. 9:6 says that because mankind is stamped with God’s image, we value human life, and therefore we’re going to execute murderers. Once you step away from that verse, once you remove capital punishment as a possibility—either by officially removing it from the books, or by giving convicted murderers 20 years of appeals—you demonstrate that you don’t value human life as much as you once did. That’s why prison sentences in states or nations in which capital punishment is done away with (either officially or unofficially) steadily go down.
            Are any of my reforms going to happen? Of course not, at least not in the foreseeable future. Our society has gotten further and further away from the influence of God’s word, and even among Bible believers who are really confused on this issue and who claim that the Lord is against capital punishment. As I’ve said so before, I don’t question their commitment to our Savior, but I heartily question their biblical hermeneutics, and--to be brutally frank--their thinking skills.
            Or at least that’s how I see it.

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