Here's a column Dad published on the subject of capital punishment in a thoughtful and mature Reformed magazine called "Eternity" back in May of 1977. Titled, "Bloodthirsty or Biblical: Hang the man or hang the logic," Dad turned away from the (even then) trendy hand-wringing over the death penalty. After all, he had studied Scripture and listened carefully to the fathers of the Reformed faith.
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One element has been missing from discussions of Gary Gilmore’s recent execution and of the larger question of capital punishment.
We’ve heard a lot, mostly con but some pro, about the deterrent effect of capital punishment, and about the thwarted possibility of reformation. And more has been said about “murder” by the state, about the effect on the condemned man of waiting for time and appeals to run out, about society’s voyeurism, even about the suffering of the condemned man compared to that of his victim and the victim’s family.
But I have not seen a serious presentation of the one element in capital punishment that has found general historical agreement, among Jews and Christians: retribution, the punitive effect.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that this is absent from our consideration of the ultimate punishment, since it is also the missing element from our consideration of punishments for lesser crimes.
I am not especially concerned about the rejection of retribution by the secular mind, which in our day to a large degree is humanistic. Reformation of the criminal is the only reason for incarceration or other punishment, according to this way of thinking. But I am deeply concerned about its rejection by the Christian mind. As in so many other recent instances, it seems to me that we have in this turned from the Word of God and accommodated our theology, attitudes and values to this present evil world and its ruler...