N.T. Wright on abortion and capital punishment

You can’t reconcile being pro-life on abortion and pro-death on the death penalty. Almost all the early Christian Fathers were opposed to the death penalty, even though it was of course standard practice across the ancient world. As far as they were concerned, their stance went along with the traditional ancient Jewish and Christian belief in life as a gift from God, which is why (for instance) they refused to follow the ubiquitous pagan practice of ‘exposing’ baby girls (i.e. leaving them out for the wolves or for slave-traders to pick up).

Mind you, there is in my view just as illogical a position on the part of those who solidly oppose the death penalty but are very keen on the ‘right’ of a woman (or couple) to kill their conceived but not yet born child…

From where many of us in the UK sit, American politics is hopelessly polarized. All kinds of issues get bundled up into two great heaps. The rest of the world, today and across the centuries, simply doesn’t see things in this horribly oversimplified way…

While we’re about it, how many folk out there were deeply moved both by the reading of the 9/11 victim names and by the thought that if they’d read the names of Iraqi civilians killed by your country and mine over the last ten years we’d have been there for several days?

N.T. Wright, American Christians and the death penalty, Washington Post.

For N.T. Wright’s take on what is “the big moral issue of our time”, see the last half of this interview by the National Catholic Reporter.

2 comments on “N.T. Wright on abortion and capital punishment

  1. Michael Snow says:

    Those ‘conservative’ Christians who support the death penalty because the “Bible says so” are simply ‘proof texting’ while ignoring the Scriptural explanation. “….blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it.” [Num 35]

    To require the death penalty because ‘God says so’ is to not acknowledge the sufficiency and completeness of Christ’s atonement.

    • Michael, Thanks. Yes I’m inclined to think the same way. We are good at proof texting yet that opens us up to misreading. We have to keep reading. I think Jesus’ words, for me, are the crux of the matter on this issue. And what it means that the kingdom of God is now present in the world through him. But what the state does in bearing the sword is not an easy subject. Christians are quite divided, at least if you include Anabaptist and other Peace churches in the mix.

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