Steve the Builder on Capital Punishment – Part 1

Steve the Builder

Steve the Builder

In what is sure to raise consternation among some AOI readers, Steve the Builder begins a four-part series on capital punishment. In Part One he chronicles his work with emotionally disturbed children and the beginning of his shift from radical pacifism to a reconsideration of the death penalty.

Steve writes, “My hazy philosophical views started shifting when I began living in the real world and not in the dazed and confused world of the hippie subculture and seeing the world from penthouse view of the ivory tower of theoretical theological speculation culture of my protestant seminary.”

“I know for certain the concrete shift in my thinking happened when I took a job running a residential treatment center for severely emotionally disturbed boys who had tendencies toward uncontrollable rage or calculated sociopathic violence.”

Let the discussions begin!

Listen to the podcast:


  1. I found this interesting, and I look forward to the future episodes. I was encouraged to see the beginnings of a pro-capital punishment argument based more upon the teachings of the Church rather than the personal experiences and philosophical changes of Steve the Builder, and I think this emphasis should only grow in the next episodes to be convincing. Additionally, I hope that Steve will address not only whether capital punishment may be supported in theory by Orthodox Christians, but also whether it should be supported in the context of a society which has lost its theologico-cultural bearings and really has little but the vaguest memory of viewing mankind as created in the image of God. In other words, assuming there is support in the Fathers for capital punishment, might it not be that those Fathers were presuming it be exercised within the context of a Christian society which has due reverence for the nature of the human being and his immortal destiny? Taking it further, might it not be true that in a post-Christian, largely secular culture which treats human life cheaply– as a commodity, an inconvenience, and a burden– the Fathers might oppose the death penalty on the grounds that in such a context it CANNOT be utilized in a just manner? Those are questions which bother me, and I do not know the answers.

  2. cynthia curran :

    I think Steve use Saint Theodore in the 9th century who was opposed to Capital Punishment for Heresy but not for certain other crimes. Also, Steve use both the Byzantine and Russian empires who had emperors or Czars that practice some capital punishment. On the other hand, some punishments in the Byzantine Empire like cutting off ears or noses or castration, or blinding we don’t accept in the modern world as humane but doesn’t mean in limited circumstances that we can have the death penalty.

  3. Michael Bauman :

    The issue is: how do we confront evil? Whether it is capital punishment, war, or even self-defense. Those who have a blanket policy in either direction or attempt to make a theological prononcement out of what is an ethical dilemma are going to get it wrong most of the time. Mr. Daivd raises a crucial issue about the nature of the state and to what extent we, as Christians, can support an anti-Chrisitan state.

    Much food for thought here.

    War and capital punishment are functions of the state.

  4. cynthia curran :

    I agree that the Capital Punishment and War issues are not easy. It seems that the church leadership has one view that is against Capital Punishment and War. I’m a great fan of the last Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI, who died for his people. I’m sure that people that are very strong pacifist oppose an emperor that fought and died when the odds were against him when he fought the Turks. I was saying that the Byzantines did punishments based upon the scripture if your hand or ears give you trouble, you should remove them. Many of US don’t take that literally anymore. Also, history is just one agrument for capital punishment and as I stated above there is an agrument that since we don’t except punishing people by removing their hands, ears, or noses or castration anymore, we shouldn’t except Capital Punishment since they did that. However, Steve quotes a saint, granted saints are not always right, but it usually gives him a better agrument than just mentioning emperors or czars that did Capital Punishment.

  5. Thank you for this.

    Like Steve, I started as a pacifist and then worked in several mental health facilities included a number of locked psychiatric units. Over the years I have spent a good amount of time with convicted felons, many with a history of violence. And like Steve, my experience caused me to re-evaluate my earlier pacifism.

    I look forward to this series and the conversation.

    In Christ,


  6. Steve Robinson :

    Thank you all for your comments. Cynthia, in future episodes I will deal with capital punishment as a “covenant” with Noah and the entire world in Genesis 9. The cutting off of noses, limbs etc. are idioscyncratic punishments never commanded by God. It is a non-sequitur to equate capital punishment with other abuses or forms of punishment devised by societies to deal with specific non-capital offenses. Good observation, thank you.

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