Pro-Life and Pro-Death: No Contradiction
by Alan Allegra 2/11/2008 / Christian Apologetics
There's nothing like a presidential race to bring the theologians and ethicists out of the woodwork. Burning social issues of the day are stoked with rhetoric, and world views collide with unusual intensity. Politicians and pundits, pressed hard against the walls of popular opinion, pull Bible verses out of their repertoire like magicians pulling quarters out of thin air.
Recent columns have attempted to expose the supposed hypocrisy of Conservatives who claim to be pro-life but support an "immoral" war and the death penalty. For many, the Bible becomes the David that slays the duplicitous Goliath. In order to level the field and make sense of all this, we need to define our terms and appeal to an authority.
Perhaps the most concise way to describe the pro-life position is by quoting from the Mission Statement of the National Right to Life Committee: "The ultimate goal of the National Right to Life Committee is to restore legal protection to innocent human life." Read those words carefully.
The other term we need to clarify is "death penalty." That one's also easy: the forfeiture of life incurred for a violation of a rule or law. Again, read the words carefully.
Finally, we need an authority. Christians submit to the authority of the Word of God as found in the Bible. God, as Creator, sets the rules and laws and corresponding blessings and penalties. If we don't accept His definitions and laws, then there is no subjective, unassailable standard, no argument, and no discussion. Since our critics wield verses out of context, such as "But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also" (Matthew 5:39, speaking of individual retaliation), we will turn to the same authority.
Notice the key words "protection," "innocent," and "human life" in the NRLC statement. "Right to life" means we believe every person, with qualification, should be allowed to live. The qualification is "innocent." We can all agree that, whether we're disciplining our children, supervising a classroom, leading an army, dealing with crime, or otherwise maintaining an orderly society on any scale, privileges are forfeited when the rules are broken. Otherwise, there would be no justice, nor incentive to obedience. The punishment must fit the crime.
Notice that we are discussing the death penalty. It is neither an incentive nor a deterrent; it is punishmenta forfeiture of rights on a par with the crime. In a just society, the innocent don't incur penalties.
We are valuable because we were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). God also prohibits murder (Exodus 20:13), which is the unwarranted taking of life, as opposed to killing, which is permissible under given conditions. "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man" (Genesis 9:6), tells us that, because mankind bears God's image, any unprovoked attack on man is an indirect attack on God, the giver of life. The only just penalty is death for the guilty, and in this passage, God is giving government, not the individual, the right to exact vengeance.
Who is more innocent than a child, whether one second or several years old? What penaltyno less the death penaltydoes this one deserve? And if the child is not a human being, what is itan eggplant? Who decides when it becomes "human" besides its Creator? Is it not better to err on the side of life? The uninvited, premeditated taking of innocent life, no matter how noble the motive, is wrong.
As far as war, it's the same principle on a grander scale. See what the oft-quoted Jesus says:
Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace (Luke 14:31, 32).
He doesn't say war is wrong; he says, "when threatened or attacked, prepare for war but seek peace if possible." As contradictory as it sounds, sometimes war is the only way to ensure peace and preserve life.
The issue is not life or deathit's innocent life versus guilty life. It's possible to be pro-life and pro-death, as long as justice is served and the image of God is held sacred.