Punishment, Barbarism, the god of This World, and the Gospel

Thursday, I briefly mentioned the travesty of justice that Anders Breivik will receive, at most, less than 100 days of prison for every life he took (Less Than 100 Days).

Albert Mohler developed exactly what I was thinking but lacked time to elaborate.  He discussed the relevance of Genesis 9:5-6 and how rejecting Biblical truth has horribly skewed the approach to “justice” in Western societies.

Capital Punishment and the Image of God

Dr Mohler:

Every human life is sacred precisely because every single human being is made in God’s image. Murder is, Westermann explained, “a direct attack on God’s right of dominion.”

The Post-Christian Condition — Anders Breivik and the Limitations of Justice.  HT:  News for Christians.  (The usual disclaimer — endorsing this article only.)

I hope you’ll read it all.  It’s almost point for point what I wanted to say Thursday.  Maybe someday I’ll be a seminary president and have time to write everything I want. 🙂

Barbarism and Punishment

Mohler wrote one thing I’d like to explore further (emphasis added):

The loss of the Christian worldview often comes with a diminishment of both personal responsibility and the sense of punitive justice. Add to this the redefinition of human life and its value. The result is a nation that takes pride in a notoriously lax system of criminal justice — a nation that considers punishment itself to be barbaric.

Punishment isn’t barbaric.  Punishment values the victims, the innocent.  To reject punishment is to devalue the victim — that is the barbarism.  Thus I emphasised the miniscule value Norway’s system places on each life Breivik took.  Who is being barbaric?

Eventually, even the idea of punishment itself loses all cultural credibility.

Why does sinful, God-rejecting society reject the idea of punishment?  Mohler tells how it happens, but he doesn’t really address the spiritual motive.

The god of this World and Punishment

Satan is the driving force behind philosophies contrary to truth and justice.  An evil liar who hates God, a murderer who hates humanity, the undermining of punishment flows out of his evil nature.

God punishes sin.  We see that at the Cross, where Christ took the punishment for our sin.  We see that in the Scriptural truth of judgment to come.

What does Satan gain when people believe his lie that punishment is barbaric?

  • Satan loves lies.  People believe a lie about God’s nature.  They see Him as barbaric and evil, instead of loving, forgiving, and gracious.  Their view of God twists into a horrible lie — one which often leads to even denying God’s existence.  This lie begets lies.
  • Satan loves destruction.  People misunderstand what Christ did for them in taking their punishment.  Thus, they reject the Gospel — and perish.  This lie destroys.
  • Satan loves evil.  People lose a true concept of how bad sin really is.  They don’t fear a just God.  If there is no punishment, they don’t need salvation and can continue in sin.  This lie encourages evil.

That’s three “wins” for Satan, in his hatred of God and man.  Lies, destruction, and evil.  That’s more than enough reason (for the god of this world) to strip punishment of its “cultural credibility,” to make people think it is barbaric.  That is the philosophy’s motive, whether human advocates realise it or not — lies, destruction, and evil.

I often say Satan always goes too far, and wakes people up.  Perhaps one result of Breivik’s horrible evil will be an awakening to the rotten philosophical core of punishment-rejection.  21 years?  Anyone can see — there has to be punishment, real punishment.

Christians must reject this philosophy.  If we concede that punishment is unjust or cruel, we endorse lies about our God, and undermine the Gospel message.  We would do better to point out the real barbarism that undervalues victims and life.

Matters of justice are not a mere political battle.  They are about the nature of God and about the Gospel.

About Jon Gleason

Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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