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Thoughts on Capital Punishment - by Daniel Vos

Capital punishment is still practiced in the United States, as well as in 82 other countries throughout the world. Most European countries have completely abandoned the practice. Some would wish the United States to follow their lead. Amnesty International is among the organizations that lead the international campaign against the death penalty and other "human rights abuses." Some leaders within the Roman Catholic church and other mainline Christian denominations also stand publicly opposed to the death penalty.

In terms of Biblical teaching, Christians have adopted two basic stances relative to the death penalty. The first stance, commonly thought to be "more enlightened," sees the death penalty, like abortion, as a violation of the 6th commandment: "You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13). The second view holds that because pre-meditated murder is such a heinous crime, justice must be carried out in the form of capital punishment. Government is given the power of the sword to punish evil-doers (Romans 13:1-7).

Capital punishment is a complex issue, and we do not unequivocally endorse the death-penalty. But we do believe that what the Bible has to say about law and punishment (as well as every other aspect of life) ought to be treated with great respect and circumspection, and proclaimed unashamedly in the public square with a view to personal, political and cultural reformation. In other words, the death penalty is probably better than the alternatives. The question is, do we have the sort of God-centered society that could administer the death penalty without turning it into a gross injustice?

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