I thank my opponent for setting up this debate. This will be fun.
I will be arguing that the Bible does support the use of capital punishment, including in the modern day.
For all passages I will use the English Standard Version (ESV). It’s a good translation that’s both accurate and easy to read as well at the same time.
First off, there’s no doubt that the Old Testament supported capital punishment. It had the death penalty ascribed for murder, rape, adultery, prostitution, bestiality, kidnapping, homosexuality, false prophet, and many more. And there was another difference, it was God who prescribed the death penalty in ancient Israel, not man. Ancient Israel was the only true theocracy in the world - in which God ruled directly.
But outside of ancient Israel, God has given human governments the authority to determine when the death penalty was due as well. Paul writes in Romans 13:1-3,
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”
We see the same principle in Genesis 9:6,
“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”
So if all governing authorities are given by God, then we shouldn’t try to resist the government’s ability to give the death penalty.
I look forward to con’s responses.
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Welcome Judges to what proves to be an exciting debate on the Death Penalty.
I thank my opponent for their first round - I look forward to hearing their biblical defense of the willful execution of God's creation.
The resolution is self explanatory - this debate will argue for and against the use of the Death Penalty as a sentence to be delivered by Man to Man. The rules of the debate specify that THIS debate will center around the BIBLICAL perspective. In 2015, does God favor the death penalty over some other form of punishment? Would Jesus pull the switch?
Judges, your duty in the debate is examine the evidence and decide whether the Christian message is a stronger advocate for the Death Penalty or for Restorative Justice.
Old Testament rule: The Mosaic Law - It's true. The Old Law prescribed the Death Penalty for a WIDE range of sins. Along with the ones my opponent mentioned, his side would also need to advocate for the death penalty for the following "crimes": Atheism (or any other religious belief for that matter) ; Sex during your period ; Mowing the lawns on Sunday afternoon ; Not listening to your parents when they tell you to get a haircut and get a real job ; Not being a virgin when you get married (women only)
The problem with shifting this structure from Old Testament Israel to Modern day Earth is exactly what my opponent describes.
"...it was God who prescribed the death penalty in ancient Israel, not man. Ancient Israel was the only true theocracy in the world - in which God ruled directly." - PRO
This law was superceded by a new covenant instituted by Jesus in the New Testament. This is predicted in the Old Testament and cited numerous times in the New Testament - perhaps one of the clearest instances is this one from Hebrews:
"But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises. For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another." - Hebrews 8: 6-7I will present irrefutable evidence that Jesus - who IS God, is not an advocate of the Death Penalty later in this round.
My Government tells me that I must drive my car when I have had too many beers. Is THIS mandated in the Bible? Of course not!
Jesus - who is God; challenged the Pharisees to examine themselves and see who was worthy to judge by casting the first stone. None of them was without sin so they acknowledged that they could not make such a judgement and carry out the sentence.
In truth, there WAS one person there who was without sin - Jesus himself.
He demonstrates the fact that the Death Penalty is no longer valid by refusing to carry it out.
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I thank my opponent for finishing round 1 and CX.
It is clear in Romans 13 that civil governments are instituted by God.
In Romans 12:19, Paul forbids personal revenge, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’”. Then in Romans 13, Paul explains that we should leave punishment “to the wrath of God” meaning allowing punishment to come through the civil government, which is “the servant of God, and avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (13:4). So, while personal retaliation is forbidden, civil authorities are to punish evildoers.
In what way civil government decide to punish evildoers, that is up to human government, because human government is “an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4; 1 Peter 2:14). It is clear in the Bible that the penalty for crimes are left up to the human governments, which are God’s avengers of God’s wrath. Whether the penalties be jail time or death, that is for the human governments to decide, as said in Romans 13.
When the Pharisees brought a woman who was caught in the act of adultery to Jesus and asked Him if she should be stoned, Jesus replied, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). This should not be used to indicate that Jesus rejected capital punishment in all instances. Jesus was simply exposing the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. The Pharisees wanted to trick Jesus into breaking the Old Testament law; they did not truly care about the woman being stoned (where was the man who was caught in adultery?) God is the One who instituted capital punishment: “Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man” (Genesis 9:6). Jesus would support capital punishment in some instances. Jesus also demonstrated grace when capital punishment was due (John 8:1-11). The apostle Paul definitely recognized the power of the government to institute capital punishment where appropriate (Romans 13:1-7).
God did have forgiveness when the death penalty was due at times. For example, David committed adultery and murder, both of which were punishable by death. A couple instances like this and the woman at the well should not be extrapolated and say that God doesn’t support the death penalty at all; He is the one who instituted it (Genesis 9:6). And He gave the authority for man-made governments to use it when they see fit (Romans 13:4).
It is unbiblical to claim that the Bible opposes the death penalty in all instances.
The resolution is affirmed.
ESV Study Bible
Got Questions Ministries
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I thank my opponent for that round, and also for the CX which I'd like to recap first up.
My opponent concedes that, while the Bible commands us to obey those in power over us, it stops short of actually saying that whatever governments choose to legislate is also supported by the Bible. My opponent also points out that in some cases the Bible actually commands us to NOT obey the government - specifically, cases where the government mandate goes against God's mandate.
Round Two Point: Governments are God's avenging arm - therefore the Death Penalty is favored by God.
My side is not suggesting that this passage excludes obeying other laws aside from taxes, I don't think it does. It's also not specifically condemning whatever form of punishment the Roman overlords deemed fit.
However, crucially for PRO - neither does this passage suggest that the Roman laws were biblically moral, and neither does it suggest that their punishments, and indeed their system of trial, were biblically moral either. The Bible is FULL of examples where God uses immoral men to deliver his judgement to the Israelites, both on a national level, (eg. Egypt holding them as slaves for decades) and individually, (God giving Job over to Satan himself).
The Old Testament law that my opponent brought up was very clear. Death was prescribed for many sins. When God was walking the Earth as Man, He had ample opportunity to show that this sentence was still considered relevant today.
The quoted passage from Matt 5:38 finally reveals the truth that God and the Bible actually advocate, as far as Man goes - Forgive.
This concept is taught over and over again throughout the New Testament. And here's why:
"For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” - 1 Sam 16:7
No, it advocates Man's forgiveness and God's unique qualification as Judge.
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I thank my opponent for finishing round 2 and relentlessly interrogating me in CX.
Now, it is clear in the Bible that God gave governments the authority to choose the punishments for criminals in Romans 13:1-7. It says that governments are the sword that God uses to carry out punishments (Romans 13:4). It’s in black and white here. It’s pretty clear. God uses governments to punish evildoers; whatever that punishment may be. And the death penalty is one of those punishments, particularly for the most evil of crimes. So God allows the government to use the death penalty when appropriate. Con tries to equate this to gay marriage, in that God “allows” it to happen. But here’s the difference: The Bible says that homosexuality is sinful. It does not say that the death penalty is wrong.
In fact, it seems to support it if anything, such as when God gave the first allowance for human government to use the death penalty in Genesis 9:6. Con says that God gave government the authority to execute the death penalty because the human population was small at the time. But that is not scripturally supported. That wasn’t the reason why God gave man the authority to use the death penalty. The Bible never says that’s the reason. So if that wasn’t the reason, then what was? The reason is inside the verse. The verse says: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His own image” (Genesis 9:6). That’s the reason: “for God made man in His own image”. It wasn’t “for the human population was small”. It was because we are made in His image. To say that the reason was because the population was small would be “adding” stuff to the Bible. Nowhere in there does it say that. If a man murders another man, the just penalty would be for man to take the life of the murderer. The reason is that man is made in God’s image. So that makes murder a unique crime. Because if man is made in God’s image, and if a man murders him, that kinda says something. This puts murder into a category of it’s own. It’s unique. It’s a special sin. This isn’t to say that there is a “worse” sin or “the greatest” sin, but it’s just unique. Technically all sins are equal, all deserving hell. But murder is “unique” in that man murders man who is “made in His own image”. That’s why God prescribes the death penalty only for murder in Genesis 9:6.
God instituted the death penalty in the first place and did not hesitate to execute it. And God showed grace when the death penalty was due also. The first example of this was Cain, Adam and Eve’s very first child, as well as the first murderer. Adam and Eve were our ultimate grandfather and grandmother. Now, when Cain murdered Abel, God didn’t execute the death penalty. Instead, He sent him out as a wanderer on the earth. Another example was David, who was a murderer and an adulterer, both of which were punishable by death from the Mosaic law. But God didn’t kill him, another rare instance. But these very few instances should not be relentlessly extrapolated to say that God doesn’t want man to use the death penalty at all. He says we can use it (Genesis 9:6). He also says that governments are His tool of punishment (Romans 13:4). So we shouldn’t argue against whatever that punishment may be.
My opponent attempts to refute Romans 13 by saying that the passage doesn’t use the words “death penalty”. While true, it does say that the governments are His tool of punishment. And the death punishment fits the category of “punishment”.
My opponent says “…neither does this passage suggest that the Roman laws were biblically moral, and neither does it suggest that their punishments, and indeed their system of trial, were biblically moral either.” No, but it does say that the punishments are for the evildoers (Romans 13:4) and that is always just.
My opponent mentioned the fact that Jesus spared the adulterous woman. But the point of the passage was to expose the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. It wasn’t about abolishing the death penalty.
My opponent argues that since God is the perfect judge, only He should use the death penalty. While it is true that He is the perfect judge, He told man that it’s okay for us to use the death penalty (Genesis 9:6). And since He acts through human governments to avenge evildoers and to punish them (Romans 13:4), whatever punishment God uses through the government, the penalty is up to them.
My opponent brings up the point excessively that we should be forgiving, and therefore (so the argument goes) we should not use the death penalty. The problem with this logic however is that I could say that life in prison is “unforgiving” so therefore we shouldn’t use life in prison as a sentence. Another example, “50 years in prison without parole is so unforgiving; so we shouldn’t use that punishment because it’s a cruel and inhumane sentence”. Or “35 years in prison is so unforgiving; we should show forgiveness and lessen the punishment.” My opponent said that we should show mercy. If we are going to argue that way, then I could say that some forms of the death penalty are more merciful than others. Some are relentlessly painful torture, while others are supposed to be quick-and-easy. My opponent says that the death penalty should be abolished because “Taking a criminal’s life removes all possibility of that person coming to know God.” First, that’s false. They still had their whole lives right up to that point to decide to have faith in Jesus. Second, everybody dies eventually; and God gave the authority for us to give the death penalty (Genesis 9:6; Romans 13:1-7).
In summarization, to claim that the Bible opposes the death penalty in all instances is unbiblical.
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I thank my opponent for their third and final round, and for letting me interrogate them relentlessly in CX.
As this is the final round in this debate, I'll be keeping new information to a minimum, summing up my side of the resolution, and explaining why I've won.
In the last round of CX, I grilled my opponent to establish the burden of proof he was attempting to prove. Note this section - I'm going to edit/format it here for readability and emphasis, but the entire exchange is there if you'd like to read for yourself:
CON: Clearly not in every instance though right? You've already said that God doesn't support Gay marriage, even though he allows it..
PRO: Nevermind, allow isn't the same thing as support. But the point is that God has given governments the authority to determine which punishment is appropriate for the crime. So we shouldn't oppose the government when it executes the death penalty.
PRO: Because according to Romans 13, God has given the governments the authority to determine when the death penalty is due. And the fact that He clearly supported it in Genesis 9:6 is also noteworthy.
As my esteemed opponent brings up, it's also shown by God in the story of Cain and Abel - particularly relevant as the crime here is literally Murder!
Why have I won this point?
In return, my side has shown from actual biblical examples, as well as from preached messages, that God's will is more in line with restorative justice - for example, jail time.
The resolution questions which form of punishment Jesus advocates for, and the answer is jail time.
This makes no logical sense.
My opponent does not disagree that sins are equal in the eyes of God. I've already shown this from the passages in Matthew. The Government has a responsibility of care to its citizens, so it is right and proper that convicted offenders should be safely removed from society - however, as a society we have an opportunity to advocate for mercy here - just as the Master did to his servant. And Matthew 18 tells us that this is God's preferred path for us to take.
I've pointed out several specific instances where God's opinion on this matter is revealed. Not obscure ones either - literally black and white.
By using jail time as opposed to killing them, we are giving them EVERY opportunity to repent, just as God gives us.
Would Jesus pull the switch?
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