Friday, May 16, 2014

An Argument that Changed my Mind... Because of its Badness

The death penalty has always been a tough call for me.  Sometime years I have supported it, and sometimes I have objected to it.  I see arguments on both sides.  Recently, I am opposed, but, a friend just pointed me to an anti-death penalty essay that was so bad, it may just have converted me back in favor of capital punishment.

The argument intended to oppose the death penalty went like this:

  1. "Sure, the Old Testament prescribes death for anyone who commits per-meditated murder. But it doesn’t stop there. The Hebrew Scriptures also prescribe the death penalty for kidnapping (Exodus 21:16), bestiality (Exodus 22:12), rape (Deuteronomy 22:24), making a sacrifice to a false god (Exodus 22:20), adultery (Leviticus 20:10), ... and premarital sex (Deuteronomy 22:13-21). A priest was instructed to burn his daughter alive if she was guilty of prostitution (Leviticus 21:9)..." 
  2. "For example, what of the command in Deuteronomy 17:6 that someone could only be put to death on the evidence of two or three witnesses? Why don’t pro-death penalty advocates who ground their thinking in the Old Testament also require this provision before they support an execution? And what about the fact that in most of these cases a monetary substitute was allowed if the offender agreed to it? My pro-death penalty friends can’t seem to give me a clear answer on this."
  3. "Jesus said, “You have heard that it was taught, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”  In one swift and startling statement, Jesus took a hammer to the lex talionis—the basis for capital punishment in the Hebrew Scriptures—and gave those who would follow after him a new way to live."
Let me summarize:
  1. There are lots of Death penalties in the Old Testament.
  2. The Old Testament had rules for administering the Death Penalty.
  3. Jesus said not to take personal revenge if someone slaps you... and somehow thereby negates ALL the Jewish Law!"
So, if I follow the logic:
  1. G^d once gave authority to man to execute lots of Capital punishment, ...
  2.  if certain requirements were met.  
  3. Jesus somehow allegedly negated that with a command on how we personally deal with personal offenses.  But Jesus also said, "17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." Matt 5:17-18.  Plus there are lots of places where Jesus supported the Scriptures (The Old Testament WAS The Scriptures!).
 Don't misunderstand.  Salvation of our soul is by Grace alone, not by keeping the Law!  But if G^d, who is immutable, inerrantly  (i.e. He cannot err and "changing His mind" is impossible when you are creator of time) said that the death penalty is fine for many situations under the right requirements, where is OUR argument?  How can we argue?

Some friends argue that the Old Testament was like a "first draft" and G^d learned a lot dealing with those pesky Israelis.  The New Testament completely replaced the Old, and so thereby The L^rd G^d, Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, has wised up over time.  I won't extend this lengthy post by explaining everything wrong with that argument, but I will say the bad argument in the essay gave me a new outlook favoring the death penalty - it is G^d-given, and should be administered according to G^d-imposed requirements.

Thanks Mr. Essayist, I am now firmly pro-death-penalty with requirements!


  1. Ah, you bring up many points of discussion and you know one of my favorite activities in the whole world is discussing stuff with you. But, I'll restrain myself to one point (see, miracles do happen).

    I oppose the death penalty for a lot of reasons; here is one. Applying fatal OT mandates in the context of the American judicial system is highly problematic. There are plenty of examples of innocent (at least of the crime resulting in the death penalty) people being executed. Knowing that we will not get it right 100% of the time or even close to that, we have to decide which side we are willing to err on--murdering an innocent person or confining a guilty person to life in prison? Obviously I choose the former.

    There are several other reasons I'm opposed to capitol punishment. Some are linked to the organic progression of God's covenants with people, but I think we've danced that dance enough before.

    Although, I realize now I may have made a mistake. All I might have needed to do was a bad argument *for* the death penalty to sway you. :-)

  2. Ahh, YES, I agree (surprise, surprise)! See that last word of the post? It says "requirements" and those requirements would be... observing the Foundational Testament caveats about capital Punishment.
    Q: Do you think G^d did not foresee that there could be mistakes w capital punishment-- Nope, that is not possible.