When the State Kills

Let's now look at the argument against deterrence. They argue that there is no evidence that capital punishment is a deterrent, but it goes both ways. There is also no evidence to show that it is not a useful deterrent. As a matter of fact I will hasten to say that the central issue of the death penalty is not the issue of deterrence but that of justice. Justin Cox intones, "deterrence can only work if the threat of punishment is combined with the conviction that the forbidden acts are not only illegal and therefore punishable but immoral.

Without the conviction of morality, the fearless will break the law, the irrational will break the law, and all others will break the law" (source file://A:\Deterrence. htm). Sir Norman Anderson argues that "to attempt to exclude any idea of retribution from criminal sanctions is to deprive them of any moral basis and to deny society the right to show how deeply it disapproves of crimes of which they were imposed or to make any attempt to reflect the judgment and justice of God" (1978, p118).

Let me state again, for emphasis, the issue is not one of deterrence (per se) but that of justice. BIBLICAL CONSIDERATIONS As we bring our discussion to a close it would be remiss if we didn't examine what the scripture says in regard to our topic. There are a lot of interpretations in regards to the passages that will be highlighted, and certainly no one can deny persons to hold or even make known their views on the subject. As it relates to the issue of capital punishment I believe the following under mentioned views can be "safely defended" (McKoy, pA4).

"There are clear references in New Testament to the fact that a ruler or government has a divinely imposed responsibility for the maintenance of justice, the encouragement of virtue and the punishment of vice" (Anderson 1978, p118-119). One of the passages that may support the death penalty is Romans 3:4. "For it is God's servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer" (R S V. italics added). "The 'sword' is an instrument of punishment, as well as an emblem of war…

the sword was often used for the purpose of beheading, or otherwise punishing the guilty. The meaning of the apostle is, that he does not wear the sword of authority as an unmeaningful show, but that it will be used to execute the laws" (Barnes, p1103). According to Bible Works version 4. 0, the word 'sword' is from the Greek word ??????? (machaira), which is a large knife, used for killing animals and cutting up flesh, it is also distinguishable from the large sword. This may mean Paul was not only speaking of the symbolic nature of the sword, but rather, the sword is taken to be literal and a means of retributive justice.

Let us now turn our attention on the use of the word "wrath" in the passage. Barnes captures it best when he remarks, "this verse is an incidental proof of the propriety of capital punishment. The sword was undoubtedly an instrument of this purpose, and the apostle mentions it's use without any remark of disapprobation" (Barnes, p1104). There is also the issue of the teachings of Jesus with regards to certain issues. Some abolitionists use the "pericope de adultera" (woman caught in adultery) as evidence against the death penalty (Hodges, p318 italics added).

They remark that Jesus was clearly in favour of abolishment by his statement "let him without sin cast the first stone". It is quite strange that the proponents of this argument have missed the central point Jesus was trying to make, that of MOTIVE. John Stott in his rendition of the Sermon on the Mount intones, "while Jesus was not condoning the behaviour what, he does not allow is that we retaliate. Do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you" (1978, p104). He goes further "Jesus was dealing with personal revenge, not laying down legislation for the state" (ibid).

For those who are not so inclined to the New Testament, the beginning of the Old Testament gives us direction in the matter. Genesis 9:6 seem, at least to me to permit, if not mandate the use of the death penalty. For those who disagree, how do they explain away this passage? As my friend Reverend Dennis McKoy has asked, how then can the city of refuge, provided by YaWeH for those who kill unintentionally be explained? SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION So far we have been pointing out the pros and cons in regard to this subject.

I must admit that it is not an easy issue to take a position but on close examination it is my view that the death penalty is at least permissible in some cases if not mandatory. I see no reason why we should keep feeding persons who have no respect for the law or other human life so that they have the opportunity to kill again while being incarcerated. Antoinette Haughton, an attorney at law and popular talk show host calls for the abolition of the death penalty. She suggests that as punishment, we should put murderers under solitary confinement for the rest of their natural life.

I ask the question, which is more inhumane? People must be made accountable for their actions, this is not being done and the result is an unprecedented upsurge of crime, even against those who are put in place to combat the problem. Finally, just a little food for thought, what are the reactions of the abolitionists in regards to abortion. The next time you hear someone speak against capital punishment try to get their views on abortion, whether through surgery or through the new "the night after pill". You may find these views to be very interesting.

How can we "exonerate the prisoner while condoning abortion", it doesn't make sense. I conclude with the words of C. S Lewis "mercy detached from justice grows unmerciful".


Amnesty International. 1989. When the State Kills: The death penalty v. human rights United Kingdom: Amnesty International Publications. Anderson, Norman. 1978. Issues of Life and Death. London: Hodder and Stoughton. Carol, Melonie. 1995. Report on the death penalty in J. A. Jamaica: U. W. I. Chisholm, Clinton. 1988. Abortionists and Capital punishment Abolitionists. Jamaica Record.