What are the Christian foundations for criminal justice?

A number of times now, I’ve come across Christians who seem oddly disinterested in the foundations of criminal justice.

Christians certainly make a point of defending their morality as they interpret it in the Bible. Yet these interpretations seem to have little to say about what people deserve as punishment for crimes, or even what acts should be classified as crimes in the first place.

One attitude I have come across is that Christians aren’t responsible for punishing each other – that Jesus has taken on this punishment himself. Yet the same Christians will readily agree that murderers, rapists, and thieves should be punished for their crimes, rather than be allowed to walk free.

Furthermore, though many Christians decry the practice of homosexuality, they don’t generally believe it worthy of criminal punishment, even though the Bible considers it a sin worthy of death.

Why, then, should some sins be considered crimes and others not? And what Biblical basis is there for such distinctions?

I’d welcome any ideas from my Christian readers.

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4 Responses to What are the Christian foundations for criminal justice?

  1. I think I’ve mentioned this several times before.

    We, thankfully, are no longer under Old Testament law, or the Law of Moses, unless we do not believe in Jesus Christ. If you don’t believe, you are judged according to the Law of Moses, so yes, this should concern those who do not believe, biblically-speaking.

    Judgment is not until Judgment Day. And this is something that will be handled at the end of the earth as we know it. Why would Old Testament Law impact our governmental or criminal justice system today? I don’t understand where you are coming from in regard to this or the point you’re attempting to make.

    God considered certain acts a crime in those OT days. God now expects us to obey governmental law and the law today does not make homosexuality a crime, nor should it. We do not execute homosexuals. At one time, the Law was obviously harsh. God offers everyone a way out of the lack of mercy within Old Testament Law.

    You ask why are some sins crimes and some are not?

    You don’t understand why raping a minor is a crime or should be a crime? I believe your fishing for something else here because I know you’re not that obtuse, Keith. You ask why should incest be a crime but homosexuality not be? I agree with you; I don’t know why incest is be a criminal offense.

    It’s not that I’m inconsistent regarding what the OT says; it’s that I believe and live my life according to the grace Jesus Christ offers under the New Testament. That grace is here for all if they will but reach out and take it. I don’t know how to clarify this for you any better than I have already tried to numerous times on my blog and now here. Hope this helps.

  2. Keith says:

    Warrioress:

    “God considered certain acts a crime in those OT days. God now expects us to obey governmental law and the law today does not make homosexuality a crime, nor should it.”

    In the U.S., perhaps. But what about the pro-Christian Ugandan government that actually does have laws against homosexuality? Do you recommend that Christians in Uganda obey these laws? if not, why not?

    And what would you have said to Christians who lived in, say, apartheid South Africa, or the era of slavery in the southern U.S.? Would they have been obliged to obey their governments’ racist laws?

    “You don’t understand why raping a minor is a crime or should be a crime?”

    You misunderstand me Warrioress – I do understand why raping a minor should be a crime. I have a very clear secular rationale for determining what should, and what shouldn’t be considered a crime (if you like, I can go into details, just let me know).

    What I’m asking in my post is what rationale do *Christians* use for deciding what should or shouldn’t be a crime, and how crime should be punished. Your response thus far is that Christians shouldn’t bother themselves with such decisions, but should just accept whatever stance on crime their government happens to promote.

    This seems to be an extraordinarily laissez-faire attitude, especially from a religious tradition that takes such pride in having a firm moral stance on all matters.

  3. I think determining what should be criminal or shouldn’t is a personal issue for each individual. Christian or secularist has little to do with it, imo.

    I’m much more interested in counseling criminals than I am in criminal justice or the criminal justice system. My masters is in counseling.

    It’s up to the lawmakers to create the laws of our nation. Certainly I have thoughts and ideas about issues that concern me, but your questions are extremely general and vague.

    There are laws that have been repealed in certain states, for example, sodomy laws. As a Christian, I believe that sodomy laws are ridiculous, invasive, and stupid. What is government doing in anyone’s personal, private bedroom?

    In order to explain my take on the criminal justice system, I can only say that as an Independent, I have both conservative and liberal points of view on a variety of different issues. My politics influences my take on the criminal justice system. I don’t believe in the death penalty and believe in rehabilitation for criminals, with a focus on counseling and rehab versus harsh punitive sentences that only encourage the recidivism rate.

    The rationale I use comes from my political take on things, not my religious perspective, the majority of the time.

  4. Keith says:

    Warrioress

    That’s a very interesting reply, thank you.

    I’m sorry if my questions came across as too vague. Allow me to reiterate just one, which is a simple yes/no question, and then I’ll drop it: would you discourage Ugandans from supporting their government’s sodomy laws? Or would you stick to your initial position that Christians should support their government in whatever laws it decides to make?

    I appreciate your view that the government should not be legislating what goes on in the privacy of one’s own bedroom, and I also think it wise (and humane) to promote rehabilitation for criminals rather than a more punitive approach.

    What takes be aback a little, though, is that you see these as purely political issues rather than ethical issues, when they are so closely bound up with people’s well-being.

    As I see it, government is deeply involved in the well-being of the people. It has a role helping the needy and the aged, it strives to protect people from harm, it provides an education for young people, and, as you say, it should be concerned with the rehabilitation of criminals. All of these are, it seems to me, moral issues. As such, they should weigh on the minds of anyone interested in an ethical government.

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