An article in the Sunday Denver Post was entitled, "Arkansas primed to kill." It was written by Washington Post contributor Shane Claiborne. Shane, as his friends like to call him, is upset that the State of Arkansas is going to execute eight death row inmates over a ten day period this month. It seems that the drugs that are used to execute prisoners are due to expire and must be used before the expiration date comes up. I wonder if the FDA ever thought about this consequence to its rules and regulations about drug expiry dates?
Shane is mad that the powers that be in Arkansas are going to execute eight murderers, four blacks and four whites, immediately after Easter. According to Shane the message of Easter is that all murderers should be forgiven and most certainly never executed for their sin. According to Shane, Jesus taught that the death penalty is sinful. But don't take my word for it. Here is some of what Shane wrote:
"Arkansas is set to execute eight people over a stunning 10 days....Arkansas consistently ranks at the top of the most religious states in America, sitting comfortably in the middle of the Bible belt....At the heart of Christianity is a savior executed by the state. How we understand what happened on the cross 2,000 years ago shapes how we understand capital punishment today....What Jesus did on the cross was make a spectacle of death. He exposed the violence of the state and the violence of the human heart, not to celebrate death, but to triumph over it. He died with grace on his lips, forgiving the very people who were killing him, and all of us whose sins helped land him there. Jesus' death broke the cycle of violence....Jesus was the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. He stole the show with love....And what about those people facing death row? The Bible promises, 'Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.' The Bible is filled with murderers who were given a second chance including Moses, David and Saul of Taursus....Arkansas, as religious as it may be, will miss the point of Easter if it does not stop the executions."
Well there you have it. Shane, an expert in Christian theology if I have ever seen one, has authoritatively declared that God opposes the planned execution of eight murderers in Arkansas this month on the grounds that Jesus' death somehow makes it so that murderers should no longer be executed by the state. As Shane put it, he "is calling for an end to the death penalty in the name of the executed and risen Christ." Let's consider Shane's arguments for a brief moment today.
I don't know what Shane means when he pens that Jesus "made a spectacle of death." The death that Jesus suffered was at the hands of the Jewish religious leaders of the time who utilized the civil authority of the Roman Empire to accomplish their ends. Prior to His execution Pontius Pilate attempted to release Jesus to the people but they would have none of it. Having been stirred into a hate-filled frenzy by the religious leaders the crowd shouted out, "His blood be on us and on our children." They got their wish soon after, in 70 AD, when God providentially destroyed Jerusalem and the Jewish religion forever.
Shane uses Jesus' famous words about forgiving "them, for they know not what they do" in the same way all ignorant and air-headed arm-chair theologians do. He does not bother to ask the single most important question about what Jesus uttered that day; namely, who is "them?" Everyone always assumes that "them" is the entire human race. In other words, Jesus asked God the Father to forgive every single member of the human race of his sins. Given the fact that Jesus never uttered an ineffectual prayer and given the fact that God the Father answered all of Jesus prayers, it necessarily follows that God has forgiven everyone who has ever lived, including the eight murderers sitting on death row in Arkansas. If they are forgiven, as Shane apparently believes, they certainly should not be put to death.
Shane adopts the heresy of Marcion when he alleges that Jesus has invalidated the death penalty for murder by means of His death on the cross. The punishment for murder, according to biblical law, is death without mercy. There are no exceptions to the rule when it comes to God's proscribed penalty for murder. All murderers should be executed swiftly by the civil authorities once they are caught and found guilty of their sin. But Shane has rejected God's law as morally binding on us today. In that sense he is a good antinomian (look it up). He also rejects God's law as morally binding on us today because the Old Testament law in regards to murder and murderers was cooked up by a vengeful, nasty, hateful and mean spirited god who either no longer exists or has changed his mind about the punishment for murder. That puts him squarely in the middle of the heresy of Marcion (look it up).
Shane believes in the kind, gentle, sheep carrying, loving God of the New Testament; namely, Jesus Himself. Shane believes that Jesus would never have a murderer executed by the civil government because Jesus died to remove the death penalty for murderers, among other things. By expounding his beliefs about Jesus and the death penalty Shane has profoundly illustrated his ignorance of Christian theology on the topic. The New Testament declares that God is a "vengeful" God. The New Testament records the saints beneath the throne of God crying out to Him, continually asking how long He will wait before he avenges their blood on the earth. The New Testament says that it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. But those beliefs are emotionally and socially unpalatable in our times so we ignore them and praise Shane for his compassionate and loving article in which he argues that Bible believing Christians are hate filled, vengeful monsters (and probably racists as well) who need to repent of their belief that God's opinion about the punishment for murder has not changed. Oh yes, that reminds me of another important doctrine Shane denies. He does not believe in the immutability (look it up) of God and his disbelief inevitably leads him down the road to ruin. Too bad his disbelief could not prevent him from erroneously speaking for the God of the Bible.