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Capital Punishment And Christianity

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Capital punishment has been stated as ‘murder in its worst form’ barbaric, disgusting, unusual and completely unnecessary. Should Christians really support the death penalty? Many Christians believe that the Bible has spoken to the issue, but others believe that the New Testament ethic of love replaces the Old Testament law.

Some early Christian writers who discussed capital punishment were absolutely opposed to it. Christians were instructed to not execute a criminal, to not attend public executions and even to not lay a charge against a person if it might eventually result in their execution.

One example is Lactantius (260 to 330 AD) who is primarily known for his books, ‘Introduction to true Religion’ and ‘The Divine Institutes’. He wrote in The Divine Institutes, Book 6, Chapter 20:
“When God forbids us to kill, he not only prohibits the violence that is condemned by public laws, but he also forbids the violence that is deemed lawful by men. Thus it is not lawful for a just man to engage in warfare, since his warfare is justice itself. Nor is it [lawful] to accuse anyone of a capital offence. It makes no difference whether you put a man to death by word, or by the sword. It is the act of putting to death itself which is prohibited. Therefore, regarding this precept of God there should be no exception at all. Rather it is always unlawful to put to death a man, whom God willed to be a sacred creature.”

Abolitionists believe that the offender should be required to compensate the victim’s family with the offender’s income from employment or community service. Their thinking is that someone can do more alive than dead. By working, the criminal inadvertently ‘pays back’ society and also the victim and/or the victim’s family. There is no reason for the criminal to receive any compensation for his work. Money is of no value in jail. One of the most well known examples of the criminal contributing to the betterment of society is the case of Leopold and Loeb. Leopold and Loeb were nineteen years old when they committed ‘The Crime of the Century’. In 1924 they kidnapped and murdered a fourteen year old boy just to see what it was like. They were both spared the death penalty and sentenced to life imprisonment. Together, their accomplishments include working at hospitals, teaching ill-iterates to read, creating a correspondence school, making significant developments in the World War II Malaria Project and writing a grammar book.
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