Tag Archives: Old Testament

How to defend the Biblical view of capital punishment

Here’s a Yahoo News story, and pay attention to the victims and their view of capital punishment.

Excerpt:

The leader of a former gang of Houston teenagers who raped and murdered two young girls walking home from a neighborhood party 17 years ago was executed Tuesday in Texas.

Peter Anthony Cantu, 35, was strapped to a gurney in the Huntsville Unit prison death chamber and administered a lethal injection at 6:09 p.m. CDT. He took a single deep breath before slipping into unconsciousness, then was pronounced dead eight minutes later as relatives of his victims, Jennifer Ertman and Elizabeth Pena, looked stoically through a window a few feet from him.

Asked by the warden if he had any last statement, Cantu replied: “No.” He never looked at the witnesses, including his victims’ parents.

“Nothing he would have said to me would have made any difference,” Adolfo Pena, who lost his daughter in the attack, said after watching Cantu die. “He did a horrendous crime to these two girls. He deserved to die and 17 years later, he died. Not soon enough.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Pena, who wore a T-shirt bearing pictures of both girls.

I’ll leave out the brutal details of the crime, and jump to this:

Jennifer’s father, Randy Ertman, who witnessed all three executions, said before Cantu was put to death Tuesday that the apologies meant nothing to him, that it was too late for apologies.

[…]Ertman said if the death penalty was intended as a deterrent, all five members who had been sentenced to die should have been hanged from trees outside Houston City Hall years ago.

“That would be a deterrent,” he said.

Ok, now look at this Fox News article which talks about whether it works to deter more violent crimes.

Excerpt:

What gets little notice, however, is a series of academic studies over the last half-dozen years that claim to settle a once hotly debated argument — whether the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder. The analyses say yes. They count between three and 18 lives that would be saved by the execution of each convicted killer.

[…]”Science does really draw a conclusion. It did. There is no question about it,” said Naci Mocan, an economics professor at the University of Colorado at Denver. “The conclusion is there is a deterrent effect.”A 2003 study he co-authored, and a 2006 study that re-examined the data, found that each execution results in five fewer homicides, and commuting a death sentence means five more homicides. “The results are robust, they don’t really go away,” he said. “I oppose the death penalty. But my results show that the death penalty (deters) — what am I going to do, hide them?”

Statistical studies like his are among a dozen papers since 2001 that capital punishment has deterrent effects. They all explore the same basic theory — if the cost of something (be it the purchase of an apple or the act of killing someone) becomes too high, people will change their behavior (forego apples or shy from murder).

That’s the only question we should be asking – does it work? Not “how does it makes us feel?”. I don’t care how it makes anyone feel except for the victims. I only care about the victims. If the conviction is good, and they accused admit their guilt, the death penalty should be on the table.

The Bible supports the idea of capital punishment, and if you want to explain to people why the Bible supports it, you need to give specific examples, talk from the point of the view of the victims, and reference the relevant research, keeping in mind that academics are vastly more likely to skew the results in favor of the liberal “murderers should not be punished because no one should be punished” view.

How should Christians understand the Old Testament laws?

I found this post by Aaron Brake at Apologetics Junkie.

Excerpt:

Perhaps no area of the Old Testament is more foreign and confusing to modern-day Christians than the Mosaic Law. When reading through the Pentateuch, many believers breeze through the narrative of Genesis only to hit a roadblock when confronted with the overwhelming number of commandments, statutes, and ordinances in the last half of Exodus (not to mention the books of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy).

Yes, this is why you have to be careful when telling people to read the Bible, because not all parts of the Bible are good for new Christians! Not only are some parts pretty difficult to read, but the new reader has no framework to interpret what they are reading! I had a non-Christian guy in my office who was starting to read the Bible and he got bogged down in the Old Testament and had no idea whether these laws applied today. It’s a major problem, which is why I recommend everybody start with John instead, then maybe Luke and Acts.

There are two ways of solving this problem that are pretty popular. One way is the covenant model and the other is the dispensation model. I think that Aaron is presenting the covenant model. In the covenant model, the Old Testament laws were part of a covenant made between God and the people of Israel.

Aaron writes:

The Law in ancient Israel served three distinct purposes: relational, instructional, and structural. The Law was given to Israel in order to form a covenant or relational agreement between Yahweh and His people… the Law functioned as a constitution which provided internal structure for the nation as a whole. It provided objective standards by which the Israelites could maintain appropriate boundaries with one another as well as neighboring nations.

Jesus formed a new covenant with a new group of people who believed in his identity as the Messiah and that his death was an atonement for sin. So only the parts of the old covenant that are explicitly carried over to the new covenant still apply to our conduct as Christians.

Aaron writes:

Therefore, the primary interpretive question readers should approach the text with is this: “What does this passage tell us about God and His holiness, about Israel and her sin, and about how Israel needed to obey in order to maintain her covenant relationship with God?” Also ask, “What specific areas of life does God expect holiness and transformation within His people?”

I recommend reading the whole post. I think this is something that should be communicated to people who are coming at the Bible from a non-Christian perspective. Maybe we should have some scholars created an optimal ordering of the books of the Bible so as not to scare people away?

Note: I haven’t really looked into this problem in detail, but the covenant model makes more sense to me.

Christians debate Jewish rabbis on the Trinity and the identity of Jesus

Is God three persons and one being?

This debate on the Trinity was noted in a comment by Woody Lordless.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Cool. I am pleased to see a Jewish teacher get up there and slug it out with our guys.

Was Jesus the Messiah?

Here’s a debate on the question of whether Jesus was the Messiah. I recognize both of these names and have heard them both speak. These are the top guys, unless you go and get Jewish historians like Geza Vermes or Paula Fredriksen.

Part 1:

Part 2:

I want to see a full-length formal debate on the identity of Jesus with some Jewish scholars and some Christian scholars. We should organize a conference and let each side pick their best guys and have it out so everyone else will learn what the arguments are on either side. We should hold the conference at a university, and broadcast it n the Internet, then make the videos available for download after the event.

What do the Dead Sea Scrolls tell us about how the Bible was transmitted?

Here is another good post from Neil at 4Simpsons.

Excerpt:

Many people – including some Christians – are quick to say that the Bible has been translated and changed so many times over the centuries that we don’t know what the original writings said.  For example, I saw a video clip where Deepak Chopra (alleged religious expert) claims that the King James was the 13th iteration of the Bible.

But contrary to that myth, the books of the Bible have only been translated once and the copying process was very robust, dependable and verifiable.

For example, Paul wrote in Greek, and we have Greek manuscripts to make translations from.  That is one translation.

Deepak Chopra!!! He knows less about religion than my keyboard!

Look:

But I digress. I wanted to say something about the reliability of the Bible.

The Dead Sea Scrolls

When we discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls, it contained some manuscripts that were 1000 years earlier than our previous copies. It provides an excellent test of written transmission, because you can compare the best copy we had with a copy that is 1000 years earlier, then see if there are any differences.

See here:
http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/holy-post/archive/2009/06/26/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-dead-sea-scrolls.aspx

Excerpt:

You know the children’s game called “telephone”? Some kid whispers a message to the kid next to him and it moves down the line until it emerges a garbled version of the original. It turns out the Bible is not like that. Despite endless translations and editions over the centuries, the original message appears to have emerged relatively unscathed. The Dead Sea Scrolls provided Old Testament manuscripts 1,000 years older than the previous oldest manuscript in existence. What the scrolls show is that the texts used at about the time of the destruction of the Second Temple, about 70 years after the death of Jesus, are almost the same as what we read today. Expert Weston W. Fields wrote: “The differences are neither theologically nor historically important. In general the scrolls testify to the amazing accuracy and great care with which ancient scribes passed along the biblical text.”

Too bad people like Deepak Chopra are so ignorant of such evidence.