Should We Judge Who Deserves Death?

I was very troubled by an interview I saw on Hannity & Colmes the other night. Shirley Phelps Roper (Westboro Baptist Church) was on the show defending why she was going to protest at the funeral of the little girls that were killed at an Amish School in Pennsylvania. Within this post, I will analyze some of her statements and point out the logical inconsistencies. Continue Reading...

I was very troubled by an interview I saw on Hannity & Colmes the other night. Shirley Phelps Roper (Westboro Baptist Church) was on the show defending why she was going to protest at the funeral of the little girls that were killed at an Amish School in Pennsylvania. Within this post, I will analyze some of her statements and point out the logical inconsistencies.

When Colmes asked Roper if the little girls deserved to die, Roper responded with this statement, “They did deserve to die.”

Her reasoning that the little girls deserved to die was because the little girls were killed by God. Talk about a circular argument. The little girls deserved to be killed because they were killed?

Roper went on to say that since Adam sinned, we have all sinned, and we all deserve death. She said that those who do not uphold the commandments of the Lord are condemned to death. Although not entirely untrue, she did leave out one little part about where Jesus comes into play.[1] God knew that no human could ever obey all of His commandments. The commandments were put into place just to prove that all humans have fallen short and that none of us will ever be as good as God. Knowing this, God sent His only Son to make up for our shortcomings.[2]

Roper went on to say that God killed those girls to “punish those families, to punish the state of Pennsylvania, because you’ve got a governor in that state got on FOX News and lambasted us because we serve God.” Right, so humans can read God’s mind now? Wouldn’t that imply that somebody has power over God?

My question is, should we be the ones to judge who deserves death? Death penalty and politics aside, what makes us capable and competent enough to determine who lives and who dies?

I conclude with this quote from The Lord of the Rings: “Many that live deserve death. And some die that deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then be not too eager to deal out death in the name of justice, fearing for your own safety. Even the wise cannot see all ends.”

Notes

  1. Romans 3:21-26 (NIV)

    21But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunishedรขโ‚ฌโ€ 26he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

  2. John 3:16-24 (NIV)

    16“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

19 thoughts on “Should We Judge Who Deserves Death?”

  1. I like that quote from LotR, especially since it was in the book to begin with. ๐Ÿ™‚ (at least, I'm pretty sure it was in the book first…)

    The lady has some seriously flawed views. I'd like her to point out in the Bible where God punished someone for something other than his/her own sin (ok, besides the obvious example of Jesus, but that is a special case). Saying God killed those girls to punish Pennsylvania is ludicrous.

    Going back to the quote…taking a life is a very serious thing. However, that shouldn't make us completely avoid capital punishment. In Romans 13, God has given "governing authority" a "sword" (ie, capital punishment) for the use of punishing "one who practices evil". Putting someone to death for crimes they have committed is a valid punishment and is a way to keep evil in check. Note the part about it being a punishment for crimes committed. Because death is the greatest punishment, it should not be dealt out lightly, but only when the evidence is there to prove the person's guilt. It should not be easy to convict a person and put them to death. Granted, our judicial system isn't perfect, but not having it would be worse.

    cetroyer

  2. Hi cetroyer, nice to have someone to discuss things with of this nature! And thank you for the welcome. I agree God enacted this string of events that occurred in Egypt to display His Glory to the Egyptians, because it says this in the bible, but I also believe that pharsoh's noncomplience was a sin, for Gods voice, through his prophet, gave a direct command which pharoah did not follow, and if it wasnt for the noncomplience, the first born would not have died, so God punished the firstborn, or inflicted harm upon them, due to the sin of pharoah. God Bless!

  3. WHats goin on cetroyer? I should have left verses last time, I usually write late so im half asleep and forget to write something important. Ok, God explains how he feels about those who hearken not unto his voice in Deuteronomy 28:45. The entire chapter is an amazing display of what God is prepared to do to those who ignore his commands, but He says they will be suficiently cursed, then destroyed. I couldnt (though I have faith it exists) find a verse that says disobeying God's voice is a SIN, but I think we both agree on that, if not let me know! God gave a command through his prophets Moses and Aron that pharaoh refused to follow Exodus 5:1-2. Because of the noncomplience, the first born were killed Exodus 7:16-17. So if you swich around the phrases, you get: because of the noncomplience of pharoah,+ and assuming noncomplience is a sin= because of the sins of pharaoh, the firstborn died! God Bless!

  4. Ronald: Hi. Whats up? I was reading over your post again, and Im not sure that what shirley said was a circular argument. It would read something like this:
    P1- If you are killed by God, then you deserved to die
    P2- The girls were killed by God
    C- Therefore, the girls deserved to die
    If the only support for "the girls were killed by God" was the conclusion, "the girls deserve to die," then you would have a circular argument, or vicious circle, because your premise support comes from the assumed conclusion. But they derive support for their second premise P2, probably from the fact that they believe:
    P1- If If someone is killed in a sinful state, then God killed them
    P2- The girls were killed in a sinful state
    C- therefore, God killed them
    So this is a modus ponens argument form which does not beg the question (im pretty sure its not circular.) Not saying its SOUND or Correct though!

  5. @Tyler,

    Although I agree with you when the argument is looked at in that light, there is still something logically wrong with drawing a conclusion after something has happened. I would liken the argument to superstition (post hoc) where you stepping on a crack broke your mother's back simply because your mother's back was broken after a misstep on a sidewalk.

    To apply post hoc to this argument, it would imply that the girls were killed in a sinful state. Why is that assumed? Is it because of the Amish religion? If that is the case, then the division fallacy has been committed because something that is true for the whole is not necessarily true for the individual within that group.

    There is one other way to assume that the girls were killed in a sinful state and that is from the Bible. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Meaning, we're all sinners and that we'll all die in a sinful state (some will have chosen Jesus for salvation). Does that mean that God will be directly responsible for each of our deaths? Where does free will come into play here? God may be indirectly responsible and have "allowed" the deaths to happen, but God doesn't control a human like a raging robot. The simple fact is, a human exercising his free will decided to take the Amish girls' lives. Whether God endorsed or is happy with the murders is something us humans will never know about while on Earth (or ever).

  6. I have to apologize, I meant a sinful, or rather GROSSLY SINFUL State, Pennsylvania, (In SHirley's point of view) not a sinful state like a state of being, Sorry!

  7. Well in the case of a state (as in Texas, or Pennsylvania in this case), the logical breakdown would also result in quite a few logical fallacies.

    For example, Shirley said that God killed the girls to punish Pennsylvania because its governor got on TV and condemned Westboro Baptist Church. To associate the governor's actions with the little girls is guilt by association. Furthermore, to equate the state of Pennsylvania as a "sinful state" because of one man's action is the hasty generalization fallacy.

    As stated earlier, making a conclusion after the fact is typically a post hoc fallacy. For example, the little girls were killed. The little girls lived in the sinful state of Pennsylvania. Therefore, living in the sinful state of Pennsylvania resulted in their deaths.

  8. I dont agree with the association fallacy because Shirley never said the girls were guilty because of their association with the governor. They believe these girls went to hell because they didnt know God, because they didnt "spread the word" but lived secluded lives as amish (she said something like that). But SHe never assumed that the girls were grossly sinful because the governor sinned grossly. God did not kill them for having any charactoristic in common with the governor as inferred from the fact of their close proximity, he killed them as a punishment to the state, but not for anything they did.
    The hasty generalization fallacy says one comes to a conclusion with too little evidence, according to your link. The state is not sinful because of the governor, the people of the state are sinful because they elected and supported a sinful governor making them sin supporters. Not everyone elected him, but most did, so the state is "mostly sinful."
    Post hoc sounds good.
    Its late does this make any sense?
    DO you have a philosophy major?

  9. Nope. Electrical Engineering (undergrad) and Business Administration (Masters). I had a few logic courses in college. Of course, anybody that likes debate such as me has to know at least a few of the fallacies. I'll have to ponder the hasty generalization and guilt by association comments for a bit. It seems we're venturing out of logical territory and back into biblical territory (not to say that the Bible isn't logical).

    It just doesn't make a whole lot of sense for someone to be killed as a punishment for a state. If that's the case, what if somebody traveling (from another state) through Pennsylvania was killed? Would they be punished by God for their home state or the state of Pennsylvania? Since when does state citizenship determine who is or isn't on God's death list? Does God even need jurisdiction or to be put into a box so-to-speak?

    You're right. It is late. And I'm feeling ill, so I need to sleep. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Hi Tyler,

    We are agreed that disobedience to God's commandments is sin. Now, are you saying that disobeying God's voice in particular is sin? It isn't necessary to go that far, as any disobedience is sin.

    True, Pharaoh sinned by disobeying God's command. What I don't follow, is how you go from that to putting the deaths of all the firstborn on only Pharaoh's sin. In my post, I pointed out how God said how He would show all Egyptians His glory and power. Also, God points out the sin of all Egyptians (Exodus 1:13, Exodus 3:8, Exodus 3:9, Exodus 6:5-7), not just that of Pharaoh. God was just in killing the firstborn for their part in Israel's bondage. Let me put that another way. God puts the blame for Israel's bondage on Egypt as a whole, not just on Pharaoh.

    Was Ex. 7:16-17 the verses you wanted? They don't deal with the death of the firstborn.

    Ok, on to the new discussion. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I'd chalk the lady up to Begging the Question. Here we go: "Did these girls deserve to die?" "Yes, because they died." Classic Begging the Question. Logical Fallacy: 1, lady: 0.

    "PHELPS-ROPER: … those children were killed at the hands of a raging mad God to punish those families, to punish the state of Pennsylvania, because you've got a governor in that state got on FOX News and lambasted us because we serve God.

    HANNITY: And you want to do — and you want to…

    PHELPS-ROPER: And then you've got those people in Pennsylvania who think they can sue us and fix this problem?

    HANNITY: Because you — hang on a second. Because you didn't like <a href="javascript:siteSearch('Ed%20Rendell');" rel="nofollow"><span style="color: windowtext; text-decoration: none">Ed Rendell</span> and what he said, you're now going to protest at the funerals to bring pains to the families?

    PHELPS-ROPER: To connect the dots. To connect the dots from point A, your filthy manner of life and your rebellion against God…"  (from the link above to the Foxnews story)
    <p class="MsoNormal">I'd say this one falls under Non Sequitur.  Phelps-Roper is trying to connect two completely unrelated events.  On one hand, we have the governor of Pennsylvania, who Westboro don't like.  On the other hand, is a tragic event when a man killed several girls (5, I think?) for whatever reason was in his head.  Phelps-Roper is saying that these girls died because of the governor's dislike of Westboro's actions (and him saying it publicly on Foxnews).  That is a completely illogical conclusion.  The girls died because a guy decided to murder them, not as a result of the governor's statement.  Again, her argument is fatally flawed.
    <p class="MsoNormal">Final score: Logical Fallacy: 2, Phelps-Roper: 0.
    cetroyer

  11. Hi cetroyer, do you have a philosophy degree? Ok, an analogy: If Bob puts a gun to Joe's head SO Joe will commit a crime, then Bob put the gun to joe's head BECAUSE Joe woulnt have committed the crime otherwise. If Bob puts the gun to Joe's head knowing that Joe would have committed the crime anyway, he didnt put there SO Joe would do it, it must have been for another reason. Now,If God Plauged Egypt SO pharaoh would let God's people go, Then God plauged pharaoh because he wouldnt have let them go otherwise. So we can say that God plauged Egypt because pharaoh wouldnt let God's people Go. God plauged Egypt because of pharaoh's sin (as we agreed, pharaoh sinned in this instance) so God killed the first born for pharaoh's sin. You might say this is a falacious analogy because I commpared a gunman to God, But I believe that the two in this instance are being compared according to properties they actually share, and that this is a sound analogy because of that. Ex 6:1 says God will plauge egypt to free his people or so his people will be freed.
    Ill respond to the second half later

  12. I really dont see Shirley saying "They deserve to die because they died." Rather I think she says they deserve to die because God was responsible for their deaths, I see a difference here, do you? But this is an illogical conclusion to come to, its not really supportable by anything, unless God told her he did it, then I could see why shed be so sure of it! Later

  13. If Bob puts a gun to Joe’s head SO Joe will commit a crime, then Bob put the gun to Joe's head BECAUSE Joe wouldn't have committed the crime otherwise.

    False Dichotomy. The second half of the statement is too limited. There are many ways to coerce someone.

    If Bob puts the gun to Joe’s head knowing that Joe would have committed the crime anyway, he didn't put there SO Joe would do it, it must have been for another reason.

    True.

    Now, if God plagued Egypt SO Pharaoh would let God’s people go, then God plagued Pharaoh because he wouldn't have let them go otherwise. So we can say that God plagued Egypt because Pharaoh wouldn't let God’s people go.

    Again, too limited. Exodus 7:3-5 says removing Israel from Egypt and God's judgments on Egypt (not just Pharaoh) is so that "…The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD,…".

    God plagued Egypt because of Pharaoh’s sin (as we agreed, Pharaoh sinned in this instance) so God killed the first born for Pharaoh’s sin.

    Yes, we agreed that Pharaoh sinned. But we haven't agreed to the second part. There are quite a few verses mentioning Egypt as a whole when referring to the bondage of Israel. God's judgments were on Egypt as a whole.

    Ok, on this subject, these will have to be my last words. I realized that we have strayed rather far from the topic of the top post (and Ronalfy concurred). So, we will just have to agree to disagree. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I really didn't see Shirley saying “They deserve to die because they died.�

    Well, even if you didn't see it, it's right there in her own words. (from Foxnews)

    "PHELPS-ROPER: They did deserve to die.
    COLMES: How you can possibly make a statement like that?
    PHELPS-ROPER: Because that's exactly what happened, and it happened at the hand of the lord your God."

    And that brings us back on topic. ๐Ÿ™‚ And no, I don't have a degree in philosophy. I doubt I would be as logical as I am if I had a degree in philosophy. ๐Ÿ™‚

    cetroyer

  14. How about If Bob puts a gun to Joe’s head SO Joe will commit a crime, then Bob put the gun to Joe’s head BECAUSE Joe wouldn’t have committed the crime on his own?

    3"But (A)I will harden Pharaoh's heart that I may (B)multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. (He caused pharaoh to say no to moses so He could show his signs and wonders.)

    4"When (C)Pharaoh does not listen to you, then I will lay My hand on Egypt and (D)bring out My hosts, My people the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by (E)great judgments. (When pharaoh doesnt listen, He will bring out his people by judgment.)

    5"(F)The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I (G)stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst." ( the egyptians will know He is Lord, when he brings out his people.)

    This reads, to me, God causes pharaoh to say no to moses so He may show His signs and wonders, pharaoh will bring his people out by judgment: (a calamity held to have been sent by the Lord), and when He brings out His people, the egyptians will know He is lord, notHe will bring out His people So the egyptians will know.

  15. I missed your point about the false dichotomy. I should have said: If A acts SO B acts, the A acted BECAUSE B wouldnt have acted unless A had acted. This means B wouldnt have acted unless A acted in any facilitating way, not just a specific way. We should note that If A acts SO B acts, it is because, to A's knowledge, B would not have acted unless A acted. the to A's knowledge is usless in this sense, because God is A and if He knows it it is asuredly the case.

  16. cetroyer, i take offense to your comment “death is the greatest” punishment. This is no the case if you are a Christian much less a sentient being. For one, death is a release if you are a practicing christian or someone of another belief in a positive afterlife, second if not, then death is nothing.

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