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  1. Perhaps like Oliver O’Donovan, from whom the latter half of this analysis draws significantly, professor Arbo rejects the penal-satisfaction account of Christ’s atonement. If, however, one is persuaded by the biblical text (and the Reformed confessions) that retribution is one aspect of the atonement, then one cannot so easily eliminate retribution from human justice. To be sure, Arbo refers to retribution (“Retribution can at best [?] form only part of punishment’s purpose.”) but he then removes it from the practical equation of humanly-administered justice by yoking it to pedagogy for the offender. Turning to O’Donovan at this point is instructive: “[Legal] judgment, by pronouncing on the past, establishes a new public context.” Re-framing punishment’s pedagogy from the offender [only] to the public not only undercuts Arbo’s philosophical objection, it explains why the practice of state-sanctioned “disappearing” of criminals in certain countries and any other form of public justice that is not administered in public view is fundamentally unjust.

    (In case it needs to be said, nothing I wrote above should be taken to indicate support for the actual administration of capital punishment in the U.S.)

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