PCA teaching elder Dr. Ron Gleason has written an outstanding book on a very difficult topic: capital punishment I was initially asked to read and comment on the manuscript. Here’s what I said, “Regardless of one’s own position on the controversial issue of capital punishment, Dr. Gleason clearly and effectively gives readers the resources to work through this topic and equips them to discuss it with others. This powerful book will make a significant contribution to this topic. I recommend it for careful reading, study, and discussion.”
The book starts out the introduction with a challenge. It asks if you could give coherent reasons for your position on the issue of capital punishment. The author then explains that his aim is to challenge the reader “to develop your mind and your understanding about this important and controversial issue so that you are equipped to explain capital punishment from a moral historical and biblical perspective.” I would say the book accomplishes its aim.
Though you will know exactly where the book stands on the issue, you will find it to be a fair and balanced presentation that actually does help you think through and understand the issue more clearly. Gleason further says that his intention is to explain how Christians can be pro-life and pro-death penalty at the same time. I believe he also fairly accomplishes that aim.
The book addresses this topic from a historical and biblical perspective, and I appreciated Gleason’s use of both the Old Testament and the New Testament in the treatment. You will certainly appreciate and benefit from the entire book, but especially chapter seven, “Objections from Christians Who Oppose the Death Penalty.” This is another one of those topics, though full of emotion, where it would serve us well to have conclusions based on sound biblical theology.
There is no doubt that the Bible teaches capital punishment. While we cannot separate our emotions from any part of us, because the Bible is God’s revealed will, seeing and understanding His will enables us to better see capital punishment. You will also want to read the notes, endnotes, and bibliography of the book, though you will find The Death Penalty on Trial a good source in itself. As you read, however, do not look for simplistic answers to this serious topic. Studying this book in a group could be a worthwhile exercise.