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Friday, May 01, 2009
I have read a couple of posts recently by Christians regarding the issue of torture. Some Christians somehow get the idea that we can't use "enhanced interrogation" techniques because somewhere the Bible says so (or at least, implies it). I just have one question: are humans morally and Biblically justified in executing terrorists? Assuming that is the case, then why is it okay to take their lives but wrong to inflict some momentary pain?


Anonymous said...

this is a good question. I will take it to the Lord. Thank you for this. it is challenging t my thinking.

Greg said...

Torture is not inflicted on convicted criminals (normally), but rather to extract information. It is very ineffective at doing that, BTW, but some insist on doing it all the same. It is evil, and I find a lot of Biblical reasons for being opposed to it.

The Bible does, however, support capital punishment in some cases, most notably murder. If there is intentional killing (for example under the guise of terrorism) then capital punishment is permitted and proper.

Torture remains evil, I see no Biblical basis for it whatsoever.

Darius said...

I read your blog, Greg. The verses you mention all refer to INDIVIDUAL behavior, not corporate or governmental behavior. The NT also says that governments wield power and authority beyond the individual level. God seems to want justice done by the right channels instead of by vengeful individuals.

I'm still wondering why some momentary pain is so bad but actually painfully executing someone (like stoning in the OT) is just fine? That doesn't make a lick of sense.

Ferg said...

Are you seriously saying that torture may be ok?
I also don't think we are EVER justified in taking anyones life. The fact that torture is even up for discussion disturbs me.

Darius said...

Hi Ferg,

Check out my recent post on capital punishment to see the Biblical argument for it. Obviously, if you reject the idea that governments can execute people, then a discussion of "torture" isn't likely to bear much fruit.

Ferg said...

Whether I believe in capital punishment or not I still think it's the strangest thing to talk about torture as if it's ok on your blog? Or to even question whether it's ok. Do you not weep at the thoughts of another human being treated in such a way? No matter what they have done, they were worth Jesus dying for on the cross. If torture is ok in America, then your video of the girl being whipped for going out is completely justifiable as she broke a law and must suffer the consequences.
Perhaps you'd like to live in the old covenant but I for one am delighted to be part of the new one where forgiveness and mercy is offered to all.
It's things like this that make me so disillusioned with Christians.

Darius said...

Well, first of all, I think a distinction should always be made between the "enhanced interrogation" methods which we're talking about and the REAL torture to which groups like Al Qaeda regularly subject their prisoners. Perhaps something as severe as waterboarding (while still nothing compared to some of the stuff that terrorists do) could be considered torture, but sleep deprivation? Heck, college students then could claim that universities are a form of torture. :)

Also, a distinction should also be made between motives. The American government's motive to torture-lite enemies is to ultimately preserve and protect life; the terrorist's motive is to inflict pain and suffering and make a political statement. Let's look at it this way: our justice system says murder is wrong. However, if it is done with certain motives, then it is okay (or at least will not be punished). If you kill someone because you want their car, that's indefensible murder and you will be punished. If you kill someone who is trying to rape a woman, that's justifiable homicide and you will likely not be punished. That's not to say that ends always justify the means, but one has to keep motives in mind.

It's terrible that someone would have to be subjected to harsh treatment, but that's this world and that's what evil behavior begets ("All who live by the sword will die by the sword."). I weep for innocent life, not much for those who unrepentantly take innocent life.

"If torture is ok in America, then your video of the girl being whipped for going out is completely justifiable as she broke a law and must suffer the consequences."I don't follow. The girl in the video broke no natural or Biblical law, while a terrorist is breaking many natural laws, as well as plenty of God's laws. Harsh interrogation is not about punishment, it's about saving lives.

Forgiveness and mercy are offered to all by God, but those who reject it are under His wrath. Furthermore, the governments and authorities are given authority BY GOD to punish evildoers and to protect people. We learn that in the New Testament, not the Old.

Ferg, is there a level of "interrogation" which is okay for you? Or is anything beyond "please tell me where you hid the bomb" too harsh? Where do you draw the line and why?

Also, keep in mind that God's method of execution was usually stoning, which is a form of torture prior to death. So God didn't seem to put as high a priority as man on comfort and temporary pain; at least, not compared to death (especially spiritual death). God cares more about His Holiness and glory.

One last thing: I didn't mention this yet, but like many or most conservative Christians, I want "torture" (however that is defined) or super intense interrogation methods to be legally banned. All I'm arguing for is the ability for interrogators in certain situations to feel free to use those methods and know that due to extenuating circumstances, they won't likely be prosecuted for doing so. For example, say waterboarding is made illegal. But one day, they catch a terrorist and due to various reasons, know that he has knowledge of an impending attack. They waterboard him for the information, which leads directly to the saving of 15,000 lives. In that situation, those interrogators should be praised, not prosecuted. However, if they arrest a guy they think is a terrorist and they suspect to having useful information but nothing substantial or referring to an upcoming attack and waterboard him, then they should be prosecuted. The reason I think "torture" should be banned is because it is liable (even in a system of tight controls like our own) to be abused and bent if allowed.

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