Thursday, October 22, 2009

Public Stonings and Hired Executioners

Someone else’s generosity made it possible for me to go on a retreat with some men from my church last weekend. After living I hate to think how long in a feminine atmosphere at home and a predominantly feminine atmosphere at work, it was good to be out in the woods with guys, playing table games, chowing down with abandon, taking a hike, and opening the Bible.

And, of course, before long yours truly was in a bull session, literally and figuratively across the table from four guys whose shoelaces he isn’t fit to untie, discussing what to do with miscreants, specifically murderers. It was a landslide victory for Leviathan: eighty percent said, “The state does not bear the sword in vain,” and only twenty percent said, “The hands of the witnesses must be the first in putting him to death, and then the hands of all the people.” Finally, one of the victors asked, “What’s the difference between me joining the community in stoning a man to death and delegating the job to the state? The guy dies either way, and I’m still responsible.”

My first answer is that one needs to have an exegetical, systematic reason for annulling the explicit instructions given in the Torah. As my earlier posts and the comments thereto show, Romans 13:1-7 is so difficult to take at face value that it does not qualify as such.

The second is that we become blasé about murder when we delegate execution to the state. If we have rocks in our hands, we have to consider thoroughly whether the evidence convinces us that we are acting justly, but if the deed takes place out of sight, we have every reason to keep it out of mind as well. How many US Christians today care whom their government kills, for what, and how? Was the evidence against Gary Gilmore or Timothy McVeigh, let alone the Branch Davidians, Randy Weaver’s wife, or the drug runners the Peruvians thought they were shooting when they killed Veronica Bowers and her infant, really enough for those who took their lives to say that God would back them up? Would you have killed them out of obedience to God if you had had to do it yourself?

When our current president was at the peak of his popularity, most conservative Christians (I heard discuss him) considered him the most evil president we have ever had. Yet when he ordered bombs dropped on a country we were told was an ally and babies died as a result, I heard no conservatives say this was proof of his evil.

To play a variation on a tune by Barry Goldwater, a government that’s powerful enough to kill all your enemies is powerful enough to kill all your friends. When it comes to life-and-death situations, I want the ball in my court. If I’m going to be sorry to be responsible for someone’s death, I want to know it as soon as possible, before the guilt can compound, if possible before the convict dies, and best of all, before the murder is committed: “Joe, having to stone your son for murder would be the low point of my day. Teach him God’s ways before he does something we’ll all regret.”

Obviously, if everyone in the US had to deal with every murder case, we’d never get anything else done. This is why power needs to be as local as possible. But that’s a subject for another post.


  1. I agree that power that needs to be local, and IF we were wto all pick up stones, agreed, it would be pretty silly for a man in Texas to go to Philly to stone a person they were not even remotely close to six degrees seperated from. Perhaps maybe the immediate family and extended family and friends would be the best candidates for the public execution of murderers. I was also thinking that perhaps the whole purpose of God ordaining public executions by way of stoning, and making it a very personal matter, was to remind the people that they deserve to die by the hand of God because of their sins against Him. What a concept, public executions were intended to be an evangelistic tool! Well, I agree with you Henry, that government should be as small as possible, and we should all exercise as much self responsiblity and individaul liberty as the law of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ allows. And I believe that this is where that Church needs to step in. We are so proud of our country here in America, that to be Christian is considered to be pro US government, and not pro liberty and freedom under the law of God. We love our government, and to speak out against it is a blasphemous act. But since when did loving liberty and freedom become a blind, zealous, and passionate love and adherance to the Govt??? When the Church pulls her head out of her ass, and finally realizes what she is, what God has planned for her, and the purposes she is to have in this world, (i.e., to be Heaven on Earth, as one example), then perhaps we can recognize that the Church is not simply an organization that is allowed by the government, or an organization that is here to be simply a witness to the lost, but to actually exist as an alternative society that counters the State, and seeks to live according to the Kingship of Christ. When this is done, then perhaps, when the State proves its utter inability to do anything it has sought to accomplish, and ruins everything it puts its hand to, then the Church can be there to pick up the pieces, and show that the society of the Church, the Heavenly Jerusalem, is a WAAAAAAYYY better place to live and die, and live and die for. For the Church has been promised to exist for eternity, and is promised to be shaped into the image of Christ, and created to be a beautiful Bride.
    So in short, what I am saying, is that the true and proper remedy to the problem of a power hungry state, is to have a High View of the Church. In order to redeem people from an individualism that is only self promoting and self serving, when we live for one another, serving and giving up ourselves for each other, then we will be made into a true community, a true society, and have a culture that breeds a truly Biblical collectivism. But I am an idealist, and these ideas are a long way off from being fulfilled on a massive scale. But I am called to be faithful in my community, in my church, and seek to promoste the values of the kingdom in my little niche. It is the work of God to make it spread and take hold. I it is my prayer that it would, for I belive it is truly Biblical,and Truly Christian.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Mike!

    The point of "the whole community," whether defined geographically or contractually or covenantally, executing the miscreant is for all concerned to affirm "We're all on the same page when it comes to matters of life and death," so limiting the execution to the family would be counterproductive. The witnesses have to throw the first stones to affirm their testimony. The rest join in to say they agree that the testimony is true and the proper response to the evidence is to execute the accused. Those who refuse to participate would be saying either they don't agree with the evidence or they don't think the offense deserves death. At that point the community, whether would have to determine whether those who refused to participate (or those who chose to participate) really should be members of that community.

    The transformation of the US church from tyranny's foe to tyranny's friend has been subtle. We began by being grateful to God for a government that allowed us to be free to loving the government that allowed us to be free to loving the government whatever its faults.

    I'm guessing that Jesus will forgive his church for being a slut for the state, but he won't return to marry her until she repents.

  3. whoa!!! Relax Henry. It is one thing to identify the problems of Christ's Bride, and another to call her a "Slut". Remember, that is the Lord Jesus' wife you're talking about!!!. He is in the process of sanctifying her and is in the process of purifying her that He might present her to Himself without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Eph. 5:26-27). He loves her very very much, and has given His life to save her. Be careful of the words you use, the Lord Jesus will reveal them to you on the Day of Judgment.

    As a result of our low view of the Church, and espeically of a lack of catholicity, seeing the Church as a World kingdom, a True One World Order, we have divided ourselves over the pettiest things, like political theory, certain formulations of a doctrine that all parties agree is important, and other such things that are harmful. And because the State was there to get our children to pledge their allegience to "One Nation, Under God, Indivisible...." and we have ripped the Church to pieces, we have reaped the consequences. But now we must see the Church as the community of Saints and Sinners, and recoginze that we have erred in our sinfulness. But we must not beat the Church up and call her names, she has already inflicted enough damage on herself. We need to be the part of the Body that nurses the hurt part of the body back to health. We need to teach each other, and love each other, and serve each other, and carry one anothers burdens, and have mercy and compassion on those who have not seen clearly. To simply point the finger and call her a Slut and tell her to repent, is not helping the problem get better, in my opinion, but is making it worse. Why? because people, like yourself, and many others, most of whom I Love very dearly and possibly would die for, have gotten this idea that being against Big Govt., by advocating limited govt. is the answer to the problem of Statism. And it is not. Limited govt. is good, and should be sought out in every society, in my opinion, for the good of the people. But no matter how small a govt is, no matter how limited power is and how many checks and balances one puts on govt, the human element still holds true. We are all sinners, and power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  4. History goes in cycles, it seems. And God allows such tyranny to take place to get the Church to reform and get her act together and become more mature in the faith, and to be more grown up like Christ than the previous generations. Unfortunately, the Church for a long time has not been looking at the Blueprints of the Temple that God is contructing; and Church has been done, and ministry has been dperformed with no aim whatsoever, to serve no purpose in histry except to be a "witness". If we don't see that God is in the process of taking the Church and making her into a beautiful Bride, a glorious Temple, a Full grown Man, then all of our criticisms and work and ministry is in vain, because we are not building up with the Lord Jesus. And Jesus Himself said, that those who do not build with him, tear down, and those that do not gather, scatter. Their end is destruction. Let us not be those that tear down in the name of Christ. We must build up, and we must provide answers to the challenges of Statism, which is knocking on out door as we speak. The answer is a higher view of the Church, of her catholicity with other Churches, denominations, and branches, yes, even including Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. The divided condition of America, and the American Church leaves us vulnerable to statist tyranny b/c a divided Church is impotent. We need to form a visible unity among the other Branches of Christ's Church, to withstand the arrows of the adversary. And right now is the time to do so.

    But regarding the main issue, that this blog was initially about, stoning: who is t that you would have in mind that deserves to undergo death by stoning? Murderers? Rapists? Pedophiles? These I would heartliy agree with. But on a practical level, which is not my strong point, i'm an idealist, how many people in a local community would be needed for the stoning? How many until it becomes "overkill"? and how do we select which people would be the ones performing the stoning? I don't really expect an answer to this, nor do I want one at the moment, for we are a long way off before executions are being handled by communities. This is an issue that to me, seems to be much deeper and have more implications on more levels of our humanity than can be clearly perceived at the moment. What effects will this have on the psyche of a certain persons? what cultural and societal effects will it have? Will it turn into something that is done in th name of justice with false intentions by some people, not seeing the act as justice, but becasue of the sinfulness in their own hearts, turns out to be murder for them, because they actually took pleasure in the act of stoning?

    And then there is the hermeneutical issue. Does Jesus' dealing with the Pharisees and the woman caught in adultery in John 8 do something to a "consistant hermeneutic" whereby you just carry the one OT law on over into the New? I don't know, i would have to do some studying.

    Just some thoughts.

  5. Thanks again for posting, Mike!

    God calls Israel a slut more than once, every time she is unfaithful to him and runs after other gods. My point in this blog is to show that US Christians' devotion to the state is idolatry, that is, adultery, that is, whoredom. We as individuals are sluts whenever we put our own interests above those of Christ. Christ is in the process of sanctifying us, yes, but whoredom is still whoredom. When God calls me to account for my words here, I will say, "You can read it in my blog: if the Bible didn't say that the apostle Paul was the chief of sinners, I'd claim the place of chief slut for myself."

    The point of this blog is to discuss what it means to be a good neighbor as a means to building the church. We are to be a city on a hill, a benefit (salt and light) to our neighbors, not competitors for Artemis' teats. It is in Christ alone that justice and mercy, righteousness and peace, come together. But if we're busy supporting Uncle Sam's ungodly depredations (even if only the "right" ones), how are people going to see Jesus? Can we continue to do evil that good may result? Or is there a better, more biblical way?

    The answers are not ultimately political. That's why I consistently deplore the political process. I am to politics what an atheist is to religion: atheism deals with the same questions religion does, but the ultimate point of atheism is to debunk religion. You can call this blog political theory, but my goal in bringing up these issues is to debunk the idea that some people have the right to force their wills on those innocent of activities for which the Bible specifically prescribes punishment.