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Not Guilty vs. Innocent

Dr. James Emery White | Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary | Monday, July 11, 2011

Not Guilty vs. Innocent

The sordid trial of Casey Anthony is now over, with a verdict of “not guilty” issued by the seven women and five men of the jury.

Polls show that most observers of the trial – and my, did we as a nation observe – believe she was guilty, bearing at least some responsibility for her 2-year-old daughter’s death.

But she will never pay for that crime.

Even though it made them “sick to their stomach” (as one later reported), the jury determined that there wasn’t enough circumstantial evidence to get beyond “reasonable doubt.”

The verdict set off a rash of public comments that seemed to revolve around a very specific legal distinction:  not guilty doesn’t equal innocent.  Or perhaps more to the point, not being innocent doesn’t mean guilty.

I have no wish to throw my hat into the ring on the Casey Anthony affair.  I followed it along with everyone else, and yes, feel she more than likely bore some level of responsibility for her daughter’s death.

But I would like to throw out an idea. 

This could be one of the more opportune theological teaching moments of our day.

The heart of the gospel is that we are not innocent.  We are all morally culpable to a holy God for our sin.  But through Christ and His atoning death, in our place and for our sin, we can be declared “not guilty” despite our lack of innocence. 

No matter our true state of guilt, if we accept Christ’s death on our behalf, we will never pay for our crime.

So whether you lead a Bible study or give a sermon, instruct your children or simply have a chance to share with a friend, take hold of this cultural moment that makes the gospel so easy to present.

It’s all about “not guilty” being different than “innocent,” something much more than just a legal distinction.

It’s a theological one. 

CNN’s Nancy Grace expressed the disgust of many when she said of the trial’s verdict, “The devil is dancing.”


But he won’t dance over using the verdict to share Christ.

James Emery White

Editor’s Note

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Not Guilty vs. Innocent