Levellers

Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Evangelicals: A Major Force Behind High Rate of Executions in Texas

Like Jonothan Marlowe of The Ivy Bush, I find this article nauseating.  Texas is the capital punishment capital of the USA, which makes it one of the most pro-execution places on the planet, since the U.S. trails only China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, and the Sudan in numbers of executions in 2006. In 2005, the U.S. was 4th in numbers of executions, trailing only China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. [ Data Source.] Great company to keep.  The article in question shows that a major factor in the huge Texas support for the death penalty, is the extremely high percentage of U.S. evangelicals in Texas! 

How revolting. “Evangelical” means “gospel centered,” but apparently Texas evangelicals have completely missed the gospel. If we declare “Jesus is Lord,” then we worship and serve One who was, Himself, the victim of unjust state execution.  Have these “evangelicals” missed all of Jesus’ teachings on nonviolence, enemy love, forgiveness, and leaving vengeance to God? (Reconciling God’s compassion and wrath as displayed in Scripture is a major theological problem that we won’t solve here and now. But it is worth noting that throughout Scripture we are commanded to imitate God’s compassion and forbidden to imitate God’s wrath or vengeance.)

In his post on this, Jonothan notes that he has been determined to hold onto the label “evangelical” as a self-description, but that articles like this make it very difficult. I understand completely.  A global view is helpful:  Around the world most evangelicals (and other Christians) are against the death penalty.  The current campaign in Italy (which abolished the death penalty long ago, as with most of Europe) to spread death penalty abolition throughout the world was started, not by Italian Communists or secularists, but by Italian Christians. It began in the evangelical Protestant community, although the campaign was quickly endorsed by the Vatican and spread rapidly through Italy’s much more dominant Catholic community.  If any politician in the UK or Australia or Canada or Europe or South Africa tries to drum up support for a “bring back the death penalty” campaign, their pastors or bishops rebuke them publicly and they get angry letters from Christian constituents–the exact opposite of what happens in the U.S.

It’s almost as if “evangelical” means something in the U.S. completely different than anywhere else.  Everywhere “evangelical” means gospel-centered: Protestants who give supreme authority in matters of faith and morality to Scripture (often-but-not-always using the label “inerrant” for Scripture), who make personal conversion and justification by faith central.  But in the U.S.–AS ALMOST NOWHERE ELSE–“evangelical” has the additional meaning of “politically right wing–in favor of militarism and the death penalty, hating universal healthcare and public education, neglecting the poor, contemptuous of the environmental fragility, lustful for wealth, etc.

So, Jonothan, I suggest that if we “gospel-centered” Christians in the U.S., who follow the nonviolent, compassionate Jesus, crucified and risen, as Lord, want to keep the term “evangelical” without constant embarrassment, we do more give the term the same connotations as it has globally and strip it of its uniquely American connotations. Otherwise, the term is useless.

It is also clear that we will never abolish the death penalty in the U.S. without the support of the churches. So, how do we grow abolitionist Christians–in Texas and throughout ever pro-death penalty state in the U.S.?  How long do we let state-sponsored revenge and the cycle of violence take God’s Name in vain?

August 14, 2007 - Posted by | Christianity, death penalty, scandal

20 Comments

  1. For some pseudo-christians sancity of life only applies to the first nine months after conception. It is ironic that they value pre-natal life and struggle with all their strength to preserve it yet equally actively support war and the death penalty.

    I feel nauseous.

    Comment by Tauratinzwe | August 14, 2007

  2. Michael,

    Your article here blurs the vast differences among the countries you mentioned and how they use the death penalty and it assumes that the justice systems of each is equal. Now, grant it that we don’t have a perfect justice system, but the problem isn’t necessarily the punishment, but rather that it may be used wrongly in some cases (and we certainly should explore that and rectify it).

    Also, you assume that Jesus was against the government using the death penalty, yet God chose this method for Christ’s death without the slightest reference in the Old or New Testaments to its “godlessness.” Not once do we have Christ or any other New Testament (or Old Testament figure for that matter) decrying the use of the death penalty. Not Peter, who was himself capitally punished, and certainly not Paul, who articulates clearly the position of Christianity in regards to capital punishment in Romans 13 (a text, that might I remind you, you have yet to explain away, despite repeated threats that you will actually do some exegesis on you site regarding this passage), while himself being killed by the state as well.

    The support from Christians comes as a testimony of our view of the sacredness of life, just as you miss the point in our support of the ABOLITION of ABORTION (interesting that you often reference David Gushee, who taught us at Union to have a consistent pro-life ethic, which involves deep distain for abortion, something you support as a human right – how horrid!) does the same.

    And your comments about universal health care, care for the poor and creation care, are not only red-herrings, but stereotypes that truly miss the boat when examined properly. Evangelicals do take care of the poor, but we disagree with Liberals about how to do it (we take a Dwight L. Moody approach – by the way remember that Republicans actually helped to bandaid the ailing welfare system under Clinton – legislation that he did indeed sign), and we tend to especially hate universal health care because of its socialist undertones that tend to lead toward either health care failings (like in Canada) or outright socialism (like what Europe is now seeking to crawl out from underneath of).

    You see, the way it seems you see it is that if Evangelicals don’t view solutions to problems like you do, then apparently they don’t care (or they are just stupid or ignorant of true Christianity). My contention is that liberal policies offer only a partial solution (to the real problem which is our sinful nature), the cost of which is greater than they have the foresight to see.

    Comment by D.R. Randle | August 14, 2007

  3. DR Randle said, “The support from Christians[for government sanctioned murder–a.k.a. “capital punishment”] comes as a testimony of our view of the sacredness of life”–which is like saying that rape is a testimony to the high regard for women.

    Randle cannot get the topic right. The topic is not abortion (which I have never called a human right–thanks for bearing false witness), nor Republicans vs. Democrats. The topic is the putrid support for executions by Texas evangelicals.

    Dwight L. Moody, whom Randle misquotes for neglecting the poor, was against both war and the death penalty, saying, “in this regard, I have always been a Quaker at heart.”

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | August 14, 2007

  4. And, yes, I think that anyone who restricts aid to the poor to private handouts (or liberal welfare policies in place of real justice), rapes or ignores the environment, and supports violence such as the death penalty is either not truly converted or converted to something else than the gospel–no matter how many creeds they quote. Not all who say to Jesus “Lord, Lord,” will enter the Reign of God.

    By the way, how does killing criminals help them convert?

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | August 14, 2007

  5. Talking about twisting words and bearing false witness Michael, WOW! You did a number on what I said, all the while ignoring my point and firing back with more red herrings.

    First, you blur the argument by calling capital punishment murder. As a Christian surely you understand that God called for capital punishment in the Old Testament as part of the Law. Was He a murderer? Or was He simply wrong in that regard? You can’t simply ignore that the Old Testament law called for capital punishment and even if we are not under the Law (but then again we also aren’t a Christian nation and our laws aren’t subject to the Bible – isn’t that what you believe?), surely you can see that it was meant for a purpose, which was to punish those who committed a crime and thus should be separated from murder, which is the killing of innocent life for selfish reasons. Also, please deal with Romans 13 once and for all so we can see how you can dismiss Paul’s words as not talking about God giving secular governments the sword (death penalty) to execute His judgement upon the ungodly who do evil.

    Killing a man who killed is justice. That is what they deserve. Not giving someone what they deserve is mercy and giving someone something that they don’t deserve is grace. The goverment is in the justice business, and Christians are in the grace and mercy business. Please don’t confuse the two. The fact that I can extend mercy to someone who has wronged me doesn’t mean I should not support the goverment acting justly to punish when it has been wronged.

    Now, after you blurred the lines of murder and capital punishment (by the way, your comparison to rape was so over the top and anti-intellectual it is useless in dealing with), you went on to accuse me of bearing false witness, so please set the record straight for us and answer a question – Is abortion a human right that women should be given to exercise at their discretion? Or should women have the fundamental right to abort their babies? And do you support any legislation that would restrict women from having abortions?

    So I will admit that I am wrong if you can say that you don’t believe that abortion is a right that women should be extended in this country. Is that what you are willing to say for the public record?

    Now, moving on to my actual post, you completely missed my point about Dwight Moody. If you go back and read about how he took care of the poor, he believed that any poor person should not be fed unless they were willing to take part in their care, i.e., work. He did not believe in so-called “free lunches” on which our welfare system has been based. What no one wants to talk about are people who fleece the welfare system while those who are willing to work fall behind further and further (I actually have personal examples of this, not a stereotypical “welfare queen” in mind – ask me and I will be willing to share them). There is no justice in that, nor is their justice in a welfare system that punishes people for getting jobs and rewards them for staying in a broken system. So excuse me for wanting to cut entitlements that do more harm than good and keep people trapped in poverty.

    As for your second comment, no Evangelical that I know of (and maybe you ought to prove your point here instead of insinuating it), believes that all government money should be cut off to the poor and only private handouts be given. Conservative Christians do believe that they can do better than the government (and study after study shows that they give the most to charities, even when you take out their contributions to religious organizations) and thus want to cut entitlements for the reasons that I talked about earlier. It is an equivocation to say that cutting entitlements means that one does not care about the poor. That is simply false! Again, you seem to think that if one does not uphold your particular solution to a problem, then they simply should be thought of as not caring about the problem, which is a false accusation itself.

    As fcr ignoring the environment, that accusastion may be because we aren’t sheep and don’t bow down at the altar of Al Gore and the Global Warming crowd. I actually believe in market-based solutions, not those that will hurt the very people that need it the most – the lower class workers and the poor, whose jobs will be the first to be cut if we initiate radical proposals to end global warming (or cooling, or whatever psuedo-science is popular at the time). But many Christians I know recycle, use CFL’s, and support cutting back on emisions. We just want a solution that works for all, not just the enviro-crazies.

    Finally, you continue to ignore the Bible and just simply chant the same message over and over again. Decrying creeds doesn’t amount to actually dealing with the text. Of course, clearly you think I am not saved (which is interesting since you are an inclusivist), since I support the death penalty for those who commit murder, but unfortunatly I find no text in the Bible that supports your notion. I wonder what your reaction would have been had I insinuated on my blog that you were not a Christian.

    Anyway, finally, since you mentioned conversion on criminals on death row, I think I have a better foot to stand on that you in that regard. I actually support policies that give more access to Evangelicals in prisons, while liberals seem to want to kick out any organization that supports criminals and seeks to convert them to Christ (including your friend Bruce Prescott who regularly demeans Prison Fellowship, clearly the most successful Christian ministry to prisons). The fact is that the average stay of men on death row in this country is over 10 years, with many more waiting 30 years or more before execution. In prison that is quite a while to consider one’s sins and offers quite a opportunity to repent. Of course, if you want to continue to throw out barbs rather than dealing with the issues, I might ask you how much you actually work in the prison system with those on death row to convert them, rather than just accusing those who do work with prisoners of being unsaved.

    Comment by D.R Randle | August 14, 2007

  6. (raises hand) Umm…Mr. Randle? While you’ve focused on your justifications, the broader question in Michael’s original post is not answered. Why do Americans– and Evangelicals in particular -seem to contribute to the pro-execution position, whereas it seems completely different outside, including by global Evangelicals? As a Canadian, I read your commentary as typical of an American Evangelical. Thus, when is being American detrimental and beneficial to an Evangelical identity? When you are able to answer this satisfactorily, then perhaps your embrace of the death penalty will make sense to me. Otherwise, your position will just seem defensive and misguided. Sorry.

    Comment by Jadon | August 14, 2007

  7. Thanks for stopping by, Jadon. D.R. Randle violated so many of my rules for commenting (length, staying on topic, etc.) that I probably should have removed his comment, but I let him rave and foam at the mouth this time.

    My own post was, I admit, more passion than careful argument. I have written careful arguments against the death penalty repeatedly, some of which have been published in collected works on the topic. (The article which was mostly biblical exposition and discussion of hermeneutical method can be found as my chapter in Religion and the Death Penalty: A Call for Reckoning, ed., Erik C. Owens, John D. Carlson, and Eric P. Elshtain (Eerdmans, 2004). )
    But this news article made me angry and so my post and my reaction to Randle’s comments were more in the form of a rant than careful argument.
    But you, Jadon, have nicely illustrated one of my main points: that U.S. pro-dp evangelicals think that their pro-dp view is just “obviously” biblical and fail to deal with the fact that this view is rare among Christians, including Evangelicals, anywhere else on earth. I invite global Evangelicals to chime in here and show Randle just how isolated in this regard he and his fellow American pro-dp evangelicals are–as isolated and wrong as when American evangelicals supported slavery.
    Of course, opinion surveys do not settle truth claims. But if we show how isolated the U.S. pro-dp evangelicals are even by global evangelical standards, maybe they will entertain an idea: that their pro-dp reading of Scripture is not simply obvious. That they have been TAUGHT to read Scripture that way. That’s the first step for them to consider anti-dp arguments from other evangelicals fairly. They cannot do so as long as they do not realize that they have adopted a grid and placed it over Scripture (as we all do) and that maybe they need to switch grids or lenses.
    So, please. Any evangelical readers from the UK or Australia or Europe, Canada, etc. please join in. Tell us your views–and tell us what the majority views are of Christians where you live.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | August 14, 2007

  8. Ok, Jadon, I will answer your question (though I don’t understand your wording). And Michael, I have been around long enough on your blog to see that your rules are regularly violated without the slightest whiff of problem when coming from a voice with which you agree. The problem sometimes comes when you dance all around in your post and hit on a number of topics. It’s hard to address one issue when you put so many of them out there (even when they don’t connect, despite your efforts to do so).

    Now, as for why American Evangelicals view the death penalty different than Evangelicals in other areas of the world, I believe socially it is directly tied to the history of our nation and the role of government in the judicial system. In most countries the legal system is a complete joke and capital punishment is broadly applied. In America, there are strict boundaries for what qualifies for capital punishment and what does not (only premeditated or heinous murder). This narrow application, along with a general sense that the judicial system actually works, (though imperfectly) to me, makes capital punishment a legitimate practice for the government to engage in.

    As for Biblical support, look to what I have already noted, namely that not one time is capital punishment mentioned negatively in the Bible. It was a strong deterent in the Law for criminals and even when men of the Bible (including Christ, Peter, and Paul) were victims of an unjust system leading to captial punishment, the method was never noted as being corrupt, but rather the individuals invoking the punishment wrongly. But the real kicker is Romans 13:1-5, in which Paul seems to suggest that capital punishment is uniquely bestowed upon government as a means to deter crime and as a witness to the wrath of God on earth. The clearest statement comes in vv. 4-5, “For he [the government that God establishes] is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” Remember too here that Paul is not talking about a system of government like that which we have in America today. He was speaking of the very government which would kill him for being a Christ follower, yet he speaks no ill of the use of captial punishment (bearing the sword).

    I don’t see how much more clear the text can be in both the OT and NT. The God-given right and duty of government is to punish wrongdoers, up to and including using the death penalty. And throughout Church history we see only rare instances when anyone in the Church felt otherwise, with almost none coming the early centuries of Christianity when captial punishment was used on them.

    Finally, let me add a word about Michael’s comments about the rarity of holding such a view among Evangelicals in the world. Michael himself disagrees with the majority of Evangelicals worldwide on issues like abortion, homosexuality, women in ministry, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, and the exclusivism of salvation. So I am not sure why holding a minority view is such an issue here for him, especially in the fact that in those other issues there is often an unbroken history of belief to which Michael does not ascribe.

    Jadon, if that doesn’t answer your question, then please let me know exactly what you mean when you say, “when is being American detrimental and beneficial to Evangelical identity?” I wasn’t sure where you were going there. Also, you must understand that Michael isn’t clearly articulating the position of Evangelicals in the U.S. when it comes to the death penalty. Most Evangelicals that I know would not CALL for the death penalty to be used were they to suffer tragedy at the hands of another person. Yet, they believe that it is a just punishment for the murderer, thus it should be allowed to be used. So, for instance, should someone kill my wife, I would ask the District Attorney not to seek the death penalty. But I believe a DA and a State has a right to seek such a penalty and it should be used if desired by the State and the family of the victim. I hope that helps to explain some of the differences of views here.

    Comment by D.R Randle | August 14, 2007

  9. D.R Randle,

    I must say I find you to be as aggravatingly bizarre as you doubtless find Michael to be – and will find me to be also.

    How can you read a story in which the central character is killed by the state and then say with a straight face that capital punishment is acceptable? Your arguments are like straw in the wind next to the central fact that Jesus Christ by submitting to the violence of Rome demonstrated how completely illegitimate it is! The whole point of the Gospel is that the human ways of violence, the human order of nations, and the human system of passing judgment is being declared bankrupt – to be replaced by God’s kingdom and God’s way.

    As for your favorite passage Rom 13. Paul believed that the end of the world was literally nigh. He counseled his followers to endure the present sufferings in the light of immediate apocalyptic salvation. He did not believe that the Roman state was anymore a part of God’s intended order than Satan is – it is part of what is destined to pass away. Rather, he used typical Jewish language to describe how God was using Rome as a means to an ends in the present age. Just as Babylon was “used” by God to punish Israel – but was then punished for that very same action. Rome wields the sword now, but not because it is acceptable – simply as a way of explaining what is. To say that Rome does not “wield the sword in vain” is just to say – hey watch out they’ll kill you.

    I don’t have high hopes of you beginning to understand this, but if you are finding ways to harmonize the gospel with Capital Punishment you must be a pretty flexible guy, because that is one hell of a stretch.

    Comment by Aric Clark | August 15, 2007

  10. Arik,

    You really didn’t deal with my argument, you simply skirted them. The fact that I believe that captial punishment is the right of the state is consistent with Paul believing the same thing. You have to insert quite a deal into that text to overcome the plain meaning of it, which you surely, but unsuccessfully tried. Again, my reading is consistent with the early Church Fathers on that. And I find your statement that “The whole point of the Gospel is that the human ways of violence, the human order of nations, and the human system of passing judgment is being declared bankrupt – to be replaced by God’s kingdom and God’s way” to be lacking. The point of the Gospel is to declare Christ as the Son of God and to call men to repent and believe upon Him for salvation. His death was an atoning one. He died for our sin – He was punished for our sin and then His righteousness is imputed to us. Sure, the human way of doing things is lacking, but Christ absolutely did not abolish all human institutions. And in Paul’s letter to the Romans he clearly reminds them of this. He clearly states that governments are God’s servants and do bear the sword as “an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” Your gymnastics around that text are just simply not conclusive here. And if I am making a stretch (which I heartily disagree with), then at least I am doing so with the Church Fathers, with Paul, and with other historic Christians.

    Comment by D.R Randle | August 15, 2007

  11. D.R Randle,

    Paul did not believe that capital punishment was the legitimate right of the state. He acknowledged the reality that the state exercises lethal force and tried to explain how it is set in the larger order of God’s purpose. The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ conclusively proves the illegitimacy of violence once and for all. The point is not that he was “wrongly executed” but that execution is wrong. The undermining of Pilate’s authority in the gospels isn’t about saying that Pilate made a procedural error, but that Pilate didn’t have any authority to begin with – the one on the cross is king and only he has power to judge. The many martyrs in the early church scream out from their graves at your horrific interpretation which makes their deaths a mockery. Those who refused to worship caesar did so knowing that they were committing a crime for which the state would execute them. It was legal and appropriate in every sense that they be burned or fed to the lions. The point of their witness is that the state itself is illegitimate because Jesus is the Christ.

    You say, “The point of the Gospel is to declare Christ as the Son of God and to call men to repent and believe upon Him for salvation. His death was an atoning one. He died for our sin – He was punished for our sin and then His righteousness is imputed to us.”

    You found my formulation of the gospel lacking, but I find that you have not gospel at all. You, like many evangelicals, have turned the gospel into a privatized me-and-jesus affair where you can cower in fear from your abusive father god whose greatest act of love was to murder his own son. This isn’t the gospel it’s a nightmare.

    Comment by Aric Clark | August 15, 2007

  12. Randle represents the muddled and contradictory view of the majority of American Christians. How precious that he frames his support of executions “as a testimony of our view of the sacredness of life.”

    Life is so sacred we must kill!!!!!!

    Comment by pf | August 15, 2007

  13. One of the things that caused me to lose my faith was the blood lust of Christians. For example, something like 75% or more of evangelical Christians support war in Iraq and voted for Bush, and have no problem with his use of torture and abandonment of the people of New Orleans during Katrina. Christians in America love death.

    To me, this means: A) The God they speak to is a very bad God. This is the position of the Gnostics in ancient days, that the world sucked, so if it was created by God, it wasn’t a good God. Or: B) They full of shit and are hearing their own voices when they pray. Or: C) They are true Christians, but they just get some little things wrong because the Scriptures are hard to interpret.

    I used to believe “C” but that was a form of delusion on my part. Look, the Bible has all sorts of contradictory positions in it. The God of the Hebrew Bible had no trouble wiping out huge swatches of people, as Randle notes. Trying to blend the Old and New Testaments into a consistent ethic is not possible.

    The irony, of course, is that Randle counts himself as a follower of Jesus, who said to love those who do wrong and certainly was opposed to killing as punishment or for any other reason. Christians believe that the Hebrew scriptures were wrong about many things, including the nature of God and the path of salvation, but when it comes to blood lust, they choose the Hebrew books over Christ.

    That we are — for guidance on current policies — nipicking apart books like Romans (for which nobody has any real idea who really wrote it or whether it was accurately copied) is madness. The book was written by and to people living in a barbaric age in which the government could kill anybody for any reason, people who had no conception of civil rights or the rule of law. Whatever it says, it should have no bearing on how we treat people today.

    Comment by pf | August 15, 2007

  14. PF, I hear the pain of your lost faith. Like so many ex-Christians, you seem angry with God for not existing. But your real anger is with (U.S.) Christians. May I suggest that you have only met the wrong kind of Christians, even in this country?

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | August 15, 2007

  15. Aric,

    There is no way I can begin to unravel the wrangeled mess that is your first paragraph. But I will say that it is ironic that you note that I dishonor the martyrs when it is you who believes that their death was in vain – in vain because you seem to believe that one does not have to be converted and believe on the name of Christ to be saved. Why then did these die, if they did not have to believe upon Christ? If they did not have stand in persecution and declare the name of Christ to inherit eternal life? The martyrs of the early Chruch were united in their belief that persecution must be endured in order to be saved, even to the point of excommunicating those who relented of their faith, declaring them to not be of Christ.

    As for your rather angry sounding and completely misconstrued statement, “You, like many evangelicals, have turned the gospel into a privatized me-and-jesus affair where you can cower in fear from your abusive father god whose greatest act of love was to murder his own son. This isn’t the gospel it’s a nightmare,” I stand astonished. First, while Church is community and no one is an island to himself in Christianity, no one can be saved or can believe for me. It requires a personal relationship with Christ. So in that regard it is private. No where do we ever see in Scripture on in Church History that salvation was a community act – that is actually Old Testament. Now, all men are called to repent – there are no exceptions. And no one can repent for you.

    As for cowering in fear, that’s simply silly. Hebrews declares that we can boldly approach the throne of God and see mercy and grace in our time of need, yet we are commanded in Peter that “Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.” And yet we are told by Jesus to address our Father as ABBA. The Psalmist tell us that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” and we watch in Isaiah the unfolding of his call in which he lays prostrate before the Lord in fear. Cowering in fear is not what we are called to do, Aric, but reverent fear always accompanies Godliness.

    And the abusive Father tirade is old and lacks creativity and deep thought. First, it lacks reality in that God is never and can never be a murderer. You simply cannot throw around terms applying them in whatever way you wish. God created us and has all power to destroy us. Scripture overflows with this teaching. If you reject this teaching then you have a problem with God, not with Evangelicals like me. And you have a problem with Scripture, particularly when you come to Acts 5 and Ananias and Sapphira, when you deal with Jesus speaking about those being crushed by the tower, and you most certainly have a problem with the book of Revelation and with Jesus Christ who will one day ride in judgement and destroy the nations.

    This argument also lacks a proper understanding of the Bible. First, it completely ignores the story of Abraham and Isaac, and the clear symbolism of the atoning death of Christ being forshadowed. And it ignores key texts like Isaiah 53. I wish I could quote the whole thing here. But just look at verse 10: “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush Him and to cause Him to suffer.” Of course God killed Christ, but it is not divine child abuse, it is fulfillment of Scripture – fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrificial system – fulfillment of redemptive history (He was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world). And if that is offensive to you then GOOD – Christ said the gospel was an offense. And many turned away because He called them to drink His blood and eat His flesh. The Gospel is violent because Christ had to die in order for us to live, otherwise we would die eternally for our sin.

    Finally, that argument lacks theological precision. Christ went willingly to the Cross. Jesus states clearly in John 10 that He laid down His life and numerous times alludes to the fact that the Cross was the culmination of His coming. It was no accident. Christ was not Plan B. He is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. And this was all planned out, even as Peter said when in Acts he stood up and said, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know- 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.”

    Aric, that is the Gospel, that Jesus Christ came, was crucified in my place and in yours in order to pay the penalty for my sin and yours and in order to impute to us His righteousness, a righteousness we could never attain on our own, so that we might have eternal life with the Father. So, I beg you, listen to the Word of God, seek His face, and be offended for the Glory of God. Pray that God would open your eyes to declare the wonders of His hands, for it is a most glorious Gospel and not one to missed.

    Comment by D.R Randle | August 16, 2007

  16. Michael, thanks for the response to my original post. I’ve had a crazy 48 hours. Unfortunately, this discussion has been hijacked by D.R . I agree with you that the key for Christians in this mess is to be more active in our opposition to capital punishment. It is just sad to see how far we Christians in this country have gone astray, but we should take articles like this as a call to repentance and a summons to action. (We should also avoid the self-righteousness of saying, ‘thank God I am not like those evangelicals in Texas!’), even as we weep over their actions.

    Comment by Jonathan Marlowe | August 16, 2007

  17. Michael, it goes a lot deeper than that. Even as a kid, I never bought all the cultural baggage like the Hal Lindsey crap, but I thought the Bible was true.

    However, after years of trying to figure it out, and balance all the contradictions in my mind, the most logical explanaton is that the Bible is a book written by people expressing their understanding of God. Which was primative and barbaric.

    I think Jesus existed and he preached the coming Kingdom of God, but he meant it as a literal kingdom on earth that comported to the expressions of the Hebrew prophets. He preached ethics that would prevail in this kingdom. However, he was wrong — it didn’t come in his lifetime as he predicted.

    Jesus didn’t preach that people could be “saved” by believing in his death. Why not? He said people would be forgiven if they acted a certain way, which (like non-violence he preached) is repuduated by people who take his name because it doesn’t square with their understanding of “Paul’s” letters. So why did Jesus say anything? It seems he must have lied to the people he preached to, or at the very least misled them severely. You can try and come up with a thousand tortured explanations to smooth the contradiction, but the most simple and logical one is that he preached something and (some of his) later followers preached something completely different that lived on.

    Comment by pf | August 16, 2007

  18. Wow! I had thought I might start a post at my site but there is no need. This conversation seems to cover the gamut of ideas, even those way off base. For my two cents though. Christians argument for executions are at best weak and more properly incorrect. First, to use Hebrew Scripture (Old Testament) is to pick and choose rules according to the situation and emotions. I don’t hear anyone screaming for stoning of adulterous women. (ever notice men are not included in that commandment?) Second, God did not kill Jesus. People did. Or more accurately, the Romans. Jesus’ plan, if we could call it that, was not for a mystical salvation from sins because he died and we said some magical prayer. Jesus preached a consumation of religion by seeing that God was present now in everyone and was continuing the process of bringing in His now/future Kingdom of God. With that said, if we look at what Jesus advocated, we see a clear push for behaviors that cannot include execution. Jesus taught that it is easy to forgive and love someone like yourself, but very hard to do the same for those different or who have offended us. Yet that is what brings us into God’s presence. To forgive and love. Forgive and love does not mean we forget nor exercise some form of justice, if only for the safety of the general public. The real problem with Christians who argue for execution is a long time, deeply imbedded misunderstanding of Christian scripture, especially Paul’s letters.

    Comment by Brian | September 29, 2007

  19. Brian, welcome to Levellers. I’ll be sure to check out your site. It’s good to know that someone reads the archived posts.🙂

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | September 29, 2007

  20. To: D.R. Randle & Mr. Westmoreland-White:

    A careful review finds much greater support for capital punishment, than any imagined biblical opposition to it.

    Please review all of the links

    http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/

    Comment by Dudley Sharp | July 8, 2009


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