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March 16, 2007

Discipline Conversation

I've transferred the comments from this post into its own post, in the spirit of encouraging the discussion on Reformed theology and positive, gentle discipline of children in the Christian home.

I'm planning on weighing in later, however we have a wedding this weekend and so my comments will be delayed. Briefly, though, I've found graceful, positive discipline to reflect the Gospel and God's grace towards me and my children.

Until I can join this conversation more fully, I recommend reading these previous, related posts:
Islam and the Rod
Charles Hodge and Parenting
Parenting and the Westminster Divines
To The Least of These
Prayer and Parenting
Adoption and Condemnation
Restoring Gently and Carrying Burdens




The one disappointment I had with the site was that it seems to have taken its view of grace from the "Grace Based Parenting" movement.

Specifically, it appears to condemn Biblical forms of discipline (e.g. chastening and - this particular site is more vague - rebuke).

The error seems to spring from an Arminian world-view in which God is portrayed as an omnibenevolent Santa-Claus who begrudgingly and with tears flowing down His cheeks punishes those who force Him to do so.

When you look to what Old Testament believers thought Scriptural discipline was, you'll see what was practiced among the Puritans. Check out Sirach 30:1-13 (in the King James Version or Geneva Bible, some of the other versions number differently). It's not the Bible, but it is a good historical view of the sense of Proverbs child-rearing instructions.

Praise be to our Father who is not loathe to chasten us!

-Turretinfan
Posted by: TurretinFan at March 13, 2007 06:57 PM

"The error seems to spring from an Arminian world-view in which God is portrayed as an omnibenevolent Santa-Claus. . ."

*giggle* Hardly. You'll find most of those on the ground floor of Mothering By Grace to not be anywhere near Arminianism, and most solidly Reformed.

For me, practical parenting flows from a firm belief in children being part of the Covenant, and the reality of the Gospel in our lives, both as a family and as individuals.

If you're interested, we can talk more about this. Or you might be interested in skimming through the Theology for Girls and archives of this blog.
Posted by: TulipGirl at March 13, 2007 08:23 PM

Two clarifications:

* I did not mean to suggest that the people involved are themselves Arminians. I meant only that the so-called "Grace-based Parenting" movement springs from that mindset.

* I trust that the Reformed folk involved are capable of reading the various Scriptural instructions on the topic of child-rearing. I yet to see any Reformed exegete arrive at some other view than that chastening and rebuke are mandatory aspects of loving parenting. Though, dear TG, if you have identified such an exegete, I'd be glad to be informed/instructed/corrected as appropriate.

And two words of caution:

* I latched onto the "positive discipline" and comments in the site along the lines of "we do not endorse spanking" as suggesting that the site departs from the Biblical norms. Perhaps those reflect only a view of the minority.

* I also recognize that "attachment parenting" is the primary focus of the site. At least as far as it goes with respect to things like breast-feeding and other non-discipline-related subjects it may be extremely beneficial. Likewise, even some of the discipline-related subjects may be very beneficial.

Praise be to our Father in Heaven,

-Turretinfan
Posted by: TurretinFan at March 14, 2007 08:03 PM

Turretinfan -

You raise some good points, which I think are common misunderstandings of postive discipline, at least as practiced by those I know who are Reformed.

Perhaps the movement did arise out of Arminian theology, but those of us Reformed, although somewhat rusty exegetes, see it fit quite well with what the scriptures teach. We at MBG do not practice positive discipline because we believe our children are capable of good. Rather we believe that in their depravity the only thing that will set them on the right path is the grace of God operating in their hearts through our modeling the gospel in how we teach and discipline them. Spankings might scare a child into compliance, but they certainly won't change the sin in that child's heart. Only God's love can do that.

Does that mean we are permissive, like cosmic Santa Claus parents? Of course not. We set boundaries and rules. And when a child disobeys tha child experiences natural consequences, or somtimes imposed logical consequences, but always in a way that is instructive about God's grace, that builds trust in the parent and that treats the child as a brother or sister in Christ (as TG said, they have been baptised into the covenant).

I also disagree with your assumption that spanking is a Biblical norm. A modern American Christian cultural norm, but not a Biblical one.

I hope that cleared up a little about the Reformed version of positive discipline.

In Christ,

Gail
Posted by: Gail at March 15, 2007 12:21 AM


Dear Gail,

You wrote:
"I also disagree with your assumption that spanking is a Biblical norm. A modern American Christian cultural norm, but not a Biblical one."

It's not an assumption, dear Gail. There are some rather explicit instructions in Scripture.

Furthermore, there is nothing "modern" about it. As I pointed out, we can confirm from Sirach that those passages were taken at face value (i.e. beat with a rod means spank). We can also readily confirm the practice of such discipline in the NT in Paul's writings. We can also see it in the "common law" era of England (post-Runnymeade). I'm abundantly confident that a study of medieval history would turn up the same results in the interim.

The grace of God does restrain the wickedness of man, but it does so using means both external and internal. The ordinary outward means is fear of punishment. Compare Romans 13:3.

Furthermore, it is not God's love per se that changes the heart: but God's regeneration. Nevertheless, when we sin God chastens us. Paul tells us so.

God's grace is based on Jesus being beaten (and ultimately killed) in our place. Unless you planning on receiving beatings in the place of your child, I don't see how you plan to model God's grace for them.

Nevertheless, my challenge for the GBP is to find a full Scriptural exegesis for bucking the traditional view of Proverbs 23:13-14.

Just because all believers everywhere for the past 2500+ years (it's a little hard to date Sirach - it claims to be written about one generation after Solomon = 27 generations before Christ) have viewed Proverbs 23 one way does not make it right. Scripture, not tradition, should be our guide.

So far, though, I haven't seen any reason to depart from the teachings of Reformed notables, such as Gill and Henry who view Proverbs 23 in the traditional way, or from Calvin who calls spanking the "common practice of men."

In fact, if you check out Gill and Henry (both of whose writings are freely available), I think you'll find that argue that the way grace is taught is by the law (i.e. the rod teaches children their need of grace, and is a means of grace toward them): we receive punishment for doing wrong, and it helps us recognize our depraved condition, our inability to satisfy divine justice, and our need for a Savior.

-Turretinfan
Posted by: TurretinFan at March 15, 2007 10:19 AM



It's interesting that you bring up the Crucifixion. Let us remember that the wages of sin is death. Since Christ has paid for our debt, including the debt of our children (as children of the covenant), we owe nothing. We live free in God's Grace. So that, no punishment is needed for sin, since Jesus paid that price...only the free grace that God extends to us, as His children. What the Bible does require is instruction in the ways of righteousness and discipleship in the ways of our Lord.
Posted by: Jessica at March 15, 2007 10:22 PM

Dear Jessica,

I brought up the crucifixion, because God's grace is without cost to us, but it is not free to God. Grace is on the basis of the agency and instrumentality of Christ ("in Christ" as Ephesians 1 puts it). Someone suggested that we are to model God's grace: but I doubt that they meant they will punish their first born child for the errors of all of their after-adopted children, or bear the sins of their children for the children (as Christ suffered and died in our place "for us").

Since you explored the crucifixion, though, it should be noted that it is because of the crucifixion that God treats us like children: with love spanking us - not for his own gratification or for the expitation of sins, but for our benefit and sanctification. After all, exercise of the rod teaches obedience to the fifth commandment (Hebrews 12:9).

I'm frankly not aware of any Christian author from more than 100 years ago (Reformed or Arminian) who had a different view than that corporal discipline is proper, but should not be done in unrighteous anger, with undue violence, or in an excessively austere manner. If you respect Calvin, I can point you to Calvin. If you respect Wesley, I can point you to Wesley. Name me a respected theologian (even one whose soteriology is a bit out of whack) who has been dead for at least 100 years, and I am confident that I can show you that - if he treated the subject - he did not forbid spanking or stern rebuke.

If you have any evidence that this position of "Grace Based Parenting" is not a modern phenomenon, please enlighten me.

May God's blessing rest on you,

-Turretinfan
Posted by: TurretinFan at March 16, 2007 08:34 AM

Turretinfan,

I appreciate you being willing to take the time and dialogue about this. To be honest in the years since I graduated from WTS I have spent most my time focusing on raising my children and not much in the way of academic pursuits. One of the things I have always wanted to do is to clearly think through the Reformed approach to positive discipline to take what is swimming around in my head about the truths of the gospel and how they relate to disciplining and express it coherently. So your objections are helping me see where the weakness in my explanation lies.

I was tired when I responded last night and I zipped off a response which was not carefully worded. You are absolutely correct that it is God's regeneration that changes our hearts, but He does this for us out of his love - the point I was trying to make. Another clarification I would like to make is that while I said spanking was a modern American Christian cultural norm, I did not say that this is the only culture that has ever spanked children. We could go on and on about how discipline has been handled throughout many different ages, but I agree with your conclusion that scripture should be our guide, not tradition.

I agree with you that God does use common grace to restrain the wickedness of men. He doesn't give us completely over to our depravity and the fear of punishment is one way this is accomplished, particularly as a means of restraining unbelievers. However, He has something better in store for his children - He sets out to change our hearts, and to conform us to His image inside and out, not just frighten us into empty outward compliance.

I believe in the inerrancy and applicability of all scripture, but I also believe it needs to be understood according to its genre and in its cultural context. If we are going to discuss Proverbs 23 we need to be aware that the genre is wisdom literature, which is not to be taken the same way as commandments. Wise sayings about life in general, are just that. They do not carry the same authority or manner of application to our lives as does the Decalog. With this in mind, let's take a look at that passage in particular. My Hebrew is very rusty, but if I recall correctly, the word for rod is the same word that was used for the shepherd's staff. The same staff with which the sheep were guided and protected kept from wandering off the path, but rescued when they strayed. The only animals that received a beating were the predators that would attack the sheep. But if we understand that at the time the proverb was written people were in the practice of beating their children with rods (just like people were in the practice of having thousands of wives) that certainly is something likely to be referred to in wisdom literature. The point of the author would be that disciplining your children is a good thing, but not necessarily a condoning of one particular method. This passage is not providing explicit instructions to beat your children any more than Proverbs 23:2 is providing explicit instructions to slit your throat if you are tempted to overeat.

If, as you suggest, the rod teaches us of our need for grace, then it functions the same way the ritual purity laws in Leviticus function. They were in place to show God's covenant people their need for God's grace, and to point forward to the savior to come. The purpose of these laws was fulfilled in the work of Christ. If this type of means for showing our need for grace is important then why dont Reformed Christians follow the 613 "blessings" of the Torah? I believe it's because the redemptive work of Christ has been accomplished to the extent that the Holy Spirit is among his children to guide us, in a way that leaves any other means for conviction of sin devoid of true power. For those united with Christ, the Holy Spirit accomplishes our sanctification through conviction and love, not guilt or fear of punishment.

You said, "God's grace is based on Jesus being beaten (and ultimately killed) in our place. Unless you planning on receiving beatings in the place of your child, I don't see how you plan to model God's grace for them." I don't know what you believe, but I believe that Christ's work on the cross paid the price for all those whom God has chosen to be his children. To even suggest that my children's sins need to be punished when Christ has already atoned for them is heresy.

I have somewhat of a lead-foot when driving. I have received 2 tickets for speeding, but neither of those succeeding in encouraging me to slow down. Granted, they taught me to watch more carefully for speed-traps at the bottom of steep slopes, but not to stop speeding. However, through the encouragement of a church authority figure, through guided study of the Word and prayer, the Holy Spirit showed me that it was my pride causing me to speed - thinking that my goals were more important than the law. After confessing my pride and realizing how this is offensive to God, I have had a changed heart when it comes to my driving habits. I do not want to be the police officer writing a speeding ticket for my children - teaching them to be careful not to get caught. Rather I want to work with the Holy Spirit, as did that church authority figure, seeing where God is already at work in my children, encouraging them in the truth of the scriptures and modeling for them what it means to live in a way that is honoring to God.
Posted by: Gail at March 16, 2007 10:10 AM

Dear Gail:

I appreciate your taking the time to provide such a detailed response.

Observation 1:
You seem to suggest that the "rod" comment in Proverbs may be culture-bound. However, you also recognize that spanking is part of our culture today. I doubt many would suggest that Proverbs means we must use a rod and that say a belt, wooden spoon, or open hand is inappropriate; just as most would likely permit the Japanese to greet each other with a Holy bow, and us with Holy handshakes (and increasingly, I've noticed, hugs). The accidents may change, but the concept of unpleasant (to the recipient) corporal discipline remains the same.

Observation 2
I had observed that a model of Christ's work must include the substitution of a victim for the sinner.
You responded: "I don’t know what you believe, but I believe that Christ’s work on the cross paid the price for all those whom God has chosen to be his children. To even suggest that my children’s sins need to be punished when Christ has already atoned for them is heresy."
a) You seem to be mixing the metaphor/simile. If you are modeling God's grace, you are God they are they are the sinner, but (in Isaac's words) where is the lamb? We both know the lamb is Christ, but there is no analogy to the Lamb of God in your model. My point is that you are probably not modeling God's grace - you are imatating the favourable treatment God gives to those whose sins are covered (which is only one part of the whole picture).
b) Given that you attended WTS, I take for granted that you recognize that God still disciplines his children (even as he chastened the elect nation of Israel in the Old Testament) for their sanctification, as Paul clearly teaches. Whether we refer to that as punishment or discipline may be an important distinction, but call it whatever you like, it includes chastening/scourging according to Paul. It is not for God's satisfaction - He is satisfied by Christ's work - but for our benefit. If we want to model the grace of God, we can do so by following His example of chastening/scourging the children we love.

Observation 2(cont'd):
Your children, as part of the visible church, ought to receive loving discipline, which is one of the blessing of the covenant.
Based on the covenant, you may have hope for your children's salvation. Nevertheless, I trust you recognize that your faith is no absolute guarantee that your children are numbered among the 144,000, and I am confident that you did not mean something else by your comment regarding whether they have Christ as Redeemer. I also am confident that you would not charge me with heresy for suggesting that anyone who is not trusting in Christ alone for salvation should be in fear of hellfire on account of their unjustified state.

Observation 3:
If fathers do not chasten/scourge their children, they are acting as though those children have some other father. This is reasonably inferred from Paul's comments. Those children are being denied the full blessings of the covenant.

Observation 4:
Yes, Scripture must be our authorative source of knowledge. Are there any Reformed theologians (even today, and even marginally reformed) who support the Grace-Based-Parenting movement with any kind of Scriptural exegesis that I could evaluate and respond to (not necessarily on this blog, but on my own or elsewhere)?

May God's blessing rest on you and your obedient children for a thousand generations,

-Turretinfan
Posted by: TurretinFan ">TurretinFan at March 16, 2007 12:27 PM


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Comments

Hi! It's your old nemesis Emily. You might be interested in this exchange:
http://happyfeminist.typepad.com/happyfeminist/2005/11/gentle_christian.html.

Posted by: Emily Liz at March 17, 2007 09:38 AM

*L* Never thought of you as a nemesis, Emily! How's life treating you?

Posted by: TulipGirl at March 17, 2007 10:41 AM

Hello, hello.....it seems like once a year i get around to saying hello!!! =0) Been reading up on what has been going on, wow.....the boys are all grown up!!! Pretty amazing to think they were just babies! I would love to hear from you. I dont get over here often, but do check my e-mail. Please do write!

Posted by: Michelle at March 17, 2007 10:06 PM

TG,

While I await your weighing-in on the subject I notice you added a few links to previous posts:

* The Islam post
One would assume that any Reformed person would understand that spanking is not made wrong because it is practiced (to an extreme) by some Muslims any more than that modesty is made wrong because it is practiced (to an extreme) by some Muslims.

* The Charles Hodge post
The cited portion of CH does not make any mention of spanking. Furthermore, in CH's Systematic Theology, discussing the fifth commandment, CH points out that capital punishment for disobedient children is no longer required. This would be the perfect place for CH to mention that the historical practice of spanking was also no longer required and/or contrary to New Testament principles. Nothing of the kind can be found.

Furthermore, discussing punishment in his Systematic Theology, CH writes:
It is of course to be admitted, that the good of the offender is often the ground or reason why evil is inflicted. A father chastises a child in love, and for its good. And God, our heavenly Father, brings suffering upon his children for their edification. But evil inflicted for the benefit of the sufferer, is chastisement, and not punishment. Punishment, properly speaking, is evil inflicted in satisfaction of justice.

And in the section on the general offer of the gospel, CH writes:
God pities even the wicked whom He condemns, as a
father pities the disobedient child whom he chastises. And as the father can truthfully and with a full heart say that he delights not in the sufferings of his child, so our Father in heaven can say, that He delights not in the death of the wicked.

* Westminster post
The WLC is pretty clearly pro-chastisement with the previous question:
Question 129: What is required of superiors towards their inferiors?

Answer: It is required of superiors, according to that power they receive from God, and that relation wherein they stand, to love, pray for, and bless their inferiors; to instruct, counsel, and admonish them; countenancing, commending, and rewarding such as do well; and discountenancing, reproving, and chastising such as do ill; protecting, and providing for them all things necessary for soul and body: and by grave, wise, holy, and exemplary carriage, to procure glory to God, honor to themselves, and so to preserve that authority which God has put upon them.

I suppose I'll have to leave the other links for another time.

May our heavenly Father's name be reverenced as Holy,

-Turretinfan

Posted by: TurretinFan at March 19, 2007 10:25 AM

Very well, thank you. I commend you for having good spelling. I can't say the same for many on the GCM board, though. I also think because you've travelled abroad, you probably realize that Canadian spelling differs slightly from that in the US. Obviously "Nancy" doesn't.

Posted by: Emily Liz at March 19, 2007 01:23 PM

TurrentinFan:

"* The Islam post
One would assume that any Reformed person would understand that spanking is not made wrong because it is practiced (to an extreme) by some Muslims. . . "

I'm not sure you read the Islam and the Rod post. . . because what you replied was not my point at all. I recommend you read the comments of that post--we had a very interesting discussion in them.


* The Charles Hodge post
The cited portion of CH does not make any mention of spanking.

Hmmmm. . . I don't recall Hodge mentioning spanking at all, either. Again, I think you are missing the point. To be honest, in your posts I'm hearing you communicate the idea that discipline=spanking. Even among Christians who spank, very rarely is that view embraced. Instead, what is usually taught is that within the broader framework of discipline spanking is a tool that some believe is Biblically mandated. The Hodge post speaks to discipline, broadly, and is one example of how our theological beliefs inform our parenting practices.

* Westminster post
The WLC is pretty clearly pro-chastisement with the previous question:

Here, I think you are saying chastisement=spanking. I must concur with Gail that to read chastisement in the Bible and come away with the concept of hitting a small child on the bottom and/or legs with the hand and/or implement, is doing reading our own definitions into Scripture, instead of reasoning from Scripture to come to our understanding.

I do intend to come back and more fully discuss parenting in light of the Gospel and grace, but in the meantime, if you do read the archives or posts linked, I encourage you to read them for what is written, not what you think is written.

Oh, btw. . . one of the most influential books in my journey to grace-conscious discipline? Berkhof's Systematic Theology. Check out the sections on God's nature, sin, punishment and justification. . . I don't think that I will ever change your mind about grace-conscious discipline. That will only happen with your own study and seeking the Lord in how the Gospel looks lived out in families.

Grace and peace,

Posted by: TulipGirl at March 20, 2007 07:56 PM

It seems to be that the breakdown of understand with Turretinfan is semantics.

Posted by: Amie at March 21, 2007 12:21 PM

TG:

Yes, I did read the Islam and the rod post. I don't comment on posts I haven't read. Feel free, however, if you felt my summary was unfair, to concisely state the point of the post.

If you come away thinking that my position discipline = spanking (i.e. that there is nothing else to discipline except spanking), it is only because I am responding to the error of GBP that excludes spanking from discipline. If you had read more carefully, you would see that I include other things, such as rebuke, in discipline. Furthermore, though I did not discuss it, there is a priori instruction that is part of discipline.

Nevertheless, the departure from orthodoxy that GBP presents is the denial that spanking is part of discipline.

Hodge speaks for himself. Far from endorsing the GBP rejection of spanking, Hodge maintains the orthodox position that chastening is an essential part of discipline. Hodge does mention other aspects of parenting, but his words should not be wrested from their original sense in attempt to back an innovative departure from orthodoxy.

You may disagree that "chastisement = spanking" in the WLC. Unless you mean only that there is not a precise identity relationship between the two terms (which is a trivial point), such disagreement is not founded on an historical understanding of the document.

Your assertion: "to read chastisement in the Bible and come away with the concept of hitting a small child on the bottom and/or legs with the hand and/or implement, is doing [sic] reading our own definitions into Scripture, instead of reasoning from Scripture to come to our understanding" is way off.

First, what is clearly taught in Scripture is that is important to discipline children through infliction of physical pain. Any allegation that this is not clearly taught in Scripture should be laughed to scorn.

Second, that the appropriate place to inflict pain is a place that will not cause disfigurement is taught less clearly, but is still taught. Note the teaching in Moses regarding the fact that a master must free a slave whose eye or tooth is lost as a result of physical discipline. Also note that Scripture speaks of the rod being for the back (not face) of a fool.

Third, that the discipline should not be excessively austere is taught by the maximum lash count provision in Moses.

Fourth, young children are not exempt from the general provision. Although care should be taken with respect to application of force to young children (note that circumcision was postponed to the eighth day), there is nothing to suggest that a father is exempt from physically disciplining children of tender years.

An anti-Calvinist mindset might suppose that young children are incapable of actual sin, and, thus, consistently exempt them from sanctifying discipline. However, those who read the Bible will see that the wicked come forth from the womb speaking lies.

Indeed, because they lack understanding, physical discipline is especially appropriate for younger children:

Proverbs 10:13 In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding.

And because we know that children are born depraved, we should realize that their hearts are initially not pure but corrupt, thus physical discipline (chastisement) is especially appropriate for them:

Proverbs 22:15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.
Fifth, as for the implement being an open hand, a rolled up newspaper, a shepherd's crook, a pvc pipe, a brush, a razor strop, a belt, a thin flexible piece of wood, or whatever other instrument is it hand, I suspect most would view "the rod" as being metonymous for any suitable instrument, in view both of "rod and staff" in Psalm 23 and "chastens and scourges" in the New Testament.


Thus, there is no excuse for a godly man to refuse to follow God's example (and the example of all Christians everywhere prior to 150 years ago):

2 Samuel 7:14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men:

As for Berkhof's work, given his view of common grace, I seriously doubt that I will find anything in Berkhof but support for the godly exercise of spanking when appropriate. Nevertheless, I will go back and check what he wrote, and report back.

-Turretinfan

Posted by: TurretinFan at March 21, 2007 09:40 PM

Amie wrote: "It seems to be that the breakdown of understand [sic] with Turretinfan is semantics."

I wish it were, but I don't think so. Nevertheless, I'd be delighted for that to be the case!

I think that the GBP movement says: "don't physically discipline your kids" and I say (with virtually all human society, and especially all Christianity, before 150 years ago) "physical discipline is appropriate when necessary."

-Turretinfan

Posted by: Turretinfan at March 22, 2007 08:46 AM

What I am trying to say is that just because someone chooses not to use physical punishment or possibility any punishment at all does not necessarily mean that they do not *discipline* *chastise* *correct* *rebuke* *train* or whatever word you want to use. Those words are not synonymous with punishment.

I am not even trying to say that there is never a time for punishment, maybe even physical punishment but punishment is simply a tool, and far from the only tool, that parents can use to *discipline* *chastise* etc. etc. their children.

Posted by: Amie at March 22, 2007 07:41 PM

Dear Amie,

Let me distinguish:

First) there are some who claim that is not honoring to God when we physically instruct our children. Those people have departed from the historic understanding of Scripture, and have not, as far as I have seen, presented a Scriptural defense of their condemnation of physical instruction. Their views are clearly heterodox.

Second) There are those who simply are saying that there are lots of ways to discipline your children and that physical instruction is not the only wrench in one's Biblical toolkit of discipline. That group is well within the boundaries of orthodoxy, and it would be a rare Christian (historically speaking) who would disagree.

Third) There are a few who say that while we CAN physically correct our children, it ought to be rare and a last resort. This view is tempting, because it seems very gentle (and we Christians are gentle). However, Proverbs instructs us contrary to that:

Proverbs 13:24 He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.

Betimes means often.

You wrote: "What I am trying to say is that just because someone chooses not to use physical punishment or possibility any punishment at all does not necessarily mean that they do not *discipline* *chastise* *correct* *rebuke* *train* or whatever word you want to use."

I respond: "Chastise" can only still be achieved using some kind of figure of speech, along the lines of "When Tom came back from chasing the chickens around the yard, his mom gave the little rascal a tongue-lashing." No one imagines the mom actually applying her tongue to Tom's back. Nevertheless, that figurative sense of "chastise" needs to be recognized as figurative. As for the others, yes, there are other wrenches in the tool kits of discipline, correction, and training. Using "rebuke" for physical instruction would seem to be a figurative use in the opposite direction (and not one that I've ever seen).

You continued: "Those words are not synonymous with punishment."

I respond:
My point is that godly admonition has a physical component, and that if we omit that component we are not loving our children, but hating them.

You also stated: "I am not even trying to say that there is never a time for punishment, maybe even physical punishment but punishment is simply a tool, and far from the only tool, that parents can use to *discipline* *chastise* etc. etc. their children."

I respond:
"Maybe" even physical punishment?
Is there any question at all that the verse above is talking about often using physical instruction in a loving way to sanctify our children?

-Turretinfan

Posted by: TurretinFan at March 23, 2007 09:34 AM

I find it interesting that Proverbs is really the only place in the Bible that you find anything remotely resembling explicit instruction regarding physical chastisement. The kind of statements we find there(like in chp. 13) cannot be found in the O.T. law or in the New Testament.

So what did the people do before this was recorded by Solomon? Was it just common knowledge that God wanted them to beat their kids with a rod even though it was not included in the Law?

If this beating is so universal then why do we not find it anywhere but Proverbs - a book of maxims that is prone to make hyperbolic statements in order to drive home a point.

I think because the so-called commands we derive "spanking" from are not so universal as some people would like them to be.

Posted by: Brian at March 23, 2007 09:48 PM

Dear Brian:

How well have you read your Bible?

a) Where else in the Old Testament is child-rearing explicitly discussed besides Proverbs?

b) The Pentateuch makes implicit reference:

Deuteronomy 8:5 Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the LORD thy God chasteneth thee.

c) The Pentateuch makes an explicit general reference:

Deuteronomy 21:18 If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:

d) The book of Samuel makes an even clearer implicit statement:

2 Samuel 7:14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men:

e) The implicit comments in Hebrews 12 and confirmation in Revelation 3:19.

Although that should be enough, here's what one Old Testament believer wrote:

"He that loveth his son causeth him oft to feel the rod, that he may have joy of him in the end. He that chastiseth his son shall have joy in him, and shall rejoice of him among his acquaintance. He that teacheth his son grieveth the enemy: and before his friends he shall rejoice of him. Though his father die, yet he is as though he were not dead: for he hath left one behind him that is like himself. While he lived, he saw and rejoiced in him: and when he died, he was not sorrowful. He left behind him an avenger against his enemies, and one that shall requite kindness to his friends. He that maketh too much of his son shall bind up his wounds; and his bowels will be troubled at every cry. An horse not broken becometh headstrong: and a child left to himself will be wilful. Cocker thy child, and he shall make thee afraid: play with him, and he will bring thee to heaviness. Laugh not with him, lest thou have sorrow with him, and lest thou gnash thy teeth in the end. Give him no liberty in his youth, and wink not at his follies. Bow down his neck while he is young, and beat him on the sides while he is a child, lest he wax stubborn, and be disobedient unto thee, and so bring sorrow to thine heart. Chastise thy son, and hold him to labour, lest his lewd behaviour be an offence unto thee."

Sirach 30:1-13 (circa 500 B.C.)

-Turretinfan

Posted by: TurretinFan at March 24, 2007 11:33 AM

Dear Brian:

How well have you read your Bible?


TurretinFan, kindly refrain from attacks on the integrity of other Christians and their reliance upon Scripture during this conversation.

Posted by: TulipGirl at March 24, 2007 12:26 PM

Just wondering if anyone has any insight as to why we don't see examples in Scripture of Jesus hitting anyone or (except for Peter cutting that guy's ear off) the disciples physically "disciplining" anyone...

I am really interested in how the Ancient Jews and early Christians disciplined their children. Is there any historical record on this? What about modern day cultures in which corporal punishment of children is unheard of - how does a Christian in that culture do "discipline?" By the way, being a big John MacArthur fan, I was curious as to how he thought we should apply Proverbs. Being "proverbs," I hardly thought each Proverb should be taken literally.

In "The MacArthur Bible Handbook" page 165, we read:
"A final area of challenge comes in understanding that proverbs are divine guidelines and wise observations, i.e., teaching underlying principles (24:3,4) which are not always inflexible laws or absolute promises. These expressions of general truth (cf.10:27;22:4) generally do have 'exceptions,' due to the uncertainty of life and unpredictable behavior of fallen men. God does not gurantee uniform outcome or application for each proverb, but in studying them and applying them, one comes to contemplate the mind of God, His character, His attributes, His works, and His blessings. All of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge expressed in Proverbs are hidden in Christ (Col. 2:3)"

Posted by: Ana at March 25, 2007 02:52 PM

TG:

You think that asking someone how well they've read their Bible is an "attack[] on the integrity of other Christians and their reliance upon Scripture"?

I'm sorry you feel that way.

Jesus' own way of dealing with issues that are discussed in Scripture is to ask much the same question:

Matthew 19:4 And he [i.e. Jesus] answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,

I try to follow my Master's example. Please don't take my doing so as being personally against you or your friends. I love Scripture because it is the word of my Father who is in heaven.

Ana, as for your question about the ancient Jews, see the quotation above from the ancient Jew, Ben Sirach, apparently about one generation after Solomon. It's pretty clearly pro-physical instruction, perhaps even more than we would be today.

As for MacAurthur, in this discussion:

http://www.biblebb.com/files/MAC/sg1950.htm

MacAurthur quotes with approval a Christian pyschiatrist who gives “Never spank your child. Physical punishment is a thing of the past. In fact, spanking is now considered immoral and is even against the law in Sweden.” as step 2 in how to raise a sociopathic criminal.

Or read his book, in which he supports spanking:

http://www.amazon.com/Parenting-Biblical-Principle-Raising-Children/dp/0849937752

-Turretinfan

Posted by: TurretinFan at March 26, 2007 08:51 AM

Ana,

One quick additional point on whether Jesus ever hit anyone:

John 2:13-16
13And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, 14And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: 15And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; 16And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.

-Turretinfan

Posted by: TurretinFan at March 26, 2007 04:37 PM

Sorry for the late response. Been busy with other things.

Where else in the Old Testament is child-rearing explicitly discussed besides Proverbs?

My question revolved around "explicit instruction regarding physical chastisement". That's hardly the same thing as "child-rearing".

Det 8:5 - Look at the verses preceding which talk about God leading the Israelites for 40 years through the desert. To humble and test them, yes. But at the same time he provided for their needs. What exactly is this an implicit reference of? Certainly not of anything supporting spanking.

Det 21:18 - You cut off the passage in the middle of the thought. The following verses complete it by going on to say that they should take their son to their elders and there he shall be stoned. Gill notes that the child would have needed to be at least 13yo before they could do this. Are you sure you want to use this passage?

One thing to note is that in both passages above the word "chasten"(or "discipline") has a range of meaning which is much broader than just physical discipline. IOW, it cannot be used to support the idea that physical discipline is demanded scripturally.

2 Samuel 7:14 - This is the prophet Nathan speaking to David. It's a double prophecy. Applying to Solomon but also applied to Christ. You gotta wonder - how exactly did God chasten Solomon with the rod? While this chastening may not necessarily be pleasant(or unpleasant), surely we can see that God is using a cultural practice as a metaphor for what he will do. And we should be able to read "rod of men...stripes of the sons of men" as descriptive, not prescriptive.

Heb 12 & Rev 3:19 - Sorry, just don't see the implication that physical chastisement of children by parents is commanded scripturally.

Quite honestly, these verses just reinforce that Scripture neither commands, nor forbids "spanking". And to say that those who do not choose to spank are "hating" their kids has not scriptural basis whatsoever.

Posted by: Brian at March 27, 2007 12:02 PM

Just wondering if anyone has any insight as to why we don't see examples in Scripture of Jesus hitting anyone

I'm remembering Jesus running the money changers out of the temple(John 2:14-16). He had a whip and everything. If we start applying that I have a few candidates in mind... :-)

Posted by: Brian at March 27, 2007 12:41 PM

Brian:

Deuteronomy 8:5 says "as a man chasteneth his son, so the LORD thy God chasteneth thee."

God makes a positive comparison between human chastening (which can divine from other passages includes beating) and his own discipline of the elect nation of Israel.

Deuteronomy 21:18 says: "If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:

You comment that Gill says the child would have to be 13 years old. Interesting that you accept what Gill says about the age, but you don't accept what Gill teaches about the rest of the passage:

"and, when they have chastened him, will not hearken to them; when they have reproved him by words, and corrected him with blows; the Jews understand this of scourging or beating by the order of the sanhedrim, after admonition given; it is said (x),"they admonish him before three (a court of judicature consisting of three judges), and they beat him;" but it seems rather to respect private corrections of their own by words and stripes, which having no effect, they were to proceed as follows." (John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible)

In case you are wondering, stripes means blows that leave marks.

2 Samuel 7:14 says: "I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men:"

The biggest value of this verse to our discussion is that it shows that in David's and Solomon's time "chasten" literally means to strike forcefully with an instrument.

The secondary value (to our discussion) is to show that God is positively comparing his own treatment of his elect king, with such treatment of children by their fathers. In this sense, the verse has the same value as Deuteronomy 8:5 as well as Hebrews 12:5-11 and Revelation 3:19.

The point my referring you to those four (4) passages is to show you that God views that activity as a model of His Father-Son relationship with the elect.

Thus, I cannot possibly agree with your summary: "Quite honestly, these verses just reinforce that Scripture neither commands, nor forbids "spanking". And to say that those who do not choose to spank are "hating" their kids has not scriptural basis whatsoever."

The clear, explicit, Scriptural basis, as you know is here:

Proverbs 13:24 He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.

Proverbs 22:15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.

Proverbs 26:3 A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's back.

Proverbs 10:13 In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding.

Proverbs 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.

Proverbs 23:13-14
13Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. 14Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

Proverbs 19:18 Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.

-Turretinfan

Posted by: TurretinFan at March 28, 2007 09:57 AM

While I believe it goes beyond the semantics that Ana suggests, Turrentinfan, I see that we each differ in where the Bible and the Lord place emphasis.

I believe that God has revealed to us in His Word that our children are "sinners in need of a Saviour."

What I am seeing is that you are defending the notion that our children are sinners in need of a spanking.

Posted by: TulipGirl at March 29, 2007 12:49 AM

TG:

If it is an emphasis question, it is not over what is emphasized in Scripture, but over whether we are free to contradict the less-emphasized portion of Scripture.

Can't we (as I and all the Reformers do) hold both that our children are "sinners in need of Savior" and "sinners in need of a spanking" and "sinners in need of nurture" and "sinners in need of changing"(pun cheerfully intended)?

The very suggestion that I (or any Reformed Apologist) would substitute spanking for the Savior is absurd. Thus, you can't have meant that, and I must have misunderstood you.

-Turretinfan

Posted by: TurretinFan at March 29, 2007 11:25 AM

Turretinfan,

Sorry, you're just inferring more from verses which indirectly mention discipline(of children) that I'm comfortable inferring. And I'm definitely not comfortable saying the "spanking is not commanded" view is beyond the pale of orthodoxy. Or that parents that don't spank "hate" their children.

Posted by: Brian at March 29, 2007 02:50 PM

TurretinFan,

Amen and Amen to everything you have written! Your arguments are very precise, logical, thorough and most of all Biblical. You have done an excellent job of defending scripture even though scripture is not popular these days, even among evangelicals I see.

What scares me most among evangelicals is not only the particular issues that some are rejecting (spanking is an important issue) but even more importantly the suble undermining of scripture which is taking place. "Did God really say spank your child?" "What does the Bible really mean when it says the rod and reproof give wisdom?" "Maybe rod is figuritive for all discipline?" If this isn't picking and choosing what to believe and what not to believe, I don't what is. These are the same subtle, nuanced tactics liberals use to undermine the diety of Christ. [I'm not saying that rejecting spanking is anything like rejecting the diety of Christ! Just a similar use of tactic.]

Thank you for your faithful contending for the truth! Keep up the good work! Remember prayer.

Posted by: Leslie Taylor at March 29, 2007 11:56 PM

Dear Brian,

I'm sorry for your discomfort!

Dear Leslie,

Thanks for your compliments!

-Turretinfan

Posted by: TurretinFan at March 30, 2007 09:06 AM

Dearest Leslie,

I've often thought that those who spank with a hand or wooden spoon or glue stick or some such substitute for God's chosen method are subtly undermining scripture. Do we dare reinterpret what God has said in his Holy Word? Only at our peril!

The scripture says beat. It talks about bruising and stripes. Do we dare risk our children's souls to any lesser method? Do we hate our children so much that we offer a mere spatula where the branch of an oak tree is called for?

Think hard on these things! The whole of the Christian faith hangs in the balance.

(For some reason, I feel like a rousing chorus of "We Shall Overcome.....")

And don't get me started on fools. You do beat fools in your church, don't you?

Posted by: Brian at March 30, 2007 10:15 AM

Brian,

That kind of scoffing as a substitute for exegesis or analysis is certainly the kind of thing that suggests what GBP has (supporters who mock Biblical Christianity) and what GBP lacks (supporters who can advocate their position by Biblical exegesis).

Brian, maybe you will feel I'm being to hard on you in saying that you mock Biblical Christianity. Nevertheless, go back and read the writings of ANY orthodox Christian writer on the subject of child-rearing since the days of Solomon, beginning with those of ben Sirach, and then tell whether they speak with one voice on the subject: the one voice being that a loving father physically instructs his sons.

-Turretinfan

Posted by: TurretinFan at March 31, 2007 08:58 AM

More is coming. . . I know I've neglected this topic and haven't been engaging in the conversation this week. Real life and family obligations, I'm sure you understand.

However, just quickly, I want to point out two things that I believe will hinder communication. In TF's posts, specifically, I'm reading the assumption that:

chastise=spanking
physical discipline=spanking

First, reading the word "chastise" in the Bible and understanding it to mean "spanking" is an assumption, one that I don't believe is supported by the text. I do understand in the current Christian subculture, parents do often use the word "chastise" when they mean spank. I'm just pointing out that when the Bible uses that word, it is a leap to assume it means spank.

Second, I use "physical discipline" without using spanking or physical punishment. We need to be clear on the terms we use, come to agreement on what the terms mean, so that we do not talk past one another.

Again, as I said, more later. . .

Posted by: TulipGirl at March 31, 2007 05:25 PM

I, too, assumed that the spanking tradition filled our church history. When I did some research, I found the following information:

This quote is from a review about the book The Child in Christian Thought:
The volume includes two additional studies on theologians who, although they hold quite pessimistic views on the nature of children, do not endorse physical discipline: the Reformer John Calvin and the 18th-century American Calvinist Jonathan Edwards. Barbara Pitkin writes that "Calvin himself appears not to have advocated the use of physical force in response to sin in children; though he recognized the need for parental discipline, his explicit remedies were baptism and education (albeit strict and structural) into faith and morality."

Jonathan Edwards' Parenting:
"She had an excellent way of governing her children; she knew how to make them regard and obey her cheerfully, without loud angry words, much less heavy blows... If any correction was necessary, she did not administer it in a passion; and when she had occasion to reprove and rebuke she would do it in few words, without warmth [that is, vehemence] and noise... Her system of discipline was begun at a very early age and it was her rule to resist the first, as well as every subsequent exhibition of temper or disobedience in the child... wisely reflecting that until a child will obey his parents he can never be brought to obey God."
Noel Piper's book, Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God p.24, quoting from Elizabeth Dodds book, Marriage to a Difficult Man.

The following comments are about Comenius' beliefs:
"To begin with he saw children through Christ's eyes: precious gifts from God to be cherished rather than annoyances to be suppressed. Children will be joint heirs of Christ just as much as their Christian parents. Someday they will rule in the Kingdom of God and judge the very devils. However unimportant they now seem, they are actually of inestimable importance. Therefore children are to be treated as if more precious than gold. They should be showered with love. Never should children be punished for failing but rather helped and encouraged." etc.

And Augustine's opinion of physical punishment is clear in Confessions, Chapter IX, Book One (A.D. 398). Here is a short quote:
"To this end I was sent to school to get learning, the value of which I knew not--wretch that I was. Yet if I was slow to learn, I was flogged. For this was deemed praiseworthy by our forefathers and many had passed before us in the same course, and thus had built up the precedent for the sorrowful road on which we too were compelled to travel, multiplying labor and sorrow upon the sons of Adam. About this time, O Lord, I observed men praying to thee, and I learned from them to conceive thee--after my capacity for understanding as it was then--to be some great Being, who, though not visible to our senses, was able to hear and help us. Thus as a boy I began to pray to thee, my Help and my Refuge, and, in calling on thee, broke the bands of my tongue. Small as I was, I prayed with no slight earnestness that I might not be beaten at school. And when thou didst not heed me--for that would have been giving me over to my folly--my elders and even my parents too, who wished me no ill, treated my stripes as a joke, though they were then a great and grievous ill to me..." etc.

I was reading a storybook about Miriam to my 5-year-old daughter today. Miriam sinned and was punished with leprosy. The story went on to say, "Miriam sinned against her brother Moses and her sin was punished, but later forgiven. Our sin deserves punishment too. The Lord Jesus Christ has told us to confess our sins to him and he will forgive us. He can forgive us because he has taken the punishment himself."

I went on to explain this to my daughter. When she disobeys, she deserves punishment, but Jesus took that punishment. The look on my daughter's face was one of relief, joy, and thankfulness. This is the gospel I want to teach my children.

Posted by: Carol at April 2, 2007 01:50 PM

Dear TG:

My response on March 23 to Amie's comments already fully address the assumption you're reading into my comments.

My position is simple and Scriptural: if fathers love their children they will spank them when they need to be spanked (and that there are times when spanking is necessary). The abundant Scripture in support of that position is set forth above.

On top of that, my position is also the historical view of the Old and New Testament faithful.

Feel free to state what your position is, and whether it is different from that position. Considering the abundance of Scriptural evidence, and considering that it has been consistently interpreted a certain way for time immemorial by the faithful, I think anyone who is opposed to the position above has a serious uphill battle, and will have to do more than simply assert that the historical view is based on eisegesis and assumptions (or scoff a la Brian).

-Turretinfan

Posted by: TurretinFan at April 2, 2007 02:42 PM

Turretinfan,

I honestly don't know enough about the tenets of GBP to call myself a supporter or not. So I think it best to not muddy the waters with any kind of guilt by association thing.

But you're right. I did scoff in Leslie's general direction. Not as a substitute for exegesis(I'll get back to that in a second), but because she makes the accusation of "picking and choosing" and "undermining scripture" simply on the basis of disagreement with her interpretation. And your "mocking Biblical Christianity" is in the same category.

Surely you know that our basis for authority of the scriptures can be the same and even our interpretive methods can be the same but we can come to two different interpretations. In that case, neither one is "picking and choosing" what to believe and what not. Both parties can believe it all and yet not believe the same. So can we please dispense with insinuations that those who disagree with you on this issue have some low view of scripture.

And since when did the issue of spanking become a test for Orthodoxy? Or is there any difference of interpretation allowed at all before you get tossed out of the fold?

Getting back to exegesis... I'd like to see the person who made the positive assertion(you) try a bit. That's the way it's normally done, right? Perhaps I missed it, but all I've seen you do so far is say "favorable comparison to physical chastisement" = command for all parents at all times in all places to spank or else not take scripture seriously. Oh, and you quoted from Proverbs.

That's not exegesis.

Posted by: Brian at April 2, 2007 05:24 PM

Just for clarification - Because TG approves each comment, the last one I saw before my 5:24PM comment was TG's on 3/31.

My response on March 23 to Amie's comments...

Ah, I see that. I'll have to read over that one.

...and will have to do more than simply assert that the historical view is based on eisegesis and assumptions (or scoff a la Brian).

Scoffing and sarcasm are time-honored methods of rhetoric used throughout the ages to get a point across when straight argumentation would not do. From your previous comments I assume you do respect time-honored traditions.

Also, I'm wondering, do you beat fools with a rod in your church?

Posted by: Brian at April 2, 2007 10:10 PM

Dear Brian,

I'm willing to stand by the exegesis I've already presented, as well as the historical testimony of the faithful. When you are through demonstrating rhetoric, the Scriptural analysis (both mine and all the faithful before me) will still be waiting for your response.

Carol, thanks for your support! I'm sure it would have been as bizarre an idea for Augustine as it would have for Calvin or Edwards for somone (other than a child in the midst of correction) to suggest that spanking was wrong or not part of the appropriate parental discipline toolkit.

-Turretinfan

Posted by: TurretinFan at April 3, 2007 03:07 PM

? I guess I should have continued the Augustine quote, but there is no evidence that Calvin or Edwards condoned spanking. Calvin's approach is exactly how I interpret GBD "parental discipline, his explicit remedies were baptism and education" (works beautifully), and the quote from the Dodds book about Edwards' parenting sounds exactly like GBD. "When she had occasion to reprove and rebuke she would do it in few words." I love it!

Posted by: Carol at April 4, 2007 08:04 AM

Here's a timely piece on the topic:
http://www.sfpulpit.com/2007/04/03/responding-to-christians-who-object-to-spanking/

-Turretinfan

Posted by: TurretinFan at April 4, 2007 10:24 AM

I wonder why no one will answer Brian's legitimate questions? Surely they are not hard to answer. Surely, even if Brian was being a bit "cheeky" (he was doing it to make a point!), one can see that those questions need to be answered and not just ignored or fluffed off. For someone to take your position seriously, you need to make sure to try to your best of your ability to answer legitimate quesitons.


I will ask them and I sincerely hope that I get an honest answer:

Do you beat your children like the Bible commands?

Do you leave stripes and bruises like the Bible commands?

Do you use a rod like the bible commands? If you use a paint stick, glue stick, spoon or spatula, why do you allow for substiting the method of delivering a spanking?

Do you beat the fools in your churches and neighborhoods like the Bible commands?

Since a fool is a person of any age, do you also allow for husbands spanking their wives when the husband deems they are acting "foolishly"?

These are legitimate questions and I would hope they would be easy to answer since scripture clearly says these things.

Questioning the practice of spanking is not a sign that someone is drifting off the narrow path. When people pick and choose their way through the Bible, only highlighting one verse and ignoring other verses (eg., the beating, the bruising and stripes, the beating of fools, etc), it causes one to wonder why the whole of scripture is not being applied in this area. There must be a reason, right?

Posted by: Corrie at April 4, 2007 10:35 AM

Corrie:

Each of your questions (save the last) begins "do you ..." and then inquires as to practice.

Those are what we call "ad hominem" questions.

The last question changes the topic to an emotionally charged issue.

Most are sneeringly worded, stating "the Bible commands" for things that one reading the comments realizes that the questioner clearly does not think that the Bible commands.

(Of course, tone is hard to read. Perhaps the questioner thinks that these things really are commanded, but also believes that we are free to disregard the Bible's commands. If the writer has such an antinomian mentality, then the questions are doubly offensive, for reasons that should be obvious.)

None of those questions are "legitimate," nor is asking that battery of questions a legitimate substitute either for examining Scripture to see what the Bible commands or for following what the Bible does command.

What is worse than the inflammatory, illogical approach, though, are the false insinuations in the final paragraph:

"When people pick and choose their way through the Bible, only highlighting one verse and ignoring other verses (eg., the beating, the bruising and stripes, the beating of fools, etc), it causes one to wonder why the whole of scripture is not being applied in this area."

The idea that verses are being ignored by the historic Christian and Reformed position on child discipline is both offensive and unfounded.

Finally, to the grandstanding comment: "I will ask them and I sincerely hope that I get an honest answer" I reply: you have received an answer that is honest, and perhaps you have learned something from it.

If you have not learned anything from the answers above, and you insist that your questions are legitimate, honest, sincere questions: then provide your own answers to your questions, and let us see whether we can give our Amen based on Scriptural exegesis.

After all, it is Scripture that matters, and on this issue, Scripture is clear.

-Turretinfan

Posted by: TurretinFan at April 5, 2007 10:57 AM

Corrie:

I agree with you! We are not the first Christian generation to "question" the hitting of children. We are just the first generation to blog about it! So much exposure draws criticism. I simply question it because I don't think I have all the answers to parenting my child.

Yes, the Bible is full and rich and contains everything I need for life and godliness. But I don't have perfect wisdom for interpretation of it. That is why I question practices that have been allegedly handed down through the ages but are not in the Bible.

The Holy Spirit guides my husband and me to parent our children in the way we think God parents us. Right now, for our two year old, that means a LOT of prayer to God for our own sanctification, treating C with a LOT of grace and mercy, lots of hugs and kisses, a lot of help with obeying Mommy and Daddy, a lot of instruction in proper behavior, Mommy and Daddy trying to understand and be sensitive to what is going on at each developmental stage, occassional discipline (we have a special process we go through for dealing with infractions) and very rare hitting. And we have many friends who think we are too strict with her even though we rarely hit her. I pray I am not too harsh.

Hope that is ok with everyone. I would love any suggestions or counsel if what we are doing is less than Biblical.

Posted by: Ana at April 5, 2007 11:04 PM

Dear Ana,

There is a big difference between "spanking is not good" (modernism) and "spanking is not the only available way to discipline children" (good sense).

It's also possible to be too strict (have overly restrictive rules) without being too violent (have overly austere punishment).

What concerns me is the "never hit a child" movement afoot in modernistic circles, and the real risk that the civil government will prevent parents from spanking their children, even though the children need it.

-Turretinfan

Posted by: TurretinFan at April 11, 2007 05:50 PM

Dear Turretinfan:

Well, though I wouldn't support such a law because it would be too much Big Brother for my taste, I'm not that concerned about the government preventing parents from spanking their children. It won't make any of us lesser Christians if we were to abide by such a law. It isn't that it wouldn't matter, or that it wouldn't be important, hitting children is just not an essential Christian doctrine. It's not like the government would be asking you to deny the deity of Christ or justification by faith.

I'd like to add something to the discussion I heard RC Sproul preach recently on the radio. In reference to women's ordination which he called a "non-essential point of faith," he said the following:

"Maybe my understanding of the Bible is totally muddle-headed. Maybe my exegesis is terribly faulty. Maybe it's ghastly myopia on my part - that I just can't understand what the Bible is really saying about this. And I'm certainly capable of that kind of muddle-headedness and that kind of confusion. But if in spite, you know, of all my dumbness and muddleheadedness, I come to the conclusion and the conviction that God is saying that this is not allowed to be done-can I then do it? [No] You can't do that thing and be faithful to your conscience. If I believe that's what God is saying and if I have any sense of obligation, of obedience to God, I've GOT to follow that."

Please don't email me telling me RC Sproul is a supporter of hitting children. I'll probably disagree with his parenting tips. =o)
If I may speak for the non-hitters, and/or those like me who never feel there's much righteousness in hitting one's child, and wished they spanked less, I would say that we're just trying to follow our conscience about something that the Bible is not really clear on. We HAVE to do that to be obedient and sincere to God. Some of us, I daresay, may be convicted strongly not to spank at all because our anger most always gets the better of us and it's never done in love but in frustration and exasperation. That anger is a real sin, but NOT hitting a child in anger is not a sin.

Also, for some of us, illegitimate ad hominem questions, lousy exegesis, and unskilled argumentation, is the best we can offer to this discussion. (I'm a victim of the U.S. Public School system. Need I say more?) That doesn't mean we don't want to better ourselves in those areas or that we want to be careless dividers of truth. But when our cognitive resources give up, our conscience has to make do with whatever reason we have acquired with whatever brains we were dealt.

Those silly questions of when to hit, whom to hit, how hard, with what instrument, for what reason, where on the anatomy, how often, at what age, etc. are very real to us and may drive deeply into our hearts to the point of keeping us from wanting to hit. It's ok. We are all so different. I have a friend who beleives strongly in hitting, that it's Biblical, and that the Lord really wants her to do it. She has hit her child 3 times in the three years of his life. Believe me, IMO, the boy could do with a few more swats sometimes! BUT even though she feels strongly about it, I think her personality just doesn't drive her there. I, on the other hand, have regrettably hit my daughter more than three times in the past 2.5 years, and I really don't want to be doing it at all because I really feel strongly that there is little Biblical justification for it. What do you make of that?

Sproul goes on to say that if we can't agree on non-essentials that the charity of our faith must take over and we must work together to live in love and cooperation. He says of a non-essential, "It shouldn't matter to the point that it destroys fellowship...If we disagree, we could both be wrong."

Posted by: Ana at April 16, 2007 10:03 PM

Interesting reading this! I know this conversation was a while ago but I wanted to point out Clarkson's - more recent - thorough and pertinent comments on this article http://www.sfpulpit.com/2007/04/03/responding-to-christians-who-object-to-spanking/
that was mentioned earlier by TurretinFan, in case anyone is interested.

Posted by: DixieKitten at August 18, 2007 04:46 PM


 
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