Doesn't capital punishment contradict the message of grace and forgiveness?

by Matt Slick

Some people think that capital punishment contradicts the Christian teaching of love, grace, and forgiveness; but it does not. Christian love does not negate righteousness. In fact, God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son so that the righteousness of the Law could be fulfilled in Christ where a payment for sin is necessary (Rom. 6:23). So, judgment and forgiveness can coincide, but they cannot contradict each other.

The Bible says that there is a time to give birth and and a time to die, a time to kill and a time to heal (Ecc. 3:2-3). Likewise, there is a time to forgive and a time to carry out the penalty of the Law. Romans 13:4 tells us that the government " . . . is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil," (Rom. 13:4). God has no problem with being both forgiving and also the one who executes judgment--in this case, through the state.

But, let's think a bit more about this. If forgiveness and grace are what Christians are to live by and thus not inflict capital punishment, then what about the rapist and the thief? Shouldn't we also extend forgiveness and grace and not punish them with prison time? After all, is it consistent with grace and forgiveness to punish them? Of course it is. We must punish people and establish Law and Order so that society, as a whole, runs better. So, we have to ask what makes "putting someone to death" potentially inconsistent with love and forgiveness, while we also keep others in prison for the rest of their lives for their crimes? Why just stop with capital punishment? If we negate one aspect of punishment, why just that one? Why not the rest?

So, it is not inconsistent to execute someone and also advocate grace and forgivness.



About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.