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?

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James K's picture

Anne, your distortions of the gospel are obvious and explain the distortions in your child raising. The Bible does indeed include the threat of severe, hard punishment to all people prior to conversion. What doe you think it means that people are "children of wrath" prior to conversion? If you want to give your children an accurate view of God and his grace, then they will see it in light of how God presents it, the alternative provided to save from his wrath.

God isn't a teddy bear Anne.

Again, God uses pain on unbelievers to motivate them so they convert. God uses pain on believers so they do not continue in destructive behavior and also to identify with Christ. Paul saw suffering as God appointed and an opportunity to identify with Christ. You have a onesided view of God.

Quote:
I personally don't see it as God's way, though.

For the same reason a thief doesn't see any cops around.

Do I understand correctly you are a missionary of sort?

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.

Jay's picture

Anne Sokol wrote:
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.


Interesting point. If I had to say anything, I would suggest that God's primary method of punishment is letting us live with the consequences of our disobedience and not some kind of extra-special 'zap'.

By this I mean that if God allows man to choose to live in his rebellion against God, then he gets eternal punishment as the due penalty for his sin. If he chooses to sleep with someone who is not his wife, then he has to deal with all the mental/social/behavioral/physical ramifications of his disobedience - broken marriage, shattering of trust, illegitimate children or STDs, et cetera. (David, on the other hand, would be an example of someone who got a special 'zap' from the Lord when he sinned with Bathsheba - see II Sam. 12).

It seems to me that the only times I can recall where God deliberately sends punishment and makes it known that He is sending it is when someone deliberately defies a prophet that the Lord specifically sent and attested to (the OT rebellions against Moses, Elisha and the youths, Ananias and Sapphira).

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

skjnoble's picture

Hi Anne, Smile Just a few quick thoughts, but I ultimately think what you think, we can agree to disagree, in the end. I very much appreciate the exchange! Thank you! Smile

About the first part--our children being believers or not and us motivating them by fear or love--at young ages,

I see both in Scripture--fear and love which is why I need to give them a healthy Christian perspective. Like what Aaron said earlier about behavior modification vs. influencing the heart; fear and love are not opposed to each other, but are both attributed to God, as laid out in Scripture.

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.

I think, as outlined in Scripture, pain can help us teach this. Any time people "saw" or experienced God, it was a terrifying thing. The worshipful song directly sung to God is not: love, love, love or kindness, kindness, kindness, but it is holy, holy, holy. It is the only time in Scripture that an attribute of God is sung in repetition (for emphasis to distinguish above the other attributes. First, God is holy: all other attributes are the sum total of His holiness.) It's not that God isn't love, it's that He is holy love. It's not that God isn't mercy or kindness, it's that His mercy is a holy mercy and His kindness is a holy kindness.

I, too, have young children, but they can, and I certainly do want to teach them about His holiness. It has everything to do with teaching them the Gospel. The true gospel of Jesus Christ is all about God's holy love. I feel I have a duty to teach them beyond the "bowing of the heads and closing of the eyes", though don't get me wrong, we do that as well. My youngest two, who are 4 and 6, (we should have a playdate--ha!) Smile may not be able to articulate holiness in fine detail, they know "God is holy" and they know this because it is a "day and night" teaching at our house, at our church, "when they lie down; when they rise up, etc." Smile But they also know God is love, kindness, etc. I want them to be able to tell me all about God as He describes Himself in Scripture. I agree. Attributes of God and fruit of the Spirit may be harder than sharing or being thankful, but it doesn't mean I shouldn't follow the instructions to parents to teach a full view of God, starting when they're very, very young.

Is. 6:3, And one called out to another and said, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory."

Rev. 4:8, Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come."

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

James, she is not talking about before conversion. She's talking about God relates to us and our sins after we are in Christ.

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.

James K's picture

Aaron, that was only a portion of my post. However, she has indicated she doesn't spank at all, which means prior to conversion also. Her posts betray a soft view of God because that is how she wants to parent. She correctly observes that some (many...who knows) parents to produce a fear and trembling in their children and it is all performance based. While that is wrong, her unbiblical methods are equally wrong. Both fail to take seriously the Scripture as the final authority over culture, experience, and even whispers blamed on God.

Parents who do not spank, do not love their children. All this talk of grace parenting (that denies spanking) is a smoke screen to hide the secret sin of unloving your children, whether intentional or not.

Heb 12 uses the greek word mastigoo, to flog. The next time Anne bothers to actually deal with scripture will be the first time. The same word used in how God deals with his children (post conversion obviously), is used to describe what Jesus suffered and also those who would be persecuted.

Nothing quite says being persecuted like the world sitting us down and gently talking to us. Foxe's book of martyrs is full of those stories.

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

I so appreciate your post #65, particularly the 2nd through 4th paragraphs. A strong, convicting word for me--thank you! You also wrote a more concise summary of what I was trying to say, using less words--something else I can learn. Smile Smile

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I'm not sure where you're finding that.
In Heb. 12:3 and following, I find (I'm using NKJV for the English)
12.5 "chastening" n. παιδεία (paideia)
12:6 "chastens" v. παιδεύω (paiduo)
12:7 "chastening" n. παιδεία (paideia)
12:7 "chasten" v. παιδεύω (paiduo)
This pattern continues, using the noun παιδεία and the verb παιδεύω in v. 8, 9, 10, 11.

Ah... found it. μαστιγόω (mastigoo) occurs once in 12.6 at the end.

So scourging is not the main idea of the passage. Still, the statement in v.6 is quite clear: God "scourges every son whom He receives." This is clearly a reference to those who are in the faith and is clearly a reference to God dealing with us in a way that is loving and instructional but not what we consider gentle.
The first half of Heb. 12.6 calls us to first believe that God loves, then believe that His scourging is a way He demonstrates that love.

Faith says "I believe" first, then seeks to understand how.

We're off track if try to understand how first, fail, then take our conviction that painful discipline is not loving back to the text and explain it away.

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

James has said, not spanking equals not loving and disobeying God's Word. Not a word of which he supports by Scripture. And I will say, spanking isn't supported by Scripture. This is where our interpretations diverge. Spanking is an allowable activity, but it is not the backbone nor focus of Christian parenting. It is a secular method that parents may choose to employ if they so desire. It is not a God-ordained, holy action toward a child. It can be an expression of anger and a sinful act just as much as one of love. (It could be misguided love, too, sometimes.)

About Heb 12, it would be interesting to hear how you have been flogged by God personally? What in our lives in God's flogging? If we are so sure He does this to us His children, then we ought to know what it is.

About teaching my children about God's holiness, in what way is it necessary to use pain to communicate this? Our sin had a terrible cost which Christ paid. We see God's holiness when we look at what Christ suffered for our sins in our places. And that our actions will never measure up to God's holy standards. Only the beautiful, perfect, law-fulfilling, suffering life Christ did this, and we see God in Him.

Again, I am not discounting pain in the Christian life. I just do not see that God, particularly towards young children, models for us or instructs us to use this pain-as-punishment pattern in Scripture.

Anne Sokol's picture

Anne Sokol wrote:
James has said, not spanking equals not loving and disobeying God's Word. Not a word of which he supports by Scripture. And I will say, spanking isn't supported by Scripture. This is where our interpretations diverge. Spanking is an allowable activity, but it is not the backbone nor focus of Christian parenting. It is not an inherently Christian method, it's a secular method that parents may choose to employ if they so desire. It is not a God-ordained, holy action toward a child. It can be an expression of anger and a sinful act just as much as one of love. (It could be misguided love, too, sometimes.)

About Heb 12, it would be interesting to hear how you have been flogged by God personally? What in our lives in God's flogging? If we are so sure He does this to us His children, then we ought to know what it is.

About teaching my children about God's holiness, in what way is it necessary to use pain to communicate this? Our sin had a terrible cost which Christ paid. We see God's holiness when we look at what Christ suffered for our sins in our places. And that our actions will never measure up to God's holy standards. Only the beautiful, perfect, law-fulfilling, suffering life Christ did this, and we see God in Him.

Again, I am not discounting pain in the Christian life. I just do not see that God, particularly towards young children, models for us or instructs us to use this pain-as-punishment pattern in Scripture.

Charlie's picture

I thought that both posts #57 and #58 dealt with Scripture, though not systematically or exhaustively.

Here's a summary.

Hebrews 5:7-10 7 ¶ In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

So, here we see a theme emerge. Jesus is God's Son. Nevertheless, he was not exempt from obedience, which he learned by suffering. The important thing is that Jesus' learning and suffering is non-punitive. It's not that Jesus did something bad, so God the Father inflicted some suffering so that he would do better. Rather, the concept is paideia. Through overcoming the afflictions and temptations of life, Jesus grows to a new level (cf. Luke 2:52).

Hebrews 10:32-39 32 ¶ But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For, "Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; 38 but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him." 39 ¶ But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

Heb. 11 is a record of those who endured suffering (persecution) through faith. Now, we enter our text:

Hebrews 12:3-11 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 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.

The context of this address is persevering through affliction by others. The author of Hebrews does not say that his readers have committed some sin, and that this is their punishment. Quite the opposite. On the model of Jesus, it is their righteousness that has attracted this affliction. God is using this affliction to make them grow in obedience, just as he did for Jesus. The focus of the passage is on paideia, their training in righteousness. The exhortation is to endure through suffering, not to repent so God will stop making you suffer.

Thus, this passage is not addressing, "What do I do to my children when they do bad things?" I think we should be similarly reticent.

Regarding the Greek, I pointed out earlier that the passage is a quote of the Septuagint, and that in the Hebrew text underlying the reading, there is no equivalent for μαστιγοι. The clause translated "and μαστιγοι every son whom he receives" reads in the original, "as a father the son in whom he delights." The reading likely originated from dividing the clause at a slightly different point and mistaking a nun for a yod. I think we are best interpreting the Greek in a way that conforms to the intention of the Hebrew, necessitating a metaphorical reading. Many Greek lexicons advise a metaphorical reading here.

By the way, many commentators take Prov. 3:1-12 as a unit. What are the reproofs the author is speaking about? Metaphysical zappings? No. He's referencing first the Torah and second the wisdom he is going to unfold later in the book.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

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

James K's picture

Anne, you can simply like your post if you think it was so good. You don't have to quote your whole post in the next post. Sorry, I mean to be funny with that.

1. The passages that deal with applying the rod to the fool are plenty. Let's not pretend you don't know what I am talking about.

Prov 13:24 is just one example.
The one who will not use the rod hates his son, but the one who loves him disciplines him diligently.

It isn't just a lack of love to not spank, but a form of hatred, which goes back to the secret sin of unloving your children by not seeking their good.

Other proverbs deal with the fool. All unbelievers are fools, but most Christians are as well. Truly many, many children are, saved or unsaved. How fools are to be treated is clear. Do a study on fools in proverbs and how to deal with them. You will find that different kinds of fool require different kinds of actions.

2. The Heb 12 passage includes the idea of flogging within an example of discipline. Instead of dealing with this point from the text, you want to argue experience and whether or not it really happens. Are you kidding me? I say you don't interact with the scripture and then you prove my point.

3.

Quote:
About teaching my children about God's holiness, in what way is it necessary to use pain to communicate this?

This is like a softball the size of a beachball. Sin caused pain. Without sin, there would not be pain. Why did God put thorns on the flowers? It was "for" them. When a child is treated with pain because of sin, then he makes a connection that it is unpleasant at the very least. Sin was certainly unpleasant for Christ. While you apparently aren't antipain, you do communicate an antiphysical pain mentality. You cannot transfer sin only into the mental or abstract realms. Sin hurts and it hurts each of us physically. The soul that sins will die. Our physical bodies are breaking down because of sin. Jesus died physically for sin. The holiness of God and the seriousness of sin can very easily be communicated through physical pain. Jesus' redemption is total including the body. When a child is properly spanked and taught, he learns that sin is painful, was painful for Christ, and is still painful in our bodies and causes us to look forward to a time when no pain will exist.

4.

Quote:
I just do not see that God, particularly towards young children, models for us or instructs us to use this pain-as-punishment pattern in Scripture.

Was it painful for you to have a child Anne? Was that physical pain as a result of sin despite the fact that you are saved?

Was it painful for the believers in Israel who died or were taken captive into a harsh, godless land when the Babylonians sacked Israel?

Was it painful for those in I Cor 11 who died because of their improper handling of the Lord's supper?

I assume you have at least read these accounts in Scripture. The problem is a correct understanding of them.

I hope this helps.

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

I think I might disagree with parts of this statement:

The context of this address is persevering through affliction by others. The author of Hebrews does not say that his readers have committed some sin, and that this is their punishment. The author of Hebrews does not say that his readers have committed some sin, and that this is their punishment.

While the context, I believe, is certainly about persevering, the below verses indicate there was a serious problem with the some of the Jewish Christians.

Some of these converts were close to abandoning the gospel to revert back to OT traditions and beliefs--thus so much reference to Leviticus-------->Jesus Christ is superior to all of that. While they were being heavily persecuted for their faith, they were also severely warned to not turn back. The writer of Hebrews was inspired to exhort them not to turn back, but to press on and fix their eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of their faith (Heb. 12:1-3).

Heb. 5:11-12, (NASB) Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.

Heb. 6:1-6, Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. And this we will do, if God permits. For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.

and then just before your reference in Chapter 10:32 is this:

Hebrews 10:26-31, For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.” And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

So, I believe there was a bit more than just persecuted Christians being encouraged to press on. There's some strong language here.

Getting back to the full context of Chapter 12, the wonderful language of encouragement is there in verses 12:1-3, but there's no mistaking the rest of the Chapter in terms of discipline. Please don't get me wrong, IMO, I don't think (although, I could be wrong) the main thrust of Hebrews is pain infliction or discipline, even... I believe it is Jesus Christ is better than anything else or anyone else, but surely, some of these verses have to come into play when we're talking about context.

Thanks Charlie for bearing with me.

Blessings, Kim Smile

Aaron Blumer's picture

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James you need to ratchet down the attitude. You're not helping your own view much.
(If you don't, we're going to have to ask you to walk away from the discussion)

Anne wrote:
About Heb 12, it would be interesting to hear how you have been flogged by God personally? What in our lives in God's flogging? If we are so sure He does this to us His children, then we ought to know what it is.

Just one question, Anne. What do you think God's "scourging" is and why does the writer use this term in reference to how God shows His love for His children?

Charlie wrote:
The context of this address is persevering through affliction by others. The author of Hebrews does not say that his readers have committed some sin, and that this is their punishment. Quite the opposite. On the model of Jesus, it is their righteousness that has attracted this affliction. God is using this affliction to make them grow in obedience, just as he did for Jesus. The focus of the passage is on paideia, their training in righteousness. The exhortation is to endure through suffering, not to repent so God will stop making you suffer.

This is not what anybody is saying it means. At least not here.
Rather, the argument of the passage is that our suffering is from God, He uses it intentionally, this shows His love, and we are to accept it and learn from it.
Not punishment. Training.
Again, note the conclusion of that section... (Heb.12:9-11)

Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? .....
Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Note that "much more" must have a referent. Much more than what? The referent is the discipline inflicted by earthly fathers. Which answers this objection...

Quote:
Thus, this passage is not addressing, "What do I do to my children when they do bad things?" I think we should be similarly reticent.

The passage is not about earthly discipline, but assumes that discipline and uses it as a basis for making a point about God's discipline.
Since the anti-spanking view argues on the basis of how God treats us as His children, it is not possible for them to strip the passage of implications for how we discipline our children.

Charlie wrote:
Regarding the Greek, I pointed out earlier that the passage is a quote of the Septuagint, and that in the Hebrew text underlying the reading, there is no equivalent for μαστιγοι. The clause translated "and μαστιγοι every son whom he receives" reads in the original, "as a father the son in whom he delights." The reading likely originated from dividing the clause at a slightly different point and mistaking a nun for a yod. I think we are best interpreting the Greek in a way that conforms to the intention of the Hebrew, necessitating a metaphorical reading. Many Greek lexicons advise a metaphorical reading here.

I'm not eager to emend the text here, but it almost doesn't matter. Even without "scourge" we have "painful" in the "here's the point" sentence. "...no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless..."

I think there is no way to remove from the passage the basic idea that God uses grief and sorrow-inducing experiences to train us, that this is good for us, and that it is loving of Him to do so.

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

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Just one question, Anne. What do you think God's "scourging" is and why does the writer use this term in reference to how God shows His love for His children?
Smile Aaron, you are the one pressing the assertion, so I would prefer that you take a stab at this first.

Aaron Blumer wrote:
I think there is no way to remove from the passage the basic idea that God uses grief and sorrow-inducing experiences to train us, that this is good for us, and that it is loving of Him to do so.
I think I am fine with that statement. . . . I don't see from it that I am to spank my little children. . . . They have plenty of sorrow-inducing experiences naturally. . . . And they are small children.

James, I am quite familiar with the proverbs. Will make a few brief statements:
The "fool" in proverbs is not refering to the foolishness of a small child.
Most if not all of the rod passages have a young man in mind.
The rod does not automatically equal spanking.
I can discipline my children with or without "spanking." Spanking is not mentioned in proverbs. Discipline does not equal punishment does not equal spanking.

This is actually a lovely discussion. I have expressed more in words on this topic than I ever have before in my life, and digging down into this Hebrews is really interesting. Sorry for the double post, James, I'm actually not sure how it even happened Wink Even Vitaliy is looking up stuff about punishment and discipline in Russian now. Really cool.

Anne Sokol's picture

skjnoble wrote:
So, I believe there was a bit more than just persecuted Christians being encouraged to press on. There's some strong language here.

Getting back to the full context of Chapter 12, the wonderful language of encouragement is there in verses 12:1-3, but there's no mistaking the rest of the Chapter in terms of discipline. Please don't get me wrong, IMO, I don't think (although, I could be wrong) the main thrust of Hebrews is pain infliction or discipline, even... I believe it is Jesus Christ is better than anything else or anyone else, but surely, some of these verses have to come into play when we're talking about context.

It is an interesting insight, Kim. That God was not being punitive (punishing) here, but disciplining to purify and strengthen their faith.

Quote:

Hebrews 12:11-13 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. Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

Aaron Blumer's picture

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Anne wrote:
Aaron wrote:
Just one question, Anne. What do you think God's "scourging" is and why does the writer use this term in reference to how God shows His love for His children?

Aaron, you are the one pressing the assertion, so I would prefer that you take a stab at this first.

My position is that the statement Hebrews makes there is true. I do not need to explain how it is true to support that. It's supported by my belief in the inspiration of Scripture.
That said, I can answer the question: I believe all the pain God sends into my life in order to teach me is God's "scourging." (Or, for those who except Charlie's explanation of why the word doesn't belong there, they are God's "intentional use of painful discipline"--which the rest of the passage supports).

Quote:
They have plenty of sorrow-inducing experiences naturally. . . .

We aren't talking about what happens naturally. Not really. We're talking about what God as our Father does purposefully. The passage is full of the purposefulness of God in relation to our suffering. ... though, really, the distinction (between what He does and what "happens") evaporates in reference to God since, per Rom.8:28 etc., He is working all things together for good.
Since there is nothing random in nature, it's all from God ultimately.

The parallel between God the parent and we human parents breaks down there. We are not in control of what happens naturally. So what happens naturally to our kids is not--for us as parents--"discipline" in any sense. The Bible calls us to intentional acts of discipline of our children and is clear that these include acts we know are painful. It makes no distinction between physical and nonphysical in that regard.
(I don't mean by this that we have to make something painful happen for every offense. I'm using the word "judicious" often here. And sometimes we do borrow a naturally painful experience and use it as the teaching tool rather than causing our own. But if we never intentionally use pain, we are not parenting.)

As for "little children"... if you don't begin the judicious use of pain when they are young, you are unlikely to have the courage later. I have found it increasingly difficult to bring myself to do what I know needs to be done.
There is no question that a loving parent does not want to cause his/her child pain. But he/she does want to help the child learn and grow. So it can be agonizing to do it. (A parent who does not feel that agony should probably not use discipline--physical or non-physical!)

One of my deacons tells a story about a time when his little son had suffered some kind of injury and they had to run him in to the hospital ER. This deacon still tears up a bit when he describes how he had to hold his son down while the docs did injections and other painful stuff. To the son, his dad was helping bad people hurt him. Knowing that hurt the dad deeply. But he knew the pain was a healing thing, manned up and did it anyway.

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.

skjnoble's picture

It is an interesting insight, Kim. That God was not being punitive (punishing) here, but disciplining to purify and strengthen their faith.

Yes! And in His summary of His "discipline," (purify and strengthen) He calls it"painful."

One my deacons tells a story about a time when his little son had suffered some kind of injury and they had to run him in to the hospital ER. This dad still tears up when he describes how he had to hold his son down while the docs did injections and other painful stuff. To the son, his dad was helping bad people hurt him. Knowing that, hurt the dad deeply. But he knew the pain was a healing thing, manned up and did it anyway.

This is off topic, but we had the same thing with our oldest son when he was 3. He got a huge sliver deeply embedded in his foot while we were on vacation and we had to take him to a local doctor in WI. It took 4 adults to hold him down, superhuman strength, that kid, to get the chunk of wood out. Anyway, his terrifying screams made it very apparent that he did not approve of the treatment. My heart broke as I had to hold him down while he let out his blood-curling screams. As an aside: ice cream sure helps to mend in those situations. Smile Point is well-taken though--the pain from taking out the sliver was well-worth his foot healing faster.

(Also, points for using "manned up.") Smile

Charlie's picture

Aaron, I understand what you are saying. I don't question the fact that a parent needs at times to act toward a child in ways that the child would never choose, ways that cause temporary pain for a greater good. I don't think Anne does either. My point, which may not be the same as Anne's, is that Heb. 12 does not fit the context of the types of situations in which parents spank.

I think that everyone on here would agree that spanking is reserved for correcting specific acts of wrongdoing. Johnny knows rule X; Johnny knows the consequences for breaking rule X; Johnny breaks rule X; Johnny gets the consequences. In other words, the spanking (or other discipline) comes as a specific correction to specific wrongdoing. Fine. I think that's right. But that's not Hebrews 12.

As I read Hebrews on the macroscopic level, I see a community of Christians under intense pressure. They've done a pretty good job so far, but there is wavering. Some of them are thinking about abandoning their faith in Christ, or at least conforming enough to return their lives to normal. Maybe a few have already left. In response to this situation, the author of Hebrews crafts a sermon that oscillates back and forth between 1) reinforcing the uniqueness and supremacy of Christ, and encouraging the readers to press forward in their faith; and 2) warning them of the terrible consequences of abandoning faith in Christ.

So, here are some pieces around our text:

Hebrews 12:3-4 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

The readers need to guard against weariness. The author doesn't tell them it will all be over soon. In fact, the implication is that it may get worse before it gets better.

Hebrews 12:12-13 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.

The exhortation is for them to regain their vigor in light of the coming testing. So, what is the discipline of the Lord in vv. 5-11? Is it a divine response to some specific sin in the community? I don't think so. I think it refers to the persecution itself. The exhortation to endure the discipline of the Lord is the same as the exhortation to hold onto their faith, except from a different angle. By viewing their present circumstances as the Lord's training hand, they can find meaning and purpose in their suffering. By identifying with Jesus (who was persecuted not for his sin, but for his righteousness!), they can take courage.

In sum, this passage is much more like a parent who has enrolled a child in football (or piano lessons or ballet), and the child has reached a difficult (even painful!) stage of the training. The parent refuses to let the child quit, and reminds the child that there is a point to all this training. It will be worth it on game day (or at the recital). On the other hand, I've never seen a parent spank or whip a kid just to build character. It makes no sense to tell a child to "endure" a spanking. The child has no choice!

So, I don't question the necessity of corrective action following from specific disobedience. I am not anti-spanking. However, I don't think that's what Hebrews 12 is talking about, and I think we impoverish the text if that's what we make it. I'm also quite chary about turning to Heb. 12 for the precise mode of our disciplinary action.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

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

skjnoble's picture

Is it a divine response to some specific sin in the community? I don't think so. I think it refers to the persecution itself. The exhortation to endure the discipline of the Lord is the same as the exhortation to hold onto their faith, except from a different angle. By viewing their present circumstances as the Lord's training hand, they can find meaning and purpose in their suffering. By identifying with Jesus (who was persecuted not for his sin, but for his righteousness!), they can take courage.

I just wanted to clarify something I may be misunderstanding. Are you saying the discipline of the "Father" mentioned in Heb. 12 is persecution initiated by the Father for training vs. discipline related to some of the Jewish converts falling back into OT customs and ceremonies?

Thanks for clarifying.

Kim Smile

Aaron Blumer's picture

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Charlie wrote:
So, I don't question the necessity of corrective action following from specific disobedience. I am not anti-spanking. However, I don't think that's what Hebrews 12 is talking about, and I think we impoverish the text if that's what we make it.

Just two thoughts...

1. The text is impoverished if spanking is all we make of it. But it is possible to see the bigger picture there but also not overlook what it reveals about parenting.

2. Taking Heb.12 by itself to establish parenting philosophy and method would, I agree not be a good idea. Fortunately, it does not stand alone. It easily supports the kind of parenting Christopher described in the OP (and I think what I've been describing is very similar if not the same), when read in light of Proverbs, Eph.6, and various other passages.

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

Aaron Blumer wrote:
My position is that the statement Hebrews makes there is true. I do not need to explain how it is true to support that. It's supported by my belief in the inspiration of Scripture.
That said, I can answer the question: I believe all the pain God sends into my life in order to teach me is God's "scourging." (Or, for those who except Charlie's explanation of why the word doesn't belong there, they are God's "intentional use of painful discipline"--which the rest of the passage supports).
So, is it punishing/zapping pain? or just purging pain? I think there is a difference. Like someone close to us dies, and we experience all the emotions/thoughts/suffering/etc., that goes along with that doesn't mean that God is punishing us for a particular sin. It can be used to show us sins in our lives and bring us to a stronger level of faith and trust, but it wasn't done particularly to punish us for a sin. A spanking, for example, is a punishment for a sin in hopes that the pain association will motivate the child not to do that again. And I think Charlie is correct that the idea here is enduring something when it is good for you but not pleasant at the moment.

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Quote:
They have plenty of sorrow-inducing experiences naturally. . . .

We aren't talking about what happens naturally. Not really. We're talking about what God as our Father does purposefully. The passage is full of the purposefulness of God in relation to our suffering. ... though, really, the distinction (between what He does and what "happens") evaporates in reference to God since, per Rom.8:28 etc., He is working all things together for good.
Since there is nothing random in nature, it's all from God ultimately.

The parallel between God the parent and we human parents breaks down there. We are not in control of what happens naturally. So what happens naturally to our kids is not--for us as parents--"discipline" in any sense. The Bible calls us to intentional acts of discipline of our children and is clear that these include acts we know are painful. It makes no distinction between physical and nonphysical in that regard.

Well, I was looking at it more as both. Like, my child's cat died. God did ordain this painful experience in her life. I also, for example, train them to brush their hair every day, which is an unpleasant and painful but necessary thing. If they are being unkind to each other, a movie or computer game might be nixed b/c the watching/playing of those types of things usually just makes it more difficult for them to control their interpersonal behaviors. (I am probably more disappointed about that they are, esp when I wanted to relax and do nothing in front of a film for a while.)

Aaron Blumer wrote:
As for "little children"... if you don't begin the judicious use of pain when they are young, you are unlikely to have the courage later. I have found it increasingly difficult to bring myself to do what I know needs to be done. There is no question that a loving parent does not want to cause his/her child pain. But he/she does want to help the child learn and grow. So it can be agonizing to do it. (A parent who does not feel that agony should probably not use discipline--physical or non-physical!)
I definitely think all this training needs to start at young ages. I personally think it is more effectively done when it is generally done in a positive sense. I do sometimes gently restrain one child when she gets crazy. The whole point is to show her that I will not hurt her and neither will I allow her to hurt others or herself. It is not an easy thing to do, but it helps her calm down and helps me a lot as a parent, too, to remain calm and reasonable and gentle. It is a form of discipline, not sure if that categorizes as pain or not.

About the "little children," I would like to write sometime, maybe for this thread, a piece about how young children are mentioned/portrayed in the Bible. Most of our Christian parenting books do not consider this broad topic, but it is a very thoughtful study. I was just reading today some insightful passages in Matt 18

Quote:
v.10 See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you, that their angels in heaven continually behold the face of My Father who is in heaven.
Quote:
What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? "And if it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. "Thus it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish. Matthew 18:12-14
I do wish our parenting books taught us to consider these passages as well.

I understand the story about your deacon a little. My climber has had stitches three times already in her young life, and I didn't save her from the shots or needles. I just held her hand while she cried and said, Sorry honey, they have to do it.

James K's picture

Anne, just a couple closing thoughts.

1. The verse I gave you mentioned the treatment of a son. While you may try to limit certain words to mean older children (as inaccurate as that is), son is not limited by age.

2. Study "fool" more in proverbs. You will find 5 kinds of fools, many of which completely represent children, yes, even little children.

3. The rod was a physical tool of correction used to bring an immediate form of pain.

4. In your idea of the sheep story being good for parenting, do you know how the shepherd physically corrects the sheep? I would much rather spank. I think breaking legs would be abusive personally.

At this point I find the discussion has become altogether unprofitable since scripture is not the authority here. When you want to engage the scriptures with me, maybe we can do so privately to stay on track. I wish you well.

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.

Aaron Blumer's picture

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Quote:
So, is it punishing/zapping pain? or just purging pain? I think there is a difference. Like someone close to us dies, and we experience all the emotions/thoughts/suffering/etc., that goes along with that doesn't mean that God is punishing us for a particular sin. It can be used to show us sins in our lives and bring us to a stronger level of faith and trust, but it wasn't done particularly to punish us for a sin. A spanking, for example, is a punishment for a sin in hopes that the pain association will motivate the child not to do that again. And I think Charlie is correct that the idea here is enduring something when it is good for you but not pleasant at the moment.

I think we've already established that
a) Nobody here is in favor of punishing, per se. Rather, the discipline has an instructional/training purpose. It is not for retribution.
b) "A spanking...is a punishment"... see a. It doesn't have to be a punishment. It can be training tool.

What I think you're still missing, Anne, is that discipline is intentional and is a response to wrongdoing. This doesn't automatically make it punitive or define it's purpose as retribution. It simply recognizes that when a child is disobedient, that is an important and powerful opportunity for teaching. In a way, that act of sin is a wounded kid who needs stitching up in some way. The wound isn't always a big one and doesn't always call for something painful. Sometimes a band aid is a good solution. But in any normal kid's life there are going to be lots of times when he/she needs the moral clarity that comes from dealing with a serious wound with serious stitching up.

(I do still have one reservation about the whole "instructional purpose" idea. People can't really learn about grace until they learn about wrath, justice, righteousness and sin. I think it is arguable that the more old fashion idea of "punishing" children should not be dismissed too quickly because it is one way kids learn the difference between right and wrong and come to see sin as something that requires retribution. So perhaps sometimes, what we are doing is instructional and sort of punitive. The punitive part is not "real," because nobody can pay for their sins. Yet "the way of the transgressor is hard" and part of the reason this is so is that its one way God reveals the nature of righteousness and justice--the need for grace and its value. If we teach grace to people who do not understand judgment, they end up not really understanding grace either.

I grew up with terms like "your punishment is..." and so forth. Somehow, this did not confuse me about grace. I rather think it partly taught me to understand it. As a kid, when I heard "Jesus took our punishment," the word "punishment" meant something... and it was not abstract.)

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

Aaron Blumer wrote:
What I think you're still missing, Anne, is that discipline is intentional and is a response to wrongdoing. This doesn't automatically make it punitive or define it's purpose as retribution. It simply recognizes that when a child is disobedient, that is an important and powerful opportunity for teaching.
I think this is the crux of what we are disagreeing about. I think you are implying that *punishment* should be the normal response to a child's sin. (Let me come back to that.)

Discipline is a much broader term. It means all that we are trying to communicate or inculcate into a child's life.

So when a child sins, should punishment be the normal training response? Earlier, I would have said "of course." But now, I think that limiting our response to sin/undesirable behavior in a child to punishment is . . . very limited, mabye even ungodly. I have tried very hard to shift my perspective to one of helping, helping my child unto obedience. So I look at a given negative situation that I have to deal with, and I have learned a broad range of responses. Sometimes my child needs loving attention, and then doing right is no longer hard for her. Sometimes I repeat my request or issue it as a command, and she does right even when she doesn't want to. Sometimes I help them fulfill my request. Sometimes there are consequences--and I try to make them constructively helpful and not punitive even though they are not pleasant. Sometimes they need encouragement to do right. Sometimes they might "lose a blessing" I wanted to give them . . . . .

When we see false teachers who are leading others astray, God has very sharp words and consequences for them. The continual unbelief and disobedience of the Israelites when they were the bearers of His revelation--He acted very patiently then very angrily with them. (This also confuses me, when people use these instances of God's display of wrath to support spanking, then tell us not to spank in anger. God was very rightly angry when He did those things.) But this is what I mean when I say that we need to look at how God treats "little children." We are training and forming them--well, God by His grace hopefully uses us to do that in a good way--but does God want us to treat kids in the same manner as He treated the Pharisees, false teachers, and the Israelites-gone-astray? Is that our pattern for parenting children?

I can't get to the main thing. I'm talking all around it somehow . . . .

I will think about it and come back to this.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

You keep coming back to the term "punishment" even though I keep rejecting it. I think what you're trying to put your finger on relates in some way to what you mean by this term.

It looks like you take "punishment" to mean "any intentional use of pain in response to wrongdoing." But this is too broad.
I quoted Oxford Concise English Dictionary earlier to the effect that punishment has to do with payment and retribution.
Anyway, terms, aside: the substance is that acting in retribution is one thing and acting in order to instruct is another.

In the case of retribution, you don't care if the act does any good for the one being punished. Retribution is upholding justice, expressing values, etc. As an extreme example, a death penalty is pure retribution. It cannot possibly benefit the offender.

But when you act to help the offender change and learn, you are moving away from retribution and more toward--in criminal justice terms, rehabilitation. I don't like that term at all for what parents are called to do with their children, but maybe it at least helps you see the difference between "retribution" and "other objectives."

(FWIW... about spanking in anger. The problem there is human anger is so prone to corruption and getting out of control. In reality, we are supposed to be angry at wrongdoing. I have actually never punished disciplined anything without being somewhat angry. But I have never spanked when I was out of control.)

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

Well, if this is about definitions, I think this is what I'm refering to as "punitive parenting" (see below). I will say first, that I probably wouldn't say that all punishment is unbiblical. Maybe I would say that. I haven't totally decided yet. Punishment is very often overused and misused and misunderstood, and much to the detriment of families and growing children and how we all view God. I would probably even say it is unneeded or perhaps unwise. It just cuts off so many positive things.

Using punishment (and having a punishment mindset) can be a parenting minefield, and the reason I continue to speak so much about this is that punitive parenting is what many of the mainly-promoted Christian childrearing books in our cirlces are promoting/instructing parents in, although of course it is touted as Biblical. Parents' consciences should not be bound by these things, by thinking they are thus reflecting God's nature and character towards us.

Quote:
Punitive – Parents who use punishment as a means to teach.
...
Punitive parenting approaches children with the assumption that parenting is a battle of wills. Parents and children stand on opposite ends of the rope in a figurative game of tug of war. Indeed, even our language reflects this assumption. We have a “battle” with our children and we find ways to “win”.

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 parents risk creating an adversarial tone and dynamic that pervades the home and taints each interaction. A home that includes frequent use of punishment is a home that offers less proactive discipline, less teaching, minimal coaching, less of an emphasis on modeling and less setting a child up for success. At the extreme, a punitive home crosses the line into abuse.

It’s hard to challenge the punitive model of discipline. Most of us hold onto it in an almost primal way. Indeed, when I speak to people about giving up the thinking behind punishing children, they react rather passionately in defense of the “need” to punish children.

... It’s true that punishment may extinguish or mitigate misbehavior. Punitive Parenting can "work" in the short term. Spanking can work for some kids, for example. Children can learn, through fear, to not run into the street. On the other hand, punitive parenting often takes the focus off the original behavior and puts the focus on the punishment. Punitive parenting risks feelings of love, safety and connection.

It can also create resentment, rebellion, anger, fear, and frustration. Punishing does not teach how to do better; it only has the potential to teach to not do something. Imposing punishment often obscures the real issue. Feeling the need to find punishment displaces the time and energy that could be spent connecting, enveloping and correcting.
...
The idea that a child needs to be punished in order for them to obey the rules is an erroneous idea. Instead, children need to be immersed in a life designed to help them reach a reasonable standard and offered age appropriate assistance to hit successfully achieve that standard. ( http://joanneaz_2.tripod.com/positivedisciplineresourcecenter/id25.html site )

I don't know if this explanation helps at all. . . . I have more ideas to say, but I need to formulate internally a little more.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

There are real differences between retribution and instruction. These words exist because the two are not the same. The writer your quoted here is off track from the first sentence when he/she speaks of "using punishment as a means to teach."

Punishment is about retribution. Teaching is about, well, teaching.

The article you quoted strays further with this...

Quote:
Punitive parenting approaches children with the assumption that parenting is a battle of wills.

Who wants a battle of wills? I don't know who this person is talking about but if "punitive parenting" begins with that approach, he/she is not talking about my views on parenting or those of the OP either.

Looks a bit like a straw man to me.

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

actually, Im on wireless in a little cafe 50km from Chernobyl. This is the village where my husband was born and grew up. we're (he's) doing a lot of renovations on our village house to get it fixed up into a rehab center for drug and alcohol addicts. Haven't had internet a few days Smile

The thing is, the very subtle thing is, that no Christian writer or teacher about parenting is going to say outright 'I'm teaching you punitive, adversarial (battle of the wills, you must win) methods of parenting.' They pretty much just say that they are teaching what the Bible says, then go to Proverbs and Eph 6. And from that, extract punishment and adversarial concepts:

Is it OK to say that punitive parenting is teaching by punishment? It's not being used in the retributional sense. It's just using pain-infliction or something of that nature to teach a child. I can not spank and instead use consequences in a punitive way.

I think being "punitive" is probably a spectrum. Some parents rely, knowingly or not, on it heavily, and others may use it rarely.

One point of discussion that sometimes comes up is the idea of using shame. Spanking is a shaming way to punish/teach.

I have tried to imagine having a church today that spanked adults for certain sins. And they do it in love, and not to be adversarial but to teach. And how would we respond to that? I mean literal spanking.

About the idea of childhood, it seems to be God's greatest gift to parents. Yes, children can be irritating and require such repetitive and menial work--and teach us to be Christlike. And I am saddened by Christian books to teach parents to push children into adult ideas of "independence," like night sleeping, etc. How dependent they are emotionally on our expressions of love to them--touching, eye contact, play. "Mommy, come be with us," rings in my ears all the day long. The golden part of childhood is how spiritually teachable they are. They have no trouble believing in angels or Jonah being swallowed by a whale (!!!!). How easily they want to believe in Jesus and agree that lying and stealing are wrong. . . .

Quote:
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. "Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. "And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me. (Matthew 18:1-5)

How interesting that Jesus didn't speak on their sinfulness, pride, manipulation, rebellion, etc. (And yes, I am quite convinced children have a sin nature.) In the few instances Jesus speaks of and deals with children, what did He do?

Quote:
And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, "Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all." And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands upon them. (Mark 10:13-16)

Anyway, that's some of what I've been thinking about.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Anne, I'm not sure why it's so important to you use the word punishment for all approaches you disagree with. That is, even with the multiple distinctions I've pointed out, you want to say "punitive = using punishment to teach."

But supposing we grant that understanding of "punitive" for a moment, we would then need a word or phrase of some kind for "punishment that is really punishment" or "punishment with the goal of retribution."
My point is that there are real differences here. Teaching is teaching, exacting justice is exacting justice. Acts that appear identical on the surface can be profoundly different in reality.

As for shame. You asked about a church spanking adults... kind of an odd question, but if I understand your point, it's to suggest that there is no place for shame in the church (and therefore no place in parenting?).

But we need to understand that even shame has its place. A very important place.
2 Th 3:14 NKJV 14 And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed.

Anne wrote:
Aaron 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.

More than skimmed it. Poorly reasoned and poorly documented.
It begins with the assumption that spanking is modern, goes back to early modern times (Victorian--probably chosen for its stereotypical harshness) to find an example then concludes that it didn't exist before that. (With heavy reliance on Freud for supporting evidence.)
To really support the thesis that people did not spank before Victorian era, you'd need to find literature predating that era that describes parenting techniques and either omits the practice (somewhat weak support) or specifically rejects it (much stronger support).

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.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

BTW, Christopher Cone says he is planning to write a follow up.

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.

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