Friday, January 11

Rich Mouw on capital punishment

My own conviction is that the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement actually provides the solution. People do need to pay for their sins -- and the wages of sin is death. The problem is that we can’t afford the payment. No murderer can atone for the sin he or she has committed. There is only one "legal execution" that fulfills the conditions for atonement. The rest of us have only one plea: "Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the Cross I cling." Putting a sinner to death for committing a murder is not overdoing it -- it falls far short of satisfying the demands of justice...

That kind of approach still makes sense to me -- particularly in cases of acts of terrorism. So I cannot simply rule out all cases of capital punishment as excessively cruel. But -- if practiced at all -- legal executions must be very rare occurrences. Our present practices are clearly out of hand. Obviously, the complexites are such that theology alone will not provide the solutions. But the issues at stake are such that they provide yet another reason why it is important for us to proclaim boldly that "Jesus paid it all!"

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