In the UK the discussion on re-introduction of capital punishment is back with a vengeance after the UK government has decided to move ahead with government-by-petition. In essence this means that any issue garnering the requisite 100,000 votes is eligible for serious contemplation by parliament. It so happens that Guido Fawkes has set up a petition for the re-introduction of the death penalty. One that is on track to garner the 100,000 votes needed.
This in turn leads to His Grace shining his considerable light on the theological, political and sociological aspects of capital punishment.
This is a post you do not want to miss. At once it captures the unattractiveness and some time necessity of the death penalty, and it’s place in Christian doctrine.
St Paul makes it clear that secular rulers have the responsibility to protect those in their charge, and this involves punishing those who act unjustly. When a judge or magistrate inflicts punishment on a condemned person, he or she is not acting on his or her own behalf, but executing God’s own judgement. There is a distinction between afflicting or harming another and avenging, at God’s command, those who themselves inflict harm on others.
Romans 13:4 makes it clear that the secular ruler may use the sword: the ruler who keeps it sheathed while the wicked murder and massacre is guilty of injustice and of dishonouring God who appointed him or her to an office of authority. If it is justifiable to use the sword to defend one’s territory from outside aggression, how can it be unjustifiable not to use it to eradicate seditious intent from within? Of course, like the ‘Just War’, it must be a last resort and not entered into lightly: mercy must always be a consideration. But it is an idolatrous misreading of the NT to assert pacifism in all contexts, or to appeal to the universal ‘sanctity of human life’ of those who have no regard for the concept themselves.
It is a thought-provoking post. Even if you don’t like, and don’t agree, with the outcome. At the very least the post proves that Christianity is not the creed of slaves, that Nietzsche, or the Dutch Protestant Churches (PKN), is asserting it is.