When Father Doesn't Know Best, Part 2

Republished, with permission, from Voice magazine, Sept./Oct 2011. Read Part 1.

Child discipline and the Bible

Once upon a time Father knew best, and once upon a time we allowed Him to teach us how to parent. In Deuteronomy 8:3, God acknowledges humbling Israel and allowing them even to go hungry (of course, only to a point), calling it parental discipline (Hebrew yaser, LXX Greek paideusai) in Deuteronomy 8:5. Solomon counsels his reader not to reject the Lord’s discipline (same Hebrew and Greek roots as in Deuteronomy 8) and reminds that the Lord reproves those He loves, “as a father the son in whom he delights” (Prov. 3:11-12). Solomon suggests. further, “reproofs for discipline are the way of life” (Prov. 6:23b), “whoever loves discipline loves knowledge” (Prov. 12:1), and “a wise son accepts his father’s discipline” (Prov. 13:1a).

Not only does Solomon communicate the importance of discipline, but he also relays an important method, saying, “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently” (Prov. 13:24), and “foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him” (Prov. 22:15). He adds, “Do not hold back discipline from the child, although you beat [or smite] him, he will not die” (Prov. 23:13). From these contexts it is easy to see that Solomon is not advocating cruelty and physical damage. Rather, in no uncertain terms Solomon portrays physical discipline as an expression of love for the purpose of training and fostering growth—and according to Solomon, it has to hurt.

In addition to discussing purpose and method, Solomon also expresses the urgency of parental discipline: “Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death” (Prov. 19:27); “You shall beat him with the rod and deliver his soul from Sheol” (Prov. 23:14). Solomon contends that if a parent is not disciplining forcefully (causing pain) and intentionally (with love and for growth), that parent is sentencing his child to walk a path endangered by stupidity (Prov. 12:1b), poverty and shame (Prov. 13:18a), self loathing (Prov. 15:32a), straying from knowledge (Prov. 19:27), foolishness (Prov. 22:15), and even premature death (Prov. 19:18; 23:14).

Wow. Those are strong words, indeed. Surely, we can’t take Solomon seriously right? Jesus acknowledged the great wisdom of Solomon (Matthew 12:42), and the writer of Chronicles tells us from where this wisdom came, and consequently why we must take Solomon seriously:

God said to Solomon, “Because you had this in mind, and did not ask for riches, wealth or honor, or the life of those who hate you, nor have you even asked for long life, but you have asked for yourself wisdom and knowledge that you may rule My people over whom I have made you king, wisdom and knowledge have been granted to you. And I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings who were before you has possessed nor those who will come after you.” (2 Chron. 1:11)

Particularly notable to me, considering the occasion of this article, is that last phrase: “…nor those who will come after you.” While this is a specific reference to forthcoming kings of Israel, nonetheless, I wonder if Jose Longoria would consider his statement to have a greater weight of wisdom than Solomon’s teachings on discipline. I must strongly commend Judge Longoria for his desire to ensure that children are protected in accordance with the law. He is probably familiar with many cases in which children have been greatly harmed by parental irresponsibility and cruelty. For example, a Texas man was recently arrested for allegedly causing the death of his two year old daughter by a spanking episode (Fox News, viewed 10/3/2011). Still, I must consider Judge Longoria to be strongly mistaken in his consideration of how such protection should be accomplished: eliminating spanking altogether. His statement certainly is incompatible with the biblical concept of discipline.

Of course, the biblical data on parental discipline is not limited to the Hebrew Bible, but is also prominent in later Scripture as well. Paul exhorts fathers, “do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). In this passage Paul employs the same Greek term, translated discipline, as is translated by the LXX of Moses’ and Solomon’s admonitions. In this context we discover that discipline is part of a three-pronged parental approach that additionally includes instruction (the non-painful aspect of teaching) and an acute sensitivity on the part of the parent to avoid the potential provocation that can so easily accompany the instructive and disciplinary processes.

The writer of Hebrews further indicates that discipline is foundational to the relationship of parent and child, that the human parent-child relationship illustrates the relationship between God and His children, and that though discipline is sorrowful, its results are joyous. The words are poignant and worth repeating here:

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Heb. 12:7-11)

Finally, Christ proclaims, “Those whom I love I reprove and discipline” (Rev. 3:19a). Ultimately, our discipline comes from Him and serves His purposes. We understand from these passages that discipline is a correction and pruning process that usually (if not always) requires at least some degree of pain, is always to be conducted in love, and is never intended to punish but always to instruct. We also understand that God as our Father models this discipline in our own lives and we are called to be receptive and teachable, even submissive to our Heavenly Father as the Creator who best knows how we should be trained and what best causes our growth.

How should we respond?

So, how should we respond when our society concludes that Father doesn’t know best? While of course I lament the continual erosion of religious freedom in this country, knowing from history the terrible oppression that is the inevitable result, it does not seem we are called presently to revolution, rebellion, or retreat. Perhaps two simple suggestions can help us to deal biblically with these challenges.

First, I suggest that we consider and appreciate that we do indeed have a place in the public square. And as such we can be influential in the shaping of society, and that we must keep in mind that this seat at the public discourse—be it a privilege or a right—should not be viewed as our primary role. We may, as individual members of the body of Christ, heavily influence public policy from time to time and we must be grateful to be part of a society in which an aspect of submission to government is in the shaping of that very government.

We must not take these things for granted, and we should not fear giving voice in the public square. Still, we must realize that Jesus didn’t die and rise again to save society. He died and rose again to save people. The means to revitalizing society is not broad political or humanly derived theocratic agendas. These have historically given rise to their own forms of oppression (as human solutions are always tarnished with sin and imperfection). But rather the means to revitalizing society involves the person-to-person sharing of the love of Christ and individual conduct in the manner He prescribes. If society is to be biblically moral in its ideas and conduct (and we know that it will never be fully so until God Himself ushers in eternity, making an end of sin), it will be so only by the grace of God and through the collective influence of Godly men, women, and children on people.

We must not forget that the disciples were called fishers of men, not fishers of societies and nations. God will deal with societies and nations. Ultimately they are accountable to Him. Ours is not to judge them or to hold them to an ethical standard under which they have never been placed. Remember, only believers are commanded to conduct themselves in godliness, while unbelievers are commanded to believe in Him for new life. Why would we expect unbelievers to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit whom they do not have? Still He calls us as His children to demonstrate His character to those around us. It seems that we should be socially active and responsible, but not obsessive. Our priorities must be in order.

Second, I suggest we consider the example of Daniel, who was above reproach (Dan. 6:5), and who had a habit of praying with windows opened and kneeling, facing Jerusalem (Dan. 6:10). When those trying to destroy him were successful in putting forth a law forbidding prayer to all but King Darius (Dan. 6:8-9), Daniel did not alter his course—he continued doing what he had done previously (Daniel 6:10). He did not incite revolution or conspire against the king nor against the officials who set out to harm Daniel. He did not rebel by becoming any more outspoken. Nor did he retreat by hiding or discontinuing his habitual prayer. Instead, he was steady in maintaining prayer and also in fulfilling his duties to the king inasmuch as was possible, in light of the king’s edict. When the two finally conflicted, Daniel unhesitatingly continued his service to God despite its freshly minted illegal status.

When consequences came, just as before, Daniel did not resort to revolution, rebellion or retreat. Instead he submitted to the king, accepting the consequence (death) for his actions (Dan. 6:7,12,17). When King Darius saw how righteously Daniel had behaved, and how God protected Daniel, Darius could do naught but glorify God and decree that men should treat Daniel’s God with requisite honor (Dan. 6:26-27).

Daniel’s goal was not to reform his society, but to obey God. Yet God used Daniel’s righteousness and obedience also in a way that had a remarkable impact on the society in which Daniel lived. When the law of the land decreed that Father didn’t know best, Daniel maintained his conviction to the contrary. Daniel had his priorities straight. What about us?

[node:bio/christopher-cone body]

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Charlie's picture

Susan R wrote:
I think playing word games muddies waters that are already murky enough. Is there really a difference between "enforcing boundaries" and "punishment" and "consequences"? No - there isn't. Try telling some guy in jail that he isn't being punished- society is just "enforcing boundaries". Ditto a child being sent to their room for a 'time out'. All of those terms describe what is happening true - they are not mutually exclusive nor do they cancel each other out. Children need to understand that, and Scripture gives us a variety of ways to teach this principle to our children, one of which is the literal, physical rod.

It is tremendously important that we distinguish between punishment and discipline. The entire doctrine of salvation hinges on this distinction.

Punitive or penal measures exist in the context of law and seek to redress grievances. It is what Aristotle called rectificatory (διορθωτικός) justice. It is not the person being corrected, but the wrong. It is settling the score:

Quote:
The law looks only at the nature of damage, treating the parties as equal, and merely asking whether one has done and the other suffered injustice, whether one inflicted and the other has sustained damage. Hence the unjust being here the unequal, the judge endeavors to equalize it: inasmuch as when one man has received and the other has inflicted a blow, or one has killed and the other been killed, the line representing the suffering and doing of the deed is divided into unequal parts, but the judge endeavors to make them equal by the penalty or loss he imposes, taking away the gain.

This idea of rectificatory justice is the foundation of the (originally Calvinist) doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement. It is expressed most clearly in the terms of covenant theology. Adam was charged with perfect obedience; his the successful completion of his charge was to result in immortality and blessedness for himself and all his descendents. The penalty was death, both for himself and all his descendents. He failed. Jesus, however, as a second Adam, perfectly kept the law, winning the reward of Adam. In order to apply that reward to anyone, though, he had to remove the curse caused by the first Adam. His death is the penal substitution for Adam's sin. This grounds the doctrine of twofold justification: both the forgiveness of sin and the imputation of Christ's active obedience. Justice is served. (Even those post-Calvinist Protestants who don't subscribe to classical covenant theology should still be able to recognize the punitive underpinnings of the atonement and justification.)

Discipline or training is connected to the Greek word παιδεια (paideia). It concerns the formation of children. It is the process by which a child, under the guidance of tutors, develops physically, mentally, and socially into a well-formed adult. As such, it is primarily a positive thing. A common Greek phrase is παιδεια και τροφη (discipline and nurture). Now, paideia in the Greco-Roman world was not always what we would consider gentle today. However, it was non-punitive. The goal of discipline is not to redress wrong but to encourage positive growth. Why do basketball coaches make their players run sprints? Because they offended the coach, and he seeks satisfaction for the wrong done against him? No! So they will be quicker.

The life of the believer under sanctification is not penal. It cannot be. God does not have any more wrongs to right. Yet, he exercises discipline toward his people. God never acts toward his children except for their training in righteousness. Satisfaction for wrong or redress for grievance never enters into the equation. That said, both the Bible and life experience makes it clear that paideia is not always pleasant, and it involves measures that we certainly would not choose for ourselves. Punishment and discipline may sometimes look similar, but they are always distinguishable by the intention behind them. Because the intentions behind them are different, it does mean that there is much more flexibility in paideia than in punishment. One of my former pastors used to say that if you want to parent punitively, then you have to punish every single wrong. To do differently would be to miscarry justice. After all, God does not just pass over any sin. Every single wrong (at least for the elect) was accounted for in the atonement; every single penalty paid.

Now, corporal punishment is not necessarily punitive. Anne realizes this, since she said that parents are free to spank; she would not say parents are free to parent punitively. However, I think that she is right in thinking that much spanking, and probably other forms of punishment as well, arise from the parents' mistakenly pursuing a punitive paradigm. That's a shame; these are truths about our salvation that ought to be influencing the way we live our lives.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Bro. Charlie- I agree that there is a deeper understanding of God and one's place in eternity that can be had in the dynamics of the parent/child relationship.

To better explain my point, here are 3 scenarios (the Reader's Digest Condensed Version and totally on the fly):

A child is wigging out and:
*the parent is exasperated, and instead of dealing with the misbehavior, sends the child to their room to get them out of their sight.
*the parent knows that the child hates to be alone, and in their anger vindictively sends the child to their room.
*the parent spends time verbally addressing the misbehavior and explaining the consequences, and believes the best solution at that time is for the child to spend some time alone in their room.

What is the difference between these three scenarios? The motive/intent of the parent. The first is sloth, the second is vengeance, and the third is teaching/training. This is not determined by the actions of the child, and technically not determined by the form of discipline. However, because of the demeanor of the parent, each of these children will learn a different lesson from this scenario. The parent's attitude determines whether or not correction is punitive or an act of discipling as much as the method itself.

Regardless of how you 'enforce boundaries' with young children, they do not view a thwarting of their desires as being anything other than punishment. Older children can reason the 'cause-effect' aspect of consequences for misconduct, but they will still view a removal of privileges as being punitive because that is how our flesh perceives it. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to learn to love correction.

In any case, the behaviors and attitudes that the parents model will be the main teaching tool in the life of the family, and that is why it is problematic to view discipline as being all about the methods and not about the people involved, and why attempting to stigmatize spanking as being inherently punitive while granting inherent 'grace' to other methods of 'enforcing boundaries' or 'experiencing consequences' is just word games.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I'm not sure he's still keeping up w/the thread, so I'll give him an invite via email. I think a thorough study at the exegetical level would be most most welcome.

Often, talk of paradigms is a way of winning a debate before it occurs. If somebody succeeds in framing the question as a choice between two options, for example, they can easily paint the option that is not theirs in a sinister/inferior light.
If you think about it, you can see how easy this is to do... imagine that the question is a big piece of pie and your answer to it is a sliver an inch or two wide at the end. If you can lump all the other answers together, all you have to do to reject them is find the worst elements in the rest of the pie. This is easy to do because the rest of the pie is so large.

To use another analogy, suppose you want to prove that retrievers are the best dogs. You could frame the debate as follows: "Which are best, retrievers or non-retrievers?" If readers don't notice what you've done, they'll be open to this kind of argument:

  • non retrievers have been bred for fighting (true of pit bulls)
  • non retrievers tire easily (true of pugs)
  • non retrievers constantly drool (true of some types of hound)

Therefore, retrievers are best.

See the fallacy? But this sort of argument works well for folks who already suspect that retrievers are best, fear that non retrievers are bad, or have some other kind of tilt toward the conclusion.
Someone who is coming at the question from even ground--or has a non-retriever that is great (beagle maybe) finds the argument wholly unpersuasive.

So in anti-spanking lit., look for framing tricks. (They don't necessarily do it deceitfully... probably not. It's just that when you already want to believe something it's easy to not notice that your argument is unsound)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Rachel L.'s picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
It's just that when you already want to believe something it's easy to not notice that your argument is unsound

These are true, true words. This is often what leads to eisegesis.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

... is that I don't ever have to spank, or do anything intentionally painful in training my children.
That option would be...

  • Less painful for me
  • More socially acceptable
  • More academically acceptable
  • Legally safer
  • Easier to depict as gracious

But I don't get to have it that way. The grace of God teaches... and we know that this teaching includes pain.

Ro 5:3–5 ESV Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Jas 1:2–4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Heb 12:11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

nbanuchi's picture

Christopher Cone wrote:
Perhaps in the very near future I will write an article for this website (if the Editor is interested in such an article) on a Biblical Theology of Discipline, which will show the exegetical work (in Hebrew and Greek) leading to the conclusions that physical discipline is indeed mandated in the Bible, thus providing the simple answer to the question: "Why should I spank my kids?" I will propose the idea to the Editor, and if he has interest I will write the article. Then you can review it and consider whether or not it is an accurate handling of the text.ccone@tyndale.edu.

Personally,. I would love to read an article like that. I hope SI would encourge Chistopher to do it and place it on th sit. As a mattter of fact, a book no the theology of discipline wuld be even better.

I grew up using James Dobson's practical advice on disciple...actually, only read one or two books. They have been a great help. But a Theology of Discipline is, as I see it, a great need; I do not know of any book that has approached discipline from the way Christopher proposes to write an article.

Anne Sokol's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
... is that I don't ever have to spank, or do anything intentionally painful in training my children.
That option would be...

  • Less painful for me
  • More socially acceptable
  • More academically acceptable
  • Legally safer
  • Easier to depict as gracious

But I don't get to have it that way. The grace of God teaches... and we know that this teaching includes pain.

Ro 5:3–5 ESV Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Jas 1:2–4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Heb 12:11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.


I am here to testify that this is not true. I could count on one hand the people I know personally who have chosen not to spank. I am swimming against the stream. Do you all think I enjoy these discussions? Like James dumping his hate and scarcasm all over me? . . .

Grace to you, James. I once was you. If not for God's hand, I would be the same, same way. My sinful person is the same as yours.

I think the idea of pain is distracting us. I find pain very useful and very painful. My children experience pain. Life is full of it. I don't inflict it upon them through spanking. But it is painful for them when I say, no I'm sorry, you can't have another cookie, when I tell them they have to brush their teeth and hair when they don't want to? Life is painful. Being sinful is painful.

But there is a huge, enormous difference between punitive and grace parenting, and Charlie is trying to explain it. It is all about our salvation. It is, for example, me being on the same team as my children, not seeing our negative interactions as a "battle of wills" that I "must win." But seeing that both my children and I are sinners, that we both struggle with our sin natures daily, and we are thankful for grace--that Christ took our punishment and curse on the cross (Isaiah 53)--that I can come along side them and help them unto obedience though imperfectly.

. . . I love You, God, and I see every day more and more how much You have done for me and come alongside me most gently and lovingly to forgive my sins and clean me from all unrighteousness. Teach me to love my children as You love me.

handerson's picture

so do I discipline/correct/punish (whatever you want to call it) a repentant child even if they've broken an obvious rule?

James K's picture

Anne, I don't think you should blame God for your views. He gave us his views, which are ignored and explained away by you.

While you see sarcasm from me, I am really expressing concern over your erroneous views of God and his grace. You don't deal in substance. I gave you the greek word in Heb 12 and its definition. This is how God deals with us. So in your closing when you say

Quote:
I love You, God, and I see every day more and more how much You have done for me and come alongside me most gently and lovingly to forgive my sins and clean me from all unrighteousness. Teach me to love my children as You love me.

you fail to take in all of what God said and how he deals with us. You have a distorted view so naturally your method will be distorted. He has taught us how to teach and love our children. Failing to spank fails to do both.

As for being once like me, I hope you aren't anything like me. Our goal is Christlikeness. If you are talking about my view of spanking, then I hope one day you come back to a reality based form of parenting as set forth in the Scriptures rather than culture and convenience.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Anne Sokol's picture

handerson wrote:
so do I discipline/correct/punish (whatever you want to call it) a repentant child even if they've broken an obvious rule?
I woudn't "punish" my child. As far as discipline (as teaching), I think it really depends on the child and the situation. What is the purpose of the teaching if the child is already repentant? There may be consquences that have naturally arisen from the situation, and I would probably not nix the natural outcomes and might try to put myself in the place where I bear it with the child. I think it's a complex decision actually, one where the parent needs to be aware of the child's personal struggles and spiritual condition. Maybe there would be certain situations where I'd nix the consequences somewhat or at least help lighten them if I felt like the child was too discouraged spiritually. I think that God doesn't always deal with us negatively when we sin, if you know what I mean. He might insert a positive experience to help encourage us in some way.

I was recently having a conversation with a woman in our church. She's divorced/single mom, and at one point a few yrs back commited adultery. She was talking about how overwhelmed she was by God's love to her when it is so undeserved. (And I said, even when we think we're deserving it, we're really not Wink ). She said, after I repented from that sin, one week later my son repented and was saved. God didn't punish me; He blessed me. . . . . I have been thinking about that.

James, I need to go back to not acknowledging you Wink You make my point. God bless you and your children!

skjnoble's picture

Hi Anne, I have no doubt you have studied this out quite a bit and are fully convinced in your mind what you (and your husband) have decided for your household, in the way of Deut. 6, teaching and discipline, is what is best for your children. What a rarity these days. Women who will interact and engage the mind for the most important of matters, and what God calls us to do. Too many of us spend time and resources on everything, but... what a blessing to know other women around the country are working toward an eternal end! Smile

Honestly, I haven't interacted with you, personally, on this matter because I haven't read Clarkson's book so I'm completely ignorant (besides some of these postings here) on what he believes or who he even is. I had never even heard of him until this website.

Personally, I find it hard to ignore passages like Heb. 12:6, where the writer uses the word "scourge" (NASB) which appears 6 other times in the Greek directly relating to physical scourging of the disciples or Jesus Himself. Please, please correct me if I'm wrong. I understand the subject of that word is God Himself, but He is the One Who sets Himself up as the example there, so it is hard for me to ignore. There are others, but I have no doubt you and Clarkson have worked through many, if not all of those passages.

The encouragement I hope I can give to you is in response to when you said this:

I could count on one hand the people I know personally who have chosen not to spank. I am swimming against the stream.

I found this statement interesting. Assuming the people you "personally know" are Christians, your church family, leaders in your church and other like-minded, saved individuals; swimming upstream is not always a good thing. Again, assuming "your crowd" is a base of solid, loving, Christ-like Christians, like you, then be careful of swimming upstream from them. Not to say we all don't have our convictions or feel like a salmon at times, but in my case, the folks I "know personally" are ones, who if they are practicing something I'm not, then I'm the one who is going to check and double check my own heart/mind/conclusions/standards/Scripture interpretations. If they are swimming one way, and I'm swimming the other way, particularly in such a practical matter, then I need to rethink some things through Scripture, alone. These are the people I trust with every area of my life, because they serve and are regenerated by the same God. If the people I personally know tell me I'm "the odd man out" I better heed quickly. I don't want to be innovative or a trailblazer or a pioneer when it comes to Scripture. I want to sink into the background and be as patterned as I can be within the crowd I hang around knowing their (and my) desire is to be conformed to Christ's image. (Heb. 13:7 stff) After all, we're a body, and in my case, our church body functions very well, by God's grace.

Isn't this what Paul commands Titus to teach? Older women are to teach the younger women how to love their children and be a good worker at home. If the majority of older women have come to the conclusion that spanking is commanded, then my response as a younger woman is to humbly recheck my understanding of Scripture, alone, if I disagree. The implied command in Titus 2:3-5 to younger women is we are to be teachable learning from these older women.

I can understand if these Sharper Iron guys aren't swaying or persuading you (sorry guys--I mean no disrespect) because frankly, I'm not always convinced either, and I have no doubt many of things I write here are just plain silly to them (rhetorical statement). Smile But surely, the people I personally know have great influence on me when it comes to biblical application. These are people I know, trust and serve me without hypocrisy. Their God is my God and their study of Scripture is where I get most of my sharpening (sorry Aaron).

In fact, the only group I want to swim upstream against are the people who succumb to cultural temptations and worldly ways: Acts 5:29 stuff. In my limited knowledge, it is actually the "spankers" who are swimming upstream--and speaking for myself--it is a whitewater, rocky swim.

I hope this helps as you (and I!) continue to walk this journey of desiring to grow and mature into biblical-minded women.

Blessings, Kim Smile

Anne Sokol's picture

Hi, Kim,

Now, those are really good observations that I would like to mention. I have, I think, two friends I've actually met in real life who also don't spank, I think for theological reasons. Oh, maybe three. I have quite a few online acquaintances who have been led by the Lord into this theological understanding of grace, salvation, depravity, etc., and how it applies to our children. And several of them are actually from Bob Jones, where I graduated! Several came out of the woodwork a few months back when I did a piece on Tedd Tripp's book here on SI.

About our church, oh my, at 35, I feel like I am the older woman Wink My kids are the oldest ones in church. I don't try to make this much of an issue for example at the mommy group we have. My pastor is my husband, and our other pastor has read, in Russian, an extended letter I wrote to another pastor in town here about this whole issue and other things, and he agrees with it. I was just thinking a few days ago how thankful I am that the *spank more, spank harder* mentality is not a part of our church. We don't expect perfection from each other, we try to share our struggles, things that worked in our relationships, and try very hard not to judge each other because we are all different in our approaches to mothering and our kids personalities and needs.

Oh, I did remember that we have some elderly ladies in our church, but they really don't talk about childrearing except for loving on our kids as they can at service times. The elder pastor's wife, I actually am not sure--she teaches us many things, but childrearing is not one subject she has talked a lot about b/c usually when she's teaching, it's to everyone, and only a few of us have kids. We did just do a women's conference on Freedom for Mothers by Denise Glenn for moms, but we did it as applicable to all women.

My mom read the paper I wrote for SI a few months back about Tedd Tripp's book, and she thought it wonderful. She added that the NIV Commentary says the same things about the rod passages that Clarkson is saying--it applies to older children. My parents did spank us, but it wasn't often. As far as I know, I think all my other siblings spank their kids. We just accept each other and don't make issues of it.

About Hebrews 12, it really helps me to remember that the context is persecuted Christians, not disobedient Christians. Like, if you put yourself in the shoes of the Iranian pastor in prison now (in the filings section), and read Heb 10:32-12, it seem to fit into that context as very encouraging to those who are suffering for Christ's sake.

I was pondering this whole thing today, and it really occurred to me that spanking is actually just a peripheral issue, a symptomatic issue. The real issues are our own understanding of our total depravity, the extent and nature of salvation, what grace means, our unerstanding of obedience, and stuff like that. I feel like I write very stutteringly on here because it is so hard to put into words. Charlie knows how to do it better than I, and I'm thankful for that. But I am trying to wrap words around it, however frustratingly and imperfectly Wink

Rachel L.'s picture

This disagreement is like so many between Christians. Each of us thinks that we (and those who believe as we do) are interpreting the Bible "correctly."

I do not enjoy these discussions and would avoid them except that I was once a young mother who felt the Holy Spirit leading her toward gentle discipline. I read the Bible; I argued with what the Holy Spirit was teaching me. I resisted going against the beliefs that I had been taught . . . and yet God kept drawing me away from spanking my children. God (not The World) showed me how to discipline in this way.

I only enter these discussions for other mothers with whom the Holy Spirit is leading down this path. I enter these discussions and state what God has taught me and the reality that you can be a "Bible-believing" Christian and not spank. I am one. I enter these discussions for the silent readers who are being told that Christian parents MUST spank . . . that to do otherwise is ignoring scripture and being disobedient to God. Is spanking really such a fundamental to the faith? Is it? If you believe so, that's fine. However, do not hear the Holy Spirit whispering in your heart to gently and tenderly discipline your children and allow others to tell you that His voice is the voice of The World or of Satan.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Anne Sokol wrote:

I am here to testify that this is not true. I could count on one hand the people I know personally who have chosen not to spank. I am swimming against the stream. Do you all think I enjoy these discussions? Like James dumping his hate and scarcasm all over me? . . .

Grace to you, James. I once was you. If not for God's hand, I would be the same, same way. My sinful person is the same as yours.

I think the idea of pain is distracting us. I find pain very useful and very painful. My children experience pain. Life is full of it. I don't inflict it upon them through spanking. But it is painful for them when I say, no I'm sorry, you can't have another cookie, when I tell them they have to brush their teeth and hair when they don't want to? Life is painful. Being sinful is painful.

But there is a huge, enormous difference between punitive and grace parenting, and Charlie is trying to explain it. It is all about our salvation. It is, for example, me being on the same team as my children, not seeing our negative interactions as a "battle of wills" that I "must win." But seeing that both my children and I are sinners, that we both struggle with our sin natures daily, and we are thankful for grace--that Christ took our punishment and curse on the cross (Isaiah 53)--that I can come along side them and help them unto obedience though imperfectly.

. . . I love You, God, and I see every day more and more how much You have done for me and come alongside me most gently and lovingly to forgive my sins and clean me from all unrighteousness. Teach me to love my children as You love me.

Anne, I think James does use overly provocative language at times... probably not helpful. But you also don't seem to be commenting on point. That is, I've made some assertions and supported them but you don't seem to be addressing the substance much.

(Some things that are not in dispute: that sin is painful, that parents should avoid battles of wills--and do everything they can to foster a close nurturing relationship rather than an adversarial one, that saying "no" involves some pain of disappointment on the child's part, that parenting should be gracious, that Christ took our punishment on the cross, etc. I don't think anybody here is in favor of viewing parental discipline as punishment--though I agree with Susan that kids are likely to see it that way and only slowly come to understand what's really going on.)

So, I'm curious. In your view...

  • Does God graciously use pain to teach and train His children or not?
  • Does Heb. 12 refer to parents using painful discipline and assume that there is nothing wrong with that?
  • If not, what is the point in the writer of Hebrews using the analogy?
  • Is there a difference between punitive and instructive?
  • Was the use of spanking and the like standard practice in Christian homes until recent times?
  • Does society and/or academia view it as a valid part of good parenting?

Just trying to clear up which of my premises you reject and which you accept (if any).

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

No- not a washing machine. Although front loaders are awesome. But again with the front loading the discussion by referring to non-spanking as 'gentle' and 'tender', which by proxy appears to be an attempt to characterize spanking as inherently unloving, unkind, and even violent. Also, trying to discount those who believe that spanking is shown to be an important teaching tool in Scripture as making spanking a 'fundamental' of the faith.

What is fundamental is obedience to God's commands, patterns, and principles, whether we are comfortable with them or not, regardless of what society considers valid, or which direction everyone is swimming.

Rachel L.'s picture

Susan R wrote:
No- not a washing machine. Although front loaders are awesome. But again with the front loading the discussion by referring to non-spanking as 'gentle' and 'tender', which by proxy appears to be an attempt to characterize spanking as inherently unloving, unkind, and even violent. Also, trying to discount those who believe that spanking is shown to be an important teaching tool in Scripture as making spanking a 'fundamental' of the faith.

What is fundamental is obedience to God's commands, patterns, and principles, whether we are comfortable with them or not, regardless of what society considers valid, or which direction everyone is swimming.

So, you are asserting that Christians should view spanking as loving, kind, non-violent, tender, and gentle?

How could I describe my parenting without offending you?

James K's picture

Rachel and Anne, part of the difficulty you both are facing is that you keep blaming God for leading you to do things contrary to His word. When you heap on top of that the fact that you both go against explicit Scriptural mandates, well some people just find such comments as out of place among those who would agree with this from the Statement of Faith:

1. The plenary Divine inspiration of the Scriptures in the original languages, their consequent inerrancy and infallibility, and as the Word of God, the supreme and final authority in faith and life.

I find your arguments and statements to be no different than telling someone God led you to stop going to church. They are so obviously false.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

skjnoble's picture

Hi Rachel, I'm beginning to see maybe where you and I might disagree and it would start before the spanking vs. non-spanking issue. It starts with your question:

However, do not hear the Holy Spirit whispering in your heart to gently and tenderly discipline your children and allow others to tell you that His voice is the voice of The World or of Satan.

I'm quite sure the Holy Spirit only speaks through Scripture in the same way Christians are only led by Scripture. So if I can be fork-tongued for a moment, while I (not intentionally) may have dissed some of the guys here on SI in a previous post on this thread, I can assure you I am every bit blessed by the rigorous discussion and healthy engagement many of these (well-trained, well-educated) men engage in when it comes to sola scriptura. The Holy Spirit only leads by and through Scripture. It is a divine, objective commentary and not subjective to a Jeremiah 17:9 desperately sick heart. So many men on here trust this fact which is why I am blessed to read the articles and comments.

Matt. 4:4, But He answered and said, "It is written, 'MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'" (NASB) My understanding is that God-breathed words (or words that proceed out of the mouth of God) are only found in Scripture and because the canon is closed, nothing else can be added or taken away regardless of how genuine we believe our experiences to be.

I, too, don't enjoy confrontation, but want to comment for those "silent audience members" of Christians--certainly a noble cause you have undertaken.

Blessings, Kim Smile

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Rachel L. wrote:
Susan R wrote:
No- not a washing machine. Although front loaders are awesome. But again with the front loading the discussion by referring to non-spanking as 'gentle' and 'tender', which by proxy appears to be an attempt to characterize spanking as inherently unloving, unkind, and even violent. Also, trying to discount those who believe that spanking is shown to be an important teaching tool in Scripture as making spanking a 'fundamental' of the faith.

What is fundamental is obedience to God's commands, patterns, and principles, whether we are comfortable with them or not, regardless of what society considers valid, or which direction everyone is swimming.

So, you are asserting that Christians should view spanking as loving, kind, non-violent, tender, and gentle?

How could I describe my parenting without offending you?


You are not offending me, Rachel, and you are not accountable to me for how you parent your children. What we are discussing here is 'what are the Biblical guidelines for parents', not 'what Rachel thinks is best'. I am not the least bit interested in how you parent. I am objecting to spanking being characterized as inherently cruel and violent.

God is loving and gentle, and yet He still scourges His own using circumstances like sickness and death and captivity and famine and opening the earth to swallow people live into the pit. Is God always 'non-violent'?

What's more, spanking can be gentle, loving, and nonviolent, used by a parent who is teaching and training their child, not acting in frustration and anger.

Rachel L.'s picture

Kim,

I'm not entirely sure I understand where our disagreement starts. Could you elaborate?

In the above post you seemed to be implying that I was led astray by the Holy Spirit whispering in my heart, but I'm not entirely certain that is our point of disagreement. I will assure you that nothing that was "whispered" to me was counter to scripture as I (and many people more learned than I) read it. The fullness of the grace of the gospel has actually been revealed to me on this journey. I completely agree with Anne's statement:

Quote:
I have found that this issue goes very deeply into the heart of major theological doctrines

Rachel L.'s picture

Quote:
What we are discussing here is 'what are the Biblical guidelines for parents', not 'what Rachel thinks is best'.

Agreed. Yet I am limited to discussing my experience since I cannot speak to anyone else's experience. ::shrug::

AFA, "the Biblical guidelines for parents" goes, well, we've already established that we disagree on what these are. I do not see what you see when you read the Bible. I don't see it. No one here is seriously interested in learning from the other side. We disagree. I do not in any way see how "sickness and death and captivity and famine and opening the earth to swallow people live into the pit" are comparable to spanking. I don't even see how beating a young man with a rod on the back is justification for spanking young children. We shall have to agree to disagree.

No need to worry about how I'm parenting or how seriously I take the Bible or whether I'm in a Good, Bible-believing Church. (Not that you, Susan, are . . . that statement was addressed to others who shall not be named. Wink )

Anne Sokol's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
(Some things that are not in dispute: that sin is painful, that parents should avoid battles of wills--and do everything they can to foster a close nurturing relationship rather than an adversarial one, that saying "no" involves some pain of disappointment on the child's part, that parenting should be gracious, that Christ took our punishment on the cross, etc. I don't think anybody here is in favor of viewing parental discipline as punishment--though I agree with Susan that kids are likely to see it that way and only slowly come to understand what's really going on.)
I think, in all honesty, most of us do see God as punishing us. People who say that God spanks us, etc. I used to think that; that view has been transformed a lot. I think that most fundamental Christians see God as punitive.

I think we all understand that Christ died for our sins, but we also think that our performance in life is pretty important---why we have an emphasis on standards. . . . I think there is a lot to say here, but I just dont have the words to explain it yet. Maybe someone else does.

I'll try to answer your questions . . .

Aaron Blumer wrote:
So, I'm curious. In your view...

Does God graciously use pain to teach and train His children or not?


I'm not sure how to answer this. . . . Are you saying that God reaches down from heaven and zaps us with pain when we do something wrong in order to teach us not to do that wrong thing? Then I would say, no, I don't really see that He does that--I think He did things like that with the Israelites when they were acting in unbelief towards Him as their God.

But God does definitely use the pain of sinful things or the pain of life to shape us. For example, it has been very painful for me to live here with so little financial support. I have run the gamut with God about this issue, but He has used this *pain,* and it is very distinctly painful, to purge my heart and purge my trust in Him, to strengthen my faith. A gal in church recently suffered a miscarriage, and it is a very painful experience, but God is using it in her life. Our elder pastor's wife has had a son going astray and doing bad things, and she has testified about how she has learned many spiritual lessons through it.

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Does Heb. 12 refer to parents using painful discipline and assume that there is nothing wrong with that? If not, what is the point in the writer of Hebrews using the analogy?
I think it says, about parents, OK I'll look it up: "they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them." That's what we're all doing as parents. I don't know that this applies to inflicting intentional pain on children. In this passage, people are experiencing the pain of persecution. God is disciplining them to run the race with endurance, to be holy and bear the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Christ is their example so they don't grow weary.

When we inflict intentional pain on our children, we're pretty much being behaviorists. Bad deed -> pain. I don't discredit that entirely, and as you recently wrote, there is a place for rewards. But using behaviorism should be pretty sparing, whether it's pos or neg.

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Is there a difference between punitive and instructive?
Yes.

Here's one possible definition:

Quote:
Punitive – Parents who use punishment as a means to teach. . . . Punitive parents assume children have to feel bad in order to learn - though they may not use those words to describe it. When confronted with inappropriate behavior in their children, punitive parents search for a punishment to extinguish the behavior. Punitive tools include: time outs, spanking, lectures, grounding, loss of unrelated privileges or property, physical exercise, and physical discipline such as hot sauce on the tongue. Reward/punishment systems are part of a punitive paradigm.

Punitive parenting is the most common type of parenting today in our culture. Even most permissive parents use punitive tools when they do attempt to discipline their children. Punitive parenting is so pervasive that punishment and discipline are used interchangeably, as though there were synonyms. We are immersed in a punitive culture; it’s hard to imagine parenting without those tools. You’ll find punishments in homes, at church, school, on sports teams, and in other organized activities for children.(It comes from http://joanneaz_2.tripod.com/positivedisciplineresourcecenter/id25.html this website .)

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Was the use of spanking and the like standard practice in Christian homes until recent times?

When looking for an answer to this question, I found http://aolff.org/the-history-of-spanking.html this blog post . You might want to skim it.
Aaron Blumer wrote:
Does society and/or academia view it as a valid part of good parenting?
From my reading, some do say it's OK to use in a limited context (Ross Campbells says this, but it's not based on Proverbs, though he is a Christian). Others are pretty opposed to it. I do need to clarify, as is often misunderstood, that not spanking does not mean being permissive. It's just finding other ways of teaching children. So even professionals who don't recommend spanking are not recommending permissiveness, is what I'm trying to say. . . . . There's a lady in my home church in TN who has been working with parents at risk of abusing their children, and she has childrearing classes full of ideas and skills for them of how to raise their children without striking.

I would like to clarify one other point, and in good humor. Wink I groan when you say things like not spanking would be easier. It is the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life. Having a baby was easy-peasy in comparison. Smile

skjnoble's picture

Hiya Rachel! Yes, sorry I wasn't more clear and part of me thinks maybe I should have started this in a different posting because it sort of leads off topic from spanking which you're doing a good job of keeping it on task. So just cut me off when you feel like we've gone too far off the mark of the original post.

While I wouldn't necessarily use some of the literary devices James K employs (I certainly could be wrong here), I do agree with his conclusion in terms of sola scriptura.

The "whispering" confirmation(?) in your spirit directly relates to how one uses the bible and what our views are regarding how God speaks to us, which in turn directly relates to our conclusions of where we might land regarding spanking. It could be just a side issue, but I believe the Holy Spirit doesn't whisper things to us or give us revelation in a quiet, still, small voice. He doesn't speak to us through our minds or really have anything to do with us that is apart from Scripture. The way the Holy Spirit leads us is through Scripture and Scripture, alone. I understand God uses our heart, mind, emotions, etc., but it's to be softened to the Word of God, not to try and hear Him inside of us (for lack of a better term.) It is why Scripture judges us (Matt. 4:4, Heb. 4:12 and II Tim. 3:16) and we do not judge Scripture. I suppose the only work-around from Scripture would be if one believes the gift of prophecy has not ceased--and I definitely believe that would be an entirely different post. Smile

This is why I enjoy this website so much. Here, men discuss a wide variety of doctrine and biblical application from which I can glean, but for the most part, they are discussing Scripture and not what God has told them and then how they confirmed it with Scripture (or visa versa).

Connecting it back to your conclusions for discipline, do you see where this might be an issue? If I have a presupposition/or believe the Holy Spirit whispers things to me, then go and try and confirm that in Scripture, I most likely read with a tinted view. In like manner, if I read something in Scripture and conclude that's what the text says, and then confirm it with that "still, small voice" then once again, I am being led by my heart, at best, as a confirmation and at worst, a final authority, stamp, seal of approval, whatever it is called. I believe it's what James may have been getting at, though I don't want to put words into his mouth, so if James is still here, I would be thankful if he corrected me where I am misrepresenting him. (And also, the same with you Rachel. If I am misrepresenting things, then please correct me!)

I would be labeled in the camp of solO scriptura though I do believe God uses a wide variety of circumstances, thoughts, atttidues, decisions, etc. to fulfill His will, but He only speaks to me in, by, and through His Word. Not only does it have the final authority--it is the only authority/way God "speaks" to me.

In regards to spanking, I see in Scripture a blessed tool and resource given to us by God mandated for not just our children's character, but mine as well. Not only are my children's rebellion, foolishness and nonsense addressed, but my lack of love, anger, frustration, control-freak ways are addressed as well. It's a double-edge sword cutting both ways. Verses in Heb., Prov., Col., etc. guide me to know and be assured of these truths. This is where my assurance comes from, not from inside. It keeps the Scriptures objective (which they always are) and not bending to what I think or feel.

Does that help clarify where we might disagree which, in turn, would directly relate to our differences in how each of us would view what God has revealed about discipline?

Thanks for the exchange, Rachel. Smile

skjnoble's picture

Thank you for the peek into your personal life. What an incredible opportunity the Lord is giving to you at such a young age to already be a mentor to women. I continue to pray to grow into such a woman.

I have a quick question for you. You mentioned in your post to me this:

I was pondering this whole thing today, and it really occurred to me that spanking is actually just a peripheral issue, a symptomatic issue.

But then further up you said this:

I have found that this issue goes very deeply into the heart of major theological doctrines

Does this mean you are shifting from the spanking issue being directly related to the heart of major theological doctrines to just a peripheral one? As honestly as I can say it, I'm not trying to catch you, but I am trying to work through your suggestion in my own studies. I've been very simple-minded toward this issue until this thread. I've always viewed spanking in one light, but have never viewed it from a "major theological doctrine" perspective although I guess it could be argued that everything eventually relates back to major theological doctrine.

You've got me thinking Anne--thanks for that! Smile

Anne Sokol's picture

Well, I sat with my Bible for about 2 hours today and tried to put into words what I would really like to communicate about discipline. I will probably express this with some mistakes and perhaps unclarity, but this is the first time I have really tried in words, and it is a topic I would really like to be able to express in words.

First off, Im not sure where to start. It may be a jumble.

Well, OK. I'll start with 1st John. Does God motivate us through fear? And what is the desirable motivation?

Quote:
1 John 4:12, 15-21 No one has beheld God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. ... Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
When training my children to obey out of love or fear, I try hard to cultivate the love motivation. I dont mean emotional manipulation as love. I just mean that I try to use words and methods that try to help my children see things through love. Using fear of punishment is not a desirable motivation. (There are natural fear motivators--like being hurt when doing some crazy physical activity (one child is a climber).) Our children's hearts are naturally inclined by God to want relationships with us, their parents, and I try to use our relationship and sharing of love in discipline. This is one way I try to be godly in my discipline of my children because this is God's desire for each of us as His children.
Quote:
For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" Rom 8:15

The second issue I would like to clarify, but don't know if I can, is the way we view our sanctification. I always thought my sanctification was my actual behaviors, thoughts, words, etc. But I think, now, that it is more correct to look at those things as fruits of sanctification. Sanctification happens by faith. This subject deals with our focus on external standards and obedience and our view of total depravity. I think we kind of deceive ourselves that we can somehow please God and keep His law. And we teach this to our children in the way we focus on behavior and use punishment. I will try to explain further.

First, obedience is important, but why is it important? It is surely for our benefit important because we can experience painful consequences and hurt others. And I think God, because we are in Christ, graciously accepts and rewards our obediences as much as they are done in the Spirit. However, in teaching our children the importance of obedience, I think we can mislead them that their actions are inherently pleasing to God, and I think this is a false and confusing idea, and one that confuses us about God's acceptance of us based upon our behavior.

Only Christ ever kept God's standards. They are absolutely unkeepable by us. The longer I live and grow in the Lord, the more I see my incapability of meeting His standards; I'm not a dead chicken in this deal, but I can't make myself better or more holy. God does it, and I just put myself before Him to let Him do it in His time and way.

We do attempt to lower God's standards into keepable rules. One example I have considered is the "read your Bible every day" rule. This is a great rule. But it is not God's standard. It is a keepable standard we have created. It's a fine thing, but it's not God's. What is God's standard? Here are some examples I have found:

Quote:
Psalm 1:2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. ... Psalm 119:97 O how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day. ... Psalm 119:92 If Thy law had not been my delight, Then I would have perished in my affliction. ... Psalm 119:47-48 And I shall delight in Thy commandments, Which I love. And I shall lift up my hands to Thy commandments, Which I love; And I will meditate on Thy statutes. ... Psalm 119:15-16 I will meditate on Thy precepts, And regard Thy ways. I shall delight in Thy statutes; I shall not forget Thy word.
Martin Luther wrote:
Quote:
Now, since these promises of God are words of holiness, truth, righteousness, liberty, and peace, and are full of universal goodness, the soul, which cleaves to them with a firm faith, is so united to them, nay, thoroughly absorbed by them, that it not only partakes in, but is penetrated and saturated by, all their virtues. For if the touch of Christ was healing, how much more does that most tender spiritual touch, nay, absorption of the word, communicate to the soul all that belongs to the word! In this way therefore the soul, through faith alone, without works, is from the word of God justified, sanctified, endued with truth, peace, and liberty, and filled full with every good thing, and is truly made the child of God, as it is said, “To them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name” (John i. 12).
I'm not entirely sure how to put this into words, but it is very connected to the way we discpline our children. I dont try to communicate through punishment or discipline techniques that my child is acceptable or unacceptable to God because of his/her behavior. I do teach what words, actions, behaviors are pleasing or displeasing to God, but I don't want, through the use of punishment/rewards, to communicate that God accepts us or not based on our behaviors/words/thoughts. (Am I rambling here?) I think children are very aware of and feeling of these things. I want them to understand most of all that they are accepted in Christ. Their actions will never meet God's standards, but in love and faith, we grow in Him and become like His Son.

Anyway, OK, I've tried to communicate some of my personal thoughts on these topic and child discipline. But it is hard, and I'm sorry if it's confusing.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

To Anne in particular but whoever would like ...

1. If there is a difference between "punitive" and "instructional," as you say, (and I agree), then using pain to instruct is not punitive. It's instructional (or maybe "didactic").

Quote:
From Concise Oxford English Dict.
punitive /ˈpjuːnɪtɪv/
■ adjective inflicting or intended as punishment

punish
■ verb inflict a penalty on as retribution for an offence.
▶ inflict a penalty on someone for (an offence).

instructive
■ adjective useful and informative.
– DERIVATIVES instructively adverb instructiveness noun

didactic /dɪˈdaktɪk, dʌɪ-/
■ adjective intended to teach, particularly in having moral instruction as an ulterior motive.

2. Does God zap me when I do something wrong in order to teach me not to do that? I certainly hope that sometimes He does. Heb.12 indicates that if He does not, I'm an illegitimate child. But besides that, I need it.

3. The parenting in Heb.12... "disciplined as seemed best to them" cannot be separated from the intentional use of pain because this is the point of the passage. It's part of the argument. The writer is talking about the pain God uses in our lives and why we ought to welcome it. He uses parents as one argument in favor of welcoming it. (esp. Heb.12.11)
(Those who have a strong view of God's sovereignty should be especially quick to see that the pain we experience is orchestrated by God for our good and His glory. It is not mere "consequence.")

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Anne Sokol's picture

When talking about *punitive* and *gentle* parenting, pain infliction/punishment (pain infliction as punishment?) is one of the cruxes of the issue. Pain can be instructive in this way like it is taught to teach lab rats and other animals to do or not do certain behaviors. It is in the behavioral sense used in this way.

Does He sometimes zap us? Well, I don't know either. He does discipline us, but that does not equal punishment/zapping necessarily, and He has a wide range of ways to speak to our hearts.

anyway, we could prob'ly go on all day about that. maybe we should Smile However, I think the point is, taking Heb 12 to support spanking/pain infliction on children is a far stretch hermeneutically. It's talking about persecution. Look at how the Prov 3 is quoted and adjusted for this exact context:

Quote:
Prov 3 My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD,
Heb 12 "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline [training, the rearing of a child, paideia ] of the Lord,

Quote:
Prov 3 Or loathe His reproof,
Heb 12 Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;

Quote:
Prov 3 For whom the LORD loves He reproves,
Heb 12 For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines [to train chilren, chasten, correct, paideuo ],

Quote:
Prov 3 Even as a father, the son in whom he delights.
Heb 12 And He scourges every son whom He receives.

anyway, I suppose the main issue is whether we use punishment/pain with small children in parenting. . . . I've gone through the Bible before looking at instances of how small children are mentioned and portrayed, and I really don't get a sense of punitive discipline as God's intentions towards them. But maybe someone else has come to a different conclusion from this type of study.

Charlie's picture

I've been thinking this for a while, but haven't collected quite all the data yet.

Heb. 12 is definitely quoting the Septuagint (LXX) rendering of Prov. 3:11-12. The Greek texts are identical. What's interesting is that at the part that has come up for discussion, the LXX does not follow the Hebrew. There is no Hebrew equivalent for "scourge" or "whip" (Greek μαστιγοι). In fact, the only words for discipline in the Proverbs passage are those most associated with verbal correction. Knowledge of this irregularity is probably the reason that most modern English Bible translators have softened the rendering of μαστιγοι. Taking it metaphorically brings it in line with the Hebrew.

If, however, we were committed to taking the word absolutely literally, it would still have nothing to do with spanking. Taking someone outside, stripping off his shirt, and beating him on the back with a rod or leather instrument until he bleeds (that's what μαστιγοι means) is not spanking. So, I think we're all committed to metaphor here.

[Note: I've talked to some LXX scholars recently, and they think that the LXX rendering may have come about from phonetic confusion. The word for "father" combined with the following letter sounds somewhat similar to a verb meaning "to inflict pain." Even, then, though, that doesn't resolve all the differences. ]

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skjnoble's picture

Hey thanks so much for taking your time to elaborate. That certainly helped me quite a bit in understanding more of what you're thinking and reasoning through. It's funny, much of what you say does resonate with me. We have quite a bit of common ground when it comes to grace, love, mercy and kindness shown to us by our Heavenly (Abba) Father and how we are to model it to our (unsaved, in my case) children. And I love how you brought out, not just modeling, but actively imparting this to your children in the specific area of discipline--that's really neat, Anne! Smile

Regarding these two thoughts:

1) Does God motivate us through fear? And what is the desirable motivation?

and

2) This is one way I try to be godly in my discipline of my children because this is God's desire for each of us as His children. [edit: oops--I forgot to cut and paste all of this thought--sorry! Our children's hearts are naturally inclined by God to want relationships with us, their parents, and I try to use our relationship and sharing of love in discipline.

In the I John passages and Romans passages, I understand those to be speaking to a believer vs. an unbeliever. In my case, my children are unsaved. While I could model (and actively impart this) to my children, I'm not sure if these verses apply directly to my case.

But what about verses like Prov. 1:7, (NASB) The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline?

That certainly resonates in my case. Not only do my children not "fear" but are very foolish in whatever wisdom and discipline I give whether it is "painful" or not. They don't like it--dare I say they despise it? At times, I'm sure they do. They are submissive to it, but don't like it/despise it.

Now, looking up the word, "fear" in the Hebrew, there certainly is a sense, from what I can glean, which has everything to do with fearfulness or terror. It directly correlates with reverence and approaching a Holy God, which also carries an amount of trembling or, for lack of a better word, "fear."

If I am called to "day and night" teach and discipline my (unsaved) children, I certainly want to follow the Prov. guideline in directly sharing this part with them, as well. I'm not sure how to work toward this end without some kind of pain infliction which, I believe, is in Scripture (the crux of the disagreement). (And point of reference, I'm not suggesting I take my kids out, undress them and scourge them. That's not what I glean from Heb. 12 no more than I believe God actually changed His mind in Ex. 32:14. I hope I can be absolved from any blame here.)

However, in teaching our children the importance of obedience, I think we can mislead them that their actions are inherently pleasing to God, and I think this is a false and confusing idea, and one that confuses us about God's acceptance of us based upon our behavior.

This is very true and as a parent of unbelieving children, I find this to be the most daunting of tasks. All of this obedience, discipline, teaching, punishment training--what a crock if I believe my parenting will, in the end, win them over. I'm surely guilty of this line of thinking in the past.

But while modeling this, I certainly want to train and teach them about verses like James 4:8 (NASB):

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

which seems to carry every idea that we must be actively involved, laboring tireless toward the mortification of sin (John Owens, "Be killing sin or sin will be killing you.").

Again, I think it stems from the depravity of man doctrine found in verses like Jeremiah 17:9 and Rom. 3.

Personally, I find it difficult to work toward all of the above while actively trying to extract the pain infliction part of training and discipline, as outlined by what I see in Scripture.

Anne Sokol's picture

About the first part--our children being believers or not and us motivating them by fear or love--at young ages, I'm not sure this makes a difference in how we treat them. I want them attracted to God by His kindness/grace so I treat them accordingly. My kids are 4 and 6, and while they say they believe Jesus died on the cross for their sins and have some type of rudimentary faith, I don't actually know if they are *saved* yet. I think those who ascribe to the covenant theology of children act in this way towards their children b/c of that confidence. I personally would treat the young children of saved and unsaved parents in the same manner, not disinguishing by trying to motivate the one by fear and the other by love. Also, your children love and are attached to you by God's design; you are their #1 influence, and that's God's help to you.

I don't see that I need to use fear or pain to teach my children to fear/respect God. Part of this issue is that children are children. This is why it is important that we understand their ages and stages of development. I can teach my child to bow her head and close her eyes when we pray, but thinking that I can get her to comprehend abstract topics like "holiness" and "majesty" is a little beyond the scope of her intellectual ability at this stage, and God understands that. As they get older, we can wrestle with abstract concepts and how to apply them to daily life, so they will grow into that.

We can disagree about the pain infliction. It is one of the crux issues defining how we see God. It affects how we see God acting towards us and how we see His expectations of us in acting towards our children. (And that is actually a big deal.)

It is hard to try and not use pain infliction in parenting. Pain infliction is actually very, very easy and often produces fast results. I personally don't see it as God's way, though.

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