Pope Francis recently decided that capital punishment violates the Gospel and is never admissible because it attacks the inherent dignity of all humans, thus casting aside previous church teaching as outdated. This liberal pope, who has already shown himself to be soft on questions of biblical morality like abortion and homosexuality, is now rejecting another clear aspect of biblical teaching. Note the following:
• Capital punishment was mandated by God in cases of murder based on the inherent dignity of all humans – the fact that they are made in the image of God (Genesis 9:5-6). Thus human life is of great value. One who unjustly takes that life deserves to lose his own. Retribution is seen as justice, not vengeance. Scripture thus gives far greater attention to justice for the victim than humanists tend to do.
• Any attempt to use the Sixth Commandment (Exodus 20:13) against capital punishment is absurd given the fact that the next chapter enumerates six offenses for which it should be enacted.
• Concerns about the unjust administration of capital punishment are legitimate, which is why the legal system handed down by God included safeguards such as the requirement of two or three witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15).
• Part of the responsibility entrusted by God to the state is the use of the sword to punish evildoers (Romans 13:4), a power that Jesus Himself acknowledged (John 19:11), as did the Apostle Paul (Acts 25:11). These passages are particularly powerful because in both cases the state, in the form of a time-serving bureaucrat like Pontius Pilate and an insane megalomaniac like Nero, was acting unjustly. The remedy for the unjust application of capital punishment is not to eliminate it, but to carry it out in a just manner. Too often today, one gets the impression that the government exists to protect criminals from the society that has abused them and the system that seeks to hold them accountable for their deeds.
• One of the consequences of the Fall is that man became a violent being (e.g., Cain and Abel). Violence is therefore the result of sin and is now part of man’s sinful nature. When the Bible deals with the concept of violence, therefore, it does not take the simplistic humanistic approach that violence is always wrong. Instead, it recognizes that, because man is basically evil, those evil impulses must be controlled, and sometimes this requires violent actions against those who do evil, both as appropriate retribution and as a deterrent to future evil actions.
• Man’s sinful nature necessitates that he be held accountable for his evil deeds. Humanists, on the other hand, assume that man is basically good (contrary to their own evolutionary theory, which teaches “nature red in tooth and claw”) and needs to be reeducated or put into a healthier environment in order to change his behavior.
• Scripture assumes that people are responsible for the choices they make. To hear some defense lawyers tell it, today no one is considered responsible for his evil deeds; the fault is always laid at the feet of parental abuse, a horrible environment, poor education, psychological maladjustment, or some life-altering trauma.
Much more could be said on this subject, but the Pope’s recent comments cry out for a biblical response.
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