Just War: A Christian Perspective Part 4

Read Part 1 , Part 2, Part 3

Accidental and Death by Criminal Negligence

The Bible is very clear about accidental death, and here you will see why I have maintained that malice is a necessary component of murder. Malice is the desire to harm someone. It is hate, and it must be missing for a death to be ruled an accident 

Deuteronomy 19:4-5

4 “This is the provision for the manslayer, who by fleeing there may save his life. If anyone kills his neighbor unintentionally without having hated him in the past— 5 as when someone goes into the forest with his neighbor to cut wood, and his hand swings the axe to cut down a tree, and the head slips from the handle and strikes his neighbor so that he dies—he may flee to one of these cities and live.”

We need not add much comment here. Outside of a previous conflict, when an accidental death occurs, it is to be ruled an accident. God gave Cities of refuge to protect the unlucky souls in this predicament. God does not condemn purely accidental death. Accidental death through negligence is another story.

Exodus 18:28-29

28 “When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner of the ox shall not be liable.29 But if the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has been warned but has not kept it in, and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death.

If you loan your car to someone and the brake line is severed by something in the road, and the brakes fail, killing the one who borrowed your car, you are not liable for their death. If you know a problem exists with the brakes on your vehicle, you loan it out or sell it, and due to your negligence, someone dies, then you are criminally liable for their death. You must not fail to act responsibly to protect human life. To do so is the basis of criminal negligence.

Innocence and Guilt

In biblical law, evidence is used to determine innocence and guilt. To be innocent is to be cleared of wrongdoing. To be guilty means wrongdoing has been proved beyond the shadow of a doubt. You must have at least two eyewitnesses to be declared guilty. (Deuteronomy 17:6) Those who do wrong owe society. They pay society through loss of privileges. The Old Testament penalty was either loss of property (restitution) or loss of life (death penalty). Our forefathers in the New Testament era invented prison and added it to restitution and death. Guilt in the modern era leads to a loss of liberty of movement.

Previous actions do not determine guilt or innocence. If a person is a police officer and has saved many lives but kills his wife in a fit of rage, he is guilty. In a court of law, none of his previous good works can have any bearing on his case. Past good done cannot remove his stain of guilt. If a man has stolen and lied and cheated as a way of life, having paid for those crimes separately, yet is accused of murder, his past evil acts cannot count against him and are not permissible as evidence in the hearing. He may be the innocent party. We are to assume innocence until proven guilty because it is in keeping with biblical justice.

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