The Death Penalty

God's Wisdom, or Man's Folly?

By Robert Paul Martin

Where should Christians stand on the issue of the death penalty? Among those who regard themselves as Christians, there is not a consensus as to the proper answer to this question. Some argue vigorously for the death penalty; others argue just as vigorously against it.

Is there, however, a distinctly “Christian”
position on capital punishment?

I believe that there is, at least as far as general principles are concerned; and I believe that the foundation upon which the Christian view of capital punishment is to be built is the testimony of the Bible.

The approach usually taken in dealing with the question of the rightness or wrongness of capital punishment, even in many Christian circles, is to treat the subject philosophically and pragmatically. From this perspective, the attitudes and opinions of men are given priority over the teaching of the Bible. Such a treatment of the subject, however, produces nothing of definitive or absolute value to resolve the issue of the rightness or wrongness of capital punishment. At best, one ends up with a mass of conflicting statistics and a host of “definitive” studies by experts whose conclusions differ radically from one another.

My approach will be to view the question of capital punishment exegetically, that is, my sole concern is what the Bible has to say about the subject. The glory of the Protestant Reformation was its summons to the people of God to form their views of religious and moral truth solely on the basis of the teaching of the Holy Scriptures. The Reformers and their followers insisted that every human opinion bow before the mind of God revealed in the Bible.

Following the lead of the Reformation, my approach to the question of capital punishment will be to suspend the entire weight of the Christian position on the biblical data. With this issue, as with every other question of importance to Christians, the rule by which our opinions are to be judged is the teaching of the Bible.

The teaching of the Holy Scriptures defines the “Christian” view of capital punishment.


Copyright (c) Robert Paul Martin. From Used by permission.