Does the God of Scripture Care about the Life of Innocent Adults?
By: Dale S. Recinella
Catholic Correctional Chaplain for Florida’s Death Row
We are witnessing the last, desperate gasps of Christian support for state killing through the death penalty in America. This usually
takes the form of superficial appeals to Scripture in a slight-of-hand way
For example, supposed biblical support for capital punishment is claimed by references liberally made to Genesis 9:5-6, touting those
verses as God’s command for capital punishment for everyone who commits first degree murder. In truth, Genesis 9:5-6 is not God’s command
to kill people, and it never mentions American first degree murder. It mentions homicide, the killing of a human being by another human
being. There is no distinction in that biblical text between first degree murder and the killings that we classify as justified homicide,
negligent homicide, dui homicide, vehicular homicide, manslaughter, etc. There is not even recognition in Genesis 9:5-6 of the popular
American stand your ground defense. Nor is there an exception for death caused by accident.
Regardless, pro-death penalty Christians read their favorite American laws into Genesis 9:5-6 as though God included such exceptions in
His words to Noah. The exceptions are not in the biblical text of Genesis 9:5-6. Even if they were a command, instead of a blessing, the
verses would not support the American death penalty.
In a similar vein, desperate pro-death penalty Christians are arguing that God does not care about execution of condemned people who
might be innocent. This is especially alarming when so many of the Christians who are making such assertions are in fact vehemently
against the killing of innocent unborn human life. Some go so far as to say that the truly pro-life position is to be pro-death penalty.
How can that be? Their position is that God only cares about innocent life in the womb. God is not concerned about the innocent human life
of adults. This explains their mantra: “Kill all the people on death row, and if some really are innocent, let God sort it out.” Really?
Was God just joking when He warned us in Exodus 23:7 to have no part in the execution of the innocent? Wasn’t God talking about innocent
adults in Exodus 23:7?
How does any intellectually honest Christian square the pro-death attitude “kill all those on death row and let God sort it out” with
the God actually revealed in Scripture? What about God’s response to Abraham’s pleas for any innocent adult inhabitants of Sodom and
In the biblical account in Genesis 18:20-33, God has revealed to Abraham that he is going to destroy those two cities because of sin.
Abraham is concerned that innocent adults might be consumed with the guilty. Abraham challenges God, “Will you indeed sweep away the
righteous with the wicked?” 
Then, he bargains with God for the life of the innocent adults. Scripture tells us that God agrees to spare those cities, which means
sparing the lives of all their inhabitants, even the guilty, if there are just fifty righteous men within the city. 
Abraham persists, and God agrees to relent in destruction of those cities if there are just forty righteous men , or just thirty ,
or even just twenty . Finally, God agrees that he will spare both those cities and all their inhabitants if there are just ten
righteous men. 
The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are believed to have been heavily populated based on the excavations of the cemeteries at Bab edh-Dhra
and Safi. Ten people would have constituted a mere smidgen of the population. But assuming arguendo that the population of Sodom and
Gomorrah taken together was as low as 1,000 – lower than the most conservative of estimates – then ten men would constitute 1% of that
population. Scripture tells us that for the sake of the 1%, God will spare the lives of the guilty. How can any truly biblical Christian
assert that God is not concerned about wrongful execution of innocent adults in the face of such a profound biblical revelation?
Given that the size of death row in the U.S. today is 3,125, one might say that the God who bargained with Abraham would definitely
spare the lives of all those on death row in America if just 32 people were innocent. In fact, since the great American death penalty
experiment began in the middle 1970s, 145 people have been released from U.S. death rows with evidence of their innocence. That is at
least four-and-a-half times the percentage that Abraham used to secure God’s promise of clemency.
In my home state of Florida, with about 405 people on death row, one might say that the God who bargained with Abraham would spare the
lives of all those on Florida’s death row if just 5 people were actually innocent. In Florida, over the same time period since the great
American death penalty experiment began, 24 people have been released from death row for innocence. That is almost five times the
percentage that Abraham used to secure God’s promise of clemency for Sodom and Gomorrah.
The biblical report of Abraham’s negotiations with God for Sodom and Gomorrah was not about punishment in the next life. And it was not
about innocent human life before birth. It was about the killing in this life of innocent adults who are intermixed with the guilty.
Obviously, if Abraham were walking around today, his appeal to the pro-death penalty Christian politicians would be to spare the lives
of the human beings on death row lest we commit the abomination of executing innocent adults.
©2013 Dale S. Recinella, Tallahassee, Florida USA.
All rights reserved. No reuse without written permission.