One of the trajectories I notice when I look at the history of Christian influence on society is a broadened
conception of who counts as human or truly human. We see it explicitly in Jesus when he talks about love
of enemies. We see it in the apostolic church when they moved beyond Israel. In more recent history we
see it in the abolitionist and civil-rights movements. Many acted like non-whites were not fully human.
Yet under the influence of Christianity (though in conflict with some Christian traditions), our broader
culture has been gradually influenced to the point where non-whites are counted by most people to
be truly human.
I am not an expert on the history of abortion, but I know that our first records of church teaching against
abortion are very ancient - at least as old as the Didache (which is early 2nd century in origin). In more
recent times (I'm thinking of 19th & early 20th century US) there wasn't a lot of concern about abortion -
but why should there be? Margaret Sanger & crew didn't start their eugenics program until the 20th
century and took a long time to devalue the unborn child. Their propaganda led to a cultural regression
in this area, in alliance with the modern commitment to convenience. Many Christians have stood up
against this devaluation and the abortion-culture it produced, some by simply arguing against abortion
as murder, others doing so explicitly in the name of a Christian commitment to a broader conception
of who is truly human, yet others coming from the point of view of seeing evil in the culture of radical
individualism and the convenience it requires.
As to capital punishment, murder & killing, we see it all in scripture. We see capital punishment commanded
for a number of crimes: murder, witchcraft, improper sexual practice, disobedience to parents, etc. Usually
in current discussions, as far as I can tell, capital punishment is only encouraged for the first of these crimes
(if my perception is wrong, some of you supporters correct me), though apparently Caesar is free to declare
other crimes as worthy of death (horse thievery and treason come to mind).
I can imagine homosexuals (for example) seeing the OT command to put them to death, hearing Christians
say we need to believe and obey the whole Bible, coming to believe that Christians want to kill them. Caesar
currently doesn't consider homosexuality as worthy of death, but calls to Christianize Caesar can be heard as
encouragement in that direction. This is one reason I don't think the allowance (or shall we say COMMAND)
of capital punishment in the OT should be relied upon for arguing the righteousness of Caesar practicing the
same today. Sure there are no clear, explicit, unambiguous commands in the NT to do away with capital
punishment. Also there are no NT commands to cause Caesar to narrow the scope of capital punishment to
certain types of murderers only, letting people guilty of sexual deviancy, idolatry & disobedience to parents
off the hook.
Are there some who want to argue that the Christian tradition has wrongly exerted its influence in recent times
to narrow the scope of Caesar's application of capital punishment? Are there some who argue for a return to
full obedience to the OT in this area, perhaps because they see no NT command to do otherwise? Such
arguments seem to leave the crucified Son of God far behind.