By Nathan Jones
How can a Christian support the death penalty at the same time be opposed to abortion?
Dr. David Reagan and I on our ministry's television show Christ in Prophecy had the pleasure of asking this question of Eric Barger of Take a Stand! Ministries. Eric is an authority on the cults, the New Age, and rock music today. From his past as a former drug addict and rock n' roll musician who was deeply involved in the New Age movement, Eric has emerged since he gave his life to Jesus Christ to become a great defender of Christianity in America. He joined us to answer the most frequently asked questions by non-Christians about the Bible and Christianity.
Dr. Reagan: Let's look at some of the statements that we run across all the time and get your reactions on these. People are always writing in and saying, "How can a Christian support the death penalty at the same time be opposed to abortion?"
Eric Barger: Well, we stand for innocent life. In the case of the death penalty, this is a completely different deal, though. Capital punishment is not about innocent life. In the case of a baby, this is innocent life which we stand up for. So, the argument is a moot point, and one that the Atheist and Agnostic love to throw at us.
Nathan Jones: Yes, it's nothing but legal jargon.
Eric Barger: They are two different and unrelated topics.
Dr. Reagan: It's interesting too from a Christian viewpoint that the death penalty was commanded by God in the covenant He made with Noah, which is an everlasting covenant. That covenant is still in effect today. God said if anyone takes a life, there a life is to be taken (Lev. 24:17). This is a command that originates from the Bible. But, people will say the law was overridden by the New Testament, because the New Testament is all about love. It didn't override the covenant with Noah either, for that covenant is still in effect.
You both are right. Concerning abortion, one is talking about a completely innocent life. The other one is about judgment on the guilty.
How could Christianity condemn homosexuality, yet at the same time eat shrimp?
Dr. Reagan: Can you believe people bring these types of crazy questions up all the time?
Nathan Jones: Oh, Atheist love that one, because they can work up to saying, "You should then be putting to death your children according to Mosaic Law if they transgress this or that." So, they'll accuse, "Why are you eating shrimp, or mixing your threads?"
The answer is simple — we don't live under the Mosaic Law anymore. In fact the Mosaic Law was given only to the Jews. A lot of the 613 Levitical laws were given because the Jews were traveling from slavery in Egypt through the desert in very hostile situations. As slaves for generations, they didn't know how to live out in the Sinai desert. They needed to learn cleanliness. They needed to learn when to drink certain waters and eat certain foods so they won't get sick and die. Those dietary laws applied to them. But, when Jesus came, the Old Testament law was replaced by, "Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor." We live by that grace today.
Eric Barger: Yes, that is exactly right. It's a matter of looking at the Old Testament and understanding the reasons for what was happening there and who these laws were written for, and then looking at the New Testament and seeing the grace and mercy of God fulfilling those laws.
Nathan Jones: Grace also covers the question about people asking if they should be worshipping only on Saturday or if they should reject celebrating Christmas and Easter. Under God's grace, we no longer have to worship on one particular day. Instead, we're to worship God every moment of every day. So, we fulfill the Law, but we are free from the bondage of that law. We can worship God on Christmas and Easter. We don't have to worship on the Jewish holidays, because God gives us that freedom of worship.
Eric Barger: I say if it is Tuesday morning or Thursday night or Saturday, any of those days are fine. Whatever day you pick is okay, but don't you Judaizers tell us that we have to worship on a specific day for us to be saved. That's the bottom line of their argument — it becomes all about my work for my salvation. Really, it's not about what I've done, but instead what Jesus did for me. My works cannot save me.
Nathan Jones: Well, they need to get the day right even. The Sabbath is not Saturday, but from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset if they really want to get legalistic.
Dr. Reagan: I get letters of condemnation all the time primarily from Seven Day Adventists who tell me I am going straight to Hell because I don't worship on Saturday. My response to them is always the same. Go read chapter 14 of Romans. Just read the chapter. Romans teaches that we have freedom in Christ. Really, Romans 14 says this point blank that believers in Christ can give spiritual significance to any day we please and not to judge one another for that choice. So, if I want to give spiritual significance to Christmas, well that's my business. If you don't want to, that's your business. And yet, I don't have any right to condemn you either, and you don't have any right to condemn me.
Eric Barger: That's right. Celebratory days are not a heaven and hell issue according to Romans 14. Paul elsewhere says that all those old celebrations have been done away with. He makes that very clear. By the way, I have actually read that chapter in a Seven Day Adventist Church where I was preaching one time, many, many years ago. They didn't invite me back, of course, but they kind of looked at me funny and shook their heads having to admit it's actually in the Scriptures.
Why do bad things happen to good people?
Eric Barger: We live behind enemy lines. We live in a fallen creation. Therefore, bad stuff is going to happen to good people. Conversely, good stuff is going to happen to bad people. People say that's not fair. Why isn't God doing anything about all the suffering? Have we forgotten that we still have Satan loose on the earth? He's the key right there.
Dr. Reagan: In fact, we are pretty well guaranteed in Scripture if we really give our heart to the Lord Jesus Christ we will be persecuted. Life here is not going to be a bed of roses. Because of our faith in Christ, there's going to be trials. There's going to be tribulations. There's going to be persecution.
Nathan Jones: We have to keep the big picture in mind. This lifespan of ours is 100 years or less. All of human history is 6,000 years plus another 1,000 for the Millennial Kingdom. Beyond, we have an eternity with God in perfection. So, yes, life's rough at this time certainly. After all, they killed Jesus, so it was rough even for Jesus being here in this fallen world. We have an eternity to look forward to where we do not have to suffer. Let's keep our eyes on that prize.
Eric Barger: If someone thinks coming to Christ will make everything in their lives be like a bed of roses and all the time 72 degrees and it's just going to be wonderful and everything will be great, it's not the way of the world that we live in. Sadly, in too many churches we hear that kind of story being taught, claiming that if you just come to Christ today, He has a great plan for your life. He does indeed, but realize that you still might go through lots of trials in life that will mold you into becoming more Christ-like. I can guarantee you as the older I get the more I know that we're going to see all kinds of disconcerting events in our lives. We are going to lose loved ones and suffer setbacks. But, through Christ I know I can handle anything that comes my way if I've got Jesus, and that is the key difference in being a Christian or not.
Dr. Reagan: It's called living by faith.
Eric Barger: That's right. It's not all about what Jesus is going to do for you and the great plan He has for your life. No, it's about my faith and my trust that I put in Him so that I know my eternity has been settled.
Nathan Jones: You reminded me of when I was a decision counselor and we had a guy come down who wanted to be saved. He was blind. He told me that he only wanted to get saved if God could cure him of his sight. Taken aback, I replied, "Well, I can't heal you of your vision, but I can pray that the Lord will." I explained that salvation isn't about the physical. It is about rescue from eternal death and the spiritual walk we'll have with Jesus and all the benefits of that relationship. He just stood up with his cane and walked away. He wouldn't have God unless He healed his sight. I never learned if God ever did heal him. But, to think physical healing was a stumbling block to the salvation of his soul. And, for a lot of people, the suffering in their lives becomes the stumbling block, or they use it purposefully to stumble their faith and be mad at God as an excuse not to accept Jesus.
Eric Barger: Way too many preachers today preach that when you come to Christ everything is going to be fine in your life. We have lied to somebody when we say that. A worry-free life can never be the reason for somebody to come to Christ. Salvation's focus is instead on eternity.