Anders Behring Breivik, believed to be the lone attacker in the July 23 assault against Norway's ruling Labor Party, has been remanded for a 8-week period while he awaits trial for the deaths of 76 people killed in a bombing and shooting rampage. Despite Breivik's horrifying acts, if convicted, he could be free in as early as 21 years, according to the U.K. publication Metro News.
Craig Vincent Mitchell, an associate professor of Christian ethics for the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, says Breivik should "without a question" be given the death penalty for his crimes. To withhold the death penalty, he says, would "reduce the value of life."
"Human life is not like any sort of life. It is not to be compared to the life of animals or plants... because we are made in God's image," he explained.
Capital punishment is rooted in the Bible.
Genesis 9:6 says to shed the blood of those who shed blood because man is made in God's image and are therefore special. In Romans 13 the government is given the authority to "bear the sword" and punish evildoers.
Christians are, however, conflicted about whether the death penalty should be exacted in this day and age.
Southern Christian Leadership Conference co-founder Rev. Joseph Lowery is an outspoken opponent of the death penalty. He expresses concern about the inequity that exists in the punishments for poor and African-American convicts.
The Southern Baptist Convention, on the other hand, approved a resolution in year 2000 supporting the "fair and equitable use of capital punishment by civil magistrates as a legitimate form of punishment for those guilty of murder or treasonous acts that result in death."
The Southern Baptist resolution also called for capital punishment to be used only where there is "clear and overwhelming evidence of guilt."
Mitchell, an African American, acknowledged that capital punishment can be abused to the point of injustice.
For that reason, Mitchell told The Christian Post, "I believe that we should be careful about assigning this penalty but we shouldn't be shy about it."
Mitchell said Christians who are completely opposed to capital punishment have misconceptions about the Bible.
"People will look at the woman who was caught in adultery," he explained, and assumed that no one is righteous enough to impose capital punishment.
Others do not believe in capital punishment because the Bible instructs Christians to turn the other cheek. Mitchell clarifies that God was teaching the disciples how to respond when they are being persecuted for their faith.
"It's not talking about what the state should do; it's not talking about being pacifists," he asserted.
Mitchell concludes that the social order – family, church and government – that governs us "is put there for our good. It punishes the evildoers, but protects the rest of us."
Breivik, 32, confessed to bombing an Oslo building and shooting dozens of people at the Norwegian Labor Party's annual summer camp at Utoya island. He is depicted in aerial photos shooting campers at the water's edge, even as they begged for their lives. Victim accounts revealed Breivik also screamed he was going to kill them all.
Mitchell said of Breivik, "He shed the blood of those who did him no wrong so he has in fact murdered, and that should be punished."
According the Metro News, the Norwegian sentencing guideline offers a 21-year maximum sentence. The news publication speculated that Breivik could possibly be released at age 53.
Norway's penal system states that a prisoner serving an indeterminate sentence must show they are no longer a danger to society before being granted parole.
If the prisoner is at a "high risk" of repeating serious offenses, the Norwegian court can extend the maximum sentence five years at a time.
It is also possible that pressured authorities may raise the maximum sentence for Breivik, the Metro News reports.