Christianity Today Goes on the Record against Spanking

In an online editorial, the editors of Christianity Today have gone on the record against spanking. The subtitle of the article says that “misuse of biblical teaching on discipline can have deadly consequences.” The editors then go on to list several instances of fatal child abuse that have been linked to parents who take a literal interpretation of scriptural passages on discipline. They agree with the case William Webb has made against spanking and say that Albert Mohler “seems to miss the point” on the theological ramifications of corporal punishment. Finally, the editors encourage parents to cease spanking and to “explore more creative and effective ways to train up our children in the way they should go.”

There are a number of problems with this editorial, not the least of which is its unsatisfying interaction with the biblical issues at stake in this debate. The CT editorial relies almost entirely on William Webb’s trajectory hermeneutic—a way of interpreting the Bible that says modern readers sometimes need to move beyond the ethical instruction of scripture to an ethic that supercedes it.

Webb first applied this hermeneutic to the gender issue in his book Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals. More recently, Webb has taken a similar approach to corporal punishment in his book Corporal Punishment in the Bible. In the first book, Webb argues that even though certain passage of the New Testament favor male headship, modern readers have to move beyond that teaching to a better ethic. Similarly, in the new book on spanking, Webb argues that even though certain passages of the Old Testament favor corporal punishment, Christians have to move beyond those passage as well to a non-violent position. It is the latter book that the editors of CT appeal to in their article.

Webb’s hermeneutic was widely criticized ten years ago because it allows specific biblical teaching to be nullified by the reader’s perception of redemption trajectories. In other words, this approach to reading the Bible presents a threat to the authority of scripture. In a 2004 article for JETS, I think Wayne Grudem highlights the difficulty best:

It nullifies in principle the moral authority of the entire NT and replaces it with the moral authority of a “better ethic,” an ethic that Webb claims to be able to discover through a complex hermeneutical process entirely foreign to the way God intended the Bible to be read, understood, believed, and obeyed. Because a denial in principle of the moral authority of the NT commands is at the heart of the whole system, and because the system denies the historical accuracy of the creation account, I do not believe Webb’s “redemptive-movement hermeneutic” should be accepted as a valid system for evangelicals today (p. 346).

Tom Schreiner notes that there are differences between Webb’s earlier book on the gender issue and the more recent one on corporal punishment. Nevertheless, Schreiner cautions:

One wonders, in considering Webb’s work as a whole, if he is prone to domesticating the Bible to fit modern conceptions. If Webb is correct, women can serve as pastors and children should be disciplined without any corporal punishment. What is next? … God’s Word does not necessarily fit the cultural mores and thought conventions of our day. In responding to some of the extremes of fundamentalism, Webb must beware that he does not land in the lap of liberalism.

The editors at CT appear to have embraced Webb’s hermeneutic as a legitimate way of reading the Bible. They should not be surprised, however, that there are many evangelicals who disagree.

For a better account of the Bible’s teaching on corporal punishment, I would recommend a short article by Paul Wegner titled, “Discipline in the Book of Proverbs: ‘To Spank or Not To Spank?’.” In this article, Wegner gives a better explanation of the Proverbial texts than the editors of CT. Wegner shows from scripture several different levels of discipline, one of which is corporal punishment (#6).

Level 1. Encourage proper behavior: A wise parent encourages a child to behave properly (Prov. 1:8-9; 2:2-5; 3:13-15; 4:7-8).

Level 2. Inform of improper behavior: A wise parent is proactive and addresses certain issues before the child might be confronted by them (Prov. 1:10-15; 3:31-32).

Level 3. Explain the negative consequences of sin: A wise parent points out the negative consequences that lie along the path of life (Prov. 1:18-19; 5:3-6).

Level 4. Gently exhort: Wise parents will, on an ongoing basis, advise and exhort their children against sin that can easily become a pattern and encourage them to use wisdom (Prov. 4:1-2, 14-16).

Level 5. Gently rebuke or reprove: The wise parent knows when to use rebuke properly (Prov. 3:12; 24:24-25).

Level 6. Corporal punishment that does not cause physical harm: A wise parent knows when to use corporal, non-abusive punishment (Prov. 19:18; 13:24; 23:13-14; 29:15).

Level 7. Corporal punishment that causes physical harm: The book of Proverbs does not suggest that parents use this technique for discipline, but that serious sin can lead to serious punishment (Prov. 20:30; 10:31).

Level 8. Death: The book of Proverbs also does not include this in the realm of parental discipline, but in the realm of consequences meted out by government or society’s leaders (Gen. 9:6; Prov. 19:18).

Wegner’s article does not say everything that needs to be said about physical discipline, but it does establish a biblical basis for it. Despite this editorial from CT, parents who love their children will make use of non-abusive physical discipline (Prov. 13:24). This is what the Bible teaches, and we should be vigilant not to let the Bible’s teaching to be nullified by an interpretive approach that is foreign to scripture.

63 Responses to Christianity Today Goes on the Record against Spanking

  1. yankeegospelgirl January 16, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

    I’m shocked, shocked to find anti-spanking propaganda going on in Christianity Today.

  2. Matt Svoboda January 16, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

    Great article, Denny. Thank you for this.

    It is sad to see Christianity Today go this way.

  3. Don Johnson January 16, 2012 at 5:05 pm #

    I think people should read Webb for themselves to see what he says. I think Denny mischaracterizes Webb’s argument. And in Webb’s book on corporal punishment, he points out seven (count’em 7) ways the pro-spankers go “beyond the text” and his argument is given that they do this and almost all except the Pearls think this is a good thing, why not simple decline to spank at all?

  4. Charlie Albright January 16, 2012 at 6:08 pm #

    They try to set up some “guilt by association” with the stories at the beginning of the article. “These people used a book that favored spanking. These people beat their children to death…..” Completely absurd, post sets of parents were probably also wearing pants as well. The article would have sounded very weak if they put in a family situation, which is very real, where a family raised maturity, healthy children with spanking as a means of raising them.

    • Debbie Kaufman January 17, 2012 at 2:56 am #

      Fact is that it is not absurd. Abuse goes on and quite frequently. Death occurs with a parent killing children, babies, 2 year olds. We have had several cases in Oklahoma where I currently live. It goes on across the country.

      I believe that scripture is taken out of context to use as a right to spank children. I could not physically hurt my children by spanking them. I cannot do it to my grandchildren.

      When I see a child spanked it is more than I can bear. I wish I would have went with my gut when I spanked my children(although infrequently) because each time I spanked them, I felt wrong, I felt bad and this feeling did not go away with the thought that I was doing what scripture said. I didn’t ever read scripture telling me to spank, although the church I attended at the time said it did, quoting all the usual passages. I did not see that as interpreting to spank my children.

      I believe in discipline, just not the type that physically hurts a child. I have seen too many times this turning into abuse and worse. I agree with Christianity today.

      • Michael January 17, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

        We should never let the abuse of sound Biblical teaching determine whether Scripture is applicable to us today. Imagine the logic:

        People use the Bible to justify ________, therefore we should never use the Bible.

        Hyper calvinists abuse the doctrine of election, therefore election is wrong.

        Roman Catholics abuse church leadership…

        First, we read Scripture and interpret it. THEN we filter abuses through it.

      • Charlie Albright January 17, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

        Hello Debbie,

        Guilt by association is an absurd argument. That is the point I am making about what CT tried to do at the beginning of their article. I am not saying that abuse is nonexistent. Abuse is a terrible thing that unquestionably exists.

        What CT and others do is take the heart wrenching acts of abuse and either equate or related spanking to it. They are, however, two very different things.

        The logical absurdity of the association was shown in my last post. Their logic goes like this, the couple spanked their child. The couple abused their child. Therefore, spanking leads to abuse. But, we can use the same logic to conclude thus, the man wore pants. He abused His child. Therefore wearing paints leads to abusing your child. Thus, guilt by association is absurd.

        But it seems to go far in a debate like this. Is there abuse, yes. no one questions that. BUT, you cannot say that spanking is abusive or leads to abusive behavior.

        • Heather Thomas January 18, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

          Good, well worded and well thought out argument. I agree.

          • Heather Thomas January 18, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

            That is to Charlie Alrbight, I meant.

      • Christiane January 17, 2012 at 10:04 pm #

        Thank you, DEBBIE, for writing this.
        Teaching a child respect for others is only done by modeling that respect within the family, and when that is done well, a child is ever so much more secure in their own skin as an accepted member of a family that holds each other dear in Christ. An angry, out-of-control parent spanking a little one is destructive to both, and is destructive to the family that witnesses it. Everyone loses. So sad.

        I read about some of the tragedies and weep.

        • tix3 January 18, 2012 at 10:57 pm #

          I agree, Christiane, that an angry, out-of-control parent causes harm and probably should not be parenting.

          My parents, however, were not angry or out of control. They spanked me out of love, giving a reminder I did not soon forget. Not hard enough to do permanent damage, mind you, but hard enough to remember. I learned.

          And seeing how a lot of today’s kids grow up, I’m glad I learned to respect authority.

  5. Reg Schofield January 16, 2012 at 6:29 pm #

    The bigger question for me is not spanking but do parents who spank over use and abuse it as the only form of punishment. I spanked both my sons , but the number of times I used this form of discipline , I can count on both hands . Plus spanking has a time limit does it not . I really can’t recall using spanking after they were 10 . Both my wife and I tired to be consistent and tried to take each situation as it happened. Then we tried to measure the needed discipline , only using a spanking if it was absolutely felt needed.

  6. donsands January 16, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

    (Prov. 13:24). This is what the Bible teaches, and we should be vigilant not to let the Bible’s teaching to be nullified by an interpretive approach that is foreign to scripture.

    “Whoever spares the rod hates his son,

    but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”

    Amen. CT drives me crazy every so often.

  7. Marc Mullins January 16, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

    Thanks for the post, I never read them much anyway and it appears I am not missing much in the biblical parenting man/womanhood side of things by shying away from CT

  8. SFG January 16, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

    I believe that you misrepresent CT’s position. They have not gone on record against spanking, by which you seem to say that CT believes that spanking is wrong and against what the Bible teaches. Here is what they say,

    “The Bible never forbids spanking. But Webb’s case is convincing that the Bible does not require it… it is a mistake to portray Christian critics of spanking as feckless liberals, just as it is wrong to label Christian advocates of spanking as abusive fundamentalists.”

    “Some Christian parents will advocate corporal punishment until the peaceable kingdom arrives. But such means should be employed miles short of abuse, without anger, and as an absolute last resort. Given the risks involved—children’s bodies are more fragile that an angry adult can fathom—we encourage parents to explore more creative and effective ways to train up our children in the way they should go.”

    To not require spanking, and to counsel that when we do spank children, we do so without anger and with concern for the child’s safety is a far cry from “going on record against spanking.”

    • Denny Burk January 16, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

      SFG,

      I hear what you’re saying, and I agree that the concluding statement has a tentative ring to it. That being said, I still think the net effect of the article represents an anti-spanking position for these reasons:

      1. It endorses William Webb’s approach to the corporal punishment texts in Proverbs.

      2. It criticizes Albert Mohler’s biblical and theological defense of corporal punishment.

      3. It invokes the language of pacifism in the concluding paragraph and calls spanking a “resort to violence.”

      4. The opening paragraphs seem to suggest that a pro-spanking position can lead to serious abuse. If they don’t suggest that, then what relevance do they have to the discussion?

      5. The editors say that spanking should only be used as a “last resort.” So at the very least we can agree that the editors oppose spanking until every other method of discipline has been tried. Many wise and loving parents will tell you that spanking is often the best first resort, yet CT opposes this kind of spanking.

      6. It criticizes Tom Schreiner’s review of Webb’s book–a review that had important hermeneutical and exegetical critiques of the no-spanking position.

      I’ll leave it to readers to see if they think I have mischaracterized the thrust of this article.

      Thanks,
      Denny

  9. Aaron January 16, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

    Without going into the specifics on Webb or CT’s position (don’t know enough about it):

    It would seem to me as though the arguments many make for corporeal punishment could also be used to justify literally using a rod from the given Scriptures (See the given Scriptures: Prov. 19:18; 13:24; 23:13-14; 29:15).

    However, few would defend this position. Why? We now know that striking a person with a rod on the back is capable of causing real physical harm.

    An increasing body of research suggests that spanking, too, is harmful – perhaps not physically, but mentally. Whether this is because of trauma or the fact that it teaches children to deal with conflict physically is unknown.

    I don’t see this as a problem. When I read the four verses listed in Proverbs under section 6, I see the rod as being symbolic for discipline – these verses stress the importance of discipline, and many of them use the rod as a symbol for it.

    To be fair, in practice, discipline back then meant the literal rod. And I would rather discipline with a rod than not at all – it is certainly true that no discipline is devastating to a child, as Proverbs says. But I don’t think the use of the rod as a symbol implies a commandment to use a rod.

    I would encourage you guys to challenge me on this assertion: The only school of thought that really disagrees with me on a Scriptural level is the “literally use a rod” camp. If you believe spanking is the way to go, you agree with me Scripturally (that the rod isn’t a literal command) but perhaps disagree with me on the research part (you don’t agree that spanking has reprocussions).

    This is kinda strong, so I’d appreciate your views on this. I appreciate the passion for the Word here.

  10. Taylor January 16, 2012 at 9:19 pm #

    Ironically, if spanking is only used as a last resort, it’s much more likely to be abusive, seeing as it’s invoked only when the situation has become explosive.

    Anecdotally, it appears that unspanked children tend to be victims of verbal and emotional abuse more often than kids who are spanked by parents who spank out of conviction. However, I’d never put that in an article, because even if provable, it wouldn’t do justice to parents who are careful about discipline and still reject spanking.

    The catch is, reading through blog comments on Christian posts in favor of corporal punishment sometimes makes me cringe. Even though I am for spanking as a part of the disciplinary arsenal, I wonder if I should endorse it at all considering the gleeful attitude of mindless entitlement some seem people approach it with.

  11. Orion January 17, 2012 at 2:42 am #

    We cant let abusive images and examples of disciplining with spanking make us reject biblical wisdom. We cant “throw the baby out with the bath water”. The rod scriptures are in the book of proverbs, the book of wisdom. The use of the rod is wise, but it also takes wisdom to apply the rod in the correct situation. Jesus is our wisdom, seeking the counsel of the wonderful counselor in child disciplining means we are doing it for their good in stead of our own benefit.

  12. cb scott January 17, 2012 at 8:24 am #

    An adult who does not understand the difference between physical abuse and spanking may not be fit to be a parent. It really is that simple.

    • Matt Svoboda January 18, 2012 at 12:19 am #

      Agreed.

      CB strikes again.

  13. DeaconBlue January 17, 2012 at 8:55 am #

    Each of our wonderful daughters was spanked once, that was all that was needed.

    The more incredible thing is, who reads “Christianity Today”? Quit funding the professional christians.

  14. donsands January 17, 2012 at 9:58 am #

    “But I don’t think the use of the rod as a symbol implies a commandment to use a rod.”

    No indeed.

    My Dad used his belt. And my Mom did as well. I deserved every lick. And yet I knew they loved me very much. They overwhelmed me with kindness and affection. And whne I lied and was bad, they punished me. I still went down the dark road of destruction, but I never forgot how being whipped was right.

  15. Jeremy January 17, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    I have found Denny’s post and the comments that have followed to be very helpful. We do spank our children, but only when they are being willfully disobedient (e.g. when we give a specific instruction, and they tell us “no”), and only when we’ve talked with them and they understand what they have done is wrong. And we reaffirm our love for them. That’s how we understand the Scriptures. We don’t spank when they hit, or push down, or steal toys. Right now, they get time outs (or their toys get time outs) for those things. And at 2.5 and 3.5 years old, time outs are borderline torture for them. So they get it. We don’t abuse our children. We don’t leave marks. We don’t hold things over their heads. We aren’t cold towards them. And they know we love them.

    I would really like to do an in-depth study of how the Lord disciplines his children throughout the scriptures. For we know that “he disciplines those whom he loves” (Heb. 12:6). I am guessing that often times the Lord’s discipline is much more severe than a spanking. What parent doesn’t want their children to know that continuing in willful disobedience results in death (cf. Heb. 10:26-31)? A spanking, though painful, is an excellent way to show the severe consequences of continuing to walk in deliberate disobedience, when it is done in love with moderation.

  16. RC jr January 17, 2012 at 10:48 am #

    Your headline might just as well have said, “Christianity Today goes on record against Christianity and for Today.” But then, that wouldn’t be news, would it?

  17. Chris Krycho January 17, 2012 at 10:53 am #

    You know, I was spanked growing up, and it didn’t scar me. In fact, I didn’t hate my parents for spanking me, either. I did hate spankings – and that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?

    The CT article drove me crazy, as it did the same thing most anti-spanking people do: “Look, here are some people who were crazy abusive! They believed in spanking! Stop spanking!” It’s the same kind of poor reasoning that leads people to see the foster care system as entirely horrific – because one only ever hears about the 1% or fewer cases where things actually are a problem, but never about the amazing families who really do provide love and stability to kids who need it. To equate moderate spanking with parents who kill their children is to commit an enormous fallacy and to make a wicked accusation against the thousands of non-abusive parents who spank.

    • yankeegospelgirl January 17, 2012 at 11:45 pm #

      Indeed, that’s a basic fallacy anyone who’s taken critical reasoning could spot a mile away. Guilt by association, people?

  18. QwertyJuan January 17, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    Spanking and “beating aka abuse” are two completely OPPOSITE things… you can spank your child with love and never once abuse them.

  19. Stephen January 17, 2012 at 11:36 am #

    I have a two year old and spanking in a necessity to good parenting. The easy thing is not spanking. It brings no joy to spank. I want my son to be happy. There is always the temptation to be a lazy parent and not spank when my son has willingly been defiant. However as parents we must remind ourselves that if we truly love our children we will discipline them. Its seems to me that those who want to cut those text out of the bible that teach corporal punishment are giving in to the temptation to be lazy parents.

  20. Jay. January 17, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    What SFG Said.

    And I would add this as well:

    There is a large network of Christian homeschoolers and adoption families who have decried the Pearl’s teachings over the past year since these cases have surfaced.

    Christianity Today may overcompensate in their position toward not spanking. But what is missing from the usual suspects (Denny) is ANY words of caution against yet another sacred cow issue that demands a response.

    Clearly there is a pattern of abuse present here. Well-meaning people are falling into wrong teaching, taking strange counsel from people like the Pearl’s — which on the surface might sound right, okay, or biblical, but upon investigation is clearly a not proper way for a father or mother to treat small children under their care.

    What would be more responsible is to boldly warn people against teaching that goes too far (or that promotes going too far). I think that is what this piece in Christianity Today tries do, but it doesn’t quite make the case convincingly to the other side.

    Let’s be honest — the Pearls’ teaching is not ours! (using pvc pipe to whip, whipping continually until one breaks the child’s will, etc., ) Time to draw some lines, leaders, and protect the least of these!

  21. donsands January 17, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

    “..that wouldn’t be news, would it?” -Jr.

    Lord bless you brother. Good thought. Did your incredible Dad have to spank you bro?

    • RC jr January 17, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

      He loved me, as he still loves me. Of course he did. But it was always clear, to quote the cliche, that it hurt him more than it hurt me.

  22. donsands January 17, 2012 at 2:50 pm #

    Thank you RC for sharing that.

    May our Lord bless you and your children, and your Dad, with His most precious and mighty blessings He can bestow upon such wonderful ministers as you and your Dad. I ask this Father in the name of Your holy Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

    “…encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. ……..
    Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
    Brothers, pray for us.”
    1 Thessalonians 5:11;23-25

  23. Phil Whittall January 17, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    Denny, you say ‘parents who love their children will make use of non-abusive physical discipline ‘ but it some countries such as the one I live in, Sweden, this course of action is illegal. It has been for 30 years. To smack or spank your child will land you in jail and lose your children. It is viewed as physical assault. Yet Swedish families still manage to survive this loss of freedom and raise their children.

    As I argue here http://www.thesimplepastor.co.uk/2011/06/to-smack-or-not-to-smack/

    The Bible is not commanding that a parent must smack but must discipline. I doubt those that smack use actual rods or staffs, so they interpret.

    So we must find other rods and staffs, more creative means of effective discipline and we’re glad to do so. Smacking my children is not an essential for a Christian parent, discipline on the other hand is and the two are not the same.

  24. MarieP January 17, 2012 at 3:06 pm #

    If spanking is out, then what about this passage?

    Hebrews 12
    3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. 4 You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:

    “ My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD,
    Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
    6 For whom the LORD loves He chastens,
    And scourges every son whom He receives.”

    7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 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.

  25. Jessica January 17, 2012 at 3:29 pm #

    Thank you for this clarifying article. Spanking (like gender roles) is certainly a taboo of our time and one that many parents are looked down on for. I appreciate your scriptural response!

  26. Laura January 17, 2012 at 4:19 pm #

    I am a Christian mother and I do not feel that I am in error by not interpreting the rod literally. Why? Because I don’t wear a head covering. If I can interpret Paul’s instructions as non-literal or as cultural…there are all sorts of modern Christian takes on it (long hair, wedding ring, taking husband’s name, etc.)…then I am absolutely unconvinced that the rod used in many other places than Proverbs dictates that I must use corporal punishment. Maybe if Dr. Mohler’s wife wore a head covering I would take him more seriously.

  27. Karen Butler January 17, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

    I have never heard an effective refutation of Clay Clarkson’s arguments against spanking that he presents in his book “Heartfelt Discipline.” Wegner’s article doesn’t deal with these objections either, although I have really appreciated his advocacy of the judicious use of it, and wholeheartedly agree with the hierarchy of discipline you have outlined here.

    Some of the things such critics of corporeal punishment have pointed out is that the word for child, “na’ar” is almost always a youth of of bar mitzvah age. It does not describe the child that in the view of the Family Research Council in Wegner’s article suggests is the ideal candidate, “Spanking “is inappropriate before 15 months of age and is usually not necessary until after 18 months. It should be less necessary after 6 years, and rarely, if ever, used after 10 years of age.”

    So, most who advocate corporal punishment for young children say a parent should be able to STOP spanking by the time their children reach 12 or 13, yet according to the Proverbs literature, this parent would not even START using physical punishment until then.

    And given that the word for rod in the Hebrew is “shebet” most often describes a cudgel, these parents shouldn’t use a dinky wooden spoon like object,, but a good sized club, on the backside of this teenager. Not the picture of spanking usually presented in the Christian parenting books.

    And as for the Greek word used in that passage of Hebrews 12: All forms of the word, including the word “chasten” in several translations, are derived from the root word ‘paidea’, meaning instruct, learn teach–we get the English word ‘pedagogue’, or teacher from it, and so it is only by implication describing physical punishment–perhaps because of the bad habits of certain teachers. For Proverbs 16:21 says that “Pleasant words promote instruction.”

    I really would appreciate answers from some of you gifted teachers. Since the Schatz disaster we have been greatly troubled by this issue, and do not spank our young children. Any arguments for it I have heard so far spring more from behavior modification, not of biblical exegesis.

    I think these verses in Proverbs would be referring to this form of punishment only as an absolute last resort to save a young man or woman from disastrous consequences, like rebellion heading towards hell. That is how I see it–and even the helpful hierarchy Denny presents here, seems to argue that we save these big guns of corporeal punishment for precisely these desperate situations.

    So I would greatly appreciate a biblical defense of spanking that addresses these questions.

  28. Scott Piland January 17, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

    I bought Webb’s book the day after it came out when I was still a student at Southern Seminary, and I have to say that I was quite convinced, though Dr. Schreiner’s caution is duly noted. Schreiner has a great critique of the hermeneutic as a whole (the numerous forgettable criteria that Webb uses).

    I don’t think Webb’s hermeneutic works with the gender issue, since Paul seems to root that in creation (1 Timothy 2:12ff). But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work with this issue. I’ve yet to see an exegetical response to this specific application of his ‘redemptive-movement’ hermeneutic. As an exegete and a father, I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Dr. Burke is absolutely correct as well about Wegner, and Wegner’s article was one of the best that I’ve read. With three boys 4 and under, I found most of the materials like the Tripp’s books to be more unhelpful than helpful. At best they are naive. Give Webb’s book a shot…at least read it. We still use corporal discipline, but very sparingly, with many thanks to Dr. Webb’s book and our further study of the Bible.

    Dr. Burke, do you know of any good exegetical responses to Webb’s book, beyond a critique of the ‘redemptive – movement’ hermeneutic in general?

    Thanks!

    -Scott Piland

  29. Eric January 17, 2012 at 6:07 pm #

    CT makes the common mistake of equating spanking with violence.

    No doubt some parents may become violent, but Biblical spanking is not violent. In using the word violence CT tips their hand that they have taken their cues from the modern school of phychology, not from the BIble.

    • BPRJam January 17, 2012 at 7:12 pm #

      When you say that Biblical spanking is not violent, what do you mean? I’m of the opinion that most of us would call abuse/violent what was deemed “use of the rod” in Biblical days. Once upon a time I had sources I could cite for this, but it would take me hours to unearth them

      In any case, are you really saying that the proper Christian use of corporal punishment does not equate to abuse?

      .

      • Matt Svoboda January 18, 2012 at 11:11 am #

        I dont think any sane person could examine the way my wife and I spank and say, “That is child abuse.”

        It is an absolutely absurd position that all spanking is violence, therefore, abuse.

        Can people abuse kids in the name of spanking? Yes. But the fundamental problem is the parents, not the issue of spanking.

      • Eric January 18, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

        Hi BPR,

        Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines violence as “exertion of physical force so as to injure or abuse”. What I mean to say is that we must define our terms, and Biblically defined spanking (rudimentary working definition: corporal or physical punishment administered in love and self-control for the purpose of providing correction) cannot be said to meet the definition of violence. It is a tactic of the world to maginiize Christian beliefs by labelling in unflattering ways. I’m sorry to see that a purportedly Christian magazine falls for the trick.

  30. BPRJam January 17, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

    Issue of spanking vs not-spanking aside, I’m curious about the mode of spanking used.

    For instance, in Minnesota (where I live), it is against the law to use an instrument like a belt, or rod, or shoe, or anything else to spank a child. All that can be legally used is your hand. (Now that I think about it, some of my specifics may be wrong, but let’s go with it anyway.)

    In a number of other states, the laws may be similar, if not more restrictive. As good Bible followers should we then follow the authority of law in this case and only spank with our hands?

    I’d love to see more discussion on the relationship between the tools used by those who chose to spank and the laws of the state in which you live. On what basis would you consciously disobey the laws of the land? Is spanking so important that you would go against the established authority?

    I’m genuinely curious about this.

  31. Henry January 17, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

    Laura, you said:

    Maybe if Dr. Mohler’s wife wore a head covering I would take him more seriously.

    If that’s what you need to believe the Bible, then RC Sproul’s wife, Vesta, wears a head-covering. Why not take him ‘more seriously’?

  32. Judy January 17, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

    Is the rod in proverbs the same rod and staff that comfort me in Psalm 23?

  33. donsands January 17, 2012 at 11:25 pm #

    “Is the rod in proverbs the same rod and staff that comfort me in Psalm 23?”

    I think that particular “rod” was used to beat off wolves. And the staff was to guide the sheep. Not sure though. A study on shepherds would be a nice teaching wouldn’t it? For us Americans that is.

  34. Tiago Cavaco January 18, 2012 at 7:38 am #

    [You’ll have to forgive my poor english. I’m from Portugal]
    I think the biggest problem with the CT article is that it stands not on biblical reasoning but on shock value. The parents depicted on the first paragraph are not an example of faithfulness to the Scriptures but of simple cruelty. Let’s suppose I’d present a list of serial killers that grew up as rebellious spoiled brats, never spanked by their parents for once in their lives. Then I’d write an article describing in graphic detail the monstruous way they killed their victims. It would not be a solid case for spanking but merely some real terrible effects of bad parenting. CT missed a great opportunity for consistent christian thinking in an understandably hot topic and has simply fallen in tepid religious american sentimentality. We’re needing much, much more.

  35. Kevin Bullock January 18, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    When people say they spank because the bible says to it makes me uneasy. I am glad to see a conversation begin regarding Christians and corporal punishment.

    Our priority should be to build confident well rounded well loved kids that are grateful to be raised by Christian parents in a Christian home. If punishment is thoughtless, legalistic and given to spite someone who does not believe in corporal punishment, we spit in the eye of the Gospel of Grace.

  36. donsands January 18, 2012 at 5:38 pm #

    “If punishment is thoughtless, legalistic and given to spite someone who does not believe in corporal punishment, we spit in the eye of the Gospel of Grace.”

    And if a child is rebellious, and we simply say, “Please, don’t do that.” And they continue, and we don’t use the rod, then we are disobeying God.

  37. Don Johnson January 18, 2012 at 10:04 pm #

    donsands,

    You may think it is as simple as that, but it is not as simple as that. But you will never see why unless you are willing to study books that you do not already agree with. I recommend Webb’s on corporal punishment, he will get you thinking in larger ways about the subject.

  38. Dennis January 19, 2012 at 1:09 am #

    Time out children (TOC) leads to Dept of Corrections (DOC).
    I stole that from Don Miller, but it’s true. The TOC leads to the DOC.
    Kids need to be spanked sometimes.
    Pain is a good reminder and a great motivator. You can’t reason with some kids. Their minds just can’t reason but everyone understands a spanking.
    I know, because I was one of those unreasonable kids.

    I thinks some folks equate spanking with abuse. There is a difference. Biblical corporal punishment from a parent comes from a position of love, not anger or hate.

    This is just pc run amok.

  39. Kevin Bullock January 19, 2012 at 10:46 am #

    “And if a child is rebellious, and we simply say, “Please, don’t do that.” And they continue, and we don’t use the rod, then we are disobeying God.”

    …yeah that’s spooky.
    If you go to a Doctor for sickness are you “disobeying God”? The spiritual gift of COMMON SENSE would say absolutely not.

    I can only imagine the beastly picture of Jesus that attitude will instill in a child’s mind. Grab your PVC and whack away friend …their is a Judge that will reckon with all of us when the day comes.

  40. donsands January 19, 2012 at 11:15 am #

    “..yeah that’s spooky.”

    No, it’s God’s Word. Did you read the discussion of those who commented here? There’s some good wisdom here that Denny has brought out.

    It’s not spooky.

    Pain is a necessary portion of sin, and sometimes the pain has to be severe. God our loving Father knows what is best for rebels, whom He has called to Himself.
    Think of those who never come to Christ. They are going to suffer an eternity in hell. Endless pain and suffering for all who reject Christ and think their sin is no big deal.

    They will wish throughout all eternity that they would have been spanked with a rod, or whatever else would have shown them the truth my friend.

    • Kevin Bullock January 20, 2012 at 11:01 am #

      “Think of those who never come to Christ. They are going to suffer an eternity in hell. Endless pain and suffering for all who reject Christ and think their sin is no big deal.

      They will wish throughout all eternity that they would have been spanked with a rod, or whatever else would have shown them the truth my friend.”

      Is that a sixth sola of the reformation then?

      I guess we differ in our soteriology and maybe that is affecting our understanding. I am saved by grace through no work of my own, while i was yet a sinner Christ loved me and died for me. i do not believe that a whooping with a stick will bring me closer to heaven or add one ounce of grace to the Cross of Christ.
      i would vehemently oppose a theology that suggests that i or my sons will fall from grace because i did not use a stick on them.
      BTW I have three sons and for whatever reason they are fantastic kids. Maybe it is because the God i teach them about is real and loving and sovereign in every aspect of our life.

      i am not opposed to spanking …i am opposed to what i see some do and think it is a little dumb to act like i am doing something for God by grabbing a stick and whacking my kids because of some obscure old testament verse. I think it is even dumber to say “sorry kid god told me to use this on you”.

  41. donsands January 19, 2012 at 11:18 am #

    “You may think it is as simple as that,…”-Don J

    No, I didn’t say that. But I am stating a truth of Scripture as well. There’s the simple truth for us, and yet there is the fullness of God’s Word as well, isn’t there.

    Hope you understand what I’m saying. Maybe you need to read some RC Sproul to understand.

  42. donsands January 20, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

    “..some obscure old testament verse.”

    I look at the word of God a bit different than you.

    And God brings us to Himself by grace, and that grace is manifested in fear, repentance, heart-wrenching sorrow for sin. Jesus sweat blood in the Garden in His great sorrow, and even asked His Father to let this “cup” pas from Him.

    And the way you share back to me seems a bit looking down on me. Maybe I’m wrong, but seems there’s some pride. I know trhere is in me for sure.

    Have a great Lord’s day.

    PS I believe, and know, God saved me and set His love upon me, inspite of me.
    Why? I’ll never know. I was a filthy sinner, and I have hundreds of htousnads of sins against a wonderful and holy God, that Christ has washed away completely. Amazing Grace indeed.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Poetic Voices, Spanking Children, and Interstate Batteries « Friday Night Revival - January 17, 2012

    […] Today must be the authority on “Spanking your children”.  Or not spanking them.  If you look closely, you’ll find yankeegospelgirl with some […]

  2. In Light of the Gospel - Christianity Today Goes on the Record against Spanking - January 17, 2012

    […] Keep reading…   « Theology of the Reformers &#82…   No Comments » Click here to cancel reply. […]

  3. A La Carte (1.18.12) | familylifeatccc - January 18, 2012

    […] To Spank or Not to Spank: Denny Burk has a helpful article in response to Christianity Today’s recently published story called “Thou Shalt Not Abuse,” in which they “reconsider” spanking and whether it is appropriate for Christian parents to use. […]

  4. Treading Grain » Post Topic » Around the Horn: 1.19.12 - January 19, 2012

    […] Christianity Today Goes on the Record Against Spanking From Denny Burke:  There are a number of problems with this editorial, not the least of which is its unsatisfying interaction with the biblical issues at stake in this debate. The CT editorial relies almost entirely on William Webb’s trajectory hermeneutic—a way of interpreting the Bible that says modern readers sometimes need to move beyond the ethical instruction of scripture to an ethic that supercedes it. […]

  5. Five to Live By | RPM Ministries - January 20, 2012

    […] Denny Burk responds to Christianity Today’s editorial against spanking in CT Goes on the Record against Spanking.  […]

Comment here. Please use FIRST and LAST name.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes