In the same issue of Christianity Today mentioned above, Jacob J. Vellenga gives his views on the above question. Dr. Vellenga, author of the article, is connected to the United Presbyterian Church.
He expects all who accept “the authority of Scripture” to agree with him that “the issue of capital punishment must be decided on what Scripture actually teaches and not on the popular naturalistic ideas of sociology and penology that prevail today.” We agree with him.
Dr. Vellenga succeeds pretty well, we believe; in presenting all the modern arguments against capital punishment and then destroying them with Scriptural arguments.
There are at least two good points emphasized in the article which we appreciated:
1. The Christian of the New Dispensation is, according to the doctrine of Christ, to live by the law of liberty which does not abrogate the natural laws of society and civil government, but it inaugurates “a new concept of law written on the heart where the mainsprings of action are born.”
2. In the argument against “capital punishment too much is made of the value of physical life. Dr. Vellenga points up that (the sentence of death on a killer is more redemptive than the tendency to excuse his crime as no worse than grand larceny.” He emphasizes that “laxness in law tends to send both soul and body to hell. It is more than a pious remark when a judge says to the condemned criminal ‘And may God have mercy on your soul.’
“It is significant that when Jesus voluntarily went the way of the Cross he chose the capital punishment of his day as his instrument to save the world. And when he gave redemption to the repentant thief he did not save him from capital punishment but gave him Paradise instead which was far better. We see again that mercy and forgiveness are something different than being excused from wrongdoing.”
“No one can deny that the execution of a murderer is a horrible spectacle. But we must not forget that murder is more horrible. The supreme penalty should be exacted only after the guilt is established beyond the shadow of doubt and only for wanton, willful, premeditated murder. But the law of capital punishment must stand, no matter how often a jury recommends mercy. The law of capital punishment must stand as a silent but powerful witness to the sacredness of God’s given life. Words are not enough to show that life is sacred. Active justice must be administered when the sacredness of life is violated.”
With the above conviction we are in complete agreement.