Skip to comments.Letter To Paul Hill [1994 Fla. shooter of abortionist Dr. Britton] [part 5 of 13]
Posted on 06/04/2009 6:50:29 AM PDT by Alex Murphy
The Guilt of the Community
In your defense of the killing of Dr. Gunn, you continually refer to the "community." I always get suspicious when people appeal to collectives in order to justify individual action. You quote from Michael Bray's paper supporting Operation Rescue. This is under the section, "Ethical Basis for Defensive Action." Here is what Michael Bray said, according to you: "The fact is that the guilt for the shedding of innocent blood remains upon the citizenry until the punishment is exacted from the offender. Blood guilt is purged only through punishment of the guilty. If the crime goes unpunished, the community bears guilt for the shedding of innocent blood. The community has a strong incentive therefore, to seek justice in order to avoid the burden (Deuteronomy 21:1-9)."
Deuteronomy 21:1-9 is a very important passage. Bray was correct to cite it. So were you. But you have not understood it. That passage deals with a dead body found in a field. The victim has been murdered, but no one knows who committed it. The elders of the city closest to the field come out to participate in a sacrificial offering in order to remove the bloodguilt from the city. They kill a heifer; the Levites then sacrifice it. The text reads: "And all the elders of that city, that are next unto the slain man, shall wash their hands over the heifer that is beheaded in the valley: And they shall answer and say, Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it. Be merciful, O LORD, unto thy people Israel, whom thou hast redeemed, and lay not innocent blood unto thy people of Israel's charge. And the blood shall be forgiven them. So shalt thou put away the guilt of innocent blood from among you, when thou shalt do that which is right in the sight of the LORD" (Deut. 21:6-9).
Michael Bray's citation of this passage was proper. There was corporate blood guilt under the Mosaic Covenant, and the way to escape God's corporate negative sanctions was for both the priests and the civil magistrates to acknowledge before God that they did not know who had slain this victim. They had to slay an animal to atone for the unsolved crime. They were atoning not only for the sin of murder but also for their own ignorance. They washed their hands of the crime. They were making certain that blood guilt did not extend to the society. They were announcing publicly that they did not approve of this murder. And because they did not approve of it, and they sacrificed something valuable to prove they did not approve of it, God brought them out from under corporate judgment.
We must think judicially about this passage. The intent of the passage was to show God does not hold a community or a society guilty for the acts of an individual that are immoral, if the community takes appropriate actions to suppress the action. That is, if the community passes laws against the practice, and seeks to enforce these laws against the practice, and bring sanctions against those who violate the law, then that society is not brought under the judgment of God. The state is authorized to bring sanctions against those individuals who commit such acts against the law of God precisely because of the threat of God's corporate sanctions. If the State does not take action in the name of God, then God will take action in the name of God and bring the sanctions against the whole society. This is the teaching of Deuteronomy 28:15-66. This is the teaching of the whole covenant pattern of Old Testament law.
Finally, if societies do not acknowledge this by seeking to suppress illegal acts, God does bring judgment against them. This is why God sent the prophets before the people and before the kings: to warn them. By violating God's law, the people risked bringing the entire society under the direct negative sanctions of God. They risked captivity to Babylon, they risked captivity to Assyria, they risked military invasion, they risked being subordinate to Moab and Philistia and all the enemies around them. God would bring his sanctions against them all, corporately, if their ordained civil and ecclesiastical representatives did not act humbly and confess their ignorance in the face of an unsolved crime, and attempt as best they could to bring sanctions against evil doers.
The point that Bray makes is correct. The community must seek out justice. The community does have an incentive to bring evil doers to justice, and if the community cannot locate the evil doers, then the community has to admit that this is not because the community approves of such actions that the authorities do not bring sanctions against evil doers. Rather, the authorities do not know who the evil doers are. They can't find the evil doers, or the evil doers somehow have escaped the nets of justice. This is the focus of the Deuteronomy passage.
But then you come along and say that the individual Christian has the right before God to act in the name of the community. In that statement, you have moved away from biblical law into open revolution.
Finally, if societies do not acknowledge this by seeking to suppress illegal acts, God does bring judgment against them. This is why God sent the prophets before the people and before the kings: to warn them. By violating God's law, the people risked bringing the entire society under the direct negative sanctions of God....
Dr George Tiller, the infamous Kansas late-term abortionist was shot to death this past weekend. At some point, comparisons will be made to the shooting deaths of Dr. John Britton and abortion escort/bodyguard James Barrett in the summer of 1994.
This thread series features a letter written to Britton's murderer, Paul Hill while he was awaiting trial for the killings (Hill was convicted, sentenced to death, and executed for the double-murder). The author is "Christian Reconstructionist" writer Gary North. The letter (published in book form under the title Lone Gunners for Jesus: Letters to Paul Hill) articulates a Reformed response to the question of whether the killing of an abortionist can be considered morally justified in Scripture.
Pt 1: Introduction
Pt 2: Judicial Theology
Pt 3: Murder, Defined Biblically
Pt 4: The Fundamental Issue
Pt 5: The Guilt of the Community
Pt 6: The Question of Judicial Representation
Pt 7: Community Standards
Pt 8: The Technology of Low-Cost Murder
Pt 9: Voices of Virtue
Pt 10: Perfectionism and Unlimited Guilt
Pt 11: Non-Violent Resistance
Pt 12: Caught in a Crossfire
Pt 13: Conclusion