Last updated on: 1/6/2009 9:04:00 AM PST
Does Christianity Support the Death Penalty?
General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stated in the "Public Issues" section of the Church's official website (accessed July 25, 2008):
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regards the question of whether and in what circumstances the state should impose capital punishment as a matter to be decided solely by the prescribed processes of civil law. We neither promote nor oppose capital punishment."
July 25, 2008 - Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Assemblies of God (USA), one of the largest Pentecostal denominations in the United States, in an article on its website titled "Capital Punishment" (accessed July 28, 2008) and written by the church's General Council, stated:
"Opinion in the Assemblies of God on capital punishment is mixed. However, more people associated with the Assemblies of God probably favor capital punishment for certain types of crimes such as premeditated murder than those who would oppose capital punishment without reservation. This consensus grows out of a common interpretation that the Old Testament sanctions capital punishment, and nothing in the New Testament negates maximum punishment as society's means of dealing effectively with serious crimes...
There is room in the church for honest differences of opinion concerning the use of capital punishment. However, all believers should seek to apply biblical principles in reaching their conclusions."
July 28, 2008 - Assemblies of God (USA)
Billy Graham, Evangelist and Chairman of the Board of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), in an article titled "The Power of the Cross," published in the Apr. 2007 issue of Decision magazine wrote:
"To gain a clear understanding of God’s attitude toward sin, we only have to consider the purpose of Christ’s death. The Scripture says, 'Without shedding of blood there is no remission' (Hebrews 9:22). Here is a positive statement that there can be no forgiveness of sin unless our debt has been paid.
God will not tolerate sin. He condemns it and demands payment for it. God could not remain a righteous God and compromise with sin. His holiness and His justice demand the death penalty."
[Editor's Note: A plain reading of the quote may suggest that Mr. Graham’s quote above is pro death penalty; however, ProCon.org was advised by Mr. Stephen Scholle, General Counsel of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Organization and an authorized spokesperson for Mr. Graham, that such a reading would be inaccurate. To read Mr. Scholle’s explanation for greater clarity on this topic, click on Billy Graham's biography below.]
Apr. 2007 - Billy Graham
Southern Baptist Convention, in a June 13-14, 2000 meeting in Orlando, Florida, approved a resolution that stated:
"Therefore, be it RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention...support the fair and equitable use of capital punishment by civil magistrates as a legitimate form of punishment for those guilty of murder or treasonous acts that result in death."
June 13-14, 2000 - Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)
Carl F. H. Henry, ThD, PhD, an American evangelical Christian theologian and the first editor-in-chief of the magazine Christianity Today, in his 1988 book Twilight of a Great Civilization, wrote:
"The rejection of capital punishment is not to be dignified as a 'higher Christian way' that enthrones the ethics of Jesus. The argument that Jesus as the incarnation of divine love cancels the appropriateness of capital punishment in the New Testament era has little to commend it. Nowhere does the Bible repudiate capital punishment for premeditated murder; not only is the death penalty for deliberate killing of a fellow human being permitted, but it is approved and encouraged, and for any government that attaches at least as much value to the life of an innocent victim as to a deliberate murderer, it is ethically imperative."
1988 - Carl F. H. Henry, ThD, PhD
The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), a coordinating agency of evangelical denominations in the US, in a 1973 statement on capital punishment, stated:
"If no crime is considered serious enough to warrant capital punishment, then the gravity of the most atrocious crime is diminished accordingly...
We strongly reaffirm our resolution of 1972 concerning capital punishment, and we call upon congress and state legislatures to enact legislation which will direct the death penalty for such horrendous crimes as premeditated murder, the killing of a police officer or guard, murder in connection with any other crime, hijacking, skyjacking, or kidnapping where persons are physically harmed in the process.
We urge that legislation which re-establishes the death penalty also include safeguards to eliminate any inequities."
1973 - National Association of Evangelicals
The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, the second largest Lutheran church body in North America, during a 1967 church convention, adopted a resolution that stated:
"Whereas, The Lutheran Confessions support capital punishment:
...God has delegated His authority of punishing evil-doers to civil magistrates in place of parents; in early times, as we read in Moses, parents had to bring their own children to judgment and sentence them to death. Therefore what is forbidden here applies to private individuals, not to governments.
Therefore be it Resolved, That The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod declare that capital punishment is in accord with the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions."
1967 - Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
The Catholic Church, in the June 21, 2001 "Declaration of the Holy See to the First World Congress on the Death Penalty," wrote:
"The Holy See has consistently sought the abolition of the death penalty...
Where the death penalty is a sign of desperation, civil society is invited to assert its belief in a justice that salvages hope from the ruin of the evils which stalk our world. The universal abolition of the death penalty would be a courageous reaffirmation of the belief that humankind can be successful in dealing with criminality and of our refusal to succumb to despair before such forces, and as such it would regenerate new hope in our very humanity."
June 21, 2001 - Catholic Church
The Presbyterian Church (USA), in a statement on its website titled "A General Guide to the Facts about the PCUSA" (accessed July 28, 2008), stated:
"Presbyterian General Assemblies have been concerned not only for the issue of capital punishment, but also for those imprisoned...
In 1959, the 171st General Assembly, 'believing that capital punishment cannot be condoned by an interpretation of the Bible based upon the revelation of God's love in Jesus Christ,' called on Christians to 'seek the redemption of evil doers and not their death,' and noted that 'the use of the death penalty tends to brutalize the society that condones it...'
The most recent statement was made in 1985 by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), reaffirming these positions and declaring 'its continuing opposition to capital punishment.'"
July 28, 2008 - Presbyterian Church (USA)
The United Methodist Church, in its "Opposition to Capital Punishment," a resolution adopted in 2000, stated:
"The United Methodist Church declares its opposition to the retention and use of capital punishment and urges its abolition. In spite of a common assumption to the contrary, 'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,' does not give justification for the imposing of the penalty of death...
Studies conducted over more than sixty years have overwhelmingly failed to support the thesis that capital punishment deters homicide more effectively than does imprisonment...
The death penalty falls unfairly and unequally upon marginalized persons including the poor, the uneducated, ethnic and religious minorities, and persons with mental and emotional illnesses."
2000 - United Methodist Church
The United Church of Christ, in its July 1999 Twenty-Second General Synod resolution "Call for Abolition of the Death Penalty," stated:
"WHEREAS, Jesus challenged the death penalty of his culture, calling on those without sin to cast the first stone..."
July 1999 - United Church of Christ (UCC)
The Evangelical Lutheran Church, in an Aug. 28-Sep. 4, 1991 Churchwide Assembly meeting in Orlando, Florida, voted by two-thirds majority to adopt a policy that stated:
"Executions harm society by mirroring and reinforcing existing injustice. The death penalty distracts us from our work toward a just society. It deforms our response to violence at the individual, familial, institutional, and systemic levels. It perpetuates cycles of violence...
Since human beings are fallible, the innocent have been executed in the past and will inevitably be executed in the future. Death is a different punishment from any other; the execution of an innocent person is a mistake we cannot correct.
It is because of this church's concern regarding the actual use of the death penalty that we oppose its imposition."
Aug. 28-Sep. 4, 1991 - Evangelical Lutheran Church