A Pro-Life Defense of Capital Punishment

Recently I was asked to speak at an Iowa Senate sub-committee and I gave my support for capital punishment specifically concerning a criminal who would kidnap, rape, and then murder minors. That was the specific scope of the bill, to my surprise I was the only one who spoke in favor of the bill and twenty or so spoke against it mostly citing unjust courts, inhumane treatment of the criminal, and a society that has progressed further than the death penalty. When I spoke I not only supported the bill but I encouraged the Iowa Senators to take it a step further and fully reinstitute the death penalty for all capital crimes. As you can imagine this drew the ire of many, including the Black Lives Matter representative who spoke immediately after me and called me a racist for my position. This was not totally unexpected nor was the Iowa mainstream media’s coverage that was framed negatively towards my position. 

One thing you should know about me is that I am very much unapologetically pro-life. In fact, I am so pro-life I actually would not describe myself as pro-life, but an abolitionist. I don’t want to merely see abortion limited or regulated, I want to see it abolished and completely outlawed! Holding to this position, and speaking of it often in public, has allowed me to connect and network with several pro-lifers and abolitionists on social media. When I posted my position on social media I was surprised at the messages I got asking me how I could hold to a pro-life stance and a pro-capital punishment stance at the same time? Before we examine capital punishment let me say this, opposing abortion and being in favor of life does not in any way contradict a pro-capital punishment stance. 

To properly understand capital punishment we have to understand God’s purpose for the civil government. With that in mind let’s consider these passages: 

Genesis 6:9 “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.”

Romans 13:1-4 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.

1Peter 2:13-15 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.

God’s purpose for civil government is to punish the wicked and praise the good. By punishing the wicked the civil government protects the innocent and by praising the good there is a positive motivation to not be wicked. It should be noted that the wicked and the good are determined by God’s standard found in His word. Without a moral compass found in God’s moral law civil government would be nothing more than a group of organized street thugs. 

God gave civil government to mankind with very specific instructions in Genesis 9:6 where He institutes capital punishment. Capital punishment is to be carried out by men, as opposed to God or old age, to fulfill the punishment. God makes it clear that this mandate continues in Romans when He says, “for he does not bear the sword in vain” and in 1Peter when He says, “for the punishment of evildoers.” When a civil government submits itself to God’s standard and truly becomes a minister of God (see Romans 13:4) by carrying out capital punishment righteously, it protects its innocent citizens who live under their authority. 

When it comes to being pro-life there is something we need to examine and that is self-defense. Self-defense is under the umbrella of being pro-life, after all, how could anyone be pro-life and not give room for an innocent life to be defended? Self-defense or the right of limb has always been connected to the right to life, just look at what the great legal commentator Sir William Blackstone had to say about it: 

Both the life and limbs of a man are of such high value, in the estimation of the law of England that it pardons even homicide if committed se defendendo, or in order to preserve them. For whatever is done by a man, to save either life or member, is looked upon as done upon the highest necessity and compulsion.

It is well within the right to life —pro-life— for an innocent person to defend themself even to the point of killing their abuser. The line drawn is who was being an evildoer and who was the original victim of the crime. If someone was against the right to self-defense they would actually hold a position of being anti-life as they would be giving a green light for murders to do their evil works unopposed. 

Capital punishment, as God instituted it, is a nation’s self-defense against guilty evildoers of particular crimes where the innocent person was unable or unwilling to adequately defend themself. It is a God instituted function of the civil government to uphold justice in the land. It is also in the category of loving your neighbor. When people read that last sentence they may be confused, but it is a true statement, you cannot rightly love your neighbor without extending the right of defense and protecting the innocent. 

Capital punishment not only fits within the pro-life narrative it is actually the pro-life position. If you are not pro-capital punishment you cannot with any substance say you are pro-life for in every instance what is meant by pro-life is pro-innocent life. Those who would find themselves facing capital punishment —based on the criteria found in God’s word— are no longer innocent but guilty and should rightly and justly be punished by the civil government. 

So how can I be in favor of capital punishment and be pro-life at the same time? Simple, I understand God’s design for civil government and recognize the intrinsic value of each human life. When you do these two things you have no choice but to be pro-life and in favor of capital punishment at the same time.

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