Are Christians hypocritical to support the death penalty?

In a previous post on abortion on my own blog, a reader named Matthew Lee raised the issue of how many pro-abortion advocates bring up the death penalty. By doing so, they hope to show that Christians are inconsistent in saying we should never take human life.

Now, in one sense I think this is a non-issue. The objection doesn’t really get off the ground for at least two reasons:

  1. Even if Christians are inconsistent here, that doesn’t make them wrong to oppose abortion. Perhaps they are simply wrong to support the death penalty. So that doesn’t defuse the pro-life argument.
  2. The objection relies on a fallacy. Christians are concerned with unjustly taking a human life. But the death penalty is the taking of a human life precisely because justice demands it. So the objection trades on a pretty flagrant category error.

So this objection doesn’t do anything to shift the burden of proof away from the person arguing for abortion. But still, the death penalty is a pretty important topic, so Christians should have an answer to that. Click here to see how I address the question →

2 replies
  1. says:

    Reason #1 does not expose the question as a non-issue as represented by the introductory sentence preceding the 2 numbered statements. To the contrary, it accepts as a premise that Christians may be inconsistent in their opinions of these 2 issues. It is correct that acknowledging the inconsistency teaches nothing as to whether either position is correct or incorrect, but it does not dispose of the objection that the positions appear inconsistent.

    Reason #2 is even less satisfactory. To rationalize that the death penalty is the taking of human life because justice demands it, is to state that there are circumstances when humans are permitted to decide to take a human life. Justice demands it because humans have enacted laws imposing the death penalty for certain conduct (including treason against the government) characterized by humans as criminal. If humans are entitled to make that decision for some purposes, then humans can decide that abortion may be permissible under some circumstances, too. But if only God can decide to take a human life, then should that not apply to the death penalty just as abortion?

    Based upon the 2 reasons stated in the starting post, the 2 positions continue to appear hypocritical.

  2. Bnonn Tennant
    Bnonn Tennant says:

    Re #1, I didn’t say it makes the question a non-issue. I said it doesn’t defuse the anti-abortion argument.

    Re #2, your objection simply misses the point. The issue is not whether in fact it is just to take a human life as punishment for a criminal act, but whether or not Christians are inconsistent in holding the view that it is just, while simultaneously holding the view that abortion is not. Since both their views are based on God’s law, obviously they are not inconsistent, and any effort to characterize them as such fails due to a category error.

    If you care to click through to my blog, where I posted the full article, you’ll see I also lay out in some detail why Christians believe in the death penalty; and you’ll also see that you can’t make abortion permissible for the same reasons that capital punishment is.

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