When Violence Hits Home: “sparing the rod,” spanking, & peaceful parenting

[Kurt's Editor Note: The following article, written by Rachel Boldwyn, reflects my general approach to spanking. Lauren and I have no plans to spank our daughter, for the reasons listed in this article and for various other reasons. With that said, we need to offer grace and understanding in this area. I have no interest in making a blanket statement about the morality of spanking. Many of my friends and family choose/chose to spank - not out of anger - but out of love. To call this abuse, is extreme in my opinion. We do well to avoid judgement in these matters. With that said, we parents have a wonderful opportunity to model nonviolence to our children by choosing alternative methods of discipline. One resource in this area is a book called Positive Discipline: the first three years.]

There is no better time to evaluate our pacifist beliefs than during a time of war. Many of us have been thinking in a new way about what it means to be peacemakers, and wondering how we really can use peaceful means to create peaceful ends. War is an easy backdrop to ask those questions. But what about violence in our own homes? It’s easy to be against it when our children are bickering, or when our high school student gets in a fight. Yet seldom to we allow introspection of our own behavior to see how we can uphold Christ’s model of non-violence through the discipline of our children.

“He who spares the rod, spoils the child.” (an old saying based in part on Proverbs 13:24).

As I read about the “rod” mentioned in Proverbs 13, it brings to mind a familiar Psalm with the same word, but a distinctly different connotation: “Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” I can say with all certainty that my father’s rod did not comfort me! So what, after all, is a rod? This verse is a metaphor for a shepherd and his sheep, God and his followers. We can better know God’s role as shepherd of our lives by understanding the definition of a rod:

The rod is typically a medium length club…<the shepherd> uses it for a variety of purposes, primarily to protect the flock from enemies, direct behavior and examine the well-being of individual sheep.  The shepherd can throw it, use it like a club in battle, or gently prod the sheep.  It’s a personal tool used for the benefit and blessing of the flock – a symbol of God’s strength, love and activity on our behalf.  With a rod, the shepherd is both warrior and intimate care-taker.

The rod is intended to be used both offensively and defensively; to protect the flock from enemies and to prod or examine them. In both senses, it is protective. If this meaning is applied to Proverbs 13, then the verse could be written as follows: “He who spares protection, spoils the child.” The sentiment here is indicative of physical, spiritual, and developmental protection. Throughout the Bible, a shepherd is used analogously for God and his relationship with us, his sheep. But the shepherd never strikes his sheep; when they stray from the fold he gently, yet firmly, uses the rod to guide them back. The rod is symbolic of God’s parental authority and guidance over our lives.

Most frequently, the rod was used by shepherds to prod the sheep back into line when they had wandered. Shepherds did not use the rod for hitting their sheep – they would have used it in event of an animal attack. In fact, neither ancient nor contemporary Jews have ever followed a violent interpretation of this verse. Contextually, this verse is gleaned from an era of many religoius laws, most of which we now determine to be antiquated and would never considering following. Many of those commands and practices are now deemed neither relevant nor practical, and have been readily dismissed.

While a violent expression of guidance could be gleaned from Proverbs 13:24, it is not in line with New Testament teaching. For a violent form of discipline to be directed toward a child, there ought to be further Biblical support than this solitary Proverb. But there are no other examples of physical means being used to discipline the “littlest of these.” Children are continually identified throughout Scripture as a blessing, and Jesus always makes a way for their protection. In Matthew 18:6, Jesus admonishes anyone who would harm a child. We are reminded in verse 3 that, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus blesses children even as Paul commands them to obey their parents. As parents, we ought abide by the Biblical guidelines for conflict as stated in Galatians 6:1: “If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.”

In the Christian community in general, spanking is seen as permissible. Spanking has become a sacrosant parental benefit in a culture that values structure and downplays nurture. But one of our core Anabaptist beliefs is in conflict with this stance. We Mennonites hold to a tradition of non-violence. The US Mennonite Brethren [my particular denomination] Statement of Faith says, “We view violence in its many different forms as contradictory to the new nature of the Christian. We believe that the evil and inhumane nature of violence is contrary to the gospel of love and peace.” An affirmation of spanking is not in sync with the non-violence teachings of Jesus.

Certainly, spanking can be argued as effective. Violence usually is. But we know that we cannot justify our behavior by its effectiveness. Efficacy at the expense of being Christ-like is sinful. God wants our behavior to be from the heart; genuine, not out of fear. He is a loving God, not a God from whom we cower. He calls himself Abba, a close and familiar term similar to Daddy. A father is a symbol of love and protection. We send mixed messages to children when we tell them not to hit, and then use hitting to communicate that very message. Instead, may we use the rod discipline to guide our children’s behavior, not to drive it from the bodies that were made in the image of God.

Abstaining from spanking as a form of discipline does not mean that correction is withheld. There are many other effective ways of disciplining our children, while simultaneously affirming our role as protector. These ways peacefully model the love and guidance Jesus shows us in our sin.  Let our Biblically based command for raising our children in the way they should go be, “Follow my example, even as I follow the example of Christ.” (I Cor 11:1).

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Rachel Boldwyn is a mom to Greta (6) and Oliver (3), and is completing her Master’s degree in Rhetoric through Fresno Pacific Univesity. She can be reached at goteamRach@gmail.com.

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  • pennerm

    i am certainly in favour of practicing alternative forms of behaviour modification to spanking and believe that Christian parenting should exemplify Christ. I particularly resonate with your point about using the rod of discipline to guide our children. But i am not sure we can vilify spanking & spankers by invoking a simple WWJD. Nor is the “mixed messages” argument helpful – doesn’t it also send “mixed messages” to take away objects from children, or have them sit in time out, etc., etc.? After all, they are not allowed to do those things to their peers. And denying our children things they desire may be said to run counter to the image of God as Abba who gives His children good gifts too. I suspect we run the risk of passing along a flawed concept of God to our kids whatever we do – and maybe that is even inevitable, whether we spank or not.

    I guess what i’m trying to say is that I easily fall prey to the temptation to oversimplify issues like this so I am on the side of the angels (along w/ all my friends who think & act like I do), but almost always the issues in question are more complex than I want them to be. I think the non/spanking issue is a little more complex than we’re presenting it here. …E.g., reflective Christian spankers will tell you that they abhor hitting children and that spanking isn’t “hitting.” And I think they’d be right to say so.

    • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

      Spanking isn’t hitting? Oh, right, it’s slapping. Or striking. Of course, striking or slapping is hitting. Those poor dictionaries that succumb to the temptation to oversimplify issues, what shall we do with them?

      Spanking causes brain damage to children. So quit making violence a family tradition.
      youtube.com/watch?v=WLMJHdySgE8

      • TexJoe

        If only the Bible used the word “strike” and suggested that NOT doing it caused harm. Ah, wait… yes…
        “Do not withhold discipline from a child;
        if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.
        If you strike him with the rod,
        you will save his soul from Sheol.”

        • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

          The Bible is wrong. On quite a few things, including this.

          • TexJoe

            Ok–so we’ve gotten to the heart of the matter, then. It would be much easier if Rachel Boldwyn’s blog just said that, so we don’t have to spend so much time talking past one another. You rely on your own wisdom, I rely on the Bible, and we will have much difficulty getting past those preconceptions.

          • JB

            I rely on the Bible. The preconceptions I have a problem with are those taught as fact when they are not. For some, spanking may be cultural tradition, or behaviorism couched as “Biblical child training” but for believers, we are called to search the Scriptures ourselves, as Bereans, to test what is truth. I have done that, so the points I have brought up have not been so easily dismissed as you have done to Brian.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            You don’t follow the Bible, TexJoe, or rather, you only follow the parts you cherry pick that conform to your preconceived notions. I can prove it.

            “Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.” Mt. 5:42, Lk. 6:30

            I’d like you to give me your net worth. (I’m going to give it to my favorite permaculture non-profit organization to help people learn to feed themselves.) I’m sincerely asking you for it. Send your liquid assets now, and get the best price within four months for your real property.

            Which will assist you follow what Jesus commanded elsewhere: “Sell all your possessions and give the proceeds to the poor.” Mt. 19:21

            Aaaaaaand then the weaseling began. Probably with the word “context.”

            youtube.com/watch?v=PK7P7uZFf5o

          • TexJoe

            “Give to every man that asketh of thee,” not “Give to every to every fool exactly what he asks for no matter what his intentions.” If you have a legitimate need and I can help, I’ll gladly do it. You’re not stupid enough to believe that those passages mean what you’re trying to make them mean.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            I’m asking. You’re not giving.

            Why not? You’re adding words (plagues on you!) to plain meaning of what Jesus said. As to a legitimate need, I said what kind of non-profit charity I’d give it to, which isn’t even a condition Jesus added.

            Anyway, thanks for proving my point. You don’t follow the Bible, except when it suits your agenda.

            I think an agenda worthy of questioning the bible is when you risk brain damage (amongst other well documented harms) to your children.

            So keep your money, and don’t hit your kids, even if it means not following the Bible. Suits me.

          • TexJoe

            I didn’t prove anything except that you like to pretend the the verse means giving exactly what someone asks, in whatever amount they ask, even if their use of it runs contrary to the other principles of Scripture. This intentional misrepresentation is done to ease your rhetorical burden–it’s just intellectual laziness. The verse doesn’t say anything close to that. It says give to them. And I said I gladly would. And my giving will be informed by the rest of Scripture’s counsel. So if Hugh Hefner asks me to give him my net worth to contribute to his industry, I will refuse. And, in so doing, I will be obedient to the whole counsel of God’s Word. Again, you’re not stupid, so you know this. You’re just putting on a little show here. And we’re all very impressed. You may now exit stage right.

          • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

            “even if their use of it runs contrary to the other principles of
            Scripture. This intentional misrepresentation is done to ease your
            rhetorical burden…”

            Ironically, Tex, this is the problem you’re running into. Spanking children “runs contrary” to the teachings of Jesus which require total nonviolence. You’re plucking one Proverb, and arguing that it should trump all of the clear-cult teachings of Jesus.

          • TexJoe

            No, it’s really not. You’re the red-letter guy, right? I don’t view the red letters as in competition with, but in concert with, the rest of Scripture. You, on the other hand, believe thusly:
            “Jesus teaches that his teachings have ‘more weight’ than all the rest of
            scripture”
            In actuality, it is all God’s Word; no one part is greater or “more weighty” than the others. From Genesis to Revelation, every word of it is God’s, via verbal inspiration. This is no more or less true of the words that, in your Bible, appear in special red ink. You go on to say:
            “his teachings, without question, require nonviolence
            from those who wish to follow him.”
            No, they don’t. Absolute pacifism is not taught by Christ, and is, quite frankly, ludicrous from a hermeneutical and a philosophical standpoint, and flat-out wicked from a practical standpoint. I once happened upon a man choking a younger woman. I intervened physically and decisively. Would it have been better for me to let him choke her to death?

          • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

            Well, I’m not “the” Red Letter guy (that would be Shane), but I am definitely “one” of them.

            And, no one said anything about pacifism or do-nothingism. Christian nonviolence is different– you confront and deal with evil, but you do it creatively and without violence– like Jesus. After all, this movement was always about being like him, and he lived and taught nonviolence. It’s Jesus 101 stuff.

            Jesus chided religious leaders for knowing scripture backwards and forwards but missed the point that it was all about him… and that he had a testimony that was “weightier” (he uses the Greek word megas) than anyone before him.

            You can call nonviolence wicked if you want, but it’s what Jesus taught (ironically, in the red words). He taught that the proof his Kingdom was not of this world was the fact that it was a nonviolent Kingdom, that nonviolent love is how you act as a true child of our father in heaven, that violence only invites more violence, and that we are not to respond to evildoers with violence. It’s all right there in the Gospels and is one of the few teachings of scripture that is abundantly clear.

            Kurt has a great series on nonviolence (links at the top) you should check it out and wrestle with the scriptures.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            You remain in disobedience to a simple command of Jesus, no matter your litany of excuses.

            And I’m not Hugh Hefner. That’s just intellectual laziness. Actually, I consider it bearing false witness,i.e., breaking the 9th commandment via specious innuendo.

            I’ve never been much impressed with the morality of fundamentalists.

          • TexJoe

            You say you’re not Hugh Hefner, and the odds overwhelmingly support your claim. The fact remains, however, that I don’t know you, your needs, or what you want to do with the (very small) net worth that you pretend to believe the Bible says I’m obligated to give you. And since you know the Bible doesn’t really require that, you also know I’m not actually remaining in disobedience. And I suppose you’re more impressed with your own version of morality–that’s shocking. And convenient.

            What, by the way, is a “fundamentalist,” and how have I qualified myself for such an honor?

          • JB

            Brian, I appreciate your passion on this issue. Advocating for children is a big deal. I hope my presence and responses on this thread have been able to show that belief in the Bible and parenting without violence are not mutually exclusive. Many believers feel the same way, and many more have rejected the faith they were raised in precisely because of the damage caused.

            I applaud you for posting links to highlight the detrimental effects of spanking. I think these are very important but often dismissed by Christians who advocate spanking as irrelevant somehow. I have the unique perspective of having first studied the Bible, determined that spanking is absolutely not mandated, and then found much evidence of harm from the practice.

  • cordobatim

    I’m confused by the assertion “there are no other examples of physical means being used to discipline the “littlest of these.”

    Is there an alternate reading of Proverbs 23 that doesn’t refer to physical discipline? The versions I have all say something like:

    “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.” (Proverbs 23:13–14)

    Hebrews 12 talks about a father’s discipline being painful; do we have any reason to not take that literally?

    Rejection of spanking is based more on modern psychology than it is on biblical teaching. Parents may choose other forms of discipline, but let’s not pretend that it’s because the Bible doesn’t teach the use of physical discipline.

    • JB

      Reading Proverbs 23:13-14 by itself, in English, in modern times certainly makes that verse read as if it were advocating violence doesn’t it? However reading the message of the Bible as a whole, with as much helpful knowledge of the original language, culture, and type of writing being done as possible, gives a very different picture. Exodus 21:20 tells us that it is absolutely possible to kill a full grown person by striking her/him with an actual rod, much less a smaller, considerably more fragile child, and the consequences for doing so were severe. So there must be some layer of meaning in the Proverbs verses in which we just don’t have full understanding. So to answer your question, yes, there are other interpretations of Proverbs 23 that do not assert physical violence (not physical ‘discipline’ discipline means to teach, derived from the same root word as disciple).

      I would encourage you to do a word study in the original Hebrew. It is extremely helpful to study Scripture on your own instead of relying on multiple (sometimes conflicting) translations and interpretations. For example it may surprise you to know that the word used for child would more accurately be translated as adolescent, and only male, never female. It does not refer to toddlers, which is when our culture thinks children start to “need” spanking.

      Hebrews 12 does talk about teaching being painful, but that does not necessarily mean physical pain. Many life situations can be painful when we are in the midst of them, but once we come through it, out the other side, we can see how we learned exactly what we were meant to learn through it all, no violence needed. It’s very humbling.

      I think you’ll find a great many believers today rejecting the cultural tradition of spanking, not because they are rejecting “biblical teaching” and embracing psychology, but because they are studying Scripture for themselves instead of simply accepting the traditions of man.

      • TexJoe

        Calling it “violence” sorta begs the question, no?

        • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

          When a child hits a child, we call it aggression.
          When a child hits an adult, we call it hostility.
          When an adult hits an adult, we call it assault.
          When an adult hits a child, we call it discipline.

          Project NoSpank
          nospank.net‎

          • TexJoe

            That’s a nice little poem, even if a straw man. I don’t punch my kids in the face as a form of discipline. I paddle their buttocks. When a child “hits” a child, that’s not what they’re doing. When an adult “hits” another adult, that’s not what they’re doing. Those folks are intending to cause physical harm out of anger. Christian adults who advocate spanking are not advocating “hitting” them in that sense. But is sure is convenient to sensationalize it that way.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            You’re causing your children, especially under the age of 5, brain damage. Watch the TED video to understand why. Then stop hitting, because that is what you’re doing, even as you try to weasel out of it.

          • TexJoe

            Brain damage. Lol. Almighty TED said so.

          • JB

            You are quick to mock the connection between spanking and brain damage (or are you mocking Brian for pointing it out?) but you have not addressed it.

          • JB

            Why do you use a paddle? If you believe the Bible is commanding you to strike your child with a rod, why do you choose to use a paddle instead?

          • TexJoe

            Because a paddle is still administration of corporal discipline. I’m not a shepherd, so I don’t have a staff. I’m a painter, though, and I do have a five gallon paint stick.

          • JB

            You may accurately call what you do to your children corporal punishment, but you cannot accurately call it Biblical. No where in the Bible does Scripture say you must administer corporal punishment. If you believe it does in fact command you to literally beat your child with a rod, striking with a paint stick is not adhering to your own stated belief. A shepherd’s rod was around six feet long and as big around as a man’s wrist. If you believe those verses to be advocating literally striking someone with a rod, that is the instrument that must be used, which Scripture tells us could easily kill someone.

            The fact remains that the verse you are referencing does not refer to a young child, but an adolescent male.

      • cordobatim

        Thanks for the reply. I agree with reading the Bible as a whole. I also recognize the differences in genre and wouldn’t base any action solely on what I read in wisdom literature. I was merely pointing out the mistake in that one statement.

        If we take the Bible as a whole, seeing God as our Father, we see a God who lovingly disciplines his children. That discipline includes physical discipline even in New Testament times.

        There is a difference between spanking and violence. The animal world shows us that. A mother cat swats her children in a very different way than she would fight with another cat or they would swat one another. The kitten recognizes it as correction and not an invitation to fight.

        Spanking done as correction, in a loving way, is recognized in the same way by children. If it is done as a form of aggression, it’s wrong. If it is done as correction, it is in no way anti-biblical.

        • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

          Spankers talk of “breaking” their offspring. Show me another specie doing that.

          • TexJoe

            Show me another that’s rational.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            • Frans de Waal. (1996). Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals. Harvard University Press.
            • Christopher Boehm. (2012) Moral Origins: The Evolution of Virtue, Altruism, and Shame. Basic Books.
            • Susan Hurley, Matthew Nudds (2006) Rational Animals? Oxford University Press

            I often leave that first volume on my dining table. Just the title really gets people going. ;)

            There isn’t a sharp line dividing humans
            from the rest of the animal kingdom
            It’s a very wuzzie line

            It’s a very wuzzie line,
            and it’s getting wuzzier
            All the time

            We find animals doing things that we,
            In our arrogance,
            Used to think was “just human”

            ~Jane Goodall
            youtube.com/watch?v=hOLAGYmUQV0

          • Jane

            I think this statement alone proves you are not truly believing the Word…”men (and women) were created in the image of God”. To say we are not very different than all the other species is to COMPLETELY contradict Gods own words and intentions and sounds much more like evolution than someone who claims to follow scripture.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            I am talking evolution. Evolution is a fact.

            God’s Word isn’t primarily in some book written by people. God’s Word is the ‘Verse. The One ‘Verse, the uni-Verse.

            Science is the best tool every devised for finding out how the ‘Verse works. So read it. If it completely contradicts something written by bronze age goatherders, then that’s ok. We can still appreciate their perspective.

            “For God so loved the Cosmos….” ~John 3:16

            Carl Sagan knew more about what God loved than a hundred theologians and biblical scholars.

        • JB

          It seems that there is much that we agree on. I agree that G-d lovingly disciplines (teaches) his children. I do not agree that G-d uses physical violence on young children nor endorses such a practice.

          Striking another person, either with your hand, or a weapon, is a violent act. Your assertion that children recognize that act as a loving one is false. A great many people have had to work very hard to overcome the “loving correction” version of spanking to have a relationship with their parents and their Creator in spite of it, just as with the angry, aggressive version. And there are some that are not able to overcome it and relationships are irrevocably harmed. The mass exodus of young people leaving the faith can directly point to this warped view of the character of G-d, passed down from parents to child, through violence, as a direct cause. Those who have suffered in this way would find your attempt to speak for them, on behalf of their experience, a hurtful and dismissive misrepresentation.

          Many people are able to look back on a childhood punctuated by spankings as “for their own good” and say “Well, I turned out okay” and recognize that their parents were doing what they thought best, or something they thought was commanded by G-d. To do otherwise would be to have to admit that their parents, who they love, and they know love them, had done them a great injustice, a little bit of Stockholm Syndrome at work really. We see the very same in many children removed from their parents for absolutely horrific abuse. Despite the harsh treatment, they still love their parents and do not wish to be separated from them. This does not change the fact that the violence perpetrated by the parents was very wrong.

          • JW

            JB, I have enjoyed reading your comments but now I feel you have crossed the line because you infer that you alone have truth. I can support your claim to not use spanking as your G-d given prerogative but you cannot accept someone who chooses to discipline there child in this way for conscience sake as their G-d given prerogative. Furthermore (what is really odious) you place a syndrome on seemingly everyone who has been spanked and does not agree with your conclusion. Sure, there are situations you have described where adults still have issues with their parents. I imagine the parents in these situations not being so loving– But how can you quantify and qualify how well a child is loved through a spanking? My parents sat me down and talked calmly and lovingly to me. Explained what I did was wrong and that there were consequences. It ALWAYS ended with a hug and a “I love you”. I and many others do not fall into the category you describe. I have been disciplined through spanking–but not always through spanking and believe I’ve turned out more than just “okay”. There is a way of discipline through spanking or grounding or any other means that is VERY loving. Conversely you can discipline without spanking and it be very unloving just the same!

    • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

      Let’s just hope you haven’t started genital mutilation on your young traveling companions before business trips to NYC. That too is Biblical.

      I’m not interested in “Biblical” if the Bible is wrong.

  • TexJoe

    Prov. 23:13-14 immediately came to mind for me too. And as long as we’re talking about the whole “understanding the culture” bit that people like to use when avoiding uncomfortable themes in Scripture, Prov. 14:3, 19:29, and 26:3 all make it clear that that a.) corporal punishment was an established disciplinary fixture, and b.) the rod was an understood means of administering said discipline.

    • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

      Psalm 137:9 comes to mind. “Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.”

      It’s clear that a psychopathic war crime is being promoted here, yet we don’t take that as an example how to treat infants.

      “If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father…all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die.” ~Deuteronomy 21:18-21

      Today that’s a felony crime.

      The Bible, it’ll lead you—and your children*—to prison if you’re not using your thinking cap.

      _____________

      * The Influence of Corporal Punishment on Crime
      Adah Maurer, Ph.D. and James S. Wallerstein (1987)
      nospank.net/maurer1.htm

      How to Prevent VIOLENT CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR in the Next Generation
      Jordan Riak (1995)
      nospank.net/vcb.htm

    • JB

      I think it would be prudent to define some terms here. You seem to be using the term discipline when what you are actually referring to is punishment. The two terms are commonly confused but a discussion of this nature proceeds more smoothly without the confusion of people talking past each other. So to clarify, discipline means to teach.

      Punishment on the other hand (in this case, physical) is what you are referring to when you reference a person being struck with something. This sort of system has not been uncommon throughout history. There are still societies today that practice caning and the like.

      Biblical references to striking servants exist, not as an endorsement, but as protection for the servant, establishing limitations to keep the masters in check. The same reference cannot be found anywhere in Scripture for striking young children.

      Somehow, you seem to have come to view a desire to understand the culture of Biblical times as a way to avoid the true meaning of the Bible’s precepts, instead of as a way to actually embrace the true meaning wholeheartedly, to deepen your understanding of them. Today’s society is very far removed from the agrarian, shepherding society that was a given in Biblical times. Also, there are nuances that we do not understand about royalty, court proceedings, family life, currency, symbols, and customs of the time. Learning these things provides a much clearer outlook than ignoring them ever could.

      • TexJoe

        Do any of you guys have the book of Proverbs in your Bible? No reference to striking children? No use of a term like “discipline” to refer to such activity?

        Prov. 23:13-14″

        Do not withhold discipline from a child;
        if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.
        If you strike him with the rod,
        you will save his soul from Sheol.

        Punishment, as a subset of discipline, is a valid teaching tool. So yes, I use the terms interchangeably when it is appropriate to do so. They are not equal, but may both be used to describe the same thing some times. Discipline is much more than punishment, I agree. And, if punishment is the only form of discipline, it’s abusive. So is discipline absent punishment altogether.

        • JB

          If you are reading this passage as a literal directive, then you must concede that some part of your Bible is untrue. The directive in Exodus makes it very clear that striking with a literal rod can cause death. So which do you believe to be true?

          I have found, in my study, that when two parts of Scripture seem to contradict each other, the problem lies in my understanding of it. So I dig deeper. Have you considered studying these words in their original language? More than just a surface reading in English?

          The Hebraic mindset is very far removed from even the Greek mindset that came after, and was very much at work within the early Greek believers who were used to the idea of having to be careful not to do anything to anger their gods. Even the word ‘rod’ has many meanings in Hebrew, but only one in Greek. Proverbs was written in Hebrew.

          • TexJoe

            Are you talking about Exodus 21:20? If so, there is a massive chasm between beating someone to death and spanking a child. This is a logical jump that simply cannont be made. The spanking of a child should not rise to the level of bruising or swelling, let alone anything close to death. So yes, if a modern man were to beat his child to death with a paint stick, he would deserve death.

            This is not an instance where, to use your words, “two parts of Scripture seem to contradict each other.” These are two very, very different things. So different, in fact, that God would (rightfully) command one and (rightfully) forbid the other.

          • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

            But he doesn’t forbid the other– we’re allowed to stone disobedient kids to death– Deut 21. That is, unless we decide to accept the nonviolent teachings of Jesus at face value. One cannot simultaneously claim to “follow” Jesus while also exhibiting violent behavior. Jesus teaches that his teachings have “more weight” than all the rest of scripture… and his teachings, without question, require nonviolence from those who wish to follow him.

          • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems
          • TexJoe

            #nailedwhat? That Jesus’ words “have more weight?” Here all this time, I’ve thought that all of Scripture had ultimately the same author, and was all in harmony. Do you have a house, Kurt? ‘Cause that same Jesus that did no violence also had no place to rest his head. And arguably, both underscored the same truth (that being that His kingdom is not of this world).

          • Samuel Martin

            Benjamin – let’s take care how we interpret that text in Deut 21. I have a whole appendix in my free ebook on this subject. All is not as what the surface teaching on this text may be. – Check out the free ebook here – http://whynottrainachild.com/2013/06/22/download-martins-book/

          • JB

            Your words here assume that the verse in Proverbs is referring to spanking and the verse is Exodus is referring to something else. What makes you think this? If the verse in Proverbs refers to spanking, why isn’t the word spank used? The word beat (or strike, depending on translation) is used in both instances. Should I just accept that these things mean what you say they mean because you said so?

            You say that there should be no bruising or swelling. Then why does Proverbs mention visible stripes? This is very much yet another example of when two parts of Scripture seem to contradict each other, and it deserves more than just pat answers regurgitated without anything to back them up.

        • Samuel Martin

          Yes, we do have the book of Proverbs in our Bibles, but we just don’t understand it in the same way you do.

          1. Does the book of Proverbs according even to the text you quoted authorize a ‘strike’ a girl? Interesting that in the original Hebrew, the term that you quote above ‘child’ is masculine singular.’ Also, at what age is the ‘child’ you are referring to? If you ask Micheal Pearl, babies in arms are fair game. Monstrous and evil and the texts just won’t allow it. This text as I have shown in my book is not for babies, but for young men approaching young adulthood, who if they don’t learn to mind now will be subject to judicial beatings and possibly the death penalty under the Mosiac law later in life.

          2. We were not back there at the time, so we do not know the intent of this passage. How do we know it is meant to be literal?

          3. Also, the term ‘soul’ as I have shown in my free ebook does not necessarily refer to an eternal soul. Good that at least you avoided using the incorrect term ‘hell’.

          4. Who says that we cannot interpret the intent and bring this idea out of its Mosaic context (which it certainly is found in) and bring up to date into a Christian context? No one would say that Proverbs 31:6 demands that we avoid the modern advances of medicine when caring for the sick and terminally ill, but if we stick with your “rod” view, those dear souls who are hospitalized and dying will be left only to drink wine and strong drink for their pain. Obviously, this is not the meaning of Proverbs and it may also not be the meaning you have assigned to this text.

          Bill Webb’s book urges us to move toward redemption in our hermeneutical approaches. Let’s try to also do that in child rearing.

          • TexJoe

            I’m going to go out on a limb here based on some of your comments and guess that you:
            -are an evolutionist
            -probably don’t believe homosexuality to be a sin
            -don’t believe in a literal hell
            -adore Rachel Held Evans
            -don’t believe that God forbids female pastors
            -don’t have kids
            If I’m even close to correct, our differences go far deeper than we’ll be able to resolve here. You’re right to acknowledge that I don’t subscribe to the neutered, “progressive” version of Christianity espoused by those who wish to be culturally relevant. You’re wrong to put me in the same category as Westboro Baptist and Michael Pearl. The one doesn’t necessitate the other.
            The likes of Bill Webb are why I use quotations around the word “scholar.” A good review of his “redemptive movement” hemeneutic can be found here: http://www.sbts.edu/documents/tschreiner/6.1_article.pdf

          • Samuel Martin

            Well, Joe, how does it feel falling out of the tree? To find out more about me and what I think, feel free to read my free ebook – http://whynottrainachild.com/2013/06/22/download-martins-book/ – Feel free to comment on it after you’ve read it and I will be haappy to respond to your queries above.

          • TexJoe

            Guess I broke my arm (and my pride in psychoanalysis). If reading the “free ebook” you are so fond of promoting (four times on this comment thread) is required for continued dialogue, I guess our conversation ends here. It’s been fun, though.

          • Samuel Martin

            Well the topic of this thread is spanking/corporal punishment/smacking and I do have a free book that I give away and I am trying to get people to read it (which is what activists for their chosen causes do). The nice lady also who wrote the article holds my view. You know, what the Bible says, is important, but what it means is vastly more important. Finally, you might enjoy this. I wrote this for those of you wandering around in spiritual deserts thinking that there are millions of people with you – Uses the supposed 2.5-3 million people who left Egypt in the Exodus as my entry point – Read it if you dare – Best wishes from the Holy Land – http://samuelmartin.blogspot.co.il/2012/09/so-you-think-you-know-bible-by-samuel.html

          • Samuel Martin

            From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth,
            From the laziness that is content with half-truths,
            From the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth,
            Oh God of Truth, deliver us.
            ~ Ancient Prayer

  • marissab

    Thank you for this. I think this is an important perspective to share with first time parents. I remember as a new mom being astounded that spanking was an expected norm in the Christian community. We have chosen not to spank, and I’ve never regretted it. I also have appreciated Clay Clarkson’s exegetical look at the Proverbs verses in his book HEARTFELT DISCIPLINE where he talks about the different words used for “child” and “young man” in these verses, concluding that while these verses might be used for spanking adolescents, they never refer to very young children (as contemporary Christians often apply them).

  • Samuel Martin

    One of the interesting things in the last few years are the scholars who are coming out against corporal punishment. One of them that is in fact one of the world’s leading evangelical scholars is Emeritus Professor I Howard Marshall. Professor Marshall wrote the foreword for Professor William Webb’s book Corporal Punishment in the Bible. Professor Marshall made it quite clear that William Webb’s approach would have been so valuable to him and his wife in their child rearing experience. Professor Marshall’s scholarship is internationally recognized as the former President of the British Society of the New Testament.

    • TexJoe

      One of the interesting things in the last few years is the fact that virtually anyone could point to the “scholars” who are coming out against or in favor of virtually anything. This, unfortunately, cannot be appealed to as a validation of any practice or mindset. For all the so-called “scholars” who oppose anything, there are a legion in favor of it, and vice-versa.

      • Samuel Martin

        Tex Joe – Quite an interesting viewpoint. To call Professor Marshall a “so-called” scholar is pretty ridiculous and while as you rightly point out, there may indeed be a legion in favor of the opposite view, the thing is, those legions, whose opinions are no doubt relevant, they are not Emeriti Professors of the New Testament and none of them ever held the position of the President of the British Society of the New Testament. I do, however, rejoice in your message, because it gives me a great opportunity to write Professor Marshall myself (because we know each other) and inform him of your view. Thanks so much.

        • TexJoe

          Could you quote for me the part where I called Marshall, specifically, a “so-called” scholar? I see the part where I referred to “so-called” scholars en masse, but not the part where I referred to him specifically.

          You’re right, though–other scholars are not identical to Howard Marshall or the positions he holds or has held. Are we to then conclude that they are inferior scholars on account of their not being identical to Howard Marshall?

          Also, I have noted that you are important by proxy (because you know each other), and I am honored to be considered worthy of having my “interesting” (if feeble) viewpoint presented to his majesty. Thanks so much.

          • Samuel Martin

            Hi – It was you who replied to the message that I posted about specifically referring to Prof. Marshall’s view. I used the term ‘scholar’ to describe him and you also used the same term. Just so everyone knows what I am working against please see this – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNgzn47aP9g – My free ebook available here – http://whynottrainachild.com/2013/06/22/download-martins-book/

          • TexJoe

            I wasn’t referring to Prof. Marshall’s anything. I was referring to your view that “scholars” coming out in favor of or against something is, by itself, an authoritative determiner of what is right/true.

            Just so everyone knows what I’m “working against,” please know that there are people out there who beat their kids and blame it on the Bible, which is shameful and sinful. There are also people out there who hold them up as examples of what all people who spank their children are. This is willful dishonesty, it is slandering of people who genuinely love the Lord (and their kids), and it is also shameful and sinful.

  • Stephen

    While I certainly agree with the non-violence the author advocates, I am troubled by the place where the author mis-quotes the Bible as saying “’He who spares the rod, spoils the child.’ Proverbs 13:24″. I checked 43 Bible versions and there is not a single version that translates the verse this way. This is a popular saying often attributed to the Bible but it is simply not there. To see the 43 versions, go to this link:
    http://www.biblegateway.com/verse/en/Proverbs%2013:24

    The author goes on to state “As I read about the “rod” mentioned in Proverbs 13…” Well, it is not there the way it is quoted. Credibility is precious and it is squandered unnecessarily when we misquote Scripture.

    She then compares the rod to a shepherd’s club, which she rightly notes was used for protection. Then follows this suggested paraphrase: “then the verse could be written as follows: ‘He who spares protection, spoils the child.’” Unfortunately, this is wishful thinking. The context is indeed correction, not protection, as is shown in the second half of the verse: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: BUT HE THAT LOVETH HIM CHASTENETH HIM BETIMES.” In context it is the same kind of application of “rod” as is featured in Proverbs 26:3 “A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool’s back.” (Note that this is a reference to adult offenders, not children.)

    I firmly believe there is adequate Biblical proof that the phrase “He that spareth his rod” is intended as metaphor and not to be taken literally. Proof: the verse’s near neighbor in Proverbs 14:3 “In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride” is obvious metaphor. Also, when Paul wrote of coming to Corinth with a rod (1 Cor 4:21), it is absurd to think he was threatening to beat errant church members with a stick.

    We need to take care not to misquote Scripture, however well-intentioned the argument. Nor is it good to reinforce the erroneous idea that this oft-quoted catch-phrase is even in the Bible at all. It is not. “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you.” Dt 4:2


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