"Capital Punishment" vs. Pacifism

or as the Westminster Larger Catechism calls it:

1. "Public Justice"

Does a Theonomic follower of Jesus Christ have a right to kill someone in the name of "public justice?"

a. "Public"

For a consistent pacifist (opponent of violence), there is no such thing as "public justice."
"Public" is a euphemism for "the State," which is systematic, institutionalized vengeance, theft, murder, kidnapping, and other forms of violence.
A consistent pacifist is an "anarchist."
A consistent Theonomist is an anarchist.

Many will claim that "capital punishment" can only be meted out by a "civil magistrate."

But God never commanded the creation or maintenance of "civil magistrates."

Many will object to a stateless society based on Romans 13, contending that Romans 13 commands the creation and continued maintenance of a "civil government" or "State," which is authorized by God to kill people and behave in a notably un-pacifist manner. In fact, Romans 13 commands pacifism, not patriotism. It does not condone the organized violence which we call "the State," it simply commands us to "be subject" to it. Romans 12:9ff is a pacifist passage. Romans 13 is a continuation of the pacifist argument which began in Romans 12. For an anarchist analysis of Romans 13, see www.Romans13.com.

There is nothing in the Bible that prohibits "private justice." There is nothing in the Bible that prohibits a man from "executing" his brother if his brother commits a "capital crime" -- solely because he is the criminal's nearest relative.

When a murder takes place in our day, politicians and police can often be heard saying things like, "We are working hard to bring the killer to justice." That is, to kill him.

b. "Justice"

The Bible, taken as a whole, is against "capital punishment."

"Capital punishment" in western civilization is historically derived from Biblical passages which demanded that the blood of capital criminals be shed:

But you shall not eat flesh with its lifethat is, its blood5 Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every manís brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.
Genesis 9:4-6

Smaller sins could be atoned for through the temple sacrifices: lambs, turtledoves, etc., but some crimes were so serious that atonement could not be made in any other way than by the shedding of the blood of the criminal himself:

So you shall not pollute the land where you are; for blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it.
Numbers 35:33

That God does not require the shedding of blood after Christ's work on Calvary is seen in the case of an unsolved homicide; Deuteronomy 21:1-9 required the tribal elders to shed the blood of a heifer in order to atone for the shedding of innocent blood, following the directions of the priests:

{5} Then the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come near, for the LORD your God has chosen them to minister to Him and to bless in the name of the LORD; by their word every controversy and every assault shall be settled
{7} "Then they shall answer and say, 'Our hands have not shed this blood, nor have our eyes seen it.
{8} 'Provide atonement, O LORD, for Your people Israel, whom You have redeemed, and do not lay innocent blood to the charge of Your people Israel.' And atonement shall be provided on their behalf for the blood.
{9} "So you shall put away the guilt of innocent blood from among you when you do what is right in the sight of the LORD.

Nobody advocates the literal application of Deuteronomy 21 after the Cross. Christian theologians for 2000 years have rightly concluded that in our day only the blood of Christ can provide such atonement in cases of an unsolved homicide. Yet they persist in requiring the shedding of the criminal's blood when the homicide is solved.

What politicians call "capital punishment" is actually part of the "ceremonial law," overseen by the Levitical priests.

Deuteronomy 17
ďIf a matter arises which is too hard for you to judge, between degrees of guilt for bloodshed, between one judgment or another, or between one punishment or another, matters of controversy within your gates, then you shall arise and go up to the place which the LORD your God chooses. And you shall come to the priests, the Levites, and to the judge there in those days, and inquire of them; they shall pronounce upon you the word [dâbâr] of judgment [mishpâṭ]. 10 You shall do according to the mouth [peh] of the word [dâbâr] which they pronounce upon you in that place which the LORD chooses. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they teach you. 11 According to the mouth [peh] of the law [tôrâh] in which they instruct you, according to the judgment [mishpâṭ] which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left from the word [dâbâr] which they pronounce upon you. 12 Now the man who acts presumptuously and will not heed the priest who stands to minister there before the LORD your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall put away the evil from Israel. 13 And all the people shall hear and fear, and no longer act presumptuously.

This has foreign policy implications. "Holy war" in the Old Testament was "capital punishment" on a national scale. The Promised Land was being cleansed of heinous sins committed by the pagans who inhabited the land promised to Abraham. Anyone using Old Testament texts to justify U.S. invasion of a non-Christian land is denying the efficacy of Christ's blood as the only means of atonement, and abusing the Bible.