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THEO 303 (Su '15) T15 - Capital Punishment

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Hartmut Scherer

on 12 June 2015

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Transcript of THEO 303 (Su '15) T15 - Capital Punishment

Sources and Image Credit
Adopted key thoughts from Feinberg and Feinberg,
Ethics for a Brave New World
(Crossway, 1993), 127-147.
The Moral Issue
Is capital punishment permissible?
Capital Punishment
Is capital punishment mandatory?
Thinking Patterns of Retributive Justice
1) Crime is understood primarily as a violation of
the law
- concentrate on moral viewpoint
- 5% of the world's population
25% of the world's prisoners
~ one in every 100 American adults being in prison
- cost of prisons - $39 billion in 2010 (40 states)
- $31,286/inmate ($11,184/public school student)
- expense of incarceration in both state and federal
budgets in 2010 was about $80 billion
Non-scriptural Arguments Against Capital Punishment
- ineffective deterrent to crime
- statistical evidence
- more effective than life imprisonment?
- nothing more than legalized vengeance
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
- violated the Eight Amendment to the Constitution
- discriminatory against minorities and the poor
Other Concerns
- proneness of judge and jury to error
Scriptural Arguments Against Capital Punishment
Hermeneutical Consideration
- inconsistent hermeneutic
Capital Punishment and the Law of Christ
- the Law of Christ is love
Biblical Emphasis on Mercy
- God's mercy extended to Cain, Moses and David
Handling of Key Biblical Passages
- Genesis 9:5-6 may be predictive, not prescriptive
- Romans 13:4 - no demand to punish by execution
Arguments Pro Capital Punishment
An Appropriate Demand for Justice in Society
- biblical emphasis on forgiveness, mercy and
revenge is only relevant for individuals
Provides a Unique Deterrent Against Crime
- deterrence increases with the severity of the
penalty involved
The High Cost of a Life Term for Society
- more cost efficient in some cases
Capital punishment is not cruel and unusual punishment
- can be essentially a painless death
Guilty - Are You Sure?
- nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic
unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials
- many of the characteristics coded are subjective
- it was not possible to get complete reproducibility
Love and Justice in the Judicial System
Three Primary Positions Regarding Capital Punishment
- the retentionists, the abolitionists and the
procedural abolitionists
- Bible supports all three primary positions
Putting Restorative Justice into Practice
Justice for victims
3) The process of justice finds expression as a
conflict between adversaries
2) Offenders must get what they deserve
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2015/04/fbi_s_flawed_forensics_expert_testimony_hair_analysis_bite_marks_fingerprints.html and http://arstechnica.com/science/2015/04/the-science-and-lack-thereof-behind-the-fbis-retreat-on-hair-analysis/.
Ted Grimsrud and Howard Zehr,
Rethinking God, Justice, and Treatment of Offenders
; accessed June 11, 2015; http://peacetheology.net/restorative-justice/rethinking-god-justice-and-treatment-of-offenders/
Result: no healing of brokenness;
increased alienation
Amos - The Call for Restorative Justice
- judgment is not called justice
- goal: justice seeks life for everyone in the
- justice meets needs, corrects wrongs
- Amos 9:11-15
- "Justice" has to do with restoration of wholeness,
not with retribution
ultimate goal of God's justice is redemption
- injustice must be resisted in ways that hold open
the possibility of reconciliation
- high priority on restoring relationships and social
(restorative justice)
Retributive Justice Versus Restorative Justice
- Rule-focused (break
- People-focused (cause
- Focus on infliction
of pain
- Focus on making right
- Rewards based on
just deserts
- Rewards based on need
- Separate from mercy
- Based on mercy and love
- Seek to maintain
status quo
- Transforms status quo
- Central actors: state
vs. individual
- Central actors: entire
- State (or God) as
- People (shalom/peace)
as victims
- Goal is offender
paying debt to society
(God); victim is ignored
- Goal is restoration of
relationships, healing for

An Example of Restorative Justice
Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP)
- What laws have been
- Who has been hurt?
- Who did it?
- What are their needs?
- What do they deserve?
- Whose obligations are
- public assurance that what happened to the victim
was wrong
- need answers (e.g. why me?)
- need to be held accountable
- a need for empowerment (offense has power)
Justice for offenders
- need to tell their stories and share their feelings
- need encouragement to be reintegrated
- need opportunities for personal transformation
- a cooperative relationship with the existing justice
Justice for community
- provide alternative sentencing options
- facilitate victim-offender conferencing
Full transcript