Archive for the ‘Capital Punishment’ Category

Capital Punishment – Absolutely Condemned or Commanded? Francis of Rome vs. Scripture

October 25, 2014

According to the Vatican Information Service, on October 23, 2014, referring to Francis of Rome: “He reiterated the primacy of the life and dignity of the human person, reaffirming the absolute condemnation of the death penalty, the use of which is rejected by Christians.” By contrast, Biblical Christians affirm the death penalty for a wide range of serious “second table” crimes, especially murder, as it is written:

Murder
Genesis 9:6 Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

Exodus 21:12 He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.

Leviticus 24:17 And he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death.

Leviticus 24:21 And he that killeth a beast, he shall restore it: and he that killeth a man, he shall be put to death.

Numbers 35:16 And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.
Numbers 35:17 And if he smite him with throwing a stone, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.
Numbers 35:18 Or if he smite him with an hand weapon of wood, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.

Numbers 35:21 Or in enmity smite him with his hand, that he die: he that smote him shall surely be put to death; for he is a murderer: the revenger of blood shall slay the murderer, when he meeteth him.

Numbers 35:30 Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die.

Failure to Control Known Dangerous Animal who Kills
Exodus 21:29 But if the ox were wont to push with his horn in time past, and it hath been testified to his owner, and he hath not kept him in, but that he hath killed a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also shall be put to death.

Battery of Parents
Exodus 21:15 And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death.

Cursing of Parents
Exodus 21:17 And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.

Leviticus 20:9 For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.

Kidnap/Enslavement
Exodus 21:16 And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.

Sex Crimes
– Bestiality
Exodus 22:19 Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death.

Leviticus 20:15 And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast.
Leviticus 20:16 And if a woman approach unto any beast, and lie down thereto, thou shalt kill the woman, and the beast: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

– Adultery
Leviticus 20:10 And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

– Incest
Leviticus 20:11 And the man that lieth with his father’s wife hath uncovered his father’s nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Leviticus 20:12 And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion; their blood shall be upon them.

– Homosexual Acts
Leviticus 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

That doesn’t even include the list of “first table” or religion-related crimes, such as witchcraft (Leviticus 20:27), blasphemy (Leviticus 24:16), sabbath-breaking (Exodus 31:14-15 and 35:2), and so on.  I don’t omit them to hide them, but simply to note that even if one limited the modern state to enforcing “second table” crimes, there is abundant guidance in Scripture that the state ought to punish serious external violations of the 5th, 6th, and 7th commandments with death.

Oh, and for my brethren who think that we should just ignore the Old Testament’s teaching regarding the state, Paul himself reaffirms the power of the state to take life:

Romans 13:1-7
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

He bears the sword to execute wrath – not using the flat of the blade to spank, but the edge of the blade to kill.  That’s the state’s mandate as God’s minister, according to both the Old and New Testaments.  Not all nations faithfully obey this mandate – and we should obey even if our state does not have the death penalty for the crimes that Scripture identifies, for conscience sake.

-TurretinFan

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The Period of Grace Makes the Death Penalty Irrelevant?

September 9, 2013

The Bible indicates that the civil government ought to have and enforce laws providing for capital punishment of male homosexual behavior. It is written: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” (Leviticus 20:13) It’s not a law that is in force in many places in the world today, and consequently meets with some cultural/traditional resistance from lots of folks.  I should point out that the text applies to the government, not individuals.  We Christians are not called to take the law into our own hands.

Someone recently posed the following question to me: “How would you respond to people who try to refute your views by stating that Christ brought forth the period of grace, making the death penalty of that time irrelevant?”
My responses are as follows:
1) Where does the Bible say that the death penalty is irrelevant?
2) On the contrary, the Bible affirms that the civil magistrate is God’s minister to administer punishment including death: “For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” (Romans 13:4) The sword/wrath reference is a reference to putting evil-doers to death.
In response to (1) my friend suggested that the people may appeal to the Pericope Adulterae, the story of Jesus saying that the person without sin should be the first to cast a stone at the woman caught in adultery.  I respond:
a) The person should keep in mind that the story of the woman taken in adultery is one that is not found in the earliest manuscripts of the Scripture.  One should be careful about trying to build one’s argument primarily on a text that is a major variant.
b) Does Jesus, in the story, say that the death penalty is irrelevant?  
– If so, does that mean that the “period of grace” was already in place at that time? That’s not usually what I hear from dispensationals.  If it was already in place, what were Jesus and the disciples doing celebrating Passover?
– If not, why conclude that the death penalty is irrelevant?
c) What is the point of Jesus saying, in the story, that the person without sin should cast the first stone?  Was it to convict them of the fact that this woman supposedly taken in the act was being brought without the man who allegedly was engaged in the act with her?  How is just to prosecute only the adulteress and not also the adulterer?  In other words, was the point that the prosecution was not being handled justly?  There were a lot of irregularities to her trial, if the trial is judged by the standard of 2nd temple Judaism or the Torah itself.
d) How would a point about ending the civil death penalty (either for adultery) fit within the context of John’s gospel, where the story is currently found?  It doesn’t have anything particularly to do with the context.
e) If the conclusion is “no death penalty” because all human judges themselves have sins, why wouldn’t this apply also to crimes like murder, rape, and kidnapping?  Or perhaps these objectors would also say that the death penalty is forbidden in those cases as well.
f) But where is the justification for stopping at the death penalty?  How can such judges impose any penalty at all, if the standard for judgment is that they must be sinless to condemn her?
g) How does Jesus’ own non-condemnation of the woman fit within this rubric?  He was sinless, yet he did not condemn the woman.  Why was it?  The lack of sufficient witnesses?  The lack of proper judicial process?  Or was Jesus’ point instead about God’s mercy to sinful men?
In short, this appeal to the story of the woman caught in adultery is ill-advised.  Not only is there the canonical question, but even assuming its canonicity it does not point at an end to the death penalty either for adultery or in general.  Yet, if it pointed to an end to the death penalty for adultery, its grounds of justification would logically apply to all punishment for any crime, since none of us are sinless.  That conclusion is absurd, demonstrating the absurdity of the underlying position whose logical conclusion it is.
-TurretinFan

Why I’m Against the 150 Mile Fence Suggestion

May 31, 2012

The Scriptures tell us how various family relations crimes should be punished (all verse references are to Leviticus 20):

Cursing Mother or Father – Death (9)

For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.

Adulterer and Adulteress – Death (10)

And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

Incest with Father’s Wife – Death (11)

And the man that lieth with his father’s wife hath uncovered his father’s nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Incest with Daughter in Law – Death (12)

And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion; their blood shall be upon them.

Male Homosexuality – Death (13)

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Incest with Step-Daughter, Daughter, or Mother-in-Law – Death by Fire (14)

And if a man take a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you.

Male or Female Bestiality – Death (15-16)

And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast. And if a woman approach unto any beast, and lie down thereto, thou shalt kill the woman, and the beast: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Incest with Sister or Half-Sister – God Will Punish (17)

And if a man shall take his sister, his father’s daughter, or his mother’s daughter, and see her nakedness, and she see his nakedness; it is a wicked thing; and they shall be cut off in the sight of their people: he hath uncovered his sister’s nakedness; he shall bear his iniquity.

Sex During a Woman’s Period – God Will Punish (18)

And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness, and shall uncover her nakedness; he hath discovered her fountain, and she hath uncovered the fountain of her blood: and both of them shall be cut off from among their people.

Incest with Aunt – God Will Punish (19-20)

And thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother’s sister, nor of thy father’s sister: for he uncovereth his near kin: they shall bear their iniquity. And if a man shall lie with his uncle’s wife, he hath uncovered his uncle’s nakedness: they shall bear their sin; they shall die childless.

Incest with Sister-in-Law – God Will Punish (21)

And if a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing: he hath uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.

Summary

Yes, male homosexuality is set forth as being a capital crime, like a number of family relations crimes. In terms of the sentence given it, it is more heinous in God’s sight than certain kinds of incest and period violation. But for those of you who like to beat up on homosexuals, note that it is not the most heinous. The most heinous is taking both a woman and her mother. There, the punishment is not just death, but death by fire.

So, no. The appropriate Biblical teaching regarding how to deal with these family crimes is not internment in a prison camp.

On the other hand, if you want to rush to impose the Biblical sentence of death, keep in mind that for consistency you must be ready to hand out death sentences for bestiality, all adulterers, and most types of incest. You also can’t include lesbians in your plan. While Scripture certainly does teach that lesbianism is a sin, the code doesn’t provide for lesbianism to be punished.

Response to Todd Bordow on Capital Punishment for Blasphemy

March 21, 2012

Over at Greenbaggins, Todd Bordow provided an interesting comment. He wrote:

I think I was fairly clear earlier:

the Biblical answer to the injustices of the world and injustice of governments is the Second Coming, not a return to the punishments of the Mosaic Law (theonomy), or enforcing true religion by the sword (theocracy). And because a desire for the state to punish sinners in this life for not following our religion is in conflict with our calling to reach sinners with the gospel, by Biblical command the church’s only mandate concerning unbelievers….

As you are aware, in the Spanish Inquisition, the RC church and Spanish monarchy put what they considered blasphemers to death. I am saying that is wrong in itself, not just wrong when the wrong guys do it.

There are several responses:

a) If it is really wrong in itself, why was it not wrong for Old Testament Israel?
b) If as to (a) one appeals to an “intrusion ethic” that governed Israel, where does Scripture teach this?
c) How is punishing sinners for not “following our religion” (by the civil magistrate) in conflict with our calling to reach sinners with the gospel?
d) How is punishing sinners for not “following our religion” as to honoring God’s name, title, attributes, ordinances, words and works in conflict with such a calling but punishing them for not “following our religion” as to honoring father and mother, not killing, not stealing, and not committing adultery not in conflict?

-TurretinFan

P.S. I should point out that earlier in the same thread, Todd had indeed relied on the Klinean intrusion ethic approach:

Why are we so dead set against the state enforcing the first Table? Our early forefathers notwithstanding, the Biblical answer to the injustices of the world and injustice of governments is the Second Coming, not a return to the punishments of the Mosaic Law, or enforcing true religion by the sword.

But this answer is patently false and contrary to Romans 13. Moreover, this argument on its own terms cannot differentiate between the first and second table. Finally, it remains unestablished that the Mosaic punishments represent an intrusion of the eschaton.

Death Penalty and Rome

February 1, 2010

Roman Catholicism today is mostly against the death penalty. For example, the contemporary Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the RCC’s view of capital punishment this way:

Capital Punishment

2266 The State’s effort to contain the spread of behaviors injurious to human rights and the fundamental rules of civil coexistence corresponds to the requirement of watching over the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime. the primary scope of the penalty is to redress the disorder caused by the offense. When his punishment is voluntarily accepted by the offender, it takes on the value of expiation. Moreover, punishment, in addition to preserving public order and the safety of persons, has a medicinal scope: as far as possible it should contribute to the correction of the offender.

2267 The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor.
“If, instead, bloodless means are sufficient to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
“Today, in fact, given the means at the State’s disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender ‘today … are very rare, if not practically non-existent.'[John Paul II, Evangelium vitae 56.]

(source – punctuation and citation as in original, footnotes omitted)

Many folks will recall that Rome was not traditionally opposed to the death penalty, particularly for accused heretics. However, Rome’s view on this moral issue has been shifting to the liberal end of the spectrum, as evidenced by the CCC items above, which make capital punishment justifiable only in “very rare” if not “practically non-existent” circumstances.

Of course, the laws of Vatican City were originally drafted in older days, when this modernist mentality had not yet carried the day. Thus, the constitution of the Vatican City provided for capital punishment. However, it now reported that finally the laws of Vatican City have caught up to the shift in Rome’s view of morality (link to report). Thus, the Vatican City will join the ranks of other nations who are unable to obey the following commands:

Exodus 22:18 Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

Genesis 9:6 Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

– TurretinFan

Responding to Paul Hoffer on Morality and the Gospel

June 3, 2009

In response to anonymous comments on a previous post, Paul Hoffer wrote:

Dear Anonymous, the reason that Dr. Tiller’s murder was intrinsically wrong is because he was deprived of the chance of repenting of the evil that he had done on this earth and truly coming to know the saving grace of Our Lord, Jesus Christ as opposed to merely going to church on Sundays. Since he is now a martyr for the abortion rights advocates, the evil that Dr. Tiller perpetrated gets to continue on.

Another thing that gave me pause was the fact that this man was killed within a Lutheran Church, so called, and dared to call himself a Christian. Obviously he was not familiar with the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great Lutheran theologian who was killed opposing the Nazis, who wrote about the difference between true grace that comes from Christ Jesus and that which deludes men in his book “The Cost of Discipleship.” He wrote:

[It] is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” pg. 30.

Cheap grace which appears to be preached at Tiller’s church is truly horrific because it justifies one’s sins without achieving the justification or sanctification of the sinner. Whether one is Catholic or Protestant, we all can decry the kind of Gospel that must be preached there.

I answer, going section by section:

“Dear Anonymous, the reason that Dr. Tiller’s murder was intrinsically wrong is because he was deprived of the chance of repenting of the evil that he had done on this earth and truly coming to know the saving grace of Our Lord, Jesus Christ as opposed to merely going to church on Sundays.”

Uh … no. The reason that Dr. Tiller’s murder was intrinsically wrong is because men are created in God’s image and their lives cannot lawfully be intentionally ended by their fellow men without God’s authority.

Uzzah was killed instantly for his sin, without the chance to repent. Furthermore, in general, capital punishment is prescribed by God’s word as the appropriate punishment for numerous crimes (as I’ve laid out elsewhere). The issue is not the fact that death takes away the ability to repent, but that to lawfully kill another person intentionally, one must have divine warrant.

“Since he is now a martyr for the abortion rights advocates, the evil that Dr. Tiller perpetrated gets to continue on.”

He is treated as a martyr by some, to be sure. However, his death will actually discourage other young doctors from taking the path of becoming professional murderers. So, it’s really hard to guage whether his murder will have positive or negative consequences. Consequentialism, however, is a flawed ethic.

“Another thing that gave me pause was the fact that this man was killed within a Lutheran Church, so called, and dared to call himself a Christian.”

Many call themselves Christians who are not Christians.

“Obviously he was not familiar with the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great Lutheran theologian who was killed opposing the Nazis, who wrote about the difference between true grace that comes from Christ Jesus and that which deludes men in his book ‘The Cost of Discipleship.'”

I don’t have any way of knowing whether he was familiar with those writings or not. I assume this is just a bit of rhetorical flourish by Mr. Hoffer.

“[It] is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.”

I wonder whether Mr. Hoffer is willing to direct Bonheoffer’s cannon Rome-ward? How often are we reminded of the fact that church discipline in the Roman church is largely lacking!

“Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

The concept of “cheap grace” is one error into which one can fall. It is the error of the libertines. But there is an equally dangerous error: the error of grace cheapend by purchase. The error of legalism that supposes that one’s own works contribute to one’s justification in the sight of God, or that somehow one’s personal righteousness is the basis of or the maintenance of a right relationship before God. Mr. Hoffer is locked on one error, but has he forgotten the other?

“Cheap grace which appears to be preached at Tiller’s church is truly horrific because it justifies one’s sins without achieving the justification or sanctification of the sinner.”

An antinomian gospel purports to justify sinners, just as a legalist gospel purports to justify “righteous” folks. Both are serious errors, for justification is by faith alone – but a true faith is one that comes out of a love of Christ – one that will consequently be accompanied by fruits of that love of Christ. Mr. Hoffer seems to be good at straking the other ditch for its errors – but we invite him to come out of the opposite ditch and join us on the straight and narrow road provided by Christ.

“Whether one is Catholic or Protestant, we all can decry the kind of Gospel that must be preached there.”

Yes, both the legalist and the orthodox can decry the antinomian. Nevertheless, it would be a false ecuminism to suggest that because we both reject the false gospel of antinomianism (live as you please) we are of one mind.

-TurretinFan

Word of Caution for Children of all Ages

April 15, 2009

Micah 7:6 For the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house.

Proverbs 30:11 There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother.

Ezekiel 22:7 In thee have they set light by father and mother: in the midst of thee have they dealt by oppression with the stranger: in thee have they vexed the fatherless and the widow.

Proverbs 30:17 The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it.

Exodus 21:17 And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.

Leviticus 20:9 For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.

Proverbs 20:20 Whoso curseth his father or his mother, his lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness.

Deuteronomy 27:16 Cursed be he that setteth light by his father or his mother. And all the people shall say, Amen.

Death Penalty for Idolatry?

October 28, 2008

Lane Keister, at GreenBaggins has posed a question:

I know that I have at least two theonomists who regularly read my blog, and so this is a question addressed to them. The sin of idolatry, in the Old Testament, was punishable by death. Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Buddhists, Hindus, and many other religions practice idolatry. One can even make the case that Muslims and Jews are idolaters, since they do not worship Jesus Christ as God.

America was founded on a principle of liberty of religion. The issues get complicated in a hurry, of course, but my question is this: if Christian Reconstruction were to win out in America, does that mean that the members of these other religions should be executed? Or is the principle of death for idolatry changed in the NT, according to theonomists?

I answer:
a) I’m not sure if Lane had me in mind – in fact I wouldn’t flatter myself to suppose he had thought of me. Nevertheless, since I self-identify as a theonomist, and since I regularly read his blog, I’ll take up his question.
b) Lane states, “The sin of idolatry, in the Old Testament, was punishable by death.” I had previously (link) discussed the issue of how we know justice. Also, I had previously (link) addressed the issue of what crimes in the Old Testament were subject to capital punishment. I didn’t come across the death sentence for idolatry, as such. I wonder if Lane could point me to it.
c) Lane states, “Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Buddhists, Hindus, and many other religions practice idolatry.” In order to discover whether this is the case, we’d need to see the specific prohibition on idolatry accompanied by the death penalty that Lane has found. Once we see it, we can confirm or deny this claim. I was a bit surprised that Lane omitted Romanists from his list, but perhaps it was just an oversight.
d) Lane states, “One can even make the case that Muslims and Jews are idolaters, since they do not worship Jesus Christ as God.” Muslims and at least traditional Jews are (like Christians) aniconic in their religion: they do not make graven images or likenesses of their god. Thus, they would not be guilty of idolatry within the proper sense of the term. However, perhaps the passage Lane has in mind that prescribes death for idolatry uses the broad sense.
e) Lane states, “America was founded on a principle of liberty of religion.” No, it wasn’t. Rhode Island was, but not “America.” I’m not sure it makes a world of difference, though, to the theonomic question.
f) Lane asks, “The issues get complicated in a hurry, of course, but my question is this: if Christian Reconstruction were to win out in America, does that mean that the members of these other religions should be executed?” Of course, while I consider myself a theonomist, I don’t consider myself a reconstructionist. The answer, unless there is Biblical mandate that I have overlooked, would be no. There was a special genocidal command to the Israelites to destroy the nations of Canaan, but that was (i) a specific judgment on the Canaanites and (ii) a means to fulfilling a land promise to Abraham that is fulfilled for us in heaven. If that is all Lane has in mind, then the answer would be a resounding, “no.”
g) Lane asks, “Or is the principle of death for idolatry changed in the NT, according to theonomists?” I guess this would depend on the specific command, which apparently I have overlooked. Once Lane points it out, I’ll update.

-TurretinFan

Natural Law, Theonomy, and Homosexual Marriage

October 27, 2008

R. Scott Clark has an interesting blog post up on the issue of Homosexual Marriage (link). RSC approaches the issue from the standpoint of “two kingdoms theology,” a viewpoint that I’m not sure I can fully embrace. Instead, I tend to self-identify with “theonomy” (a term that’s perhaps even more liable to confusion than “two kingdoms theology”). Accordingly, I’ve prepared some thoughts on the issue in parallel to those of RSC, but with an emphasis on the civil law of Israel.

Issue: how, from a “theonomic” perspective one should think about the question of whether the state should sanction homosexual marriage? Beyond the ambiguity over what constitutes “theonomic,” there’s some ambiguity in the question, since “sanction” can mean either “approve” or “enforce a penalty against.” Thus, we’ll consider the issue as broadly as possible.

1. Explicit Old Testament Law
A. The Old Testament specifically condemns homosexual behavior:

Leviticus 18:22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

B. The Old Testament also specifically prescribes the death penalty to both parties to a homosexual act:

Leviticus 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

2. New Testament Light

A. The New Testament confirms that the disapprobation of homosexual behavior was not merely a matter of ceremony:

1 Corinthians 6:9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

1 Timothy 1:10 For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;

B. The New Testament also draws an equivalence between Male and Female homosexuality:

Romans 1:26-27 and 32
26For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

Romans 1:32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

3. Resolution of the Issue

Therefore, the most fitting rule for the King to implement is not only to prohibit so-called homosexual marriages from recognition as marriage, but also to punish capitally those who engage in these abominable practices.

4. Objections Answered

A. It may be objected: “The moral law of God has been revealed in creation and re-stated, in the context of the national covenant with Israel. For the purposes of deciding deciding post-theocratic civil questions, the national covenant having been fulfilled by Christ and thus having expired and having been abrogated, it is proper to appeal to the natural revelation of the moral law in creation.” (source, R. Scott Clark)

We answer: that although the national laws of Israel are expired and abrogated, and though the ceremonial aspects of the national laws of Israel are fulfilled in Christ, the moral aspects of the national laws of Israel remain. As demonstrated above, the prohibition on homosexual behavior is a matter of moral law, not mere ceremony. Furthermore, where the moral law is explicit, there is no need to appeal to the natural revelation of the moral law in creation, since it is not proper to interpret the more clear by the less clear. We acknowledge, however, that general revelation is from God, and that consequently – in principle – natural law, as derived from general revelation, is not rendered completely illegitimate, simply because it is not completely clear.

Furthermore, even examining such a scholarly source as R. Scott Clark, we cannot find a very rigorous argument from natural law alone (i.e. without recourse to special revelation) to determine what path should be taken.

B. It may be objected, that “Some scholars however, e.g. John Boswell, have argued over the last twenty-five years that earlier periods in church history were more approving of homosexuality than once thought.” (noted by RSC with disapproval)

We answer: since our rule of faith does not depend on the customs of men, we do not have a vested interest in the outcome of the historical battle over whether previous generations of Christians were more or less approving of homosexuality.

We note, however, that if we are to return to the apostolic and Old Testament periods of church history, the clear evidence is severe condemnation.

C. It may be objected, that “in contrast to our own times, most of the ancient Christian writers were not, by contemporary standards, very explicit about homosexual behavior. Doubtless some will attempt to capitalize on the rhetorical restraint of earlier times as a sort of tacit approval of homosexuality.” (noted by RSC with disapproval)

We answer: again, for the same reasons as above, we do not have a vested interest in this historical battle. We note, however, that a reasonable alternative explanation for such guarded language among the ancients is shame because of recognition of the sinfulness of the acts:

Ephesians 5:12 For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.

D. It may be objected, that “Romans 1:27 indicates that those engaging in homosexual activity were ‘receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.'”

We answer: it seems most natural to view this phrase as referring not to the reception of the reward for the error of homosexual behavior, but for the error of worshiping the creature more than the Creator. There are several reasons to believe that this reading is more natural and the proper reading:

1) the point of the passage is to emphasize that God is punishing the wicked for sins against himself; and
2) in general, in the passage a system of punishments are laid out for us:
vss. 20-21 punishment for refusing to act on the obvious knowledge of God = darkening of the mind
– further impact: vs. 22-23 punishment for claiming to be wise = that they become fools
— yet further impact: vs. 24 – punishment for dishonoring God by images = that their own bodies are dishonored among themselves
— still further impact: vss. 25-27 – punishment for worshiping the opposite of what they should = that their bodies’ lusts are unnaturally reversed
– parallel impact vss. 28-32 – punishment for being unmindful of God = a reprobate mind.

Nevertheless, even if the point of vs. 27 is merely to identify the impact of homosexuality, and even further assuming that the impact is simply the laws of nature (sexually transmitted diseases and so forth, as opposed to execution by the King) being applied to homosexual acts, we would not therefore conclude that the King is forbidden to impose a prohibition on the wicked acts of men, since among the list of things resulting from a reprobate mind are murder, which the King must not tolerate.

-TurretinFan

Just Criminal Laws

September 21, 2008

How can we determine whether a penalty is just, excessively lax, or excessively severe? Considered Biblically, such a question falls into the theological category of “theonomy” – a term that sets off all sorts of red flags in folks’ minds these days. As one who adheres to Sola Scriptura as expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith, I can think of two options to answer the question:

1) Special Revelation (which at the present time is limited to the Bible, though that was not always the case); and

2) General Revelation.

The light provided by special revelation on this issue is often quite clear: the just punishment for murder is death, for example (Genesis 9:6 Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.).FN! Other times, the light is less clear – is the punishment for theft in the Mosaic economy the only just punishment or simply one just punishment out of several or perhaps the just punishment in that particular culture?

The light provided by general revelation is even less clear. Men’s consciences are generally bothered by the idea of putting a simple thief (one who steals to feed his family) to death for his crime, and men are generally pricked in their conscience that it would not be proper to permit a rapist to escape with a fine amounting to less than the price of a postage stamp.

Nevertheless, we interpret the less clear by the more clear.

This is all old news, at least to me. Recently, however, I came across a most peculiar argument, and one that I thought I should address (argument by Ron Henzel found here):

[You] seem to be implying that any punishment for rape other than that prescribed by Moses would be arbitrary, and that for a Christian to support it would be inconsistent. I assume you would apply this reasoning to other criminal penalties as well.

But when Paul wrote, “Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God” (Rom. 13:2), he was referring primarily to the Roman government, which had a different set of punishments than those prescribed by Moses. Even so, he referred to their authority as “the ordinance of God.”

I found this line of argument most surprising.

Certainly, the laws of the Romans were to be honored by the people of the Roman empire. That is what Paul meant. But to convert such honor into an endorsement of the justice of the laws of the Roman empire would seem bizarre to me. The only rational justification would seem to be either that there is no objective standard of justice or that God providentially provides that every human government always is just. But Scripture – at least in the case of murder – seems to insist that there is an objective standard of justice. Furthermore, Paul himself notes that at least the Corinthian government was unjust (1 Corinthians 6:1) and Jesus in Luke 18 makes reference to an unjust judge.

So it would seem that the position that Mr. Henzel has presented lacks foundation.

In fact, if I had to guess at what was going on, I’d say that Mr. Henzel was overreacting to the label “theonomy,” without considering (and accounting for) the undeniable facts that:

a) Justice is objective;
b) the Mosiac law was just both in identifying crimes as such and specifically in punishing them (Heb 2:2);
c) there is no other clear standard of justice; and
d) although Christians are to honor the king, that does not mean calling the unjust just, for we should be like the Proverbs 8:7 person: “For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips.”

Zechariah the prophet declared the following, which I think applies not only to Jerusalem of his day, but also to Christian democracies (and democratic republics):

Zechariah 8:15-17
15So again have I thought in these days to do well unto Jerusalem and to the house of Judah: fear ye not. 16These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates: 17And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the LORD.

-TurretinFan

FN1 It is important to note that capital punishment for murder preceded the Mosaic economy, and consequently cannot reasonably be thought to be a law that was intended to be limited to the Jewish nation.


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