[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at smu.edu
Sun Aug 21 20:50:07 CDT 2011
The Christian case for capital punishment Capital punishment may not be a
cardinal doctrine of Holy Scripture but there is nonetheless a strong biblical
case for the harshest of sentences.
The campaign by political blogger Paul Staines (Guido Fawkes) for the
restoration of capital punishment has a strong Christian case behind it.
It is worth asking why Christian nations have historically enforced the death
penalty whereas societies that are de-Christianising, such as Britain in the
1960s, tend to abolish it.
The answer lies in that society’s changing attitude to the authority of the
That is not to suggest that support for capital punishment is a cardinal
doctrine of Holy Scripture. The Bible is centrally about eternal salvation
through faith in Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sins he died to bring all
mankind, including those guilty of murder. But it is to argue that the Bible
leans strongly towards the death penalty for murderers.
In Genesis 9, God establishes a binding agreement – ‘covenant’ - with Noah, in
which famously the rainbow is the sign that God will not destroy the earth
again by flooding. That covenant includes the following stipulation: ‘Whoso
sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God
made he man’ (Genesis 9v6 – King James Version).
The fact that mankind, male and female, is created in the image of God has been
established in Genesis chapter 1. The institution of the death penalty for
murderers in the Noahic Covenant is thus a practical moral consequence of the
fact that their victims are made in the image of God. They are guilty of
murdering God's image-bearers and so their fellow men have the God-given
responsibility to execute the death penalty upon them.
That does not mean that the image of God has been eradicated in the murderer;
it means that his or her accountability to the God who has made them in his
image involves punitive retribution by death.
That sound biblical theology is in fact reflected in the film The Book of Eli,
set in post-apocalyptic America. The blind, Bible-carrying hero played by
Denzel Washington kills in self-defence a henchman whom he had seen brutally
murdering a husband and wife on the road. Having quoted in King James English
God's condemnation upon fallen mankind in Genesis 3 - 'cursed is the ground for
thy sake...thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee' - Eli tells
the man that he is accountable for what he has done.
That is not to support vigilante-ism but it is to say that the words put into
the mouth of Mr Washington’s character are sound ‘image of God’ theology about
the dignity of human accountability.
But isn’t the Genesis 9 mandate for capital punishment in the primitive Old
Testament? The gory OT is set aside by the more humane New Testament, isn’t it?
For example, Christians are not required to refrain from eating prawns, a clear
prohibition for the people of God in the OT.
Yes, the NT does set aside the ritual and ceremonial laws of the Old. But the
moral commands of the Old are not set aside by the New. Furthermore, the New
affirms the Old's concept that fallen humanity still bears the image of God
(see James 3v9).
Whilst the NT does not explicitly quote the Noahic demand for the death
penalty, I would argue that its affirmation of the OT idea that men and women
are God's image-bearers even in our fallen state means that capital punishment
remains a moral requirement on the State. The death penalty is thus for AD as
well as for BC.
The doctrinal basis of the Church of England in its 39 Articles of Religion
supports the State's moral prerogative to exercise the death penalty and
declares that Christians should not expect to be exempted from it. Article 37 -
Of the Civil Magistrates - states: 'The Laws of the Realm may punish Christian
men with death, for heinous and grievous offences.'
For me the NT clincher for the death penalty is the passage in the Apostle
Paul's epistle to the Romans in which he commands Christians to respect the
‘powers that be’, describing them in this remarkable personalised way: ‘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 13v4).
The sword was an instrument of execution upon Roman citizens, of which Paul
himself was one. We can thus see from his invocation of the sword of justice
here that Paul clearly believed that the Roman imperial government, which he
regarded as the 'minister of God', had a God-given responsibility to enforce
the death penalty.
(source: Opinion; Julian Mann is vicar of the Parish Church of the Ascension,
Oughtibridge, South Yorkshire----The Christian Today)
Nation Closer to Abolishing the Death Penalty
Benin has taken an important step towards abolishing the death penalty after
the country's National Assembly yesterday voted in favour of ratifying an
international treaty banning capital punishment.
Benin would be the 74th state worldwide to join the Second Optional Protocol to
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which calls for the
death penalty to be abolished.
"The Beninese authorities shold be commended for this important step that would
bring their criminal justice system in line with the global trend to outlaw
this cruel punishment," said Veronique Aubert, Amnesty International's Deputy
Directory for Africa.
"Benin's President Boni Yayi must act swiftly to finalize Benin's ratification
of the Optional Protocol and Benin's example must be followed by neighbouring
West African countries who have yet to abolish the death penalty," said
While Benin's penal code has allowed for the death penalty to be handed down
for various offences, Beninese authoriities have not executed anyone for more
than 2 decades.
To Amnesty International's knowledge, the last executions in Benin took place
in Septemeber 1987, when 2 people where shot after receiving death sentences
for ritual murder. The previous year, 6 people had been executed by shooting
after being convicted of armed robbery and murder. The last death sentence was
handed down in 2010 to a woman sentenced in absentia for murder.
At least 14 people are currently on death row in Benin's prisons.
Benin joins other countries in moving towards the abolition of the death
penalty in Africa. To date, 16 African countries hav eabolished the death
penalty for all crimes, including 3 - Burundi, Togo and Gabon - in the lasat 2
Despite these important advances, work remains to be done to abolish the death
In 2010, 23 countries carried out executions and 67 imposed new death
sentences. Among the methods of execution used were beheading, electrocution,
hanging, lethal injection and shooting.
"The death penalty is the ultimate cruel and inhumane punishment, and should
never be used by any state under any circumstances," said Veronique Aubert.
"Those countries that still execute offenders are increasingly isolated as they
battle against the changing tide of global public opinion and legal practice on
the death penalty."
(source: Amnesty International/All Africa Global Media)
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