Thoughts on the Death Penalty
Pastor Brian Borgman
Yesterday a jury sentenced Brianna Dennison’s rapist and murderer to death. Biblically, this was a righteous decision. The Bible is clear about the death penalty, our culture is not. Here are some thoughts from God’s Word on the subject:
And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. (Genesis 9:5-6)
I. The capital crime: murder
“The stress falls upon the heinousness of the offense; an assault upon man’s life is a virtual assault upon the life of God. So aggravated is this offense that the penalty is nothing less than the extremity” (John Murray, Principles of Conduct, 111).
II. The capital punishment: death
“Men can reflect the judgments of God against criminals because men- those appointed to the task- are the image of God, able to understand and apply His standards of civic rectitude” (Greg Bahnsen, By This Standard, 274).
III. The capital reason: man bears the Imago Dei
“Nothing shows the moral bankruptcy of a people or of a generation more than disregard for the sanctity of human life. And it is this same atrophy of moral fiber that appears in the plea for the abolition of the death penalty. It is the sanctity of life that validates the death penalty for the crime of murder. It is the sense of this sanctity that constrains the demand for the infliction of this penalty. The deeper our regard for life the firmer will be our hold upon the penal sanction which the violation of that sanctity merits” (Murray, 122).
“To be punished, however severely, because we have deserved it, because we ought to
have known better, is to be treated as a human person made in God’s image” (Lewis, God
in the Dock, 292).
IV. The Perpetuity of the institution
“When we ask about the perpetuity of this institution, no consideration is more pertinent than this: the reason given for the exacting of such a penalty is one that has permanent relevance and validity. There is no suspension of the fact that man was made in the image of God; it is true today as it was in the days of Noah. To this must be added the observation that, in respect of our relations to men, no crime is as extreme and, as concerns the person who is the victim, none is as irremediable, as the crime as taking life itself. Furthermore, in no other instance of biblical jurisprudence is the reason or the infliction of a penalty stated to be that man is made in the image of God” (Murray, 112).
V. The justice of the institution
“When we cease to consider what the criminal deserves and consider only what will cure him or deter others, we have tacitly removed him from the sphere of justice altogether; instead of a person, a subject of rights, we now have a mere object, a patient, a ‘case.’” (C.S. Lewis, 288).